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Cooking School: Travels With Joanne

Join Joanne Weir on a mouth-watering culinary adventure

Written and produced by Stephen Exel
  • James Carriere

    Classes take place in Provence, Tuscany, Piedmont, the Veneto, Seville, or San Francisco for cooking enthusiasts who sign up to learn with Joanne Weir, whose culinary journeys are mouth-watering voyages to some of the world's capitals of extraordinary food. "My dad called me his 'wandering gypsy' when I was a little girl," says Joanne.

    Her Weir Cooking in the City captured the prestigious James Beard Award for best general cookbook (2005). She also hosts the PBS television series, Joanne Weir's Cooking Class.

    Every year Joanne leads cooking tours to Europe and conducts an annual weeklong session in her San Francisco kitchen. "These are dream trips -- experiences that can't be found in travel books," Joanne says. In addition to hands-on cooking classes and wine tastings, travelers visit with local artisans and take excursions to nearby markets.

    Students find themselves luxuriously immersed in local culture. In Spain, guests stay at Seville's 17th-century Hacienda de Oran, a prime example of Andalusian architecture. In Italy, Tuscany's Chianti region welcomes Joanne's students to a villa embraced by vineyards and olive groves and owned by a noble family for seven generations. In France, Provence's Blanche Fleur guesthouse dates back to the 15th century and is situated near the renowned Chateau Neuf-du-Pape wine country.

    Photography: James Carriere

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    A certain brio energizes Joanne's classes. Her first instructions are, "Engage all five senses. Learn about food by its look, touch, and smell. You'll know what it sounds like sizzling in the pan and reap its ultimate reward -- taste." Her goal is to give students confidence. "I'll be right here with you," she assures everyone.

    "I love anywhere there's olive oil and wine," Joanne quips. Not surprisingly, her classes focus on the rustic, hearty food traditions of these locales. In Provence, for example, Stone Fruit and Goat Cheese Salad, chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic, and bouillabaisse typify what will be prepared in class. The salad is tossed with a late-harvest Riesling dressing: Its concentrated fruit flavor pairs beautifully with peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries at their ripest peak.

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Joanne's San Francisco class gives an American viewpoint to her Mediterranean-inspired cooking. (Farmer's Market Lunch, Summer Fiesta, Italian Supper on the Terrace, or Chilling and Grilling are featured menus.) Here, in her classic Victorian two-flat, the dancing patterns of majolica decorate the airy kitchen/dining room where students gather to learn, cook, eat, and sample wine.

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Today, the class is treated to a lesson on preparing one of those specialty dishes, Tuscan Pork. Pork tenderloin is rubbed with a fragrant herb mixture and baked inside a crispy baguette. Sliced like a sandwich, it's a meal students won't soon forget. "Taste, taste, taste! Check your seasoning! Don't forget to salt!" Joanne reminds everyone. "Just a sprinkle teases flavors out of food."

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Rosemary Remacle catches Joanne's high spirits.

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Wine pairing is an important part of each class.

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Avid cook Rob Tessaroto of Ontario (shown here with Joanne and fellow student Nancy House) attended school as a birthday present from his wife. "Joanne's palate, approach, and enthusiasm made this an incredible gift," he says. San Franciscan Lorraine Fedorak agrees. "I've learned timing, how to have fun in the kitchen, pair wine, and use salt!" For these culinarians on tour, wanderlust is wonderful.

    Joanne's European tours start at $4,300 a person, exclusive of travel costs. Her San Francisco class is $2,000, travel and accommodations not included. Visit www.joanneweir.com for information.

    Recipes are at the end of this story.

  • James Carriere

    Halve baguette horizontally. Remove bread from inside of halves, forming thin shell. Brush inside of shell with remaining olive oil. Place pork on inside of baguette, replacing top to completely enclose pork. Trim off excess ends of bread. Tie at 1- to 2-inch intervals with clean kitchen string. Place on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, in 375°F oven 25 to 30 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 155°F to 160°F. Let stand 10 minutes. Slice to serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • James Carriere

    In large bowl combine salad greens and all but about 1 tablespoon of wine vinaigrette. Toss to coat; divide among six salad plates. In medium bowl combine nectarine, plum, apricot, and cherries. Add remaining wine vinaigrette; toss to coat. Arrange atop greens. Top each salad with goat cheese slice; sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

  • James Carriere
  • James Carriere
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