A Taste of Italy: Portland's Culinary Workshop Review - Intentional Travelers

02 Jun A Taste of Italy: Portland’s Culinary Workshop Review

This past year, Michelle and I conducted a travel survey and one of the most common themes we found was that people wanted to travel but are concerned that they can’t afford it. This is a valid concern. We’ve shared in previous posts how we use travel hacking, Help Exchange, and housesitting as ways to make travel more affordable, but what about participating in something locally that gives you a travel-like, lifelong-learning experience? An experience where you didn’t have to pay for an expensive flight or hotel, and the best part: it’s centered around food. Good food.

Have you thought about taking a cooking class?

One of my life goals is to travel the world and learn how to cook popular ethnic dishes. If you can’t afford to travel, a local cooking class is a great way to learn about a different culture, try great food, and work on your personal cooking skills.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty intimidated by the idea. Michelle has been suggesting that I take a class for years because she knows I love cooking. If you are like me, you might think of the following:

1. I’m not good enough for any of the classes.

2. They are too expensive and I probably won’t use what I’m taught anyway.

3. They’re gimmicky.

Yesterday, I learned how to make pasta from scratch at a Portland’s Culinary Workshop cooking class, and it smashed any of my pre-conceived thoughts about cooking classes. It was some of the best 3 hours I’ve spent recently, and it might be one of the best classes I’ve ever participated in my life (grad school, college, highschool, etc..). Maybe it’s just PCW, but it was an incredible experience.


Portland’s Culinary Workshop

Tucked in lower north Portland, near the Widmere Brewing complex, is the Portland’s Culinary Workshop on Russell Street. Inside you are welcomed to an awesome workspace- bright, spacious, and vibrant. The first thing that caught my attention was how open and inviting everything was. I walked in and was quickly received by Culinary Instructor, Melinda. The first thing she said was that the space was ours, that we could explore and wander freely. I was amazed by this. Right away there were no barriers. The kitchen/workspace was not intimidating or foreign. It was meant to be familiar and accessible. Right away I had a good vibe.

(click on any of the images below to see a larger version)

For the Love of Pasta

The class was about how to make pasta from scratch. The focus was on the basics of noodle making and gnocchi. The first hour-and-a-half, Melinda walked us through step-by-step. What I liked about her approach is that she made it fun, interesting, and casual. The other students and I were amazed as she would explain what she was doing, tell a story, and magically work the pasta dough through the machine, cranking out perfectly even pasta sheets all at the same time.

(click on any of the images below to see a larger version)

I’ve always been mystified by pasta. It always looked really hard on TV. I’m not saying that after the class I was a pro, but what I can tell you is that by the time Melinda had taught us the basics and then set us off on our own to try and make pasta for the first time, we were all confident. We were willing to try without fear. That’s the mark of a good teacher.

The last hour and a half, we put our education to work and cranked out noodles, ravioli, and gnocchi on our own. We were given free reign and access to tons of ingredients and encouraged to come up with our own flavor combinations. At the end of the day, each student took home a couple of containers of freshly made pasta.

my hazelnut, herbed cheese, sun-dried tomato stuffed ravioli with browned butter

My hazelnut, herbed cheese, sun-dried tomato stuffed ravioli with browned butter – Michelle approved! 🙂


If You Can’t Travel Abroad, Consider Experiencing Travel, Locally

One of my favorite stories about travel experiences and food comes from author Chris Guillebeau’s books called the Happiness of Pursuit. In his book about quests, he shares a tale about a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma who decided to bring the world of food to her family by cooking a meal from over 193+ countries and territories over the course of 3 years.  She called it the Global Travel Adventure. Her goal was to share with her family the different cultures and cuisines that existed in the world.

What that woman did was pretty epic. I doubt I could keep up with her. But what I’m glad I finally did was take a cooking class and learn about one of my favorite things: pasta. I would love to travel to Italy and learn from someone there, but I can’t afford to at the moment. Melinda has traveled to Italy. She has taught professionally for many years. In her class, it felt like I was transported to Italy. I was even more inspired to travel and to cook at home.

For $45 – $85 you can take a cooking class and not only get a sense of travel but also learn skills that you can use at home. One of the things I’ll take away from yesterday’s class (besides pasta) was what Melinda said: “Cooking is awesome because you are always learning something new.” These classes build upon each other. You get better and better. You learn skills that can benefit your life and others. And in the case of this pasta class, you also learn about another culture through food.

If you can’t travel now, make the next best thing happen.

(In case you’re wondering, this is NOT a sponsored post. I just really loved the class and had to share!)

Portland’s Culinary Workshop
807 N. Russell St., Portland, OR 97227



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