This past Saturday night, my cousin, Bobby, and I taught an epic pizza experience at Different Drummers Kitchen in Albany. We’ve had the ball in motion planning it since the summer, but it was officially announced about 2 months ago. Within a week or two of the release of the schedule, the class had sold out to capacity (25), and the night before the class, there was a waitlist of 8.
We knew this was a special event, so we made it a whole weekend thing. Bobby and I met at Different Drummers Kitchen one night early to get everything that we could in place to make the 150 minute class as seamless as possible. Number one, we had to make sure we had enough pizza dough to feed 25 people. Twenty cups of flour and completely hijacking the refrigerator in the place later, we were good to go.
The main thing I brought to the table besides some simple homemade toppings was my own spin on a classic Italian sausage, something I learned to make working with my father for years in his salumeria. By necessity (the jerk at the supermarket was going to grind the pork with a fine die), I butchered a pork shoulder and used the equipment to grind it appropriately on my own.
After we enjoyed some samples of Nespresso beverages, we sat down for a relaxing dinner and a drink at TGI Fridays.
We arrived about an hour before our class was to begin on Saturday to get everything going. Once the people started trickling in, we really took it in to high gear and rocked out a memorable lesson and an incredible meal.
The main take-home message we wanted to convey was that with some very basic equipment and simple ingredients that you can find in any supermarket (and let me tell you, finding the ingredients in the Price Chopper by Crossgates was really a stretch, but we did it), anyone can do what we did.
Before the class started, a number of the guests asked us where they could sample our food outside of the evening, and we had them wait to hear the unfortunate story that neither of us officially work in the food business any more.
The class flew by, and within the 150 minutes, we made homemade sausage, balsamic fig jam, sauteed mushrooms, white clam sauce, basic tomato sauce, and Bobby cranked 24 pizzas out of two ovens that are probably smaller than what you have at home. Everyone got to try a piece of all five pizzas just after removal from the ovens.
The pizzas we made were
- Pizza Margherita (tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella)
- Pizza Marinara (tomato, fresh garlic, oregano, and parmigianno)
- “California-style” Pizza (baked with fig jam, finished with fresh arugula, proscuitto, and shaved parmigianno)
- “Clams casino” Pizza (white clam sauce, mozzarella, bacon, bread crumbs, finished with fresh parsley)
- “Calabrese-style” Pizza (ricotta, parmigianno, mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms, homemade sausage)
Some guests were even live-instagramming the night!
We were even able to share some of the stories of the fun memories Bobby and I have, like the story about me running over his leg with an automobile back in 1983.
We had a hell of a time teaching the class, and we know the guests had an amazing time. I took a few minutes after the class to look at the feedback forms, and all were perfect ratings except one; I’d say that’s the mark of success and inspiration. That and at least half of the guests walked out of the store having purchased a pizza stone, pizza peel, and circular cutter.
Here are all of the pictures from the two nights (click to enlarge).