Master hummusmith Ahmad Yasin doles out zesty lesson plans along with his family-recipe lamb-stuffed grape leaves. With a culinary philosophy that emphasizes the organic relationship of cook and cuisine, Ahmad guides burgeoning food-foodee relationships from their spicy mohammarah honeymoon to the golden anniversary of moist lemony-walnut cake. Catch a glimpse at a culinary world you might master with Ahmad's catering menu, which includes such edible edifications as baked kibbeh, which packs lean ground lamb, pine nuts, garden-fresh herbs and spices, and homemade yogurt in an envelope of golden cracked wheat or a regally red Royal hummus dip (shammandar) whipped from beets, sesame tahini, chickpeas, garlic, and lemon juice and stirred with a jewel-encrusted scepter.
On any given night at Gordon's Fine Wines & Liquors, guests might hear staff instructors share their favorite French wines or introduce a Speyside scotch. They might also see guest sommeliers, local brewers, or winemakers discuss the production regions and flavors of their most cherished varietals. For more than 75 years, Gordon’s has been a beacon for such talented flavor enthusiasts, recruiting a team of specialized instructors that has earned the alcohol emporium the title of Massachusetts Beverage Business 2012 Retailer of the Year. These professionals have never tired of spinning out lessons—touching on wine education, beer and spirits, cooking, and wine-and-food pairings, which immerses visitors in how to successfully marry cheeses and wines without their parents getting all bent out of shape.
Yet apart from the knowledge spread therein and the discussions bubbling with poignant enthusiasm behind the shelves, Gordon’s also serves as a supplier. Its shelves abound with hundreds of wines—including kosher wines—from every continent except Antarctica, more than 500 types of craft beer, and 300 single-malt scotches.
When Valerie Beck was in kindergarten, there was only one way to get her to drink her milk: mixing in chocolate. As she grew up, her passion for the sweet treat only deepened. During a five-year stint living in Europe, she sleuthed out the most delectable chocolate shops and bakeries, eventually bringing friends along with her on trips to chocolate hot spots. After returning to the United States, she broadened her scope to create Boston Chocolate Walking Tours, focusing on the city’s increasing number of premium chocolatiers.
Valerie’s team of tour guides reveals Boston's best chocolate spots to guests on 2.5-hour tours around the Newbury Street neighborhood. They embark from Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, walking or canoeing across the city's historic chocolate canals. The tour changes daily, hitting five–six spots, such as DeLuca's Market and Emack & Bolio's, though the Lindt shop is always on the list.
Professional bartenders teach in classrooms set up as fully functioning bars. The facilities present lifelike conditions for students to learn skills such as the proper shake and pour for a variety of cocktails, muddling raw ingredients, and getting the right amount of head on a draft beer. Courses also cover the technical elements of bartending, which may include setting up drink stations, understanding liquor laws and board-of-health requirements, and operating payment systems that accept both credit cards and gold ingots.
Those who craft edible masterpieces find what they need at The Cake World. Part shop, part school, it outfits bakers of all experience levels with the stuff and skills they need to create towering, edible sculptures from Satin Ice fondant and gumpaste using special tips, cutters, veiners, modeling tools, and more. Rows of edible embellishments crowd shelves, shiny cookie cutters dangle from hooks, and stacks of diverse cake molds invite bakers to expand their imaginations. In the spacious cake-making studio, hands-on classes cover specific decoration topics, special guest artists lead themed workshops, and kids learn how to decorate cupcakes and cakes during birthday parties.
Butter, sugar, and flour. These three simple ingredients form the basis of each treat cooked up at Oakleaf Cakes. While the ingredients are straightforward, the cakes are anything but, as proven by head baker Amanda Oakleaf and the 4-foot-tall Dora the Explorer cake she constructed on the Food Network’s Cake Challenge. At her shop, Amanda and her team of artists, sculptors, and bakers create treats that run the gamut in flavor and function, from elegant tiers of red velvet to sugary cartoon figurines placed atop marshmallow fondant. Guests can dream up flavor combinations such as gingerbread cake slathered in white-chocolate buttercream or chocolate samoa layered in honey icing, or offer up a 3-D object for Amanda and her team to re-create in meticulous, edible detail. Regularly scheduled cake-decorating classes impart visitors with some of the team’s creative tricks of the trade, such as leveling cakes and keeping schoolchildren from swarming in through the doggy door at the sight of snickerdoodle cupcakes.
The bakery's from-scratch approach extends to the attached café, as well. Rather than keeping coffee warm throughout the day, staffers ground and brew each cup to order, using custom-roasted Barrington Coffee beans and an Aeropress. This cutting-edge brewing method is designed to extract exactly enough flavor from the beans to create the best brew possible, and achieves it in less than two minutes. Each sultry cup of joe perfectly complements the bakery's wide assortment of baked goods, which range from classic cupcakes, cookies, and muffins to wholly unique goodies including made-from-scratch pop tarts, artisanal marshmallows, and miniature cheesecakes.