Certified live- and raw-food chef Christa Emrick teaches classes of up to 25 people how to craft delicious treats with raw, vegan ingredients and without cumbersome ovens. Guests at the Christmas Cookies class watch and learn as Chef Christa follows recipes taken from her own e-book, Holiday Raw Food Sweets and Treats, to produce cookies free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, refined sugar, and coal. Chef Christa also reveals a secret ingredient that can replace eggs, cream, and butter in recipes and out-perform them in food fights. After the class, participants can take home recipes and leftover sample Christmas cookies to enjoy or test them out on the taste buds of a department-store Santa.
Tina and Ed Carle, the husband-and-wife team behind this lively cooking school, grew up cooking beside the apron strings of culinary-minded family members. Before heading to New York City to work in five-star kitchens, Tina studied the techniques of her Italian grandmother as she layered lasagna or stirred bolognese sauce. In Texas, Ed developed a knack for prepping wild game, smoked meats, and comfort fare from his family’s butter-centric cookbook. Though he’s become more health conscious through the years, Ed keeps the focus on flavor, demonstrating his know-how in dinner-party-style classes with menus including items such as barbecue brisket or wild venison braised in a dutch oven until it bugles “Taps” and collapses off the bone.
Though their culinary backgrounds differ, Tina and Ed share a passion for top-notch ingredients that elevate dinner to an art. Before teaching lessons on shrimp, for instance, Ed drives to the gulf to pick up a fresh catch. They also share a zeal for cooking tricks and techniques that make dinner simpler and more delicious. To this pair, working over a cutting board or a stove yields a bumper crop of sharable delight.
In a time when most people find out about survival skills through reality television, brothers Dave and Michel Scott are the exception. The two brothers spent their formative years exploring the Texas wilderness. Dave, a US Army veteran, is 1 of only 20 people in North America qualified as a Track and Sign Specialist. He and his brother have devoted themselves to helping society remember the skills that have kept us alive for thousands of years.
Earth Native Wilderness School's instructors come from all walks of life, but they each have a love of nature. With lessons in medicinal plants, basic wilderness survival, and wildlife tracking, the school's classes teach students skills such as fashioning tools for survival, arrow making, fire by friction, and finding an ATM in the desert. The staff also realizes humanity's spiritual connection to nature and can even guide students through a vision quest to strengthen their relationship with nature.
Some of the hyper-interactive classes at IQuest Global Enrichment Center cover subjects kids might encounter in school—math, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese—but others challenge them to use their critical thinking skills in totally different ways. Some sessions teach kids to create YouTube-appropriate digital films, while others focus on engineering simple machines from Legos, rather than from a little brother and an extra-large hamster wheel. Groups are kept small and, whenever possible, surrounded by innovative technological tools in a space where goldfish float near the ceiling and a map of the world sprawls across the floor.
Gung-ho gourmands have been macheting their way into Jeffrey's since 1975 to sample the inviting bistro's menu of small plates, soups, salads, and classic comforts served with gourmet twists. Under the toque of its new chef, Deegan McClung of Uchi fame, Jeffrey's carbon-conscious kitchen is amply stocked with many locally produced ingredients that make their way into the dinner menu's savory seasonal entrees and fleeting nightly specials. Start with squash soup with crème fraîche ($12), plus small plates of pickled shrimp with sesame-fried green tomatoes ($15) and the house specialty, crispy oysters ($15). Discriminating diners and their monocled grizzly-bear companions will find much to love in the lemon-crusted flounder ($34) luxuriating on a bed of pistachio puree with morels and sunflower seeds. A side of caramelized green beans and house-cured bacon ($8) goes particularly well with crispy pork shank ($24) surrounded by an entourage of sweet potato branbant, ramp bulbs, fresh fava beans, and pickled mustard seeds in a pork jus. A decadent dessert of banana-pudding ice cream sandwiches with house-made vanilla wafers ($10) or the chef's cheese selections ($7–$19) will finish the feast on a sweet note no matter how often one's blind date brags about exterminating the Jedi in one fell swoop.