Cooking it up in College Park

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“We take time at the beginning of class to fill our glasses with wine,” said Marci Arthur, owner of Truffles & Trifles, where I’d chosen to spend the evening bumping up my cooking cred. “I am, of course, the queen, Marci Arthur,” she announced next, as her lips curled into a smile. It didn’t take me long to agree with that statement wholeheartedly. When it comes to cooking, she is hands-down a regal being. Likewise, Truffles & Trifles has been going strong for 26 years in the College Park area, if that tells you anything.

The class started around 6:30 p.m. and was filled with 28 people of all types: a lawyer, retired school teacher, a bartender. Everyone had one thing in common, however: a love of Tuscany. Not coincidentally, the theme was Italian food.

“I’m a student,” said the blond across the room. “And it’s like my 4,000th class here.”

A fit of exaggeration, perhaps, but a clear statement of her constant connection with this place. Soon after our introductions, we split into groups of four or five. One group, in charge of appetizers, created an Italian grilled cheese sandwich made of tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. A sweet lady in her 50s shuttled around a tray full of samples. I swiftly gobbled down about five or six.

My group glanced at our first recipe: Tuscan kale with pancetta and caramelized onions. First, we’d need some parsley. So I headed around back to the herb garden and plucked a few sprigs from the containers. Back inside, my team was blanching the kale (a mainstay in Italian cooking) as a Justin Timberlake song played in the background. Our next assignment: Make ravioli. It was 8 p.m. by now, and our stomachs were growling. So my group created about 70 raviolis like there was no tomorrow. We decided to deep fry half of them and bake the others. Once we spread them on a Tuscan-looking platter we poured a cream sauce over the baked ones and dipped a few into Marci’s secret plum sauce, too. Delish!

By 9:30 p.m. we sat down for a feast. What a meal it was. White bean salad with spinach, olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Ribollita, a tomato-based soup with carrots, celery, and, you guessed it, kale. The main course was chicken-stuffed ravioli, Neapolitan mushrooms, fettuccine with tomato and sausage sauce, peasant bread, stuffed leg of lamb and chicken with prosciutto, provolone and basil. Then dessert. Roasted peaches with amaretti crumble, tiramisu torta, cream cake and a honeyed walnut tart.

Tonight, happiness was a heaping plate of chicken and pasta, tiramisu to die for and the knowledge that I can do this on my own (well maybe not the 70 handmade raviolis). Nevertheless, both the gastro-crowd and rookie cooks will love this place. I’m no culinary wizard, that’s for sure, but at least now I’m one step closer. By all means, harness your inner Martha Stewart and get cookin’.

If you go: Pace yourself with the appetizers. You’ll want to have plenty of room for the feast at the end class.

Truffles and Trifles

711 W. Smith St.

Orlando, FL 32804

407-648-0838

www.trufflesandtrifles.com