If you're like me, buying gifts for older relatives is challenging. They are trying to downsize and don't want to collect more things, and/or they just buy themselves the things they want when they want them. There's only so many times you can give them the same consumable items before it doesn't feel like a thoughtful gift anymore.
Experiential gifts are the perfect solution. This year for Christmas, we gave Steve's parents, aunt, and sister a certificate for a cooking class and dinner at Napoli Culinary Academy in Sacramento. I designed and printed cards using the academy's logo, then backed them with cardstock. Then I went through all the available classes in January and February with room for 7 people, on dates that didn't conflict with previous obligations, and with menus that worked with various family members' food restrictions. I put those onto a separate sheet, along with a flag showing that particular day's cuisine.
When we got together to celebrate Christmas (ahead of time because we thought - incorrectly, it turns out - that we'd be flying on Christmas), they picked their desired date and cuisine. Here's a closer look at the options:
They all look good to me. The group picked "A Taste of Italy" on February 7, so I made the reservations.
During the day, Napoli Culinary Academy is a non-profit cooking school offering diplomas in Culinary Arts. In the evening, those students act as staff for the 3-hour cooking classes like the one we did. They also operate a cafe and do catering.
When you arrive, you take a seat along the outside of a U-shaped table. You can order drinks from the full bar.
Next is the cooking demo. The chef demonstrates (with help from the audience) on a small center table with overhead cameras that project to screens behind him. For our class, he demonstrated cream of broccoli soup and pasta puttanesca. We got to taste each - delicious!
The 17 attendees were divided into 2 teams, then we headed into the kitchen. During the demos, the culinary students had done all of the prep work for the meals we would be assembling. Here you can see Teri on the left working on the puttanesca and Trevor on the right making cream of broccoli soup. The rest of the family tried to squeeze in behind them, but there wasn't room.
There was space for 4 people on each team to work comfortably. For our team of 9, that means 5 of us weren't participating. That was fine with me, as it gave a chance to take pictures, but it's a consideration if you're expecting every person to get to have a hand in making the meals.
When the food was ready, we returned to our seats and the culinary students plated the food we'd made. We all LOVED the broccoli soup.
The puttanesca was a hit, too. (Does anyone else immediately think of these books when see 'puttanesca'?)
The portion size was enormous. They recommend you bring containers to take home your leftovers and all of us did.
There was no demonstration, nor explanation, of our dessert. It just showed up. Since affogoto is just vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over the top, it didn't require explanation or demonstration. I didn't think to take a photo, so you'll have to imagine a dish of ice cream with an inch of coffee at the bottom and a ladyfinger resting at a jaunty angle.
Overall, we enjoyed the experience. It was fun to do together as a family and definitely something I'd consider again. I'm especially interested in Napoli's 'Cooking with the Movies' nights. In addition to the Sound of Music theme that was one of the choices I gave my inlaws, they also have classes built around The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, Ratatouille, the Godfather, and more on their calendar. I definitely recommend Napoli Culinary Academy. The class was a great gift for difficult-to-buy-for family members and a unique way to spend an evening.