Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking with Chef Ariane Duarte & DinnerTool!!

Last Monday I had the great pleasure to travel down to the restaurant CulinAriane in Montclair, NJ to spend the afternoon learning some cooking techniques and all about CulinAriane is owned by chef Ariane Duarte who was a contestant on Top Chef 5. She was such a delight to speak with, down to earth and super funny. Chef Ariane led myself and the other four blogger into her kitchen for some personal chef instruction. If any of you ever saw me work in the kitchen, you would know that I could benefit from some lessons. I am supper messy and unorganized. Sure the end result is usually yummy, but I blow up my kitchen on the way there.

We started off with the basics of chopping: how to hold the vegetable, hot to hold the knife, etc. I think what I typically do is more like hacking than chopping, so this was good information for me. I don't think I could ever chop as quickly as chefs do without losing a finger, but I am glad I know the proper technique now. Chef Ariane demonstrated by chopping a variety of spring vegetables and then led us through how to chop some shallots. As we chopped, she collected all of our scraps as one of her employees take them for his compost pile at home. Very awesome! We also learned about different types of mushrooms and how to clean them with a brush. Did you know that you are not supposed to rinse them in water?

Next Chef Ariane talked to us about scallops and sirloin, which were on the menu for lunch. She told us how to select the best scallops and took out the largest ones I had ever seen. Chef Ariane only buys these large ones that come 10 scallops to a pound. Then she demonstrated how to clean a sirloin by cutting off the fat and slicing it into individual portions. The beef she uses is local and grass fed which I was excited about since I have longed to try some. Finally Chef Ariane brought us over to her stove to show us how to pan sear both the scallops and the sirloin. The key to searing is the pan has to be extremely HOT!

Once our cooking class was finished, we headed back into the dining room to enjoy our lunch prepared by Chef Ariane. I have never been a big fan of scallops; they are usually too fishy tasting for me. However, these were amazing! The sirloin steak was delicious as well, definitely the best steak I have ever eaten. Grass-fed does make a difference in both taste and nutrition.

We finished with a flourless chocolate cake which was sinfully rich. I was beyond full at this point but I ate it all anyway because there was now way I was letting it go to waste. And honestly, I can never say no to chocolate.

We also spent a part of the afternoon learning more about

" is a website and online tool aimed at helping families solve the nightly “what’s for dinner” dilemma. The site is a one-stop shop for the family-focused foodie.  Mouth-watering photo slideshows, timely and informative articles and fun how-to videos layer the site, while the recipe search, meal planner and shopping list tools make for a completely interactive (and easy!) user experience. Planning for easy, fast, healthy and budget-friendly meals has never been so enjoyable."

Meal planning has always been a challenge for me - I am just not a good planner. And having four picky young eaters doesn't help either. Between the kids, the house and my blog business, I am a busy woman. I need some help when it comes to recipe management and planning a weekly menu and DinnerTool is something that can assist all us busy people with that. They have a wide range of recipes that you can search by through categories, like healthy or fast, or you can search by cuisine or ingredients. You can then easily add your Meal Planner and from their even create a shopping list of ingredients that you need to buy.

Overall, it was an amazing and very educational day! I learned some new cooking techniques that will certainly help me in the kitchen and found a great site that can help me start getting the hang of meal planning.

All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to DinnerTool for bringing me to this event.


  1. Oh this looks amazing! I'm terrible in the kitchen - I could totally benefit from a day like this! And that chocolate cake - nom nom nom!

  2. That is awesome! I agree 1000 percent on the extremely hot pan!

  3. What an awesome opportunity! All that food looks divine.

  4. what a cool post! I'm going to share with my facebook friends right now.

  5. Wow that is really cool! What a great opportunity! and drooling over the food!

  6. Oh man, this makes me hungry! I love the video too Marianna!

  7. Such a great experience, I bet it was a lot of fun. I could benefit from a few of those lessons myself. That cake looks delicious!

  8. I loved the video and thanks for all the great tips. Its so hard to find the time to learn how to cook good meals

  9. Wow, it looks like you had a blast. What an awesome opportunity!


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