I live in a little town in Eastern, NC. It's very small-town America-cute, cozy and family-friendly. Living in a small town has its perks, sure. There's not much traffic, we have chili cook-offs, we have a tiny, drive through coffee stand called "The Pony Espresso", our downtown is the cutest I have ever seen, and we have a real wooden town crier in front of the post office (my step-dad built it!) that people actually post announcements on. (How adorable are we?) On the other hand, at around 5 o'clock it pretty much becomes a ghost town. All of the mommies and daddies are at home with their kids, all of the grandpas and grandmas are setting up their bingo tables, and all of the young folk like myself are in bigger cities where they belong. It's hard to find things to do when you're you're a 20 something living at home with your family AND when you're out of money more than you're in the money. BUT thanks to this great skill called FL or "freebie locator" that my mom passed down to me, I can sniff out the cheap thrills like the best of them.
image via kitchenessence.com
This past weekend my mom and I went to a FREE (!!) cooking demo at a local kitchen store called Kitchen Essence. I found out about the free demos online, and since I'm interested in all things free and all things food, I decided to make a date with my mom and see what it was all about. It turned out to be the BEST decision I made all weekend. The store was adorable and filled with every kitchen gadget you could imagine. Until Saturday, I didn't even know icing pens existed, but now I want one in my stocking. (You reading this, Santa?) As soon as we walked in, our FL skills went crazy, and we spotted a sample plate full of dark chocolate pieces. Could this get off to a better start? We were smitten. The demo was held in a small kitchen at the back of the store. My mom and I found a seat and made ourselves comfy, and the other seats filled up fast. The chef, Chef Kim, (no last name, very mysterious and chefy) was featuring a product from the Stonewall Kitchen line called Apple Cranberry Chutney so she used a jar or so in every appetizer she made (save yourself $6 and buy some Food Lion brand raspberry jam). The first thing she made were Cranberry Brie Bites. Who, besides me, was under the false impression that appetizers were time-consuming and complicated? This appetizer required puff pasty, brie and the Apple Cranberry Chutney. That's it. Period. She started by cutting a sheet of puff pasty into two inch squares and placing the squares in mini muffin tins to form tiny pastry cups. She cut up the brie into cubes, stuck one piece in each cup, poured a little of the chutney over the cheese and popped them in the oven. I think I breathed once, blinked once and she was done. You could tell the other ladies in the room were equally impressed. They were giving each other raised eyebrow nods. I was already all revved up about the easy recipe when my day got even better. In walked a gentleman with two bottles of wine and about 10 empty wine glasses. I sat up a little straighter and stared. Could it be? Yep. Free wine. Kitchen Essence has its own wine store, and they just happened to be having a free tasting that day. Hello Best-Saturday-of-All-Time. As Mr. Wine Man started pouring, Chef Kim continued demoing the other two recipes-Oven Roasted Yams and Potatoes and Glazed Chicken Skewers-Both as easy as the first. The demo only lasted about an hour, and then we were on our way. I was totally inspired by how easy everything was to make AND how good everything tasted. It turns out, Kitchen Essence holds these free demos every Saturday, and they are different each week. I already told Chelsea that I am going to take her one weekend when she comes to visit me. I think they have a cookie demo coming up for the holidays! I'm pretty sure we'll get to lick the cookie batter spoon since me and Chef Kim are pretty much besties now. I asked her if you could use chevre in place of the brie in the cranberry brie bites. At that moment, she looked at me as an equal. She knew I was serious about my future in the kitchen. (You can find any of the recipes I mentioned and more at http://stonewallkitchen.com/)
While you may not live in a town as small as mine, I hope you can start honing your FL skills to find every good and cheap thrill that your town/city has to offer! Check out community events Web sites, scan the paper or find out if you have a town crier and see what that flyer for the 4th Annual Redneck Can Shoot is all about. (Ok, maybe don't go to that.)