Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to me! Today is my golden birthday: 29 on Oct. 29. In honor of the occasion, I've been making a wish list of classes I'd love to see offered in Indy.

First: a series of Shakespeare workshops and/or discussion groups. I just can't get enough of the Bard, and I really miss those undergraduate English classes. But, short of actually auditing a class, I don't have many options.

Second: cool circus-act classes, such as trapeze artistry and tight-rope walking. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? These types of classes are offered elsewhere in the country, but not here. Ditto for classes on flying hot-air balloons, which I've been thinking about ever since the Balloon Boy incident.

Third: a cheese 101 class. The recent Cafe Patachou cheese boot camp sold out in about four nanoseconds, and I can't find anything else. I'd really like to know the difference between Stilton and Munster.

Finally: grown-up summer camp. IU's Mini University comes close, but I'm talking about sleeping in cabins, making s'mores and going on hikes. Now, picture all of that, combined with a great mix of classes on art, crafts, literature, history, the sciences, personal development, music and more. I'm practically drooling just thinking about it.

That's my list. Anything you'd like to add?

Friday, October 23, 2009

November Cooking Classes

It's lunchtime, and -- as Pooh would say -- I have a rumbly in my tumbly. Of course, I'd rather drool over cooking classes than actually make myself lunch, so here's a look at what's coming up in November.

Frasier's Gourmet Foods has several great classes scheduled, including another round of the celebrated Cooking 101 series. You'll also find classes on knife skills, make-ahead entrees and party desserts. And, chef Erin Kem of R Bistro will teach you how to cook with great Hoosier microbrews, from breweries such as Three Floyds and Barley Island.

Kiss Z Cook is continuing its popular Friday-evening date-night series, with classes on kicked-up Thanksgiving, couples' entertaining and bistro tasting menus. November's Girls' Night Out theme is sushi, and the Chef Study is Wolfgang Puck. Other random options: vegetarian cooking; roasting and braising; poaching and steaming; party favorites; and healthy food for kids.

The Chef's Academy has two Saturday classes (Nov. 7 and 21) focused on Thanksgiving meals. Likewise, Chef JJ's is offering a class on grilled turkey and unusual side dishes (plus classes on vegetarian grilling and steak and chili).

Finally, To the Last Drop in Zionsville is offering several classes focused on Thanksgiving prep, but enroll at your own risk.

Well, that's that, but I'm still hungry. Off to Rabbit's for a pot of honey ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Roller Derby Crash Course

The Naptown Roller Girls are gearing up for Nov. 15 tryouts, and Touretta Lynn is once again offering her pre-tryout School of Hard Knocks. It's a complimentary, two-hour lesson focusing on the rules and strategies of roller derby.

If you go, go armed with skates and safety equipment, including knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a mouth guard and a helmet. It's the most fun you'll ever have in head-to-toe safety gear.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Need Your Help!

Show your support for That'll Teach Me! Nominate us for Indiana's Top 50 Blogs, a contest engineered by several local marketing agencies. Let's make sure the thinkers and learners of the city are represented on that list!

The nomination process takes 30 seconds, and here's all you need to know:

Name of blog: That'll Teach Me
Why this blog deserves to be on the Top 50 list: [insert your own glowing comments here]

Thanks in advance for your support! You guys are the best readers ever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day of the Dead Workshops

While you're buying pumpkins and orange mums for Halloween, folks in Mexico are making sugar skulls and decorating altars to celebrate the Day of the Dead, which takes place Nov. 1. Locally, the Indianapolis Art Center will celebrate El Dia de los Muertos with a variety of activities, including art workshops, cooking demonstrations and gallery exhibits.

For example, chef Othono Angel (of Adobo) is offering a one-time class on Mexican cuisine, 6 p.m., Oct. 29 ($50/one or $75/two). After the demonstration, you'll get to enjoy dinner and margaritas.

Likewise, the Art Center is offering workshops on sugar skulls, amate picado (art using paper cut-outs) and artist Frida Kahlo, although the latter class is for teens only.

The Art Center takes this holiday very seriously (I don't quite understand why), and it's developed a dedicated micro-site with a full schedule of activities. Check the site for more details about the Day of the Dead Party (noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 1), presentations and more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Update: To the Last Drop

For those of you who read yesterday's rant, here's an update: To the Last Drop owner Claudia Pierson called me back yesterday. Apparently, several students canceled at the last minute due to illness, and -- not having her class list at home -- she thought that everyone had canceled. That's why she didn't show up for class or call me about the cancellation.

She offered me a prompt refund, and she offered to let me bring a friend, at no charge, to the Nov. 5 class on dips and salsas, in which I was already enrolled. That seemed fair, and I was satisfied: I got a refund and a genuine apology, and I only had to wait a few more weeks to deliver a real review about this venue.

But a few minutes later, I got an e-mail from Claudia saying that the Nov. 5 class has been ... wait for it ... canceled. (Don't worry; she's refunding my full $100.) So, if you're keeping score, I have enrolled in four classes at To the Last Drop, all four of which have been canceled (only three of them with advance notice).

At this point, I can't recommend taking a class here. We have schedules. We make plans. In our very busy lives, we carve out two or three hours to take a class, where we hope to learn something new or build an existing skill. When you enroll in a class at To the Last Drop, however, it seems you're more likely to end up with a hole in your schedule.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: To the Last Drop

So, I think my class reviews are pretty generous. Even when I think a class is horrible (which is rare), I try to find something nice to say. And I have never gone on a full-blown rant -- until now.

For about a year, I've been trying to schedule a class at To The Last Drop in Zionsville. I know how you guys love cooking classes, and I wanted to give you a peek at this venue. But it just never seemed to work out. The classes are only offered on Thursdays, so I often had scheduling conflicts. And, when I did enroll in a class, it was canceled due to low enrollment -- twice.

Finally, this morning, I was scheduled to attend the "Veggies!" cooking class. I enrolled back in September and prepaid the $50 by check (which was cashed Sept. 11). I exchanged e-mails with Claudia Pierson, who responded with a breezy "See you in October!"

Today, I showed up promptly at 10 a.m., only to find the building locked and deserted. No people. No lights. Nothing.

At first, I assumed I had made a mistake. I pulled out my trusty iPhone (whose name is Gigi) and double-checked the online schedule. I checked my old e-mails, to make sure I had actually signed up for the class. I triple-checked the online schedule. I called To the Last Drop's phone number. I banged on the door. I quadruple-checked the online schedule.


I am more than a little bit irritated. If a venue cancels a class, it has a responsibility to inform the students enrolled in that class -- especially when those students have already paid. I shouldn't have to ask To The Last Drop for a refund after showing up at an empty building; the refund should have been offered to me as soon as the class was canceled.

I'm honestly wondering how this place stays in business. I've been actively trying to take a class there for a year now, and it still hasn't worked out.

I have left both e-mail and phone messages for Claudia, asking whether the class was canceled without my knowledge (and asking for a refund). When I hear from her, I'll be sure to give you an update. And if I don't hear from her, I'll really be giving you an update.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chef JJ's Grilling Classes

Think grilling season is over? Think again. At Chef JJ's Backyard in Broad Ripple, you can enroll in a wide range of grilling classes, from "South American Favorites" to "Desserts and the Grill."

These are some of the most interesting grilling classes I've seen, and they're reasonably priced at only $25-40 per class (which includes drinks and lots of samples).

Classes are taught by chef J.J. Boston, who serves local, sustainable foods and is passionate about the idea of outdoor living. His goal: Helping you create the perfect outdoor kitchen, and then teaching you how to use it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

That'll Teach Me Ethics Policy

A few recent e-mails have reminded me that it's time to formally post my ethics policy for this blog. I am a trained journalist at heart, and I approach this blog with a desire for journalistic accuracy and integrity. So:

  1. I do not accept free or discounted classes. This is one of the oldest rules in the journalism book -- no freebies. It probably wouldn't influence my review, but it would create an appearance or possibility of influence, and I want to deliver the most accurate, fair class reviews possible.
  2. I only take classes that are available to anyone -- no one-shot preview classes designed just for the media. An important element of any class is the classroom dynamics, and I can only observe that by taking a real class.
I think that clears up the major issues; I may add to this policy over time. In the meantime, I'll keep bringing you news and reviews of all the great educational opportunities Indy has to offer!