Have you ever had a time in your life where you found yourself doing something that you never really thought you would ever do? And then, when it’s all over, you realize that your life is just a little bit richer? That is what happened to me.
Before the workshop, I did a little homework. I went to the Zephyr Lily Cafe website and took a look around. I found and read a few reviews written by people who’d been there. And, in all, I gathered enough information to know that I was not going to be disappointed in my upcoming adventure.
Welcome to the Zephyr Lily Cafe
As I began driving to the Cafe, I wondered what this ‘outofthebox’ experience would be like. Who would I meet, what would we learn, what kind of experience would I have? The cafe was about a 30 minute drive from my house, which gave me plenty of time to ponder. On my arrival to the area, I had a little difficulty finding the cafe as it is a little tucked away off of Dodge street. So, let me start by making sure that you know how to get there. It’s really pretty simple. Just drive on Dodge Street in Omaha to 49th Street. The cafe is tucked into the middle of the block on the North side in between 49th and 50th Streets and Dodge. When you turn off of Dodge Street, look to your right (East side) and you see the Zephyr Lily emblem on the doorway, beckoning you to come inside. The fact that it is a little more difficult to find coincides with the fact that it is a real ‘hidden’ treasure.
On walking into the restaurant, the first thing that you notice is the warm ambiance that is created by the earthy colors, the wall art that is displayed throughout and the soft lighting. Instantly, I knew that this was a place where you could bring a friend, or a date and your conversation would be enhanced by your surroundings. So much art and decor to engage you that you are guaranteed not to be bored while you wait for your meals.
I have found that with each workshop that I attend presented by the Omaha Creative Institute/Omaha Sister Cities Association, there is always a representative from the foundation there to meet us. We were greeted, this time, by Susan Thomas, from the Omaha Creative Institute. Susan, myself and a woman named Lina, who also attended the Irish Dance Workshop that I attended a week earlier, waited for other attendees. Meanwhile our Instructor, Chef and Owner of the Zephyr Lily Cafe, prepared ingredients for our upcoming adventure. As we waited and talked, I learned that Lina is a professor that specializes in research. In listening to Lina’s strong accent, I felt compelled to ask where she was originally from. Lina told me that she was originally from Russia. And, though I did not push her for further details about how she arrived in America and what led her to become a professor, I realized that my goal of meeting and learning just a little bit about someone new, had been accomplished. I was about to broaden my cooking skills with Lina, a Professor who came to America from a country that in the younger days of my parents, would have been considered, more or less, an enemy of the United States. My how things have changed.
When it was time to begin, Chef Garren Gammon introduced himself and invited us into his kitchen. After introductions, we were told that we were going to learn how to make a Frittata, along with our own sausage and a peach vinaigrette sauce. This definitely sounded like something very fancy and almost immediately, reality began to give way to fantasy as I began to envision the results of learning this new skill. Garren’s voice seemed to fade into the distance for a moment, while, in my mind, a television commercial came to life. The voice in the commercial advertised ‘Bob’s World Famous Frittatas’ as the camera panned through a ritzy restaurant, eventually landing on a bald guy in a tall, white Chef’s hat . I was brought back to reality as Garren handed me an unusually large knife saying, “Now you try” as he pointed to a partially chopped up red pepper. It was then that I knew that if I was to really learn how to prepare this new dish, I would have to watch Garren’s every move from here on.
Preparing Our Ingredients
As our morning moved forward, Chef Garren walked us through each and every step of making a delicious veggie and sausage Frittata. First we learned the proper method of chopping up our ingredients. Garren showed us how to properly use the knife so that our chopped ingredients (and our fingers) all ended up the proper sizes. And after a quick tutorial, we spent several minutes preparing peppers, mushrooms, onions, leaf spinach, tomatoes and other assorted ingredients that I had a feeling would soon be a part of a very satisfying brunch. By this time, I was so hungry, I was ready to just scoop it all onto the grill and settle for some kind of scrambled eggs and veggie plate. But, I knew that these ingredients would end up as part of something much more spectacular. And, I watched as Garren taught us the most important aspects of the perfect Egg Frittata.
I learned a couple of things during this preparation stage of the workshop. First, and this is going to come as a surprise to some of you, “size matters”. There it is, I said it. And I know, this was a shocker to me too. But Chef Garren Gammon taught us that in making the perfect Frittata, your ingredients should be cut to the same sized squares. Otherwise, the ingredients might taste differently, depending on the size of each piece as some may be cooked more thoroughly than others. Second, when you cook your ingredients, you cook the ingredients that will take the longest first. The general rule that he taught us is that the juicier ingredients should be cooked last. And with this in mind, we splashed a cooking oil mixture onto the grill and began the process of cooking our ingredients.
No oven required
Next, we placed a dash of flour in a large bowl, cracked and added a couple of eggs and then splashed in a dash of milk. From here, we used a fork, making fast upward sweeps, to whisk as much air into the egg mixture as possible. I knew at this point that we were just moments from tasting something new and spectacular. Now, we were instructed to pour the egg mixture onto the grill, mixing it in with the now cooked ingredients. We mixed everything together for just a moment, just long enough for the eggs to begin cooking a little. Next we sprinkled our preferred type of fresh shredded cheese over the top (I chose Havarti) and then in an instant, it all came together. Like a Wizard creating a concoction that would turn any enemy into a lifelong friend, Garren splashed just a teaspoon or so of water onto the grill area just beside the egg and veggie mixture and then immediately dropped a large metallic bowl with a handle, directly over the now steaming water and eggs. As the grill sizzled and steamed, I could only imagine what I was going to see when the lid was finally removed. And, a mere 30-60 seconds later, the lid was removed and we placed the, now finished, egg Frittata onto a plate on which we had arranged an organic lettuce mix that had a peach vinaigrette sauce delicately poured over top.
Glad I came hungry
From here, I quickly grabbed the plate containing my finished Frittata and headed for a seat. Holding off just long enough to take a picture of this delicious looking dish, I grabbed my fork and enjoyed this wonderful treat. Now, don’t mistake me for a food critic of any sort, but I definitely know that my Frittata was exactly as good as it looked. The eggs were slightly fluffy and full of flavor from the vegetables, sausage and spices. And the peach vinaigrette covered lettuce transformed the dish from a simple egg dish to a fancy, flavorful dish that could be served in any fine restaurant.
After we ate our creations, we helped with cleanup. Chef Gammon then walked us through the process of creating the peach vinaigrette that he had made prior to our arrival. And that was it. our time was up and customers were now beginning to fill the restaurant, even though the closed sign was still hanging in the doorway. Paulette advised the first couple that came in that we were in the process of finishing our workshop, and asked if the couple would like to try a Frittata. The couple agreed and Lina was overjoyed to become ‘Chef for a day’ and set about cooking Frittatas for real customers.
Time to practice
After the workshop, I decided that I would make a quick stop at the grocery store and get some Frittata ingredients so that I could try out my new-found skill at home. And, the next morning, that’s exactly what I did.