St. Augustine has blossomed into one of the top Southern cities that has risen into the ranks of being considered a burgeoning culinary destination — from the downtown historic district to the sprawl of Anastasia Island and throughout the endless neighborhoods surrounding the Ancient City.
For the past year, the Ancient City Brunch Bar — a beautiful little eatery steps from the Plaza de la Constitución on famed St. George Street — has been wowing guests with handcrafted bruncharcuterie, coffees, curated and chef-made specialties and personalized edibles. Their captivating space has been re-designed into the new Ancient City Cooking Experience, dreamed and organized by owners Barbara Golden and Melissa Schroeder. Both partners have decades of food and hospitality know-how that, when combined, they know exactly how to make their new venture a thundering success.
It's impossible to recall another similar culinary business in St. Augustine during the past few decades, especially with the classes and demonstrations that they present by local and internationally known chefs and food experts. Their mantra is definitely “Local” — as they share the flavorful influences that are a significant part of the actual St. Augustine experience, too. They 100% support local agriculture, the seafood industry and restaurants, chefs, culinarians and high-energy trendsetters in the food scene of Northeast Florida.
Hosting intimate groups in the new Ancient City Cooking Experience of 10-12 guests, the unforgettable experience is not only deliciously fun but educational. Imagine attending a dinner presentation and watching (then dining on) sorghum-glazed carrots and fennel-lemon flounder — described, presented, cooked and served by the editor-in-chief of Edible Magazine, Lauren Titus. She explained the background of sorghum and invited guests to sample a few of the sweet carrot top greens, too — both ingredients amazingly factual and detailed.
Both Barbara and Melissa are focusing their cooking experiences on seasonality, eating local, fishing the rich waterways for seafood and discovering the exciting agricultural “community” where they live and work. They are scheduling many themed demonstrations and hands-on classes, too — remembering that chefs are usually born in home kitchens. Thus, their “kitchen” on St. George Street will feel as if it’s your kitchen when you attend one of the experiences.
When you arrive, the event begins with a warm welcome and a glass of wine, locally brewed beer or soft beverage that enlivens the culinary theme, accompanied by an hors d’oeuvres that might be a mini charcuterie. After the chef presentation or hands-on class, the dishes are served and followed with a scrumptious chef’s choice dessert.
Chef Dennis Littley, an extremely accomplished cooking expert featured on NBC News, iHeartRadio, CBS and in The Wall Street Journal, is one of the highly recognized chefs who demystifies the cooking process for the Ancient City Cooking Experience’s students. His authentic and time-tested, restaurant-style recipes are not only finger-licking good but also easy to cook at home. Dennis’ signature “30 Minute Meals” are perfect for those who don’t like spending all day in the kitchen. And one of his favorite dishes that will debut in St. Augustine is his pecan snapper with shrimp!
"One of my great joys in life is helping people learn how to make delicious restaurant-quality dishes in their home kitchens,” he said. “I am very happy to be able to do that at the Ancient City Cooking Experience in St. Augustine, my new winter home. Food brings people together, and cooking classes are a great way to turn strangers into friends. I'm looking forward to making new friends and helping them find the joy in cooking."
With cooking boot camps popping up everywhere offering home cooks a culinary experience that is immersive, this new fine-tuned “kitchen” can make even the most timid cooks more comfortable and creative in their own kitchens. The Ancient City Cooking Experience offers a regional overview of St. Augustine and 450-plus years of international dining influences. It’s a recreational cooking class that lures small birthday parties, team-building, corporate events and just about everyone who loves their food sprinkled and blended into a fun two-hour adventure with a great chef.
From freshly made pasta and hand-rolled sushi to delicate pastries and high-end dinners, Barbara and Melissa are curating the best chefs and best classes to sharpen your culinary curiosity and talents!