Wanderlust Delicato’s elevated cooking classes provide ample flavor and memory-making, offering Spokane foodies a better look at what goes into crafting their favorite dishes.
Amber Park’s passion for travel drove her to open Wanderlust Delicato, a wine and cheese shop in the heart of downtown Spokane that highlights international cuisine with its expansive selection of charcuterie offerings.
Combining her love of jetsetting with her desire to create community, Park also developed a diverse series of cooking classes that are held at the shop, which she opened in 2019.
“The community that we’ve built at Wanderlust is something I’m very proud of,” Park says. “There’s something special about bonding over food and sharing that experience with others. It’s so much more rewarding than just going to a restaurant and ordering off of a menu.”
Park grew up outside Okanogan in north central Washington, living near farms and going to barter fairs. Once she moved away from small-town life and into Spokane, the travel bug took over and she found herself heading around the world to different countries while experiencing new foods.
“I noticed a hole in the market for international cuisine in Spokane,” Park says. “I really wanted to bring the delicacies that I found on my travels back home and share them with the community.”
Whether the COVID pandemic put a wrench in your plans to explore what’s across the pond, or international travel is a bit too costly at the moment, Wanderlust Delicato’s cooking classes offer the chance to try new foods, meet new people and make memories at a fraction of the cost — no passport required.
The classes vary in theme from week to week. One day you might be kicking it Hawaiian-style with a class dedicated to making Spam musubi. The next day might bring you to Italy, where you can learn how to make a proper fettuccine alfredo.
Outside of Wanderlust’s front entrance is bustling Main Avenue, but once the door closes, it’s like guests have traveled thousands of miles to a quaint European town.
Park’s love for travel is evident the moment you step over the threshold. The shop’s eclectic, mismatched furniture is placed throughout the room, and tabletops where customers sip wine are covered with maps. The homey and welcoming vibe of the interior is reminiscent of a grandmother’s kitchen: antique knick-knacks and inviting smells all around.
When guests enter for a cooking class, they’re offered a glass of wine and a table to wait at while ingredients are prepared and organized in the back. Class sizes vary, but usually, the group ranges from about eight to 12 people. Sharing a kitchen with a dozen people may sound like chaos, but Wanderlust’s kitchen accommodates that amount comfortably and provides ample room for chopping, stirring and sautéing.
All classes are led by one of Wanderlust’s many instructors.
“Some of our instructors have owned their own restaurants,” Park says. “Others have published recipes in books and worked in professional kitchens. Some are just hobbyists. But for most of them, this is their ‘fun job’ on the side. Their creative outlet.”
During the class I attend, Ashley Bechtel transports us to the Caribbean.
The menu for the evening includes jerk chicken, red rice and beans, a cabbage-based slaw, and fried plantains. Every detail is laid out for guests on an itemized recipe sheet, which you can take home at the end of the night.
Instead of putting your head down and making one meal for yourself, classes are a group effort. Together, you and your classmates create a part of the finished meal.
Roles are quickly doled out, and the cooking commences.
Bechtel floats around to each station, checking on guests and ensuring that everything is going smoothly. Aromas of mango, peppers and allspice waft from full pans sitting on the two stovetops supervised by myself and my mother, whom I bring along for this cooking adventure. On the other side of the counter, a married couple prepares the fixings for the main entree.
No one is standing still. Everyone is hands-on, preparing their part of the meal. My hands smell like garlic and onion, but I’m not complaining about it. Every once in a while, someone lifts the lid off of a pot and exclaims to the room, “Everyone, come smell this!” So we gather around and pat the person who cooked the chicken on the back because the mango glaze came out just right.
Quickly, a camaraderie forms between everyone in the class. Groups chat back and forth about what brings them to Wanderlust.
“We’re celebrating our wedding anniversary,” one couple says.
Another duo is visiting from Pennsylvania. Others just thought it would be fun to get out of the house.
Soon enough, the meal is ready to be plated. The group de-aprons and heads out into Wanderlust’s main dining room, where we sit and continue chatting. Everyone is talking like old friends. Glasses make a pure “ting” as we cheer in celebration of this wonderful group effort.
Plates are set down in front of everyone, and the food is gone in an instant. The unassuming beans and rice were the stars of the show, and the chicken was juicy, blackened and spicy thanks to the homemade jerk seasoning. A chorus of “mmm” and “yum” passes over the table from the mouths of newfound friends.
Once everyone is full and to-go boxes are packed with our leftover creations, hugs and waves goodbye are exchanged. We thank our instructor and part ways, though I wouldn’t mind seeing these people again.
Making your own fancy and delicious meal is an accomplishment in and of itself, but when that feeling coincides with new friendships and teamwork, it makes the food taste that much better.