Des Moines Social Club Culinary LoftI was invited to take a cooking class at the social club. As an intern, it’s always a good idea to learn more about the types of things offered at your workplace. I signed up for the “Decadent Summer Desserts” class because you’d be a fool to sign up for anything else. Because desserts.

I’m a music student, though, so I contemplated the music-historical significance of “decadence,” that was mostly secondlikely not at all a part of the decision-making process in naming this class. So please allow me to give a quick opera history lesson (warning, it’s opera so it’s bound to be just a little weird but this one is arguably more grotesque than normal) and then I’ll get to the pictures of the tasty tasty desserts and it will all be worth it.

Decadence was a literary and musical style in the late 19th Century that embraced excess, whose only goal was the pursuit of pleasure at the expense of established rules and mores (which is why most of this art was about sex, death, or usually both). Music or literature “to die for,” as it were.

My personal favorite example is the opera Salome with music by Richard Strauss and text by Oscar Wilde.

The story follows Salome, the daughter of King Herod, who falls in love with John the Baptist, but he’s not interested. So, naturally, she orders for the decapatation of John the Baptist and kisses his severed head on stage.

Classic Thursday night scenario, am I right ladies?!

People who saw this opera were shocked, even outraged. But it was also wildly popular.

To break down established rules and rediscover something so intriguing and deadly its beautiful is an alluring thing to witness. You know its wrong, but you still can’t stop watching.

I will now attempt to connect this to the desserts that I helped make and eat in this class. Poached Peaches with Blue Cheese and Brandy

The dessert I was responsible for making was “Poached Peaches with Blue Cheese and Brandy.” Already I was wary. What the heck was blue cheese doing in a dessert. My established rules and requirements for good food were challenged when I walked in the door. Why the blue cheese. Why the peppercorn and bay leaves in a dessert. While I’ve watched my fair share of cooking shows, Gordon Ramsey had never mentioned this before. I was shocked, but intrigued.

I followed the directions, expressing my generalized uncertainty of the dish to Stephen Exel, the class instructor. When he encouraged me to grab a spoon and take a sip of the sauce the peaches had been boiling in, I just about lost my head (pun intended).

The sauce was like caramel, but a little more savory. It was rich, it was creamy, it was magnificent.

I plated the tender peach halves with a spoonful of the sauce and crumbled the blue cheese on top. I took a bite and was excited, elated, elevated. If you think that’s an exaggeration, you don’t know my typical approach to food (I love it). The acidity of the blue cheese fit so perfectly into the savory yet fruity caramel sauce and the sweet innocence of the poached peach who was unaware of just how elegant it was. It was deadly delicious.

Coconut Almond Ice Cream with Black BerriesGrilled Watermelon and Melon Basil GranitéBlueberry-Topped Pavlovas with Cinnamon Mascarpone Whipped Cream

 

 

As you can probably see, the rest of the desserts were equally as mind-blowingly delicious and truly decadent. This class truly opened my eyes (and under-developed palate) to a whole new world of flavors.

While it was no kissing-a-decapitated-head, it showed me that, in the pursuit of deliciousness, there are really no established rules. It was dessert to die for.

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Mary Traxler at The Des Moines Social ClubWritten by Mary Traxler

Mary is a programming intern at DMSC. She is from Mankato, Minnesota and is a third-year student at Drake University where she is pursuing a double major in Music and Psychology.