Blair House Inn Cooking School Hands-on Learning Environment

3 Days In Cooking School at the Blair House Inn

 Cook, Eat, & Relax at the Blair House Inn

No doubt about it, food inspires my travel destinations. Whether I am attending a local Houston food event or traveling internationally emulating a food crawl from Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, I love to travel near and far in search of the next tasty bite.

My motivation? The ultimate dining experience, of course!

Last week, as part of a Select Registry travel blogger collaboration, I attended an Italian Cuisine three-day cooking class at the Blair House Inn Cooking School in Wimberley, Texas. I was so excited because this was my first time to experience a cooking vacation to learn how to make my own tasty bites! The Blair House Inn Cooking School afforded the perfect food-themed getaway that allowed me the opportunity to connect with my inner chef, eat gourmet meals, and relax in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.

Before my arrival at the Blair House Inn, my mind was occupied with life’s daily stresses. But within minutes of being in the Blair House Inn cooking program, I was able to let go and immerse myself in the intensive, three-day Italian Cuisine cooking course led by executive chef/instructor Chris Huffman. I detached from the world and focused on expanding my culinary knowledge. The interactive cooking sessions delivered useful techniques, valuable tips, and hands-on training that I wouldn’t learn from simply following a recipe in a cookbook at home.  Chef Huffman’s professional instruction taught me ways to prepare Italian meals for family brunches, Sunday lunches and dinner parties. By the third day, I left the Blair House Inn’s culinary program feeling confident in my cooking ability to prepare an Italian feast at home.

I loved my time at the Blair House Inn and enjoyed every minute of the cooking sessions. It was like a taste of Italy in the heart of the Texas Hill Country!

Sounds like fun, huh? It really is and you should try it too! Here is the Taste & See Life itinerary to help you plan your own three day culinary adventure at the Blair House Inn Cooking School.

Blair House Inn 22-acres
DRIVING INSTRUCTIONS FROM HOUSTON TO BLAIR HOUSE INN (The Scenic Route)

There are many destinations in the Texas Hill Country area and several ways to get where you’re heading. I suggest finding a route that aligns with your time schedule and your planned activities. I also recommend researching your route to avoid any road closures and construction areas. For this reason, consider driving during daylight hours in case you need to reroute on an alternate path. Plus, you don’t want to miss the scenery! The directions for this post are sourced from Google Maps. The drive is pretty easy, but can get a little tricky in San Marcos around the I-35 underpass. Just follow the signs to Wimberley and you should have no problems finding the Blair House Inn.

  • Take I-10 west to the Luling exit.
  • Go into Luling and take Highway 80 to San Marcos and follow signs to Wimberley (it’s a straight shot).
  • Continue onto TX-80 and turn right onto Ranch Road 12 North.
  • Turn right onto W. Spoke Hill Dr and follow entrance to Blair House Inn.
Blair House Inn Cooking School Fresh Locally Sourced Ingredients

3 Days in Cooking School at the Blair House Inn – Taste & See Life Itinerary

EAT. SEE. DO. {Cooking 101}
DAY 1

Check-in at the Blair House Inn at 3:00 pm and settle into your spacious, well-appointed, Texas-themed cottage called the San Rafael cottage. You kick off your boots, grab a complimentary Ferrero Rocher chocolate and a bottled water, and test out the king-sized bed. Your body melts into the bed releasing the muscle tension you picked up on the drive from Houston to Wimberley. It feels wonderful to lay down for a minute. You feel your eyes getting heavy and you want to take a nap. Instead, you make a cup of coffee and head back to the main house for your first cooking session that starts at 4:00 pm.

Blair House Inn owners, Chris and Lois Mahoney, greet you and introduce you to executive chef/instructor Chris Huffman. After exchanging introductions with your classmates, you follow Chef Huffman into the commercial kitchen, find your class binder stocked with sixty Italian recipes, and put on your Blair House Inn Cooking School apron. You feel official and are ready to work.

Chef Huffman starts the class with a quick orientation and overview of the course outline and safety guidelines. As you watch the demonstrations and help prepare tonight’s dinner, your stomach begins to grumble. It’s 5:00 pm and the kitchen is in full swing. Students are chopping, stirring, and seasoning. The smell of seared pork chops fills the air. And wine glasses magically appear filled with generous pours of red wine. You can feel the bonding occur between chef and students and it feels pretty amazing.

Chef Huffman teaches you how to optimize efficiency in the kitchen by preparing meals ahead of time. He uses the Sun-dried Tomato Basil Bread recipe as an example and creates the starter for the bread using flour, water and yeast. Then he has the students make the base for homemade Pistachio Ice Cream for tomorrow’s lunch and stores it in refrigerator overnight.

When it’s almost time for dinner, Chef Huffman shows you how to pan sear a pork chop to perfection. You document his culinary wisdom in your binder: heat the skillet first, then add the oil to pan. Cooking must be done in layers to absorb the seasoning. Grill pork chops one side at a time. When the meat doesn’t stick to the pan, flip the pork chop to side two. Finish cooking the pork chops in the oven to keep the meat tender and moist.  

By 6:00 pm, with Chef Huffman’s instruction, your group completes day one of the Italian Cuisine course. You join your classmates in the dining room and feast on your creations: Basil Pesto, Grilled Rosemary and Lavender Pork Chops, Baked Balsamic and Roasted Garlic Portabellas, Zabaglione with Fresh Berries, Amaretto Whipped Cream.

After dinner, you sit outside on the patio and enjoy the Texas Hill Country night swapping stories with your new friends.


DAY 2
Blair House Inn San Rafael Cottage King-Bed with hand- ironed linens

San Rafael Cottage, plush king-sized bed with hand-ironed linens

Your plush, king-sized bed feels like butter and it’s difficult to leave its embrace. You hit the snooze button on your phone two times and finally wake up to attend the 7:45 am breakfast demonstration. You slip on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of closed-toed shoes, and head down to the main kitchen.

In the morning session, you learn how to make Zucchini Frittata, Tomato Butter Sauce, Italian Sausage and Potatoes with Balsamic Reduction, and Zeppole. You take notes as Chef Huffman shares his tip for making crispy pan roasted potatoes: cube and boil the potatoes until they are half done, remove the potatoes from water and leave them in the refrigerator overnight to dry, finish cooking potatoes in hot oil and rest the potatoes on paper towels to soak up excess oil.

After breakfast, you return to your cottage for a short break and relax until the next session.

At 10:00 am, you return to the kitchen. The thought of cooking lunch when you are still full from breakfast is a bit of a challenge. However, you channel your inner chef and begin to season six veal shanks with salt and pepper to prepare the Osso Bucco alla Milanese for tonight’s dinner.

Blair House Inn Cooking School, Select Registry, Veal Shanks

Pan-Seared Veal Shanks for the Osso Bucco alla Milanese

Next, Chef Huffman demonstrates how to make today’s lunch entrée, Snapper Picatta. It is a simple process of dredging the filets in a flour mixture and following in an egg wash. As you listen to Chef Huffman’s instructions for preparing the lemon butter sauce, you sauté the snapper filets over high heat.

After a quick ten-minute break, you and your classmates take turns kneading the dough for Basil Sun-dried Tomato Bread to understand the correct texture of the dough. Chef Huffman places the dough on cookie sheets and loads it into the oven. He tosses a few ice cubes in the oven and offers a tip: toss a handful of ice cubes in the oven when baking bread to develop a nice crust on the bread.

As the session concludes, Chef Huffman instructs your group on how to make the Italian Almond Macaroons for tonight’s Tiramisu, finishes the Pistachio Ice Cream, and shows the class how to blanch green beans.

It is noon and you are surprisingly peckish. You join your classmates in the main dining room and consume the fruits of your labor: Snapper Picatta served with green beans, Homemade Basil Sun-dried Tomato Bread, and Homemade Pistachio Ice Cream.

After lunch, you devote your two-hour midday break to touring the Blair House Inn property. You walk the 1.5 mile on-site prayer stone trail, talk to Oliver the outdoor yellow tabby, and take photographs of the blooming flowers gardens. You return to your room and shower before the 3:00 pm cooking session.

You are on the last stretch of your cooking marathon and grab a cup of coffee to stay alert. Chef Huffman’s continues class with demonstrations for preparing Pumpkin Ravioli with Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce. You and your classmate take turns rolling out the pasta dough and feeding it through the pasta press. After the pasta dough is thinned out, you spoon the pumpkin filling onto a sheet of pasta keeping an inch between each dollop. You brush the first layer with water and top with the second layer of pasta and cut 12 portion squares with a pizza cutter. Using a fork, you seal edges of the ravioli and dust the pasta with flour and set the pasta pillows aside until you are ready to boil them. Chef Huffman notes that ravioli can be made in batches and stored in the freezer.

It’s an afternoon of fierce cooking and you are ready to feast on your evening masterpieces: the Pumpkin Ravioli with Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce, Osso Bucco alla Milanese, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Risotto, and Tiramisu. The food is delicious and you over indulge a bit. You waddle back to your cottage and admire the countless stars from your private deck.  When you can peel yourself off the lounge chair, you end the night with a hot soak in your 2-person spa tub.


DAY 3

It’s your final day. Class starts at 7:45 am to prepare breakfast: Florentine Eggs Benedict, Caper Hollandaise, and Mint Currant Scones. You take notes and watch Chef Huffman work his culinary magic. You savor your last chef-prepared meal at the Blair House Inn with your classmates.

The last culinary session, preparing a picnic lunch to be taken on a Hill Country outing to a local Texas Vineyard or Farm, is optional and depends on the weather. You end your three-day cooking vacation with Chris and Lois Mahoney presenting you with a certificate of completion and a signature Blair House Inn Cooking School apron.

You return home with a memorable experience, a refreshed spirit, and valuable cooking skills.

Blair House Inn | A Select Registry Inn

100 West Spoke Hill Drive
Wimberley, Texas 78676
512-847-1111
blairhouseinn.com

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, the Blair House Inn provides first-class hospitality and luxury accommodations for guests who need to getaway from their busy lives. The 22 tree-topped acres create an environment to reconnect with mates, relatives, and self. The prayer stone lined trails, grazing wildlife, and tranquil gardens make it easy to transport a restless mind into a heavenly state of mind.

I was blessed to stay two nights at the Blair House Inn in the San Rafael Cottage. The Texas-themed cottage featured a spacious sitting area, fireplace, Dish TV/DVD, CD player, Wireless Internet, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, two-person whirlpool tub and separate shower which made my stay very relaxing. I fell in love with the custom-framed, king-sized bed with hand-ironed cotton linens. The bed was simply irresistible!

From quiet walks of reflection to intensive multi-course group cooking classes, the Blair House Inn offers the amenities to escape and unwind:

  • An art gallery
  • A gourmet, nationally known cooking school
  • An spa
  • An outdoor pool and hot tub
  • An outdoor fire pit
  • 1.5 mile prayer stone walking trail
  • A library, DVD and computer room
  • Flower and herb gardens
  • Hammocks
  • Private decks
  • In-room fire places
  • Nightly turn down service featuring freshly baked desserts and wine
  • Complimentary beverages
  • Free Wi-Fi

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Blair House Inn. Chris and Lois Mahoney, the Blair House Inn staff, and Chef Chris Huffman made sure their guests felt at home during their stay. And, I can see why people return to the Blair House Inn year after year. It truly is a Texas treasure!

txhillcountrytrail.com – Offers detailed information for the Texas Hill Country Trail Region and events by city.

Texas Hill Country– The official Texas Hill Country website. Learn about upcoming events, activities, and more.

Texas Highways – The official site for Texas Highways Magazine.

Travel Texas–  The official site for Texas travel planning.

Select Registry–  An association of luxury bed and breakfasts, inns, and small hotels that offer exceptional accommodations and unforgettable experiences.

Texas Pit Quest– Everything about Texas BBQ is found here. My friend Scott Sandlin is an expert in smoked meats and provides all the details where to eat on his blog. He gave me the BBQ places to visit for my post and he was spot on!

J.C. Reid– Houston Chronicle Barbecue columnist reporting on the in’s and out’s of everything smoked, grilled, and fired up! He’s a talented writer with great insight.

The Best of Texas Barbecue– The blog to plan your BBQ crawl.

The Houston Chronicle: Wimberley After the Storm – Great write-up about Wimberley attractions and businesses.


The Blair House Inn three-day Italian Cuisine course was a bit intensive, but I can honestly say that my cooking skills significantly improved. Now I know why the Blair House Inn Cooking School is nationally known and featured in several travel publications as one of America’s top cooking destinations. The Blair House Inn cooking program is approachable, caters to all levels, provides easy to implement takeaways, improves cooking skills, and teaches students how to optimize efficiency in the kitchen.

The beauty of the Blair House Inn cooking program is that you can manage your level of involvement and attend sessions based your on energy level. You can attend the two or three intensive all day courses or attend one session to learn one meal or be a guest of a cooking student and chill out by the pool until meals are served.

The Blair House Inn Cooking School is ideal for couples’ retreats, girls’ weekends, bridal parties or corporate team building. I attended as a single traveler and fit in perfectly with the other couples in the class. With Blair House Inn’s nurturing environment, I was able to unplug from the daily stresses of life and relax and learn.

Thank you Chris and Lois Mahoney, the Blair House Inn staff, and Chef Chris Huffman and Select Registry for providing the plush accommodations and the memorable three-day cooking school experience in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. It truly was an one-of-a-kind experience!

Go taste and see for yourself!

Michelle Carr

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