Cannon Beach-17

Dinner at the EVOO Cooking School was one of the highlights of my stay in Cannon Beach. This well-loved foodie destination includes a cute but stocked gift shop, free Saturday food and wine tastings (11 am to 3 pm), and the Dinner Show, a four course interactive dinner hosted and prepared by Chef Bob Neroni and his wife Lenore Emery-Neroni.

We were unfortunately unable to meet Lenore on the evening of our dinner show as she was called away on another commitment.

EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop

Bob began his culinary career in the early 80’s. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, but grew up in the kitchen as his grandfather owned a Jewish deli on New York’s Delancey Street. His Italian grandparents on his father’s side taught him the essentials of Italian cooking.

He’s worked as an executive chef for Lowe’s, L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC, The Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers, and various Marriott Hotels around the US.

EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

A move back to Seattle saw him working as a culinary educator, consultant, and regional director of events and catering for Compass Group USA, the world’s largest food management company. I asked him if a restaurant is in the works. His answer: “We still may have a restaurant under our belt.”

EVOO Cooking School

Why EVOO? That’s one of the questions I asked Bob during the evening. Bob and Lenore picked 100 names, whittling selections down to a dozen, and so forth. As the couple like to cook with any culture that uses extra virgin olive oil in its cooking, this seemed like a fine solution. It also gives them a lot of latitude to try different things in their business.

The dinner show is hosted six nights a week in summer, four in winter, plus a Sunday supper, summer Farmer’s market meal, and hands-on classes. As well, EVOO hosts two yearly culinary trips to Tuscany, through their Encore Club. This allow 14 guests to partake in the region’s culinary delights, and Bob offers trip priority to his regulars.

Bob had two culinarians to help out for the evening: Florencio and Eduardo. They managed our group of 16 (a full house), with wine pouring, course platings, kitchen help, oven to stove trips, etc. both smiling along the way.

EVOO Cooking School/Dinner Show menu

The dinner show menu changes monthly, using 100% sustainable and organic ingredients. That means 100% of the animal or fish that’s purchase is used. Seafood choices change rapidly to reflect the fishing season’s demands. Wild mushrooms are locally foraged, used within two days of picking.

Bob likes to explain as he goes along, allowing for questions from the group. As well, Bob discusses each wine, what we’re tasting, and how to enjoy each pairing with its chosen dish. Bob: “It’s important to find the essence and tastes in each wine to help pair it with food.”

EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

Chef Neroni’s culinary ‘trinity’ includes sel gris (sea salt), black pepper (Tellicherry peppercorns), and ground coriander.

The menu recipes are available online so that guests can try cooking them at home. Bob also encourages guests to call in for tips.

EVOO Cooking School, Dinner Show seating

The smells coming from the stove were phenomenal as were were about three feet from the action! Bob does a great job of explaining the ingredients, why he chooses to cook them in the style that he does, and also importantly, what cooking methods to avoid in certain situations.

EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

Bob’s lucky to have friends in the right places: our Japanese ahi tuna had been flown in fresh that morning from Hawaii. My halibut was caught 10 miles out to sea from here.

EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

Another great Bob tip: “Cook with what you DRINK – it doesn’t get any better if you use something you don’t like.” He also a firm believer in that all of a dish’s ingredients should work, using different flavours combining for enjoyment with our without wine. Neither the wine nor the food should outpower one another.

Mushroom strudel with fresh ricotta, parmesan creme, plum chutney
[First course: Mushroom strudel, fresh ricotta, floral blossom honey, parmesan crème, plum chutney and greens. Paired with Gilstrap 2009 Syrah]

Seared curry Ahi Tuna, chunky apple compote, almond fried rice, fresh kim chee
[Second course: Seared curry Ahi tuna, chunky apple compote, almond fried rice, fresh kim chee. Paired with Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux L’Abbayo Sparkling Semillon]

Halibut, pan seared green beans, potatoes with truffle butter
[My third course: Halibut, pan seared green beans, potatoes with truffle butter.
Paired with LaVelle 2008 Triology]

EVOO Dinner Show/Cinderella pumpkin cream cheese tart, coriander, frozen custard, pepita brittle
[Fourth course: Cinderella pumpkin cream cheese tart, coriander frozen custard, pepita brittle. Paired with Caffe Umbria Mezzanotte Decaf]

My favourite dishes were both seafood plates, and the dessert. Bob prepared that brittle before our eyes, setting the sheet of sweet goodness on ice to hasten the solidifying time. We were treated to extra pours of wine and several celebrations that evening, made possible with tall candles and Bob’s flaming torch!

EVOO Dinner Show/Chef Bob Neroni making pepita brittle

My favourite wine was the LaVelle Trilogy, with its dark berry and plum from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, plus the softer texture and aromatics of the Cab Franc. A delightful wine for fish, even though it was paired to go with the grilled tenderloin. Bob is able to take meal preferences upon reservation and will look after any food allergies as well.

EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

I hope to see Bob (and Lenore the next time around) again sometime. They’ve definitely got a passion for cooking, education, and enjoyment going with EVOO. These dinners often sell out ahead of their dates, so if you’re planning a visit to Cannon Beach, reserve ahead!

The Dinner Show costs $109 per person including wine.

EVOO Cooking School/shop

EVOO is located at 188 South Hemlock Street in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Click here to view more photos of EVOO. My participation in the evening was courtesy of both EVOO and Travel Oregon.

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