I finally did something I've been meaning to do for a long time, now--take a culinary class. N's parents gave me a gift certificate to the Institute of Culinary Education (just north of Union Square) awhile ago, and I debated for a long time between using it on a knife skills course or something more frivolous. I originally wanted to take a cake decorating class, but all the courses offered by ICE for that were 3-day intensives that were around $500. So I opted to take a short 4-hour course on eclairs.
I've recently become a fan of eclairs, but every time I eat one from a bakery it's never exactly what I hope it will be. In general, they always taste too "American." In other words, too big, too heavy, too sweet, too exaggerated in general.
This course, however, was truly loyal to the eclair's French roots. I was very suspicious of ICE's recreational courses--my experiences with 'recreational' courses elsewhere (Parsons and Pratt) were always huge letdowns. The instructors were idiots who definitely didn't know what they were doing, and there was never any rigor to the course. This one, though, was GREAT. I definitely recommend everyone to go for ICE's recreational classes. They're organized well, the instructors seem good in general, and there's some rigor to it. They're also relatively affordable. The eclair course I took was $95 for four hours of really great learning/baking, and we had the option to take home tens and tens of eclairs if we wanted to.
We ended up making vanilla (from actual vanilla beans--ICE doesn't even skimp on ingredients for this course!), Grand Mariner, praline (tasted a bit like nutella), and chocolate fillings. There were also chocolate and vanilla icings to top them, fresh fruit, and chocolate ganache. Altogether, a very good NYC find.