Grovestone is a lovely store located in the Old Farm Shoppes that specializes in olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings. I have visited the store previously to purchase olive oil and balsamic vinegar so when I received an e-mail that there was a Mediterranean cooking class available for $38, I was excited. I contacted a friend and we signed up to attend. Before the class, I hadn’t experienced Mediterranean dishes, nor had I ever prepared this cooking style in my kitchen, so this trip was to expand on my culinary tastes while making memories, enjoying some good food and some wine. 

The classes are an hour and half long, held right in the store; the middle store displays were replaced with several tables all setup with wine glasses, bottled water, candles, bread, olive oils, and seasonings. Overall about 30 people attended the class that was presented by Chef Leah Bodine and Grovestone Owner, Loui Liagridonis.

The evening started with check-in, an option to purchase a glass of wine, then locating a seat. Once everyone was situated, Liagridonis provided great background on the area where the olives for the oils were grown. This is a family owned business, and as Liagridonis spoke I could see the pride he has in the journey he has taken to become the owner of Grovestone. While the introduction took place, the attendees prepare their own dipping sauce using any of the olive oils and seasonings provided at the table; baguette bread was provided for dipping. There was never a shortage of bread or dipping ingredients even when the night ended.

The class itself was a demo where Chef Bodine first described the preparation of each dish and cooking times, then the dishes were passed to the group to sample. All the dishes were prepared using some form of the products available at Grovestone. During the courses paired wine samples were provided.

My favorite recipes from the evening were the Pa Amb Olil (tomato and oil crostini) from Majorca, chicken with olives, raisins, and onion from Crete, and the orange honey cake with pistachios from Aegina. Pa Amb Olil was the appetizer providing a great mixture of flavors that is easy to prepare and consisted of bread, tomatoes, oil olive, and seasoning that is toasted providing a crunchy flavorful bite.

Next up was the chicken with olives, raisins, and onions. I was surprised with how the combination worked together. The chicken was falling off the bone tender and served with cooked golden raisins, olives, and onion that came together for a nice combination of flavors.

Finally, dessert! The cake served was an orange honey cake with pistachios. The cake was denser than most cakes because it used a blood-orange olive oil to replace traditional fats used in cake recipes. The cake was very moist with a bold orange flavor; the topping used a combination of pistachios and almonds to help contrast the orange flavor.

I really enjoyed the experience that Grovestone offered in this class. It felt as if you were sitting at a big holiday dinner with close friends and family with conversation flowing. I think part of this feeling was due to the family style serving of the dishes, the ambiance provided in the store, and the personalized feeling the hosts brought to the class.

Grovestone
1707 W Kirby Ave
Champaign

Top photo by Jean Lee; all other photos by Heidi Warren