It's back to school time [look for the Mercury's Back to School Issue to drop this Thursday!]. I’m always a bit jealous of students around this time of year. As much I bemoaned the necessity of school as a kid, as an adult I found that I loved learning. There’s nothing quite as satisfying to me as discovering new things about my world. So as people go back to class in September, I often wish I was going with them—that the next few months for me would also be filled with books and study. I guess that makes me a true nerd. NNNEEEEEERRRRRDDDDD!

Thankfully for us nerds (I know I can’t be the only one), there are several places in town to get our learnin’ on as we slip into the fall season.

Beginning tomorrow, Grand Central Bakery is offering free monthly baking demos at their Fremont store. Run by co-owner Piper Davis and Cuisine Manager Laura Ohm, the demos will cover a variety of savory and sweet concoctions that participants can make at home (from tarts to the unfortunately named “hand pies”).

There is, however, a catch. If you want to learn what is arguably the most important aspect of these creations—the pastry—you’d better look elsewhere. The Grand Central Baking demos will focus on creating dishes with their own “U-bake” pie shells and puff pastry, the bonus being that you’ll walk away each week with some puff pastry or pie crust to practice what you’ve learned when you get home.

November’s classes will focus on using the “U-bake” crust for “perfect holiday pies.” You’ll have to reconcile your own guilt for cheating on your Thanksgiving feast, you “U-bake” cheater, you.

Classes run the second and last Wednesday of every month at 4 pm in the Freemont Grand Central store [714 N. Fremont]. No registration required, and walk-ins are welcome.

More Learning Opportunities After the Motherlovin' Jump!

In the vicinity of Fremont you’ll find another place for food learning in Foster and Dobbs [2518 NE 15th]. Though they have classes on wine, cheese, and meat throughout the year, tomorrow’s class is particularly intriguing to me.

Morgan Brownlow (previously of the short lived Café 401) and Aaron Silverman are the force behind Tails and Trotters pork. Tasty bits from their hazelnut finished piggies have found their way to the menus of Beast and Laurelhurst Market. They’ll be discussing the intricacies of pork, including the various cuts, how grains and nuts affect the meats texture, and just what the hell you can do with it all.

Foster and Dobbs requires registration, and the cost is $20, but you do receive a ten percent discount on any purchases in their store the day of the class, which begins tomorrow night at 7:15 pm. There may still be spots available. Call 284-1157 to register.

Also on the Northside, you may want to check out Hipcooks at 3808 N. Williams. Classes run $55 a head and include ingredients, tools instruction, wine and dinner. Upcoming classes range from Japanese to Persian. Check out the Hipcooks schedual on-line here.

The Oregon Culinary Institute offers weekend classes for those interested in continueing their education in the kitchen. The classes occur at their Goose Hollow campus and cost a bit more than Hipcooks, but they are also highly intensive and entertaining (as I learned at the Extreme Cuisine class).

An upcoming class of note is “Preserving the Harvest.” I’ve been wanting to learn how to can and pickle for a long time now, but its always been a bit intimidating to me. This class promises to teach you everything from prep to the shelf life of your finished goods.

A fee of $85 will get you material veggies to can and a bag full of canned and pickled good s to take home with you. See their class schedule for more.

UPDATE, 2:55:

I JUST NOW learned through the twitter machine that New Seasons also has a passel of classes that seem to be priced right between Hipcooks and Foster and Dobbs.

I'm a big New Seasons fan, and I'll probably check one of these classes out to get the skinny. But until that happens, the full Fall Schedule can be found on-line here.