I always love finding fun and different things to do in our area, especially when it involves food. So when Mary Ball from Salon Kokopelli asked if I would join her for a cooking class at a restaurant in Manalapan, I was all about it.

It was at Spargo's Grille on Rt 33 in Manalapan. I'd never been there before, but Mary said it was one of her favorite restaurants and that I had to check it out.

I didn't quite know what to expect, but it wound up being a lot of fun. When you walk in, they had 3 long tables set up family style, with a demo table at the front. It's BYOB, so if you decide to go, bring some wine!

The first course was a lobster parfait with tomatoes, hearts of palm, and a cilantro-citrus dressing. Chef Tim Murphy demos how to make each dish at the front of the room, and everyone is given a copy of the night's menu and recipe to take home.

After he shows you how to make each course, the servers bring some out for everyone to try. The parfait was incredible...lobster is one of my favorite things to eat, so I was in heaven.

Next was the entree. Rack of lamb with rosemary roasted potatoes and shallot vinaigrette, with a side of lemon-butter green beans with pecans. Chef Tim explained how to properly butcher and french the lamb, before preparing it all in front of us. Very cool.

I'll be honest, I love trying new and different foods, but I have never liked lamb. I've tried it many different ways and never enjoyed it. However, whatever kind of magic Tim worked, I was diggin it. I even told him that for the first time in my life, I enjoyed eating lamb. It's definitely not my favorite thing, but the meal was DEFINITELY good. The vinaigrette on top was delicious.

Next was a panna cotta with raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries. Tim did a great job explaining different presentation possibilities and how to get the most flavor from vanilla beans (and how to make your own vanilla extract!).

The last time I had panna cotta I was in Italy, but let me tell you, this dessert was GREAT. Sweet custard with a perfect amount of tartness from the raspberries...yum!!

I could have eaten about four more of them.

The only complaint I have? Sometimes it was difficult to see from where we were sitting, and there were some very rude people who talked loudly the entire time, including when Tim was doing the demo. Otherwise, a great time, and the family style seating allows to meet some friendly folks as well (unless you're the antisocial type)!

It's $50 per person, and I think it's totally worth it for a fun night out with some great food. The cooking demos are held the first Tuesday of every month. If you're not into the whole cooking demo thing, this place would still make a great date spot (especially with Valentine's Day around the corner!!)

Thanks to Chef Tim for the recipes and taking a minute to snap a picture with me after the meal!

Have any ideas for a fun night out here in our area? Share them below!