A well-appointed table often greets guests at The Willows Inn in Central Point.
Yet chef Sandy Dowling worries she won't have enough silver, including obscure fish forks and knives, to evoke the elegance of "Downton Abbey."
What: "Downton Abbey" demonstration cooking class and dinner; cost is $65 per person, which includes a full meal with wine; preregistration required.
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 15 and 16.
Where: The Willows Inn and Cooking School, Central Point
To register: Call 541-665-3020.
For more information: See www.cookatthewillows.com
"Dinner was the event of the day," says Dowling, owner of The Willows Cooking School. "So it had to be lengthy, complicated ... a lot of conversation.
A menu straight out of Edwardian England, however, doesn't have to be as complicated as the hit public-television series' plot. Veteran cooking instructors Jennifer Aston Mills and Tina Boughey are bringing the blueprint for a traditional, six-course meal from Britain to Southern Oregon next month. The Willows is one of just a few cooking schools in the United States to host Mills' and Boughey's new "Downton Abbey"-themed class during the duo's upcoming American tour.
"This is a first for us," says Dowling of the television tie-in. "I think it's a good food-history lesson."
Although historical events long besmirched the reputation of British cuisine, Mills and Boughey cite "Mrs. Beeton's Cookbook" as the seminal source for Victorian-era dishes, adapted from classic French techniques. "If you go back to Mrs. Beeton's day, she was using Parmesan cheese," says Boughey. "It was really the Second World War that did it for us — eradicated a lot of these things."
Featuring garlic, capers, pine nuts, anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes, along with Parmesan, theirs is the sort of fare that Downton Abbey staff would have prepared downstairs to serve the Earl of Grantham upstairs, say Mills and Boughey, who have followed the entire series and recently visited Hampshire's Highclere Castle, the site of "Downton" filming.
"Now, 'Downton Abbey' fever has gotten ahold of all you over there," says Mills. "Once you get into it, you sort of can't escape.
"It probably does create a curiosity about what they used to eat then."
Inspired by a Mrs. Beeton's recipe, their Downton chicken course was taste-tested by Queen Elizabeth II during her Jubilee, say Mills and Boughey, who have worked for nearly 25 years in the culinary and hospitality industry. The dessert course's meringues with raspberries reference Mrs. Patmore's failing eyesight, causing the head cook to mistake salt for sugar in one episode. Class participants will take home all the recipes.
"If people actually want to do this, it's not that difficult," says Boughey.
Traveling across the pond to teach and cook for charity and television spots, Mills and Boughey will miss several episodes in the fourth season of "Downton Abbey," which airs in Britain before the U.S. Arriving this week in Dallas, Mills and Boughey plan stops in Oklahoma, where Mills lived while married to an American doctor, and Lake Oswego, in addition to the Rogue Valley.
Two other class formats — "vintage" tea and modern British cuisine — were on offer, but to Mills' and Boughey's surprise, almost every cooking school they contacted chose "Downton." They intend to dress up as Mrs. Patmore and Daisy Mason, the cook's assistant, but will have to hash out who plays whom on the flight from London. Class participants are invited to wear period dress, if they wish.
"People quite like to dress up, and it's a sense of occasion," says Boughey. "We think this is fab."
For more information, see Mills' and Boughey's website, www.tastingengland.co.uk.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email email@example.com.