Also: Area breweries host beer and Girl Scout cookie pairings

CANANDAIGUA — Pssst. Matt Wooster has a secret.

Wooster, a Geneva native who is the lead culinary instructor at New York Kitchen and has been a chef for over 30 years, has tried some of the so-called “impossible burgers” offered at the big fast-food chains. The burgers, so to speak, are plant- and not meat-based, hence the "impossible" moniker.

What comes next from Wooster, who cooked at his own family restaurant and for community-living facilities after he grew tired of the long hours and weekends, might come as a surprise.

“I have to be honest,” Wooster said. “I’ve had some of those products and I can’t tell the difference.”

With that confession out of the way, you can take it to the bank what he has to say about the glazed lentil walnut apple loaf, which students will be learning how to make at a sold-out whole-food, plant-based cooking class next week.

“It looks like meatloaf. It tastes like meatloaf,” Wooster said. “It’s a delicious meatloaf.”

Only it’s a dish without the meat.

The classes are popular. New York Kitchen offers at least one whole-food plant-based cooking class a month, and they sell out “tremendously,” Wooster said.

Most likely, the reason comes down simply to health.

Diet is a really big part of a healthy lifestyle, according to Linda Rowsick, a registered dietician and nutrition clinical coordinator at UR Medicine Thompson Health.

Many heart conditions can be regulated in part by a whole-food plant-based diet, Rowsick said.

They can be tasty, as many students in the NYK classes learn, but for those who stick to the familiar and absolutely salivate at the thought of a medium rare grilled steak but are urged to instead dine on veggie-based entrees — take heart.

Make changes gradually, Rowsick suggested, perhaps with one meal at first, like breakfast. Changing lifestyles is a trip for the long haul.

“Whichever meal is easiest to start with,” Rowsick said. “Each person is different.”

Also, be patient, as it takes a good one to two weeks to adjust to a new diet and for some, as long as a month, particularly those with love of cheese and sugar. But the benefits begin to show almost immediately, Rowsick said.

Done right, a diner can enjoy a nice full meal of, say, roasted Brussels sprouts, baked potato and side salad, instead of a beef-, pork- or chicken-dominated dish. People just need to eat more vegetables, Rowsick said.

“If you eat those foods first, you will be fuller and eat less of the animal food,” Rowsick said.

Soon enough, you'll come to relish the variety of dishes. So many great plant-based recipes are really flavorful with the right kind of seasoning, and the method of cooking can really transform a meal, Wooster said.

“You don’t really miss the meat anymore,” Wooster said.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle may be an adjustment, but don’t let cooking those meals stop you. In fact, it can be a challenge, Wooster admitted, but at the same time, it can be fun and creative.

Take the jackfruit, which is a large green or yellow fruit native to South India.

It’s sweet tasting, good for you and its texture resembles that of shredded meat. Throw a little heart-healthy barbecue or a sloppy Joe sauce (you can learn this one at NYK, too) on top, add some red beans, and tomato and cucumber salad on the side and now you’re talking about a dish that could make the collective mouths water over at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

You’re almost tricking the senses, Wooster said, but if done properly, it works.

“It’s fun to turn jackfruit into pulled pork,” Wooster said. “Veggies and grains can mimic those proteins. You mold them, you turn them a certain way. Close your eyes and you’re like, ‘Oh my God! Is that pulled pork or is that jackfruit?’”

Go back in time and discover ancient grains like farro and quinoa and add them to a meal. Or, keep it simple. Beans are good for the heart, as any first-grade jokester knows.

“You don’t have to have a million different ingredients,” Wooster said. “You don’t really want to totally mask what you’re cooking with — you want to have nice spices.”

Wooster’s overall message: Be fun. Be creative. Be healthy.

“I think the effort goes a long way,” Wooster said. “If you develop a great recipe, it’s something healthy and people enjoy it, you hold onto it.”

Above all, give it a try for a month or two and embrace the change, Rowsick said.

“You’ll feel better,” Rowsick said.

For more information on New York Kitchen classes and events, visit https://www.nykitchen.com/classes-happenings/. Visit ReInvention Brewing Co., at 9 N. Main St., Manchester, at http://www.reinventionbrewing.com/.

Reinventing cookies and beer

Certain styles of ReInvention Brewing Co.’s craft beer taste better with a cookie, as Kristy Aldrich will tell you. And every cookie tastes better with a craft beer.

No one has to tell you that very few mortals can resist a Girl Scout cookie, so it stands to reason that the two are a pairing made in heaven.

And for those who want to test the theory out, the Manchester brewery this weekend is hosting two days of Girl Scout cookies and beer pairings.

This is the third year of the event, but the first time that it will be held for two days; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We look forward to putting this on,” said Aldrich, who is co-owner with her husband, George. “It has grown considerably every year.”

Here’s why.

The menu will offer five pairings, which will be unveiled Saturday. Three beers and six cookies for $10. But, here’s a hint.

The ever-popular Thin Mint cookie will be paired with a schwarzbier, a light, easy-to-drink black lager. The Lemon Ups cookie will be paired up with one of the brewery’s IPAs.

Last year, 92 boxes of Girl Scout cookies were enjoyed in the pairing — there should be some sort of badge for that — and Girl Scouts from Canandaigua and Red Jacket will also be available if you need to buy some cookies to take home (and who doesn’t, by the way?).

These pairings have been taste tested — trust her on this one when she calls some “mind blowing.”

“It’s a tough job,” Aldrich admitted.

A heated tent outside will help handle the expected crowd and keep the Girl Scouts warm, Aldrich said. Milk and cookies will be available for the kids and those who’d rather pass on the beer.

“We work really hard to improve it each year,” Aldrich said. “People are always happy with the pairings. We take notes on how we can do better.”

Also, New York Beer Project in Victor will be doing a similar pairing event, from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. According to its Facebook page, Thin Mint cookies will be paired with NYBP's Irish coffee stout, shortbread cookies will match with the Victor lager, Caramel deLites go with the Aberdeen stout, and Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies will be with barrel-aged peanut butter porter.

On TV

Don't forget to tune into the Discovery Channel's "Master Distiller" show on Tuesday night.

Peter Cheney, owner of Cheney Funeral Home in Phelps, will be one of three distillers in a booze-making competition. If you missed Daily Messenger freelancer Andrea Deckert's story last month, click here.