“[Lauren] wanted to do a private [class] for his birthday because Ben loves and has a passion for cooking,” Tara Perez-Haney, director of operations at the Cook Street School of Culinary Arts, told PEOPLE. “We made a custom menu for them, something similar to what we would run in our culinary date night classes. Our resident executive chef, John Parks, came in and we additionally had our sommelier, Cindy Eger, pair some fun wines with their meal.”
On the three-course menu: wild mushroom agnolotti with brown butter, crispy sage and house-made ricotta; grilled bone-in double cut ribeye with garlic and chili wilted greens; and for dessert, a heart-shaped tiramisu.
And even though Bushnell left the meal-planning to the chefs, she did have one special request. “She said that Ben loves whiskey, that was the one customization she asked for, so when they got here we shook up some Manhattans,” says Perez-Haney.
And Higgins seemed to love his gift. “Found out through cooking school how to make a shroom perfectly golden brown today with my golden gal @lauren_bushnell,” he captioned an Instagram shot of the two working the stove. Bushnell Instagrammed the same photo: “Heating up the kitchen!,” she wrote.
Now that Bushnell has officially moved in with Higgins in Denver, the couple are excited to take in the city. “They were both a delight, and were also really interested in Denver’s culinary scene,” says Perez-Haney. “We gave them some great restaurant recommendations.”
She added: “[Ben and Lauren] were in a really upbeat mood and really doted on each other. They are such down-to-earth wonderful people!”
Looking to make a romantic meal at home? See below for the Cook Street School of Culinary Arts’ tiramisu recipe.
Yields: one 10-inch pan
5 eggs, separated
6 oz. sugar
1 lb. mascarpone, stirred with a hand whisk to smooth
2 ½ oz. kahlua
½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ oz. dark rum
½ c. espresso
Ladyfingers (store bought or make your own, recipe to below)
1. In a mixer bowl, stir the yolks with a third of the sugar over hot water to sanitize. Whisk the hot yolk mixture on high speed until it forms a ribbon. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and the kahlua. Combine the whites and the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl, stir together over a pot of simmering water and heat to 140° F. Remove from heat and whip to stiff peaks. Fold the meringue into the mascarpone cream. Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone cream.
Combine the rum and the espresso and set aside.
In a 10″ springform pan or a container of similar volume, alternate layers of the mascarpone cream and ladyfingers, dipping or brushing each ladyfinger briefly in the coffee mixture before placing it in the dish. (Start with the ladyfingers and end with the cream, making three layers of each.) Chill, sprinkle with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder and serve.
Yield: 2-8″ disks
⅓ c. flour
⅓ c. cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
⅓ c. sugar
4 large egg whites
2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. sugar
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Sift flour with cornstarch three times to mix and aerate. Beat yolks enough to break them up. Beat in the ⅓ cup of sugar and whip on high until very light colored and thick, about 5 minutes. Whip whites on medium until foamy.
3. Add half of the 2 tbsp + 1 tsp. of sugar and whip on high until very stiff, adding the last of the sugar near the end. Fold beaten yolks into whites, then sift on and fold in dry ingredients in three parts. Pipe onto parchment trays using a ½” plain tip.
4. Dust with powdered sugar. Bake until springy, 8-10 minutes. From oven invert and pull off paper from cakes immediately.
–Michelle Ward Trainor