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Virtual pizza making? Instagram live cocktail hour? During COVID-19, local businesses turn to online classes

Uploaded: Apr 17, 2020
I've never met Tian Mayimin of Little Sky Bakery but on a recent afternoon, I watched her make pizza from scratch in her home kitchen in Menlo Park -- all from the comfort of my own couch.

It was Mayimin's first-ever virtual baking class on Zoom. Fans of her naturally leavened breads tuned in live as she rolled out fresh pizza dough, topped it with tomato sauce, vegetables from the Menlo Park farmers market (where she sells her baked goods) and mozzarella and gave tips on baking pizza at home.

It's an offering that wouldn't have existed just weeks ago. Mayimin is among several local food and drink businesses that started online classes for customers sheltering in place at home. Local bartenders, out of work, are demonstrating on Instagram live how to make sidecars and martinis. Breweries and wine bars are hosting virtual tastings.

Tian Mayimin of Little Sky Bakery in Menlo Park demonstrates how to make pizza at home during a free Zoom class on Friday, April 10.

For these small businesses, it's a means of connection but also survival. The online tastings mean people buying their wine or beer to participate. Redwood City bar Nighthawk is using virtual cocktail classes to raise money for its employees, who were temporarily laid off after the bar closed on March 14. Nighthawk's owners don't know when they'll be able to reopen.

Nighthawk started the cocktail classes "to give something back to our community and spread positive energy in a time of great difficulty and uncertainty," said General Manager and Partner Esteban Acedo, while also "asking for donations to our cause."

Below is a list of local options for virtual food-related classes and wine and beer tastings. If you know of any others, please let us know in the comments below.

Little Sky Bakery, Menlo Park

Mayimin has always been too busy meet the many requests she gets for in-person baking classes. She's grown Little Sky Bakery from a one-woman home-baking operation to running stands at multiple local farmers markets. (She's also now offering expanded delivery during the shutdown, which she said is helping her business stay afloat and reach new customers.)

But with Zoom, Mayimin was able to quickly launch a series of virtual baking classes. She started with pizza making, inspired by her own at-home creations and ones shared by customers who had bought her naturally leavened pizza dough. The dough is made from water, stone-ground whole wheat flour, bread flour, wild yeast and salt.

"I've been getting some exciting looking homemade pizza pictures in the last few weeks and happy emails (one lady said pizza-making was really therapeutic for their family during this time), and I thought folks might really enjoy something like this," Mayimin said. "I just wanted to share that experience with more people -- it's almost absurdly easy to feel like you are eating the best pizza in the world, and you made it yourself."

During the class, Mayimin walked viewers through how to stretch and shape the dough, the essential equipment for making pizza at home (and substitutes for ones that we might not have access to right now) and her toppings strategy (lots of fresh veggies; avoid wet ingredients that will make the dough soggy). She answered questions live and viewers weighed in with their own tips. After, she posted a summary of her pizza-making tips online.

Mayimin plans to hold weekly Zoom classes on Fridays from 4-4:30 p.m. This Friday, April 17, will focus on how to feed and maintain a sourdough starter. Future classes will cover how to properly store bread to keep it fresh, shaping bread, challah braiding, making pizza dough from scratch and other topics. She'll post video recordings of the classes afterwards.

For more information, go to

Nighthawk, Redwood City

Before shutting down in March, people would gather around Nighthawk's bar in downtown Redwood City for bartending 101 classes. Now, a Nighthawk bartender goes on Instagram live every Friday at 8 p.m. to lead an at-home cocktail hour.

A Nighthawk bartender shakes a cocktail during a live class on Instagram.

The bar posts the cocktails and ingredients ahead of time on Instagram. This Friday, a bartender will demo a sidecar and daiquiri.

The classes are free but Nighthawk asks participants to donate to a GoFundMe campaign to support its staff.

For more information, go to

Devil's Canyon Brewing Company, San Carlos

Friday afternoons at Devil's Canyon are usually a festive affair: The San Carlos brewery opens its taproom and beer garden for a free neighborhood party with live music, food trucks and craft beer.

With all in-person events canceled until further notice, the brewery recently started hosting live online tastings of its beers, which are available for home delivery or pickup seven days a week. Owner Chris Garrett led a recent tasting on Zoom featuring three Devil's Canyon IPAs.

Follow Devil's Canyon's Instagram for future tastings.

Jackie Riccardo, Coffeebar

Jackie Riccardo, who oversees pastry for all of Coffeebar;sBay Area locations, is not in the cafes baking right now. She's staying home with her autistic daughter, whose school is closed, and decided to start an Instagram baking series "to offer my followers some insight into my new 'normal' at home." She said she hoped it would "give them some light and baking inspiration while we get through this challenging time together."

During her first Instagram live, she tackled one of the most popular baking projects of the shutdown: how to make your own sourdough starter. (After, she shared her starter recipe on Instagram.)

Riccardo now plans to record how-to videos and post them for people to watch when they can. She’ll focus on whatever people ask for; recent requests have included making cookies, macarons, focaccia and muffins.

To find her videos, follow Riccardo on Instagram.

Wursthall, San Mateo

Wursthall chef-partner Kenji López-Alt and sous chef Erik Drobey will be teaching people how to make pancetta via livestream on May 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $75 and include 5 pounds of pancetta and a pint of pickled chiles that must be picked up from Wursthall during designated times, as well as recipes to use once the pancetta is done curing.

For more information and to purchase a ticket, go to

QBB, Mountain View

QBB usually hosts its barbecue and bourbon events in person -- multi-course barbecue dinners with bourbon pairings -- but they've moved online during the shutdown. The Mountain View restaurant's next virtual event will be on May 7, featuring bourbon from Barrel Craft Spirits in Louisville, Kentucky.

To purchase a ticket, go to

Vin Vino Wine, Palo Alto

Palo Alto wine shop Vin Vino Wine, which is offering bottles for pickup and delivery while its tasting bar is closed, has started offering remote tastings. The owners started by buying 2 oz. glass jars and delivering samples to regular customers for a trial-run Zoom tasting. The next tasting will be April 30 at 5 p.m. on Zoom featuring a flight of Joseph Colin Côte de Beaune white wines (pre-packed for pickup or delivery the day of).

People who are interested in attending a future virtual tasting should sign up for Vin Vino Wine's newsletter or can email

Thomas Fogarty Winery, Woodside

Thomas Fogarty Winery, which is offering curbside pickup and free local delivery, is hosting virtual tastings via Zoom and Facebook. Last week, Tom Fogarty Jr., winemaker Nathan Kandler and co-founder Michael Martella led the tasting of a 2016 estate pinot noir.

Send the winery a message on social media or call 650-852-6777 for information on how to participate.

Velvet 48, Burlingame

Burlingame wine bar Velvet 48 recently held an Instagram live guided tasting of Champagne Billecart-Salmon's brut rosé. The tasting featured the French winery's U.S. regional manager, Velvet 48 owner Jason Cooper and travel, food and wine blogger Emily Martin.

Follow Velvet 48's Instagram for future tastings.

Taste Buds Kitchen, Palo Alto

Taste Buds Kitchen started a free online cooking club for kids. The company releases a new cooking video with the accompanying recipe every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m.

For every person who joins, Taste Buds will donate $1 to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working to end child hunger.

Online cooking classes for adults are coming soon.

To sign up, go to
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 17, 2020 at 9:51 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Leave it to Tian to step up and teach about making pizza (one of life's essential skills, and seldom more useful than right now)! Go Tian!

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