Iron Chef

Stainless-steel Viking

Maybe the phrase "A kitchen is a playground for adults" has never been attributed to some great, gastronomically inclined mind or printed in Bartlett's, but it should be. For what is to knead dough but to build a sandcastle on a countertop? What is to gorgeously garnish a plate of filet mignon but to dress up a doll made of meat? What's licking the batter off the beaters but....well, licking the batter off the beaters, at any age?

And given all that, what is the Viking Culinary Arts Center but a little-bitty Disney World for grownups, conveniently located in Brentwood? Besides offering a topnotch array of cooking utensils and gourmet comestibles, Viking's top draw is its full slate of cooking classes and demonstrations. The hands-on classroom one-ups the coolest science lab, boasting five ranges and a communal dining table, sleek and shiny, long enough to accommodate the fifteen or so students who sign up for and then devour the labors of each class; the auditorium-style room used for hands-off demonstrations, meanwhile, features two large TV screens hanging from the ceiling that offer close-ups of the instructor's prep area and stovetop.

But don't be intimidated by the top-of-the-line facilities; even kitchen klutzes can find their niche within Viking's class roster, which includes Boiling Water 101 (how to stock a kitchen, how to roast a chicken) and Dude Food (lots of grilling and campfire fare). More sophisticated classes include the Pies & Tarts and Tuscan Dinner Workshops. Recess never tasted so good (1811 South Brentwood Boulevard in Brentwood Square; $39 to $79 per class; some demonstrations are free, and most classes offer a reduced rate for students willing to help with preparations or cleanup; 314-961-1999; -- Rose Martelli

Thin Is In

WED 1/7

Holiday movie season got you down? Don't feel like dropping ten bucks to watch some weepy, overwrought thespians beg for an Oscar? Cure your blues with a 7:30 p.m. screening of the classic crime comedy The Thin Man at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street, 314-231-2489, $4). Based on the final novel by Dashiell Hammett, it launched a franchise that included five sequels and a television show. Nick and Nora Charles are San Francisco's most charming socialite lushes, and they decide to solve a murder for the fun of it. In between verbal witticisms and hundreds of martinis, a scientist disappears, a murder is committed, blackmail ensues and a dinner party is thrown. Watch it, though: Someone at the table is (gasp!) a killer. -- Jedidiah Ayres

You Like Nice Things

One of the pieces at the Craft Alliance Function Follows Form furniture show is a hutch shaped exactly like a carrot; it's orange, of course, and about two feet tall, but instead of coming to a point, it looks as though the subterranean vegetable root is still partially submerged in a brown cabinet. That's good -- that's real good, and it's but one of the pieces available for purchase; the show features the work of eleven furniture/sculpture artists, so even if carrots aren't your thing, you'll find a piece that is (maybe an avocado ottoman?). Check out the wonderful room-art at Craft Alliance (6470 Delmar Boulevard, 314-725-1177, from January 9 through March 7. -- Mark Dischinger

Pastiche, Melange, Potpourri...

Those of us who have to look up the word "farrago" in the dictionary find that it means "a confused mixture; a hodgepodge." The Farrago Café (1212 Washington Avenue, 314-231-3466) is indeed an unusual hybrid of businesses -- it's a place where you can rent a DVD, buy a comic book, shoot pool, sip a cappuccino on a comfy sofa and order from a film-themed menu of snacks (we're partial to the "Fight Club Panini," and "It's a Great Sandwich, Charlie Brown"). The current art show features "magic-motion" lenticular works by members of the artsy Trotter family, and Friday night's "Floetry" spoken-word open-mic brings 'em in. Farrago is open late, too -- till 8 p.m. on Sundays, till 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. -- Byron Kerman

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