Tag Archives: Entertaining

Hear Your Heroes: A Conversation with Ina Garten

Who would you invite to your fake fantasy dinner party?

Let’s assume it’s you + 3 people. No stipulations.

I’m going to say: Tina Fey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ina Garten.

I think we’d all have lots to talk about, no? Tina and Ina already have met on 30 Rock. Tina and Lin are both prolific writers and actors. Lin and I are both Puerto Rican. I mean, the conversation is flowing and I haven’t even opened the first fake bottle of wine yet.

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via Buzzfeed

Ina Garten spoke in Richmond last Tuesday and I got the opportunity to go and, PEOPLE, it was incredible.

Disclaimer: I am a dork and I love Ina Garten, so if either of these things offend you, just X on outta this post.

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The only photo I took. It is genuinely terrible. 

I think I’ve seen every episode of Ina’s show, The Barefoot Contessa. I own more of her cookbooks than anyone’s and they’re the first books I consult when I have a party, need a recipe, or need inspiration. She feels like a friend or family member. Her soothing manner of saying, “how easy is that?” is instantly calming.

I’ll admit, I cried more than once during the event. (I said I was a dork.) But honestly, I was overwhelmed by her ease and grace was really  inspired by the path her career has taken. She is even more more interesting and charming in person.

Throughout the evening, which was billed as ‘a conversation with Ina Garten’, the moderator (who was also a friend of hers) steered us through questions about her early years in nuclear energy policy at The White House, how that brought her to to buy the deli in the Hamptons called The Barefoot Contessa, how she was so out of her depth when she first owned it but then how it rose to success, how she wrote her first cookbook, and how she started with The Food Network. The biggest success of her entire career didn’t come until her late 30s/early 40s. She turned down the pilot to her cooking show and then the Food Network came back to her with a better offer. And then she turned it down again. Until they just told her, “yeah, we’re going to shoot this pilot. We’re coming in 2 weeks.” Insanity.

It was fascinating to me to hear her talk candidly about her successes and failures, but even more interesting was when she spoke so honestly of feeling overwhelmed or scared to do something new, but just doing it anyway. It’s a good reminder not to let those fears of how or why get in your way. Just do it and then figure out why you’re doing it later. You can course correct once you’ve started.

Of course, there were some wonderful entertaining tips, which I’m excited to share with y’all. Some of these are fairly intuitive, yet, I didn’t always think of them. But that’s the thing she does best—strips back the bullshit and gets to things in their simplest terms.

  • Dinner parties are about the friends, not the food. So pick a really simple meal and just enjoy yourself. As a guest, you don’t want to impose upon your host. And as a host, you don’t want to be in the kitchen all night.
  • Only invite people that you really love over for dinner.
  • The fancier the guests, the simpler the dinner.
  • Ask your guests what they don’t eat and then make one meal for everyone. Find the thread between vegetarian/pescetarian/omnivore/other.
  • Always put the two most talkative people opposite each other. If they’re next to each other, the conversation stops with them.

I think the loveliest moment of the evening was when the moderator asked Ina why she felt food/food culture has become so important now.

I’m paraphrasing here, but she said that it’s really about taking care of ourselves and connecting with people. We have high stress jobs and ‘jangled nervous.’ How generous it is to be able care for cook for someone.

Isn’t that the whole point of this life—to connect with and care for others? There is nothing I’d rather do than make someone feel cared for and loved with some fried chicken and a pie.

That got a little sappy, y’all. But Ina brings out it out in me.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled quippiness.

Ina Garten is a New York Times best selling author and has many wonderful cookbooks, which are available here.

Her newest cookbook is called Cooking for Jeffrey and comes out in October.

 

 

 

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A Treatise: How to Make the Perfect Cheese Plate

A comprehensive guide to making the perfect cheese plate.

Step one: Buy cheese.
This should seem obvious, as this is a lesson on cheese plate-makery. But some of you aren’t that bright.
No, no nooooo, not YOU. You’re GREAT. Have you done something different with your hair?! It looks so shiny.
Other “real” sources of food/entertaining media are going to give you some practical advice for how to tackle this subject. Go for different flavors, textures, types of cheese (cow/goat/other) (what the shit is the other?) (oh god, I hope it isn’t pig).
But I’m going to tell you a few things they’re not going to tell you.
A) Buy what you like. There ain’t no shame in simplicity. So get something that you crave. Need to work on the cheap? Kraft singles cut into quarters, Cracker Barrel block of extra sharp cheddar, Easy Cheese. Serve with Chicken in a Biskit crackers and bologna. Mic drop.
B) This is probably a really controversial move in the world fromage but I’m going to say it: test a new cheese on your plate.
I KNOW. This is basically the wildest idea since sliced cheese.
You’ll never know if you like it til you try something new. Now, this is risky. I once bought a cheese that sounded delicious in theory and tasted like cigarette butts, so I threw that shit out. Which was frustrating because it was a waste of money. But, now I know: Cigarette Butt Goat’s Cheese is not for me. I should’ve probably looked at the name before I bought it…
This is where it’s great to find samples wherever you can: at the local Farmer’s Market, your gro sto, wherever. At my local Kroger, there is a Murray’s Cheese Bar outpost and they have bins of cheeses for $5 and under. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to try new cheeses. You know, if you live in Richmond by the Carytown Kroger. #specific #rva
Step two: Pair that cheese with some stuff.
Eloquently said, Novak.
Bring some other players to the key party cheese plate. This is a way to bring some other textures, flavors, some more salt, some more sweet to the table. Olives are always a welcome sight on my cheese plate because their brininess typically hits my palate in a different way than the cheeses do. Throw in some meats, some grainy mustard, some tart jam and you’ve got yourself a stew going.
Cheese, please.

Cheese, please.

Step Three: Let your cheese sit on the counter for an hour before you serve.
This is really the only rule I live by.
Not, like, in my life.
I live by PLENTY of rules. Like, traffic rules. And a lot of social conventions. But this is my one hard and fast cheese plate rule. I really should’ve been more specific. I’ll add “be more specific” to the ole rule book.
When you pull cheese from the fridge, it has a completely different texture and taste than when it sits on the counter for an hour or so. This is one of those things that I heard and was like, “well, that is utter rubbish.”
And then I tried it and was like, “well, clearly I am utter rubbish.” The cheese is genuinely so much better after the chill has come off. You get all the nuances.
So there you have it. Three easy steps to make the perfect cheese plate. Which was always perfect because it was made by you. (Cue the Full House-style audience reaction: awwwwwwww).
Make yourself happy. Eat some cheese.
That’s a rule to live by if ever I’ve heard one.
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Nearly Birthday Musings: Foods You Should Learn in your 20s

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.

Hell, 10 minutes from now.

I’m not upset about turning 30. Truly. My bff Ally very wisely called your twenties the “middle school” of your life. So I’m excited to see what my thirties will bring. (Although, let’s face it, I was still working out a lot of the kinks in high school, including but not limited to my hair. Bangs were not for me.)

I just happened to be trolling looking on Twitter tonight and saw one of those annoying/clever Buzzfeed lists. You know, lists like: 20 Signs Your Dog is Gay. 10 Signs You Used to Watch Muppet Babies. 253 Signs You Read Too Many Buzzfeed Lists.

But this one was oddly apropos today. 26 Foods You Should Learn to Cook in Your Twenties. So, I decided to click.

I was very pleased to see that I’ve made just about everything on their list. I have never made homemade pancakes (I leave the homemade pancake making to my pal, Sarah, cause she’s got some mad skills). I’ve also never made mussels at home. I love mussels, but they never compare to the first time that I had them. I was on a boat in the north of Spain and the mussels were being pulled out of the ocean and cooked in white wine for us on the boat and we were eating mussels and drinking wine and on the boat and holy shit I sound like such an asshole but I don’t regret those mussels at all maybe I regret telling this story but I’m just going to go with it.

Ahem. Anyway.

I’d like to add a couple things to this list. So without further ado, a few extra items for Buzzfeed’s consideration.

27. A fried egg.

Egg cookery can be tricky. I’d say to make a perfectly cooked fried egg is important to have in your repertoire. Good for breakfast. Clutch for brinner. Always perfect to bring to the party.

28. Chicken Noodle Soup.

Beef stew (#22) is great, but that’s a heavy, cold weather, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish. Chicken soup will soothe your soul (according to the books) and it’s plain delicious. It cannot be beat when you’re sick. It’s also great with a soda on the side.

29. An Entertaining Meal.

This is a meal that you can make when friends come over and people will be impressed. This dish doesn’t have to be gourmet, per say, but it needs to have something special about it. My go-to is Ina Garten’s portabello mushroom lasagna. It’s not a hard dish, but it’s time-intensive and I feel like it shows the people I made it for that I love them. CAUSE I DO.

Fun fact: one time I made this for a dinner party and then dropped it on the floor and had to throw the whole thing out. I laughed a lot and then bought a frozen lasagna for the party. The party was RUINED. (It wasn’t, but it wasn’t quite as delicious.)

30. Your favorite food.

I’ve saved this one for number 30, symbollically, because I have yet to master this. I love fried chicken. It is my favorite food. I’ve only made it once at home and it was ok. This year, I will master some fried chicken.

So, those are my thoughts. My final musings as a 29-year-old.

And those musings are about fried chicken.

I’m not surprised.

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