Tag Archives: food culture

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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Blame Canada…that my pants don’t fit.

The phrase “I can’t complain” has always confounded me.

When pressed, I could always complain about SOMETHING.

Like, right now? I’m laying on the couch. It’s very relaxing. …but the clock is ticking a LITTLE bit loudly. It’s mostly a goof, but it’s rare to find something you can’t complain about AT ALL. Humans, by nature, are complainers.

And this GD clock is so loud I’m going to murder it.

But one thing I don’t think I can find much to complain about is the food scene in Toronto.

I spent a week there shooting a spot (for those not in the biz that’s a “television commercial.”) And it’s just silly the variety of food that they have up there.

While it sounds incredibly glamorous (Callbacks! Lights! Fake Snow!), a lot of the reality of production is more like this: Emails! Phone Calls! Room Service between Emails and Phone Calls! So one of the most exciting treats of being on production is getting to go explore a city’s food culture.

And I could not complain. Well, I COULD….it was very cold.

First amazing meal? Acadia on Clinton Street.

The restaurant was surprisingly empty when we went, apparently a common occurrence due to just how many restaurants there is. (Things pick up later in the week, too.) But the food was spectacular. Piping hot cornbread with bacon butter, mini oyster po-boys, with a main of hominy, mushrooms truffles and a slow cooked egg. It just spoke to me. And the words were magical.

Miniature Oyster Poor Boys

Miniature Oyster Poor Boys

Next amazing meal? Bar Isabel on College Street.

This tapas place was jam packed, with music reminiscent of the 40s. The cocktails were delightfully named. I did not pick the “Choose Yer Own Adventure” and instead selected the “Hopeless Mermaid,” which sounded unbelievably sad. Like a salty sea captain fell in love with a mermaid who he knew would never love him back because he walked on two legs. But he loved her so much anyway, his ‘hopeless mermaid.’

Anyways, the tapas.

We got everything. We had a group of 6 and we each selected two items from their amazing menu. Some traditional. (A selection of meats and cheeses!  Patatas bravas! Beefsteak tomato with boquerones and onion!) And some incredibly inventive. (Deviled duck egg with salt cod, morcilla and hollandaise! Whole fish ceviche!)

But the meal to top all meals was at Buca. My friends Jon and Dennis had told me about this place back when I was up in Toronto in April, but we couldn’t get a reservation. But we got one this time. OH YES, WE GOT ONE THIS TIME. And despite me trying to get us lost on the way there, I had one of the most interesting meals evar.

We started with crispy pig’s ears.

THAT’S RIGHT.

If you are a lover of pork and you have never had crispy pig’s ear’s than your pork card is getting revoked. (What does that even mean?) They’re crispy (obviously), but they’re also tender. It’s like a chicharon, only softer. It’s out of this world. Get some now.

We split two amazing pizzas—one with truffles and one with a bunch of mushrooms. Delicious.

And my main was insane. I got something I’d never had before and it was delicious. I got the ravioli doppi, which is a double stuffed ravioli. One half of the ravioli was stuffed with goose. The other half of the ravioli was stuffed with butternut squash puree. The whole thing was accompanied by a parmesan  espuma (foam) with rosemary and a hazelnut brittle.

I still dream about this ravioli…

This has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The gamey/oiliness of the goose was balanced wonderfully by the sweetness of the butternut squash. The parmesan espuma gave sharpness. And man, that ravioli was cooked perfectly.

It was an amazing meal. It was an amazing trip. And I could not complain about it at all.

Well. I COULD.

Because it had to end.

Awww.

 

…lame.

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