Tag Archives: RVA

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.

IMG_9175

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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Broad Appetit: The Good, The Bad, The Garbaje

I’m going to blow your mind here: I’m a human being.

I know, I know. There was some speculation because I’m a tall lady that I might be a giantess. Or a cylon or something.

6 via theinstructables.com

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Gallactica. via theinstructables.com

Yeah…I’m definitely not a cylon.

Or, is that exactly what a cylon would want you to think?

So, I’m a totally normal human being and I don’t really like to make mistakes. I think that’s a pretty normal thing. And of course, because I’m a regular ole cylon human being, I make mistakes more often than not.

Here’s a mistake I made earlier this week: I misspelled Richmond. Yep. The city that I live in. I spelled it Richcmond. That’s not how it is spelled. But that will appear on the return address of a card I mailed out this week. Keep your eyes peeled, receivers of my correspondence.

I made a lot of really bad food mistakes this weekend. I went with my new roommates best friends forever, Becca and Evan, to Broad Appetit. Broad Appetit is a lovely food festival on Broad Street here in Richmond with hundreds of vendors, live music and more cute puppies than you can shake (or throw) a stick at (or to). And for as many good decisions I made, l made some really terrible ones too.

Without further ado: food things!

Good decision: Scotch egg from Somewhere.

(That is not the name of a trendy place, I just don’t remember.)

The cure for all hangovers

The cure for all hangovers

Fried and delicious. Only complaint. It was too big and therefore, too delicious.

Good decision: Chicken and waffles with tahini maple syrup.

I kept my shadow in the picture so you knew who took the picture.

I kept my shadow in the picture so you knew who took the picture.

Sweet and crunchy. I want to marry chicken and waffles. I want to be Mrs. Chicken and Waffles. Or Ms. Novak married to Mr. Chicken and Waffles. It’s the 90s.

Bad decision: This ramen situation.

Cold ramen salad. My heart was cold eating it.

Cold ramen salad. My heart was cold eating it.

Listen, this ramen won the best dish of the festival. And I wanted to like it so much because these guys follow me on instagram so I feel like we should be friends. But, this was a cold ramen salad that needed a hit of heat or acid or something. Frankly, I wish I’d taken a hit of acid before I’d eaten it. Maybe that would’ve increased my enjoyment. But, I will go to the ramen joint and give them a proper chance when they are in their element.

Good decision: Barbecue something with something.

(Yeah. I know. I’m crushing these descriptions. I was a little hungover and I forget a lot. Also, it’s a FAKE FOOD BLOG.)

It had cornbread.

It had cornbread.

I don’t remember anything about this dish except that it lead to maybe my favorite picture of all time.

Meet Drunk Sandwich. Coming to Instagram or Myspace or a blog near you.

Meet Drunk Sandwich. Coming to Instagram or Myspace or a blog near you.

WORST DECISION: Summer Vegetable Bacon Salad.

Shoulda been called water salad.

Shoulda been called water salad.

I had been drinking drinks and eating fried things so I thought a summer vegetable salad with bacon sounded delightful. Light and refreshing and bacon-y. Well, sure. That was the theory. This was basically a watery pile of veggies topped with bacon. I returned it from whence it came: the garbaje.

Regret: Cheerwine Slider.

Ok, I get it. It's better than what I got.

Ok, I get it. It’s better than what I got.

I try to live my life without regrets, but it is Wednesday and I still regret not getting this slider. Evan got this slider. I wish I got this slider. The meat was braised in Cheerwine. Thank God I’m going to North Carolina this weekend.

Good decision: Watermelon popsicle from King of Pops.

Perfect summer treat. Also, the guy at the cart was really sexual with how he opened the popsicles. It was awkward to watch.

Damn it, Evan.

Damn it, Evan.

Also, Evan likes to ruin my pictures.

Like another Evan I know.

Evan Pease is the best. But he's dumb.

This sandwich was ruined. Evan Pease will rue the day he touched my iced cream.

Overall, the day was a win even though it was punctuated with food misteaks.

[sic]

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Mid-Week Malaise: Fried Oreos and Rosé

It’s the middle of the week and I have that mid-week malaise. It’s too soon to get excited about this weekend. So I will reminisce about last weekend. And last weekend, I had fried Oreos and rosé on the porch. Did you? No?

Well, that’s a shame.

I’m not going to say that I won.

…but I think it’s pretty clear.

My friend Rebecca came down from DC on Saturday and we had just a splendid weekend. I don’t want to get all Mother’s Day-Facebook-post-sentimental about it, but we became fast friends eight years ago working in our first jobs together. You’ve heard of the saying, “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” This one is platinum.

Alright, I know, that was REALLY sappy. But I stand by it.

Ernie, as I sometimes call her (her maiden name is Ernst), came in gunning for a blog-worthy weekend and a blog-worthy weekend we had. She arrived on Saturday and we went to the Strawberry Street Festival, which was quite literally across the street from my house. I thought this street festival was going to be like, a tent with a guy doing balloon animals. He may or may not be out on a parole violation. You may or may not want to let your kids talk to him. Not so, my friends. There were several delicious food vendors, activities for the kids (bouncy houses! parrots! seriously, parrots!), some really artists and cool local shops, like Love This. They sell cool pieces, like jewelry, shoes, etc., for a great cause.

ART

ART

This is my new art from Lightbox Print Co. They do hand drawn art of buildings in The Fan. These are restaurants in The Fan and at this point I’ve only eaten at 2 of them. Challenge accepted.

And yes, we had fried oreos, drank a bottle of rose, and sat on the porch.

A match made in heaven

A match made in heaven

A woman walked by and said, “God, that looks great.”

You’re right, perfect stranger. Standing tall on the wings of my dreams…nothing’s gonna stop me now.

Next stop on our tour de food was Proper Pie Co. This is another reason why I love Rebecca. I mentioned that there was a pie shop in town and she said, “well…should we go there?” Yes. Yes we should. Proper Pie Co. is all pies, all the time. They have New-Zealand style savory hand pies, plus sweet pies. This place is dope. (Is that cool to say? I don’t know.) We split a Thai Butternut Squash Hand pie and picked up a piece of coconut cream and peach and blackberry cobbler to split later. Spoiler alert: they were absolutely scrumptious. Go there now, people of Richmond. Who am I kidding, you probably already have.

PIe dios mio.

PIe dios mio.

We went to a minor league baseball game, which was really just a vehicle for us to eat hot dogs and curly fries. Our local team is the The Richmond Flying Squirrels. So, let me correct myself. The baseball game was a vehicle to eat hot dogs and squirrely fries (seriously). I really impressed Rebecca by knowing who Carl Yazstremzki is. She’ll say she wasn’t that impressed, but I know she REALLY was.

On Sunday, I made brunch.

I love you, brunch.

I love you, brunch.

While everyone else was posting really lovely, effusive stuff about their moms on Facebook, Rebecca and I watched the first episode of Bloodline, a pretty fucked up family drama/thriller on Netflix. You know, we had to balance it all out.

Stop whatever you’re doing and watch Bloodline right now. Because Kyle Chandler is in it. I’ve been a Kyle Chandler fan (we call ourselves ‘Fandlers’…we’re working on the name) since Early Edition. Remember that show? With the blind lady and the cat. He’d get tomorrow’s news today and he’d have to try to change it. It was a terrible concept. When I was younger, I asked my dad if the actress who played the blind lady was really blind. And my dad won’t let my live this down to this very day. I’m 30, you guys. But here’s the thing. I was in 6th grade, so I should’ve probably known better. Embarrassing.

Anyway, Bloodline! It’s a Netflix original. The cast is incredible. Kyle Chandler (obviously), Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepherd, Linda Cardellini, some people you’ve never heard of from Broadway but who have won Tony Awards and are incredible. The setting is insanely beautiful. It’s so well shot. It is INTENSE. I’ve seen all thirteen episodes and I actually screamed into my hands one time. But it’s seriously that good. So, stop watching whatever you’re watching and watch this.

And then as quickly as she came to Richmond, Rebecca went back up north. To the land of……..well, shit. I don’t even know. What’s in DC again? Anything?

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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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Bits and Bobs: My First Month in RVA

I’ve been saying to myself, “I have to write a blog post. My fans need me.”

But in reality, I’ve had nothing to which I wanted to dedicate a whole post. Please get off my jock, fans. I just want a normal life.

My friend, Anna, is always really incredible about writing about the bits and bobs in her life for her blog Curiouser and Curiouser. So, inspired by Anna, I give you highlights from my first month in Richmond/my life/my binge-watching of Top Chef.

  • No, really, I’ve watched every episode of Top Chef. I’m not kidding. I started from the beginning and just plowed on through. I think I started right before I moved…but even so, that’s PROBABLY an unhealthy level of TV watching. (Who are you to judge, weirdos?) Even the seasons I didn’t like originally had merit when I watched it again. What’s next for me? A season of MasterChef. DONE. Now onto MasterChef Junior and Hell’s Kitchen. And of course, the current season of Top Chef. Perhaps I might try a non-food show. But…I’d have to pay so much more attention…
  • Thanksgiving is in the air and I’m not upset about it. I love Christmas. But the fact that Christmas is trying to push Thanksgiving out of the way? Thanksgiving needs to hit Christmas in the face with a shovel. Defend November, Thanksgiving. I’ve already started fantasizing about my turkey day menu and have made my first stuffing of the year. I’m hosting the meal this year (in addition to cooking….like every year, MOM), so the research starts NOW.
  • I went on an oyster crawl. I remember eating my first raw oyster. I was on a shoot and we were at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain and my former boss was scoffing that I’d never had a raw oyster. I remember trying it and distinctly NOT liking it. Cause it’s weird. (Seriously, who is the first person who saw an oyster and said, “I better eat what’s inside there.”) Now, I can’t get enough of them. My friend Melissa organized an oyster crawl because Richmond has enough places that serve oysters that you can organize a whole crawl. MMHMM. The stand out was Rappahannock, an oyster bar whose owners are cousins that took over their grandfather’s oyster farm. The story is great, the food is greater. Order a dozen and the shrimp app, and be sure to chew on a licorice root just to see if it tastes like anything. (IT DOES, YOU GUYS, I SWEAR.)
  • I went to a food festival alone. Richmond had their inaugural Fire, Flour & Fork, “a gathering for the Food Curious,” a few weeks ago. I wanted to go and since I have like three friends (hey, it’s more than 0!), I went alone. The meal was stunning. The chef is a guy named Justin Carlisle and he’s got a tiny restaurant in Milwaukee called Ardent. He brought his farm-to-table philosophy to Richmond. Farm-to-table is really an understatement. It’s farm-to-table meets nose-to-tail. It’s farm-to-tail eating. Nose-to-table? (Weird.) He’s sourcing everything local, but not because it’s trendy. Because that’s the only way to truly understand your product. Every bite I ate was better than the last. The homemade muenster cheese was perfection. Mild and creamy and when paired with their milk bread (FROM THE SAME COWS?!), perfection. If you’re in Miwluakee, go. Make a reservation, it’s tiny! Also, it was kind of fun to go alone. I sat with a couple of gramma aged ladies and they were really nice. You can’t have a BAD time at something like that.

 

 

Those are my bits and bobs for now. Go make friends with a random old lady and chew on some licorice root.

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