Food Network HQ looked like it does every morning when I arrived at the office, but by the end of the day it had transformed into party central for the Chelsea Market After Dark event. Talk about a tour de force of FN talent. I spotted Alton, Guy, Sandra Lee, Aida, Alex, Anne and several contestants from The Next Iron Chef. Guy’s party den was out of control, complete with screaming fans, dancing bartenders, Guy tattoos and Jagermeister shots.
FN staffers were looking and feeling worse for wear after the previous night’s festivities. While others headed to the Burger Bash, I chose a calmer evening of lectures and cooking demos. CONTINUE READING
Growing up in an Italian family comes with a built-in set of guarantees: screaming = normal conversation, you get to drink wine before you’re out of diapers and every second Sunday it’s meatballs (‘polpette’) for dinner. So, when I saw that our very own Giada De Laurentiis was hosting the first annual “Meatball Madness” at the NYC Wine and Food Festival this past Sunday, I ran faster than you can say “buon appetito.” After all, Giada is Italian, I’m Italian… you get it.
The meat was on. At stake, title of “best meatball,” a $5,000 prize and, of course, one’s pride. More than 25 chefs and restaurants were competing. The judging panel, tough… Food critic extraordinaire and The Next Iron Chef judge Jeffrey Steingarten, restaurant critic Frank Bruni of NY Times fame, and Gail Simmons, best known for her regular role as judge on that food-reality competition show that’s NOT on our network. And then there was me. The toughest of them all, with the lingering memory on my palate of my mother’s mouth-watering Sicilian meatballs… firm yet delicate combo of beef and pork with killer ingredients of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, pignoli nuts and raisins, bathed in the most delectable tomato sauce. Lucky them, my vote wouldn’t count.
Table to table we meandered, meatballs at every turn. Anne Burrell said she had the winning meatball. The secret from this restaurant chef was in the sauce — a little pancetta. Claire Robinson was on hand to help serve. Mamma mia, it was good. But Mamma — Mamma (Rocco) DiSpirito that is, would beg to differ. Famous for her classic Neapolitan meatball, mother and son rocked it with a side of rigatoni. Try as I may, even in my best Italian, she wouldn’t give up her recipe. Across the way, The Next Iron Chef’s Amanda Freitag was convinced that the meatball she serves at her NY restaurant, The Harrison, was the one. No day off for Alex Guarnaschelli either. She turned up with her mini meatball pizzas — three perfectly sauced morsels of meatball perched atop fried dough, along with homemade ricotta cheese and grilled radicchio.
Thirteen meatballs later, I sought relief in a cannoli and a tiramisu lollipop. Thankfully, someone was smart enough to provide dessert.
In the end, the judges awarded Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini the bestest, for his lamb meatball slider. Meatball Madness gets my vote as a must-bring-back-next-year event to the NYC Wine & Food Festival. In the meanwhile, I’ll always have my mamma’s.
I knew last night was going to be huge night for me. After all I live, breathe and sleep everything Food Network. Like hundreds of other fans I arrived an hour early with the hopes of being first in line for Chelsea After Dark, one of the kickoff events for Food Network’s second annual New York City Wine and Food Festival. My fingers were crossed that I’d spot a few FN hosts making an early entry into Chelsea Market but what I saw outside was nothing compared to what I’d experience inside.
It was a fan’s dream, come true: Once inside I would actually have the opportunity to meet and hang out with some of my favorite FN stars like Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Next Food Network Star winner Melissa d’Arabian. Each FN host was down to earth and genuinely delighted to chat with fans, which only reinforced my love for all things Food Network (if I sound like a kindred spirit, check out the I Love Food Network blog).
Shortly after entering Chelsea Market we were greeted by none other than Sandra Lee. Let me tell you, she was incredibly radiant. She was cheerful and gracious as she signed autographs and snapped photos with fans (including me!). The sweet scent of freshly baked goods like red velvet cake from Ruthy’s Bakery and savory aromas of the Lobster Place’s chowder filled the air, pulling me through the market. Chelsea Market was filled to the brim with casually dressed fans and foodies alike but to my surprise I never waited more than a few minutes at each tasting or food station. CONTINUE READING
I’m a fan of everything Jamie Oliver – his shows, his cookbooks, his gadgets (love his flavor shaker!), and his whole “simple, fresh food” philosophy. Last year he filmed a show and published a cookbook that focused on the seasons (Jamie at Home), so I was happy when I stumble upon his recipe for butternut squash muffins while searching for good fall recipes.
Here’s a little-known Jamie fact: his first job out of culinary school was as the head pastry chef at a leading Italian restaurant in London. So, unlike many traditional chefs who occasionally throw together a cake or some cookies, Jamie really knows his way around sweets (he makes great Blackberry and Apple Pie and Creamy Rice Pudding). CONTINUE READING
In another of a series of fantastic food articles in Salon, Alex van Buren sums up what I’ve been trying to articulate over the last couple days and haven’t been able to — that sure, it’s an easy cheap shot to call Gourmet elitist and out of touch, but one thing overlooked by all the Monday morning quarterbacks is that Gourmet was the rare magazine that managed to really capture the inherent emotionality of food, which I’m phrasing poorly, but that grasped that food could bring both joy and suffering, and told the stories of both. Van Buren on Reichl:
I would suggest that Ruth Reichl was not a snob, but — at her best — an egalitarian badass. She is a lover of food in all its sensuous, unruly glory. She put haute French chefs like Daniel Boulud in line for a food cart on the street. She ran features about politics and poverty — the life of a tomato laborer, a brilliant Chinese cook serving $7 entrées in Toronto, the travails of a restaurant parking valet. She asked Dominican novelist Junot Diaz to wax poetic about his Bronx childhood and sent readers from all corners of Gotham scurrying onto the 4/5 train to eat crunchy arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas).
The brilliant Julia Langbein, writing in New York magazine, has similar to say:
This morning I’m imagining the FN Library without Gourmet Magazine. From the stacks, I’m removing James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher; Jane Grigson and Roy Andies de Groot; Edna Lewis and John T Edge and Ruth Reichl and on and on, all the authors who at one time or other called Gourmet home. I’m imagining a skeleton library, a library impoverished, emptied of nearly all of its smartest, most evocative, most literate writing, of so many of my most beloved authors. These are the thoughts running across my mind as I mourn the sudden passing of Gourmet Magazine. And they leave me feeling ill.