Friday, November 5, 2010



I saw the invitation with the double billing and was so keen to attend the double-feature cookbook signing with food writers  Amanda Hesser and Melissa Clark.
It was like the old Doublemint commercial: “Double your pleasure, Double your fun!”
I guess I never looked at the actual tickets I purchased online nor the event’s scheduled agenda because as I approached the book signing venue at Chelsea Piers in NYC, I was not surprised to see growing crowd tag-teaming the check in staff positioned on both sides of the line.
But I was surprised to step inside to find a food and beverage tasting! 
I thought it would be the usual – a talk by the authors, followed by the actual book signings.
But this was a delightful amuse bouche!

(In fact, I saw more food tastings than book signings...)

First, I attended to business and purchased the two books so I’d be ready when the authors actually pulled out their autograph pens, poised mid-air to ask, “Who do I make it out to?”
I am developing quite a nice culinary library of autographed books that will soon rival my autographed garden books. 
The only problem with buying the two books right off the bat was Amanda Hesser’s revision of the classic New York Times cookbook is very heavy.

I wasn’t thinking of that as I confidently took the book-filled bag from the two nice lads writing up the sales.

It was an exuberant crowd that filled the candle-lit, two-tiered venue. A DJ was already laying down the music tracks. Camera-toting Papparazzi.  But here, the stars are the food!

Now this was a book party!  Barnes & Noble – take note.

Food related merchants from Edible Manhattan and East End magazines

to the incomparable Van Leeuwen’s artisanal ice cream to
Russ Daughters egg cream

and other spirits lined the sides of the cavernous room. The center and back were punctuated every few feet like those traffic cones - with those high cocktail tables.
Here, the master chefs were greeting the attendees and chatting it up while staff scurried platters of their hor d’ouevres, pop in your mouth sized food creations.
It was one giant pu pu platter!

I thought I’d be methodical about it. Down one side and up the other. 
However, I am easily seduced. So my strategy ended up a bit more like a pin ball – traversing the room when something caught my myopic eye. Or when the crowd parted like schools of fish at a chef table.

I missed two of “my’ Chefs from the Homegrown book:  Chef Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, and Chef Dan Barber, Blue Hill. 
But I did get to see and talk to the amazing, ubiquitous Chef Bill Telepan who was standing guard enjoying everyone enjoying his pork shoulder served on the teeniest bun you’ve ever seen – more like serving the delicious strands of pork on a macaroon.

I got to meet some wonderful new chefs that I can consider for the New York City Homegrown book:  Chef Dan Silverman from the Standard Hotel. 

That hotel has some of the sexiest views in town – over the High Line and the Hudson River.  Love the rooftop.  Chef Dan offered Mondrian-looking Heirloom carrot and Goat Cheese Terrine.  Beautiful and tasty.

I also met the adorable Sisha Ortuzar, Riverpark restaurant, one of Tom Collicheo’s latest.

“What kind of name is that, I can’t help ask, while finishing a surging pop of sweet/sour flavor from his Pickled Shrimp creation.  I am startled it’s so good.  I learned he made a brittle of the pickling spices and crowned the tops!
Chef says,  My name is Chilean. But I am not.”  Oh, how did you get the name then, I ask while trying his other offering, mackerel and cod balls coated with spice crumbs. 
“My name is Sanskrit.”
We practically both nod in unison and say in stereo, “hippie parents.”  
Chef Sisha says Riverpark restaurant will soon have its own garden.  They even gave out cute little seed packets at the event.

It wasn't long before Columbia University TV journalism students were interviewing chef:

I will surely go and visit these two chefs at their restaurants for follow up.

Meanwhile, there is the Apple Picker Punch from Cienfuegos to be refreshed (made with lime, ginger, Ron Zacapa Centernario 23-year, allspice dram and apple butter, and topped with soda);

vegetable sushi from Blue Ribbon Sushi to try, along with Marc Murphy’s Shrimp Toast.  Heading for the Luchy’s Whey center table featuring cheese from Cellars at Jasper Hill,

I see Nora Ephron.  I love her!

I had to tell her I loved her feature article in the December issue of Town & Country.
She smiles and says a sincere “thank you.”  She looks great in person too. (No neck thing whatsoever!)  The T&C story is a Q&A with Ina Garten.  (BTW, Ina’s publicist won’t return my emails anymore – I asked her to be in the Long Island Homegrown Cookbook about master chefs and their inspired gardens but I give up.  I have the best Long Island chefs included and I think she will be noticed by her absence... So Ina’s not on my favs list. But Nora is.)
And I will make point to attend Nora’s latest play, “Love, Loss & What I Wore."

*Also, in the same issue is the T&C List, highlighting “The Quietest Restaurants in  the World.”  The New York (City) list features eight restaurants – half of which are in my New York Homegrown book about culinary artists and their inspired gardens and farms!  A big "Shout Out" for the restaurants Annisa, I Trulli,, Marea,, and Savoy  


The old-fashioned, homemade egg creams served by Russ & Daughters was sinfully delicious- made with Fox’s chocolate syrup.

I tasted my way back to the front of the room hoping to get my now slightly burdensome books signed by the authors. 
The two book lads told me Melissa was to have done her books first but Melissa deferred to Amanda, saying she could do hers first.  But no sign of either of them…

At the next table was the Van Leeuwen artisanal ice cream tastings.  Uh oh.  I know and love their ice cream and visit their truck that is parked on Fifth Avenue and 16th street too often.  Before I knew it, the very confident and pretty woman was handing me their egg nog and pumpkin pie ice cream confection. 

It gave meaning to waiting for the books to be signed.  Ahhhh..
With her charming Australian accent, she told me Van Leeuwen is owned by her -- Laura  -- and her husband, Ben and his brother, Peter.  They have a few trucks and have started to stock their this-side-of -heaven ice cream in some Whole Foods stores. She pointed out not yet at the Whole Foods in Union Square, which is too bad as that is my local store.  But I have the truck to visit and get the goods. 

In the time it takes to finish off a Dixie cup-size sundae, Amanda was there to sign books.

She is so very petite – almost elfin.  The contrast with her hefty tome couldn’t have been more pronounced.  Laughing, I asked her how she stays so thin producing such a weighty, recipe-filled cookbook.  “It’s a secret,” she giggled back.

Here I am with author, Amanda after she signed my book!

Amanda is a New York Times columnist and former editor.  She also runs the popular cooking site:

Be sure to purchase this once in a lifetime, must-have classic cookbook:  “The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.”  

You can’t call yourself a real cook without this guide. Amanda solicited readers’ input on favorite recipes to include in the book’s more than 1,000 offerings.  It’s fun to see which ones made it and how they reflect a period of time. It’s also a history of great American cooking.

Food defines a culture and this labor of love cookbook is a cultural touchstone.

Amanda cheerfully signed my book.  And then like a sprite was off.

Joined by Melissa and Amanda,
I soon heard Chef Bill Telepan speaking with microphone to the entire room about childhood diabetes, the fact that now, more than 40% of New Yorkers are obese. He is a tireless crusader to secure healthy, fresh, unprocessed food and meals for all our citizens, especially those in underserved neighborhoods.  Chef Bill is to be applauded for his generosity and devotion, making appearances seemingly everywhere: from the Martha Stewart radio show to NPR to Greenmarket events.  I told him his is ubiquitous!
The two food writers also addressed the guests, thanking the chefs and their publishers and all who helped put the evening together.

Following Chef Bill’s remarks, Melissa made her way to the book-signing table.  She too is a thin pipsqueak!  See, there is something to eating –and writing about good food – that must keep foodies healthy and thin…
Melissa is a food writer for the New York Times, a James Beard Foundation Award winner, has written nearly 30 cookbooks and runs her popular web site and blog:
And her daughter’s name is Dahlia!  I love that she is named for a flower.  How charming J 

Melissa cheerfully posed for a picture with me

and autographed the book, “In The Kitchen With a Good Appetite” that is a synthesis or curated compilation of her New York Times’ column. 

I was the first to secure Melissa's autograph.  Soon a line was at the table

Soon it seemed that “half-time” was over. An announcement was made that the second shift of chefs and their tastings would be coming out soon for the second half.  A quick run down of the roster, if you will, told me I’d recently seen and tasted the fantastic food from these chefs.  It was getting later and since I wasn’t really dressed for the occasion, I decided to scoot home – with my goody bag and my signed books.

A delightful, delicious evening!

Thank you Ladies, for a wonderful food surprise.

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