end of year project

CookBook PackageA little something I picked up while in New Zealand earlier this year, is now my end of year project. Like most of us, I’ve got a pile of recipes torn out of magazines, a spiral notebook of recipes I started over 20 years ago with no organization and pieces of paper shoved in here and there, and most prized of all are many of my grandmother’s hand written recipes that need a home so they don’t get lost. This Family Cookbook full of blank pages, measurements and cooking times, even pockets and a fill in the blank table of contents, is the perfect catch all for my collection. It’s been staring me in the face since April. The time has come to make it happen.

Blank Page CookbookFull Page CookbookMy Family Cookbook is available in black and red from Suck UK $35

food gifts

Food Gifts 20141. From one of my favorite NYC eateries, this cookbook will make you want to eat French 24/7. Order an autographed copy here for $55 or find at your favorite bookseller |  2. Vermont maple syrup and a charming hand turned pitcher made to order $80 3.  Fresh ice cream in single serve batches is fun and simple to make. Yum! $25 4. The classic Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Collection. Doesn’t get any better than this. $60 5. There is an entire store dedicated to the Canelé in NYC and luckily they ship. Assortments vary but 3 of these mini treats in a glass bell jar will only set you back $15. Perfect!  6. I swear these are the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the world. Trust me on this, I know of what I speak. 20 for $34.96 including shipping.

Click on highlighted numbers to shop.

a night with the barefoot contessa

barefoot contessa

Last week I paid a premium price to go see Ina Garten, otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa, speak here in Washington, DC. But it was worth it bad seat and all.  She’s every bit as nice as she seems on her show. The format was just she and an interviewer on stage with two chairs and a bunch of flowers. As simple as it gets.

We learned a lot about her, her show, her business ventures, and then some. Here are the top 10 things that I took away from the evening:

10.  Ina started her professional life in Washington DC writing Nuclear Policy. On the side, she bought and renovated houses and entertained regularly. Looks like that side of her won out in the end.

9.  Both her and her husband were private pilots long ago. Not quite as down to earth as you thought she was, huh?

8.  This famous cookbook author and cooking show host, doesn’t cook for herself. The only personal cooking she really does is a roast chicken for her husband every Friday night.

7.  Her and I share the same list of favorite restaurants:  Zuni Café in San Francisco, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Jean Georges in NYC

6.  The Barefoot Contessa show is filmed over two, one-month periods each year, 10 episodes at a time.

5.  According to Ina, all it takes to stock a working home kitchen is:  good knives (Ina prefers Wustof), professional half-sheet pans and good pots and pans (she uses All Clad and Le Crueset). No she doesn’t get paid by these companies – she does NO endorsements.

4.  Come April, she will be adding oven dinners to her successful line up of frozen meals including favorites like Meatloaf, 40 Garlic chicken, Parmesan Polenta and more . .

3.  Her new cookbook coming out soon is titled, Barefoot Contessa Make Ahead. As a sneak peak treat she posted one of the recipes on her Facebook page in the days following her appearance. Make ahead Zabaglione with Amaretti

2.  Continually letting her husband know that he is most important person in her life, is the key to her successful marriage of 45 years. We could all learn a little lesson from this.

And the number one thing I learned about Ina Garten is that she is a driven woman. Her success is no fluke. She works hard. She demands perfection. And when something gets in her way, she pushes it aside by her own admission. Not something you would expect from this mild mannered woman. But secretly, I love that!

images & recipe courtesy barefootcontessa.com

a gelato tasting

gelato messinaGuess who or maybe it’s a what has come to Melbourne . . . Gelato Messina, my most favorite gelato shop in the world!  Straight from Sydney, serving all the same amazing flavors — even the same specials on the same day. And while they were supposed to be open by late October, construction delays postponed the opening until last week. But lucky for me, they were offering a 2.5 hour talk and tasting on the Saturday I was in town, despite the fact they weren’t yet open, and I was fortunate to snag a spot. It pays to stay on the mailing list of your favorite haunts even from the other side of the world.

At 9 AM about 20 of us gelato lovers made our way past the construction barrier, balancing on a pathway of concrete blocks in place of the sidewalk, into the nearly finished shop on Smith Street  to meet the creative mastermind and co-founder Donato Toce Messina Talk(in town from Sydney for a month to kick things off) and store manager Simone Panetta (a handsome Italian gelato officiando) for a bit of recipe sharing, dessert eating, story telling and what can only be called a crazy, fly by the seat of their pants gelato tasting extravaganza. I think I died and went to heaven.

The funny thing is, we ate so many specialty desserts featuring gelato and other sweet accompaniments, by the time we were let lose on the 40 flavors  in the case, I was almost too sugared out to partake. Almost but not quite. While many tried to taste them all, I simply went for a handful:  Coconut & Pandan Sorbet (really really great!), Passion Fruit Sorbet, Apple Pie, Pistachio, and Yogurt & Caramel (still my favorite) Gelato.

In addition, we made and tasted Raspberry Sorbet, Vanilla Gelato, and a version of a Baked Alaska featuring Chocolate Fondant Gelato. Oh and let’s not forget the Prosecco Granita Apple Crisp concoction and Creme Anglaise something or other with Lemon Sorbet and Milk & Cookies thing-a-mabob. All before 11:30 AM. Youza!messina dessertsI should have taken better notes and photos. But I was far too busy eating and soaking up the lore that is Gelato Messina. These guys are a family. They stop at nothing to bring us the very best product and are bound by only their unfettered imaginations. And lucky for us, they are open 364 days a year (closed only on Xmas day) in a growing number of locations.

I would say try as many flavors on each visit as you can (they do a 5 scoop tasting flight for $12) but in reality if you’re anything like me, you’ll order the same thing every time because it’s just soooo good. Salted Caramel is by far their best seller, but I say go for the Yogurt & Caramel, the perfect balance of tangy and sweet and ooey gooey goodness. Look I had my chance to try them all and you see how far I got. I am a creature of habit. This much I know.

Messina BookAnd if you’re at all enticed to try your hand at making gelato at home, the Gelato Messina recipe book has just been published — available in store and at local bookshops. The homemade concoctions will never be as good as what you get in store, but you may have fun trying.

Gelato Messina (Melbourne)
227 Smith Street

Initial image courtesy A Table For Two.

hot off the press

agrariankitchen1cookbook.162123For all you Aussies, this cookbook is a must. Rodney Dunn, chef and founder of the Agrarian Kitchen, has spent 3 years putting this lovely book together.  I was fortunate enough to have spent an amazing day at the Agrarian Kitchen a couple years back (see more here). It’s a farm to fork cooking school experience I highly recommend. And I simply can’t wait to go back one day and take their ice cream making class. Tasmania too is a delight. But I digress.

Rodney’s recipes are some I still make on a regular basis. How often do you say that two years after taking a class? An entire book of his recipes is bound to be well loved in your kitchen. You can order a signed copy through the school’s website or better yet, catch Rodney at a book signing in one of these locations:


Cnr Melville and Elizabeth Streets
9am to 1pm Sunday 27 October 2013
9am to 1pm Sunday 3 November 2013

Princes Wharf 1
1pm to 1.45pm Sunday 10 November 2013
Cooking Demo followed by Book Signing


611 Military Road, Mosman
6.30pm Tuesday 29 October 2013 (Cooking Demo)
and repeat
10.30am Wednesday 30 October 2013 (Cooking Demo)
Books can be purchased after the demonstrations

Melbourne dates have yet to be announced — I’m secretly hoping for the first week of November if your listening Rodney. At any rate, preview the book here and be sure to pick up a copy or two for the holidays — it’ll make a great gift.

Image courtesy The Agrarian Kitchen