Courtesy Bmore Media – Chef shuffles and personnel shake-ups are a normal, everyday part of the frenetic restaurant world. But it’s a phenomenon worth noting when the executive chef of a well-respected, popular local establishment leaves his post and his replacement decides to take things in a totally new culinary direction.
Tag: culinary arts
And, while my Irish mom is a big part of who I am (and my dad, too…I named my dog Henry in his honor), my love of food and cooking and feeding people seems to come from my maternal grandmother, Mary Fitzpatrick. She and my grandfather Clark lived on a working farm in Harford County and I’ve written a little about them before. They were extremely hard working people – raising lambs, pigs, chickens and steer, churning their own butter, smoking and curing meats and so much more. Mary was a fabulous cook and if you stopped by their house, you ate. Like, really, ate. One of my mom’s most vivid food memories was her mother frying chicken in bacon fat – she said the skin was perfectly crispy. I’ve gotta try that.
Looks like Maryland’s culinary stars are on the rise. The James Beard Foundation announced Baltimore chefs Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen and Cindy Wolf of Charleston and Frederick chef Bryan Voltaggio of Volt as Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Semifinalists for its annual award. All three chefs have been nominated before.
Charleston received more recognition with two national nominations: one in the Outstanding Restaurant category and another in the Outstanding Wine Program category. It is the first time the restaurant, considered Baltimore’s finest, has received those nominations.
The James Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America. The Awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. The winners will be announced May 7.
Check out the complete list of nominees, to see all the restaurants across the country that were nominated.
I love having parties. It’s so much fun to get people together to share great food and drink. It doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, it’s about the people, not just what’s on the plate. Whether it’s a barbeque, dinner party or holiday soiree, I’m in. So, years ago when I saw Ina Garten’s book, Parties, I snatched it right up.
In the cookbook, she describes a terrible party she gave early on – a sort of cautionary tale of what not to do. She tried to do too much and everything just fell apart. Not many people would put their mistakes out there for the world to see, so naturally I liked her right away.
She gives great advice for folks who might be new to cooking or intimidated by entertaining. For example, she recommends buying some simple hors d’ouvres like tapenade, pate, cheeses, nuts, olives, etc. Don’t make things that are too complicated and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. You should be with your guests having fun, not working in the kitchen while they’re noshing. After cooking from the Parties book, I began buying the rest of her cookbooks over the next few years.
My best friend of 30 years is an architect in Paris and she often works with American clients who have homes there. She told me she was designing an apartment for Ina and her husband Jeffrey. I must admit, I was thrilled. Like, silly giddy, actually. When she came home for the holidays, she took my Parties book back to Paris and had Ina sign it for me. Oh, how I love my bestie.
Fast forward a few years: I took an amazing trip to London and Paris for my 40th birthday – the trip of a lifetime for sure. Before I left London for Paris, my friend called to say that Ina was going to be there at the same time as me and that we might have lunch with her. Deep breaths. This is sort of like one of my five brothers grabbing a beer with one of theRavens…seriously. After my friend set up lunch, I’m sure she was hoping to God that I didn’t flip out and completely mortify her. I had to be on my best behavior.
As I walked with my best friend, in my favorite city, about to meet someone I admire immensely…I felt so, so lucky. How did I get here? What would we have in common? What could we talk about? Would she be as nice as she seems on television? Would it be awkward or fun or what?
It was perfect. Ina is incredibly warm, funny, engaging and full of life. We talked about food, music, travel, wine, flowers, parties, Paris, etc. I told her that I was really getting into cooking at 40 and that she’d been very, very helpful to me. She seemed pleased and kind of touched, actually. I also had the pleasure of meeting her husband, Jeffrey. He’s quite friendly and genuine. As we sat in their lovely, yet simple, Paris living room, he asked about my work and life in Baltimore. Seriously nice people.
I have no idea what we ate at lunch, but remember that we had chilled red wine. Don’t you just love Paris…wine with lunch. Wish the US would embrace that concept. As we neared the end of our visit, I felt a little silly asking her to sign favorite of her cookbooks, the first one – The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – but she was so nice about it. We chatted some more and said our goodbyes.
Best day ever. Ever.
To me, Ina makes everything she does look un-scary. You think, “I could do that.” And then you actually do. I made roast chicken for the first time after I saw on her show. Grilled a pizza on the grill for the first time after I saw it on her show. Bought my first Le Creuset dutch oven after I saw it on her show. Yes, I’m a nerd, but I know what I like. Of course, I do use other cookbooks, but I tend to look in my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks first. For the most part, her recipes are not super complicated, with very few ingredients you can’t find at an area grocery store. I like that.
Here are some of my favorite Ina recipes.