Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dinner | Curry-Ya

Keri, Marcus's roommate, suggested the three of us, along with their other two roommates, Alyssa and Brian, go to Curry-Ya tonight. I've gone with Marcus, Keri, and her boyfriend a month or so ago, and we found the curry dishes offered to be quite tasty (ugh, I hate using this word so much, but it seemed perfect here). But before I continue, props to Derek once again for another great hidden gem recommendation!

Curry-Ya: Japanese gourmet curry!

Curry-Ya's full menu.

Inside Curry-Ya, sitting along the counter (from left to right): Marcus, Keri, Alyssa, and Brian. Very casual dining, as you can see.

Close-up of curry offerings on the menu. During my first visit here, I ordered the Japanese classic, which I really enjoyed! Considering my stomach is not usually crazy about curry, it didn't have any issues, so I just went back to what works (see below):

This is the Japanese classic curry with beef (which I believe are short rib chunks, yum!), potatoes, carrots, green beans (not noted in menu), red peppers (also not noted in menu) and acorn squash (which I think is mistakenly described on the menu as "pumpkin"). The curry kitchen chefs bring out a silicone trivet (as seen as the ridged orange item above) and a stainless steel ladle, followed by a piping hot cast-iron pot of thoroughly stewed curry. They braised the beef with so much flavor without overdoing it. It was not over-salted--definitely a major, major plus! The consistency and amount of spice was pretty much perfect--not overly thick and overly zinged with spice, which is what usually disagrees with my stomach. This Japanese style curry stew of beef and assorted vegetables made for a very good compliment with plain white rice, included with all curry orders. I shared this, along with an order of the next dish below, with Keri and Alyssa. The portions aren't necessarily big, but neither one of us wanted ourselves with curry (I mean, we did want to head to Dessert Club, ChikaLicious afterwards :D)!

Brian and Marcus also ordered the Berkshire pork cutlet curry (as "recommended" in menu above). The pork cutlet, tonkatsu, was prepared katsuretsu-style, where the protein is seasoned with salt, pepper, and light flour, dipped into beaten egg, and then finally coated with breadcrumbs called panko before being deep-fried. The above photo is of Marcus's order, as he added a "curry topping"--a hard-boiled egg. He made made sure to include it and adjust the aesthetics accordingly before letting me take this photo. I think he's starting to catch onto this food blogging business!

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure why we didn't order more than one "recommended" curry dish. During my first visit, we collectively ordered 1 Berkshire pork cutlet curry ("recommended"), 2 Japanese classic curries, and 1 seafood curry ("recommended"), so we didn't really venture out the second time around. However, that isn't to say that it wasn't great! The breaded coating of the pork cutlet was light and very crispy that even when the curry was poured over it, mixed in with rice, and eaten, the crispiness was not compromised in any shape or form. Since I shared the Berkshire pork cutlet and Japanese classic with Keri and Alyssa, it was a good combination of a crispy protein with an ingredient-dense curry stew. The curry served with the pork cutlet was just straight curry with no vegetables or other protein, so the Japanese classic was a nice addition to have served with it.

Findings: Overall, Curry-Ya has a really flavorful selection of Japanese curry. I don't think you can really go wrong with any of its menu offerings (with an exception of maybe the original plain curry, which seems to be a misnomer, because you'd think original would imply that it's what Curry-Ya is famous for, but it's actually just plain curry, with nothing in it or on it, served with white rice). Since curry is usually filling (I mean, really depending on how hungry you are), I recommend sharing a couple curry dishes with 2-3 people, so you can taste different braised ingredients, while not feeling too full. Plus, there's always room for dessert at Dessert Club, ChikaLicious a few doors down! But any dishes from Curry-Ya will be perfect for a cold winter day. It's a pretty small space, so I recommend going with a small group to ensure they can accomodate you!

Price point: $8-$12 each curry platter; $2-4 for soft drinks and other beverages.

--August 31, 2010

214 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10003

Fresh Find | notNeutral City Plates

notNeutral, a creation of Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCHS), is a "product design company that creates design-oriented lifestyle products" based on RCHS projects, past and present. I stumbled upon these "metropolitan" plates when I was casually browsing UncommonGoods.com for some gift ideas. The entire City Plate collection consists of 20 cities: Berlin, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Cairo, New Orleans, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Dubai, New York, St. Petersburg, Brasilia, Melbourne, London, Rome, Mexico City, Tokyo, Chicago, Montreal, Paris, and Mumbai. Within the entire collection, the "cities" are then grouped in 5 different subcollections (containing 4 plates each): (1) Critical Mass; (2) Culture and Capital(ism); (3) Capital Migration; (4) Empire Building: The Grandiose City; and (5) Past, Present, Future: Urban Design Visionaries. See each subcollection description using link provided at the end of this post--the descriptions are very informative and also illustrate the meticulous planning on part of the plate collection's designers.

Sleek and contemporary as well as unique (who knew you could not only serve delicious food on dinnerware, but also get a history lesson or two behind the world's greatest cities!), these plates are perfect for ooh-ing and aah-ing dinner guests and great for some intellectual dinner conversation! I'd love to get my hands on a couple--New York, of course, and perhaps Chicago or Paris :]

"New York" plate detail.

notNeutral: Rios Clementi Hale Studios
City Plates collection, here at notNeutral.com
Price point: $50 each, $190 for each subcollection, $900 for full collection.

Dinner | Rouge Tomate

During the last day of NYC Summer Restaurant Week (before it was extended through Labor Day), Eleanor and I made reservations at Rouge Tomate, located in the Upper East Side. I had to e-mail the general manager for the menu, as it was not posted online anywhere. Its Restaurant Week menu offered dishes with many seasonal ingredients, so we decided to give it a try.

Just as a brief history (see more details here), NYC Restaurant Week began in 1992 as a lunch-only (i.e., prix fixe menu offerings) as promotional event to welcome to Democratic National Convention (DNC) to New York City. At the time, as a play on the year at the time, the lunch prix fixe 3-course offering was priced at $19.92. While it initially was created for DNC delegates and attendees, it became overwhelmingly popular among New Yorkers who were jumping at the chance to dine at some of NYC's highly rated restaurants for a fraction of the usual cost, who didn't want Restaurant Week to remain a one-time deal. Eighteen years later, Restaurant Week 3-course prix-fixe menu is offered twice annually--two weeks in January/February (i.e., Winter Restaurant Week) and two weeks in July/August (i.e., Summer Restaurant Week)--for lunch and dinner, at $24.07 and $35, respectively, depending on what participating restaurants wish to offer.

View from upper level to lower level of Rouge Tomate. What an elegantly designed space! It has a very organic, which seems to add to the overall "seasonal/organic/sustainable" feel we got from the Restaurant Week menu.

"Woven" display shelf at Rouge Tomate.

Inside Rouge Tomate. I really like the use of lighter-colored woods and furniture. The accents of red and green also enhance the overall "organic" atmosphere that I mentioned earlier.

We started with this amuse-bouche. It was a chilled sweet corn soup (and some other ingredients I cannot clearly recall), and it was delicious. You can taste the sweetness of the corn, and the consistency was just right--not too runny or thick. A great way to start the meal!

Eleanor began her prix fixe dinner with a sweet corn and avocado salad (she'll have to refresh my memory of what else was include in there). Very summer-ish flavors. Also, as a side note, Eleanor and I both ordered a glass of rosé sangria (as seen in above photo), a berry infused Rosé with watermelon, orange, and seltzer. It was definitely an interesting twist (with the Rosé) on sangria, using classic summer fruits, but I still traditional red/white sangria, with a nice red wine or a Riesling/sparkling white wine :]!

For my appetizer, I had a summer vegetable gazpacho. I've never really been a fan of chilled soups (the amuse-bouche above was great though), so I'm not really sure why I ordered this. I sort of went with my gut. I couldn't have more than 2-3 spoonfuls. It was too much. It seems unnatural for soup to be cold, unless prepared impeccably. It was like I was eating straight up salsa, sans chips. Definitely not recommended if you're not a gazpacho lover or even if you're on the fence about it.

Eleanor ordered the farroto (prepared like a risotto but using farro) with summer corn and pepper. Farro, an Ancient Mediterranean whole grain, supposingly adds more flavor to dishes like risotto (which uses arborio rice) and is overall healthier--something I'd like to try and test in the future. Eleanor reported that this dish was very flavorful and prepared well, so we're two for three so far!

I ordered the Berkshire pork loin a la Plancha with crushed potato, braised chard, stone fruit, and mostarda. The pork loin was very tender (not overcooked at all), and the mostarda (an Italian condiment made of candied fruit with a mustard-flavored syrup) gave it a nice sweetness (along with the wedges of stone fruit) and spice to the pork.

Eleanor decided on a summer fruit parfait/sorbet/ice cream dessert. Can't go wrong with fresh fruit and a little cream!

I selected the plum dessert dish as my last course which consisted of sticky rice balls, crystallized Ginger and plum-shiso sorbet. Very strong Asian flavors. I especially like how they threw in the stick rice balls (which I'm guessing is made from glutinous rice flour)--it added a level of authenticity to the dessert. While I enjoyed the flavor, it still seemed like there was too much going on in the dish at once. Sometimes that can enhance the overall experience in eating it, but it made it rather more confusing here. Overall, though, it had great flavor--just lacking in execution slightly.

Me and Eleanor at Rouge Tomate--we finally remembered to take a photo together after dinner!

Findings: All in all, I was a little disappointed. I think Linda put it best when she said that Restaurant Week tends to "water down" a restaurant's menu, mainly in order to fit the price parameter of $24.07 / $35. While I love the season fruits and drinks brought by summer, I'm more of a fall/autumn ingredient kind of girl. I would love to try Rouge Tomate's regular menu during the fall, where I find the produce and ingredient offerings to be richer, more flavorful and hearty, as well as more in variety. Nevertheless, Rouge Tomate creates an organic and beautiful atmosphere that I often don't see done this well. Plus, it was nice to finally catch up with Eleanor about life, our love of food and cooking, and everything else!

Price point: $35 for a 3-course prix fixe dinner, brought to participating restaurants courtesy of NYC Summer Restaurant Week; $12 for a glass of rosé sangria.

--July 23, 2010

Rouge Tomate
10 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022

Friday, August 27, 2010

Food for Thought | Epicurus

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”
--Epicurus, Greek philosopher

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dessert | Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream truck

I made a stop at the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (VLAIC) truck today because Gilt City had a promotion today that involved free scoop of any VLAIC ice cream.

The promotion involved signing up for Gilt City and Gilt Groupe, both of which I'm already member, and receiving a FREE small ice cream.

So if there's free ice cream involved, expect a line!

These are the flavors that are offered daily. They had four other flavors that were not on the regular menu: cinnamon, Earl Grey tea, cherry chip (a new flavor), and palm sugar (another new flavor).

I decided to go with the Earl Grey tea flavor for two reasons: (1) Earl Grey is my favorite kind of tea and (2) it was different than the usual offerings. Nevertheless, you can never go wrong with ice cream on a hot summer day!

A shot of the front of the VLAIC truck--I love the colors because it gives it that retro, yet sophisticated feel to it.

Findings: To be honest, it was a little disappointing. From all the hype I've heard about VLAIC, I thought I'd be an addict immediately. The Earl Grey flavor was certainly creative, I just wish it was stronger in flavor. The blue sprinkles made it slightly better. I guess I would have to make another trip and try another flavor to see if this holds true for the other flavors. It is a little expensive for mediocre artisanal ice cream. Artisanal usually implies organic and handmade (and in turn, more $), which I'm definitely willing to pay more for, but when it's mediocre, I'll have to think twice. Then again, when the ice cream is free, I can't really complain!

Price point: free today, but usually $3.95 for a small cone.

--August 26, 2010

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (truck)
"Kangaroo truck": near 5th Avenue & 15th Street
"Panda truck": near 6th Avenue & 22nd/23rd Streets
New York, NY 10010
*both trucks are open weekdays from 8am-6pm; check Twitter updates for specific locations

Etcetera | Hello, i

I haven't fully introduced myself, and I apologize for that. My name is Stefie, and I'd like to consider myself a gastronome, i.e., a lover of good food. I like to believe that there's a bit of gastronome in all of us--it's just a difference in degrees. My late aunt, Wynnie, used to tell me that right after I was born, after the nurses had wheeled me out to the nursery window, my extended family members could see me licking my lips, as if I had developed a rather large appetite already. I always find that story funny because it's quite funny how things have turned out--bottom line is that I have an intense obsession about food, cooking, and all things related. I'm not sure when it started, but I've been strongly influenced by my family. All we do is eat. If we're not sleeping, shopping, gossiping, or working, chances are that we're eating. We're always on the hunt for the best quality and best tasting things out there.

You might be wondering all of these individuals whom I speak of are. Marcus is my boyfriend--we've been together for a while now, and I'm so thankful he's just as crazy about food as I am (if not, more). He fits right in! He's also got a penchant for extremely spicy foods--whenever we go out to eat, and they ask him how spicy he wants it, he always says extra spicy. Not sure how his tongue and taste buds take it, but he hasn't found anything that he can call "spicy", with the exception of The Famous Halal Guys cart on 53rd and 6th. Maybe there will be a blog entry about that. Either way, he'll have a blog post for Four Tines and a Napkin soon, I hope!

Erin, my bestest friend (and longest, too) since before we can talk. She likes to go out to eat with me, and among our favorite things we share: foie gras, macarons, Taco Bell (shhh, it's a secret!), and late night snacks in St. Mark's place (as seen above, at Kenka).

Lisa, my other best friend (since middle school), is a pretty intense foodie. I would say she has higher standards than I do. She has great taste when it comes to haute cuisine and loves to cook when she can. She's a graduate from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, so she's also very knowledgeable on that end as well. Our favorite restaurant is Eleven Madison Park (we've made it there three times in the last year--see photo above where we celebrated our birthdays this past February), and we love to talk about what our next haute adventure will be.

Derek, a really close friend of mine since middle school as well, is also a fellow foodie. He's my source for all the hidden gems in Manhattan. We both admit to loving French cuisine a little too much, and we both are exploring and chatting about noteworthy wines we've had (see photo above at my birthday wine tasting). We always talk about all the places we need to explore as well as dine and drink at in this wondrous city--it's just a matter of getting to it all! He's going to be a guest blogger for Four Tines and a Napkin, hopefully with some posts very soon!

My cousin, Bill, whom I used to call "Mushroom" because his Chinese name sounded similar to what it sounds like in Chinese, is now a San Franciscan along with his wife, Pam (I need a photo of the three of us next time they're back to the East Coast)! When I was younger, he would always be teasing me, and at times, we didn't get along so well, but now that we've found that food, restaurants, cooking, and the like is our common ground, we can talk endlessly about it all! Recently, Bill has taken up a little obsession with finding new ways to bake bread and other nifty tricks in the kitchen. I look forward to any foodie adventures I will have with them in the future, whether it be on the East or West Coast!

Linda is a great friend whom I've had the pleasure of meeting last November, as mentioned in my post about the Thomas Keller book signing. I think I've found my long lost foodie-sister--it's so crazy how we think very similarly when it comes to food! I look forward to many exciting adventures with her (like when we went to Maialino, in photo above)!

You might also be wondering what I do for a living. All I'll disclose is that I work in a field that is largely influenced by accounting. That's right, folks. I'm a bean counter by day, morsel marauder by night. Will I stay in this professional field forever? Who knows. I just know that my appreciation and passion for the culinary and savory will not be retired anytime soon--I look forward to every next meal and hope I can find some way to blog and write about it!

In close, I'd like to say how I came up with the color scheme and blog name, Four Tines and a Napkin. I wanted to keep the color scheme simple, so my influence (as mentioned in my pilot post) is from The French Laundry (see photo below, taken from my first bucket list post), Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant.

My main inspiration came from CBS's situation comedy, The Big Bang Theory, and its episode from Season 2 entitled, The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem. In the episode (see exact clip and subtitled screenshot here), a new graduate student, Ramona, wants to take Sheldon out on a dinner date, but he tells her he "never eats in strange restaurants" because "one runs the risk of non-standard cutlery" as he "lives in fear of the three-tined fork". He claims "three-tines are tridents", and thus, "forks are for eating, tridents are for ruling the Seven Seas". Anyway, as I was thinking about what to title this new food blog of mine, I knew I wanted to keep it simple and asked myself one question. What do we need to eat? A fork (sometimes with the exception of chopsticks, but for the most part, a fork with four tines, per Sheldon's explanation) and a napkin (to maintain etiquette, of course). Pretty basic, no? I think the image I found on Getty Images was perfect. Cutlery in hand, napkins tucked in, ready to eat. So there I had it, Four Tines and a Napkin.

Dinner | Maialino

After the Giada book signing, Linda and I headed over to Danny Meyer's relatively new trattoria (opened late last year), Maialino, for dinner. Linda had told me that it'd be impossible to get reservations, so our best best was to dine and drink at the bar. She has really good taste, especially when it comes to dining out, so I trust her judgment entirely.

It was around 6:30 when we arrived at Gramercy Park Hotel (where Maialino is housed), and the bar was pretty happening. Most of the seats at the bar were taken, minus the few empty single seats in between couples. Luckily, Linda and her husband are regulars at Maialino's bar and have gotten to know the bartenders (they're on a first name basis with her!), so they put us next on the list to be seated at the bar. In the mean time, we perused the bar menu for something to have while we wait and chat. I usually order wine, but the cocktails looked too delicious not to try. I asked Linda what she recommended. She recommended La Pernice. I couldn't decide which one I wanted most, so I went with that.

La Pernice is a muddled cocktail (bevande, on the menu), concocted with peach, Dimmi, and lemon. Lovely, delicious, and a well-balanced alcohol-juice ratio. I definitely want to go back and order another one before the season's over. Linda refers to La Pernice as "summer in a glass"--i.e., if summer were to be captured in a drink or cocktail, this would be it. One of the nights that she was here with her husband, one of the bartenders they know was off that night. He was dining at the bar next to them, with La Pernice as his cocktail of choice, when he said to them, "This is summer in a glass!" Guess he and Linda are on the same wavelength with cocktails, because it really is a glass of summer!

I liked how the menu is formatted. They kept it somewhat authentic--it's always so cool when they keep the dish name in its native language (Italian here, of course), with subtle descriptions in English without ruining the poetics. Maialino is Italian for "little pig"--which explains why there's an illustration of a pig right there.

View of the bar from where we were sitting. What a beautiful space Danny Meyer selected! I was saying to Linda how rare it is to have a restaurant located on the corner of a block where they utilize the windows and natural light so well. The noise level in the bar area wasn't overwhelmingly loud, either. I didn't feel like I needed to scream in order for Linda or the bartenders to hear me. It seems to me a lot of restaurants don't take into account the sound acoustics and engineering when they're building or redoing a space for a restaurant. People come to restaurants to socialize, so you would think it's a priority concern that will surely enhance any and all experiences of the said restaurant's patrons. Danny Meyer tailored the space very well to accommodate Maialino's bar patrons, for sure!

We started our meal with two appetizers, or cicchetti, per the heading on the menu, which are small snacks or side dishes. The first cicchetto was the crostini di fichi--crostini topped with figs, Robiola cheese, and sunflower honey. I usually stay away from ordering dishes with cheeses I'm not familiar with, but I felt adventurous that night. I'm glad I did so, too, because this was probably my favorite dish of the night. Usually with crostini, it's hard to keep the toasted bread slice crisp and in tact, especially when you have so a few ingredients spread on top. Maialino didn't compromise the crispiness and lightness of the crostini at all here. The three ingredients fused so well together--it was like a major-keyed symphony playing in my mouth, where it sounded perfectly melodious together while being able to hear the individual instrumental parts. The crostini was a culinary synedoche--the sum of its parts (i.e., the ingredients) totally enhanced the taste experienced from each individual ingredient alone. I can still taste the honey on my lips, the fig seeds against my teeth, and the Robiola savored on my tongue. Mmm!

The second cicchetto we ordered was the insalata caprese, the token mozzarella, heirloom tomato, and basil appetizer. Linda kept insisting she doesn't normally order the typical items found on an Italian appetizer menu, especially the "caprese salad" seen above. However, the bartender had recommended it to her during one of her previous visits, and she said the mozzarella is so creamy and the heirloom tomatoes, locally grown, were sweet and complimented the dish very well. I don't usually mind ordering those items at an Italian restaurant, so I had no qualms with trying it!

I do have to point something out though. Talking with Linda about "token dishes" reminded me of an article I read on New York magazine's website last December surrounding William Poundstone's new book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). The article discussed an interesting excerpt from his book about menu design and how marketing comes into play. The one discussed item I distinctly remember was called menu siberia, "where low-margin dishes that the regulars like end up"--which is exactly where the insalata caprese was located (see fourth photo from the beginning of this entry), at the bottom of the cichetti section. Too funny.

Anyway, back to the cicchetto at hand. The mozzarella was indeed the perfect consistency. Creamy, but not too much where it would've tasted milky. I also liked that it wasn't the typical "slice" from a "larger ball" of mozzarella with the same sliced tomatoes you'd find atop a cheeseburger. The asymmetry of the mozzarella pieces, along with the wedge-cut tomatoes, gave it an even more homemade feel to them. The acidity of the heirloom tomatoes gave it the right kick, making it an unexpected surprise for what we'd usually consider as "menu-siberian" dish. Maialino nailed it in execution.

Linda's primi entrée was the agnolotti, ravioli with fresh sweet corn, cherry tomato, and ricotta salata. The ricotta wasn't overpowering, which what I usually dislike about ravioli, but I really enjoyed the small piece I sampled from here. You can also tell the pasta was made in house, which is always a nice treat, and I liked how they incorporated the sweet corn, setting this apart from any ravioli I've ever tasted. The sweet and salty tastes from the corn and ricotta had really lovely flavor interplay.

I ordered the fettuccine alle cozze e gamberetti, a fettuccine dish with mussels and shrimp (I forgot to note what other ingredients were included--will have to make note of it during my next visit!). I LOVE mussels, and I love having seafood with my pasta (mostly because it isn't too filling). It was pretty good (Linda has had this dish before and said something similar), but nothing as exciting as the dishes I described earlier. I did enjoy the freshly made fettuccine though, and the seafood was cooked well.

For dolci, I ordered three scoops of gelati e biscotti (clockwise, from top left): fior di latte (an Italian take on vanilla), toasted almond chip, and cinnamon toast, topped with an almond biscotti. All three flavors were amazing--very original flavors. We had the fior de latte with the crostata (see below). The toasted almond chip had these little bits of crunch to it and that refreshing almond flavor flowing throughout. The cinnamon toast may has well be named cinnamon toast crunch because it was basically Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in gelato form. The extra bits of "crunch" reinforces my claim. Gelati is highly recommended here!

Linda ordered the crostata (I forgot to note down the actual name--will need to take photos of future menu in case entire menus aren't available online), which had peaches, raspberries, and blueberries, topped with a vanilla mascarpone. Linda recommended having a bite of this with a scoop of fior di latte (Italian vanilla gelato), and boy, was it good. Simple, fresh flavors is sometimes all you need for a satisfying dessert! Linda has made this from scratch and claims hers is better than this (I totally believe her), so I'll need to ask her to make it again!

Me and Linda at the bar at Maialino for our first dinner date (nine months later)! More adventures to follow, for sure!

Findings: Great for catching up on a girlfriends' night out (as Linda and I needed desperately to catch up)--we spent about 4 hours eating and laughing! The cicchetti, as you can see from the two we've ordered, were really good, so sharing a few of those at the bar with friends is great here. The bartenders are so down-to-earth and make a mean cocktail like La Pernice. And of course, dessert is a must! There's a dessert counter in the middle of the restaurant, displaying the pastry on the menu that day, so that's worth checking out as well. I definitely foresee a return visit very soon! Thanks for a lovely evening, Linda!

Price point: $13 for the bevande; $7-13 for each cichetto; $15-19 for each primi; $7-8 for each dolce

--August 24, 2010

Gramercy Park Hotel

2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Fresh Find | Built NY Market Tote

I have a slight obsession with tote bags. What a lovely piece to add to my endless collection, which includes (but not limited to): one from Zabar's, several from Whole Foods (which I need to remember to bring during my subsequent visits), one from Barnes & Noble with an trompe l'oeil hound puppy on it, a couple from Harrod's, and one from Blue Q. This Built NY market tote is slim and made of neoprene, which will be sturdy enough to hold a sizable amount of groceries. It is also light in weight, which makes for easy carrying.

Built NY
Market Tote in "Shadow Flower" pattern
Price point: $40, here at BuiltNY.com; $30.95, here at Amazon.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Signing | Giada de Laurentiis

Yesterday, I went to a book signing for Giada De Laurentiis and her new book, Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California, at Williams-Sonoma (same location as the Thomas Keller signing--Columbus Circle) with Linda and my really good friend from college (and co-worker!), Eleanor. Coincidentally, Linda and I also made dinner plans at Danny Meyer's Maialino (that post to follow this one) for yesterday night. Please note that Linda and I haven't seen each other or hanged out since the Thomas Keller signing last November! That was nine months ago! She made a joke to me later in the night that we only see each other during nights of book signings. I laughed and immediately retorted that we'll be breaking the "tradition" next week when we attend Outstanding in the Field together at La Plaza Cultural in the Lower East Side/Alphabet City (can't wait to post about that)!

Eleanor (if you've read this post earlier, I had to keep her name a secret because she was surprising her boyfriend for his birthday with a signed book, and since she finally gave it to him over Labor Day weekend, I can say Eleanor now! Yay!) and I arrived at Williams-Sonoma (lesson learned from the T. Keller signing) at 3:30pm, as the signing was to start at 5pm. She arrived there a little before I did to pick up her SEVEN copies of Giada's new book. Someone's doing holiday shopping very early this year :] very smart! The event stated that space would be limited to the first 450 ticketed customers, so we had to call ahead and order our books so we could pick them up the day of the signing as well as to guarantee a spot in line.

Eleanor told me one of the sales associates told her she was crazy for coming this early. I told her that the sales associate was crazy herself for saying that because once it starts approaching closer to 5 o'clock, the line length is going to be unpredictable, and you'll never get out! She even mentioned that she heard when Martha Stewart was signing books at this very same location, it took some individuals THREE HOURS to receive their signed copy! The madness!

A shot of what the line looked like from where we were (Linda showed up later). Not too shabby (even if I did get yelled at for taking this photo inside the store--whatever)! Williams-Sonoma is also known to give out samples they cooked in the store of a couple recipes from the cookbook being signed that day. Unfortunately, I couldn't get photos of the two things they prepared. The first was the pea pesto crostini (page 25). It's infused with Parmesan, so I only had a bite (Parmesan and I cannot be friends, unfortunately--it upsets my stomach too much). Eleanor said it was really good, so I trust that it's great for you Parmesan lovers out there! The second sample they passed around was the pasta ponza, which is a ziti dish with tomatoes, capers, sprinkled bread crumbs, and some cheese. It was a bit cold, but I guess if you're preparing for 450 or so people waiting in line, food won't stay hot for too long.

Once it hit 5pm, the line started moving very rapidly, and we got to Giada by 5:20-5:30, so that worked out well! The store wouldn't let us take photos with her (as I got to with Thomas Keller), but we were allowed to take photos of her from a "designated" spot (i.e., where I stood when I took this photograph of Eleanor, waiting for Giada to sign her books!).

Giada is just as friendly and down-to-earth as she seems on her show! Look at her talking to this little girl!

My copy of Giada at Home.

The signed and personalized title page!

Findings: I think it's always nice to meet the chefs/writers behind a cookbook/novel/memoir/etc.--I'm a little obsessed with going to book signings. Can't wait to start perusing and trying out these recipes--family-style usually implies that they're not too difficult to conjure up. Look forward to future posts with Giada recipes! Thanks to Linda and Eleanor, I now can add "meeting Giada" and "having a signed book by Giada" to my Beeline and John Hancocks collection on Flickr.

Price point: $35 for each book.

--August 24, 2010

Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle, Suite 114
New York, NY 10019

Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California
Giada De Laurentiis
available here at Amazon.com


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