Of Food Stories and Cookbook Launch Parties.

Funny how I took no photo of Amanda Hesser nor the recipe collection she compiled, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. And I can’t take a photo now because I didn’t buy the $40 tome (the cost, not the error on page 932) being my reason for not purchasing it), instead opting for fellow NYT writer Melissa Clark’s $27.50 In the Kitchen With An Appetite.

But my screenshot abilities are still intact.

Described as “a compilation of the best recipes published by the New York Times since the 1850s” by Danielle of Food+Tech Connect, where there is a short but interesting interview covering Ms. Hesser’s thoughts on the intersection of food, social media, and technology, present + future, the cookbook is an extensive exploration through time and kitchens of America’s culinary past. As Publisher’s Weekly notes, “Every category of food is covered, and each recipe is accompanied by serving suggestions for complementary dishes within the book. From 1877’s tomato soup and 1907’s roast quail with sage dressing to Eisenhower’s steak in the fire and 1968’s sour cream coffee cake, Hesser showcases the best of the best. Each recipe is dated, and many include cooking notes.”

Oh shucks. Now I want it. It would make sense, seeing as how it’s a book about our country’s food history and this is a blog about, among other things, our individual food histories. But even if I get it, it won’t be autographed. Bollocks.

Yes, I’m something of an Anglophile, but only in certain areas of language and literature.

But oh, Clark’s In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite… I just opened it up to a random recipe – Deep Fried Bourbon Peach Pies – and it is ridiculously enticing. As in I’m seriously desiring a trip to Trader Joe’s tomorrow to stock up on peaches, flour, shortening, orange juice, and milk, to make these beauties. And you know what makes them so alluring, more so than a typical recipe? It’s the story of how Clark brainstormed, researched, and created the pies and their accompanying recipe. The personal history and her-story behind the food in question. That is the other foundation of this blog. The one that I more easily identify with by default – my experiences are more memorable to me than other’s experiences in the kitchen, after all. So I’m happy with my purchase.

Anyway, back to the party and the food. Because I had purchased a ticket in advance, I arrived there 45 minutes early (as opposed to when I attend free events, when I arrive 30 to 45 minutes late). I was excited, but wasn’t really aware of that excitement, which is always a good thing for me because then I can enjoy everything more freely. Plus, I didn’t go in as a reporter and all the nerves that come with that. I wasn’t plotting my first impressions and staking a future career on this. This was for fun, for me. But I did have my camera.

As you can see, the event revolved around bite-sized morsels of recipes chosen from Hesser’s Essential… and prepared by some of NYC’s most respected and celebrated chefs. Dan Barber, Bill Telepan, Tom Colicchio, Michael Anthony, Dan Silverman… Yum. (I’m talking about the food, not the men, although I must say here and now that all of the chefs present were rather easy on the eyes. Is there something in the water? Does good looks breed confidence, which fosters success in whatever one puts their mind and talents to, including cooking? Whatever it is, bravo.)

The evening’s menu was structured around time, with the first hour offering a round of appetizer-like dishes, such as Vegetable Sushi (Blue Ribbon Sushi‘s Bruce and Eric Bromberg), Apple Créme Brulee (Blue Hill‘s Dan Barber, who has his own food history story), Roman Pizza with Anchovy Butter and Wilted Puntarelle (Frankies Spuntino‘s Frank C. and Frank F.) and Otak Otak balls (from Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab).

The second hour brought more sampler-sized bites, but of a bit more substantial fare, like Sara Jenkins’ porchetta sandwiches and Brian Bistrong’s roast coriander chicken thigh with petticoat apple gin sauce, alongside some dessert bites – Karen Demasco’s bite-sized grapple pie with grape swirl ice cream and Pichet Ong‘s (who made some Stupidly Simple Snacks along with my colleague, Amy) take on chocolate cupcakes with kabocha buttercream.

My personal favorites were the vegetable sushi (Not only were these delicious and creative, but did you see those eyedropper vials of soy sauce?! Totally took me back to the days of Biochem, iodine and amylase.), the roman pizza (thank goodness the anchovies were in butter form), the apple créme brulee, the chocolate bread pudding cupcakes, and the [white?] chocolate cupcakes with kabocha buttercream. The grapple pie with grape swirl ice cream was also amazing.

Fox's U-Bet Chocolate-flavored syrup + whole milk + soda water, then stir and serve = frothy deliciousness.

Oh, and did I mention the drinks? The folks over at Russ & Daughters made traditional egg creams that were swoon-worthy and that’s saying a lot coming from the woman who has classified egg creams as one of the most unpalatable and overrated – not to mention inaccurately named – drinks she’s ever encountered. There was also an “apple picker” punch that looked just like apple cider, but tasted like burning tar thanks to the rum it was spiked with. No photo here because I was too busy gagging and recovering from the admittedly tasty concoction.

There were also snacks throughout the evening,

like Amy’s Bread (the walnut raisin and olive breads had great texture),

Lucy’s Whey (sharp, yet soft and creamy),

Martin’s Pretzels (crunchy, tasty, and doesn’t leave an aftertaste/aftertexture like some pretzels),

Mast Bros.’ chocolates (holy cow these are strong. But super rich and tasty.),

Nuts + Nuts’ nuts (I liked the honey sesame best),

and Liddabit’s caramel corn (Food Should Taste Good’s sweet potato, olive, and multigrain chips pictured instead).

It was an altogether amazing night that I am so happy to have attended, partly because of the food and the cookbooks, partly because it was an It event for foodies to shmooze, and a little bit because it was for a good cause – all the ticket sale proceeds went to Wellness in the Schools, a nonprofit targeting childhood obesity and school environments in NYC public schools. Everyone got to pat themselves on the back for this one during the five-minute ‘hello’ thank-you that Bill Telepan, Amanda Hesser and Melissa Clark gave to everyone between the two hours. And the chefs were friendly, accommodating to eater’s questions, and, of course, nice to look at. I think, though, that the award for Most Social Yet Professional Chef, at least based on my experience, would be a tie between Amy of Amy’s Bread, and Sisha of Riverpark (his restaurant partner is the more brand-recognized Tom Colicchio).

Sisha Ortuzar of Riverpark, shows off his pickled shrimp bites.
Amy of Amy's Bread has an enthusiastic helper in her young son.
A great night with great food and people!


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