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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Weekend Cooking- A Conversation with Ina Garten

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Anyone who is a fan of the Food Network knows Ina Garten, known as the Barefoot Contessa. The popular cook appeared recently at the Providence Performing Arts Center in conversation with local restauranteur and her friend Johanne Killeen, owner of Al Forno.

The place was completely sold out, like Garten was a rock star, which in the world of food she is. The ladies joked that it was like an episode of James Lipton's Inside the Actor's Studio, which it did sort of resemble.

They reviewed Garten's life, which is familiar to most of her fans. Garten worked for the White House, writing papers on nuclear policy. She was married to the love of her life, Jeffrey, whom fans of her show and many cookbooks know very well. It was so sweet to hear her speak so lovingly about her husband, it is clear what a fabulous match they are.

Garten is a cook, not a trained chef, and learned much of what she knows she learned on her own, through trial and error. She is such an accomplished, determined woman so it is not surprising that she would succeed at cooking.

She was looking for a challenge, and while spending the summer in the Hamptons on Long Island, she found that a small gourmet food shop, The Barefoot Contessa, was for sale. She made a lowball offer, which and Jeffrey figured would not be accepted, but it was.

Now she was the owner of The Barefoot Contessa, with no real restaurant food experience to her name. It was hard work, but with the help of employees, it became a huge success. She told a story of working like crazy on Thanksgiving day, getting out hundreds of orders, then serving a small group Thanksgiving dinner and after that (as if that wasn't exhausting enough) completely redecorating the store for Christmas, decorated trees and all for tomorrow's opening.

My husband and I owned a fast food restaurant in a mall for many years, and all I could think of was us trying to do that on Black Friday. I was exhausted just thinking about it.

Garten also told a funny Martha Stewart story. She had invited eight people, including Martha, for lunch. That is a lot of pressure, serving a luncheon for Martha Stewart. Four people were unable to make it, so they were down to four. After prepping for that, the four people who cancelled showed up on her doorstep, saying they could make it after all, and they had a few extra people in the car with them.

Can you imagine? Garten didn't panic, instead, she smiled and starting splitting the four entrees and salads to make twelve servings. She joked that she and Jeffery ate leftover chicken salad at that meal. That woman is the definition of a cool cookie.

Garten was there promoting her newest cookbook, Foolproof, and she discussed her basic food philosophy, which is to use simple, fresh ingredients to make an enjoyable meal. She said something that really resonated with everyone there: No one will appreciate enough the fact that you spent all day making a complicated meal. You will end up being resentful, so why do it?

She decorates her table simply, but beautifully, and music is always important. When the first guest arrives, there should be lively music playing, so there isn't an awkward silence. Switch to Sinatra or Tony Bennett during the meal, so that everyone can chat and enjoy his or her meal. Always have a nice cocktail beverage ready as well.

The evening was quite enjoyable, and Garten took many questions from the audience. She also had a line of probably more than a hundred people eagerly waiting to get an autographed copy of Garten's book.

The link to Ina's website is here.

I will leave you with a link to my favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe, Chicken Piccata. It's my go-to meal when I have to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
The Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Piccata
 The video on how to make it is below:

If you have a favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.


  1. Wow, she is calm under pressure - I'm sure I would have panicked!

  2. I would have yelled at them and told them all to go home. maybe why I have few dinner parties...lol

    her and Jeffrey are so cute together.

  3. My mom LOVES Ina...she would have been in heaven to get to hear her speak! Thanks for sharing.

  4. This post was a lot of fun to read - can't imagine being that cool under pressure myself! Sounds like an amazing event.

  5. Wonderful post --loved every word. Talk about grace under pressure! Thanks for the Chicken Piccata recipe too. Must try it soon :).

  6. Interesting to know the history of the name Barefoot Contessa - I always thought it was an odd name to choose and now I know why. Hope you are having a good week.

  7. I have loved watching Ina on TV for years. What a special evening to see her in person.

  8. I own almost all her cookbooks. I just love her style. What a super, super opportunity to see her in person. Wow!! Well, I spotted her at BEA last year but the line to for an autographed copy of her book was miles long. I'll look for FOOLPROOF.

  9. My uncles ADORE Ina - it's always an easy year for Christmas presents if a Barefoot Contessa cookbook is coming out! She sounds down-to-earth and wonderful. Thanks for sharing those stories!

  10. I always like seeing her on TV but your post made me realize that I have none of her cookbooks. I must fix that.

    Rose City Reader

  11. Fascinating post, the Chocolate Brownie Pudding was tweaked from a recipe of Ina's. She's not huge here in Australia but after trying one of her recipes I'll be keeping an eye out for a cookbook

  12. I have heard her name before, but am not familiar with her at all. thanks for the introduction.