When I was about to graduate from Cornish, I volunteered to head up the committee to organize the food for our BFA show. Of course, my role was related to food, because in hind-sight, that was my real passion. We had an extremely limited budget though, so I painstakingly got on the phone to companies around town to ask them to donate food for the event. To my surprise, as hard as it was for me to actually bring myself to make the calls, I found it exhilarating! I was, in-fact, pulling together an amazing menu through my efforts and loved the connections I was making to our local community.
The toughest phone call I made was to Marcella Rosene, Founder of Pasta & Co (now owned by Kurt Beecher Dammeier from Sugar Mountain Foods). She was my idol. Pasta & Co was the type of store I wanted someday, to own. When I called her, she seemed so personable. So friendly. So real! She did not donate her food but she gave us an amazing deal and personally came to the event to set it up on beautifully stark white platters with handwritten labels describing each dish. It was so perfect!
Meeting her in-person was pivotal for me. I was absolutely floating after the event and probably should have gone into event planning, catering, or something else, right then and there! But I didn’t. I went on to work in my chosen field of Commercial Interior Design at one of the largest architectural firms in the country, actually, the world. Years into this job, I begin to long for a career involving food (which is why I moonlighted at Etta’s Seafood two days a week for Tom Douglas).
I wanted to reach out to Marcella once again, but this time on a personal quest. I wanted to take her to lunch and ask her advise. I wanted to know how she got started, what it would take for me to get started, and how hard the journey would be if I embarked on one.
I never did. I was too afraid to pick up the phone, or simply, even send an email.
After the company sold, Marcella stayed on as a vital employee and continued to leave us all feel that she was still the owner. I was secretly disappointed that it hadn’t been me that was fortunate (or wealthy enough) to be the one that had taken over the reins of her wildly successful food model. I still didn’t call her or write. Ugh.
Some twenty years later, I am still a designer and am still in love with the world of food, and still love shopping at/eating from Pasta & Co. More recently, I have wanted to reach out to people like Molly Wizenberg, Kathleen Flinn, Amy Pennington and Jess Thompson, but for years, have been far too intimidated.
Me, intimidated, how ironic, since I have been told often that I, myself, am intimidating (me?)!
I am an introvert and while I might be loud sometimes and talkative (even a “fast talker”), I am happier huddled up in my kitchen with the other eight legs (Ginger and Buddy), a glass of wine, and my pots and pans, cooking. The music is always on and Tom is usually hanging around fixing or cleaning something or conversing, a safe distance from under-foot. I talk about things I want to do and people I want to reach-out to, but never do.
This year at the International Food Blogger’s Conference, I actually met Kathleen Flinn, Jess Thompson and Amy Pennington (and still hope to meet Molly one day, but she wasn’t there, that I’m aware of). I also listened to them speak their wisdom and I did, in-fact, hang on every word! One of the big come-aways from this event, for me, was that the people we look up to or admire, are real people and are often quite approachable. They too are passionate about what they do and are actually inclined to help others reach their goals as well; sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
Kathleen Flinn, author of “Burnt Toast Makes you Sing Good” and “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry”, spoke about journalism writing. She holds writing classes which you can find out about at her website. I sat in the front row but was caught off guard when she called on me. I was completely unprepared to answer the simplest of questions “What is your Blog about”? (note to self – apologize for that!!!… and figure out a better answer).
From IFCB’s 2015 Website Agenda: “Hungry for Words: Journalism 101 for Food Bloggers” : “Get a crash course from award-winning author and former journalist, Kathleen Flinn, in the fundamentals taught at J-school and exercised by working journalists. You’ll move from Who/What/When/Where/How/Why to methods for conducting successful research, working with the AP style guide and interview techniques. We’ll also cover the elements that define good explanatory journalism (which includes most food writing). Finally, the session will shift to some basic reporter tactics, including designing your own “beat,” developing sources, keeping a tickler file and developing an editorial calendar. Even if you’ve got a recipe-based blog, this jam-packed session is aimed to help you avoid embarrassing mistakes, organize your thinking and make your work feel more professional. Hopefully, it will also inspire you to reach beyond your comfort zone and look at old subjects with a new, more inquisitive perspective.”
Jess Thompson spoke at a session, author of the food blog Hog Wash and co-author (most recently for Renee Erickson’s book, A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus). I introduced myself after her talk. I wish I had been more prolific in what I said (or at least been myself) because she is the type of person I would be friends with if I had gone to school with her. She and I might have been best friends (if we had actually met).
From IFBC’s 2015 Website Agenda: “(Writing): Honing the Craft “: “No blog succeeds without good writing. Join award-winning food writer Jess Thomson (Hogwash) as she explores what makes personal narrative work, how she’s developed her voice, and where her own writing process starts. She’ll identify the tenets of good memoir, and lead a writing exercise that allows participants to put their new knowledge to use immediately. (View her presentation here).”
Amy Pennington, author, cook, farmer and all-around fancy, foot-loose food lover, wore many hats in marketing, working at and helping coordinate this (IFBC) event. I was lucky enough to catch-up to her in the hall and introduce myself. We have in common, personal tenures at Tom Douglas’ restaurant empire some many years past yet our paths never crossed back then. She is very approachable and I hope to catch-up with her again in the future.
From Amy’s Website: “OFFICIALLY: Amy Pennington is a cook, author, and urban farmer. She is the author of Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen, Apartment Gardening, Apples from Harvest to Table AND Fresh Pantry – Learn to Love Your Vegetables, One Month at a Time. She is also the host of the PBS show Check, Please! Northwest. Pennington has been named one of Seattle Magazine’s 2013 Top 50 most powerful players in Seattle’s food scene and as a 2012 Bon Appetit Tastemaker. She has been featured in Bon Appetit, Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, GOOP.com, and Apartment Therapy. She runs GoGo Green Garden, an urban farming service specializing in organic edible gardens for homes and businesses. Pennington lives in Seattle.”
Well, let’s cook!
Humble (Apple) Pie – makes 4 individual pies
This is loosely adapted from Tom Douglas’ Apple Dumplings, a dessert he has had on his menu at Etta’s Seafood for years. It is a long-time favorite of my Tom’s but one I do not often make (being a cook rather than a baker and all). Mine is quite “humble” looking and yet, still extraordinary in taste.
Tom Douglas serves his with homemade cinnamon ice-cream and a maple sauce but it is just as fine with a good quality vanilla ice-cream or even just a dollop of creme fraiche. Dusting the top with cinnamon is not a bad way to go either. I use fresh figs rather than dates and use almost no sugar; it is sweet enough as it is with the apples.
2 apples, cut in half lengthwise
2 fresh figs, stemmed
2 tsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turbino sugar
A pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Lemon juice to drizzle
1/2 recipe (or more as needed) pastry dough: (You can use many number of recipes but basically, add 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 TB raw cane sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 sticks chilled butter to a food processor. Process and then add ice water in 1 TB increments until it comes together.
The butter should be chilled and sliced smallish when added to the mix. The mix in the processor will seem wobbly but when removed will mold together like a good wad of Playdo. Divide in half and press each half into a circle. Cover with wrap and chill for an hour before proceeding.
Chop the figs, butter, cinnamon and salt together on a chopping board. Add the balsamic and mush together.
Scoop the middle of each apple half to remove the seeds and create a small “bowl”.
Divide the fig mixture among each of the four apple halves; drizzle with lemon juice.
Roll out the pastry dough into a square (if possible). Cut the square into quarters. Cover each apple with a square and wrap it to encase the whole apple. You might need another piece to cover the bottom but just tuck and wrap creating as messy or as neat of a package as you like.
Slice a few air holes into the top and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake in a 400-degree, pre-heated oven for approximately 25 minutes or until the apple is cooked through and the crust is slightly golden. Serve hot from the oven. They can be kept refrigerated until you are ready to use and then re-heated before serving. They also freeze well.