Archive for the ‘Food Writing Biz’ Category

This writer/editor/cook/teacher/former nurse is adding another hat: food tour operator. I’m launching a business called Hudson Valley Food Tours and will be running my first culinary crawls in Rhinebeck soon. I’ve had this in the works for quite a while–years, really–so it’s very exciting for me to be finally giving it a go.

Of course, like many a worthy project, it’s turning out to require much more time, thought and preparation than I anticipated, making the busy life of a single mom of teenagers even more hectic than I even thought possible. But that’s okay!

Although I think the gig is a very, very good fit for me, meshing with my aptitudes and skills and a perfect complement to my other interests and activities, I can’t do it alone. I’ve realized that while I can be on the shy side I’m happier around other people and wouldn’t do well in a room alone at the computer all day every day. I’ll never stop being a writer (“are you still writing?”, people ask me, as if I could stop!) and writing is part of the food tour biz, too, but now I have a fun new way to get out there.

Although I’m officially a “sole proprietor,” this new endeavor is requiring the help of many people and I couldn’t do it alone. Friends and family have been wonderfully encouraging. The other food tour operators I’ve reached out to around the country have been tremendously helpful and generous with their time. Luckily one of them is nearby, only two hours north of me, and invited me to attend a tour this weekend. Joe Haedrich of Saratoga Springs Food Tours very kindly took an entire afternoon out of his busy schedule to show me the ropes of a real tour. Seeing how a food tour operates, on the spot, right there, was a great way to jump in a get a real feel for how things work.

Plus it was just great fun. Saratoga has an awesome, sprawling farmers market, and I got to meet some of the farmers and artisans who had been chosen to participate in the market, like Anna Mae, a beautiful fourth generation farmer who offers jams and jellies made from ingredients she grew herself (except for cranberries and citrus).

Anna Mae.

Anna Mae.

I experienced time travel to the distant past at the lovely Old Bryan Inn, a tavern that dates to 1773, and enjoyed a tasty, tender Balsamic Beef Tip Bruschetta. I was able to taste exquisite olive oils, vinegars and honeys of much finer quality than I’m used to at Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and Saratoga Tea & Honey Company.

I hadn’t been to Saratoga since Grateful Dead concerts years ago. For many the name of the small city evokes horse racing and little else. But thanks to Joe I was able to discover a new side of the town spiced up with his entertaining commentary and stories. He showed me various neighborhoods, many beautiful historic buildings and the lovely Yaddo Gardens at the artists’ retreat Yaddo (where my late dad, the author Donald Harington was in residence when I was a child) and of course the historic and famous Saratoga Raceway that occupies a large part of town but doesn’t dominate its loveliness.

Great to have a change of scenery in such a great town and in such good company.


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I’m gearing up for the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival this weekend. This will be my fourth year of doing cooking demos at the fest, but this year I get to host and organize the harvest kitchen presentations, too,  filling in for Jack Ford who usually does it but has a family commitment.

I have on the schedule a wine presentation by David Pazdar of Pazdar Winery in Scotchtown, NY, a cooking demo of a lamb dish by Jessica Applestone of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, a sheep cheese tasting by Debbie Decker, the cheese dept. manager at Adam’s Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie, and a talk and tasting with Charles Derbyshire of Old Mill Wine & Spirits here in Rhinebeck. It looks like I’ll be doing a couple demos myself, too, to fatten up the schedule, a Greek sheep cheese pie with phyllo and a North African lamb and quince stew.

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Me, expounding

Me, expounding

I had so much fun at my latest class at Warren Kitchen and Cutlery last week. This one was on Vietnamese cooking using readily available ingredients and we made beer-steamed shrimp, poached chicken with three dipping sauces, Vietnamese coleslaw, steamed jasmine rice, stir-fried eggplant with ground pork, coconut flan and Vietnamese iced coffee. Yum. The food was great and the students great company. Here are a couple photos taken by class coordinator (and expert food stylist) Jessica Bard.

Vietnamese Coconut Flan

Vietnamese Coconut Flan

The coconut flan was so silky and delicious I’m going to demo it again next week at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY, just so I can have an excuse to eat some more of it! The demos will include crispy Vietnamese spring rolls and are scheduled for Wednesday, August 20, at 11 a.m. and Sunday, August 24, at 1:30 p.m.


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The other night I did a cooking demo for eight people at Jessica Bard’s Kitchen-Class at Warren Cutlery here in Rhinebeck. I’ve done demos onstage in front of big audiences, and to people milling around at a farmers market, but teaching a small group like this was a first. I had lots of fun hamming it up and spouting off and cooking up a storm, all at once. I got there late (poor organization), forgot to start things in time, had trouble with the induction cooktop, all kinds of mini-crises, but I just had a great time and hope I get to do it again.Spatchcocking a poor helpless game hen.

I made a southern-inspired dinner with Crispy “Smothered” Cornish Game Hens with Mushroom Gravy over Baked Grits (southern polenta!), New-fangled Collard Greens (the fiddleheads I promised were not to be found anywhere), Hoppin’ John Salad, Bourbon Pecan Pie with Julep Whipped Cream, and Strawberry Ice Tea.

On the right is yours truly mercilessly spatchcocking a poor helpless game hen. The photo below is my pie, photographed beautifully by Jessica Bard.

Bourbon Pecan Pie with Julep Whipped Cream. Photo by Jessica Bard.


I got scooped by The New York Times this week. Monday I sent Ulster Publishing a column about kids cooking, which included a round-up of favorite kids’ cookbooks. They’ll probably run it next Thursday–they’ve been needing a long lead time lately. Then on Wednesday I bought a copy of the Times, which I do once every couple of months or so, just to sort of see what’s going on in the food world. And lo and behold, they had a cover story on kids cookbooks, including the general trendiness of kids cooking.

Now to stroke my ego, my husband says the big food folk follow me around and see what I’m writing about so they can do it too. “Look, Saveur just did avocados–they’re following you!”–that sort of thing. But I don’t know how the old NYT can see something I did that didn’t even see print yet! Rolando says, “They’re hacking into your computer somehow, saying ‘Let’s see what Jenny B.’s up to.'” Pretty cute.


And Ma, if you’re listening, those grits were a huge hit.

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Warning: this post contains shameless namedropping.

I’ve barely dusted the beignet sugar off my sunglasses and have had barely a minute to breathe since I flew home yesterday, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the conference before I forget it all. House filth and work projects (many more since the conference) will have to wait …

Wow! Was it good for me? It was great, surpassing my expectations on so many levels–I’m jealous of myself!–professionally rewarding, endlessly inspiring and just plain fun.

The general sessions were moving and entertaining, and the seminars I selected mostly fascinating and educational. I attended two intimate roundtables at The Experts Are In, one on Perfecting the Pitch and the other Agent as Advocate (“Avoid Alliteration,” we were Advised). Then on to Southeast Asian Street Food: Rhythmic Sounds and Flavors (yum, a tasting of green papaya salad and chicken satay), The Future of Food Media: Video Blogging and Food Web TV, Environmental Responibility in Cookbooks, Magazines and Newspaper Food Sections (much more interesting than I thought it would be thanks to the erudite Russ Parsons of the LA Times), Have Laptop, Will Travel: How to Get Your Culinary Travel Stories into Print, and Memories You Can Taste: The Art & Craft of the Food Memoir.

For a semi-isolated writer, it was invigorating and intense to come face to face with so many people as into food as I am. “These are my people!” one attendee exclaimed. Although I’m shy by nature, there was an atmosphere of friendliness and talk-to-your-neighbor; the already-wildly-successful people I talked to were just as approachable as the ones just starting out in the biz.

Although there were over a thousand people there (I can revise this when IACP gives us a headcount), I tended to run into the same ones over and over because the Food Writers, Editors & Publisher’s Section is relatively small (not sure how many of us were represented there). I regret that I didn’t get to meet John T. Edge, writer extraordinaire and founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance, although a couple of his intimates told me “We call him John T.” and “That man is an angel on earth,” which I tend to agree with after a very kind handwritten letter he wrote me a couple years back. I got to see him close-up though, along with Bruce Aidells and Rick Bayless (I am a self-admitted food groupie). I wanted to meet Crescent Dragonwagon, who knows both my parents, and Tanya Steel, who runs epicurious.com and with whom I have a mutual friend. I would have liked to meet conference Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Jessica Harris as well, since I’m a big fan and have some of her wonderful cookbooks (Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking, The Africa Cookbook, Tasting Brazil), and although the opportunity didn’t come up I got to listen to her deliver a stunningly moving talk about the rhythms and food of New Orleans.

I also got to glean the wisdom of Mr. Paul Prudhomme, Victoria von Biel and Kristine Kidd of Bon Appetit, Dana Bowen of Saveur, bloggers Ed Levine of seriouseats.com, Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim, and Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of thekitchn.com.

I was also blessed to meet personally authors Kathleen Flinn (author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry and the FWE&P section’s brand new chair), Irena Chalmers (a former IACP president, CIA prof and extremely prolific author who lives near me), Antonia Allegra (director of The Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier), Russ Parsons, Mai Pham, Nancie McDermott (full disclosure: she was already a friend), Jill O’Connor, Fred Thompson, Judy Bart Kancigor, Robin Asbell, Suvir Saran (I’m still laughing), Pableaux Johnson, Fred Plotkin, Nick Malgieri and Ken Albala, winner of the Jane Grigson Award for Beans: A History. I sat next to Cynthia Nims at the awards ceremony but didn’t realize it was her until the next day when she introduced herself at a panel. I met literary agents Lisa Ekus-Saffer and Larry Weissman, magazine editors Lisa Gosselin of Eating Well, Gretchen VanEsselstyn of Chile Pepper, Todd Coleman of Saveur, Charla Draper of Southern Living, Editor Lorna Reeves and Food Editor Betty Terry of Taste of the South, bloggers Danielle Wiley of foodmomiac.com, Judith Klinger of AromaCucina.com, fellow writers Lia Huber, Cheryl Sternman Rule and Lesley Jacobs, made new friends Cynthia L., Kat G. and Polly A. (who lives only 20 minutes from me!) and met several charming restaurateurs, food stylists and cooking school owners and teachers.

I loved New Orleans, had been there once before ten years ago and was so glad to be back. But I’m going on too long already and will have to save my experiences with her food and music for next time. Yes, New Orleans is a she. A grand lady, venerable, ample and weathered, yet exotic and charmingly irresistible. As soon as you leave her house, shutting the door gently behind you, you begin to count the minutes until you can return. A couple years ago she broke both arms in a tragic accident, but she’s on the mend, ever optimistic and indomitable.

I heartily encourage you to join IACP if you’re not already a member, or if you are a member, go to a conference if you possibly can (I had to cash in some ancient stock to do it). If you are, and went, did you find it rewarding? Was it worth the trip? Post a comment and let me know how it was for you.

Coming soon: blog posts on Katrina’s Aftermath and What I Ate

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Tomorrow I’m leaving for New Orleans for the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. I’m beyond excited; it’s been eight years since the last time I went to one, and New Orleans is just an exciting, vibrant place to visit, no matter how you slice it. I’ve heard downtown and the French Quarter, where I’ll be, are showing few signs of Katrina’s damage, but the city is damaged at its core, its soul, and I’ve been wanting to go back since the hurricane happened.

I’ve got to run and finish a column on Fleisher’s grass fed meats, with a Jamaican oxtail recipe, then it’s time to pack. I’m going to try to blog while there and update you on the conference, meals, etc.

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