Tag Archives: thomas keller

Tex and the City: Books for a Cause

Today on Tex and the City: A good cause reinforces Jon Paul’s love of hard covers over e-books.  Guest stars: Daisy Martinez, Patti LuPone (sort of).

Last night, in the midst of a passionate Upper West Side crowd, Patti LuPone was staring at me with an eager, come hither grin.  As I approached, a cutish guy caught my eye, “You’re the first one to show interest all night.”  He was one of the volunteer’s at the Goddard Riverside Community Center 24th Annual New York Book Fair.  And unlike celebrity chef Daisy Martinez who was signing books in-person across the room, Patti had sent a facsimile of herself courtesy of the cover of her book, Patti LuPone: A MemoirWhat must have the contentious discussions been like to come up with that clever title?  Still, after a product plug on Glee from the impossibly precious Blaine, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside.  After all, it was for a good cause.

Every year the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Goddard Center hosts this fundraising fair featuring 50% off some of the latest and most buzzed about books donated by various publishing companies.  And I can see why they participate every year.  The Goddard Center is an outstanding organization with 27 programs in 21 sites on the Upper West Side and in West Harlem focusing on children, youth and families; homeless people; older adults; and advocacy and tenant assistance.  Thanks to the Whole Foods Market Upper West Side sponsorship of the event, Chef scored me a pass to the gala preview where I shopped for best sellers without breaking the bank.

For Chef, I elbowed my way through the Cooking section picking up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and Bouchon at way under market value, while cautioning other buyers that his French Laundry cookbook was really only for the extremely seriously trained culinary professionals.  For myself, I grabbed Mark Bittman’s latest The Food Matters Cook Book.  In the Hot Titles section, I nearly tackled someone to pick up a hard cover cop of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, even though I just ordered it on Kindle.  I’m still having trouble getting my head around reading “important” novels in electronic form.  I have the same issues about wanting to have real copies of “quirky” books, which is why I probably nabbed John Waters’ Role ModelsSuper Freakonomics, on the other hand, is a book I would happily read electronically, but not economist-turned-Chef, so I caved for him.  We even picked a Christmas present for our nieces, a sweet children’s book Me, Frida about Frida Kahlo finding herself and following her dream when she moved to San Francisco with Diego.  The book jacket says the book “encourages young readers to believe in themselves so they can make their own dreams soar.”  Hmm, maybe I’ll hang onto it.

Back at the Entertainment section, I was just putting down Patti’s book, not too impressed with the over-the-top self-congratulatory opening.  Then the Goddard Center Broadway Babies took the “stage” and belted out “Give My Regards to Broadway.”  It was a Glee-come-true, and I decided that Patti should come home with me.

On the subway lugging home all the heavy purchases, I couldn’t thinking about Kindle—hoping e-book craze never puts this cause out-of-business.

Grab your own Patti or Frida at the Goddard Riverside Community Center 24th Annual New York Book Fair, 593 Columbus Avenue @ 88th Street

Saturday, November 20, 2010, 10am to 6pm
Sunday, November 21, 2010, 11am-5pm

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Boy Toy

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul has issues when Chef brings home a talented new friend.

This past weekend, Chef insisted on introducing me to his latest obsession—his newest boy toy, if you will.  At least I knew it was coming.  After all, he had emailed me earlier in the day, asking for my blessing on spending the hundreds of dollars a rendez-vous would cost.  After nearly 10 years together, how could I deny Chef such happiness?  So later that night he marched proudly home and beckoned me to the front door to meet his latest triumph.

“Look at the beauty.  The possibilities are endless.  Wait until you taste the juice,” Chef beamed.

He propped his treasure onto the counter, and immediately gave me a demonstration with carrots and celery.  Chef’s face glowed as the vegetables disappeared inside the Vita Mix 5200, a high-end food preparation appliance.

Chef's Latest Boy Toy, the VitaMix 5200

“Oh, it’s a fancy blender,” I said, wondering how it was different than the blender sitting next to it.

“Blender? It’s much more than that.  I’ve wanted one ever since I worked at Per Se.”

When Chef invokes his intern experience at Thomas Keller’s 5-star foodie paradise, I am rarely persuaded.  That’s how we ended up with one of my least favorite gadgets—an expensive and giant “sous vide” machine for the home cook which took up valuable counter space for months without ever getting used.  The moment I banished it to the back of a kitchen storage area we refer to as the “tiendita,” Chef came unglued.

“I was just about to use that!”

A familiar refrain, having heard similar protests about the sorbet maker that takes up vital freezer space in case we “want to make sorbet on the fly.”  Who does that?

I surveyed the counter, readying my argument that he had to at least get rid of one appliance in order to welcome a new one.  What about the dusty bread-making machine bequeathed to us from the house’s previous owner?  Chef headed me off at the pass.

“One of the great features of the Vita-Mix 5200 is that it can grind grains.  I can make whole wheat flour for bread!”

He had me beat, and I smiled.  Sometimes, Chef is just too cute for words.  I laughed, and left him to spend quality time with his new friend.  Almost everything we ate this past weekend came out creamy and soupy—and with a smile on Chef’s face a mile wide.

I guess a little help from mechanical appliances is what keeps our relationship running smoothly.


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Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Today on Alphabet City: Susan’s birthday conjures up an unexpected famous face.  Guest star: Graham Norton

Birthdays on Alphabet City are always “very special episodes.”  My 40th birthday last year was shot on-location in Sydney.  Juan Pablo’s always involves some over-the-top food segment featuring a star chef.  And Susan’s typically lasts all month with both heavy amounts of travel and food.  But last night, we celebrated Susan’s 35th birthday a little differently with a 5-course meal prepared by Chef Juan Pablo (full menu provided below) in our Washington Heights brownstone.  I was reminded that the last time we threw a party in our home for Susan—exactly five years ago for her 30th birthday—a celebrity talk-show presenter mistakenly appeared.

Back when I first became a trained publicist, instead of traditional invites for Christmas and birthday parties, I sent out Press Alerts—an insider joke for people working in the entertainment industry—inviting people to come to a cast party on the set (my apartment)—encouraging their “publicists” to submit names of clients who might want to be invited.  For Susan’s 30th birthday party at my apartment, I announced on the press alert that the event was happening at a new “underground East Village club.”  But anyone who knew me well, and had been to the party many times, recognized the address as my apartment.

The night of the party, I opened the door to Marc, a sweetly gullible TV-producer friend of mine who had taken the Press Alert seriously.

“Um, hi, so what is this place?  It’s so underground that it looks like a real apartment.  I guess normal is the new cool,” he said.

He was trying desperately to look hip and in-the-know and not a bit surprised by the glaringly bright kitchen lights and wafts of garlicky spaghetti sauce.  He twitched nervously and motioned to his friends standing nearby.

“These are my friends Kathryn and Graham.”

He had brought along the local TV entertainment reporter who thought she might score a scoop, and British chat-show host Graham Norton.  Graham thought he was being escorted to the latest invite-only club—one that was on the cutting-edge of chic tucked away in a tenement building with no sign and no velvet rope.  I smiled at my little ruse.


Guests at an Alphabet City party include Entertainment Reporter Kathryn, TV Producer Marc, my dear friend Susan, and TV Chat Host Graham Norton and friend

“Welcome to the set of Alphabet City, the sitcom of my life.”

After the initial shock wore off, Graham grabbed three plastic cups filled with wine, a plate of meatballs, and sat all night on the sofa talking to my dog Winnie’s groomer Evelyn and dog-walker-au-pair Kasia.

“Young man, that was the most authentic New York City evening I have ever had,” he hugged me on the way out.  “I do hope I can be a guest star on future episodes.”

Graham’s surprise appearance boosted the Alphabet City ratings as well as the attendance at future parties—friends never knew who might show up.

Five years later, we didn’t need a talk-show host to boost our ratings or celebration of  Susan’s 35th birthday.  Instead, Alphabet City‘s own celebrity Chef Juan Pablo prepared  a 5-course meal that included a Thomas Keller French Laundry recipe for cheese gougéres, a salmon and caviar terrine, seared sweet scallops in beurre blanc sauce, gnocchi with butternut squash and mushroom reduction (also a Keller receipe), and a Tom Colicchio recipe for slow braised “fresh bacon” or “pork belly.”  I’d never seen a pork belly fresh from the butcher—seeing the little nipples is a little much, but it sure tasted amazing!  Later, my own Kitchen Knightmare pastry talents were on display with a Bon Appetit recipe for Caramelized Pumpkin Flan and a Whole Foods recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding to which I added chocolate chips.


Can you see the pig's nipples?


Looks like bacon!


Salmon and caviar terrine was the first thing Chef ever cooked for Susan


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