James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

A Remembrance of Celebrity Chef Encounters Past

A Remembrance of Celebrity Chef Encounters Past

Mulled wine in Kentucky

With the crisp air making its home in Kentucky and food-lovers preparing holiday dishes and libations peppered with cinnamon, anise, and fennel, my drink of choice is a comforting mug of mulled wine.

The first and only recipe I work with is from Ina Garten. For the uninitiated, Garten is an author and chef on the Food Network. She also worked in the White House that one time in the 1970s, as a budget analyst.

And as I pour a bottle of $7.99 cabernet sauvignon into a large metal pot in my Kentucky kitchen, I’m reminded of the time three years ago and 800 miles away that I met Garten at her home in Long Island.

Four cups of apple cider go into the wine in my metal pot.

I remember as a freelancer in New York I became dependent on finding one-off recording gigs to pay for necessities such as food and books.

A quarter cup of honey added.

I answered a request on an online forum for a ‘tape sync’ for the show America’s Test Kitchen. (A tape sync is how radio people get flawless sound over long distances, which is better than getting wrinkly sound over a recorded phone call.) All I needed to do was record Garten answering questions, while the interviewer on the phone asked questions. It’s how many of you enjoy the pristine sound of your favorite podcasts even if two people are sitting on opposite sides of the country. The gig paid more than $100 for an hour’s work. All I needed to do was get to the Hamptons from Queens. It couldn’t be that far.

Two cinnamon sticks dipped into the pot.

I Googled it. The Hamptons is about 95 miles from Queens.

Four whole cloves and three star anise are sprinkled in.

I remember my tape sync gig also included gas money. Mood shoots up to divine again.

Zest and juice from an orange added to pot.

I flash back to my 17-year-old Accura that was so defective the gas gauge didn’t work and I never really knew how much gas my car had. That was an easy fix.

Bring contents in saucepan to a boil.

The harder fix was that a few days prior, my car decided to shut off randomly when I stopped, for example, at a red light or stop sign. But all I had to do was get on the highway and my car would be fine.

Bring to a simmer.

In the midst of a heavy rainstorm I made the two-and-a-half hour trip to the Hamptons. And I made it on time. Ina Garten welcomed me into her home.
She was cool.

The recording was uneventful: I stood there and held a microphone in my hand. After about an hour I coiled up my recording equipment as she told me she had a dinner party to attend. I left Garten’s splendid home for the drive back to Queens. I knew that once I got home I’d be in the mood for nothing more than a mug of mulled wine.

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