Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, was originally scheduled to come to Milwaukee Nov. 2, but her appearance was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, the show was not cancelled and Garten made her first-ever trip to Milwaukee on Thursday night for a chat at the Riverside Theater.
The stage consisted of two leather chairs, a rug, a lamp and a table with Garten's new book, "Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust," propped up on display. Off the bat, Garten addressed the postponement of her show, saying, "I'm sorry I'm late."
Nancy Stohs served as the moderator for the event, having collected questions in advance, stating the name, age and location of the person who submitted it. This approach was a bit rocky at the beginning as the questions were often unrelated so that there wasn't really any progression or tie-in to the previous answer. Also, Stohs seemed to be focusing on the next question to read and wasn't really listening to Garten's answers. Instead it seemed like she was just waiting for Garten to stop talking and moving to the next question as soon as there was any pause.
Garten's natural charisma helped cover some of the early blemishes. While Garten quickly bonded with the audience, it took longer for her to develop chemistry with her on-stage counterpart. This was finally achieved when Garten commented "I love that everybody has their age," joking about an unnecessary element that prefaced each question. This broke the ice on-stage and helped forge a good rhythm that stayed pretty consistent until near the end of the show.
Along the way, Garten shared her thoughts on a wide range of cooking and entertaining topics. While she was pretty consistent in offering practical advice, some of her suggestions were not cost effective for those with a food budget. In one instance, she recommended that the best way to discover your favorite type of an ingredient (such as olive oil) would be to buy four or five different brands and perform your own personal taste test. While this tip makes sense, there were a few instances throughout the night where money was not factored in to her advice.
Some of the questions revolved around Garten's television show, and it was very interesting to learn that she was initially not interested in having a TV show. According to Garten, the Food Network misread her disinterest as a negotiating tactic and sweetened the deal. She also shared what she considered the funniest behind-the-scenes moment of the series. While carving a duck for the program, the task was proving to be difficult and "a word might have slipped out that rhymed with duck."
When asked if her husband Jeffrey ever helped her in the kitchen, Garten quickly dismissed the idea of his assistance and said "his job is to appreciate it." She revealed that there was only one dish that she'd made for her husband that ended up being a disaster. A ground beef and corn casserole apparently turned out so awful that it is still a running joke between the two. Garten commented that one awry dish over the course of their marriage was "not bad for 44 years." The audience was also surprised that Garten doesn't really cook anything just for herself, preferring to only cook when it can be appreciated by someone else.
Appropriately as part of her book tour, Garten was asked about her own cookbook collection and if she had any recommendations. Garten strongly endorsed purchasing cookbooks from specialty food stores. The "Loaves and Fishes" series of cookbooks by Anna Pump were specifically recommended, as well as Sarah Leah Chase's books, such as "Cold-Weather Cooking."
With about 15 minutes to go, it seemed like the Q&A hit a wall when Stohs stopped relying on the notecards for questions. Perhaps she ran out of fan-submitted questions, but after pausing and saying "let's see..." Stohs started asking questions very similar to ones that had been answered earlier. After she'd retraced her steps a few times, Garten tried to engage Stohs in conversation about Wisconsin's food and asked for the native's expertise. This unexpected attention really seemed to frazzle Stohs and the audience chimed in with answers to Garten's inquiries while the moderator mulled over what her response should be.
Nevertheless, the event was certainly a hit with the audience, and a copy of the new book was included with the ticket price. After having Giada earlier this year and with more top chefs scheduled to speak in Milwaukee, there is clearly a local fanbase and passion for these chefs and their cooking.
At one point, Garten was asked if she was already working on her next book. Garten confirmed that she was, but didn't want to give any hint what the theme or focus of the book would be. Instead, she coyly asked the audience, "Will you come back and I can tell you next time?" The Riverside crowd replied with a resounding yes and thanks to her charm, her return is already being anticipated.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by OnMilwaukee.com Staff Writers
Published Feb. 7, 2016
Madison365 presents the third in a five-part series highlighting Wisconsin residents of Latino heritage who have accomplished great things in business, education, government, media and the nonprofit sector.
Published Feb. 7, 2016
Nothing says "I love you" like romantic music, and the Florentine Opera delivers with a Valentine's Day weekend full of romantic music from opera, operetta and musical theater. It promises to be better than candy.
Published Feb. 7, 2016
At 84 years old, Richard (Dick) Larsen calls retirement his "second life." No longer running the business he founded, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports, Larsen now fills his time serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
Published Feb. 6, 2016
Milwaukee County officials yesterday announced that the Mitchell Park Domes would be closed over the weekend due to safety concerns about falling debris.
Published Feb. 5, 2016
The West End Conservatory is the story of a burning vision shared by two Milwaukee jazz musicians with surplus talent, energy, intelligence and pure grit. But the flame almost went out early on.
Published Feb. 4, 2016
The great Milwaukee weekend is here and it is jam packed with options for you! You could watch your favorite Disney characters take the ice at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, hit up Mittenfest and experience a winter street festival, attend the Gospel Jubilee, see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and so much more. Make it a great one!
Published Feb. 4, 2016
It's one of Milwaukee's most cherished and distinctive traditions: the Friday fish fry. The tradition is live and thriving in Milwaukee -- especially with the start of Lent. It's a big list, so dig in and read on.
Published Feb. 3, 2016
Saehee Chang came to the U.S. in 1981 at 12 years old. She was born in Seoul but lived in Vietnam and Nairobi, Kenya for much of her youth. That experience, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports, eventually inspired her to start her business, Korea Konnect, in 2009.
Published Feb. 2, 2016
Once again, the annual Milwaukee celebration of all things cinema will land on the last week of September and the first week of October, running from Thursday, Sept. 22 through Thursday, Oct. 6.
Published Feb. 1, 2016
Haven't made plans for Valentine's Day yet? Check out this guide for some ideas!