I just came back from the most amazing and exhausting weekend- the first annual food and wine festival in St. Petersburg, Florida. My team of youngins’ had no idea what they were getting into. A trip to Florida for the weekend? Sounds like fun! But it’s a lot of work too. You know what they say, “work hard, play hard.
My team –aka- Charlie’s Angels and I flew in at 5am on Thursday for a weekend of food demos, panel discussions, and live filming for HSN.
Recently, I’ve been serving my meatballs as sliders for my husband and his football compadres, so I thought it would perfect to demo at the Hardtock Hotel and Casino. Without giving away the secret family recipe, I walked the audience through the best techniques for frying up my award-winning veal meatballs. You can check out the recipe here.
Some of my chef tips included:
- Don’t fry Extra Virgin Olive Oil, because it has a low smoking point and will burn the meatballs. I prefer a light olive oil, canola, or vegetable.
- Always use the fresh herbs- garlic and oregano- not dried.
- When pan-frying, resist the urge to play with those balls! Once you lower them into the oil, be very patient and don’t rush the cooking process.
Friday was all about HSN! I woke up at 4:30 am and headed over to their headquarters to present my signature line of kitchenware and food. It’s an early start- 4:30 am.
Thank God for the wonderful hair and makeup team there! While we were there, I bumped into the fabulous Ingrid Hoffman and Curtis Stone- who’s an absolute riot. His room was a touch bigger than mine (Still a little upset about that!) But we had a lot of fun.
After a long day, I attended the HSN party “Lights, Camera, EAT!” to mingle with my fellow chefs and honor the CEO of HSN, Mindy Grossman: presenting sponsor and all around rock-star.
Saturday was the official start of the Enjoy Arts & Tastes festival. After an awesome segment with ABC’s Sean Daly, where I mixed cocktails, I participated in a behind the scenes panel discussion with Morimoto, Scott Conant, and Allen Salkin- author of “From Scratch: Inside the Food Network.”
I was in hysterical laughter when Scott Conant relived the story of Aaron Sanchez eating too many beans (don’t ask!) and Morimoto discussing his love/hate relationship with being an Iron Chef (“It’s a lot of pressure & stress. I love it & hate it, but I’m honored & proud to be an Iron Chef.) I, on the other hand, defended the integrity of the show by assuring the crowd that it is never, ever fixed. All chefs have good days and not-so-good days, and anyone competing on the show is extremely talented. It’s a case of which dishes taste best on that particular day. Most importantly, I was amazed that Scott Conant had more hair product in his hair that I did.
A few hours later, I did a live demo of my gnudi recipe and an impromptu cocktail throw-down, resulting in some gift giveaways.
Later that evening, my Charlie’s Angels and I headed to Canopy with PR Superstar, Herb Karlitz and Curtis Stone and his crew to unwind. Curtis and I compared photos of our kids and debated whose is cuter. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to an agreement on that one…
Leaving New York, I was looking forward to the Florida sun, but alas the weekend was filled with clouds until Sunday. At that point, the sun came out for the Battle of the ‘Burg- Arguably the best event at Enjoy Arts & Tastes. Of course, as the host and head judge- I’m not bias at all! The burgers were hot and the beers were cold. We gathered by a luxurious pool surrounded by top Floridian chefs firing up their grills.
I have to extend a big thank you to Enjoy Arts & Tastes, HSN, Bill Edwards Presents, Inc., Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and all those who came out in support of the festival this weekend! I had an absolute blast, and can’t wait to return to St. Pete!
You can check out more pictures from my events here on Facebook.