Scenes from a Book Tour

Remember that time I told that joke about how I was going to blog my book tour as it happened? That was a hilarious joke! Because, as you might imagine, things got a little crazy after I wrote that. It became impossible to blog my tour as it happened and now, a few days after my Googleplex post, I’m feeling guilty about ever making that promise.

So let’s rewind. After the Eataly dinner, but before flying to San Francisco, I hosted a panel discussion in Brooklyn at the Greenlight Book Store with Amanda Hesser and Jonathan Waxman (seen above in a picture by Lizzie).

It was a really special night with a great discussion at its core all about recipes and what makes them “yours”–though the conversation split off and Jonathan Waxman told great stories about Julia Child (who admired his knife technique) and a story about his father cooking a steak over an open fire, while Amanda Hesser revealed what she’d like her recipe legacy to be (her chocolate “dump-it” cake).

After that, I flew west and hosted that dinner at Tartine Afterhours and spoke at Google.

Then there was some drama. I was staying at a hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square and the drive to Google was so arduous (it took forever to get to the freeway) I told Molly at Artisan that I should leave right away for Napa (where I had two events the next day). So I checked out of my San Francisco hotel and set about making the drive. That’s when the drama happened: I was in the worst traffic jam of my life. Literally, my car moved a centimeter every minute. I listened to 4 CDs in the time it took me to actually get on the highway.

One thing kept me going, though. I remembered the meal that I ate with Mark, Diana and Craig at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen when we were in Napa earlier this year. I loaded the address into my phone and made that my ultimate destination.

I left San Francisco around 4 and didn’t arrive at Cindy’s until 8. I was starved. Famished. Weak, sore, and bitter.

Perhaps because I was in such a state, the meal I enjoyed at the bar was the most delicious, wonderful meal of my entire trip. If I had more time to write a literary post, I’d write one called “Context Matters” because if you have a fight with your partner before eating at Per Se, for example, you’re not going to have a great meal. But if you sit in a car for 4 hours in horrible traffic and then sit at the bar at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, you might have the most incredible meal you could ever imagine.

Mine started with a Caesar salad:


The very helpful man behind the bar allowed me to order a half-glass of Sauvignon Blanc to go with the salad. It was instant nourishment. I felt instantly better.

Then, for my entree, I really went for it with an Osso Bucco which the bartender paired with a full glass of Sobriquet Pinot Noir.


It may not look like much in that photo (and, indeed, the noodles were kind of clumped together in a not-so-ideal way) but it was the most lovely, comforting plate of food a person could want after four hours in a car. Braised meat, noodles and red wine: that’s my kind of food. I loved every bite.

When I ordered a slice of pineapple upside down cake for dessert, I thought I was being mildly indulgent. Then this came out:


Don’t worry, reader, I didn’t eat all of it. But I wanted to. The texture was almost like that of a doughnut; and the ice cream and caramel sauce took it over the moon.

That night, I slept very well at my Marriott Suites hotel. The next morning, I made sure to make time for myself to grab breakfast at Bouchon Bakery (I was in Napa, after all):


Look at these pretty things in the case:


Why would you want to have breakfast anywhere else?

I chose an almond croissant and, just for fun, ordered Thomas Keller’s take on a pumpkin spice latte:


Loved the croissant, didn’t love the pumpkin spice latte. It’s not Bouchon’s fault: they did the best version of that they could do. But it’s basically warm, sweet milk with pumpkin pie spices in it. Coffee is barely detectable. Next time, I’m ordering a cappuccino.

Straight from there, I went to Copperfield’s Books where I was a guest on The Good Food Hour with Steve Garner:


After that, I was whisked over to the Whole Foods next door where I was slated to do a cooking demonstration.


Loyal readers know that I’ve only ever done one other cooking demo and that was at the Baltimore Book Festival for my first book.

This time, I had things easy because a really nice sous chef prepped everything for me and even got the lentil soup started (it’s one of my favorite recipes from the book). All I had to do was finish off the soup with garlic oil so people could eat; then I started the soup again from scratch to show people how to make it all the way through. A nice surprise: my college boyfriend Michael showed up with a friend (you can see him laughing at the camera).


Oh, and here I am in action in a photo taken by a really nice photographer named Crystal:


After Napa, I flew to Seattle where, the next morning, I went to brunch with Craig’s parents and his aunt Carolyn at a fantastic restaurant called Monsoon.


Here we are at the table:


Monsoon offers a Vietnamese take on brunch food. We started out with these fried dumplings:


And also these steamed shrimp dumplings:


Then, for my entree, I had pork belly on coconut rice grits with mustard greens:


Oh, there’s a poached egg on there too. I knew it was a decadent thing to eat but, really, is it that different from bacon, eggs and grits? Not really.

Steve (Craig’s dad) had a giant Asian crepe made with rice flour filled with all kinds of good savory stuff:


Julee (Craig’s mom) had a noodle dish and Carolyn (Craig’s aunt) had pho. For dessert, we shared this banana cake in a savory coconut sauce:


(Savory just means “salty.”)

Everything there was fantastic and after that, I spoke at Book Larder, an excellent book store in Fremont.

The story ends here, though, because all of the pictures after that are still on my phone.

Currently, I’m in L.A. (I hosted an event at the Soho House on Tuesday night) and tomorrow I fly to Austin for the Texas Book Festival. I’m appearing on Sunday at 3:15: info here.

At last, on Monday, I’m back in New York where I’ll collapse for a few days before flying to Richmond, Virginia for the next event. And that, my friends, is what a book tour is like. Exhausting, but in a good way. And way better than not getting to do one at all.

It’ll all pay off on November 13th when the book finally comes out. Are you as excited for that as I am? Hope so! The best part of all of this is how excited people are about the book when they see it. I can’t wait for you to finally get your hands on a copy.

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