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September 17, 2012 at 6:00 AM

The Barefoot Contessa’s guilty pleasure


Even after talking with Ina Garten by phone, I was struck by the crowds packing Benaroya Hall to the rafters yesterday to see the Barefoot Contessa being interviewed by Greg Atkinson. They gave her a royal standing ovation just for walking on stage. They prefaced questions by saying they were honored to be in her presence.

Some of the tidbits that came from the talk:

1. Asked about her guilty pleasures, Garten singled out Fran’s Chocolates. She wasn’t just playing to the local crowd; she recently praised Fran’s salt caramels on her blog, saying that “a box of 20 caramels wrapped in Fran’s beautiful caramel-colored ribbon is also my favorite hostess gift. I guarantee you’ll be invited back!”

2. Yes, the cooking on her Food Network show is for real. If the TV shows her putting a chicken in the oven, it’s in there roasting at 425 degrees even after the camera pulls away. And in the hour and fifteen minutes until it’s ready to come out, she’s probably filming something else. (Who gets to eat the finished dish? Generally, the camera crew.)

3. The ‘friends’ pictured on her show really are her friends. She’s had Hollywood actresses call and ask for a guest spot, and had to explain that that isn’t how it works.

4. Since she is so talented at simplifying techniques, does she know any straightforward way to make French macarons? Well…… no. Some things just can’t be simplified. (True, but check out some of our tips over here.)

5. Does she cook for herself or for her friends? Definitely, absolutely, for her friends. Cooking for herself, she said, she’d be dining on cold cereal or oatmeal.

Sound like a fun afternoon? Come back in May, when Michael Pollan will speak from the same stage. The Neighborhood Farmers Market Association was one of the event’s presenters, and its Incredible Feast is coming up much earlier, on Oct. 7.

File photo of Fran’s Chocolates by Courtney Blethen/The Seattle Times



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