Archive for the ‘Culinary’ Category

The Aesthetics of Cornelia Guest at the Antiques and Garden Show

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Cornelia Guest

The extraordinary Cornelia Guest first came to my attention in middle school in the ’80s, on the pages of any number of fashion magazines. We were living in upstate New York at the time, so the glamorous young woman posing with the likes of Andy Warhol and other legends of the era made my friends and I all hope breathlessly of being just like her. After all, her father was a world-class polo player, her mother the socialite upon whom all other socialites based their dreams, and Cornelia herself probably qualified as the first “celebutante” even before the word mashup became part of American parlance.

With Andy Warhol and pop singer Billy Squire (left)

More correctly, she was the “Deb of the Decade” feted by Andy Warhol, and some of the most famous artists, actors, writers and cultural definers of the 20th century, from Truman Capote to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (her godparents, by the way).

With that background, it might have been easy for the horse-loving New York darling to coast through life taking everything for granted. Happily, she opted to devote her life to responsible living – and in more recent memory she’s become a strong promoter and supporter of healthy eating and lifestyle, as well as an activist for animal welfare.

At present, the grown-up Ms. Guest published a successful cookbook, Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining, in 2012 after founding a vegan catering company. It all evolved, dare I use the term, organically, after she started baking vegan cookies for charity events that went over brilliantly. Now, she’s jumped into even more exciting waters as a member of “Team Guy” on the Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cookoff. (Having met Guy Fieri myself while appearing on Drive Ins, Diners, and Dives, I can attest that he’s a blast to work with.)

Cornelia Guest gold tweed handbag at Bloomingdales.

She’s also launched a line of handbags – Humane Handbags – that, needless to say, meet the stringent requirements of a vegan lifestyle. Made with a buttery-soft faux leather, the stylish bags in a wide variety of styles can be found at Bloomingdale’s and other upscale retailers.

A long-time supporter of the Humane Society of New York, among other critical causes, Guest was recently named one of Donna Karan’s “Women Who Inspire,” was the face of PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked” campaign, and serves on the Mayoral-appointed Grow N.Y.C. board. She hosted New Yorkers for Marriage Equality’s 2010 flagship event with Mayor Bloomberg.

Most importantly for readers in the Nashville area, the fantastic Ms. G will be appearing tomorrow to lecture at the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville. Now in its 23rd year, the Antiques and Garden Show just gets better and better – and if you haven’t made plans to get there, I recommend making them now (click on the link above for tickets).

At the last minutes, Cornelia Guest was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, so here’s a little quick Q&A to get you ready for tomorrow’s event.

What everyone wants to know is what it was like working with Guy and Rachael on Celebrity Cookoff? What was the best part of that experience and will we see you again on the show? They are both amazing, their knowledge of food was so inspiring – it made me a better cook. Of course, there were lots of laughs; I think I’m in love with Guy!

You’ve got quite an impressive background as an equestrian – do you keep up with those skills actively? No, sadly I don’t have the time, I miss my horses like crazy, but I do visit all my pals at different shows.

How does your work with animals and your commitment to a vegan lifestyle affect your personal style – both in terms of fashion and interiors? It makes me think about everything I buy, and about how to make it cruelty-free.

Who are your favorite pro-animal fashion designers? Besides myself, Stella McCartney

Bloomingdale’s carries your line of cruelty-free handbags, and it’s a newer line for our region of the country to be aware of – can you tell me a bit about your inspirations for it, and what we ought to know as buyers? Mother Nature is my inspiration. My line is affordable, chic, elegant and timeless – as well as an intelligent alternative to using animal products.

You’re a New Yorker – how much time have you spent here in the South and has it in any way influenced your sense of style? What about your culinary perspective? I used to go to horse shows and dine all over the place. I love the South – the accents and the fact that the people are all so kind. I love vegetarian bar-b-que, by the way.

You have a vegan catering business and a popular vegan cookbook out – which do you find provides your best method of sharing a vegan perspective and why? They both do, as I can use both as tools to educate people and to spread the word.

What drew you to veganism to begin with? Cruelty to animals. Factory farming is not only horrific beyond all imagination, but it’s ruining our planet.

In the 80s, you were the “deb of the decade,” always in the fashion mags and newspapers – has the time you spent in that limelight influenced who you are today? Who are the people in that era that remain your greatest influences? Halston, without a doubt is a huge inspiration and influence on me. His sense of style was just so simple and so elegant and fashionable. And after all he was the first to use ultra suede.

Can you clue us in on your next big project? Taking the Cornelia Guest Cruelty Free Lifestyle global!

The Fun Stuff

TV show: Scandal

Listening: Johnny Cash

Reading: Biographies and Hemingway

Jeans: Rag & Bone, J Brand

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate

Skin care: Biologique

Gadget: Blackberry and iPhone

Fragrance: Oils from Objets D’Art & Spirit in Los Angeles

Cocktail: Red wine

Restaurant: N.Y.C .– La Grenouille and Scalinatella; Los Angeles – Il Piccolino

Anything Nashville: Great music!


The New `Cue Review: Comin’ Right at You

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As we kick off 2013, it’s an excellent time to reflect on the sorts of things that made 2012 special. Personally, one of the most gratifying and downright fun things I did was to write a series for which they entitled “A Year of Barbecue.” Fortunately, the series ended in December, so I have a few months to get my lipid counts down from the Mr. Creosote range before my annual visit to my internist.

During the course of the year, I made many new friends on the bbq circuit, visited restaurants and smokehouses around the South and spent several nights watching whole hogs render while merry bands of derelict pitmasters did some pretty wacky things to keep themselves entertained and awake overnight.

But the details of my exploration that I can share are gathered below. I’m very proud of this series, and my editors say that they are looking to nominate it for some journalistic awards around the country. “Journalist,” heh. That’s just because I didn’t write about watching a man pee over a truck to win a $5.00 bet. More than once…

So here are the highlights of the series, conveniently gathered in one spot for your reading pleasure:

In January, I kicked the year off with some bold proclamations and promises of what I hoped to achieve in 2012. I think we accomplished most of them.

Later in January, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Mike and Amy Mills’ BBQ IQ Whole Hog Cooking Seminar at 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL. Not only did I witness whole hogs being cooked by masters of the trade and learn a great deal about the business of barbecue from legends like Sweet Baby Ray and Famous Dave, but I also developed relationships with some really exceptional people. At the very top of that list is Sam Jones from The Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC. Not only is Sam a great guy, he’s also a hilarious quote machine, and my profile of him pretty much wrote itself. I’ll take the credit for writing down his best bon mots, though.

March came in like a lion but went out like a lamb, mutton that is. I joined my good friend Thomas Williams for a mutton-fueled trip to Owensboro, KY where we sampled some of the best old sheep on earth at Old Hickory BBQ and Moonlite Bar-B-Que. While the gamey mutton meat isn’t for everyone, anyone who calls himself a barbecue aficionado needs to make this pilgrimage at least once in their life.

April’s installment focused on the ultra-competitive sauce industry, where I discovered that Sweet Baby Ray is actually a friendly middle-aged white guy from the suburbs of Chicago, not the Cosby Kid caricature I had imagined. He’s also an extremely shrewd businessman whose best advice about entering the retail sauce business is…don’t do it.

As the weather warms up, more amateur pitmasters want to get outside and start to show off their talents competitively. With Memphis in May approaching, I published a fun little competition calendar to help plan your culinary road trips.

In June, I went a little wacky. Or rather Waikiki as I explored Hawaiian barbecue. You probably don’t think of `cue when you see a pig coming out of the ground at a luau, but pork cooked over indirect heat from smoky indigenous wood sounds a lot like barbecue to me.

If you are a fan of barbecue, I cannot emphasize enough how much fun you can have at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party held each June in Madison Square Park. Expert smokers from around the country descend on the park to feed some of the best food that yankees will ever have the pleasure to enjoy. Y’know, like we can get just by driving to Nolensville any day of the week. My recap of the event and of the drive from Tennessee to NYC was one of my favorite pieces to write all year. Look for another version of the story to appear in A Taste of the South magazine this coming spring.

The heat of the summer pointed me to Texas where I took on a significant task trying to identify the best barbecue in the Lone Star State. In the end, I narrowed it to around ten joints, and I’m certain I left out some of the best. Barbecue is a cruel mistress that way.

Finding the best barbecue in Manhattan was a lot easier, since there aren’t nearly as many choices. Because my editors at Food Republic all live there, the pressure was on for me to make those sort of choices remotely. As FR’s “Southern correspondent,” they count on me to pretty much cover anything that isn’t in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but fortunately they concurred with my recommendations.

This success left me cocky enough to tackle one of the barbecue capitals of the universe, Memphis. I made no bold proclamations about the best of the Bluff City, but even bad Memphis barbecue is probably better than what passes for `cue in your hometown. The exploration of ten famous spots in one day was an experience I’ll never forget, but also probably never attempt again.

As if gorging myself in Memphis wasn’t enough, in November I described what it’s like to judge at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitation Barbecue competition. Consider that taking just a small bite of everything offered for your deliberation adds up to over two pounds of food consumed and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like. Which is to say…awesome!

I finished off the year by sharing the wisdom and talents of three different masters of the whole hog, Sam Jones, Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ and Food Network’s culinary Mr. Wizard, Alton Brown. While their techniques and advice were very different, all three certainly know their way around a pig. (Which is really not that far considering that you have already cut the pig in half.)

So there it is in a nutshell. Would I do it again? Absolutely! But luckily I’m certain that the relationships I made this year will ensure that the study of great barbecue will be a lifelong pursuit.


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