Queen Pauline-ish

Many years ago, I was a judge for a competition for the ICA, International Catering Association. Recipes were gathered and we met at Good Gracious Events over in midtown.

I was a little giddy at the opportunity, I love being a judgey judger, and Pauline Parry, owner of Good Gracious, is a legend, not just in Los Angeles, but throughout North America.

I had taken her seminars at Catersource, and had a catering crush on her.

Is there anything she couldn’t do?

It was a great afternoon, and  that was that.

And then, one day, out of the blue she called me. “Jen, It’s been too long, let’s have lunch!”

(She always calls me Jen. I love it.)

So we did. Four hours and three bottles of wine later, we were fast friends.

She wasn’t wearing the flower crown that day,  but if she did, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

This lunch kicked off a monthly series of ladies lunches.

We invited friends we shared event war stories and  successes, and we laughed and laughed.

On one of the earlier lunches, she invited her daughter Joanne. She insisted I would love her.

Jo was dieting that day and a little grumpy, but she picked out every celebrity in the restaurant with great aplomb. I was fascinated, and recognized no one.

At the time Jo was chef-de-cuisine of Good Gracious, and by the next luncheon, we started talking about food and kitchen culture and I was hooked.

I love this woman, and her mum, too.

I always tell my kids “it’s difficult to make friends when you’re older, so work hard to cultivate  your close relationships. ” Still true.

It feels like I’ve been friends with this woman for a lifetime. It’s been about eight years.

She’s a powerhouse in the events community,  and an excellent friend.

My relationship with daughter Jo has been nothing but fabulous.

We’ve been presenting on Plant Based Cuisine at Catersource for years now, and  we always get high marks.  She’s also a snappy dresser and I love shopping with this woman.

This is the only relationship I have with a mother/ daughter team, and it’s one of my favorites.

We never lack when it comes to gabbing, we still lunch and dinner on the regular, the three of us, and I cherish my time with them.

So much so, that we went to Italy together last year.

Have I mentioned that my trip to Italy is on my short list of favorite vacations?

We had SO. MUCH. F U N.

Today is Pauline’s “ish” birthday!

No need to mentions numbers, that would be de-classé.

Let’s just say it’s a big one.

Never have I ever been more thrilled to participate in a birthday parade for this Queen of Los Angeles. (also, COVID can SUCK IT)

The parade was no less than thirty cars, all decorated in celebration of this big-hearted woman.

Of course we all knew each  other and were so excited to be together even in our facemasks without hugs.

This women is a national treasure.

Her gift of bringing people together, connecting them through their strengths is awe-inspiring.

She talks, and waves her hands and magic happens.

Here sense of humor suits mine to a T,  and  we don’t stop till we belly laugh.

Her family is nothing short of fantastic.

I love hanging with her and the hubs, or Jo or Lauren the DIL. She has two super cuties, one I swear is destined for politics, in the best way possible.

She is a rare gem.

She’s dedicated  to her community, hellbent on making connections, and in everyone’s corner when they need her. She never says no, and is always ready to create solutions that benefit the whole.  She started WIPA (Weddings International Professional Association)  and will mentor anyone who asks. She doesn’t dice words, and can be shockingly honest (her best attribute IMHO).

So often, Angelenos like a sugar coat on reality. Not my pal Pauline.

She gives it to you straight, no chaser, unless it’s a rich cabernet.

So cheers to you my dear friend Pauline, on your ISH birthday.

The world is better because you’re in it.

I’m forever grateful for  you, your family and all the fun you bring to everything.

You are powerful, professional, hilarious, and my unique friend.

Love you forever.

Let the Eating Begin! Autumn in Amalfi ~Part 3

For the culinary tour, there were twenty- one of us in tow, three vans full. We all embraced our inner tourist and played the part with great aplomb. Let’s get out there and eat!

This is Salvatore, he took over the family lemon farm. He had to choose between lemons & family, or his career as a well pedigreed CPA. He picked lemons & family, and he’s really happy, with no regrets. He was effervescent with passion and an articulate teacher, sharing everything he could with us. We all fell in love with his lemons, his farm, his family.

Oh and did I mention  the lemon candy? Super sweet, sour and a surprise center.  I like candy as much as I like cake for breakfast.

It’s hard to tell, but he’s on top of the lemon tree trellis in this picture.

He jumped up like his knees don’t mind at all.

That entire valley is full of trellised Amalfi lemon trees, all privately owned. Some are tended, some are fallow. Salvatore had a bit to say about not tending the trees.

We had a lovely lunch in town, with the best eggplant parmesan on the trip. I ate eggplant everyday on this trip and it made me so happy.

Here’s a snap of the California crew after lunch. It was very satisfying, just look at Jo.

One night, on the way to dinner, we stopped by the Casola Ceramiche. Our guide, Jason, wanted some table tops for his restaurant back in PA. We took a tour and admired the ceramics, but I didn’t see anything I needed. But then. This platter. It jumped out and hit me with pure love.

My new friend, Therese, said she could get the price down. I said go for it. They were unmoved by her keen haggling skills. It was pricey, four hundred euros.

I really couldn’t justify it.

Then Johnny walked in and said ” the taxi driver outside said you need me to get you this platter!”

Be still my heart!

What a beauty! She arrives in April! Dinner party at my house!!

We had dinner at the top of Positano that night, during an intense thunder storm. The electric went out in the entire town as we were headed up the hill. I saw it happen. Boom, dark.

When we arrived, it was hailing. The restaurant was bustling – nothing new here, just a little dinner in the dark! We had a jovial Sunday supper by candle and iPhone light.

A wandering minstrel joined us for some singing, dancing in the dark and general merriment. One of our tourists stole a liter of limoncello off the table as we left (she later regretted her decision).

Turns out everyone makes limoncello and they all have their own secret recipe, it’s quite endearing, they push it on you, in the most charming way.

We had a few days of rain, and it was fun for this California Girl.  For our pizza-making excursion, we had to climb eighteen flights of cobblestone stairs in the rain!  So exhilerating!

I loved pizza day. I learned how to make pasta, too!

Chef made some poofy bread, and then filled it with Nutella and Concerto, a weird aromatic/ digestif they make as often as they make Limoncello. It’s an odd combination of coffee, barley, herbs and spices. I didn’t like it by itself, but it added a curious layer of flavor to the dessert, in a good way.

This cheese making family was delightful.

They are from Ravello, the same village as our driver. His community pride was showing as he drove us up to the farm.

There’s no internet here, just old school deliciousness.

 They’re operating on the equivalency of Californias Cottage Food Laws.

Their system is based on income, not meat and dairy like California. As long as they keep it below 50K a year, they can produce and sell from their home farm.

They make ricotta, a soft chèvre, and an aged herbal infused, dried variety. So delicious, and she made it look so easy.

I made some friends.

I discovered red shrimp! Of course, fancy chef JoJo had used them earlier in the season and knew all about them.  They’re amazing, if you have the opportunity, eat them!

Jo and I were often introduced as the chefs from California, and it created a bit of celebrity in my own mind. Jason made sure all the chefs knew about us, and we  got to visit a few kitchens!  There were several head lady chefs in all female kitchens. It was refreshing and inspirational.

Not this one though, look at all these nice manly chefs.

 

These beasts made some amazing cheese.

It’s not the buffalo I knew as a child. I knew that, and yet…

Just another one of our dinner tables at the top of Ravello!  We made some more cheese, buffalo Mozzarella with chef Biaggi! I was talking with Pauline how the cheese was tough, and chef overheard us. The fresh mozzarella must repose for twenty-four hours to soften. Aha! Also, do you know why burrata is so delicious? They stuff it with ricotta, butter and heavy cream!

(Jo’s in the back over there, taking a call from California.)

And it went like that for ten glorious days & nights! I woke up one day, missing my middle child and my dog. I got over it. I had two cranky episodes and I adjusted. Mostly I had the trip of a lifetime with a man I adore and some of my best friends. It was an epic holiday.

My one regret?  I wish I got more shoes. I have a hard foot to fit and they actually made the shoe around my foot. Crazy comfortable and super cute.  I got a pair of blue sued loafers and some sassy sandals.

This is the only picture I have of the shoe store. Jo and I were picking up our order, and maybe ordering another pair…

And now, on March 28th, 2020, my friend and his family are in quarantine, but safe in Milan.

These are the times.

I love you Italy.