Remember on the old blog when I used to recap Barefoot Contessa episodes? I don’t do that anymore because her show is going downhill and it’s painful to watch. I really liked the whole setup where she makes a meal. It’s useful to see what dishes can go together and how she puts together a meal. I like that she starts with what can go in the fridge and be reheated and does the truly last minute stuff at the last minute. But now it’s a “theme” where she makes similar dishes that aren’t necessarily eaten with each other. So you get desserts, or grilled stuff, or pastas. It’s kind of boring that way.
Even worse, she’s got the inane “Ask Ina” segment where people ask questions carefully selected so that Ina can give answers that everyone who’s watched a millisecond of her show knows. How do I turn up the volume on something? Add lemon zest. How do I start a charcoal grill? Charcoal chimney. What’s the best way to cook vegetables? Roast them.
This last episode was a hottest of hot messes. First the set up – her friend Frank was going to give a tour of her garden. So she makes him some pasta with tomatoes before she does a run through of the tour. And then she makes oatmeal cookies and smoked salmon sandwiches for the guests. And that’s it.
There’s so much fail in their it’s not even funny. First, the “meal” is just so disjointed and pretty meager. Compare that to the other smoked salmon sandwich episode where she does a cocktail party for 50 and makes the aforementioned sandwiches, cupcakes, tuna tartare, and cheddar-chutney sandwiches. A real party menu that is pretty damn doable with some real recipes. In that episode she kept the retread recipes to a minimum (just the cupcake) and there was an actual event that didn’t seem too contrived.
Ok, as I think about it, Ina’s forte is cocktail parties. She does nibbles really well. Think about the first card shark party – lobster in endive, sausage in puff pastry, vegetable sushi, linzer cookies. Now THAT’S a menu. Varied and easy to make ahead of time. Then her art gallery party where she does a cheese plate, spanikopita, figs and prosciutto, chicken satay, and cheese straws. Once again, varied and doable. The current episode’s menu was just a whole bunch of fail Dude, would it hurt you to throw in a cheese plate?
But the true kicker is the assy “Ask Ina” where she just gives incomprehensible advice. Or ASSvice. The first was how to do an outdoor party when the weather is variable (too cold or too hot). Ina’s answer? Be prepared to have it indoors. WHAT? That’s like answering – move to the Bay area where the weather is always nice. That’s such a non answer.
My answer – have the party at sunset with heat lamps, and a portable fire on deck if it gets too cold.
Then the other question was throwing an outdoor wedding dinner for 20 with an Italian theme. She starts off fine by saying to rent a big long table and linens and dinnerware. And then she goes off the rails by suggesting herbs in a drinking glass as a centerpiece and a menu of lasagna, salad and garlic bread. Outdoors? How do you keep the garlic bread and lasagna warm? That’s totally ridiculous.
My answer – On the decor, see what younghouselove did. You can get some fabric and make a runner on the cheap. Cut the fabric into 2 1/2 foot strips. To hem, just get some double sided tape, fold the hem under to get a clean hem and then iron. For one long table you would probably need just a yard. Even an expensive fabric isn’t going to run you more than $10 a yard. Then just lay some tea lights down and have a few short vases with fruit. Done and done. Menu answer is to do things that can be served at room temperature. Starter – crostini with a fava bean and mint puree, tapenade topping, and herbed goat cheese with a dollop of pesto. Main – salad with lemon vinaigrette and shaved parm, grilled chicken marinated in lemon, olive oil and rosemary, and orzo salad. Dessert – store bought cupcakes. Everything can be made ahead and served at room temp.
Seriously, I only watch to mock at this point. BTW, look out for a post about the best mussels I ever made!