Welcome to 100 Miles, an exploration of sustaining life by going no further away than 100 miles to gather the things we need to live. This web log is my journal of food-based experiences, memories, thoughts, and recipes. I hope you enjoy reading it. To subscribe, so as not to miss each new edition, please enter your email address.
I have fervently been following the opening of the food emporium, Eataly, in New York City. The reason for my interest is that I was involved in the opening of another Italian food emporium in the early ’80s: DDL Foodshow. I was hired by film producer, Dino de Laurentiis, to work with the general manager to open the store. The flagship store was located at 82nd Street and Columbus Avenue, across the street from the Natural History Museum. It took up the ornate, marble lobby of the Endicott Hotel building which by this time was no longer a hotel but had gone co-op. The store was quite large for its time. Much like what Eataly is doing now there were stations spread out around the store: gastronomica, (prepared hot and cold foods), rosticceria (roasted meats and chickens), baked goods, produce, cheese, salumeria, chocolate, coffee and so on. It was meant to be 1-stop shopping for the upscale neighborhood. Dino and his team of Italians spared no expense; he brought chefs and managers over from Italy. Adam Tihany was the designer. The store had a full on kitchen with an Italian head chef. Dino wanted it to be like the stores of its kind that he knew in Italy. Peck in Milan is one such store. After opening I became manager of the cheese department. As manager I did all the cheese buying, was responsible for the counter displays, and oversaw a staff.
It was an exciting project to be involved in as a twenty two-year old. The job brought me from San Francisco to New York. It was my first time living there. My interview with Dino (who is Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather) at his film offices in the Gulf & Western Building on Columbus Circle was my first visit to New York. I was very excited to be working with Dino, and living in Manhattan. New York was a food mecca then and still is now. Unfortunately, the store and its satellites (one in Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, and one in Beverly Hills) didn’t last more than a few years. It never really caught on with New Yorkers. Zabar’s, Balduccis, and Fairway pretty much had the corner on the gourmet food market. A lot of people came into the store to look when it first opened but rarely returned more than a few times. Sadly, Dino was ahead of his time.
Eataly is an Italian company with five stores in Italy, three in Japan and now one in New York. Eataly New York is owned by chef Mario Battali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, and Joe’s mother chef Lidia Bastianich. The New York store while similar in concept is much larger than DDL Foodshow, and includes several sit down restaurants. It is broken up in to a series of ‘eateries’: pizza, pasta, fish, produce, salumi and cheese, deli, rosticceria (with a butcher), bread, pasticceria and gelateria, as well as areas for cookbooks and housewares, and finally a wine shop. All of these are pay as you go. DDL was more like an old-fashioned grocer. You took a grocery cart from counter to counter and went through a check out line when you were done shopping. DDL had no sit down restaurants; it did have the rosticceria where you could pick up a roasted chicken, or piece of meat, while the gastronomica had hot and cold prepared foods. It was possible to buy a completely cooked meal.
I have not yet been to Eatlay but I am anxious to go. Definitely on my next trip to New York. A good friend who actually worked with me at DDL has been and her report is that the food is very good, the store nice but that it is massively confusing as to what one is supposed to do where and when. She and a friend bought things to eat then sat down at an empty table in one of the many eating points and were promptly told they needed to see the hostess to be seated. A hostess and a host stand that were not readily visible. As she described it to me: “Right now it’s an uneasy compromise between a food hall and an eatery. What you have are various specialty shopping departments spotted with seating areas that have table or counter service.” That does sound confusing. Another friend ate dinner at one of the sit down restaurants where the prices were not inexpensive. He said it was the oddest experience eating a nice meal while people were shopping all around him. This begs the question: is it a sit-down restaurant, a take-out joint, or a high-end grocery store? It’s trying to be all three. Will hard-to-please New Yorkers be okay with this? Only time will tell. It does however sound like they have a few kinks to work out.
I have very fond memories of DDL Foodshow despite the many difficulties of getting a store of its size and kind open. Dino’s heart was in the right place. He wanted to share his joy of food and food culture with New Yorkers and Americans. New Yorkers are a very tough audience; very set in their ways. Sadly, they weren’t willing or interested enough to make it viable. I still think Dino was ahead of his time. This was before the Food Network, and the new Internet-based food movement. Giada, his granddaughter, has managed to carve out a place for herself. Time will tell if Eataly is a success. I’d venture to guess that now is a better time in American food culture to give it a try than twenty-eight years ago when Dino and a group of us attempted it first.
Shout Outs! Fun, Cool, Interesting, Worthy Things Going on Around Town…
Magnolia Bakery (Los Angeles) ~ Purchase a Pink Ribbon Cupcake, (or several!) from Magnolia Bakery during the month of October. Proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. www.magnoliabakery.com
Los Angeles Magazine ~ The Food Event: From the Vine 2010 ~ Sunday, October 24, 2010, 1 pm to 4 pm, Saddlerock Ranch, Malibu, California. The 5th annual culinary extravaganza hosted by Los Angeles Magazine featuring celebrity chefs, top restaurants and wine tasting. I’ll be there. Hope to see you. www.losangelesmagazine/thefoodevent
Artisanal L.A. ~ A weekend of shopping, tasting, workshops, and hanging out with local artisans. A celebration of L.A.’s finest local handmade artisanal edibles. October 23 & 24, 11 am to 4 pm. I’ll be there (Saturday, 10/23), will you? http://artisanalla.com/
Out of the Box Collective (Los Angeles) ~ A brand new business that home-delivers boxes of local, sustainably produced groceries. The food items used in the boxes are sourced from artisans and farmers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Boxes contain meat, dairy, produce, bread, conserves, and regional specialties. They have a Thanksgiving Feast Box available for the upcoming holiday that will supply you with all the ingredients and a few suggested recipes if you don’t have the time to shop but still want to cook. Come check them out the Artisan L.A. event on 10/23 & 24 (see above for info). www.outoftheboxcollective.com
My Status: Fall weather has arrived to SoCal. Cool, wet even rainy. More cooking, eating and blogging on the horizon as always.
News! I am now published!! My recipe ‘Chef Wally’s Baked Papaya’ was selected to be in the upcoming cookbook: ‘Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices,’ publish date is October 19, 2010. You may pre-order it here. I am thrilled.
Upcoming Posts: Cookbook Reviews ~ Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly by Joan E. Aller; Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 Years of Recipes from Atlanta’s Favorite Dining Room by John Ferrell; The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders.