I'm the opposite of a typical Sundance-goer. I don't go to a lot of movies and I don't watch a lot of TV. I'm not trying to get a movie produced or picked up and I'm scared of or bored by most famous people.
But this year, Sundance Institute kicked off the festival with its annual Artist at the Table by inviting an artist of the table: Giada de Laurenttis. Though her cheekbones and figure could earn her a star turn on any daytime or nighttime soap, instead Giada stars in several Food Network cooking shows.
The press release about Giada rather disengenuoysly refers to her being "discovered" by a network executive who read an article about her in Food & Wine.
Not exactly the same as being discovered at the counter at Schwab's Pharmacy –most foodies over a certain age remember Giada's film director grandfather, Dino de Laurentiis' DDL Foodshow, a forerunner to Mario Batali's Eataly and the sensation of 80s New York. There was a store in Beverly Hills too.
The point is, the de Laurentiis name has been linked with food and showbiz for at least decades.
Anyway, Giada de Laurentiis has won Emmys, written cookbooks and–most impressively–trained at Cordon Bleu and worked in real restaurants. Last night, she orchestrated dinner for the big money people of the Sundance Institute at five-star resort Stein Eriksen with the help of the resort's longtime chef, Zane Holmquist.
It was a long evening, starting wtih cocktails at Stein's at 4:p.m. Guests were loaded into buses for an arduous and traffic-jammed trip to the Eccles Center for the premiere of a film about a drum solo (okay, there was more to it,
and Bob Redford showed up–that's him in the heavenly white halo, I promise)
but anyway), then back up the winding road to Stein's (our bus actually collided with a car en route) for dinner with a list of celebrities I'm unqualified to be awed by. Each putative artist hosted a table.
I was assigned to Cutter Hodierne's table, though we never actually spoke. He's an L.A. (duh) filmmaker who went on the road with U2, touring the world on the band's U2 360° Tour, Plus he's done a lot of other stuff.
The decorators were totally on the Pantone wavelength
and Radiant Orchid seemed to be the color of the evening with violet lights sweeping room under flocks of the same hanging bubble votives used last year.
Even Giada had on purple.
I came to food writing from the catering business, so I have first hand experience of what it's like to pull off a multi-course seated dinner for hundreds. Zane's kitchen acquitted itself well, and the servers were heroes, fighting their way between tables to pull and place plates. A dinner like this is more about logistics than food, but the main courses were served family-style which helped service run smoothly.
This, Giada told us, is how she plans to present the food at her Las Vegas restaurant, opening this spring.
So dinner was about pre-publicity and papparazzi, just like Sundance is generally.
That's fine. The veal (and who serves that anymore, unfortunately?!) was pink, the wine flowed, and the speeches were short. What more could you ask?
Here's the menu:
Duet of Salads
Arugula with crispy pancetta, candied lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Romaine with fried capers, torn croutons and Caesar dressing
Vegetable Bolognese with Rigatoni
wild mushrooms, red bell peppers, carrots, onions
Veal Loin Satimbocca
roasted whole veal loin, prosciutto a sage, creamy polenta
Stufffed Bell Peppers
quinoa, eggplant, olives
vanilla cream, candied pistachios
**And here's a bonus: the recipe that came in my swag bag for Giada's Lemon-Ricotta cookies:
Preheat oven to 375.
Stir together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt.
Beat 1 stick unsalted softened butter with 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1 15-oz. container of ricotta cheese, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice and the zest of one lemon. Mix well, then stir in dry ingredients.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon 2 Tbsp. of dough for each cookie. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes. Then glaze with the following mixture, using about 1/2 tsp. for each cooking and spreading gently with the back of a spoon. Let glaze dry for about 2 hours. Pack in an airtight container.
Glaze: Stir 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice and zest of 1 lemon together until smooth.