Donna and I had begun 12 days of a work-vacation (what other kind of vacation would we do without kids?) by flying to Rome, then heading immediately north toward the Tuscan town of Barga, where my cousin Missy had planned her marriage (she had a work-marriage, teaching yoga there before the nuptials). We planned to stop off on the way there, and my mom’s travel agent had found a little town midway. Our Garmin GPS did not work, and the town was so small my iPhone wasn’t picking it up. We made our way to Viterbo, which I knew our town was near, then stopped at McDonalds (to park) and phoned the hotel. We were still 30 kilometers away, the woman said, and when I told her my Garmin GPS was useless, she said something Read On »

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  Between crazy-busy travel and much work all July, and then a work-travel assignment in France, Donna and I took a two-day breather to celebrate our back-to-back birthdays. I’m not always very smart when it comes to marital issues, but I did know one thing: I did not want to be sitting around in Cleveland on Donna’s 50th birthday, wondering what to do, Donna glaring at me. (Guys, no matter how much they protest, no matter how much they tell you they don’t want to do anything, don’t give in to your partner. They don’t really mean it! I know you want to believe them, I know you want to take them at their word not to do anything special or make a fuss, but you do so at your own peril.) This conviction to Read On »

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Getting ready for Iron Chef America, with Michael Symon in the doorway. Self-portrait. God, do I feel lucky. I’m flown in to NYC to judge Iron Chef America at the Food Network, which allows me to do all kinds of other amazing things, since they don’t care when I come or go and I have dear pals with whom I can stay. I’ve joined CAA, which wants me to help me do more fun stuff, and I met with really interesting smart TV producers—one of whom, amazingly, also took a writing class with my mentor, RP. Iron Chef’s judges table. Photo by Michael Ruhlman. First night there, solo, and dying to see a good show, I asked my hostess, Amazing Annie, what to see. “Go see Cock—it’s great and an easy ticket.” It is and it was. But more Read On »

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When I was a sophomore at Duke, 1982, I fell in love with a beautiful freshman on a delirious post-Dead-show spinning fall late afternoon on Duke’s main quad. We dated all that year and I moved to Manhattan to work for the summer as an intern at a magazine to be with her. Her parents took us to Shun Lee West, her favorite Chinese restaurant, a few blocks from Lincoln Center.  One of her father’s best friends was Arthur Gelb, managing editor of The New York Times, whom I met frequently throughout that summer. We talked about writing, and he electrified me with stories of reporting and the newspaper life. He was a galvanic newspaper man, lionized in Gay Talese’s The Kingdom and the Power, biographer of Eugene O’Neill with his wife Barbara, and discoverer of great Read On »

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I spent a couple days in New York last week meeting with two very good publishers, one of whom, a veteran and very smart editor, asked whether I’d thought about how busy people can actually integrate real cooking and real food into their daily lives. He wasn’t talking about the crispy pig I had at Maialino hours later. That, as you can see, is real food and real good. (Two standbys for me in NYC, where I go just to feel good, because NYC makes me all jittery and my eyes go out of sync like that Mad-eye guy in Harry Potter but not in a useful way: Bar Boulud and any one of Danny Meyer’s restaurants. It’s not just the food, it’s the service [and yes, I paid full price, even left my VISA Read On »

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