Meeting Nigella

Thats me on the left, all gussied up and shiny.  On the right?  Thats Nigella Lawson.  Yep.  Sure is.  I met Nigella.

How I came to meet Nigella is quite ordinary: I bought a ticket.  If you love Nigella you probably know that she released Nigellissima, her ninth cookbook, back in late winter/early spring of this year.  So when I heard that Nigellas U.S. book tour would bring her to nearby Milwaukee, I bought a ticket immediately.

Now Im not usually one to get all excited about celebrity.  I dont care much about movie stars or television stars or rock stars.  If I saw one in the grocery store Id be far more likely to ask if they know whether this store carries Cento tuna rather than get all starry-eyed and excited.  Nigella, on the other hand, sent me into full-on tittering celebrity watch, counting the days until I would go to Milwaukee (in a predicted snowstorm, no less) to eat food and drink wine and meet my celebrity chef heroine.

I got to Milwaukee a bit early on the evening of the event and spent an hour milling around the Milwaukee Public Market which, if you get the chance to go, houses an incredible array of culinary wonders from Wisconsin cheese (natch), olive oil and vinegar tasting at Oro di Oliva, great shiny everlasting gobstoppers and a Spice House location that made me swoon.  My phone was in grave danger of running out of battery without so much as a single picture of Nigella, so I took far fewer photos at the market than I would have liked.  I wish Id gotten a shot of the Iberico ham leg or the incredible flowers and coffees.

The event was a dinner prepared from Nigellas newest cookbook a compilation of her favorite Italian recipes.  Italian cooking is some of my favorite cooking, so I was thrilled.  The venue, The Grain Exchange in Milwaukee, was beautiful.  A large ballroom with maybe two dozen tables all beautifully prepared for the meal.

I took my seat and met my tablemates just before Nigella arrived with great pomp and celebration.  She wore the same dress she appears in on the cover of her book and looked positively radiant.  She took up a glass of wine immediately and started circulating to the tables.  When Nigella came to our table, I worried I might cry.  Seriously.  Thats how excited I was to meet this woman.  Nigella chided me that I shouldnt cry because shed feel like a terrible person if I did.  I laughed and took a few photos before Nigella was whisked away to the next table.  I wished Id had more time to talk to her, but no matter.  It was time to eat!

First course: white truffle mac n cheese.  Oooey-gooey truffle-laced deliciousness.  So good.
Second course: Brick Chicken and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Chicken cooked flat in a pan with a brick resting on it to crisp the skin on all sides simultaneously.  Just delicious.
Third course: Minted Lambchops with Arugula and Roasted Potatoes.  Lambchops frenched and marinated in a minty mixture before heading to the oven with olive oil laced baby potatoes.  Unbelievable.

Dessert!  Orange-infused Chocolate Mousse and Orange-Almond Biscotti.  Ive always hated biscotti because its usually dry as bone and hard as stone.  This biscotti was moist, soft, delicious.
I headed home to Chicago at about 9:30 that night, a little worried that the predicted storm would start at any moment.  As I drove off the highway and along residential and side streets toward home, the snow started to fall lightly.  It was a perfect evening with good food, good company and a chance to meet my culinary heroine.
Ill always remember meeting Nigella.