If you’re looking for a place where everybody you admire (small and big) in the food world are gathered under one roof, we would highly recommend attending the Food Book Fair. (Think: Amanda Hesser, April Bloomfield, Frank Bruni, Elisabeth Prueitt, Homa Dashtaki, and our very own, Alison Cayne.) This year’s fair alone, which will be held at the Ace Hotel from May 11 to 14, can make your mind dizzy with the breadth and depth curated speakers, workshops, and independent food media. The two women behind the four-day event, Kimberly Chou and Amanda Dell, run a tight ship to make this happen each year. But they are driven by the hope that FBF will continue to nurture new connections, satiate the curious, and ultimately, inspire.
Amanda Dell (left) and Kimberly Chou (right) (Photo by Mackenzie Anne Smith)
How did you two meet?
Kim: We met through Food Book Fair! I started working on the third annual fair in 2014, with the event's founder Elizabeth Thacker Jones. I was producing Foodieodicals — our signature food magazine festival within the fair – and Amanda was repping Small Thyme Cooks, "the world's first culinary coloring and activity book" at the event, on behalf of a friend and now client, Andre Hueston Mack.
We got to know each other because where other folks would simply email about event logistics, questions, zine needs, and what not, Amanda would pick up the phone and call — and she kept calling, and started working on Food Book Fair related projects later that year. Two years later, we took over the whole damn thing as business partners.
Amanda: Very accurate recounting of events! Quick shoutout to Andre: We're serving his amazing Mouton Noir wines at our Friday night "New Americana" dinner. If you're not down with O.P.P. (Other Peoples Pinot), you will be after the dinner.
For people who have never been to the Food Book Fair – what can they expect to see?
Kim: Food Book Fair offers something for everyone, but with a specific vision of what that is. The Fair overall is inspired by great food media — books, of course, but also independent magazines, TV, film, radio, visual art, performance — and aims to elevate and provide space for emerging and lesser-recognized voices and entities. We're especially hyped to showcase and support folks of color, women, queer folks in the food space, and emphasize independent publishing and zine making through Foodieodicals. Though we certainly have a few splashier events and chefs or authors who are household names involved, and certainly the former and latter are not always mutually exclusive.
There are tons of magazines from all over the world, dinners, hands-on workshops and intimate salon-style stalks, Literary Speed Dating with top agents and editors, guest chef breakfasts and dinners, parties, good music, a pop-up book shop with our partners Kitchen Arts & Letters. And of course, lots of food and drink.
Amanda: We also hope you'll see a lot of friends and colleagues too, plus those that you have admired or followed from afar and now have the opportunity to make that in-real-life connection. Nothing makes us happier than when Food Book Fair gives our community the chance to take a relationship off the page and into a face-to-face meet-up.
Photo by Liz Claymen
How did the Food Book Fair start?
Kim: Elizabeth Thacker Jones, Food Book Fair's founder, started the event as her graduate thesis project when she was in New York University's Food Studies program. There were two tracts in the program: food systems, or food culture. And she thought, what about an event that merged both and explored the intersections between them? And, voila.
What was that “aha” moment for you — what did you feel had been missing from the food world?
Kim: As Elizabeth described it, at the time when Food Book Fair started, there wasn't really anything that mixed food culture and food systems into one big event. The event is also equally inspired by other big creative expo events like the New York and LA Art Book Fairs as well as the pop-up Scholastic book fairs we used to have in elementary school. (Tangential shout out to Troll book-order form.) I think Elizabeth was a nerd, and I know I was a total nerd, and my sheer joy when the school library would be setting up for the book fair in the days in advance? I try to think of that when we're deep in the middle of load-in or load-out ...
What's essential in a creative and productive partnership? What makes Food Book Fair run?
Kim: We each know our strengths and play to them, as well as recognize what each partner prefers to do and would rather not do — like, if I handle X soul-numbing-to-you task and I don't mind doing it, and if you handle Y task that I would really rather not have to handle, great.
I think we're eternally working on being better listeners (I don’t think you can ever stop improving on that). We lift each other up. We always make sure there are snacks.
Also, we're friends outside of work! It can be hard to remember that if you like to hang out and go to events, or check out new bars or restaurants with people you work with... because that's sometimes what we do for work, anyway! But we try to remember to take the work hat off when it's time, or do fun stuff together we both like that isn't, say, checking out the latest pop-up.
Amanda: The ability to have open and sometimes wacky brainstorms. Often our best ideas have in some way started as an off-the-cuff thought that we have morphed into workable next steps.
Dividing and conquering is key, as well as delegating. We're in the stage where we both want to be involved as much as possible, but have begun to realize how much more we can do by trusting each other implicitly and staying in the lanes we have devised for ourselves.
Photo by Clay Williams
How do you curate your speakers? How have you been able to get such an all-star roster of speakers and presenters?
Kim: Amanda was in hospitality for a long time, and before this I worked in media and journalism. And working on this together, we've met more and more people. You get less shy — or try to. And you simply reach out. A lot of different chefs, writers, artists, designers, and wine makers from our past lives have also resurfaced in this current situation we're building together, which I think speaks to an ability and continued desire to build real relationships and friendships that last.
We make a long list of dream participants every year. Then we ask, and we see what happens. We also make a long list of books, recent publications, trends, historical topics, news, etc., and look at that as we build the program.
That said, for me as a woman of color working in food, I'm especially moved to create space for other folks of color and other folks whose voices have been historically marginalized in mainstream food and media spaces. Here's the thing: Queer folks and folks of color are making the most vital, boundary-pushing, straight-up interesting contributions to art, culture, food and media today, in my opinion. We're making the dopest shit! Why not amplify that as much as possible?
Has Food Book Fair evolved over the past five/six years? And where would like you like to see Food Book Fair five years from now?
Amanda: We think so! It's been super exciting to build on the foundation that Elizabeth started by expanding O.G FBF events like Foodieodicals, while having the chance to create new events like Literary Speed Dating and our guest chef collaboration meals.
Any major plans on the horizon for the both of you?
Kim: We're trying to take Food Book Fair on the road and figuring out how to do that with purpose and intention, and in a financially-sound way!
In June I'll be in Detroit for the Allied Media Conference, part of a group of fellow travelers coordinating a food track. This is a gathering of media organizers and is all about people using print, technology, music, and art to build a more creative and just world.
Photo by Liz Clayman
What do you do to recharge/reset?
Kim: I sit in the steam room at the McBurney YMCA on 14th Street for as long as I can stand it, drinking water and sometimes deep conditioning my hair. If I'm really lucky on the time-front and feeling leisurely, then I swim — all my best ideas come when swimming — and then get back in the steam room.
Amanda: I love visiting my friends at The Pantry in Cold Spring, NY — they have an incredible cafe, roastery and bottle shop. It's so rejuvenating to immerse yourself in the fresh air and treat your eyes to a brand new set of visuals.
In the summer and fall, the locale that helps me relax the most is Kismet, Fire Island. From the moment you step on the ferry in Bay Shore, your blood pressure automatically drops. My happy place is spending the weekend there, cooking every meal from scratch and not wearing shoes once.
Amanda: Dinner at the Long Table
What book/media (food related or otherwise) is your current obsession?
Kim: My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris. Grub Street Diet, always. Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler's literary Instagram posts, specifically poetry.
Photo by Liz Clayman
What do you want people who come to Food Book Fair to come away with?
Kim: Inspiration. Concrete knowledge. Strategies for building the kind of food media world we wish to see. Lots of new books from Kitchen Arts & Letters, magazines from Foodieodicals, and other cool swag.
Amanda: Food Book Fair has also turned into an incredible, and genuine—I say that genuinely—place for friends, accomplices and peers in our food community to gather and meet — sometimes for the first time. We hear often of writers meeting their agents or editors, or epistolary relationships between food bloggers that are actualized IRL at our event. We love that.
Ali will be in conversation with Amanda Hesser, co-founder, Food52 on the topic of "finding community" moderated by Charlotte Druckman, author, Stir, Sizzle, Bake.
Friday, May 12 at 11am • For tickets, click here. Friends of Haven's Kitchen get 10% off with the code: HAVENSKITCHEN
Like many weddings at Haven's Kitchen, William and Ellen's wedding was unconventional. But even more so, since guests were expecting to arrive to an engagement party rather than a wedding reception.
What was the most important part of the wedding planning process for you?
It was pretty important that we got married in New York because this was the place where we met and fell in love. We wanted a space that was unconventional but not too trendy, simple but not DIY.
Haven’s Kitchen is cozy and personable and just like being at home, but much more tastefully decorated. Going into wedding planning, we knew we wanted to celebrate with our family and with our friends but neither of us are good being center of attention. We decided to get married in an intimate ceremony and then surprise our guests with our wedding celebration, disguised as our engagement party. It felt so unconventional and so right from the moment we settled on that decision.That's really when the wheels came off the bus.
How did you plan the menu?
In another homage to New York, we wanted good local food that would be memorable and would serve as a second layer of surprise to our surprise wedding. We have pretty broad tastes when it comes to food and Chef David was wonderful about taking the reins and giving our favorite foods an elegant twist. We’ve had countless guests compliment us on how delicious the food was.
What were some of the details you were excited to see come to life as part of your wedding?
It was so, so wonderful to involve all the important people in our lives in our ceremony. My best friend registered as a Universal Life Minister so that she could marry us. William’s brother stood up with us to translate the ceremony for our parents. William’s sister, a professional pianist, recorded the processional music. And Ellen’s brother facilitated the ring warming ceremony in which 15 of our ceremony guests blessed our rings and our marriage. To have everyone play a part in the act of marrying us was so meaningful.
What have you learned about yourselves and each other in the last year as you’ve put together your wedding?
We make a really good team. It really is the stuff of dreams. William is decisive when I am not and vice versa. We were so in sync with our wedding vision and it made the planning process so smooth. In the first half of the planning process, I handled a lot of the correspondence and coordination but as I was reaching the finish line of my MBA, William really stepped in to make sure we were in tip-top shape with the wedding.
Event Management and Menu: Haven's Kitchen
Her Dress: Theia
Her Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
His Tux: Lord's Tailor
His Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo
Décor and Flowers: Designs by Ahn and Patrick J Clayton Productions
Photographer: Cynthia Chung
Ceremony Music: Joyce Chan (Sister of the Groom)
DJ: James Arnold (74 Events)
Hair and Makeup: Sachiko Yanase
Wedding Cake: M&W Bakery
Videography: Shutter and Sound
To see more pictures from William and Ellen's wedding, check out their wedding at Style Me Pretty.
To celebrate five years of Haven's Kitchen, we're taking a look back at one of our favorite types of gatherings that happen in our little carriage house: weddings.
Our first one celebrated the nuptials of Michael and Theresa, and the entire staff was involved in some way. Ali (our owner) did the floral arrangements including the bouquet, Lela (the former events manager) did the playlist, and Julia (our opening chef) wrote and cooked an elegant and casual menu to honor the bride and groom. Guests sipped on a cocktail called "The Couple" and slurped oysters from a deluxe raw bar.
Five years later, Ali wrote to Michael and Theresa to hear their side of the story. They dispatched their answers from upstate New York, where Michael owns the rustic and modern wine shop, Kingston Wine Co., and Theresa works as an artist and at a local non-profit.
Michael and Theresa in Haven's Kitchen Living Room.
How did you hear about Haven's Kitchen?
We lived in the neighborhood and I stumbled across it one afternoon, just after we were engaged. When I walked in, I immediately asked if they hosted events.
When did you know you would have your wedding here?
That afternoon! Neither Michael nor I wanted a long engagement. We were actually considering a city hall wedding, but the Haven's Kitchen townhouse seemed intimate and fresh.
What was the best part of the planning?
The simplicity of it. We are very low-key and were immediately drawn to the entire HK aesthetic, so we completely trusted the team to do their thing.
What was the best part of the actual wedding?
Feeling like we were in our own home. It was a warm September evening, so we opened the windows during the ceremony. Guests mingled upstairs and downstairs, and the flow of the party was truly organic.
Calligraphy for invitations by Nicholas Misani. Vintage stamps from Champion Stamp.
Do you have any advice for couples planning their wedding?
Make wedding choices based on your own style.
I met Ali in the flower district the morning of the wedding and we picked out the freshest flowers for that evening. This is something I would do if I was having friends over to my apartment.
And trust others!
We did not intend on any dancing, yet somehow around 11:00PM, everyone started dancing. I caught Lela's eye and she went right with it and said, "I'm off the playlist!"
When you think of Haven’s Kitchen, you think…
one of the best nights of our lives!
Event Management and Food: Haven’s Kitchen
Dress: Lanvin, bought at Barneys on a lunch break
Her Shoes: Prada
Floral Crown: Bride's creation
His Suit: Michael Andrews
Decor and Flowers: Haven's Kitchen
Photographer: James Nord
Ceremony Music: Ukulele player Josh Cho
Reception Music: iPod playlist created by Haven's Kitchen
Wedding Invitations: Bride's design, hand-stamped
Calligraphy: Nick Misani
After celebrating five years of #hknyweddings, we decided that there's so much more we wanted to share about our love for weddings. Follow our new Instagram account @weddingsathavenskitchen.
Libby Winters's passion for wine and spirits makes her an alluring instructor. She not only knows how to charm your pants off (from years of experience in bartending), but has an encyclopedic knowledge of the cultural history of cocktails that seamlessly drops from her mouth as she shakes and stirs.
This is why you should take her Tiki drinks class. Tiki drinks have a terrible reputation, but, when made properly, are sophisticated and refreshing. They're related to sours and sippers, which you've probably had before (think daiquiri or a Collins fizz). We asked Libby to demystify our assumptions of tiny umbrellas and ceramic heads and skewered pineapples.
Can you give a brief history of tiki?
Tiki bars and tiki drinks rose in popularity in the 40s and 50s, especially in post WWII America when their escapist ambience offered people a break from the stresses of their daily lives. As Tiki culture grew in popularity and spread across the country, recipes were eventually dumbed down, sugary mixes were employed in the place of fresh juices, and the drinks became syrupy colorful concoctions that bore little resemblance to their sophisticated precursor -- all in the name of mass production and efficiency. However, with the recent explosion of craft cocktail bars, tiki drinks are popping up on cocktail menus in their original, more nuanced and complex form.
Tiki drinks have a bad rap, what gives?
A proper tiki drink is a cocktail with layered flavors composed of a spirit, fruit (often citrus), spices and some kind of flavored simple syrup or sweetener. But the rules are pretty fast and loose. "Tiki" culture was invented in America by Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s when he mixed ingredients and flavors inspired by his travels in the Caribbean and South Pacific, and served them in a bar decorated accordingly. Tiki culture is Polynesian-themed drinks and food viewed through an American lens. But it's not specifically Polynesian or Caribbean, and doesn't even really require rum. Basically, if you have a cocktail that calls to mind the feeling of being on a beach with palm trees swaying in the breeze ... you've made yourself a tiki drink. There are purists who will argue that to be called a "tiki drink," the cocktail must have been invented in a tiki bar, designed to create a tropical atmosphere. We won't worry about that in our class and will focus on making complex, layered cocktails.
What are five tiki essentials for your home bar?
1. Rum! This is the backbone of any at-home tiki bar. It's a good idea to have a solid white rum and a darker rum on hand for adding depth to your cocktails. We can go over particular brands that you might like and can find easily in NYC.
2. A citrus squeezer. Because you're going to have to make fresh lime juice. Part of the reason tiki drinks get a bad rap in the first place is that people are too lazy to use fresh fruit juices. Fresh citrus will take your cocktails to the next level. You turn your nose down at sour mix from here on out.
3. Demerrara sugar. This will be used to make a brown simple syrup which has more texture and depth of flavor than regular simple syrup.
4. Fresh fruit. Don't know what cocktail you should make? Take a look in your fruit bowl and start there. Add some booze, a squeeze of lime, a splash of simple syrup, ice and shake. Boom. You just invented a tiki cocktail.
5. Angostura bitters. It's true that with all that fruit and sugar, tiki cocktails risk skewing sweet. An easy fix to add complexity, herbaciousness and texture is a few dashes of Angostura bitters.
6. I know you asked for five, but if you want to get fancy and really add some flair to your cocktails and punches, get a Microplane to add fresh ground nutmeg or lemon zest as garnish to your drinks. It's super easy and goes a long way in taking your drinks to the next level.
Why Take a Cocktail Class?
Have you ever ordered your favorite cocktail at a new bar and had it taste not quite right? Or wanted a cocktail that tasted spicy or herbal or super dry or floral but been too shy to describe what you want to the bartender? Most drinkers know what they like, but aren't always able to articulate what they want, or don't feel comfortable engaging in a dialogue with whoever is making their drinks. Cocktail classes are a great way to get to know the ingredients and techniques that best suit your personal taste so that you can feel confident ordering at a bar or making your own drinks at home. Drinking, much like eating, is one of life's pleasures, so don't skip right to getting drunk -- learn to savor end enjoy the history and complexity of whatever it is you choose to imbibe.
What's your favorite story about a cocktail?
Whenever people tell me they don't like tiki drinks because they're too sweet, I like to make them a Hemingway Daiquiri and tell the story about how Ernest Hemingway drank these because he was diabetic and needed something not too sweet. He was also known to drink six of these in each sitting which I don't recommend.
If Libby could only drink one cocktail for the rest of her life, it would be a daiquiri. She writes about wine and cocktails for the blog Sipsters and currently bartends at Anfora and dell'anima, where she has several cocktails on both menus.
You can take her Sours and Sippers (aka Tiki Drinks) cocktail class on Friday, April 28.