Let’s Raise a Glass


On August 11th of last year, an email landed in my inbox inviting me to join a community called food52. The site was still in beta, and the premise was to create a crowd-sourced cookbook by way of weekly, themed recipe contests. I’ve never been much of a joiner, and as you know, writing recipes isn’t typically my thing, but when I saw the names behind this project I figured I’d give it a whirl.


It is now 10 months and countless meals after my first contest entry, the week 52 winners were announced yesterday, and what a ride it has been. I could never have predicted what fun opportunities would come my way as a result of my participation in the food52 community, and I’m incredibly grateful for all of the new friends I’ve made along the way.


Among those friends is the lovely and extraordinarily talented Cathy Barrow. Some of you may know her better as Mrs. Wheelbarrow, my Week 9 “Your Best Grilled Pork” co-finalist and a real force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. I was fortunate to meet her in person at the food52 launch party back in October, and was delighted when she, her husband Dennis, and their adorable new pup Louie made a stop in Providence en route to Martha’s Vineyard.

oysters with caper gremolata


It was a fun coincidence that their stay here fell on the same day that the first 52 week cycle came to a close, and as we announced our plans to meet (along with my dear husband, and our friends and fellow food lovers Dave Dadekian, and Mary Reilly a/k/a savorykitchen) for drinks and dinner on Twitter, replies from throughout the food52 community came from across the miles. We couldn’t help but kick our evening off with a toast to food52 and all the great the people involved, and to express our gratitude for how it brought us all together.


grilled sirloin

Providence has a wealth of amazing restaurants to choose from; while we were in the planning stages for this meal, I wrote a near thesis-length email detailing the things we love about our favorites. We couldn’t have gone wrong with any of them, but our guests chose Nick’s on Broadway, and as we sat there in the waning light laughing and talking, with plate after plate of thoughtfully composed, beautifully prepared food coming out to our table, I felt happier than I’ve been in a very long time. It was an inspiring meal, and we owe huge, heartfelt thanks to Chef Derek Wagner and his team.

roasted wild striped bass

grilled duck

food52 will live on; there are plans for a second book, with contests starting in September, and A&M have partnered with Whole Foods to sponsor a special summer series of contests. I hope to contribute from time to time, but my workload of late has left little time for testing recipes, taking photos and the like. For now, I’m happy to revisit the dozens of recipes from the great home cooks in the food52 community that I’ve bookmarked over the months – and I think I’ll start with this one. Ever gracious, Cathy brought a huge smile to my face yesterday when she presented me with a jar of her plum sauce.

8 thoughts on “Let’s Raise a Glass

  1. Eliza says:

    I’m sure you don’t want to become a restaurant review site, but would you mind sharing your restaurant thoughts? Maybe even just over e-mail? I’ve been following your site for a while, including during your move to Providence. Your photos and descriptions of the food — both restaurants and the markets — has me campaigning for it to be a long weekend vacation destination for my partner and me. He’s somewhat swayed but still remains skeptical. I’d love to hear about the restaurants! Thanks!

  2. Jen, Thank you for memorializing our spectacular dinner last night. It was one of the best restaurant meals I can remember. No doubt the food was fantastic. But, it was the company that made the evening so exceptional. Many hugs and hopes we can do it again, soon. xoxo

  3. Liz the Chef says:

    Hi Jen, Wish I could have been with you all for such a fun evening with fantastic food…I was happy to squeak into the book yesterday and am in it for the long haul, I guess. You are such a lovely, supportive person – feel we are pals across the miles!

  4. This was so much fun, really a treat. Thanks again to you and Mike for playing the role of cruise director and ensuring a great experience and meal.

  5. Lovely writeup of what sounds like a memorable night. It’s great to see the food52 community gather together! It’s been a great year getting to know you and the rest of the crew, and while I totally understand the time constraints, I do hope to see you there — your contribution has been so significant and inspirational! : )

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad I was able to capture just a little bit of that night to share with all of you, and for those of us who were there to look back upon 🙂

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