The Bay Area ~ Day 2

"KRON TV" in action "Beyond the Pasta" "Mark Leslie"

Camera ready for segment opening

It all started with Bruschetta

Is TV glamorous? You tell me – waking up at 4:45 a.m. to jump in the car at 5:30 to drive over an hour 10 to arrive at a furniture store for a cooking segment interview – thrilled yet?

Actually I thought it was great fun. There is something exhilarating about live TV, plus when you add the time constraint of a 4 minute segment and having to prepare something to eat, too – well, I love it!

Henry Tenenbaum is the host of the Saturday KRON TV morning show and he was relaxed, passionate, and a complete “whack-a-doodle!” And I mean that as a compliment. It is not an easy task to get up early, travel to a site, set up, and go live with segments that are as varied as today’s: Shot at Kantor’s Furniture in Oakland, CA, the show was featuring Kantor’s sales on furniture, a segment with the owner, a segment on the naked running movement (those shoes that look like gloves on your feet – all the rage at the moment) and then me cooking bruschetta. Henry is a pro and truly  a veteran of making people stay tuned in and interested. His off the cuff demeanor was a great comfort and immediately took away any nerves I might have had.

Of course having to set up a cooking demo in the middle of a furniture store might have helped to take my mind off the segment. My publicist and I were hurriedly setting up the demo, while Henry and his crew shot an early segment teaser with me in it.

What does it take to do a cooking segment on location: an electric cook top (ours smoked because it was brand new – I knew at any moment we’d trip the fire alarm and start the deluge water system – Yikes!), tomatoes, basil, bowls, cutting boards, knifes, bread, salt/pepper, kitchen towels, and really good olive oil (extra virgin at that!).

prepping bruschetta "KRON TV" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Prepping the bruschetta before the live on air segment

A four-minute segment goes by much quicker than you think, especially if there is a lot to do. I am never at loss for words, so 4 minutes is incredibly quick for me. It all came off without a hitch – I should have video of the segment in the next few days. You’ll let me know how I did. And when the shot was over, the crew and even the store owner was all up in the plate of bruschette eating them. Even Henry went back to finish eating the one he closed the segment with and had a second one before the next segment. People loved them.

That was my morning today. The afternoon was a quick nap back in Sacramento before heading out for a book reading event at the Lavender Library. A gay-themed library that holds the archives of the gay movement in Sacramento, the state’s capitol, and also provides the community an opportunity to check out reading material of all genres. Interesting stuff.

From that event it was on to Biba Restaurant for dinner. In case you don’t know, Biba Caggiano is a TV chef that I watched on the Discovery channel years ago. I was lucky enough to meet her back in 2004 and, being a fan of her show and cookbooks, had the chance to eat her food. I truly love the idea of watching someone cook, cook yourself from their books and then eat at their restaurant, pulling it all together by tasting what their food is like.

Biba caught me at the door, hugged my neck, double-cheeked kissed me and took me to my table where friends were waiting on me, all the while telling me once again how much she loved my book. (Biba was interested enough in the material, early on, that she agreed to write a blurb for the book’s back cover. If you have a copy of the book, check out the “Advance Praise” quotes on the book’s back cover.)

Dinner was a whirlwind of activity and I ate more than a polite amount of food. I started with prosecco to drink, vitello al tonato (thin slices of veal in a tuna and lemon vinaigrette), a serving of Biba’s famous lasagna al Bolognese (plus one to take home for later – it is that good!). I did happen to share part of the lasagna with a couple seated at the table next to us. They were foodies and had never been to Biba’s to eat, but had recently found her cookbooks. They loved the lasagna! I felt proud to show them how delicate her 10-layer lasagna was, even though it is made with a ragu’ (meat sauce made of veal, pork and chicken livers). Prepared by a non-Italian, this dish would be a mile-high disaster. Prepared by Biba, it is a short stack of homemade spinach lasagna noodles with bechamel and ragu’ layered between. Her lasagna at 10 layers is half the thickness and density of a 4-noodle-high American lasagna. Hers is buonissima!

Normally, one only orders one serving of pasta but tonight I had two (counting the second piece of lasagna I was taking home, it would have been three). Tonight, Biba’s handmade ricotta gnocchi were served in a light sauce with speck (smoked prosciutto). Yum! From my two plates of pasta, I moved on to the main course – oven roasted rabbit served over polenta with a red sauce with peas in it. Again, fantastic!

Biba stopped by our table often and actually brought my book out of her office for me to sign again – I signed and sent her a book when it was first released in September. Tonight, she wanted another autograph, in person. We laughed and talked about food, how she sees her food and Italian food. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into her passion for food. That passion carried over into taking us all  into her kitchen to show us where the food was prepared. There we talked more about food and family, while waiters tried to politely work around us hanging out in the middle of their traffic route. But when you are with the boss – people make exceptions, so we received no glaring eye from the staff, regardless of how we might have been an inconvenience.

Once back in the dining room, it was a photo-op moment:

"Mark Leslie" "Biba Caggiano" "Beyond the Pasta"

Mark Leslie and Biba Caggiano stop to celebrate his book "Beyond the Pasta."

From here, Biba went home to put her feet up and have a glass of cognac, while we returned to our table to enjoy desserts – I had the Zuccato, a glass of Moscato, and un caffe’ (espresso). It could not have been a more perfect evening – as good as the last time I was here for my 40th birthday.

Being on San Fran TV this morning with Henry was fun, but tonight at Biba’s was la dolce vita!

Buon Appetito ~ bring your family to the table and change a life one meal at a time.

Mark

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.