Tuesday, September 30, 2008

on [LIFE] Pensacola News Journal

Brooke Parkhurst is really cooking with 'Belle in the Big Apple'

Writer Brooke Parkhurst
Think Paula Deen, Scarlett O'Hara, and - dare we say it -maybe just a hint of Rachael Ray. Brooke Parkhurst, Southern belle, highly energetic cook extraordinaire, and now, first-time novelist, just hit the road to promote her first novel, "Belle in the Big Apple," and it's somehow fitting that the Florida Panhandle transplant is taking along Mom.

Like "Rach," Parkhurst is very close to her mother, Suzanne Parkhurst, and is thrilled they'll be spending the next six weeks on the road together for a book tour

"Mom is an amazing cook," says Parkhurst, the day before the tour got underway. "She was a journalist who had four kids - that includes my father - and she quit to take care of us all."

At age 22, Parkhurst decided to follow her mother into the family biz, but thought she'd have a better shot at becoming a newspaper woman if she left the family farm in Pensacola and came here. "I'm from the Redneck Riviera," she says. "There are lot of shark attacks and abortion doctor killings. When I moved to New York, it was almost as if I were living in a different country. Everything was so different."

She made the rounds with her resume and finally landed a short-lived job with Fox News.

"It was very eye-opening for me, just coming into the epicenter of media and working for a conservative station," she says. "I was pretty naive, and seeing how the system actually works, I thought, my gosh, people don't really know how news is made."

Not wanting to stay at the station and having always loved to cook, she started cooking and blogging. And that blog (her website is www.Belleinthebigapple.com) became a book that's somewhat autobiographical. The protagonist, Belle Lee, from Mobile, Alabama, moves to the city and acquires a job at an ultra conservative TV station. The fast-paced, tightly written book has plenty of intriguing elements - an illegal network deal, a female news anchor who becomes Belle's mentor, even a female presidential candidate (nope, nothing like Sarah Palin.)

What makes this book even tastier are the recipes interspersed with all the plot twists - shrimp and crab gumbo, oyster stew, plus Bribe your Coworkers Pound Cake, Lemon Chess Squares for the Working (Sulking) Girl, and Pickled Pensacola Shrimp. Parkhurst hopes to demo some of these on her book tour, and she dispenses recipes on her blog, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

From Erin Cooks

Belle in the Big Apple is a light tale of an ambitious southern twenty-something with perfectly coiffed blonde hair and the triple threat of charm, money, and a granddaddy with connections. Belle is a big fish in a small pond literally covering crayfish festivals for her family owned newspaper when she decides that she’ll never be considered a serious journalist unless she expands her horizons. Much to her family’s chagrin Belle takes off for New York City where she has a typical harrowing moving-in experience, pounds the pavement in painful heels, and finally has her purse stolen before giving in and asking granddaddy to get her an interview.

With his assistance Belle lands a low-level production assistant position at ANC, a thinly veiled take-off on the over-the-top conservative FOX News Network where the author, Brooke Parkhurst, once paid her dues. Then the fun truly begins as Belle learns the ropes of network news all the while contending with her coke snorting producer, a back stabbing frenemy, and the tacky advances of the lead male anchor. Somehow, amidst all of this chaos and an intense election related scandal, Belle never loses her southern charm as illustrated by the abundance of recipes that work their way into the novel’s plot including: Debutant Tea Cakes, Modern Girl Make-at-Home Tuna Tartare, and Bribe-Your-Coworkers Pound Cake. Personally, I feel that the inclusion of recipes is an exciting enhancement to the chick-lit genre and I hope to see more of this trend in the future.

Prepare to tuck this book into your carry-on luggage. This is a quick and perky read, perfect for an upcoming lazy day at the beach or even a quiet afternoon at home accompanied by a bubbly glass of champagne or two. Belle in the Big Apple will be released on September 16, 2008.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Derby Day!

I’m on Good Morning America NOW! Check out my Perfect Kentucky Derby Soiree. Yummm…

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday. Don’t worry ladies–the “most exciting two minutes in sports” is about a whole lot more than sports.

Do you think I care about horses? Of course not!

But I love any semi-viable excuse to get glammed up, slip into the first sundress of the season and prance around in a big ol’ hat (think Jessica Simpson meets the royal family at Ascot). Oh, and there’s a drink called a Mint Julep…

So I’ve got a plan for all of y’all who aren’t headed to Churchill Downs and Millionaire’s Row.

First: Watch me tomorrow on Good Morning America NOW.(Pictured at left, in the ABC Times Square studios.) I teach New Yorkers a thing or two about bourbon and while Jamie shares his deeelish Derby Day eats. Think mint juleps, bourbon-cured salmon toasts with jicama slaw, gougeres filled with country ham cream…

SecondJoin me on Derby Day at “Bar K” (519 Hudson Street) for those two, sporting minutes that I mentioned earlier. We can laugh at the horse’s names (Pyro? Smooth Brown? Cool Coal Man? What?) and compare hats. Afterward, I’m headed to the James Beard House for the ultimate Kentucky Derby Dinner.

Third: You can’t get out of bed but you still want a nip of the Kentucky Nectar. Fine.

The Perfect Mint Julep
Courtesy of Adam Harris

1 teaspoon simple syrup
4 mint leaves
2 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
Mint sprigs
Powdered sugar (optional)

Begin with simple syrup and mint leaves in a silver julep cup, muddle to release the aroma of the mint. Add crushed ice, to fill the cup ½ way and pour in the bourbon and stir until frost forms on the outside of the glass. Add more crushed ice until it is mounded just over the top of the cup. Stick 3-4 bundles ofmint into the center of the ice and insert a straw through the mint all the way to the bottom of the cup. Cut the straw off about 2 inches above the mint and dust the top with powdered sugar. Sipping a julep should be a dual sensory experience- the short straw makes the nose fill the scent of mint while you taste the sweet bourbon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

His & Hers: Easy Peasy Spring Pasta

Check out my recipe for basil, mint and petit pois pasta in Glam Girl Cookin’!

Ramps, pancetta and rigatoni for him. Why? Men love bacon fat, acrid flavors and easy-to-fork short pastas.

We girls get the clean, bright loveliness of basil, mint, petit pois, red-stemmed spinach and the tang of salty feta. It’s really just a salad with a handful of whole wheat ziti thrown in for ‘oomph.’

Pea Pasta.jpg
If Iwere Bette Midler in “What Women Want,” I’d say that men are from Mars, women are from Venus and, bite for bite, I’ve come up with two pasta salads that speak Venutian to our tastebuds…

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beach Babe

DSCF1152.JPGMy niece and I have the same taste in ‘kinis (that’s what she calls bikinis). She just happens to pull it off better than I!

But our beachside eats are much different. I go for Corona and lime–with Appalachicola oysters if I’m back home–and she prefers a waffle with peanut butter and jelly (pictured below).

I wonder if I can come up with a recipe to suit us both…

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Keeping It Cool

DSCF1348.JPG“Cooking for the SoHo set requires no cooking at all. Forget the girls who only sip champagne and nibble on tofu–they’re not for me. Frankly, I don’t trust you if you don’t eat cheese.”

To read more of my monthly Food & Wine column, click here.

(And for all of my archived PNJ Food & Wine and ABC News columns, click on Glam Girl Cookin’ and Foodie Musings.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Cup of Paula, A Pinch of Carrie

DSCF0353.JPGI’ve moved away from velvet ropes and stepped closer to the stove. I don’t focus on loft parties as much, instead I think about lamb chops. Miu Miu comes after Wusthof.

My site has shifted, slowly but surely, away from tales of first dates (largely horrific), fresh-out-of-college jobs (mostly demoralizing) and industry parties (all pretension, no fun) to cooking and warmth and love. I’m finally feeling comfortable in my own skin, in Manhattan—amazing. And it’s only taken me 5 years to get here…

Now, I have real friends, a tiny kitchen and a glamorous city that suits me. If there were a recipe for my current life, it would call for a cup of Paula (Deen) and a pinch of Carrie (Bradshaw). And I think my new site reflects that…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

on Food & Wine [Pensacola News Journal]

The New Power Lunch

DSCF1311.JPGThe Big Apple can be brutal for a working belle with an appetite.

There’s no time for a hot meal and the hotdog cart on Broadway and Canal is notcalling my name. What to do?

Five years in New York City and I’ve finally learned the art of portable lunches packed with protein. Think golden roasted chicken tucked into a sliced baguette, a sliver of basil & mint frittata… Don’t think you can do it ? Check out “The New Power Lunch!”

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Difficult Easy Joy

DSCF1161.JPGI want to be the 2 year-old at the birthday party (like my niece, pictured left). That time when not enough chocolate icing warrants a tantrum and joy comes easy. Life is a simplified, play date version of itself.

Now? Work. Work. Work. The personal, the professional, the mundane require near superhuman efforts just to receive a passing grade. I remember how I longed for a difficult, city, adult life for so long. Well, I got it. In spades. Now, I want to go back and I can’t—none of us can. Mom sold my Archie Comics and Dad sold my childhood home by the bay. Press forward…

This morning, just as I start to feel unjustifiably melancholy about my too adult life, I read the best little New York Times “Modern Love” piece that’s ever rolled off the presses. ( “A Signal in the Sky Said: Marry Her” )

Ben Karlin, the author, love seeker and serial monogamist, talks about work in the context of love but his musings apply to everything in my life and yours.

“Moments of pure beauty, I realized, are not handed out like a free newspaper as you dash into the subway. You have to make them. Work for them. Sometimes, it’s a huge pain and you don’t know how or when they are going to happen. But it is flat-out wrong to expect them.”

Maybe I’m not crazy—or a complete Type A New Yorker—for working so hard for everything in my life, I think. Karlin continues.

“…life…had to be cultivated, curated, fussed over. Then came the bliss, in arrhythmic spasms.”
Ben Karlin, if you weren’t married to your gorgeous Italian, Paola, I might make you mine. Until then, keep writing and giving me hope.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No Perfume in PER SE Kitchen

DSCF1125.JPGI had to shelve the Kiehl’s musk and forego the scented lotion. A manicure was beside the point and clogs were much preferred to my usual high heels. You see, there are many unspoken rules when cooking with—or gawking at— top chefs. And I was about to spend the afternoon with one of the world’s best.

Chef Jonathan Benno, the rising young star and daily culinary force behind Per Se restaurant (Thomas Keller’s 3 Michelin-starred wonder), manned the burners of the Beard House and showed me how to make a smoky, creamy, soul-satisfying chowder. If you don’t have a honey, occupy yourself with this on Valentine’s Day. I promise it’ll keep you warm.

The other recipe? A fabulous, five-hour pasta affair. Make it just for your Mamma because she’s the only one who deserves it. (Recipes and video in below link)
ABC NEWS: The [Per Se] Chowder Dreams Are Made Of…
(Above pic: Last year, on my way to my first dinner at Per Se. I look a little scared, don’t I?? And I had nothing to fear–Chef Benno is a stoic sweetie!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Amazonian “Devil”

Daddy always told me I’d grow up to be a statuesque woman (parent speak: “Mamma, looks like our girl’s gonna be tall, maybe a little chunky”)… But I never knew I’d be Amazonian!

Eight months before Belle in the Big Apple hits the shelves and I’m already on Amazon.com! Pre-order away! (HERE). I only wish y’all could see the cover image. Evan Gaffney, the artist who designed the cover of the crazy best-selling novel, The Devil Wears Prada, designed my cover also. Mine is a beauty!

Monday, January 28, 2008


DSCF1028.JPGJust as I’m nearing the end of my book and recipe edits, my mom sends me this, in a big, beautiful frame:

Believe in yourself, believe in humanity, believe in the success of your undertakings. Fear nothing and no one. Love your work. Work, hope, trust. Keep in touch with today. Teach yourself to be practical and up-to-date and sensible. You cannot fail.”

Okay, Mom, I believe in you and my undertakings and true love and a big ol’ country breakfast to get my day started in the cold, hard city. There–life and its essence. Simple. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Smiling, Eyes Wide Shut

DSCF1271.JPGThe picture at left says it all–smiling, eyes wide shut. Who needs reality when the world of my making looks so darn good? I’m my Mamma’s child, through and through… 
DSCF1270.JPGThese pics were taken by my ABC producer during this week’s Eat & Greetshoot. My little apartment is transformed into a studio for three hours–Klieg lights, wires, producers, cameraman, audio and interns– and I get paid to cook and eat. I sautee, sear and dice and thank my lucky stars. ”Dream job!” my thought bubble screams. I forget that I have no savings account, no mortgage, no husband–no security to speak of. It’s just me and a glass of Sancerre at the end of the day. And, you know what? I climb into bed and fall asleep smiling.
(yes, barefoot cooking is best…)