Dreams Do Come True…A Cookie Swap with Ina Garten!

Ina Garten

(photo by Quentin Bacon)

This summer I got an email that I thought was spam. It said something to the effect of…”Ladies’ Home Journal would like you to attend a private brunch and cookie swap with the Barefoot Contessa!” I sat on the email for about 30 seconds and then decided..what the hell, what if it is legit and I really get to meet her! It was and I did. Pinch me. I was dying to ask WHY ME? But, I was nervous if I brought it up they’d realize I’d made the list by mistake and take back the invitation. So, I kept my mouth shut and off I went.

We all have THOSE people in our life who we’d love to share a meal with, aspire to be like and find utterly compelling and delightful. For me Ina Garten sits at the top of the list. I remember, as a kid growing up in Westport, CT in the 70s and 80s, her store in the Hamptons was the “it” place to shop. The Barefoot Contessa was the epitome of sophistication and yet it wasn’t fussy or pretentious. She managed to make the “good life” seem accessible. Thirty some odd years later I’m invited to meet her. It was an OMG moment. With all of her fame and success, I couldn’t have faulted her for being aloof and a bit guarded about inviting her adoring fans into her home. She’s nothing of the sort, Ina is as kind, open and generous as she appears on TV. Not only that, she is deeply passionate and genuinely in love with food. She is the ultimate hostess.

ladies' home journal

This story gets even more surreal, because I also got to meet and spend the day with a group of intensely talented, driven and outrageously funny food bloggers. We shared a ride in an RV from Manhattan to the Hamptons, which was a bonding experience, not only because of the close quarters, but the sense that we’d all survived a tumble in a clothes drier. I’m not sure I’ve laughed that hard in my life. When we arrived in East Hampton, which is like an Audrey Hepburn movie set, we had brunch at Ina’s favorite restaurant. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until she arrived and I could feel my body relax. It was as if she were greeting a group of old friends. She immediately put us all at ease and we sat and chatted over a lovely meal, which I know was delicious, but I hardly recall what I ate. We talked about everything from blogging, throwing the perfect party, the crazy world of publishing, to her husband/muse, Jeffrey. Since we’d all been invited here to attend Ina’s very first holiday cookie swap, we also talked about cookies. You can read all about our chat with Ina at The Ladies Home Journal.

After brunch we walked to Ina’s house for our cookie swap. 

Ina Garten

(photo by Quentin Bacon)

The bloggers: Julie Ruble of willowbirdbaking.com, Lisa Fain of homesicktexan.com, Deb Perelman of smittenkitchen.com, Ina of barefootcontessa.com, Me, Joy Wilson of joythebaker.com, and Clara Artschwager of channelingcontessa.com

Ina Garten Cookie Swap

(photo by Quentin Bacon)

It was the perfect party, with pink champagne and lots of cookies.

We each picked one of our favorite holiday cookie recipes, which you can find at the Ladies’ Home Journal. Joy’s Red Velvet Black and White Cookies, Clara’s Apple Cider Ginger Cookies, Deb’s Gooey Cinnamon Squares, Ina’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs and Raspberry Crumble Bars, Lisa’s Pepita Lime Crescents, Julie’s Rosemary Thumbprints with Clementine Curd, and I made Chocolate Caramel Matzo (otherwise know as Matzo Crack – sure it is usually a Passover treat, but add some candy canes and it can be served for Christmas too!)

Another gaga moment in this adventure was getting to watch Quentin Bacon, who photographs all of Ina’s books, in action. He has shot some of my favorite cookbooks and is an absolute delight to work with.

As Quentin shot the article for Ladies’ Home Journal, we bloggers did what we do best and documented every moment with our iphones. As you can see it got pretty silly, pretty quickly:


Thanks to Susan Pocharski and Tara Bench for inviting me to join Ladies’ Home Journal on this most memorable adventure. Thanks to Ina and her lovely kitchen goddesses for hosting the best cookie swap ever!

Pick up a copy of this issue of a Ladies’ Home Journal and enter your very own holiday cookie recipe for a chance to have LUNCH WITH INA. Do it, it will rock your world!