Lunch with Lidia

“Food, you know, tells us who we are, where we come from. It connects us, it expresses emotion. It expresses care, it expresses love.”   —Lidia Bastianich

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Food is such an important part of every event and celebration. In these past 18 years, I’ve learned to appreciate the role of food in special events, gained an entire food vocabulary, expanded my palate and become less culinarily challenged (although I still have a ways to go in that regard). I’ve enjoyed some amazing meals in great company along the way, but none more meaningful than last week’s “Lunch with Lidia”. This event, honoring women in culinary, was presented by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance and Les Dames D’Escoffier, Austin Chapter. Lunch with Lidia Matticchio Bastianich was truly magical.

The event was held at 7co, one of Austin’s newest near-East-side venues and sister property to 800 Congress. This eclectic space was a real treat, and the meal prepared by Shawn Cirkiel, Chef/Owner of Parkside Projects, was nothing short of inspired. From the Antipasti, to the Primi, Secondi and Dolci, every bite was divine . . . as was every sip! Guests were greeted with refreshing Aperol Spritz Cocktails, and the wines served with lunch (La Mozza Cabernet Sauvignon and Bastianich Sauvignon Blanc) were stellar. These special offerings can be found at Whole Foods and soon will be offered at Twin Liquors.

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When the program began, guests were welcomed by Mariam Parker, Executive Director of Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Mariam explained the purpose of the occasion and thanked the generous event sponsors. Kendall Antonelli, cofounder of Antonelli’s Cheese Shops and President of the Austin Chapter, Les Dames d’Escoffier, took the stage, made some brief and entertaining opening remarks, then invited us all (in Italian no less) to partake of the feast before us.

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While it’s hard to top the setting, the meal, the crowd and the cause, when the post-meal portion of the program began Chef and Restauranteur, Cookbook Author and Emmy award-winning host of Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, was the real star of last week’s show. Chef Lidia answered questions posed by Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Communications and Operations Director for Whole Kids Foundation. Cathy did a wonderful job of keeping the “On-stage Conversation with Lidia” warm, informative and enlightening. Through their exchange, we all learned how Lidia came to America, her views on living the American Dream, her insights into work, motherhood and balance and her very great love of food and hospitality.

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Ms. Bastianich was engaging, endearing and enthusiastic. I was fortunate to be seated at Lidia’s table and to observe her interactions with others. I found her authentic and outgoing. Throughout her exchanges with event guests, she was patient and intent. And while I didn’t stay for the book signing (My American Dream – A Life of Love, Family and Food) or the silent auction conclusion (for a list of generous donors, please visit the Austin Food and Wine Alliance Website), I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this memorable lunch with a delightful star in the culinary universe. Special thanks to Mariam Parker for the invitation and the opportunity.

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