Mario Batali blazed into the Pittsburgh area this past Saturday to promote his new cookbook Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours. The event, hosted by Market District in Pine Township, included a 30-minute cooking demo and book signing.
I was invited by the Market District social media crew to join several local bloggers as a special VIP guest to explore the store and receive front row access during the cooking demonstration.
The store buzzed with activity as the line grew longer in anticipation for Mario’s arrival. First it reached to the international section then past a display of live lobsters before weaving around the frozen foods aisle. We were escorted through the crowd to our reserved space in front. A few minutes later, Mario took center stage and immediately began cooking. He seemed to feel right at home grabbing ingredients displayed across the counter and sharing stories as he chopped. It was a striking visual to see the team of Market District chefs (who no doubt prepped the items in advance) observing behind the scenes. As an extra bonus, they had the privilege of sampling the two courses Mario demonstrated.
The first course was corn fritters with an arugula salad. Mario prepared a quick pasta dish next that included fusilli tossed with Italian sausage, chopped kale and parmesan cheese. He referred to fresh kale as “nature’s little colon cleanse” and that statement will forever be burned in my mind. Simplicity and seasonality was a common theme peppered throughout the demonstration. Later, I learned this was the basis for his book with each chapter representing a different month of recipes for the year.
A book signing immediately followed. Mario was gracious and made a point to say hello to each person who stepped up to the table. I found humor in a sign outlining the autograph guidelines. Halfway down, it stated “Mario will not sign knives.”
I wondered, while heading home, “is there really that big of a demand for autographed knives?”