Well… something (clearly!) amazing happened this summer! Two things in fact- I met the Barefoot Contessa, and participated in a cookie swap in her home!! Let’s back up, shall we?

Back in June, the lovely ladies at Ladies Home Journal asked me to participate in a cookie swap with a “famous chef” in the NYC area. I immediately said yes and began pondering what restaurant chefs or bakers they’d have participate in a blogger cookie swap. Minutes after saying yes, I received an email back saying that the cookie swap would be with INA GARTEN at her house in Hamptons! First I about fell out of my chair, then I screamed, and then I called my mom and we screamed together. I couldn’t believe it! The rest of that day is just a blur.

The shoot took place in July. One Thursday morning I left my apartment at the crack of dawn and headed to midtown to meet Deb, Joy, Zoe, Lisa, and Julie and hop on a motor home to East Hampton (let’s be clear- I was just as excited to meet these amazing ladies, too!). The day of schedule was as follows: first breakfast with Ina at the 1770 House, and then a cookie swap at her house. The swap took place in her recently built “barn,” the incredible kitchen space where she now does all her recipe testing and films all her television segments. After getting all dolled up we spent the afternoon chatting, sipping sparkling wine, and nibbling on cookies around her gorgeous rustic dining table.

For the swap, each blogger had to provide an original cookie recipe. I came up with a super chewy ginger cookie flavored with apple butter and rolled in red sugar – a twist on your traditional holiday ginger cookie. Other cookies included Ina’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs, Joy’s Black & White Red Velvet Cookies, and Zoe’s Chocolate Caramel Matzo. You can get all the recipes in this month’s issue of LHJ.

All of us were pretty intimidated to meet Ina, but she immediately put everyone at ease. She’s truly one of the most genuine and down to earth people that I’ve ever met- and I assure you, I’m not just saying that. Really. Yes, I love her recipes, but the source of my admiration really comes back to her poise and business sense. She also has an incredible sense of humor and can be pretty witty and sassy! That was cool to experience.

At the end of the day she kept thanking us all for coming. I wanted to be like “Are you kidding? I would have walked here!” Sadly my solo photo with her will probably go down as the most awkward picture of me in history, but oh well! It was such an incredible day and I’m still reeling from the experience.

A HUGE thank you to Ladies Home Journal for making the whole experience possible, and including me. Be sure to check out all the other ladies’ sites this week to see their pics, recaps, and recipes. I’ll share my cookie recipe with you guys tomorrow along with some behind the scenes pics and other little tid bits about the day. I have been dying to tell you all about this for the last four months- I’m so thrilled the day is finally here!

All photos by Quentin Bacon

  1. La Torontoise

    What interesting life you have as a blogger!!!
    Clara, I have very vivid imagination and certainly relate to feeling of having to meet a grand chef…

    Reading your posting touched me a lot.

    • Clara

      Aaaw thank you, so sweet!

  2. What an amazing experience for you! I am so excited for you. Congratulations on making a dream come true.

  3. SO very exciting! I can’t believe you held it in for four months, I would have nearly exploded! Such a lovely experience that you will remember forever!

  4. OMG, you are the luckiest girl in the world, a cookie swap with Ina. Sounds like an amazing experience, thanks for sharing. I would be so terrified if Mrs. Garten was tasting my cookies.

  5. I just read the article in LHJ!!!!! What a wonderful experience for all of you to share. I am excited too to find your blog, because of the article. My first love is needlework with cooking being a very close second :-). I look forward to following your blog!!!!!!

    • Clara

      Thanks, Katrina! I’m so glad to have you here.

  6. That is so COOL! Congratulations! It also made me chuckle that I recognized 3 of the other bloggers in the photo without seeing their names.

  7. Patricia

    Absolutely fantastic! So exciting and such validation!!

  8. Amazing! Now your mysterious holiday cookie-baking over the summer makes total sense! So jealous :)

  9. This is awesome! We had a chance to met her a few years ago and instantly fell more in love with her. Such a wonderful woman. The cookie event not only looks delicious but sounds very fun. Glad you had the opportunity. (I would have screamed, too).

  10. Hi Clara, I just discovered your blog last week when I bought the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal and read the article about the cookie swap at Ina’s. How exciting! Congratulations on the feature–what a major accomplishment. I spent most of my day last Sunday browsing your lovely blog and am so happy to have found it. I am also one of Ina’s devoted fans and love her recipes. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog posts. Happy holidays!

  11. Wow! Such an amazing opportunity. I about fell out of my chair when I saw this post :) Can’t wait to hear more!

  12. That is so amazing! What a fantastic opportunity! Those cookies you made sound delicious, and I’m sure Ina loved them :)

  13. Congrats, Clara! Such a phenomenal experience for you & I’m so lucky that you shared it here with us! (PS – your picture with her isn’t as awkward as you think & I would have screamed too!) 😉

  14. Wow Clara, that is so exciting! How lucky you were to meet one of your idols. Looks like a fabulous day with a great group of amazing ladies. Thanks for sharing your day with us! And I can’t wait to hear about those cookies. :)

  15. Absolutely awesome!
    Looking forward to that cookie recipe!

  16. Lady, this is huge! I remember you mentioning a cookie swap… but I had no idea it was with Ina! Awesome, awesome, awesome! : )

  17. WOW! That’s so awesome! Sounds like an amazing experience!

  18. Alli

    I’m so jealous. Ina is one of my cooking idols.

  19. Wow! What an amazing opportunity! I adore Ina Garten and am so happy for you :)

  20. Amazing! What a great opportunity! I’m impressed that you were able to keep your mouth shut for all these months. I’m sure I couldn’t have done it. :-)

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  22. Sue

    Wow, I would scream too! What a fabulous and exciting time you had. Congrats! You cookies look beautiful!

  23. Jen

    This is awesome! I actually stumbled upon your blog on Facebook, since we’re ‘friends’ on it. I met you a while back in Argentina from a mutual friend, Jeanette, but I really just wanted to tell you that I love your blog and it’s so awesome what you’re doing. I’m even going to pass this along to my aunt as she is a big Ina fan. All the best to you!


  24. Cynthia

    Oh Clara, what a wonderful experience and honor to have spent a day with Ina! I have to agree with you that she is indeed just as nice, poised, witty, and genuine in person as she comes across on BC. She is beautiful inside and out, and has the most exquisite taste and sense of design of any of the FN chefs. One thing I love about Ina is that she is a gazelle-intense business woman with a fierce intellect, has a killer eye for design that incorporates beauty as well as practicality, and manages to be this soft, charming, super-hostess who instinctively puts everyone at ease! Clara, I would have given ten years of my life to have had your experience with Ina! You are an amazingly delightful and talented young woman yourself!

    • Clara

      Cynthia! Wow, such sweet words. Thanks so much for all the encouragement! I definitely am with you on Ina’s business savvy and skills- that’s what I, and I think most of the other girls who participated- admire about her most. Thanks so much for checking out CC- hope you stick around! xx

      • Cynthia

        Clara, you can bet we will be ‘sticking around’ for a long while. We aren’t much on ‘blogs’ in general, but yours is so different and we can relate to the recipes, the comments, and your experiences. My friends and I are so high on Ina because she was so kind (emails and gifts!) to us after about 8 of us lost our homes and many loved ones in the tornado that wiped out Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Her show (Barefoot Contessa) was the only ‘normal’ part of our day as we tried for months to grieve and put our lives back together. We are ‘whole’ once again and love Ina even more for her compassion, concern, and generosity.

        • Clara

          Well- and to think I thought a couldn’t fall in love with her anymore! That’s so touching, but I think such a true reflection of Ina’s true character. I’m so glad you shared that story, and so touched you feel my blog is in some way different- I really do try! Hope you have a wonderful holiday. xx

  25. Get out! Get out! Get out, right now! I just screamed out loud for you. My absolute dream. What an amazing thing. Truly. I would have been totally 100% gobsmacked! You must have just been pinching yourself the entire time. So overjoyed to hear that Ina is as lovely in person as she appears to be. I think one of the reasons why her FN show has been so successful is that she has an authenticity about her that speaks through the camera. Both of my grandmothers instilled a love of cooking in me at an early age but it has been Ina’s influence that has fanned the flames!!! Congratulations.

    • Cynthia

      Dear Mrs. V – You are so right about Ina! When we watch her show, we are sitting right at her counter watching her cook and chatting just like neighbors would over a backyard fence. Ina makes you feel like a part of her show, not just a spectator. She is genuine and nurturing and very approachable. She keeps me excited about cooking!

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