See You in the Piazza

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Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of Frances Mayes’ latest book, See You in the Piazza, in exchange for an honest review.

See You in the Piazza, follows renowned travel writer Frances Mayes, as she tours the different regions of Italy. Mayes and her husband are American, but they own a second home in Italy and have fallen in love with the country. Mayes and her husband set off on a series of trips to discover and report on the best restaurants and landmarks in each region. On certain segments of their journey, which spanned over a year, they were joined by friends and other family members. The result is a love letter to Italy.

Mayes has a gift for lush imagery, especially her sensory descriptions of food and wine. Do not read while hungry! Mayes and her husband are definitely foodies and experiencing Italian cuisine is a huge focus of their travels. Although they do not shy away from experiencing local dives, the bulk of their dining is done at amazing five-star restaurants. I love to eat and experience incredible cuisine, but I seriously don’t know how they manage so many intense meals. As someone who has not yet (emphasis on “yet”) visited Italy, I was surprised by the regional differences in food and the variety of ingredients that encompass Italian cuisine. For those who love to cook, Mayes has included many recipes from the restaurants featured in her book.

Admittedly, See You in the Piazza was a slow read for me. I read it in small chunks and it took a few months to complete. it is long and written as a travel diary, which did not captivate my interest. It jumps between Mayes’ masterful writing and the vibe of having a neighbor tell you every tedious aspect of their last vacation. I love travel writing and I know that Mayes’ is respected in her field, but despite her gorgeous descriptions, I not sure that her style speaks to me.

I read an advanced readers copy, but I imagine that the published version will likely include photographs and maps, which would greatly add to the enjoyment of the book.

See You in the Piazza is a great pick for those who adore Italy or who have an upcoming trip in the works. Mayes provides much inspiration for places to visit and experience. It definitely made me wish that I could just jump on a plane and head to Italy!

I Hear She’s a Real Bitch

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Doubleday Canada for providing me with an advanced copy of Jen Agg’s memoir, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Jen Agg’s memoir, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, details her life as a successful restaurateur in Canada.

LIKE– Previous to reading her memoir, I had never heard of Agg, nor have I dined in any of her restaurants. I was drawn to the concept of her memoir and was not disappointed. What comes across most, is Agg’s love of creating new restaurants, she lavishly describes the design process, both with regard to aesthetics and practicality. Her enthusiasm for creation, made me reflect on my own love for dining out and how the meal is just one part of the overall experience. When I go to an amazing restaurant, whether high-end or a local dive, I don’t simply want to eat, I want to be transported, to have an experience. Agg is an expert at crafting experiences.

I’ve never had a job in the restaurant industry, although my ex-husband was a server and I spent many after-hours hanging out with the staff where he worked, learning about restaurant politics. I also had a childhood friend whose parent’s owned a high-end Japanese restaurant in Hawaii and allowed us to run amok in the kitchen. Since many years have passed, I can without fear of incriminating them, spill the beans that we ate green tea ice cream directly from the giant container. EW!!! In any case, with my glimpse of behind the scenes, I was fascinated by Agg’s closer look, especially the politics of the back vs. front house staff and the discrimination/harassment that women face in this industry. Some of her revelations were shocking. It sounds like you have to be an exceptionally tough woman to make it in the restaurant industry.

Agg is a woman with big ideas and strong visions, but she also explains that collaboration and trust in others, is imperative to her success. She is willing to take-on a variety of roles, but as she has grown in the industry, she has discovered both her interests and her skills. She surrounds herself with other professionals who provide other talents and she is clear, that she wants to succeed along side them, not just because of them. It’s a collaborative business. I got the impression that she might be unique and that not all restaurateurs are willing to fully collaborate or give credit, where credit is due.

DISLIKE– Nothing. I Hear She’s a Real Bitch is a fresh and exciting memoir.

RECOMMEND– Yes! Whether you’re in the industry or just like to dine out, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch is a worthy read. Agg is a great role model for entrepreneurial women. She’s fierce!