I’ve heard all the hubbub about Nutella recently. It’s been growing in popularity over the last few years and to the real fans of the chocolate hazelnut spread, it’s a bit of a global obsession. It’s great on pancakes and crepes, or so I’m told. Great on toast too. In fact, I think there is a commercial for it where the mom gives her kids Nutella toast for a nice healthy breakfast. It’s a phenomenon that has swept the nation after already having conquered Europe. Somehow though, I missed the wave of excitement. I like Nutella, at least on the few occasions I have had it, but it’s never become an obsession for me like it has for so many others.
According to their website, Nutella was created by an Italian pastry chef, Pietro Ferrero, who made a sweet paste made from hazelnuts, sugar and just a little bit of cocoa which was in short supply during World War 2. Originally it was called ‘Giandujot’ after a local carnival character of the time and it was made in loaf form so it could be sliced and enjoyed on a piece of crusty bread. After the war, it was turned into a more spreadable form and the name was changed to SuperCrema. 1n 1964, after more tinkering with the recipe, the spread was introduced to the world as Nutella and its popularity has been on the rise ever since. The Ferrero Group still owns the now global company and also created the popular Ferrero Rochers chocolates as well as the noisy little breath mints known as Tic Tacs.
For my celebration, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find a recipe because Nutella recipes are everywhere on the internet. I looked to one of my favorite sources, AverieCooks.com, to see if she had a recipe for a brownie or cookie. Thankfully, but not surprisingly, she did. It was for Soft and Chewy Nutella White Chocolate Chip Cookies. I have made her cookies before and they are outstanding, so I was excited to find another cookie recipe from her. I picked up a jar of Nutella and had everything else in house. I knew that Averie usually has you chill the dough of your cookies for a few hours before cooking, so because we were leaving the house at noon, I made the dough the night before as I waited for my soup to finish. Pretty straight forward recipe with a good amount of Nutella and lots of chocolate and white chocolate chips. I scooped it into balls, flattened them slightly, and put them on a sheet pan for storage in the fridge. I let them chill in there overnight. In the morning, I turned the oven on and put the cookies in as soon as the oven was preheated. The cookies were ready in about ten minutes and I left them on the pans to cool. At about 11:30, I took them off the pan and packed them in some Tupperware so we could take them on our trip to New York City.
A few months back, when life seemed a bit easier, I saw that there was an event at the 92nd Street Y in New York. We had been there once before for a special night with Carol Burnett and Rosie O’Donnell (two heads on Lola’s Mount Rushmore of Funny Ladies). Since then, I get notices about upcoming shows. That’s when I heard about this one. It was a special one night performance of a play that was written by the late, great Nora Ephron (another Lola hero) and her sister Delia. It was called “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” It was starring Carol Kane, Tracee Ellis Ross and Rosie O’Donnell. This one just had too many Lola connections to ignore, so I bought tickets. Naturally, when you buy tickets to a female-centric play months in advance, they don’t alert you that they are holding the event on the night of the Super Bowl. The tickets came in months ago and have been sitting on my desk ever since. I didn’t realize the Super Bowl conflict until about two weeks ago.
I should say that Lola is a bigger football fan than I am. She is the one that will plan what games to watch on Sunday. She doesn’t really have a team, but she always roots for the underdog. She just likes exciting football. It reminds her of when she was growing up, the lone football fan in the house. She tells me how she would do her homework on the floor in front of the game. On Super Bowl Sunday, her Mom would set her up with snacks and make the night special for her because she knew how much Lola liked it. When I told her that the play was on the same night as the Super Bowl, she was faced with her own Sophie’s Choice. We decided to go, although we were still on the fence right up to the start of the play. We packed up the car and headed on down the road with the Big Apple which was four hours away. Somewhere in Connecticut, we cracked open the Tupperware and each had a cookie.
These cookies could be one of my top ten cookies that I have made. They are soft and chocolate with the hazelnut hint in the background. There are lots of chips too, so you get these chunks of chocolatey goodness in every bite. They are soft, but not crumbly. I wish we were going to a Super Bowl party because they would have been devoured within minutes. I would have been the cookie MVP. But, they were also the perfect snack on a long car ride.
We got to the city around 4:30 and once we got into our hotel room and settled in, we decided to go to a bar to watch the first half of the game before the play started. The play kicked off at 8 PM and the game at 6:30. We could get some football in before we got our culture on. We found a spot that was just a block away from the theater and as luck would have it, they had two stools at the bar open for us. Lola had a cider and I had a cold Stella Artois and we got to watch pretty much all of the first half. The crowd there seemed to be cheering for the Falcons, but nothing out of control. It was an Ale House, so not a crazy sports bar, but lots of televisions. After the Falcons scored their third touchdown, we realized we had to go. We had a moment of thinking we should stay – blowing off the play altogether. But it seemed like a blowout in Houston was brewing, so that made the decision to leave easier. We left and walked up the block hoping we could still catch some of the game on the other side of the play.
Within two minutes of walking into the lobby of the 92 Street Y, Lola saw Delia Ephron. That was an immediate signal from the gods that we had made the right choice. Lola has always been a fan of the Ephron sisters. Their wit and wisdom has given her smiles and inspiration through their entire scope of work. And there was Delia, standing there with friends in a VIP section, but just a few feet away. Lola spotted her immediately. We forgot about football. We went into the theater and found our seats. As we took our coats off and started to settle in, a short, stout, white haired man sauntered by us very casually on the way to his seat. That was Danny DeVito. When I looked in the program, I noticed that one of the people in the play was Lucy Devito, his daughter. I was kind of in shock. Louie DePalma just walked by me without a care in the world. Lola made a quick break for the bathroom. This gave me time to scope out the crowd. I noticed that right in front of where Danny DeVito was sitting, there was a younger man with dark hair and dark rimmed glasses. I knew that guy too. It was Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame. I felt like I was at the Governor’s Ball. In the meantime, when Lola came back, she said she bumped into a woman that works for Rosie who Lola had once met on Rosie’s tour bus. We were doing some serious hobnobbing here at the Y.
After a brief announcement, the cast came out led by Rosie. The lights dimmed and the production began. I’ve never seen a play like this. All five performers (Natasha Lyonne of Orange is the New Black was the other cast member) sat in stools with a binder in front of them on a stand and they all read their parts. They told all kinds of different stories throughout the night that all related back in someway to an article of clothing. Bt the stories were about more than that. They were funny, sad, heartwarming, heartbreaking, hopeful and realistic. It was everything, so wonderfully told. It was kind of an amazing performance. We were both enthralled in the tales and in the honesty they held. We were so grateful for having been there and to have seen it. A truly magical night with no regrets about not watching the game.
But, wait! The game wasn’t over. When we were filing out of the theater after the play, I looked at my phone and the game was now 28 to 20 with about four minutes to go. We made our way out with the hope we could get back to the bar in time and see the end of the game. I had a minute of worry thinking that everyone in the theater would be trying to do the same thing. Then I realized that this crowd did not really care. We made it back in time and even found a spot to stand comfortably as we watched Tom Brady start that final drive. Touchdown. Two point conversion. Overtime. Touchdown. Championship. And so it was. A magical moment to be out in a bar. The crowd cheered. They shook their head in disbelief. Lola and I just smiled at the incredible night we just had.
We learned that these are the moments in life. The fill your heart with art moments. It’s the magic of people. What they can do and how they share that gift with us. Tom Brady put on a Super Bowl performance that will go down in history as one of the best ever. But the performance of Carol Kane and Rosie was just as amazing to us. We cheered in a theater and then cheered in a bar. Any time you can fill your heart with that kind of joy, then that’s a day of celebration. Plus, if you have an extraordinary chewy Nutella and chocolate chip cookie to top it off, then you really see how sweet life can be.
Next up: National Frozen Yogurt Day