Foodie Fatale’s passionate encounters with everything edible

Jocelyn Ruggiero, Foodie Fatale.

Jocelyn Ruggiero, bettern known as Foodie Fatale, "lives to eat" in every sense of the phrase.

When it comes to anything and everything edible, she loves shopping for it, cooking it, consuming it, writing and blogging about it, and even performing with it.

Center stage in a little black number, Ruggiero acts out recipes-in the tradition of her burlesque foremothers-as La Divina Cucina ("divine kitchen"). She enthralls and seduces her audience with whispery, naughty sounding directives to "simmer 20 to 25 minutes" or "toss with the sauce," without ever removing a stitch of clothing.

Ruggiero is also a busy mom of two young children, who recently moved back to Connecticut from New York City with her partner, and is enjoying every aspect of life and food on the shoreline.

She's been a food judge at several state competitions, including The Connecticut Specialty Food Association, Elm City Iron Chef, and, most recently, at the BEAT Shoreline Chef's competition in Old Lyme and the picnic competitions at August Nights at Harkness Park in Waterford.

So how did this fascination with gastronomy begin? Ruggiero is quick to credit New Haven's Pepe's Pizza-and her Italian-American family.

She says she was literally nourished by the famous pizza in the womb-her mother dined there every Thursday while she was pregnant, and when the family moved to Killingworth soon after Ruggiero was born, the weekly tradition continued.

"I never knew there was any other kind of pizza when I was a kid," she says.

Ruggiero recalls waking up Sunday mornings and seeing her mother frying meatballs and drying basil leaves on the dining room table for pesto.

"It was my Aunt Phil, the Italian matriarch of the family, who taught everyone to cook," she says. "All the holidays were at her house in New Haven-she was the heart and soul of the family.

"I'm very inspired by what food represents and how it makes you feel," she adds. "It's a connection to family, the past, who we are-it all comes together when you sit at a table and share and commune with each other."

It was inevitable, Ruggiero says, that one day she would need to express her love of food on stage. She left home in 1991 to attend Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., where she studied literature, French, and theater. When she graduated, she moved to New York City where she worked as an actor, waitressed and temped to pay the rent.

She developed the role of La Divina Cucina for an assignment in a performance class.

"We had to use four objects-I grabbed a can of San Marzano tomatoes, the book 'A Lover's Discourse' by Roland Barthes, a boa and a Mae West CD, and I went to class and made my first segment in five minutes-a recipe for tomato and clam sauce over pasta.

"It was completely spontaneous and true to who I am-a little Mae West, tomatoes, and Roland Barthes," Ruggiero notes.

Ruggiero has appeared as La Divina Cucina in various venues in New York City. In 2007, she performed in front of an audience of more than 2,000 at Chicago's Gurlesque Burlesque. The sold-out show also starred Margaret Cho, Julie Atlas Muz, Miss Indigo Blue and 63-year-old burlesque legend, Satan's Angel.

"It's sensual, erotic and also passionate because people who love food really understand using your mouth, your body, all your senses," Ruggiero says. "The funny part is (for example) reading a recipe for tapioca. You wouldn't think that's exactly sexy-it's unexpected, and it's unexpected in a burlesque setting where everyone takes off a piece of clothing, but I read a recipe."

Ruggiero is working on new pieces that she hopes to perform at various food events.

Blog Fatale

About a year ago, Ruggiero started a food blog: http://foodiefatale.com.

"I always wanted to write and talk about food," she says. "That's why the blog's subtitle is 'Eating with a Passion.' I like to share what I've learned-and have people experience it with me. I get so many e-mails-people sharing their own stories."

She says she's passing her love and appreciation of food on to her own children. Her mother, who now lives nearby in Madison, comes over regularly and cooks with her, continuing the family tradition.

And now that she's back in Connecticut, Ruggiero says she's getting to know the area again from a food perspective.

"I get my lobsters from a dock, I buy vegetables and eggs from a nearby farm. We're so lucky we have access to so much fresh food in Connecticut-from both shore and farms. It's wonderful. There's a culinary explosion happening all over the state.

"It's so easy to be inspired about food living here," she adds. " I feel like I've ended up exactly where I should be."

Foodie Fatale's Linguine With Clams And Pesto

Serves 4 to 6

I love seafood and eat clams from our own Long Island Sound almost weekly. I buy my clams from Bacci at Lobster Landing in Clinton. The pesto I used for this recipe is homemade. I'm sure everyone's garden- like mine-is abundant with basil right now. I also recommend the pesto recipe from the "Silver Palate Cookbook."

-Jocelyn Ruggiero (Foodie Fatale)

˝ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

4 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned

6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Hot pepper flakes

1 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

1 lemon, zested and juiced

˝ cup fresh pesto*

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lb. linguine

Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan.

Add garlic and pinch of hot pepper flakes.

Sauté over medium-low heat approximately 5 minutes until garlic is golden brown.

Add white wine and simmer over medium high heat for 2 minutes.

Add lemon juice, clams, 1/3 cup parsley, oregano and lemon zest.

Cover and cook on high 3 to 5 minutes or until shells open (remove any clams that do not open).

Season with salt and pepper.

Drain linguine and toss with the sauce and pesto in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.

*Visit www.foodiefatale.com for pesto recipes.

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