Well, if you are a follower of this blog, you probably know that I published a Billions book last year: Appetite for Power – Eating, Drinking and Dealmaking in NYC: A Billions Guide is available for purchase through online vendors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Strand Book Store, Indiebound, and BAM!.
Today marks the first anniversary of the book’s release and I was very lucky to have a selfie taken with my book and my muse a few weeks ago!
It is true I came to Billions for Damian and then stayed for the show; I am still watching it. But there would have been no book whatsoever without Damian. So I cannot thank him enough for this lovely adventure! And if you are interested in the extraordinary journey I had, writing a book about my favorite TV show that is, here it is.
Fan Fun with Damian Lewis and Billions have had an interesting relationship from the get go. I launched the blog only two weeks before they started shooting the series pilot in New York City. Damian found out about the blog on Billions Pilot set. Believe it or not, he had my information in his jacket pocket as he filmed the famous “Fuck you money” scene in the Pilot.
As a part-time New Yorker, I was extremely lucky to have access to Billions in several different ways. I caught Billions shoots all around the city from the Financial District to the Upper West Side to Middle Village, Queens and saw some of the most hilarious, most dramatic and the most emotional scenes of the show being filmed only a few feet away from my favorite actor. I attended Billions screenings, Q&As, and super fan parties. I had an opportunity to chat with the show creators as well as with the brilliant cast members. And the blog receiving shout outs from our readers, from Damian himself, from Koppelman and Levien and from other Billions actors has been the most delicious cherry on top. I am a very lucky girl and I cherish all of it.
As the famous song goes…
“The memory of all that
No, no they can’t take that away from me” 😀
One of the first things I noticed about Billions, even before the first season premiered on Showtime, was that New York would be a cast member in the show: The city, from its historical landmarks to its parks and to its world class restaurants, would not be just a backdrop for Billions to tell its story but it would be part of the story. And as someone who feels the only home she has in the world is the city that never sleeps, I loved it that Billions took over New York, the BIG film studio that it is, and shot all over the place, from Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn to The Bronx to Long Island and to northern suburbs. And since my husband and I are crazy foodies – he loves to cook and we both love to eat – New York dining scene making memorable appearances on the show, from its Michelin-starred restaurants to yummy hole-in-the-walls to cozy neighborhood joints made us smile big!
So I paid close attention to the food in Billions even before it was cool to do that and put together Billions dining guides on the blog for every season. And, believe me, figuring out all the restaurants, coffee shops and bars featured on the show was not the easiest task since they, more often than not, do not show or mention the name of the place in the episode. It was naturally easy to locate a place if I have been there before… but if not… then being the forensic fan that I am, I googled whatever hint I could get from the scene, varying from the pictures or signs on the walls to the shape of the lamps in the dining room or the color of the chairs, and got results! Oh, and I sometimes used Google Maps and Google Earth, too, especially when I knew the general area they shot the scene. The Fan Fun Billions dining guides quickly became the most popular posts on the blog and got links from Food Network and Forbes Magazine. Yet, I never dreamed of turning these guides into a full blown book until…
…I received an email from a young woman working at SkyHorse Publishing in October 2018.
It turned out that she enjoyed reading Fan Fun Billions dining guides and reached out to ask whether I would be interested in writing a book that would serve as a guide to the New York restaurants featured on Billions with a tie-in to the storyline. When she asked whether I would be willing to meet and talk about the possibility, I was intrigued enough to say yes.
Well, two years – many drafts, countless texts and emails, numerous lunches and dinners some of which took place at Billions restaurants, more than quite a few drinks, and a lot of brainstorming – later, here we are.
I did most of the work in the summer and fall of 2019 – watching and rewatching Billions, researching and writing the manuscript, revising and revising some more! The original plan was to have the book out in April 2020, a few weeks before Billions Season 5 premiered on Showtime. Alas, as we finalized the interior of the book and were getting ready to send to press, Covid-19 hit the U.S. disrupting it all for everyone. As Billions folks took a break from filming Season 5, the publisher decided it was not a good idea to publish a dining guide while all restaurants were closed down. Well, I cannot blame them! 🙂
Despite the hiccups thanks to the pandemic, writing this book has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I, as an academic, published several papers in top professional journals which we call career “home-runs.” And I am proud to have published stuff that delved into substantive issues that excited me. Yet, research papers appeal to a narrow audience – only the people who are researching the topics you write about read them. This book, on the other hand, is a unique opportunity to reach out to a much larger audience (spanning generations, professions, countries, and what have you) about a topic everyone loves (well, who doesn’t love good food?). And, more importantly, it is a chance to pay a loving tribute to a few of my favorite things – Billions and New York – as well as give a heartfelt thank you to the Billions creators for writing a love letter to the city and its unparalleled culinary world.
Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the creators and show runners of Billions, know New York and its restaurant industry like the back of their hands. And they are not only doing a spectacular job in displaying the city’s vibrant food scene but it is also crystal clear there is a meticulous thought process behind the restaurant they showcase. And what Billions ultimately does is much more than showing us how the one percent eats: It is about integrating food, such an important component of our daily lives, into the storyline, while honoring the quality, the diversity and the legacy of culinary culture in New York City.
It is about the city staples that have been around for generations. It is about the immigrants that brought their own food to New York and made it a part of city culture. It is about the power joints where the movers and shakers of New York discuss the affairs of the day. It is about the pizza slice or the candy bar that take you back to your childhood. It is about the young who start at the bottom of the kitchen chain and ultimately open their own restaurant as well as about the old who pass the torch to future generations. It is about the energy and the creativity in New York food industry that is setting the standards for the rest of the world. It is about everyone who has contributed to making New York the dining capital of the world as it is today.
And it is for this very reason I wanted to write the book which has a complete listing of the restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries and more that either appeared or was mentioned in Billions in order of their appearance in the show. Each entry includes a description of that place’s particular significance in the show – (who dines there? what are they eating? what’s the occasion?) as well as in the New York culinary scene (its history, its chef, signature dish). There is also practical information about each restaurant (location, price level, happy hour, dress codes, and so on). The last section in the book offers several restaurant recommendations for a New York weekend of your choice (romantic, family friendly, splurge, and so on).
While the writing part is solitary, it takes a village to write a book. I hope I did justice in the acknowledgments part of the book to all who inspired, encouraged me but I want to do a short version right here as well.
I feel indebted to a number of fabulous human beings:
To Weihua Liu for reaching out and convincing me to write the book.
To my editors Leah Zarra and Peter Alton for their help in crafting the final product.
To my lovely blog mates Gingersnap, JaniaJania, Lady Trader, Holliedazzle, NotLinda and The Tail that Wags the Dog for being the best team ever and for believing in me.
To Brian Koppelman, David Levien and the entire Billions cast and crew for giving us the best show on TV.
To my mom for teaching me the value of hard work and discipline.
To one and only Damian Lewis for inspiring me to launch this blog and for being so kind and generous with me.
And, finally, to one person without whom life would have no meaning: my love, my best friend and Fan Fun tech guy Lewisto for encouraging me to do whatever I want to do and supporting me at every step of the way.
From start to finish, this book has been one of the most exciting journeys in my life. As Damian once said, “the best journeys are shared.” So, especially if you are a Billions fan, I think this book can help you enjoy some of the wonderful restaurants in New York that have been featured on the show. You may even re-enact a scene or two and have fun 😀
While the pandemic hit the restaurant industry extremely hard, I am thrilled that New York has come back strong. Many city restaurants extended seating onto streets, sidewalks and public spaces, and thereby enhanced social distancing, and has given new life to the struggling industry. And I hope you take advantage of NYC dining this fall and beyond.