Tag Archives: SoHo

Cause Celeb

7 Jan

I was in SoHo yesterday.

SoHo Sign

Isaac was off shopping for books and wine while I was, theoretically, returning something, buying sweet things and foraging for dinner provisions. In reality I was wandering around looking for pictures to take with my new toy.

I took pictures of buildings, of architectural details, of old signs, the usual things. I was wandering, thinking. Perhaps I should start taking pictures of people, I thought. I found myself on the corner of Broadway and Spring, and there, just across Broadway was a family, striking the most perfect tableau. I prepared to shoot. Then something registered in my brain, I looked again. Something looked familiar about the father. I looked one more time.

Sacrebleu. It was Eric Ripert.

SoHo Detail

We New Yorkers have a problem with celebrities, real, personal or imagined. We’re New Yorkers. We walk amongst some of the richest, most famous, most talented people on the face of the earth every minute of every day. We’re supposed to be cool, unruffled and unfazed when rubbing shoulders with Lloyd Blankfein, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Mario Batali.

But sometimes we run into someone that gets us excited. It’s a very personal thing.

Parker Posey always seems to be at the Kmart in Astor Place when I’m there. I think its funny, but I would never walk up to her and say, “Ohmigod! I loved you in Party Girl and you were so ridiculously, neurotically perfect in Best In Show.” I just couldn’t.

But running into Eric Ripert? It made me pause.

The Mirror at Balthazar

A few years ago when my office was on another street in another neighborhood, I was leaving work very late one night when I found an uncorrected proof of A Return To Cooking (written with the estimable Ruhlman I might add) in the lobby. This was odd for two reasons: 1. There were no book publishers in that building and 2. The lobby of this building was not a “free” space.

“Free” spaces are one of the more magical spots a building can have. For no discernible reason they pop up in dorms, offices and apartment buildings around the world. Bits of counter become the place to leave the detritus that one no longer wants or needs. My office has one, hidden waaaay back by the printers that no one uses, where I once found a $190 bottle of sunscreen and a collection of “Classics In Half The Time” books. I took the cream, I left the books (and I am proud to say that 6 months on, the books are all still there).

The roof at Savoy

I took Chef Ripert’s book home and leafed through it. There’s a few simple recipes, but on the whole, as one would expect from a three-Michelin starred chef, the bulk of the book is made up of complicated, daunting and futzy recipes. But, they are also tasty.

Each New Year’s Eve for the past four, Isaac and I have passed the evening cooking, drinking, eating, talking and laughing with the same couple. The first three years were at their place in Brooklyn, this year it was my turn to host. And so I turned to Chef Ripert for inspiration. And he provided amply.

SoHo Water Tanks

Isaac made Chef Ripert’s cauliflower soup as our starter. It was utterly perfect. Sweet, creamy, silky, buttery, rustic yet sophisticated, it is wonderful. We couldn’t find smoked scallops so we used bacon instead, and decided to substitute goat’s milk for heavy cream. Tinkering with a celebrity chef’s recipe is fun! And so I did a doozie on the main course.

It was to be Pan-Seared Muscovy Duck with Cherries and Rhubarb Purée, but come on people! It’s winter! There’s no way the fresh cherries were going to be good, and even though I found frozen rhubarb, I decided not to use it. So we ended up with Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Mixed Berry, Dried Cherry and Cognac Sauce.

Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? And it was. Partly because of my inventions, but a lot because of Chef Ripert’s exquisite techniques.

Happy New Year!

So it was all these things I was mulling as I stood on the corner of Broadway and Spring yesterday, asking myself, should I walk up to this man who’s just trying to enjoy a day out with his family and thank him for helping to make my New Year’s Eve dinner so spectacular and memorable?

The light changed, my heart beat a little faster. I started walking towards him. And then he ran into a friend and they all stopped in the middle of Broadway for hugs and kisses. My decision was made for me. As I passed them I smiled, and carried on.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Berry Sauce for Duck, a la Ripert.

Continue reading