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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - The Classic Negroni

I happened to be reading Patricia Highsmith's nail-biter The Talented Mr. Ripley when I saw Netflix had adapted it into an eight-part series entitled Ripley. Starring the extraordinary Andrew Scott, this new version is a glorious, moody vision of Italy shot in stark black and white. 

There's a lot of mystery surrounding our psychopathic, murderous protagonist Tom Ripley, but the real mystery to me is why, as the characters traipse across Italy drinking gin martinis, there is nary a mention of the classic Italian Negroni! Lord knows I drank little else when I was running around Italy myself.

Originally served to Count Camillo Negroni in 1919, the bitter cocktail composed of pure liquor is a ripping refresher that some prefer in the cooler months, but I remember escaping the heat of June with a number of Negronis while lingering in the various osterie of Florence, Venice, Rome... 

Classic Negroni
Adapted from Saveur magazine
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Orange slice, for garnish

In a tumbler filled with ice, stir together the Campari, gin, and vermouth. Garnish with the orange slice.

The White Negroni has making an appearance in restaurant bars around town recently too, should you wish to try at home! 

White Negroni
Adapted from

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce Suze gentian liqueur
Garnish: lemon twist

Add the gin, Lillet blanc and Suze into a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 to 20 seconds until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Ritual Non-Alcoholic Spirits (a leader in the N/A market) has also come up with what I feel is a highly commendable version of the Negroni, as well as other fantastic booze-free concoctions found here

Ritual Non-Alcoholic Negroni
1 1/2 oz. Ritual Gin Alternative
1 1/2 oz. Ritual Aperitif Alternative
Garnish: orange

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add 1.5oz of Ritual Gin and Aperitif Alternative. Stir the ingredients in the mixing glass for 20-30 seconds until well combined. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

"Tom showered and then Dickie showered, and came out and poured himself a drink, just like the first time, but the atmosphere now was totally changed."
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Ravigote Sauce

The original plan was that I would make a summery dinner for my cousin at her house in New Hampshire. She fired up the backyard grill for vegetable and mozzarella “Napoleon” stacks, we tossed a pasta salad together and I don’t remember what else...but then some friends called, a few more showed up at the door, and then they invited their friends. Soon we had a houseful of guests and I just kept cooking. More Napoleons were served, I improvised a few pasta dishes, found greens for salad, whisked together a dressing, and quick-thawed some chicken breasts, which also went on the grill, slathered in barbecue sauce.

In my writer’s imagination, as we made a game of muscial chairs around the dining table, I thought of the epic scene from Nana by Emile Zola, where the reckless, scheming courtesan threw a sprawling, gorgeous dinner party with makeshift tables filling all the rooms of her apartment in order to cram in everybody who rang the doorbell, both invited guests and crashers alike.

The menu at at this fictional bacchanal included an asparagus puree and consommé for starters, truffled rabbit and parmesan gnocchi mid-course, and mains such as chicken à la maréchale, foie gras, and filet of sole with—ravigote sauce!

Ultimately, the party that Zola so delicious detailed didn’t go entirely well (the guests were suffocating because of the heat rising from the all the candelabra and each other; the wine uninspiring, you know), but it still lasted until dawn. I’ve never forgotten it.

Someday I might like to have a huge party and recreate the entire menu from Nana, but in the meantime I’ve taken great satisfaction in just making the ravigote sauce and serving it over steak.

Recipes for ravigote vary, but usually revolve around Dijon mustard, shallots, tarragon, and red or white wine vinegar and I’ll wager Daniel Boulud’s version is the best. Try the sauce hot or cold, with sole or steak, as I mentioned—or how about on top of a burger!

Ravigote Sauce
Adapted from Daniel Boulud


1⁄4 cup aged red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 cup cooking stock from Tête de Veau or beef stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup minced chives
3⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup minced chervil
1⁄2 cup minced tarragon
1⁄4 cup capers, rinsed and minced
2 small shallots, minced
1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
1 garlic clove


In a small saucepan, reduce the cooking liquid or stock by half over high heat, about 5 minutes. Cool, then transfer to a blender along with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Transfer to a bowl along with the chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, capers, shallots, and egg. Using a microplane, grate the garlic into the bowl, then stir everything to combine.

“Nana could not have produced a dozen napkins out of all her cupboards...and scorning to go to a restaurant, she had decided to make a restaurant come to her. This struck her as being more chic.”
Nana, Emile Zola

Thanks to Saveur magazine for the photo! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - The Black Tie Martini

I don’t mind telling you I’ve made a meal out of martinis on more than one occasion, a la Nick Charles, the glamorous martini-swilling detective in The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. Garnished with a skewer of blue cheese-stuffed Castelvetrano olives or black olives filled with smoked salmon, a martini can ably serve as both dinner and drinks.

Somewhere in the mid-90’s I discovered The Black Tie Martini at the old Astor hotel in Miami and it was probably the best version of the stiff standby I’d ever had. It’s simple and although a twist is what they used at the bar, it’s not a crime to try the olive garnishes I mentioned, in case you require something a little more substantial.

The Black Tie Martini

A solid pour of your favorite vodka, such as Belvedere
Equal breaths of Crown Royal and Campari
Lemon twist

Pour the vodka into an ice-filled shaker. Dip a cocktail stirrer straw into your Crown Royal, seal with your fingertip and release the contents into the shaker. Ditto with the Campari.

Put the lid on the shaker and take this hint from Mr. Charles: “Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to foxtrot time, a Bronx to two-step time, but a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”* Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with lemon twist.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out your Strauss records and do enjoy!

*Quote is actually from the movie version The Thin Man.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Cassoulet

One evening, a number of years ago, after we’d knocked back practically a barrel of bourbon, my friend took it upon himself to read Ernest Hemingway’s The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber to us. Despite the title, there was nothing short about it; he read for what felt like hours. (Just imagine: a massive breath or a pause for another sip of Maker’s Mark to add dramatic effect as he turned each weighted page with a licked index finger.)

Frankly, I hadn’t much cared for Hemingway at that point, and this soliloquy damned near put an end to my interest in him entirely until I read A Moveable Feast—here was the extraordinary life of Hemingway himself, part of the Lost Generation in 20’s Paris! And eating his way through all of it!

Among the oysters and white wine (and Zelda and Gertrude Stein, of course), there was also cassoulet, the hearty dish of white beans, duck, and sausage. While the creation of cassoulet is attributed to Carcassonne in the region of Languedoc, Hemingway spotted it on a bistro menu in Montparnasse.

Cassoulet is a slow process of braising meat and aromatics (taking nearly as long to make as it takes to have The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber read to you), but well worth it. I also think it’s essential to then let your cassoulet sit overnight before heating it up again in the oven to serve.

Rest assured, when I laid this sumptous pot on the dinner table for some friends recently, I had everyone’s attention.

My favorite version is here, but you might like Julia Child’s epic foray, Jacques Pepin's “quick version” or a simpler chicken variation here, which is more like a fricassee.

As Hemingway wrote to a friend in 1950, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Do enjoy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - A Spring Picnic

Spring is around the corner...can't you can feel it tickling your nose? 

Naturally, I returned to Kenneth Grahame's classic novel, The Wind in the Willows, concerning a collection of rather well-to-do animals at times skittering about, languidly discussing ideas, or extolling the virtues of nature. Such wonder! There's a grandiose, preposterous (while still quite amiable in his delusions) toad on the wrong side of the law, a couple of critters who nearly succumb to the sea in response to the siren song of the Sea Rat and his wayfaring ways. And also, lovingly wrapped in the pages--a pausing meditation on dawn.

And boy, do the little fellows love to eat! They rarely ever stop--if not eating, they're talking about eating, or talking about food while eating! I was enamored of the fat, wicker luncheon basket that the Water Rat and Mole share, its contents including, "cold tongue cold ham cold beef pickled gherkins salad french rolls cress sandwidges potted meat ginger beer lemonade soda water..."

We had a few friends over and I served such things as these one entirely civilized afternoon. Perhaps I skipped the tongue and potted meat and watercress but the package of DAK boiled ham, Pillsbury crescent rolls, thinly sliced cucumbers on buttered white bread, bread and butter pickle coins and figgy orange jam stepped in nimbly and rose most admirably! Pink fizzy lemonade, fruity seltzer water and a chilled Chardonnay-Viognier was fine indeed for our gathering.

I also happened to find an absolutely charming copy of The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (pub. 1983) on ebay, with recipes by Arabella Boxer and fine illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. Contents reveal FOOD FOR varying occasions such as "...staying at home...excursions...the storage cupboard..." I found a recipe for Refrigerator Cookies from the latter section while perusing other things such as Snowfalls in Dark Woods, Leafy Summer Lettuce Snacks and Very Easy Flapjacks.

A guideline for Refrigerator Cookies may be found at by clicking here. The recipe is a little different in The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook, which is made instead with 6 TB butter, 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups self-rising flower and a pinch of salt (dispensing with the cinnamon, walnuts, baking soda and cream of tartar called for on

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats..." And eating, apparently! Do enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Guinness Beef Stew with Horseradish Cream


We thought we'd like to make something special for St. Patrick's Day--and after just one bite of this beef stew from the New York Times Cooking app, we knew this is THE stew to do, for always! 

Flavored with Guinness stout, espresso and cocoa powder, the end result is not only delicious, but immensely satisfying. There are a lot of ingredients for sure, but they are all basically tossed into a large pot. The slow oven-braising does all the work to make a truly celebratory dish. 

And hello--Horseradish Cream? 

We also made Jim Lahey's fantatstic No-Knead Bread (recipe here) for dipping, substituting more Guinness stout for the water. It proved to be a great, wildly flavorful bread.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Oven-Braised Guinness Beef Stew with Horseradish Cream
Adapted from Sarah DiGregorio's recipe in the New York Times

Total Time - 3 hours
Yield: 6 servings

3 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed and meat cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, halved (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
2½ cups Guinness or other stout beer
2½ cups beef stock or broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1pound red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 to 1½ pounds root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, rutabaga, celery root and parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
¾ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons jarred horseradish
¼ cup minced scallions or chives

Step 1
Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the beef and 2 tablespoons flour. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high. Working in batches, add the beef and let it brown on two sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add a bit more oil if the meat sticks. (You can brown it on more than two sides if you have time, but browning it on two sides is enough to build flavor and texture.) Transfer the browned beef to a bowl or plate.

Step 2
Make the gravy: Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic, dried shiitakes (if using), tomato paste, brown sugar, cocoa, onion powder, caraway seeds and espresso powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is fragrant and evenly combined, 1 to 2 minutes. (Reduce the heat to low or remove from the heat temporarily if the bottom of the pan threatens to burn.) Add the remaining ⅓ cup flour and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until the mixture forms a thick, dry paste, about 1 minute. Add the beer and stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it boil until smooth and thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Step 3
Add the beef and any juices, thyme, potatoes and root vegetables. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef and vegetables are tender, 2 to 2½ hours.

Step 4
Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper and lemon juice if necessary. (If the stew tastes flat, add more lemon juice first, then more salt and pepper; acid is key to making it taste lively. It may need a surprising amount of salt, especially if you have used unsalted or low-salt stock.) Discard the thyme.

Step 5
Make the horseradish cream: Stir together the sour cream, horseradish and scallions in a small bowl. Season with salt. Serve stew in bowls with a spoonful of the horseradish cream on top.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Gorgonzola Bread

Perhaps one of the most arduous treks in literature, Leopold Bloom’s journey in Ulysses by James Joyce, which roughly follows The Odyssey, takes place only in a single day.

I’m sure you know that sometimes during a long trip, a fella’s gotta eat. In the midst of Bloom’s meanderings through Dublin, loose under the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit,’ he stops in for a quick bite at a pub. 

“A cheese sandwich, then. Gorgonzola, have you?” Bloom asks, humorously paralleling Odysseus’ battle with the Gorgons in The Odyssey.

If only he’d hastened to Hoexters for something more substantial, such as their Gorgonzola Bread, dripping with an absolutely luscious garlic gorgonzola cream bechamel!

Should you not be able to make your own journey to visit Hoexter’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I’ve included a recipe below to try at home. Or follow the recipe here for a simple bechamel and spruce it up with garlic and the pungent cheese that Leopold Bloom craved.

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread

Adapted from


1 loaf French bread

1/3 cup salted butter softened

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese

2 cloves garlic minced

1/2 Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Slice French bread into 8 slices. Lay each slice on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Cream butter and Gorgonzola cheese together in a medium bowl.

Stir in minced garlic and chopped parsley to cheese mixture.

Spread mixture evenly over each French bread slice.

Sprinkle tops with a little Parmesan cheese.

Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. (*Stay and watch the entire time to prevent burning!)

Thanks to Hoexter's for the photo!