Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Caviar and Martinis

I bought a copy of Escoffier, the bible of grand old French cooking, on my first trip to New York, in 1973, which was also the first time I ate at a French restaurant. I remember wondering why so many recipes were Russian--until I learned how many great French chefs cooked for Russian royals. Of course they brought back buffet favorites, the grandest of course was caviar.

J likes caviar for her birthday, which was last week. And it is of course very fast. As she is not finicky about her caviar (nor am I), we like whitefish roe from the state to the north of us. I like it as simple as possible, almost. Just some sour cream, chopped shallots or scallions, and chopped egg (another reason why Edouard is so right about having one or two always boiled and ready). We sat around the coffee table and put a bit of each on a cracker, as a way to make the Martinis special.

J likes a Martini most every evening, which is neither Russian or French, but thoroughly American. Cocktail culture began in New Orleans. The Martini was invented in the Bay Area. And come to think of it, the Martini combines Russian vodka with French vermouth. We just discovered Noilly Prat, the queen of all vermouths. (T. S. Eliot had a cat named after it.) We are anxious (in a bad way) to taste the reformulated product, which the cocktail critic J reads (Wall Street Journal Weekend) says is much inferior to the recipe in use for Noilly Prat in the U.S. market for decades. It will be a while before we find out, as a bottle lasts a very long time at a teaspoon a day.

J said she enjoyed her birthday. And as we drank, we reminisced about happening onto the Russian Tea Room by Carnegie Hall and having, for us, a record $16 Martini, surpassing our record from 07 set at the Algonquin. I looked on the Tea Room's web site and noticed there are some amazing specials. J said we need to get back to New York while there is still a financial crisis.

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