mont blanc meisterstuck pens Food for Christmas leaves the memory of something superlative
Christmas is a time for the unexpected, gifts so luxurious or experiences so memorable that they will brighten the bleaker winter months to come. Utilitarian presents Filofaxes, umbrellas, wool sweaters and Mont Blanc pens are too easily left behind, either literally on the bus or symbolically in the hustle and bustle of our lives. A beautiful tin filled with homemade cards or chocolates or an inexpensive but intriguing token from an exotic trip is infinitely preferable than a costly gadget bought en masse, with diffidence and haste.
But in my book, there is nothing like food, glorious food, to celebrate life and bring pleasure.
When the bottle was nearly empty, I invited friends over for breakfast. We listened to Billie Holliday and drank mimosas as I prepared the food: toasted brioche and scrambled eggs with truffle oil. It was exquisite.
I know one man who uses it only with freshly popped corn and this sounds like the most gorgeous thing in the whole wild world.
This year I will give someone this combination of popcorn and oil, the perfect blend of the ordinary and the sublime. Fingers crossed, the next time a video is rented, this person will think to invite me over. I might even bribe the local video store guy to tip me off.
What it is about this potent concoction that is so satisfying? I always have a bottle on hand and every so often I break into it maybe due to a hard day at work or one of life’s million little heartaches or disappointments.
I will kick off my shoes and allow the pleasure of the ritual to envelop me: the small glass, the small slug of the amber liquid, the splash of water, that first bracing sip that warms the throat, soothes the belly, frees the mind.
It’s a solitary drink that invites ponderous thought or the healing of heartbreak, acting as both a bridge and a balm. To give a bottle of Macallan or Talisker to a Scotch lover is pampering and supportive, the equivalent of a caressing hug. It’s also about 10 billion times cooler than an electric tie rack or battery operated nail polish dryer.
During a recent drizzly week, I called up an amie and told her to meet me for a surprise. We took a cab and headed to Ibusu in Japantown. We sat at the counter of this tiny sushi place and watched the little pristine trays of impeccable sushi sail by. It was completely mesmerizing, not unlike watching a luggage carousel at the airport but a helluva lot more fun.
We laughed and drank our tiny pitchers of sake and enjoyed tray after tray of the delicacies that floated past our ravenous eyes. Barbecued eel will the next one look even better, bigger? After that, should we go for the glistening tuna or the mysterious salmon roe?
We flirted like schoolgirls with strangers at the circular counter, batting eyelashes and occasionally asking one to grab a beautiful squidy looking thing or intriguing egg topped creation that had just mysteriously eluded our grasp.
For Christmas this year I will take some other friend out for an experience such as this, perhaps with a funky arty film at the Kabuki afterward. Heck, I’ll even throw in the licorice whips! Big time fun!
There is nothing like taking the time out on a cold morning to make a vrai cafe au lait in an Apilco (or Babar) bowl and then gently warming up a real pain au chocolat. The chocolate inside should be plentiful, the pastry as flaky as the noblest croissant, and the milk duly warmed.
Nibble on the edges of the pastry and savor the oozing warmth of the bitter chocolate. (I think that Patisserie Delanghe on Fillmore Street makes one of the best in The City.)
This is one of my all time favorite eating experiences and this year someone is going to get a certificate / invitation to my house for this breakfast. When my guest’s limbs are totally woozy with pleasure, I am going to reveal that I’ve bookedan appointment with a masseuse. I will provide cab fare and advise my friend that if all this relaxation does not revert him / her to some kind of baser life form, to give me a call. Callebaut, take me away!
I once introduced a young man from the South to caviar. It was from the world’s most prestigious caviar house, and it was delightful to watch his eyes go from puzzlement to wonder and then finally eye rolling ecstasy. Whether a gift of caviar is for the uninitiated or the loving fan, it is something that will undoubtedly never be forgotten.
I was staying once at a beautiful hotel, having met up with a boyfriend after some absence, and in the morning we decided to order room service. He asked me what I wanted and I said champagne and dry toast. Luckily he was indulgent and did not question my odd order.
After the table was rolled into our room, I asked him to find a blue package in my purse. Mystified, he retrieved the package and unwrapped it. Between two still cold ice packs he found a 50 gram jar of Petrossian ossetra caviar. We drank our Krug champagne and nibbled on our toast points and it was probably the most memorable breakfast of my entire life. The caviar was drop dead gorgeous and the sharing of this mysterious treat a delight.
This year I will probably buy a small jar and a split of Veuve Cliquot for a good friend, with the strict instructions to eat alone by candlelight, for nothing is quite as luxurious or wholly restorative as solo caviar dining. Heck, maybe that is what I’ll be giving myself this year!
(Petrossian caviar is available at the Neiman Marcus Epicure shop and from other gourmet food purveyors.)
And for those who rebel against the notion of food gifts with the spurious reasoning that food doesn’t last, I ask, what does? Cashmere can stain and wallets can be pickpocketed, but the memory of a week long Norwegian smoked salmon orgy will always remain. Personal Taste is a weekly column exploring local food sources, cooking and restaurants, with an emphasis on healthful eating, good value and simplifying. Jan. 8: Mia Amato on creating the quintessential American kitchen garden.