Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lunch at Peter Luger's

Since my teens when I had my first food epiphany at a little trattoria off Lake Como, I’ve been getting my food inspiration from Europe. Is it just that everything somehow tastes better in Italy, France and Spain, or is the experience of eating there really so superior?

This past weekend one of my food mentors, Monique DuVeau, the editor/stylist for Cote Sud and Cote Ouest, two great European magazines, was in New York with her partner Jose Esteves for José’s exhibition of lighting at Interieurs in Tribeca. Monique and José divide their time between Paris and Normandy and they both have more style in their little fingers than anyone I know. Best of all, they are not snobs. I was trying to think of an interesting place to take them for lunch since they are always introducing me to great restaurants in Paris. My editor, who was joining us, suggested going to Peter Luger’s, the famous steak house in Williamsburg Brooklyn. What a brilliant idea it was.

Williamsburg is great for Europeans who often don’t get to see that part of New York. When we arrived in the neighborhood, José was thrilled by the Williamsburg bridge. Bridges are his passion and he spent some time photographing this handsome example.

As soon as we sat down for lunch, we were given a gravy boat of Peter Luger’s famous steak sauce causing Monique to exclaim, “I’m having this with everything!” I reassured her by telling her she would be able to buy a bottle or two to go. Knowing that she could take the experience home settled her down. I’m like that in Paris: when I discover something I love, I am already thinking about how I can fit it into my suitcase.

My editor has a tradition at Peter Luger’s: she starts off with a thick slice of crisp grilled bacon and a Grey Goose martini. I was dubious about this but game. Monique and Jose were up for the full Luger experience whatever it turned out to be even though they thought they were getting a vermouth aperitif (as in Martini and Rossi), not a high octane vodka concoction. They had never had a martini before! I’m not much of a martini drinker either, especially at lunch, but a sip of mine with the bacon was an incredible revelation. Somehow the warm thick succulent slab of bacon was perfect with the ice cold martini which washed down the fat. For any serious pork lover this duo is a culinary wonder.

We then had the steak for four. My editor remarked that Peter Luger’s is actually our L’Ami Louis, the famous Paris bistro that serves cote de boeuf. And then I got it: All these years I’ve been chasing great experiences in Europe, while my friends from there are looking for the same experience here. We also ordered onion rings, fries, and baked potato all of which were exceptional. I chose a California wine to complete the American experience--the 2004 Ridge Geyserville which went really well with the food.

For dessert Monique had the cheesecake, something she loves but will only order in New York. I chose the Holy Cow, a hot fudge sundae topped with a cherry and a chocolate dipped wafer shaped like a cow. When it arrived, Monique looked at it in its tall sundae glass and exclaimed, “ I must tell Pierre Herme of this!” Pierre Herme is the most celebrated pastry chef in all of Paris. The fact that Monique saw something new an exciting in this old standard is part of her genius; she made me see it afresh too. She will no doubt inspire Pierre Herme to make his own sublime version.

What made this lunch so memorable was the way that real food people, no matter where they come from, recognize a great food experience no matter where they find it. It is not about star ratings; it’s about finding and loving the real thing. Peter Luger’s is our real thing.

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
718 387 7400


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