Neil’s Birthday Menu, Nostalgic Food and the Influence of Ilse

IMG_2986May is a big month at our house.  May 23rd is our Anniversary, this year we celebrated 27 years together.  The 29th is my hubby Neil’s birthday, this year he is away for it in Brisbane Australia. He left on Monday so Sunday night we had a very quiet dinner together with our friend Debby.

This was also a significant month because a very dear old friend of ours passed away, Ilse von Glatz, who was a great influence on me in many ways, but especially when it came to cooking.  Ilse had many careers, her first one was as a chef, she studied at (I think I have this right) Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  Of course by the time I met her she had already moved on from cooking to career number 2: the theater (and she was still in her twenties!).  Even though she was no longer wanting to make a living from it she was an amazing cook.

The first time she ever made anything for me was at her apartment with her then boyfriend, my good friend Cliff.  I’ll never forget what she made for dessert that night: a Lemon Mousse that was so over the top rich and luscious that struck the perfect balance between sweet and tart.  I’m doing some research into Lemon Mousse and I am hoping to find the recipe she used and will share with you here when I do.

The other Ilse dish was something she got me the recipe for (from, I think, her Le Cordon Bleu cookbook) was a rabbit stew.  The cut up rabbit pieces were marinated overnight in a bottle of Pinot des Charentes and prunes. Then slowly cooked the next day with aromatics resulting in a sweet savory stew with melt in your mouth rabbit meat on the bone.  That must have been over 30 years ago and I can still remember it like I ate it yesterday.

Thinking about Ilse and my early days with Neil made me nostalgic and reminded me of my favorite fancy dessert I used to make all the time back then: Fresh Fruit Tart.  A brilliant combination of flaky sweet pastry, baked till golden brown, then coated in melted chocolate, filled with pastry cream and topped with berries.  Even though it went against my locavore nature I bought some out of season organic berries and made this special dessert to celebrate the love of my life on his birthday and remember one of my earliest cooking influences and dearest friends whose joie de vivre inspired all she met.  She may have left us, but the time she spent in my life made an indelible impression, her memory, her talent in the kitchen and her unbridled passion for sharing good food will remain with me for ever. IMG_2975






About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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3 Responses to Neil’s Birthday Menu, Nostalgic Food and the Influence of Ilse

  1. Leslie-Anne says:

    Lovely post. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. Pingback: Ilse’s Lemon Mousse with Local Strawberries | Urbanfoodguy

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