I was invited to lunch at Ralph’s on Thursday, kawan kawan. It was really Erica J’s idea and she organised a ladies luncheon for a bevy of 9 beauties in the courtyard of Le restaurant Ralph Lauren. Rather, it was really a bevy of 10 beauties, if I count little Sara J who was fast asleep in her poussette so her mama could eat. Now, that is a well trained baby! Hmm, this makes me wonder what I did wrong as a mom when my girls were little. SS is too old now (she’s 13 going on 14) for me to remember what she did when she was 10 months old at lunch hour when we were out and about. I have lost plenty of brain cells since having 2 children. RN was mon pire cauchmar! She was a nightmare to take out because not only would she require lots of attention (I mean 110 %), she would not sit in her poussette and let me get on with my meal. I would be juggling baby in one arm and trying to cut up my meat with a fork in the other hand. Not an easy feat, let me tell ya! It came to a point when the Italian had to cut my meat up for me so that I could juggle baby in one arm and stab said meat with the fork in the other hand. It was fine when RN was a little baby and asleep or feeding at my boobs most of the time while I ate. I figured she had to eat too so what better than direct transfusion of vitamins and minerals from my mouth to the breast milk and to her. Things got hairy when she started to be more active and required even more attention. It was then that I really had to juggle or rather jiggle her up and down with one arm and still try to feed myself with the one free hand I had.
I had to play this role of one-arm bandit for some time until RN learnt to sit in her highchair and play with the pieces of meat or veg we threw at her. It was such a relief to be able to eat normally again – with two hands. During those one-arm-bandit days, I learnt to fully appreciate the fact that I have two healthy limbs on my upper body and their functions. Imagine trying to change nappies with only one hand?
Anyway, I digress…..Excusez-moi!
Back to lunching at Ralph’s. We were all so excited, especially me! I’ve never dined at Ralph’s before although I’ve heard so much about it. Being unprecedentedly warm for November, we were able to dine al fresco. This is not something I would do usually in November. Je préfère être à l’intérieur at this time of the year. So I positioned myself under the heat lamp next to Christine B. I figured and hedged my bets that between the sunny and warm personality of Christine B and the heat lamp, I would be cosy and all warmed up.
We perused the menu between sips of red wine (Californian) and munchies of nuts and fried olives. Now, these wine nuts and olives do top all wine nuts and olives. The nuts which consisted of a mixture of walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts and hazelnuts, I seem to remember, were roasted in olive oil and rosemary, served warm and garnished with salt crystals. They were truly deeee-licious! I heard that the Barefoot Contessa has a recipe for this. I will have to check it out.
It was a reasonably well selected menu with a variety of choices from starters to desserts. The beef is airflown from America, apparently from Ralph’s own ranch. I was very tempted by the steak and frites American style but the prices held me back. 60€ for a steak is just way too much to pay. I just couldn’t justify the cost. I mean, what would the Italian say to that? To him, les vaches are les vaches, whether they graze on grass in Ralph’s ranch in America or l’herbe in La Belle France! As a compromise, I had the cheese burger instead which was good but not great! I’m glad I didn’t order the steak then.
But I really want to tell you about 2 starters that caused a ripple of delight in my stomach. Firstly, the shrimps with Montauk sauce.
I had to ask what Montauk sauce was, of course. It was really a simple tomato base sauce, kind of a cross between ketchup and barbecue sauce. I know the Americans are as famous for their sauces as the French and personally I like cocktail and thousand island sauces.
What wowed me were the prawns (as we call them in England and Singapore). The shrimps that Americans refer to are really not shrimps as I know them to be. Shrimps are tiny little prawns whereas prawns are huge shrimps. That’s when things get lost in translation here and we are both speaking English…..nevermind when you have to translate shrimps into crevettes and prawns into gambas….and at the end of the day, it is all a matter of size. Where was I again?
Right, shrimp cocktail with Montauk sauce. The shrimps were truly mums! They were cooked just right, therefore firm and crunchy and served chilled on a bed of crushed ice. They went very well with the Montauk. They were such large shrimps that after 3 of them, I was actually rather full. Then again, I had plenty of delicious rosemary infused nuts and fried olives before.
Christine B shared the Sante Fe soup with her friend who was visiting from America. Now, this soup is simply out of this world. What was even more amazing was that in a truly American restaurant, the concept of sharing is very well understood. The waiter served this bowl of soup portioned out in 2 small bowls, one for Christine B and the other for her friend. (The said waiter must be American trained!) I was that impressed that I forgot to take a picture of it. Actually, I was that impressed that I was even thinking that these American visitors had better not get used to this. It ain’t gonna happen in a French bistro, I betchya!
So, on the record, and I have proclaimed, if you ever want to share a bowl of soup properly, go to Ralph’s. No such thing as passing over the bowl with the last few spoonfuls to your friend when it’s her turn. It is proper sharing here with the soup portioned out in two separate bowls. There, I know you get it now…. I had to reiterate this for my own sake! The same thing works for the burger too….. half a burger each, properly served in two separate plates….
Katie K had the Sante Fe soup too. I had asked if she wanted to share it with me but I guess she thought that it involved passing over the plate after a few spoonfuls and considered it too cumbersome to do so. She had her own! Katie, although being American and after having lived in Paris for the past year, had simply forgotten what service really is. I bet she was just as wowed by the separate soup bowls as I was. Here’s her soup:
The Sante Fe soup is really a bean soup made from black beans, red and pinto beans. There are several versions of this soup but the main ingredients are these black beans that one can only find in America. The original recipe (or those that I’ve researched anyway) has ground beef in. I guess, the vegetarians can remove that. Ralph’s version of this New Mexican dish is served with a ball of avocado stuffed with cheddar cheese in its hollow in a base of chopped tomatoes and olive oil. I really loved this soup. Christine B was kind enough to let me have more than 3 spoonfuls and Katie K kindly took a picture of her version.
I’ll be making this soup, kawan kawan in the near future. If I can’t find black beans (and they are not black eyed beans either) I may have to find me a substitute. Kawan kawan, do any of you know what beans I can substitute for the black ones?
173 Boulevard Saint-Germain
01 44 77 76 00