The Birthday; A Delight At Any Age

Marianne candies

The invitation to the birthday party

Touring Hungary, several years ago, I had to laugh as we passed Lake Balaton. Even being used to flowery Hungarian exaggerations, the fact that Hungary is a landlocked nation, and that Lake Balaton is the largest lake in central Europe, Balaton, didn’t seem to be “the great inland sea” that I had always heard it called. What passed as Hungary’s “ocean” just seemed like myriads of lakes in New York or Ontario 

What tragedy, and good fortune, had Marianne flee Hungary across the Atlantic and be welcomed into the mouth of the Hudson River? She first settled by the shores of the brackish Hudson in Manhattan  and now, next to the Atlantic in Palm Beach. A woman, who as a child, never even saw a body of  salt water, now wakes  up each morning to the sound of the waves of the ocean at her apartment in Palm Beach, Florida. 

It was there, in Florida, sitting on her balcony that the plans were hatched to celebrate her upcoming birthday of a “certain age.” Other than the guest list, of her closest relatives and friends, my Mother would have no inkling of what was to come. I picked the sea horse theme because of her fascination with these piscatorial equestrian creatures and is a symbol of her favorite vacation, a Crystal Cruise.  

Fort Tryon Park ,the entrance to New Leaf Cafe on a rainy November night

On a rainy November night, she was surprised to arrive at an enchanting carriage house perched over the Hudson, in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, As she opened the pocket doors, she was delighted by a warm vista of sea horses and smiling faces. Main among them the co host, my brother Rony, and Carla, who helped so much with getting supplies and putting the cake back together after its long trip from Toronto, and all four grandchildren.  

Centerpiece of coral reef made of Romanesque, kale, cauliflower and sea horses on a vintage sea horse bird bath



Centerpieces with seahorses




The birthday, a delight at any age

We feasted on the restaurant’s extraordinary food. I had the 5 spice duck. when I requested the recipe, the chef , Scott Campbell one upped himself and gave me a recipe for 6 spice duck! 

Cocoa Spiced Duck Breast With Local Baby Turnips In a Piquant Valrhona Chocolate Jus 

4                   Duck Steak (Filet)
To Taste       Chili-Cocoa 6 Spice                                                                                     
To Taste         Sea Salt, Maldon
To Taste         Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
2 – Ounces    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 – Ounces    Sliced Onions
16 – Ounces  Chicken Or Duck Stock
2 – Ounces    Veal Or Beef Essence
2                      Bay Leaves, Fresh
6 Branches   Thyme, of
1 Bunch         Cilantro Sprigs, of
1-Teaspoon   Chipotle In Adobo
4 – Ounces    Sweet Butter
2 – Ounces    Valrhona Chocolate 72% Guanaja
8 – Ounces    Miniature Turnips, Peeled
8 – Ounces      Miniature Thumbelina Carrots, Peeled
8 – Ounces    Celery Root Cubes – Peeled
8 – Ounces    Butternut Squash Cubes – Peeled 

4 – Ounces    Frizzled Tortillas
1 -Teaspoon Coriander Seeds
1 – Ounce      Micro Purple Shiso
1 – Ounce      Pumpkin Seeds 

Heat one ounce of olive oil and one ounce of butter in a medium saucepot, when butter starts to bubble and then dissipate add onions and cook at a medium heat. Sauté the onion for a long period until the onions become a dark brown, about 30 or so minutes until the look like what’s called tobacco onions, (if necessary lower heat). 

Add one ounce of chili-cocoa 6 spice and sauté with the onions and if necessary add more olive oil if to dry and sauté the spices with the onions for about 1 to 2 minutes more. 

Add duck stock, veal essence, bay leaf, thyme and cilantro sprigs. Simmer jus for 30 to 45 minutes strain mixture through a chinoise, add chipolte in adobo, and grate Valrhona chocolate with a rasper and wisk in and butter to jus and season with salt and pepper, set aside.  

Season duck steak with chili-cocoa 6 spice and seasonings, in the meantime heat a large sauté pan to medium high heat, when hot add seasoned duck steaks to pan skin side down and render fat about 7 – 12 minutes basting with duck fat intermittently until skin is crisp. Turn over the steaks to lightly cook the other side, for a minute. Let duck rest for 5 minutes and trim ends off and cut into to medallions.  

Blanch vegetables in salted water until cooked to desired texture, toss in sweet butter, season and disperse equally in four bowls. Add jus to bowls, duck medallions and garnish with frizzled tortillas, coriander seeds, shiso, and pumpkin seeds. Lightly grate Valrhona chocolate over the duck to complete the dish. 



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