As owner-director of the De Gustibus cooking school, located inside Macy’s, Salvatore Rizzo spends every night dining with world-class chefs — including Jacques Pépin, April Bloomfield, and Seamus Mullen, all on the docket for the upcoming season, which begins February 14. Of course, when Rizzo’s not hanging out with world-class chefs at his cooking school, he’s cooking at his home in Chelsea (he prefers Chelsea Market for ingredients: "You pay a little bit more, but you know you’re getting quality), or, this week, getting away from New York and spending a week in and around Paris with his partner. Normally we’d frown on so much non-New York eating, but in the case of foie gras confit in Sancerre and perfect Niçoise olives from the source, we’ll just have to make an exception. Read all the loveliness in this week’s New York (by way of France) Diet.
Friday, January 27
We were in Paris, my partner and I. That day he surprised me: We drove to this Relais & Châteaux in the Loire Valley near the town of Sancerre called the Auberge de Templiers. So we left the city of Paris and stopped midway at an Autogrill; I just love eating at Autogrills. An Autogrill is basically a rest stop: You can buy these sandwiches, pizzas, whatever dishes they have. Usually it’s just grab-and-go sandwiches, but I had a baguette with jamon and fromage, and we just ate it in the car with a nice bottle of Evian and a quick coffee.
When we got to the property, it was just stunning. It looked like the Hansel and Gretel house. We had dinner at the restaurant; it was just a stellar, stellar meal. The restaurant has a Japanese chef who solely works on the fish, and a French chef. They had the best olives I’ve ever tasted. They were Niçoise olives and they were just meaty and delicious. We started with a glass of Billecart-Salmon rosé champagne and then had a bottle of Sancerre.
And then the amuse was this beautiful cured fish with almost a chevre, with beautiful chives and potatoes. We had a confit of foie gras with green pepper; then we went to the fish course, which was a rouget with fennel and lemon. A stunning plate. This guy is a master of fish. Then the main course was a beautiful duck plate with confit and breast. And then a soufflé. I was so excited: I haven’t had a soufflé in years. Then they did a cheese service for us.
Saturday, January 28
Saturday morning, we woke up and had breakfast on the property. I just had yogurt and granola. First off, I love the yogurt in Europe — they serve it in glass bottles. Café au lait, because I can’t get enough coffee. Then there was this cheese cart and this saucisson — I just had to eat it. And they had something there that was really cool; I didn’t have it but my partner did. They have this machine that looks like a deep-fryer. They keep it on a constant boiling temperature and you put your egg in this little basket and put on the timer. It’s like the same principle as sous vide, it’s a constant water temperature.
Then for lunch, we left the property and we drove up to the town of Sancerre. It looked like this beautiful medieval town, overlooking the valley. We had an appointment to visit the Chateau de Sancerre from the family that makes Grand Marnier. We found this little restaurant — it was the quintessential French restaurant. They had eclectic old-time photos, wooden baskets, this great bar. We went early and we said, we’ll just eat again — there’s nothing to do in the town. We had this dish that’s homemade sausage over a purée of potatoes, but the potatoes had a goat-cheese chevre. And a glass of Sancerre rouge. It was really light, really lovely. And then we walked over to our appointment at the chateau. We had a tasting of their wines.
On Saturday night, I said let’s go back and enjoy; we had this beautiful room with a fireplace. We stopped in this little town, we went to a store and picked up a beautiful pork pâté, a nice, round, hardened goat cheese, a baguette, a bottle of Sancerre. We just sat and noshed on food and enjoyed the room.
Sunday, January 29
Sunday was my birthday and we were going back to Paris, so we had breakfast on the property again. They had this homemade orange pound cake. So I had that with café au lait. And I had a croissant — because you have to.
We arrived in the city and we went for brunch on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. We went to have a Parisien brunch. I had this beautiful omelet, and it came with salad and pommes frites. Because it was our last day in Paris, all we did was walk, we went to Notre Dame — I like to stop by every time we go. At about 5 p.m. we decided we wanted a crêpe. So we had a crêpe on the Place des Vosges, with fresh mint tea.
Then at night, my birthday dinner. We met Wendy Lyn. Wendy Lyn is a Southern woman who moved to Paris and does these insider Paris tours. She got us this reservation for a restaurant called Fish. It was stunning. We sat down and had a bottle of Sancerre rosé — obviously you can see the theme there. It was a prix fixe. I started with this delicious lentil salad in a mustard vinaigrette, for my entrée I had a dorade over assorted mushrooms, beautiful little tiny cremini, whole mushrooms, but tiny and delicious. And then, what they’re famous for is this citron tart. It looks like a lemon or key lime tart, but it’s not as tart; it was delicious.
Monday, January 30
Uck, plane. We woke up. I did not have coffee until I got to the airport. I bought a baguette with jamon and fromage, I said I’m not eating their food. I was supposed to be in business class and they bumped me down. Sure enough, it was some god-awful chicken dish over mushy beans. We were on Continental.
So needless to say, I was starving when I got home. About a month ago, I had made fresh lentil soup from a ham hock we had Christmas day. So I made it before and I had frozen it. I just had this lentil soup with good olive oil. I like to use Frantoia olive oil, it’s Sicilian.
Tuesday, January 31
Yesterday, I had my Peet’s Coffee. Every morning I have my two cups. I’m just a coffee fiend. We went to San Francisco about a month ago and we discovered Peet’s Coffee. They send two pounds a month — I’m what’s called a "Peetnik." Every morning I grind my beans and make my coffee; I have my two cups and I’m happy. Decided I wanted an English muffin with peanut butter and jelly. And I had an apple and a banana. In this business and with the school, there’s so much food, I could eat five or six times a day.
I wanted to go a little light after the past week. You know the mustard Maille? Well, they have a store in Paris that’s the Maille shop and they have these pumps where people come in and fill up their crocks. So for lunch, I made this beautiful mustard vinaigrette and had a romaine salad with olives.
And then for dinner — so, every year right after Thanksgiving, I make this turkey soup with turkey-ricotta meatballs and I freeze it. I had that with a little pasta and some grated Pecorino romano on top. I’ve been big on soup the last couple of days.
Wednesday, February 1
I woke up and I was craving a bagel and cream cheese. I usually go to Murray’s but Brooklyn Bagel in Chelsea is good, too. I usually like whole wheat or whole-wheat everything. Plain cream cheese, but I love lox. With lemon juice, capers, and tomato. I don’t like the onion. I like the saltiness, and I love my capers.
I had my Peet’s coffee. I have my breakfast at work when I come to the school. The night before I had said I wanted something with Swiss chard. So I made a soup. I had bought these dried cannellini beans in Italy the summer before and I rehydrated them and made a soup with the chard. I had that for lunch.
For dinner, I actually defrosted some sausage I had bought. I made what I called my signature pasta, which is fusilli with fennel and spicy sausage. A little fennel seed, a little garlic, a little olive oil. It’s a no-brainer for me, I’ve made it for so long for so many people. And a glass of wine from a bottle of Brunello de Montecillo that someone gave me.