When I was a little girl, every year on my birthday my mother planned an overnight birthday celebration in New York City; a fancy dinner, a night at the theater or ballet and a sleepover at The Plaza Hotel. I honestly believe it's what started my love affair with cooking and food. I can, quite literally, remember every single birthday dinner meal. Every course tasted. I’m like the rain man of birthday dinners past.
Shiny new black patent Mary Janes curled up on the banquette of the Pool Room of the old Four Seasons, my first taste of Dover sole at Le Caravelle, and the soft mouthful of handmade capellini at Il Mulino. I can remember whispering to my father after tasting it, “Daddy, this actually might be real angel’s hair.”
I wasn’t a terribly adventurous eater as a child and my mother, tiny and birdlike, was never particularly excited by food like I am, but always she chose the best restaurants to expose me to and her excitement over the experience was infectious. She wasn’t a big drinker, but she always gracefully held a Kir Royale champagne flute at dinner parties and special occasions, the sparkling gem colored liquid catching the light like jewelry at the end of her wrist.
A ladylike lunch with my mother was a treat. And before meeting up with my father for the evening festivities, there was always lunch with my mother at Bergdorf Goodman.
How you get a child to dive into a bowl of sweet pea soup, I have no idea. But she did, and I dove, and it has forever changed me.
So much so that when I taste it now, I can smell her perfume, I can see her tilt her little blonde head subtly in one direction urging me to check out some of the best people watching in Manhattan. I can remember her lean across the table whispering to me in her soft southern drawl, “Julianne, listen to me. Do you see that woman across the room? The one in the trench coat and the big dark glasses, my love. Look at her and never ever forget that you saw her. Never forget and never forget that I was the one who showed you.” Jackie O. And I never forgot that moment with my mother. That same pea soup is still on the menu at Bergdorf Goodman, brilliant green, velvety and whispering of spring.
It’s light yet earthy and the perfect soup to move us from winter into the warmer months. It will be a gorgeous addition to your Passover seder, Easter brunch, or any spring time meal.
And while there are sadly no more birthday lunches with little Ina, it's truly amazing how a simple bowl of brilliant green soup can usher her back into the room.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound package of frozen peas
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
3. Add in garlic to simmering broth.
4. Place the peas and mint in a blender
5. Add the hot broth mixture. (Because hot liquids expand when blended, hold the lid firmly in place with a kitchen towel before blending.) Blend until smooth.
6. Return to saucepan to heat through, if necessary.
7. Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from the Bergdorf Goodman Cookbook
P.S. While at Bergdorf’s I picked up my favorite new pale pink lippy… Charlotte Tilbury’s Ibiza Nights (click here to shop).