My Best Self

A recent rendezvous with an ex got me thinking about my favorite version of myself.  Nothing tawdry.  Totally innocent.  Nothing happened.  Except for the email the next day, ‘Great seeing you.  You look beautiful as always.’

Sorry if you are reading this, Mr. eX and I am divulging too much information, but you made my day.  Not because I had good hair and you noticed.  But because you saw the best version of me and it wasn't about my appearance.  I think everyone has a time in their life they hold on to and want to recapture; or sadly; there are those who still live in the past.  For me, New York was that time in my life.  I was light and carefree; but also sharp, focused and at 20-something, I had the confident naievete to believe that I knew everything.  It was in New York that I realized a little charm and a smile worked to open doors to the hottest clubs as well as a business negotiation.  

Seeing Mr. eX was like digging up a time capsule.  I was light again; carefree and all the baggage since the days of New York to today didn’t exist.  I had something to say…but to my surprise it wasn’t about me, my career, my wild crazy social life and parties.  I was debating the pros and cons of being a locavore vs. organics.  Passionate about….my Meyer lemon tree, the coffee ratio of my compost,  and most importantly, my son and being a mom.  My best self wasn’t a version of Carrie from Sex and the City.  It is me now; on a good day, when I can balance being a mom with a job and find time to spend with family and friends. It's now knowing that what I had held on to as ‘the best version of me’ has actually improved.  That all the headaches of trying to be a decent parent, the heartache of going through a nightmare-ish divorce, the stress of getting some semblance of a career back–that all those extra pounds–have actually made me like myself more.  

On the subject of reliving the past, while in New York, I am staying close to my old stomping ground of Les Halles. (back then, I didn’t know of Anthony Bourdain, but after reading ‘A Cook’s Tour’, and watching his show based on the book; I have an even larger place in my heart–and stomach–for the French Brasserie)  While its not the best steak, I’ve ever had; it is the most consistently delicious overall meal of steak au poivre and frites I’ve ever had.  Its delicious and juicy.  And its the butter.  

Mr. eX reminded me that I cooked some fancy meals back in the day.  I am foggy on those meals we shared, but I do remember spending hours perfecting my own steak au poivre and a cornish hen recipe back then.  I haven't made either since leaving New York over 10 years ago.

Les Halles-style Steak Au Poivre

  • 1 whole shallot (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1 Tablespoons of Olive Oil


  • Coat the steak in coarsely ground pepper and add salt.
  • Heat a pan with a tablespoon of oil + a tablespoon of butter (heat should be high, but not enough to burn the butter).
  • Lower the heat and add the steak
  • Cook for about 4 minutes on each side and take out of the pan.
  • Add chopped shallots and brown for about a minute; add red wine and balsamic vinegar and cook until reduced by half the liquid.
  • Lower the heat, add the dijon mustard and a tablespoon of butter until melted.  Stir together and pour over the steak.

Voila!  A balsamic reduction sauce.

Back then, I didn’t think it could get better than the steak au poivre and frites at Les Halles; Nowadays, I keep things simple, but I have developed a more refined palate.   I have three staple marinades/cooking sauces I use for steak–the cut doesn’t really matter–ribeye or skirt; also works well with chicken or fish for grilling or pan frying.   I’ve  also recently discovered the steak alternative–the Portobello Mushroom, that I have been substituting for the beef–and its been wonderful.

The Chimichurri Marinade

  • 1 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 1/2 limes (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste


The Balsamic Marinade

  • 1 whole shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • a pinch of crushed red chilli pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of Olive Oil


The Asian Marinade

  • 1/2 cup organic wheat free tamari
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 chopped scallion (about 1/8 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger
  • 1/8 cup sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup grape seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


For each of these marinades, I throw the ingredients in my Magic Bullet and blend.  Don't whisk; blend!  Marinate the meat of choice for at least one hour and grill.  Great over fresh field greens or as a main course with a vegetable.

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