One of my favorite restaurants in New York in the 1990’s was Montrachet, a three-star restaurant in Tribeca known for its innovative, Provence-inspired cuisine. Not only were the food and ambience amazing, but it had the distinction of having a woman chef at its helm, unusual for a French restaurant. Debra Ponzek was a pioneer, and happily, her cooking gained the praise of customers as well as
critics. Her food was intensely flavored and simply presented – no gimmicks, just well perfectly prepared Meditterranean dishes such as her coq au Riesling (a twist on coq au vin).
I was the editor of Chocolatier magazine back then, and we named her pastry chef, David Blom, one of the Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America, so I got to
meet Debra and see her in action in that small, hot Montrachet kitchen. She was unruffled. Eventually she moved on – got married, moved to Connecticut and opened Aux Delices, gourmet food shops in three locations in Connecticut. Here Debra offers delicious food including main courses (Pork Scallopini with apple raisin chutney), salads (Bloody Mary Tomato Salad), sandwiches and tea
sandwiches and, of course, dessert. They also offer cooking classes and catering. If you live anywhere near Greenwich, you know all about Aux Delices – Debra’s food is simple and inspiring.
And now she’s just released a cookbook, written with Mary Goodbody, The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook: Delicious, Inspiring Meals for Busy Families (Running Press, 2013; $22). The recipes are for the same kind of food you’ll find
at Aux Delices, things like Charred Pepper, Tomato and Sourdough Bread Salad, Roasted Cod with Bacon and Leeks, Chicken Paillard with Nectarine Chutney and Baked Wild Mushroom Risotto (I’m getting hungry here). There aren’t a lot of dessert recipes in the book (the busy family doesn’t always have time for sweets), but she does have a few favorites, like Apple Bars, Chocolate Marshmallow Pudding, Coconut and Lime Cream Pie and Chocolate Espresso Bars, which are really espresso-flavored brownies. I chose these because I was craving a good brownie, and I’m always curious to try new brownie recipes. Debra’s version is indulgent and rich with a strong hit of espresso flavor to round out the intensity of the chocolate. I cut them into squares, wrapped them individually and frozen them so that I could enjoy them whenever I got the urge. Looking forward to trying lots more recipes – sweet and savory – in this book by one of my favorite chefs.