It was to be a simple Sunday night dinner among old friends. Hamburgers would star. But, when it was over last night, what lingered was the sweet taste - or bitter lack of - Secret Sauce.
Ruth Reichl, in warm Los Angeles with her husband Michael Singer for their annual "Escape from Cold New York" trip, had invited Nancy Silverton and four others over to try what she considered the best hamburger meat in the land, the aged ground beef of Debragga, a New York butcher.
Nancy brought along two bottles or red wine, a half-pound of Swiss Challerhocker cheese, a dozen buns and her own "secret sauce" which she had lovingly made in her kitchen two hours earlier.
What a match this was to be. The Nancy's secret sauce with Ruth's favorite hamburger meat.
But, as the group of seven sat to indulge, Reichl refused to apply the sauce to her burger. "This meat doesn't need anybody's secret sauce."
Silverton said nothing, but instead made a production of lavishing the sauce onto her patty. She then began chatting up her left-side dining table neighbor, film critic Robert Abele, on the wonders of this sauce. As Silverton raved on, she kicked her driver, Juan Fangio Krikorian, and nodded over at Ruth. "Miss Writer too good for secret sauce?"
Adding insult, Reichl refused to add the cheese Silverton had brought to her burger and then proclaimed the buns "a tad sweet'.
Tension rose and knots formed on Silverton's upper back like muscles on Dr. Bruce Banner when he turns into the Hulk. Krikorian rubbed her back that was, by then, as soft as the Dawn Wall of El Capitan.
Seeking to avoid an out-and-out confrontation at the dining table, Reichl's husband Singer sought to engage diners in table conversation that swerved like Nike Lauda at the Nurburgring: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; Eric Snowden, Dante's Barbershop on 3rd Street ( two blocks east of Western), his cats, hospitals in New York, his love of Pizzeria Mozza and the chef there, Liz "Go Go" Hong.
But, it was too late. The feud, which began last year ( see; http://krikorianwrites.com/blog/2014/3/4/silverton-gets-tired-of-reichl-tells-her-to-leave-van-ness-palace ) was deep into percolation. Silverton resorted to one of her classic moves to lull an opponent; she feigned tiredness and closed her eyes, her version of Ali's Rope-a Dope. Reichl was more to the point. She told Krikorian "Take her home."
As Silverton was leaving, Reichl asked "Would you like to take your secret sauce back home?"
"No, Ruth," Silverton said as she walked out. "I made it for you."
By the next day, Go Go Hong was transferred out of the pizzeria.
To try the meat, check out - http://www.debragga.com/proddetail.asp?prod=dry-aged-ground-beef&cat=56
To try the secret sauce ask Ruth for the leftovers, though sources say she may have tossed it. Otherwise, wait for Nancy's next cookbook, tentatively titled "Mozza At Home".
.To Secret Sauce or not to Secret Sauce