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 LaNovakThe Red PursePg.
 Musings on Love…Ducasse, Vongerichten, Gras, Portay,Palmer, Keller, Mina and those fabulous Maccioni boys…
Laura Novak 
 LaNovakThe Red PursePg.
t all began with
The Red Purse
 - the exquisite leather one my husband spent princelysum on in the Kingdom of Dubai where he was designing several kitchens for Arabroyalty. We were married only four years when he returned from that trip with a largeshopping bag as I awaited him at the San Francisco airport on Valentine’s Day, clothedonly in a black trench coat, thigh-high stockings and red suede heels fastened with anankle strap.The sunroof down, we sped through the mist of the Golden Gate to the glow of Tiburonwhere we scored a table at Sam’s on the dock. I stroked the blood red shoulder bag indownward motions, following the vertical grain of its finest leather with my corvette rednail. I fondled the tiny bell-shaped case that dangled from the strap. Hidden inside was atiny brass key to unlock the ceremonious and fanciful lock. The mysteries were onlyabout to unfold.“I wanna have a baby,” I purred, leaning over the appetizers, lifting one leg ClaudetteColbert-style behind me.“Holy guacamole!” was Mark’s response, quickly followed by, “but what about that freecompanion ticket on British Air?”
e were nobody’s, you see, a couple of bohemian Californian’s with East Coastpedigrees shrugged off in the name of a more casual lifestyle. We were, however,nobodies who dined with Arab princes at private clubs in London and who ate with AlainDucasse in the fishbowl at the Louis XV in Monte Carlo. That trip coincided with myfemale hormones running at full throttle shortly before Max was conceived. From theprivate dining room, I had a panoramic view of Laurent Gras who was then Ducasse’ssous chef before his meteoric rise in New York and San Francisco. A bouquet of pardonez-moi’s to the distinguished Ducasse, but I found Gras irresistibly handsome. He
 LaNovakThe Red PursePg.
was a man in uniform, sharp and in control. We exchanged a few smiles and glancesthrough the glass while Mark and Alain chatted in a kitchen French that could makeAnthony Bourdain blush. The lesser cooks yelled “Oui chef!” to Gras’ firm orders and Iwas smitten. My husband generously began to refer to him as “your guy Laurent” whenmy knees buckled while sputtering “Je vous remercie” as we shook hands adieu.In the formal dining room the following evening, I had my first bite of gold, which I wasinstructed was safe to ingest. And I was taught,
avec politesse,
 that the tiny apolsteredstool next to my chair was for
The Red Purse
 from Dubai. Aside from lipstick andpowder, the only other item I kept in The Purse was a red leather notebook from theConcorde in which I recorded each of Ducasses’ delicacies in intricate detail - despite thefact that we were given personalized menus printed up as the Fourth of July fireworksexploded over the Cote d’Azur:
Grosses langoustines roties, fondue d’agrumes desquatre saisons a l’huile d’olive vierge et vieux vinaigre de Modene, zestescaramelises….Grecque tiede de jeunes legumes, lard de porc de ferme, petit navet et  poire en copeaux crus, caille de brebis nappe d’une huile d’olives tres mures…Ravioli decepes et girolles moelleux et dores, fin veloute pour les saucer…...Pavé de loup Mediterranée piqué de fenouil et d’ail confit, cuit lentement (pour être moelleux), la peaucraquant,e aubergines en marmelade, jus vinagre au poivre et genievreconcasses….Pigeonneau des Alpes de Haute-Provence et foie gras de canard sure labraise, pommes nouvelles a la peau…..Fraises des bois de l’arriere-pays dans leur justiede, sorbet au mascarpone
 (my personal favorite) followed by the famed chocolatepraline croustillant garnished with gold leaf of which I wrote in the red book: “it was soephemeral it only lasted the time we held it in our mouths.”
wo years later, replete with sinus infection (a natural corollary to our son’s chronic earinfections) I discovered the notebook buried under a wad of tissues. We were celebrating