I woke up two morning’s ago to be told of the passing of another great food writer and chronicler, dear Erica Brown. We’d rather lost contact since she moved to France, but our last meeting was special by anyone’s reckoning.
I was in Paris for the bi-annual SIAL food fair one autumn a few years back. My cellphone rang mid to late morning – to get a signal there was hard enough and to be honest I was on the side of ennui. It was Erica Brown on the line. “I know you’re in Paris. Are you free to join me as my lunch partner at 1pm today?” she asked. “I’m out at the Parc des Expositions, close to CDG airport,” I explained.
“I’ve a table for two on hold at 1pm at Les Ambassadeurs”, said Erica, as if she was asking me to share a croque monsieur and a demie-blonde in the cafe on the corner. This was just a few weeks after the Hotel de Crillon had re-opened after its lengthy one or two years’ major refit financed by Baccarat and largely styled by the flame haired designer from across the river, the great Sonia Rykiel.
“I’ll be there as quick as the RER can get me back into Paris.”
Erica, elegant, with a pile of the day’s papers under arm, greeted me in reception. We were swept into the magnificent refurbished dining room – quite the most elegant in Paris. The tables are further apart than any restaurant I’ve ever visited. We had a Baccarat crystal flute of Champagne (what marque – who cares?) moments after settling ourselves into the genuine Louis XV dining chairs. Everything was done with an elegant, confident sweeping motion. Too few restaurants achieve this seamless service that’s almost not there it’s so special.
Erica was writing a piece on the ‘new’ Les Ambassadeurs for the Paris based International Herald Tribune – Pat Wells at the IHT was her buddy. Pat’s husband was editor. That’s the hierachy upwards – I sat opposite Erica at the other end, offering my thoughts on the food as we gossiped and laughed.
It was one a truly splendid lunch – one I have remembered and a venue that I recommended just two weeks’ back to a dear friend wanting somewhere really special to celebrate and he asked me for a suggestion – Tour d’Argent and Lucas Carton were the other two.
Erica and I laughed about our previous meetings – in Cavendish, Suffolk, in her cookshop. I’d introduced various friends there so she was very pleased with their custom. Word gets around in country districts and so with one came others.
I thanked Erica for lunch – as I recall we had a pousse-coffee in a nearby bar off the Concorde. It’s the sort of thing we would have done.
Erica then came to a couple or more of the Guild of Food Writers’ workshops at our Longhouse kitchens in Covent Garden, but we lost contact otherwise as she’d moved to some idyllic sounding place in France.
Now we’ll never meet again. This has been a recurring theme so far in 2011. Too many good, fun people leaving prematurely. People will plenty still to offer.
Erica Brown RIP. I loved our few times together. You had so many experiences to share.