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Seducing Harry: An Epicurean Affair

Chapter 1

“The road to good intentions is paved with hell.”

—Variation on Murphy’s Law

Cocktails at Five

The minute I met Éclaire I wanted to bump her off. There was
something about her that exuded what I detest most in a woman:
perfection. She had that sleek, well-pampered look that came from
years of self-indulgence. Then there was her husband, Harry, who
just happened to be the leading plastic surgeon on the upper East
Side—a husband who, when he wasn’t removing fat from
the thighs of the rich and famous, was salivating over a rack of
lamb or a crème brûlée in a restaurant that was
Zagat- approved and lived up to his culinary standards. No wonder
Éclaire was a vision of loveliness. Harry left no laugh line
untouched, no wrinkle un-Botoxed. Éclaire was a walking
advertisement of Harry the Miracle Maker’s

But I digress. Before Harry came along I was moving at my usual
clip, married to Parker Harding, living in our house in the burbs,
and conducting a nonorgasmic sex life that guaranteed a large dose
of ennui would kick in as soon as we hit the sheets. It
wasn’t that Parker wasn’t a good man. God knows he
provided me with a lifestyle that bordered on extravagant. I was
free to indulge myself on all levels. Parker asked no questions. He
wanted me to be happy, and if happy meant my blowing a wad of money
on incidentals, he was more than willing to comply. One might say I
had it made: During daylight hours I wrote my humor columns for our
local paper, The Seaport Gazette, which paid me a pittance for
trying to evoke a laugh from thirty thousand of Seaport,
Connecticut’s finest residents.

Each week, I sat at my picture window, looking out on our three
acres of lush lawn, composing satirical essays on any subject that
happened to move me at the time. If Parker and I argued, if my
twenty-year-old daughter, Eliza, drove me to distraction, if a
conversation with a friend seemed particularly amusing, it showed
up in my column the following week. I had free rein to toy with
other people’s lives as I deemed fit, and while I usually
tried not to overstep the bounds, I would stop at little to be
perceived as a droll and witty writer. And so, when I was asked by
my editor, Gillian, on a bright, sunny day in May, to cover a story
on vegetables, I was puzzled.

“Coco, we want to do a piece on La Chaîne des
Rôtisseurs,” she said. “And you’re the
perfect person to do it. Our focus is vegetarian.”

“I’m a humorist,” I said. “Vegetables
aren’t funny.”

“Make them funny,” she said. “Your assignment is
to do dinner and mingle with some of the finest diners on the east
coast, many of whom will be present at the Chaîne banquet on
Friday evening at the Briarwood Club in Greenwich. You might want
to brush up on its history.”

Clearly, there was no arguing with her, so all week I buried myself
in research. After all, if I was going to be hobnobbing with the
culinary greats, I had better know what I was talking about.

La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is an international gastronomic
society founded in Paris in 1950. It is devoted to promoting fine
dining and preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table.
The Chaîne is based on the traditions and practices of the old
French royal guild of meat roasters, whose written history has been
traced back to the year 1248. Today, the society has members in
more than one hundred countries around the world. In the United
States, there are nearly one hundred and fifty
“bailliages” (English “bailiwick”) headed
by a “bailli” (“bailiff”) and other
officers who plan the individual chapter’s activities. Each
bailliage holds one gala event each year to celebrate the induc-
tion of new members, who receive a distinctive ribbon worn at all
Chaîne gatherings. The Briarwood Club was the perfect place to
host such an event: It not only boasted outstanding cuisine, but a
view of Long Island Sound to die for.

The following Friday afternoon, I slipped on my favorite tobacco
silk pantsuit, got into my Range Rover, and with notebook in tow, I
headed toward Briarwood and my first Chaîne dinner. As I
tooled down the Merritt Parkway I asked myself the big question I
had been mulling over all day: How could I take the subject of
veggies and turn it into a laugh riot? Of all the assignments
Gillian had thrust upon me, this was the worst.

“Handle it any way you want,” she had said. “The
idea is to bring vegetables to the forefront and give them a lot of
press. The Chaîne is doing an all-vegetable banquet, proving
that one can dine eloquently and well without being

I recalled the 1920s Carl Rose cartoon from the New Yorker with a
mother and small daughter sitting at the table, eyeing a plate of
vegetables. In E. B. White’s caption, the mother said,
“It’s broccoli dear,” to which the child replied:
“I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with

If a vegetable-based cartoon was good enough for the New Yorker, I
guessed I could equally follow suit with an article on the same

High on a hill, a winding road led me to the clubhouse just as the
sun was setting. The valet greeted me at the main portico where I
deposited my car and watched as he whisked it away to an area
filled with BMWs, Mercedeses, Lexuses, and a lone Ferrari. My
little Range Rover was in good company. Adjusting my clothes and
giving a shake of my wild, silver mane, I went over to a small
table on the side to register. A well-coiffed and pretty blond
matron greeted me with a set of perfectly laminated teeth.

“So you’re Coco, the one from the paper,” she
shrieked. “I simply adore journalists.”

The writing was on the wall: This was going to be the evening from

I immediately grabbed my name tag with “Seaport
Gazette” emblazoned in bold letters and slapped it across my
chest to alert the gaggle of gourmands that anything they said
could be used against them. And then, without missing a beat, I
turned around to scope out the bar. A nice glass of Chardonnay
would take the edge off what could be a disastrous night ahead. The
room was filled with men in tuxedos, all of whom resembled penguins
bobbing around and nodding at one another.

“I don’t think this is what you want to be
drinking.” A hand reached over, removing my glass and
replacing it with a Sapphire martini.

I looked up at yet another penguin in full regalia. Around his neck
was the distinctive medallion hanging on a ribbon, bearing the coat
of arms of the Confrérie, signifying membership into La

“I’m Harry Troutman.” He extended a hand, holding
mine longer than protocol required. “And you must be

“Yes,” I said, staring back into a pair of eyes that
held me momentarily captive. “I’m from the Seaport

“I know all about you,” Harry said, “and
I’ve been looking forward to meeting you all day. I’m
hosting this Chaîne banquet. Welcome to our inner sanctum of
fine dining.”

I took a sip of the blue martini, feeling an immediate flush of
warmth penetrate my throat. In the distance, a lean and lanky
figure emerged, moving closer as Harry and I exchanged

“And here she is.” Harry welcomed the gorgeous creature
that descended upon us. “This is my wife,

My immediate impression of Éclaire was that she was put
together like a magnificent ice sculpture, except, unlike ice,
Éclaire never melted.

I studied her, noting first her name, deliciously reminiscent of
French pastry. Then my eyes moved in with telescopic accuracy on
her face, her body, and the designer dress she wore that cost more
than my two recent root canals. She was the epitome of perfection,
a well-chiseled work of art sculpted by the hands of her
husband—the very same hands that only moments ago rested in

His name echoed in the back of my mind until it became clear who
Harry Troutman was and why that name was so familiar. New York
Magazine, the ultimate Bible on the Best Doctors in New York, had
touted him as one of the finest plastic surgeons in

Éclaire peered out from her striking blue orbs, which, like
Days of the Week underpants, I would come to learn, were
interchanged daily. Éclaire didn’t stop with matching
shoes and bag. Tonight, she had obviously chosen her colored lenses
with great precision to coordinate with her cobalt blue designer
cocktail ensemble. It was obvious that her hair was styled by
Charles of the Beautiful, her body toned by her personal trainer.
Her nails were recently manicured into ten painted stilettos and
with a voice that sounded very Five Towns, Long Island, she offered
a limp wrist.

“I’m Claire,” she said with a nonchalance that
bordered on aloofness. “But Harry insists on calling me
Éclaire. As you might have gathered, he’s into

Looking at Harry, it was hardly obvious how much food and wine
ruled his life. He was just under six feet two and looked fit from
his daily workouts at the gym. He had an aliveness about him that,
from the get-go, made me melt. His searing brown eyes danced, as he
looked me over, checking out, I imagined, every flaw on my face. He
had a square jaw and his straight black hair was styled casually,
barely touching the collar of his Ralph Lauren suit jacket. Halfway
through my martini, which I was ordinarily unaccustomed to
drinking, I felt relaxed and uninhibited, taking in the charm that
Harry draped over me like my pumpkin-colored pashmina shawl.

I can say with utmost certainty that I had never fallen so fast and
furiously for a man as I did that night at the Briarwood Club. The
minute Harry and I exchanged hellos, I was hooked. In between the
first course of braised artichokes in a tangerine sauce, and a
chilled gazpacho with a dollop of crème fraîche, I was in
extreme lust with Dr. Harry Troutman and nothing or no one, not my
husband, Parker, or the lovely Éclaire, would keep my emotions
at bay. But I was here to write an article, and mixing work with
pleasure was a dangerous combination.

Harry had made sure that I would be seated next to him during
dinner. He was my Chaîne coach, asking me to interrupt with
questions whenever the mood struck. I placed my napkin on my lap,
and with pen poised, I began waxing eloquent on the allure of the
artichoke, scribbling notes along the way.

The artichoke, I reminisced, can fool unsuspecting souls. I
recalled my first married dinner party when our cleaning lady, who
was filling in that evening as server, had removed all the leaves
on the artichokes, so that when our guests moved in from cocktails
to dinner, all that remained on their plates were large,
unadulterated, naked hearts.

“What happened to the leaves, Lucille?” I asked in

“Oh Missy,” she explained, “everyone always
plucks those leaves so I thought I would save them the trouble. I
threw them in the garbage.”

I told Harry, who was on my left, the story and he guffawed out
loud, revealing a set of pearly whites that were lined up in
perfect symmetry in his mouth.

Tonight’s artichokes were a different story. Each one was
perfectly snipped and sat atop an emerald green glass plate,
blending in with the artichokes themselves. Tiny crystal bowls were
off to the left, receptacles for the tangerine sauce in which to
give each leaf a delicate dip before scraping it between the teeth
and consuming the pulp. I watched Harry eat. He pried loose a leaf,
and nonchalantly whisked it through the sauce, coating it
ever-so-slightly before raising it from bowl to lips. His movements
were deliberate, but subtle, almost as though he weren’t
eating at all, so that the artichoke became an appendage to our

Éclaire, who sat on Harry’s left, was another story. She
poked at the vegetable as though she was pulling apart a dead
animal’s innards. I might be mistaken, but I believe she even

“The last time I ate one of these,” she said, “I
pricked my palate. My dentist told me to stay away from sharp
legumes. They can be very dangerous. I hate food you have to work

I suddenly imagined Harry and Éclaire in bed, Éclaire
trying her best to gingerly give her husband a blow job, but being
ever so careful lest, with one false move, Harry’s seminal
fluid might, in Monica Lewinsky style, soil her 450-thread count
percale sheets. My guess was she never swallowed—that was a
definite no-no for a woman as well put together as Éclaire. If
she was having difficulty maneuvering an artichoke, how could she
handle something as messy as sex? Perhaps I could write about that
for the Seaport Gazette.

Excerpted from SEDUCING HARRY: An Epicurean Affair ©
Copyright 2011 by Judith Marks-White. Reprinted with permission by
Ballantine Books. All rights reserved.

Seducing Harry: An Epicurean Affair
by by Judith Marks-White

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345492382
  • ISBN-13: 9780345492388