Christmas Dinner at Marseille

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We have been having our Christmas dinner at Marseille for a number of years, and it never disappoints. The atmosphere is lively and festive and the French/Moroccan food is always tasty.  It is possible to order a la carte, but the 3-course prix-fixe offers all the dishes and saves a few dollars. This year it was $45. We had lobster bisque and tuna tartare to start, then braised lamb shank and grilled duck breast.  For dessert we had a selection of 3 ice creams and a chestnut mousse layered with chestnut cake and topped with raspberry sorbet. We love the Leffe Brune that they have on draft.

They are offering a similar menu for New Year’s Eve.

Shuba (Herring in a Fur Coat) Recipe


For our tree-trimming party the other day, Stanley made this dish, which we have had many times at our favorite Russian restaurant, Onegin.


Here is the recipe:

Herring in a Fur Coat:

You can find many recipes for this Russian classic on the internet, including YouTube versions with nice Russian ladies showing you, step by step (in Russian) how to make and assemble this very handsome dish. Your best option is to use a spring form pan, without its bottom but sitting directly on the serving plate you intend to use. The quantities here will fill a ten inch spring form, so judge accordingly if you would like a smaller serving.

What you will need:

1. Herring. If you are lucky enough to find whole, boned herring fillets, salted and packed in oil, then buy them. Otherwise, pickled herring in a wine sauce will do nicely. Two 12 ounce jars.

2. Three or four good size (your guess) Yukon Gold potatoes.

3. Three humongous carrots, or four or five really big ones.

4. Three or four large beets.

5. Five hard boiled eggs

6. One medium sized yellow onion.

7. Lots and lots of good home-made mayonnaise, plain and a bit thinner than Hellman’s

Prepare the herring:

Empty the jars of pickled herring into a sieve or bowl and rinse several times, or let it soak and then rinse. Pick out the herring pieces and discard the onion bits.

Chop your fresh onion into a fairly fine dice, and then chop the herring pieces into a small dice (but not into a pulp) and then mix with chopped onion and set aside.

Prepare the vegetables:

In the “old country,” they boil and then peel; here we peel the potatoes, carrots and beets first, and then boil them. Some people suggest doing it in one big pot, you may prefer separate pots. They should be boiled until easily pierced. You will be grating them, so don’t let them get mushy. Drain and cool after done and set aside. When thoroughly cool, you grate each vegetable with a box grater and set aside on a separate plate/dish.


Prepare hard boiled eggs by bringing them to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let sit fifteen minutes. Then run under cold water and set aside. When thoroughly chilled, you may peel and grate and set aside.


From some of the Russian YouTube versions, it appears this is a mayonnaise salad with bits of vegetable and herring. A good, simple food processor mayonnaise works well:

– one whole egg
– one tablespoon of Dijon mustard
– one teaspoon of salt
– half a fresh lemon squeezed

all into the bowl of the food processor. Set it running and gradually add in a thin stream one cup of corn oil, or some other lighter oil of your choosing. Set aside.


Oil the inside of the spring form ring (closed) and place on your serving platter.

First layer: grated potato, evenly about a quarter inch or so, spread and pushed down (I use a potato masher for each layer). Salt and pepper to taste, and then spread a layer of mayonnaise over it.

Second layer: herring with onion, spread and mashed down, topped with more mayonnaise.

Third layer: grated carrot, salt and pepper to taste, and more mayonnaise

Fourth layer: grated beets, salt, pepper and mayonnaise.

Fifth layer: grated hard boil eggs, more mayonnaise.

If you have divided your ingredients evenly, you will now have enough for another layer of each item, or at least of the carrots, beets and eggs. Top off with mayonnaise, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; a day is best.

Remove from refrigerator, run a knife along the inside of the spring form, open the form and carefully remove to reveal the beautiful layers.

You can probably think of many variations. One would be to add some salmon roe (or caviar if you are amongst the “one percent”) to the herring layers.

Serve on plates and with a good thick black, brown or rye bread.


Advice for foreign buyers in New York

central park

I have been working with several buyers from outside the US who are looking to buy in New York for investment or as a pied-a-terre. I would like to share some of my thoughts on how to be a successful bidder in today’s market. Some of these points will apply to domestic buyers as well.

• Be prepared to move quickly and be able to assure the seller that you can close the deal. Whether you are purchasing       with cash or including financing, you need to have everything lined up in advance of even looking at properties. Know your budget. Buying in the current market is not about getting a bargain. Any desirable property is going to attract multiple bids, and an unprepared buyer will miss out on the best of the very limited inventory that is available. Some all-cash buyers think that they can offer less than those who are financing, but a qualified buyer with a loan commitment up front will be just as attractive to a seller.

• Have a knowledgeable agent who can provide all the information you need to make informed decisions, negotiate on your behalf, expedite the process of submitting bids, and coordinate with lenders, attorneys, sellers’ agents, managing agents, and coop and condo boards, to ensure a smooth transaction.

• Coop or condo? Condos typically sell for more than comparable coops. If you are buying for investment, a condo is the only option. There are a few “investor-friendly” coops, but you will need to pay cash and when it’s time to sell, you will only be able to deal with cash buyers, limiting the resale potential. Some coops allow foreign buyers and pieds-a-terre. If you want to go this route, be prepared for a very rigorous approval process. Condos are easier, but the application packages are now almost identical to those for coops.

• Be prepared to provide full financial disclosure, including but not limited to, bank and brokerage statements, tax returns, and proof of assets and liabilities. Simply submitting a letter from even the most prestigious financial manager will not be sufficient.

• Cash or financing? Paying cash is the best way to ensure that you will be the winning bidder. You may be able to borrow from a bank in your home country, often by mortgaging or refinancing a property you already own, or you could borrow against securities held in a brokerage account, if your broker offers securities-backed loans. This could result in your having sufficient cash to purchase without additional financing. If financing is the only option, it is essential to get a loan commitment in advance. There are a number of lenders who will make loans to foreign nationals, usually limited to 55 or 60 percent of the purchase price, and with higher interest rates than they offer to domestic buyers.

My company, Wohlfarth & Associates, represents buyers and sellers not only in New York City, but also in the Hamptons, Fire Island, the Hudson Valley and coastal Maine. We are very active in numerous international real estate associations. I can provide referrals to attorneys, lenders, and securities firms who have extensive experience dealing with the international community.

I am always happy to answer questions regarding the above.

Robert P. Rems
Licensed Associate RE Broker

Wohlfarth & Associates Real Estate
890 West End Avenue, Suite 1F
New York, NY 10025
Cell: (347) 263-0203

My web page: