Let’s all agree on something: Christmas is doing just fine. (Look at almost every retail display in the Western Hemisphere if you don’t believe us.) It’s not warmongering to bristle at Burl Ives, tinsel, and the infinite repetition of red and green. Sometimes it’s just a question of taste. Holidays can be holidays without horrendous sweaters and cloying apéritifs. They can be both comfortable and chic.
Our égérie for the path of cliché resistance is Ruth Rogers (who everyone affectionately calls “Ruthie”), co-founder and chef of London’s River Café. The stripped-down, joyfully minimalist canteen was opened in 1987 to provide simple, authentic Italian food to the employees of Rogers’s husband Richard’s successful architecture firm and everyone else who worked within the Thames Wharf buildings, the only people who had access to the Café at first. (Back then it was the Richard Rogers & Partners, but earlier, as Piano & Rogers, with Renzo Piano, the two brought you the Pompidou Center in Paris. Now it’s Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners.) Due to the local scarcity of Italian food at the time, the River Café soon became the worst-kept secret in London. Two years ago, it celebrated 30 years with River Café 30, a compendium of recipes delivered in a mod, happy, color-blocked form.