Gifts! Gifts! Gifts! And some chicken dinners
Greetings eaters and readers! For those of you wondering, this is not the official Dinner: A Love Story Gift Guide which I hope (hope!) to get to you in the next week. In the meantime, here is something even better: Three wintry chicken dishes that feel right for both a Tuesday night or an impromptu dinner for your neighbors: A tangy Chicken and Vinegar, a One-Pot Chicken with Orzo, Spinach and Artichokes, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Farmhouse Chicken Braised in Hard Cider which I’ve been making for over a decade. If you’re looking for post-Thanksgiving counter-progamming: The Cabbage-Kale-Tofu Salad with Peanuts and Citrusy Dressing (shown) from The Weekday Vegetarians (page 64) might be just the ticket. And now, your Three Things…
1. Meaningful Gift of the Week: Restaurant Illustrations
I bought my first present of the season: A John Donohue illustration of New York’s Cafe Luxembourg (above), which I plan to give to the family — and ok, to me. I realize this might feel like a highly specific, highly New York-centric suggestion, and I’m sorry if so, but have you been on Donohue’s website, All The Restaurants? His line drawings are of course so charming, but also: His archive is massive! Over the years he’s been illustrating iconic institutions (Grand Central Oyster Bar, Balthazar, etc), and now he’s added plenty of spots that one might qualify as “the place around the corner.” Plus, his drawings are not just based on restaurants in New York — you can search by London, Paris, and even Napa. My guess is that there’s a restaurant somewhere that holds meaningful memories for you. An engagement? A reunion? A first date? A memorable vacation night? Or just: A mind-blowing meal?
I’ll tell you why Cafe Luxembourg is mine.
Last week, my daughters came back from college for Thanksgiving break to a new home, a new (shared) bedroom, and a new neighborhood. We moved to Manhattan only a few days after dropping them off at school in August, and ever since, it seems like I’ve been looking at my watch and the front door every few minutes expecting them to walk in, kick off their Sambas, and pile their jackets and lanyards and backpacks and headphones on the bench in the foyer. For the past few months we’ve been pretending to be concerned about this — things are going to get interesting when we’re all on top of each other and their stuff is everywhere — but of course I couldn’t wait, and knew that this was going to be the week when the house was going to start really feeling like a home. We were not wrong. (Especially about the
mess stuff.) I thought the girls would want to run around doing things in the city like their peripatetic parents those first few weeks we arrived, but like most kids home from college for Thanksgiving, they just wanted to do all the homebody things, i.e. sleep in, decompress, watch mindless movies, hang with their cousins, and of course, eat good food. That came in the form of Braised Short Ribs, Tomato-Rice Soup, Brothy Beans with Burrata, and Salmon with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze, one of the first salmon recipes the girls loved as opposed to tolerated way back when. In other words, things were different, but also very much the same.
We did manage to get them off the couch to grab pad see ew at Thai Market, and also head down to Smør in the East Village for their smoked salmon, chicken salad, and pickled herring smørrebrød. And of course, we lost count of all the bagels, which isn’t really new. But the night that stands out the most was the rainy Tuesday we walked a few short blocks to Cafe Luxembourg — to me the quintessential Upper West Side restaurant with its idyllic honey-golden light, its distinct New York energy that’s somehow both neighborhoody and special occasion-y, and its perfectly executed crowdpleaser menu. (Think: Shrimp Cocktail, Burgers, Profiteroles, Sticky Toffee Pudding.) The place is an institution and we’ve been there many times over the decades, but this dinner felt instantly memorable for being a real celebration of the next chapter in our lives. This was actually our neighborhood. We weren’t recent college graduates pretending to be grown-ups. My kids didn’t “dress up” (whatever that means anymore) to head out to dinner there. We weren’t visiting from out of town. We were home.
2. A Few Great Cookbooks
I mentioned this briefly in last week’s newsletter, but I wanted to make sure you checked out my best-of-the-season Cookbook Round-up over on Cup of Jo. There are so many gift-worthy ones this year, beginning with Scandinavian From Scratch (which is 100% of the reason why last week I went in search of Smørrebrød — those open face dark rye bread tartines — last week), Eric Ripert’s gorgeous Seafood Simple (remember that herb-crusted tuna?), Sandra A. Gutierrez’s Latinísimo and…
Yossy Arefi’s wonderful Snacking Bakes. I baked the Malted Chocolate Cookies from that one last week and they killed. Yossy was nice enough to let me share the recipe, a batch of which, all wrapped up in a box and a bow, would make a pretty great gift, too.
3. Some Excellent Japanese Knives
Lastly! I wanted to remind you of a very special offer from my longtime partner Nakano Knives, who make beautiful, high-performing knives at incredibly reasonable prices. Now through December 10, Dinner: A Love Story readers get 30% off on everything in the store…
…including any one of the knives in their Classic Chef’s Series (shown above). The offer is only good for newsletter readers and you must type in code DINNER at checkout to get the 30% discount. My friends at Nakano tell me things are selling out quickly, so if you’ve been eyeballing these knives (for you or for someone else on your list), now is the time to go shopping!
P.S. The Gift That Gives All Year Long
If you’ve enjoyed this Dinner: A Love Story newsletter, you might know someone else who will too? Consider a gift subscription. For $7 a month or $70 a year, the recipient will get my weekly dispatch of Three Things I’m excited about — easy dinners, of course, but also sweets, treats, cocktails, novels, restaurant recs, vacation ideas, cookbook round-ups, and tons of bonus content including personal essays, weekly dinner plans and complete dinner party menus. It surprises, it delights, it goes down easy! Thank you as always for your support.