Human resources

I'd like to speak to the manager

Yeah, hi, I’d like to file a complaint. Or maybe it’s just a question? Because, um, on behalf of, well, a lot of us…exactly what the fuck is going on?

If you and your friends are anything like me and mine, then it has become clear that 2021 told 2020 to hold its beer. There have been life and death experiences that have nothing to do, somehow, with the pandemic we are still in. Wild stories and terrible prognoses and sincere texts like, “I’m so mad at…just the whole world right now.”

I am processing and talking and not bottling these things up despite my star signs’ wont to do so. But I do believe we have to laugh to keep going. To let some of the air out. I have to dance and cook and walk on the beach. I have to get excited about the gorgeous California halibut I just bought, which I’m going to slow roast with olives and serve with oven baked French fries and a colder-than-cold martini. SO THERE.


If you need to dance it out in your kitchen…

A perfectly seared steak and two-booze tiramisu, a simple arugula salad. Stirred and seared and whisked to the sounds of Tina Turner, Robert Palmer, and Mark Ronson on my Cooking Music 3 playlist. Everything’s fixed, right?

Or maybe it’s spiced coconut chicken rice with dark chocolate pudding, my Cooking Music 6 playlist (that’s the one with John Legend, Sam Smith, TLC, and UB40), and a bottle of bubbles.

If you need some goddamned peace and quiet…

Kick them out of the house (whoever “them” is) and make some crunchy crostini to dunk into Dorie’s ricotta spoonable. Make yourself a Vesper (shockingly good combo with the ricotta, FYI). Then, whip up a broccoli salad or some soft scrambled eggs, to the soothing, cooling sounds of Sango.

Or tune it all out and focus your energy into a Japanese pot roast or a roasted branzino or a mushroom Bolognese. Let them back into the house for dinner. Maybe.

If you need pasta, more pasta…

First, you watch Stanley Tucci traipse all over Italy, green with envy and still in yesterday’s leggings (as I do). THEN you turn to the stove to make a bowl of pasta. Cacio e pepe or Marcella’s tomato sauce, old favorites. Spaghetti with walnut and kale pesto, orecchiette with tomatoes and burrata, a fake of the iconic spicy fusili, or an old school carbonara.

Have a Negroni while you cook.

If you need the very best…

Source the good stuff for an evening of lobster pasta and Champagne. Hit play on Smartless’ episode with George Clooney so it feels like you’re cooking with your funniest friends around. Or get the best sea urchin you can find and make this farinata, which you’ll serve with a roast chicken and a Viognier or a Sancerre.

Or order in from a nice local spot—in LA, I recently ordered green pozole from Gjusta which I can’t recommend enough, and I’ve been eyeing Petit Trois or Pasjoli for one such night. Open a good bottle of wine and let Sinatra, Darin, Bublé, and Aretha serenade you (all together on my Cooking Music 7) while you track the delivery.

And when all else fails, I sit in the car with a friend and eat In ‘n Out burgers with astonishing quickness.


A cooking party, for when you need it

PRE-DINNER Sing along to Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande (you know the words, I know the words, we all do) from my To Taste Wine Party playlist and make a White Noise aperitivo.

MENU A crunchy veggie salad and smashed chicken burgers (with Martin’s potato rolls, obviously)

DESSERT Strawberry rhubarb fool, which you can make with rosewater extract (as written) or vanilla extract or with some crunchy cookies crumbled on top

WINE I know that Chardonnay is kind of the new Merlot, but I say you pour a chilled Chardonnay with all of this and I’m not apologizing for it

BONUS If you, too, wish you were in Italy with Stanley, here’s a list of movie night food and cocktail pairings from La Cucina Italiana. (Yes, The Big Night is on there.)


Take care out there, please.