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What I wouldn't give to overhear your dinner conversation

What I wouldn’t give to order a drink at a bar while I wait for my table. What I wouldn’t give to book a flight after having already booked a few restaurant reservations. To sit with friends somewhere beautiful, somewhere dive-y with great fried chicken, somewhere classic with an old school martini. To try the house specialty: a legendary burger, a perfect French omelette, a rich mole, their hand-rolled pasta. What I wouldn’t give, even, to have the TSA narrowly avoid copping a feel as I get out of town. Mexico City’s tacos await. Or maybe it’s London’s curries. Or perhaps Puglia’s pastas. Morocco’s tagines. I’ll take one of each, thank you.

And yet. They will have to wait. I will have to wait. I will keep cooking and, despite waves of cooking fatigue and pandemic-related grumpiness, there are worse sentences. I’ll bring those flavors into our my kitchen, thanks to the ability to get damn near anything shipped or delivered these days.

Start with cookbooks, like In Bibi’s Kitchen (a tour of eight African countries via grandmas’ kitchens), My Mexico City Kitchen (her salsa negra alone will transport you), Bitter Honey (a sunny and delicious stay in Sardinia), My Lisbon (a lip-smacking journey to Portugal), Dinner in French (a pretension-free sojourn in Paris), Sababa (like being in your friend’s Tel Aviv kitchen), Bottom of the Pot (your kitchen will smell of rose and saffron), Xi’an Famous Foods (Western China by way of New York).

Then, source the good stuff to make Diana Kennedy’s carnitas and Wolfgang Puck’s iconic smoked salmon pizza. Make Odette Williams’ pavolva—a dessert that may feel intimidating stateside but is incredibly common on Aussie shores. Make whole roasted cauliflower with green pea chutney, from Indian-ish, or Peruvian lomo saltado or this buttery kimchi chicken and rice or Marcella Hazan’s ragu Bolognese or these garlicky chicken wings with sumac.

Belly up to the bar and order a burger. A really good, nothing to do with fast food, American hamburger. But, like, at home. Go directly to the source and copy Raoul’s elusive burger with this kit. Or cross the country and mimic Gott’s Roadside’s unforgettable, crave-able burger or Sean Brock’s famous Husk cheeseburger or one of Santa Fe’s amazing green chile cheeseburgers (I like The Shed’s). Serve it with a martini or a beer.

Maybe it’s NYC-style pizza you miss. Roberta’s kits are also on Goldbelly, turning your apartment oven into a Naples-by-way-of-Brooklyn wood-fired oven, for a moment anyway. Turn the volume up on our Cooking Music 2 playlist and get a tattoo. The scene is set. Finish the meal with a gorgeous flan with poached cherries.

Just as much as we miss them, restaurants are in need of us and our continued support. Order takeout from your local and mix a cocktail while you track the delivery. Gracias Madre’s mezcal mule or mix yourself a martini in the iconic style of Duke’s in London.

After the last glass of wine has been poured, I have gotten into the habit of making a rooibos or toasted barley tea and I can’t recommend the practice highly enough. I particularly love Palais de Thés’ rooibos. In fact, I put all of my teas into a leather box and present them to myself as if at the end of a meal in a hotel lobby. (No I don’t.)

Pair With…

You’ll need something to watch. Something to take you to unfamiliar shores. Somebody Feed Phil; David Chang’s Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner; old Bourdain episodes. Conan Without Borders is old but hilarious. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is required viewing. And Chef’s Table, of course. Eater’s Guide to the World, on Hulu, is narrated by the great Maya Rudolph, so hop on that immediately.

Under the Tuscan Sun and A Good Year are my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency wanderlust, romance, feel-good go-to’s. In Bruges, Midnight in Paris, Roman Holiday, and Out of Africa, too, take me places. The Trip does the trick for some, Wild for others, and Eat, Pray, Love for still others.

If you’re open to subtitles, may I recommend Facing Windows, a confection-filled Italian will-they-won’t-they story set in Rome. If you’re open to subtitles and black & white, watch Rififi which is one of the best heist movies of all time.

If reading is more your bag, dig into this story about Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. She was a badass. Or this one about Cousteau in Fiji. Fiji not far enough? Look to the stars for further guidance: what to read in 2021, based on your ~sign~.

I cannot wait for those evenings when we bump into each other at that cute little restaurant on the corner. Cannot wait to ask the bartender to make whatever she wants, not too spicy, not too sweet. It’s coming. We’re gonna make it.