When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when, and where you want them.
Today: A solo bar meal turned bright, briny salad for the rest of the summer.
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Full beard and strapping body aside, the bartender is young enough to be my son.
Hendrick's martini, please. Straight up with olives.
Hey. I like your style.
My entire body smiles back.
I want to ask what he sees. Does he know I'm a mom?
Instead, I gather all of the candles from one end of the bar, vow to get my eyes checked soon, and tuck my head into a book.
The air is warm, the martini is cold, the music is loud. The room smells like chicken and potatoes and the late eighties: like my first years in New York City, all full of bigness and potential and the scariness of it all.
I need food.
My eyes glide down the menu and get stuck on two of my favorite words: romaine and anchovies.
I wave to my bartender son.
This salad looks exciting.
That salad is exciting.
Two seats down is a body dripping with tattoos, motorcycle leather, fatigue. He is old enough to be my husband.
He picks up his burger. I pick up my grilled romaine. He dips his fries in ketchup. I scoop up the creamy, smoky, fishy salad dressing with my bread. I moan yum. He sighs. He doesn't look to the right. I don't look to the left. We eat together. I feel safe.
I pay, pick up my martini, and head for the hotel elevator. I don't look back.
I climb up on the coffee table with my martini and watch the flashing lights of Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling Brooklyn windows. I start to relive the thirteen years of pining and dreaming and never ever sleeping that I crammed into that little island. What did I do with all of that kid-free time? I didn’t even like anchovies back then.
I step down.
I lower the shades, wash the martini glass, and tuck myself into the soft and clean king-sized bed. No morning light, no buzzing phones, no barfing kids, no nothing will wake me up until I am ready.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.