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).