Good morning. Melissa Clark has a lament in The Times this week. It’s about missing the holiday parties we can’t have this year on account of the pandemic. “There’ll be no sipping eggnog in red lipstick and spangles,” she wrote, “no parking myself in front of platters of Camembert and Stilton, not even any sleeves of Ritz crackers with that unidentifiable orange cheese spread I look forward to year after year.”
The crackers stopped me short. They, along with tubs of orange cheese spread, are a feature of the holiday party NYT Cooking has each year in the second-floor bar at Sardi’s, on West 44th Street in Manhattan, steps from the back door of what used to be The New York Times’s headquarters. Sardi’s is a Broadway restaurant, its dining rooms usually filled with tourists and its bars with theater professionals and newsroom wags. It’s said that Times people used to go there so much that when the newspaper ran an article about the excavation of the ancient city of Sardis, in what is now western Turkey, a copy editor inserted an apostrophe between the “i” and the “s” in the headline.
We haven’t gone so much in recent years — our offices are on West 40th Street now, and New Yorkers are nothing if not parochial about where they go after work — but always a few times a year and always during the holidays, at least until the coronavirus sent us home. So that’s my dream for December 2021: Manhattans at Sardi’s, cheese spread and cheer.
In the meantime, to accompany her column, Melissa wrote an ace menu for holiday snacking, even if it’s just a few of you stuck at home listening to Otis Redding. I like the idea of caviar sour cream dip with potato chips (above), and of fig-olive tapenade with prosciutto and persimmon. She’s got a lovely puff pastry tart with mascarpone, smoked salmon, fennel and lemon, too, and an excellent take on crisp-spicy stuffed mushrooms with harissa and apricots. Put those together at your leisure this week, or for New Year’s Eve, and revel in their deliciousness.
For dinner tonight, though, you might take a look at this spicy white bean stew with broccoli rabe, or consider a butter chicken.
Not that you need a recipe to eat well. Lately I’ve been messing around with a no-recipe recipe I found in the pages of Bryan Washington’s novel “Memorial”: “He’s cracking eggs by the stove, slipping yolks into a pair of pans. After they’ve settled, he salts them, drizzling mayonnaise with a few sprigs of oregano. Mike used to have this thing about sriracha, he’d pull a hernia whenever I’d reach for it, but now he squeezes a faded bottle over my omelette, rubbing it in with the spatula.” I did just that and oh, man.
Alternatively, how about orange beef? Or a grilled salmon salad? Maybe creamy miso pasta?
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Now, it’s nothing to do with matcha or pigeon peas, but Sasha Frere-Jones put me on to this short documentary from Twin Cities PBS, on the early days of the band Hüsker Dü. It’s worth watching.
I liked Michael Luo in The New Yorker, on Christianity and the pandemic. That’s worth reading.
And, in case you missed it, here’s Stephanie Clifford in Elle, on the journalist who fell in love with the disgraced pharma con Martin Shkreli, losing her job and her marriage in the process. Stick with it down to the end, where things take a turn. I’ll be back on Christmas Day.
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