The weather turned yesterday.
The air was suddenly, blissfully free of the sodden end-of-summer heaviness and the scent of August — that heady perfume of sixteen million sweaty feet in sandals — receded in favor of the crisp promise of autumn. Hallelujah.
We’ve been dining out a bit — big surprise. We took the kids to Danji on West 52nd Street. I’ve written about Danji a few times before but it remains a standout. Their tofu with ginger-scallion dressing is hands down one of the best bites in town. Their deep-fried ginger chicken wings are no slouch, either.
We met some Upper West Side friends for a casual dinner at Saigon Grill and we were pleased to see that it has returned to its former glory. It slipped tragically there for a while — there was talk of labor problems, changed ownership — but their solid, fresh, tasty Vietnamese food is back in the Wasteland. Good for us. They also deliver — so quickly that it seems the food arrives before you’ve hung up the phone.
We met friends from out of town — I’m including Brooklyn in that category — at Il Cantinori on 10th Street. It’s a favorite of theirs and I hadn’t tried it before. We ate quite well and I was pleased that when I ordered a bowl of what turned out to be very good spaghetti aglio-olio con peperoncini, which was not on the menu, our server smiled and said, “Of course, sir! Right away!” I like that.
Best dish so far? At home, of course. We shopped the Columbus Avenue farmers’ market on Sunday and bought some baby arugula. I put whole-wheat pasta in boiling salted water, sautéed some thin-sliced garlic in lots of olive oil, dumped the almost finished noodles into garlic and oil mixture and tossed for a few minutes until the pasta absorbed the taste of the garlic. Then I added quite a bit of the baby arugula — three, four big handfuls — and tossed some more – until the sweetness of the garlic and the peppery spank of the arugula twined their way around the chewy noodles. Can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff.
Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose third book is the recently published Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent. You can read more about his food adventures on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland.