When we lived in New York, Kevin and I had an every-other-Friday restaurant night. We’d trade off picking, and the only rule was that it had to be somewhere we’d never been before. The spirit of it took us to obscure Thai places in Queens, up-and-comers in Dumbo, seedy Indian joints in Long Island City.
When we moved to the Cape, we thought about trying to do it here, but we’d have run out of options pretty quickly. There are good restaurants here (we love The Naked Oyster, Fazio’s, and the Brewster Fish House, to name a few), but not enough to sustain an every-other-week habit.
So we changed the rules. Instead of going out, we cook at home. Every other Friday, we trade off making a special meal. The only rule is that it has to be something we’ve never made before. Whoever isn’t cooking is sommelier, and we splurge on a good bottle of wine.
We did it all last winter, but got out of the habit as a busy summer schedule made it difficult. We’ve just picked it up again, and I’m sorry we ever stopped. Not only does it guarantee an interesting meal at least twice a month, it helps us break out of the rotation rut that almost everyone who cooks daily falls into. In winter, we’ve got the pastas, the stews, the braises, the roast chickens, and then the pastas again.
Last night was my turn. Marcus Samuelsson’s book, New American Table, had caught my eye at the library, and I leafed through it for ideas. It’s a beautiful book with interesting recipes. The only problem is that Samuelsson seems convinced that, in the New America, things like fresh lemongrass and Thai basil are to be had on every street corner. In February.
No matter. A few strategic substitutions, omissions, and variations, and we had shrimp fritters with a mango dipping sauce, accompanied by a salad of hearts of palm with a spicy almond dressing. I want to fine-tune the fritters and adapt the hearts-of-palm salad for seafood, but it was all quite good as it was. Kevin lit candles as I plated the meal, and we sat down to flavors and culinary styles that were markedly different from our usual winter line-up. And a 2001 August Kesseler Rieslieng Spätlese Trocken.
It’s a good system. It guarantees that, at least once every other week, you break out and remind yourself of the many culinary options you don’t routinely choose. I always look forward to the meal, whether it’s my turn to cook or it’s Kevin’s. And any excuse to buy a decent bottle of wine is OK in my book.