February, oh February. The days are dark, everyone is cranky, and the dullness goes on forever. Left to its own devices, it's a mean old month with little to say in praise of it -- sluggish and with nary an ice cream in sight. Even the farmer's markets have given up, with only potatoes (potatoes! always potatoes) and apples of indeterminate origin available.
In other words, it's a month that demands spark and whatever brightness you can bring to it. This is no time for half-measures: we must run to color and fresh things and a little sparkle wherever we can find them.
And so, your survival guide:
Don’t get me wrong: I love flowers year-round. There’s nothing as joyful as an armload of local lilac in the spring, or cafe au lait dahlias in September. But it’s in February that things get real; the piles of snow are black, greenery is long gone, and it’s hard to see an end in sight. Shockingly orange or fluorescent pink flowers from nowhere around here are the only antidote.
Citrus: So I clearly like citrus and maybe it’s obvious, but goddamn if it isn’t the brightest thing going on right now and just doesn’t get old. Years ago, after a rather long night out we found ourselves going empty-handed to big old brunch the following day. We knew all the other guests would arrive with pristine pastries and elaborately bakes, but alas our dragging souls only took us as far as around the corner. We gathered up six beautiful specimens and whatdoyouknow they were the hit of the show. The grapefruit bodega is a beautiful thing. (As is the bodega clementine, tangerine, lemon, and plain old baseball orange. Arm yourselves accordingly).
NYCB and balloons: Jihan Zencirli Geronimo, known for her enormous balloon installations, is doing an art series at Lincoln Center in conjunction with the ballet. I'm incredibly excited to go to the final performance later this month. If giant floating balloons and pretty ballerinas and the famous chandelier don't do it, nothing will.
Get yourself to New Orleans: Every year we make the pilgrimage to see the man's family (hi!!), and every year it is a breath of fresh air. I'm convinced a trip to New Orleans is as close to leaving the country as you can get -- a different world entirely. Between po boys at Domilise's and Parkway Tavern, incredible meals at old world spots like Antoines and Commanders and Mosca's, to pounds of crawfish and jazz everywhere you look (family favorite: the Maple Leaf), there's nothing quite so satisfying and quite so warm when you need it most.
Tiki drinks: A few years ago, tiki cocktails started appearing everywhere in Brooklyn, and while hard not to love their festive air (who doesn’t want a little umbrella hat or giant wedge of pineapple?) I stuck to the classics. But to repeat a theme ad nauseum: February calls for a little indignity, a little lightness, and nothing does it like a big old glass of crushed ice and a couple shots of rum. (A particular favorite right now: Song of the Sword at Grand Army, with blood orange amaro, orgeat and mole bitters.)
Make Jessica Koslow’s green frittata: If there was ever time to dream of Sqirl, it is now. But short of a trip to LA, I've been making the easiest recipe in Everything I Want to Eat. Blanch kale or chard or whatever greens you have; blend with herbs and olive oil until it's basically liquid. Butter a cast iron pan, throw in slightly beaten eggs and the greens, stir for a few seconds, then throw in the oven for under ten minutes. Deceptively simple, but that perfect combination of nourishing and delightful. (Note: basic recipe is here.)
Eat at DeMaria (again and again) - With the news of Camille Becerra’s departure from the Nolita restaurant, it might be time for a farewell round. It's exactly the type of food I’m craving now -- the tiger bowl with cubes of house-cured salmon over greens with a million vaguely japanese toppings and drizzled with coconut milk dressing; a tumeric and pineapple tonic; the cheese biscuit with guava jam. Maybe it’ll be around forever but based on her old spot Cafe Henrie (RIP dragon bowl of my dreams), it's worth going now while it still has her touch.