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Ranch Water Is a Tall Glass of Warmer Weather



Good morning. We had a fine day on the water last weekend, fishing for critters on the flats north and west of Big Coppitt Key in southernmost Florida. Dinner was going to be early, with a movie, sleep and another trip in the morning.

I made bulgogi on the grill next to the orchids, underneath the palms. I cooked with chicken thighs instead of beef, and grilled plenty of them, so I could make use of the leftovers for lunch the next day: a bulgogi chicken salad slicked with mayonnaise, eaten with Fritos and seltzer, bobbing along in shallow water under a high midday sun, waiting on the tide. It was an excellent meal, and would be a wonderful thing to make this weekend. That chicken salad: Hoo boy!

Not that it’ll be 80 and sunny where I actually live. It requires assistance, to conjure the heat, the light and the excellence of a waterside meal with friends in the midst of a New York winter. A tall glass of ranch water (above) might do it: blanco tequila cut with lime juice and fizzy mineral water, a taste of life along the Gulf of Mexico, wherever you stay. Try it in Utah, in Alaska, in shivery, down-east Maine, and you’ll see. Wintertime can have its pleasures, if only you trick it a little.

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Alternatively, you might steer into the season and give this recipe for Detroit-style pizza a shot. It’s a rib-sticker of a pie, crusty-edged and sweet-salty, reminiscent of Sicilian pizza without being in any way a Sicilian pizza. It’s more muscular, forceful, something to eat when there’s dirty snow on the ground.

Maybe you’d prefer a big bowl of barszcz, the classic wintertime Polish borscht with its clear, burgundy broth studded with beets and nuggets of beef. Or a winter squash and wild mushroom curry, a comforting stew that brings heat and sweetness into the chilliest wintertime evening.

Kale soup with potatoes and sausage? Chicken and dumplings? Mapo tofu? To end nearly where I started, you could return to fantasyland and conjure a dinner out of the Bahamas: fritters of conch or crab or shrimp, with a spicy, thick dipping sauce of ketchup, mayonnaise, hot sauce and lime juice. Eat those with a cold beer this weekend and imagine sand between your toes and the promise of tailing permit on the morning’s falling tide. Summer’s coming eventually.

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Now, it’s really nothing to do with allspice or duck confit, but that movie we watched while eating our bulgogi in fish camp? Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan in the dark, violent “Seraphim Falls,” from 2006. It fails the Bechdel Test so thoroughly that it’s as if it were made on a bet.

You should read “The Art of Change” by Calvin Tomkins in The New Yorker, on Thelma Golden, the curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem.

I’m not so sure I like the Jack Reacher novels that Lee Child has written with Alex Child as much as the ones with just Lee’s byline. But “No Plan B” was the only book I could find in the crowded Key West airport that I either hadn’t already read (“The Old Man and the Sea”) or didn’t feel like reading (“It Ends With Us”). It beat trying to watch television on a seat-back screen the size of an envelope.

Finally, here’s Kacey Musgraves’s latest, the title track off her forthcoming album, “Deeper Well,” saying goodbye to sadness. Enjoy her fingerpicking and I’ll see you on Sunday.

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