Even before I could pronounce the word digestifand I am still not certain I canI liked to linger at tables. Growing up in the 1970s, I asked my mother to cut my TV dinners into "courses," the better to extend the meal. Absurd? Yes, but I savor the memory of my mother taking scissors to the foil plate. (And what a pleasure it was to get my very own triangle of spinach.) Still, at the end of the meal, there was a chasm. I wondered, Is that all there is? Isn't there some final something to carry you into the evening? (There was: TV.)
Eventually I grew up and learned about digestifs. And now that I drink them regularly, I feel as if I've found the secret to gentle landings: How do you move from dinner to the rest of reality? Well, you have a little something.
Although they have been around for centuries, it's only in the past few years that digestifs have shown any signs of life. Today some of the country's trendiest restaurantsfrom Mario Batali's seafood house, Esca, in New York, to Grace in Chicago and Delfina in San Francisco's Mission Districtfeature a large selection of great digestifs.