Forget Oprah, these are MY favorite things

Well, folks, we’ve almost made it through this giant dumpster fire of a year, but first we need to get through the holidays. :: Takes a giant breath ::

While I think it’s a little early to put up a Christmas tree (my personal rule is Thanksgiving weekend or December 1st), I don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about gift shopping. Holiday gift guides are one of my favorite things to read this time of year, and a couple of years ago I even made one (read it here, I still think it’s a pretty solid list), so I thought I’d put together another one for those of you who might need a little inspiration. (Links are in the titles, and let me know if you need my home address. Kidding… but not.)

A box of the best pop-tarts you’ll ever have

Lani Halliday‘s guava-passion fruit pop-tart was one of the best pastries I had this year and while I bought mine at Ursula in Crown Heights, you can now order a box of them from her online shop and have them shipped wherever you live. Those are my favorite but the maple chocolate cardamom are also great. (Her miso chocolate chip cookies are pretty awesome too, and also available online.)

Rainbow dumplings…because rainbow bagels are so 5 years ago

I can think of at least four tie-dyed items in my closet right now and especially when it comes to loungewear, I know I’m not alone because I see the stuff everywhere and on everyone. How about taking the trend one step further in a new and tastier direction with these rainbow dumplings from Sandy Ho, an Australian chef based out of LA? They come filled with either shrimp, vegetables (vegan option) or kimchi pork.

The chicest, coolest panettone

I’m a big panettone fan and after hearing David Chang rave about Panettone from Roy on his podcast last year, I immediately ordered one. Dave was right… it turned out to be the hands down BEST one I’d ever eaten and no joke, I’ve been thinking about it for the last year. This year, they’ve teamed up with Massimo Bottura’s Gucci Osteria in LA to sell a special edition panettone that comes in this beautiful pink tin. It’s the only designer thing I’ve ever really wanted.

A weighted blanket to get you through the rest of 2020

I heard about this on Eater’s Digest and actually laughed out loud when I saw it. If I didn’t already have a weighted blanked (from the same people that make this one, actually!) I would consider this Pizza Hut/ Gravity Blanket collab. These are anxious times. What better to wrap yourself in when you stress eat pizza on the couch?

A cider for Negroni lovers

They’re an acquired taste, but once you fall in love with Negronis you tend to fall hard. Ten thousand years ago when I lived in Italy, I could barely handle a sip of one, but over the years I’ve grown to thoroughly enjoy them, and because I also love ciders, I knew I had to have this Graft Cider and Collective Arts Brewing collaboration called Far Away From Home. It comes in a gorgeous can (Graft’s designs are always so beautiful) and has all these lovely flavors of juniper, blood orange, tea and “spruce-infused simple syrup” which makes it perfect to drink around a Christmas tree.

Pork buns to remind you of the Before Times

Since March, when we first went into quarantine, I’ve only eaten meat three times (and once was by accident). For the most part, I don’t really miss it, but if there’s one exception that has popped into my head several times over the last few months it’s pork buns, specifically the ones from the Momofuku restaurant group, where I’ve had so many great meals over the years. I could eat half a dozen of them and now thanks to Goldbelly, I can actually order a kit that brings everything I need to have them at home. (They also sell a Bo Ssäm dinner kit that looks amazing, and possibly worth falling off the vegetarian wagon for.)

I’ll have what YOU like

I’ve never really been a cinnamon roll kind of girl. They’ve always just been too much for me. Too sticky, too messy… maybe even too sweet? I don’t dislike them but I don’t love them either, and it’s a pretty rare occasion when I’ll order one.

One of those rare occasions though, is if I’m somewhere and am personally recommended one. Because if there’s another type of girl I am not, it’s the kind that asks a server or other employee for their recommendations and then goes with something totally different, disregarding whatever the person just said. Especially offensive, in my opinion, if you’re at a restaurant and a server tells you how much they personally love a particular dish and rattles on about the ingredients or how it’s made. I just figure if you go out of your way to ask someone what they themselves like from a menu, unless it’s something you really don’t want to eat, just go with what they like. Otherwise, why ask? (I should also explain that many moons ago, when I was in college and studying abroad, an annoying girl I lived with used to do this constantly. We always went to the same restaurant and she’d always ask the waiter what he liked, but then, like clockwork, would go with something else. It got to the point where every time she asked, I just rolled my eyes and wondered why she was wasting everyone’s time.)

So when I found myself at the front of the line at Winner in Park Slope one morning, and the guy at the order window told me they didn’t have what I was looking for yet (grape focaccia, which wouldn’t be available until the afternoon) I asked him what he thought was good. Even with just their morning menu, which included croissants, scones, muffins and coffee cake, there was a lot to choose from and I wasn’t sure which direction to go.

“Definitely the cinnamon roll,” he said, without hesitation. “They’re my favorite.”

Welp, I thought, that settles it then, and ordered the cinnamon roll.

I initially opened the container it was in just to take a photo of the cinnamon roll before I ran back home with it to eat after a shower. (In retrospect I see how absurd that plan was, but that’s also who I am: a girl who will go on a run to a bakery, to then run back, holding a small take-out box with a cinnamon roll in it.) The second I got a good look at it though, I decided to eat it then and there, on the corner as people on morning walks went by with their dogs.

It was about the size of my palm and covered in a thick, even coat of icing, which for a very brief moment made my teeth ache in sugary anticipation. The moment I bit into the pillowy softness of the roll I was so glad I had asked though, because if I hadn’t, I would never have experienced the deliciousness filling my cheeks like a chipmunk. Inside, the glistening, cinnamony filling oozed from the still-warm swirls of golden, fluffy dough, and while it was on the messy side, I didn’t even mind.

I don’t know that I’m a full-blown cinnamon roll convert just yet, but if you ask me what to get at Winner, I’m gonna tell you to order the cinnamon roll.