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.)

Bitter and sweet, drinks and memories

The first time I tried a Negroni, I almost immediately spit it out like a geyser of blood orange colored booze.

It was worse than the mouthful of CK One I accidentally sprayed myself with in seventh grade. Worse than the bar of soap my grandma shoved in my mouth as a kid. (Because yes, old school grandmothers used to do that to foul-mouthed children.) Worse than the Tylenol I bit into, thinking it was a mint.

It was horrendous, an assault on my taste buds.

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Never thought I’d be excited about a frozen Negroni

Now every time I order one, something that happens way more than I might have ever thought based on that first sip, I think of that night, and how I almost lost all my cool points in front of the Italians I was drinking with, all of them casually, painlessly sipping away at their Negronis.

It took years— it’s been ten since that first stolen sip— but I finally came around. Maybe due to a changing palette or perhaps out of nostalgia for a special time and place in my life, or maybe even because the older I get, the more I appreciate a drink that almost forces me to drink it slowly instead of guzzling it down.

And a good Negroni, with its all-booze-no-mixer blend of Campari, vermouth and gin, all colorful and dolled up with a twist of orange peel, exciting and alluring, a little floral and herbal, bitter yet bright, pretty much demands to be drank slowly.

On a recent humid, sticky afternoon in Brooklyn, reminiscent of so many equally swampy summer afternoons spent in AC-aversed Italy, a frozen Negroni was the obvious choice for me. With frost on its little coupe cocktail glass, and more of a dusty red-orange than the candy colored original, the frozen counterpart was a cute, chilly play on the classic. In the blazing heat of our windowside corner at One Bedford in Williamsburg, it didn’t stay frozen for long, quickly melting into a clear, orangey red.

I knocked it down in a few gulps, remembering a time when a tiny sip had tasted so different.

Out with the old and in with the calories

Ok, hear me out. This time I have a good excuse for my latest disappearing act. My dear, sweet computer, my ol’ Italian girl with the keyboard that used to trip everybody up except me, finally gave up the fight and went peacefully in her sleep one night.

We had a good long run together, about 8 years, so I think I need some time alone, no? Blogging on my phone, however, is a nightmare and doing it at work isn’t really an option either at the moment, so there you have it: radio silence.

But don’t you worry, it’s been gluttonous business as usual here. Below, a look at the things I’ve been eating and drinking and just not writing about:

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The phenomenal leek bread pudding from Cassette‘s brunch menu wasn’t what I was expecting (since I didn’t really know what to expect) but it was damn good. Oh and the restaurant, in Greenpoint, is adorable. You should go.

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I hated it the first time I tried it but over the years, the Negroni has become one of my favorites. At Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, they have a frozen one. Clearly, I was in love.

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In all the years I’ve lived in New York so far, I had never been to Carnegie Deli so when I heard that the local institution was closing at the end of the year, I had to go. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half on the sidewalk for a table inside, Stas and I got our order to-go and ate it in the park. The Woody Allen (“lots corned beef and lotsa pastrami”), the most delicious knish I’ve had yet, a fat slice of banana cream pie and a thick wedge of the richest, most dense cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and the two of us were done for.

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And lastly, a special shout out to the pretzel dog at my favorite bar in my old hood, the Rusty Knot. It’s nothing fancy, just a hot dog in the loving embrace of warm, salty dough, but dammit it fills my heart with all the feels every time. Or maybe that was the drinks. Who knows. It’s all delicious.