Panettone$

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I am currently living like the one percent.

Usually I dismiss $65 jars of honey or spice blends when I see them written up in publications. I am naturally skeptical and also aware of the PR machine that drives most food journalism these days, so I assume the products are bullshit. Except for when I don’t. Like when I pay $50 (DOES. NOT. INCLUDE. SHIPPING.) for a panettone because Charlotte Druckman told me to. Druckman appreciates a good pastry more than most people and her NY Times article convinced me this was an important financial investment. Also, I was able to use the excuse of Valentine’s Day to justify this as a gift to myself (and Bryan, I guess). read more+++

Nan-e barbari

bread

Chicago has something called the Jean Banchet Awards, which are described on their website as “the only Chicago-based award ceremony recognizing culinary distinction in the Chicagoland area”. That is all you really need to know about the awards for our purposes, other than the fact that they recently added a category called “Best Ethnic Restaurant”. I looked to see if I could find a description of what the organization thinks an “ethnic restaurant” is, but I couldn’t find anything. I guess it goes without saying. It is particularly confusing because restaurants like Momotaro (Japanese), The Radler (German), Osteria Langhe (Italian) are not nominated in the “ethnic restaurant” category but rather in the “best restaurant” category. If they are not “ethnic restaurants” then “ethnic” must be code for something else.

Ugh. read more+++

Torta della Nonna

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A friend recently posted this article on Facebook that addressed the difficulties of Christmas gift giving between adults, which is something Bryan and I have been discussing a lot. As people who are celebrating the secular side of Christmas, we’re struggling to figure out what that means now that we’re all grown up. As kids with little or no financial power of our own, gifts were the greatest thing ever (we also weren’t as smart as kids, so surprises were easier). I think we hold on to the hope that gifts will still feel the same, but they usually don’t. And while I still give and enjoy receiving some gifts, I am trying to find other ways to show my friends and family I care. Baking is one of those ways.

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Occasionally, I like to throw a real project of a recipe at you, especially at this time of year when you don’t have anything else going on. I have wanted to try this Torta della Nonna recipe since I first got The Mozza Cookbook (which remains a favorite cookbook of mine), but I have been a little reluctant because the recipe spans 3 or 4 pages of the book and sometimes even I just can’t. But I did finally try it, and am here to encourage you to do the same. It might be just the place to channel some of your gift-giving energy, and what better gift than sitting around a table eating a pastry with friends? read more+++

Lottie + Doof Gift Guide 2015

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These Ceramics! I have been a little bit obsessed with Cécile Daladier’s ceramics for a few years now. They are truly weird and wonderful and designed with flowers in mind. They have been sort of difficult to obtain (you used to have to email the studio and it involved a lot of back and forth) but a couple of stores (here and here) in the states seem to be stocking them more regularly now. Daladier is truly my dream ceramicist. If anyone is looking for a gift for me, send me ALL of these. (Bonus: her studio!)

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This sweatshirt! Because the future is female, and a percentage of the profits from the sale of this shirt will benefit Planned Parenthood.

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This watch! I have always worn, more or less, a version of this watch. For years it was a Swatch, until I found this Casio beauty at Tortoise. The watch was inexpensive at Tortoise, but is dirt cheap in other spots making this the Best Watch Ever. It is also a good size for a wide variety of wrists, so really it would be good for almost anyone.

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This Boob Rug! This has made the rounds on the internet, but I couldn’t resist including it because it was definitely one of my favorite purchases of 2015. What you maybe can’t tell from photos is that the rug itself has a really beautiful quality—plush.

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This Trivet Set! Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful objects I have come across in a long time, and it cost me all of $10. Maybe the most exciting purchase of 2015.

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This Aesop Stuff! I can’t really afford these beauty products, so I feel a bit conflicted about including them—I had a gift card. But holy hell, I love this stuff. The Fabulous Face Cleanser is the best smelling thing ever. I look forward to washing my face every morning. The packaging is too good. I get it, Aesop, I get it. So, maybe take this as a reminder that sometimes it is fun to treat yourself to something completely unnecessary (and hope for a gift card!). read more+++

Friendsgiving

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I’m about to leave my thirties behind and a friend (who is only halfway through) recently asked me what I thought of the decade. I liked the last ten years of my life a lot. It was full of milestones: I fell in love and got married, bought an apartment, started a blog (!!!), and became an uncle. It was full of so many good things, and certainly beat my twenties by a mile. But after some reflection, I told her that the only thing I didn’t love was that the thirties felt like a tough decade for friendships. Many people (myself included, at times) turn away from friends and toward partners, or babies, or their career. Of course there are exceptions and friendships that remained constant. But there is a tendency to become more isolated. The intensity of friendships that I had in my twenties was, for the most part, waning. The spontaneous fun of hangouts, stopping by unexpectedly, watching TV together for hours, or sitting in bars was replaced with dinner in three weeks. It has all become decidedly scheduled.

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I recently watched the first season of Doll & Em on HBO. It is a show about a friendship. You don’t realize how rare and radical that is until you see it in front of you. There are a bunch of shows that claim to be about friendship (most notably, Friends), but mostly they’re about dating or New York or whatever. Doll & Em is about the beautiful (and sometimes difficult) complexities and value of friendships, and in particular about adult friendships (not a euphemism). I’ve loved both Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer for years, and so it was especially satisfying to see them tackle this subject together. The two are real-life friends, and they shine in the series. I laughed, I cried (I actually cried a surprising amount—fair warning) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful argument for the importance of working hard to maintain our relationships with friends. read more+++

Scalded and Malted Milk Cake

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I made this cake twice. The first time I baked in a bundt pan and seriously fucked it up when trying to remove it from the pan. Pieces. Cursing. Why Does everything happen to me? LOL. It was mostly my fault,  I was lazy when preparing the pan. Luckily I was bringing it to by best friend who had just had her second son and wasn’t going to judge me, she was covered in spit-up. I threw the half I could salvage into a disposable lasagna pan and presented it as the glorious mess it was.

I made it again more recently for the same friend (she really likes malt, and I had something to prove) and this time baked it in a square muffin tin, making cute little individual cakes. I also made the glaze less of a glaze and more of a frosting. I liked it both ways. The cake is full of intense vanilla/malty flavors and feels just right for fall and cool weather and rainy days. It’s kind of my dream cake. It might be yours, too.

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[Talk about voracious!]

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These Recipes Will Save Your Life

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No they won’t. That’s ridiculous. But I was finding inspiration in the strangely portentous title of Ruth Reichl’s new cookbook.

We have some catching up to do. I’ve been cooking!

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My friend Abra is a chef and writer and teaches me a lot about how to be a better cook. She’s especially good at preserving food. I’ve been following her lead and roasting and then freezing cherry tomatoes to get me through the long tomato-less winter. (Though maybe this winter won’t be as tomato-less as some for Chicagoans). She also makes a mean ratatouille, using those very same roasted tomatoes. I used her recipe to improvise mine, the wine and the paprika are key.

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Plum Salad

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Remember when everyone was eating bacon and bone marrow? I am sure they still are, but we’re having to hear about it a lot less. The pendulum has swung toward vegetables. Now we hear about rice bowls and fermentation—or we did, maybe even that moment is over. It’s odd how these trends effect our perception of food. I found myself annoyed by bacon for years. It had become embarrassing. Once the moment has passed, you’re suddenly trying too hard or something. Those bacon band-aids. 

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L + D Guide to Madison, Wisconsin

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I spend a lot of time trying to convince people in Chicago that Madison, Wisconsin is one of the coolest cities in the country. I get a lot of blank stares or condescending smiles. But if you’ve been there, you know.

We’ve been visiting a couple of times a year for the past few years and have fallen in love with Madison. It is the state capitol of Wisconsin and also home of the University of Wisconsin, which makes it very much a college town. It is a progressive city, sometimes referred to as the Berkeley of the Midwest.  It is built on an isthmus and surrounded by four (five?) beautiful lakes. Nature and urban life flow together in wonderful ways in Madison. It has a thriving food scene and is one of the friendliest places you’ll ever go. Because it is in Wisconsin, beer and cheese are plentiful. Basically, it is paradise.

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Another Banana Bread

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The last few weeks have been kind of juicy in the ole’ U.S. of A.. I’ve felt everything from shame and anger to pride and joy as an American. That is my usual range of emotions related to my citizenship, I guess it has just felt very concentrated. That coupled with summer, and a series of fun visitors, has kept me pretty distracted. When we’ve been home, we’ve eaten a lot of old favorites. I’ve made this eggplant spread a couple of times and still love it. I baked these cakes for the 4th of July and they were as good as ever.

I also tried another banana bread recipe. This one from the pages of Bon Appetit. I don’t actually read Bon Appetit anymore, I just use it for recipes—some sort of reverse Playboy thing is happening?  I do find myself wondering why magazines are making such a mess of themselves. The way to compete with the internet is not to make your magazine seem more like the internet—yet we’re being given lists and infographics and stupid celebrity stuff. But like I said, there are still some good recipes. This banana bread is from El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette in New York City and is a really special riff on everyone’s favorite quick bread that adds some sesame seeds and sesame paste to the mix.

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