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Cookbooks and Criticism

I don’t recall why, but I decided to watch all of the films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this year. I think I did this once before, years ago, and am learning the same lesson as I did then—the films aren’t that good. With a couple of exceptions, I have found them mostly mediocre or actually bad. I’ve been posting flippant reviews of the movies as I watch them on Instagram for a laugh and a few people have messaged me to say that I don’t seem to like anything. Well, yeah.

What has surprised me about the tone of these comments (accusations?) is that they seem to come not from a place that is aware of how mediocre most cultural production is, but from a criticism of me as a spoil sport or unnecessarily critical or worse, mean. Which baffles me. Taste being subjective and all, we have all surely encountered a work of art that we think is really, really good. We know it is possible. So why would we ever settle for less? And to be clear, I am not talking about enjoyment here, I am talking about quality. I happily can enjoy (and do!) bad things all of the time. Two of my favorite tv shows are The Bachelorette and Midsommer Murders. They are indefensible, and I love them. If you tell me all of the reasons they are bad, I will agree with you but I won’t stop enjoying them. Just like I am not going to act like I think Past Lives is a good film because it is nominated for an Oscar. And how you can still enjoy Maestro and feel connected to it even though it is so very bad. read more+++

A Muffin Cult

It is important for you to know about this bran muffin recipe that was making the rounds a few weeks ago on Instagram. I learned about it from Hailey who learned about it from Camilla. But the origin of the recipe is here.

I don’t know that I have ever had a strong opinion on bran muffins. But Bryan loves them and I have been thinking I would like a reliable recipe. I’m in love with these beauties and if you are at all curious I implore you to give them a try. The real genius of this recipe is that you mix up a batch of the batter and it sits in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can then bake a couple of muffins every morning which means all of your bran muffins are fresh from the oven. It becomes a lifestyle, really. Slathering salted butter on a warm muffin is now just who I am. read more+++

Steamed Cranberry Pudding

Coming to you today with one of my most treasured and strange holiday recipes. Versions of this oddity appear all over the internet on sketchy food sites that are mostly ads for weightloss drugs and recipes for “salads” off of the back of packaged goods. I got my version from a chef friend a few years ago who described it as the best dessert ever. Which it is. But it is also bonkers. read more+++

L + D Gift Guide 2023: Special Guest Edition

Continuing a tradition started last year, I again managed to convince five of my favorite people to share their gift picks with all of us. I could not be more excited to bring you this very special edition of the gift guide. Once again I have already ordered multiple gifts from these lists. And in case you missed it, my annual guide was published last week—check it out!

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SAMIN NOSRAT

You probably know who Samin Nosrat is from her best-selling cookbook (another is on the way!),  television shows, podcast, or world tour (which I had the pleasure of hosting on her Chicago stop!). But you should also know that she is a dear friend who has impeccable taste. The kind of taste that feels effortless. I’m always learning something new from Samin, which is in itself such a gift!

From Samin:

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself spending more of my time considering a single question: “What is a good life?” Another way of asking the same question might be, “At the end of my life, how do I want to have spent my time — which is to say, my most limited, and hence most valuable, resource?”

I’m in the midst of a shift in my life, toward making the answers to these questions — and a handful of others — the points on the compass that guide my decisions, both large and small. And so, in some ways, it feels odd to offer gift ideas when the thing I’d really like to suggest is that you give the most valuable gift of all, which is your time. Yet I hardly make all of my own gifts, nor do I spend time with the people I love the way I wish I could, so I can’t suggest that. Anyhow, I’ve found that often, people most appreciate a gift that allows them the time or encourages them to do a small project they’ve been putting off, to cook a dish they’ve been wanting to try, or just stop and make a cup of tea each afternoon in their new favorite mug. In that spirit, I offer this handful of suggestions:

Blackthorn Sea Salt
This year I tried Blackthorn Scottish sea salt for the first time, and it’s heavenly. Made by master salters using traditional methods along the Scottish coast, the huge, white flakes are gorgeous and clean-tasting. A 3 pound bucket would make a wonderful gift for any avid cook (or eater), and last for ages, too.

Japanese Mandoline 

After nearly 20 years of using the narrower version of this mandoline at home, I recently upgraded to this “Big Beni,” and the only regret I have is not having done it years sooner. Every kitchen needs a mandoline — just glancing at mine hanging on a hook in the kitchen inspires me to make shaved salads with all sorts of fruits and vegetables I might not have otherwise thought to use that way.

Black Walnut Cutting Board 
I’ve had this work of art sitting on my kitchen counter for over a year now, and I never tire of looking at it. It also makes slicing and dicing feel a little bit luxurious, every time.  Add the optional feet and finger grooves, and it’ll make an extraordinary gift for any aesthete with a tiny kitchen who needs to expand their counter space. (And don’t forget to get the Board Butter, too!)

On the Necessity of Gardening
I’ve had this gorgeous book on my coffee table for over a year now, and never tire of browsing through it and reading a little essay or bit of history. It’s inspiring and surprising and has led to much careful thought on my part on the role of the garden in my life. It’d make a lovely gift for any avid gardener or nature lover.

Gregory Parkinson Tablecloth, Placemats, or Napkins

Setting my table with Gregory’s gorgeous double-block printed textiles makes every single meal feel special. Digging through my bin of napkins to find the ones that best match each diner’s personality is a true delight. Any of his offerings would delight a textile lover, but a few sets of napkins would make a truly luxurious gift for anyone who loves to host groups of friends for long dinners around the table. read more+++

Lottie + Doof Gift Guide 2023

RIGHT HAND PILLOW by John Sohn

This was my birthday gift to myself (a tradition I highly recommend). After admiring John Sohn’s work for years, I finally treated myself. It is a big chunky hand to hold you close, or to lay cheekily on your couch. The craftsmanship is really outstanding, and the packaging it came in was inspiringly chic. Don’t forget to have fun!

CHICAGO STYLE HOT DOG CHIPS by Foxtrot

I love Chicago. And hot dogs. And chips. And so these chips obviously combine a lot of my interests. They are also very good. Some seriously better living through chemistry because you can actually taste all of the components of a Chicago Dog in each chip (though I would argue that with the canvas of potato they might best represent a depression dog). It’s a wild ride.

BUBBLE GLASS by Building Block

I learned about these glasses from my friend Aya who has impeccable taste. They’re so lovable and hold a genuinely surprising amount of liquid. A proper little weirdo ready for a good time.

FUSILLI COOKBOOK STAND by Michael Marriott

An absolutely legendary piece of design that should be in museums if it isn’t already. The simplicity! The lines! The functionality! Because it folds flat I hang it from a pot rack when not in use. It is perfect.

BRASS PIN by Alexis Stiteler and Ann Erickson

I don’t wear jewelry often but I do like a pin or brooch on occasion. This tiny brass pin is the result of a collaboration between Alexis Stiteler (whose hand-drawn clothing is outrageously beautiful) and jewelry maker Ann Erickson. It has medieval vibes in the best possible way.

MY OTHER BODY IS A TEMPLE HAT by Bad Museum

Serious LOL.

MORE THAN CAKE by Natasha Pickowicz

One of the greatest baking books ever published—a total game changer and instant classic. Anyone who cares about baking should have this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t know what else to say.

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The Big 8

The quickest of check-ins to share this giant pop-tart (galette if you’re fancy!) that I recently made for an 8-year-old’s birthday party. I used recipes in Camilla Wynne’s brilliant book, Jam Bakes. But essentially I rolled out two disks of galette pastry to about the size of a half-sheet pan (12×15?) and put them in the fridge to chill. Using parchment paper, I made a template of a giant “8” that used as much of the surface of the dough as possible. Cut each sheet of dough into an “8” using the template. I then put one of the two “8”s on a parchment-lined baking sheet and piped the filling onto dough leaving a 1-inch border along all of the edges of the dough. For the filling I used both vanilla custard (thick set- about 2 cups?) and a rhubarb and Amarena cherry jam that I had made (about a cup?). I then brushed the exposed edges of dough with water and very carefully placed the second “8” on top, carefully and gently bringing the edges together to seal. I used a fork to press the edges closed in a decorative pattern, and used a paring knife to cut some ventilation holes into the top of the dough. But here is the best part! I then put the entire thing into the freezer. And left it there for a week! (once it is frozen, wrap it well to protect it!) The morning of the party, I baked from frozen (I baked at 425°F for about 45 minutes, or until golden and you can see jam bubbling through vents). It takes about 2 hours to cool enough to glaze, so keep that in mind when planning the day. And then I made a glaze using the syrup from a jar of Amarena cherries, heavy cream, and confectioners sugar. I added a couple of drops of food coloring to make the pink brighter. Anyway, I loved it. The 8-year-old loved it! Would work with any number but you may get fewer servings with other numbers since the “8” really maximizes surface area. I think I managed to carve about 25 small servings out of this beauty.

 

That’s all! Hope you’re having a good summer.

Eating in London

We recently returned from three weeks in England. We spent a week in Somerset and the Cotswolds, but the bulk of the time was spent in London. It was a dream trip with origins in a week-long trip we had scheduled in 2020 that was canceled for the obvious reason and the longer it was delayed the more it grew. Revenge travel?

We ate a lot of good food in London, it is easy to do. Growing up I remember jokes about British cuisine, but these days I don’t think there is a city I enjoy eating out in more. It’s good fun. And so we had two weeks of meals at restaurants that were old favorites or recommended by friends or written about by people I trust. The funny thing about having that many nice meals in a relatively short amount of time is that it can be disorienting. Meals that might have stood out during a normal week suddenly seem less special. It got me thinking about what makes a good restaurant. And the main thing I’ve arrived at (and this isn’t original) is that it is never just the food. In fact, sometimes I think the food isn’t even at the top of the list. We ate good food at places that didn’t feel great for other reasons. There was a cool new place with incredible food where the staff kept telling us they needed our table in 2 hours (1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes…), an iconic favorite that felt “museum-like” (to quote a friend I was complaining about it to), and another that was phoning it in and relying on an endless stream of tourists. We had good company and were on vacation at these spots, so none of this really bothered us. But you know when something is off. A handful of places felt so right that I keep thinking about them…

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Let them eat cake

This photo from the set of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is one of my favorite things. And one doesn’t think about Marie Antoinette without thinking about cake, or at least I don’t. Though I also know that the famous quote was translated wrong or taken out of context or attributed to the wrong person, which some self-righteous nerd explained to me years ago. Truly, who cares.

I’d also never really cared much about proper cakes, the ones with layers and frosting that are served at weddings or birthday parties. They’re just kind of sweet and soft and somehow always a letdown. I would rather have almost anything else—a donut, a danish (a cheese danish!), a tart, even a streusel-topped coffee cake, which is cake but not the kind we’re talking about. And so until a year or two ago, outside of the occasional carrot cake, I had never really made a proper cake.

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L + D Gift Guide 2022: Special Guest Edition

[clockwise: Nadia Gohar, Dorie Greenspan, Merve Emre, Camilla Wynne, Kelly Cooper Kordylewski]

This year, in an unprecedented move on my part, I decided to ask other people to contribute to a second, bonus gift guide. This was mostly very selfish. Because my gift guide is always stuff I already have, it doesn’t do me much good. It occurred to me to ask people who I think are very cool for what they would recommend. And it worked! And I have already ordered multiple things on this list. It’s so good! Could not be more thrilled and grateful to have collaborated with these five brilliant, stylish, and wonderful people. Enjoy!

NADIA GOHAR

Nadia Gohar is one half of the sister/sister duo behind Gohar World, the brand currently taking the world by storm. Her work and background in the arts, impeccable style, and cleverness helps define the style of the brand. And like all genuinely cool people, she has a great sense of humor and seems to know what is ridiculous and wonderful about lace sleeves for eggs or adult bibs (see my gift guide). A friend who also regularly writes gift guides messaged me a few months ago when Gohar World launched their first collection and said: Truly cannot wait for our holiday guides to all be Gohar World. Which, truly! Because nothing Gohar World sells is necessary, which makes it all so wonderful.

From Nadia:

First on my list, a little jar of something from SOS Chef. Atef’s spice shop in the East Village is pure magic. When I’m there, I like to grab bits to gift to friends. Recently I got the Plum Soaked Sesame Seeds & a jar of freeze-dried capers.

I love giving the Week-end Soap from Santa Maria Novella because I think it’s the perfect gift for someone who’s going to be spending some time away from home- either for the holidays or in general. Three perfectly packaged soaps for someone in a place that’s not their own.

This is a splurge, but I’m obsessed with my metallic silver bedding from Magniberg. Totally festive.

It wouldn’t be a proper gift guide from me without mention of Gohar World ;) Our linens have a special place in my heart because of where and how they’re made. Along with the collaborative creative work I do with my sister, I also oversee the production part of things in Egypt- which mostly takes form in the linens we create. This season, we made a color-block tablecloth, with a duo tone split down the middle. Each square tablecloth comes with buttons and buttonholes, allowing you to attach the squares to expand your table (for the host whose door is always open!)  The three available color combinations are an ode to the painted landscapes of one of our favorite artists, Etel Adnan. 

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DORIE GREENSPAN

If you read this blog or care about home baking, Dorie Greenspan likely needs no introduction. Truly one of the greats of the food world–an icon even! I’ve been lucky enough to also call her a friend. We met more than a decade ago at a hot dog stand in Chicago (thanks to our mutual pal David Tamarkin) and I can attest to her being as wonderful as she seems. A few years ago when I was moderating a discussion with Dorie in Chicago, I asked her about being a style icon and she quickly brushed the idea off. But Dorie has impeccable taste and style and we all know it. (She also has a wonderful newsletter that you should subscribe to.)

From Dorie:

This Hermes Scarf is admittedly a splurge, but if you know a stylish baker with a love of France and its pastry, the odds are good that it’ll be the most memorable gift of the season. It’s small more a neckerchief than a scarf (although it does come in a full, tie-it-this-way-and-that size) – but bountiful: There are images of macarons and sweet pears, charlottes, marzipan and frilly cakes galore. And if you think it’s too pretty to wear, you can frame it!

My husband, the breadbaker in the family, saw this offset bread knife at a friend’s house and went out and bought one for himself the next day. It’s one of those things that you might think you don’t need, and then you cut with it and nothing else feels as good ever after – it’s the knife that spoils you for all others. He bought it to cut through croissants, homemade baguettes and artisan loaves with sturdy crusts, but I use it every day too – it’s terrific for chopping bar chocolate into chips (always use an offset serrated knife for that job) and for slicing cakes that have a delicate crumb.

Like a genie in a bottle, a spoonful of this bright, aromatic, deeply flavorful preserved lemon paste makes just about everything taste like a million bucks. I keep a few jars on hand at all times because I get a little panicky if I think my supply has dipped below the safe level. Of course, it’s good in Moroccan dishes – every tagine is better with this paste, but so is pasta of all kinds, dishes with tomatoes, chicken, shrimp or pork, vinaigrette and dozens of vegetables. And if you like a little heat, try the Harissa with Preserved Lemon – it’s as good as it sounds. read more+++