A Staycation State of Mind
Diner breakfasts, piano bars, and your suggestions for Gentle January
Have you taken a staycation? I used to be a skeptic, but the past two years have made me a fan. Dale and I have done birthday staycations and this weekend, Julia, Julianne and I took an Upper West Side staycation. We considered going upstate but were concerned about getting snowed in, so a local trip was the move. Staycations can be so restorative and they make it so easy to try new spots in the city. No matter where you live, consider a staycation. It’s such a thrill to arrive to your vacation quickly (and get home quickly on the other end) and it still feels like a meaningful break in routine.
Today is Martin Luther King Day and the King family is urging action against the current gutting of voting rights. Especially in light of recent campaigns against teaching actual history, it’s a great time to educate yourself (and any young people you interact with) about the civil rights movement and its complexity (no more quotes posted without context, please). I’ve got a bunch of links further down and Rachel Miller’s post is always an excellent place to start.
Today is also Tu Bishvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the trees. I’m so relieved the hostages are safe and I’m so angry that these attacks happen in such sacred spaces.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
Last week’s meal prep class set me up very well for the week ahead. I ate the brussels sprouts and kale salad in many ways, with the baked pasta, and topped with avocado and nutritional yeast with a side of garlic bread. I also froze some of the soup (paid subscribers got the recipe last week) and defrosted it last night for an easy dinner.
I had a meeting that ran late on Wednesday and was so hungry by the time it was over. The solution: frozen dumplings, frozen edamame, and frozen spinach. I pan fry the dumplings and then add the veggies. Top with chili crisp or dip in the sauce of your choice.
Natalie moved to DC and I miss her already. I sent her off with a train cocktail and lots of hugs and inherited her container of gochujang, which I’m excited to cook with. Let me know if you have any favorite recipes.
Something to order:
We were blessed with a Bachelor episode featuring both Hillary Duff and Ziwe and Julia, Julianne and I got Taco Edition to accompany it. I love their tofu taco and their salsa and bean dip and we also tried their tostones, which were really good.
Dale got a promotion and we went to Le Fanfare to celebrate (we also went there on his first day at his job three years ago). Going on a weekday meant we could have their trofie with watercress pesto, one of my favorite pasta dishes.
Erica and I got coffee at the new Baba Cool in Williamsburg, which is a beautiful space (they also have a heated backyard). I got the beet hummus, which came with so many veggies and bread.
We headed uptown on Friday afternoon and our first stop was Barney Greengrass, which I had never been to. They’re known for fish (Julia got whitefish and Julianne got the pastrami salmon and they were raving). We all loved the latkes, which were so tender, and the pickles are excellent. The seating area is pretty small so try to go on a weekday.
For dinner, we headed to Moonrise Izayaka which so many people had recommended. It’s a really fun restaurant with colorful decor, sticker covered tables, and really good food. It’s fairly casual and the vibes reminded me of Philly, just understated but very high quality. We shared everything and the highlights were the mapo tofu with mushrooms, the crispy rice appetizer, and the chicken karage if you eat meat. They also have a great cocktail list.
On Saturday, we slept in and got a diner breakfast at Viand Coffee Shop. I woke up with an intense craving for french toast and their challah french toast more than filled it. I also got huevos rancheros with a salsa verde I’d buy by the jar. Since it was freezing, we stuck to indoor activities like the New York Historical Society (there’s an RBG exhibit and a really cool showcase of art of New York City from various time periods) and browsing at Housing Works.
For the evening, we took the crosstown bus to meet Hillary at Flex Mussels, which is a genius restaurant concept. I had my first oysters of the year and we got two preparations of mussels, which are served with all the bread for dipping (we also got fries because moules frites are irresistible). Get the Thai red curry and Parma mussels and a bottle of Verdejo.
The rest of the night was an only in New York moment: we went to Brandy’s Piano Bar, an Upper East Side institution with such talented performers. The pianist is currently in Tina on Broadway and our wonderful waitress Lauren Mufson played Donna in a national Broadway tour of Mamma Mia (she sang the Winner Takes it All, which was incredible). The performances start at 9:30 and there’s a two drink minimum, so arrive by 9 to get a seat and get ready for a spiritual experience (and tip well). After the show, we got one last drink and more french fries at Ethel’s, a gogo bar around the corner.
The following day required bagels so we took the subway up to Absolute Bagels, which are so fresh and good.
Something to read:
I need to try this new Girl Scout cookie (is anyone selling?)
Priya Krishna has a new YouTube series about labor and the people who shape what we eat. The first episode is about a bodega manager.
I’ll be sharing five bonus links in Thursday’s newsletter for paid subscribers.
Now, let’s talk about gentle January, which I’m so glad resonated with you. Take these as suggestions, not prescriptions. We’re keeping things gentle and we’re more than halfway through the month.
Hillary’s new apartment is such a cozy spot to hunker down: I love the concept of gentle January! I've really been embracing my homebody side for many reasons: cold weather, the Omicron variant, and generally wanting to enjoy my new-ish apartment. For me, this looks like burning candles constantly and watching the newest season of Queer Eye.
Teal’s ritual is such a good idea. Five minutes makes such a difference: My gentle Jan is getting on the yoga mat every day, even if it doesn’t involve yoga. It’s sometimes for 5 mins, just stretching, doing my meditation or a face mask, but makes me feel grounded and it requires me to stop for a moment and give myself a little compassion and attention.
MQ has such a lovely morning practice: I really like the concept of Gentle January. After the sun is up, I like to look out of my window and ask myself: "what's different today?" There's no wrong answer, it can take as long as you like, and it is a 'gentle' mindful practice.
Paige is bringing advent calendars to January, brilliant: Love the idea of gentle January! I saw on tiktok someone who was making an 'advent' calendar for a friend but purposefully for January bc it's such a sadder month than December. I couldn't stop thinking about that so I ended up buying myself a heavily discounted Apotheke advent calendar.
Julianne is a big believer in a good walk: Gentle January is a great, kind way to approach this time. I appreciate the days that have sunshine and have been trying to go outside during that time (well bundled!).
This week’s question is fairly straightforward and one we debated over breakfast this weekend. Rank these three breakfast foods: pancakes, waffles, and french toast. You can explain your reasoning or not! Reply with your thoughts and I’ll share the answers next week.
Paid subscribers support this small business and get a bonus newsletter on Thursday with Recommendation Station, the TNHS advice column, and extra links. This week, I’m sharing how I chose my new dishes (and the alternatives I considered).
Thanks so much for reading and have a great week.