A Spring Wine Trio and All the Best Toasts
Plus, more signs of spring
Yesterday, I saw an ice cream truck outside of Fort Greene Park. It sped down the street playing a jingle and stopped at a corner. It was after 5 pm, in the low 40s, and we were about to head home to warm up. As we left the park, I saw a small line form outside of the truck (I know that my 10 year old self would have been in it). It was a poignant reminder that spring is coming. And summer after that. After a year of living through a pandemic, I have lots of anxieties about the world reopening. It feels less daunting to take it bit by bit, one afternoon in a park at a time.
To get in a spring state of mind, we have a special guest: Maiah Johnson Dunn. She’s a wine & lifestyle writer, recovering marketing professional, accidental activist and big-time optimist based in Rochester, New York. Follow her on Instagram to see her favorite wines, her favorite way to chill wines in the winter, and more and check out her website. Thank you to Maiah for sharing her favorite spring wines. I need to try all of them!
Here’s Maiah’s Spring Wine Trio:
One of my favorite pandemic silver linings has been the opportunity to explore my own backyard in New York State. Admittedly, I didn’t go much further than my couch before the summer. But when the world started to thaw, my husband and I decided the safest place for our mini-moon was New York’s wine country: The Finger Lakes. We feel very lucky to live about an hour away from the most stunning views you’ve ever seen. I’m excited to share some of my favorite wines from the region in a spring starter pack! I’m purposefully not sharing Riesling because you already know Finger Lakes Rieslings are phenomenal. Instead, I’m going to tell you about a few others that are absolutely worth your time:
Finger Lakes Chardonnay is not your grandmother’s Chard (no offense, Nan). As I first started to learn about wine, most Chard seemed to be an alcoholic oak butter bomb that my brain could not comprehend. But as I explored more Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes, I found the profiles to be brighter, fresher and showing more restraint with oak (or no oak at all!). I tend to love the “banana belt” of the Finger Lakes, a stretch of land that’s sunnier and warmer than the rest that leads to riper fruit profiles that are pretty damn delicious.
Current favorites: Osmote Wine and Ravines Wine Cellars.
If you’re one of those people that thinks all wine takes the same, then you haven’t had Gewürztraminer. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it grape, and in my very humble opinion, it’s absolutely one of the most underrated. As an aromatic wine, smell is a massive part of the Gewürz experience. Lychee, roses, honey, jasmine tea, ginger, pineapple. And sometimes a little spicy, a little in your face, always outrageous with cheese, and definitely requires the right winemaker to create some magic in a glass.
Current favorite: Lamoreaux Landing everything please and thank you.
If you’re curious about natural wines, I’d start with Pétillant Naturel, which means 'natural sparkling' in French. I love Pét Nat because it’s fun to say, and feels like the most clean representation of the land & the grapes. The winemaker presses the juice and starts to ferment it using natural yeasts, then adds it to the bottle under a crown cap and lets it do it’s thing. No bottle is ever the same, and the wines are a bit grittier, with bright acidity, and always so fun! They just beg for some nice weather on a Saturday afternoon.
Current favorite: Living Roots Wine & Co.
Thank you again, Maiah! Follow her for more.
Something to cook:
We made pantry scraps baked pasta and a jar of salad dressing in class this week. You can find the rough recipe here and if you’d like to watch a replay, it’s here. A large cast iron is perfect for a baked pasta and one person in class used a brownie pan to make a smaller serving. Also, leftover baked pasta is perfect for a busy week. It reheats like a dream and is so satisfying.
Here’s a question for you: a few months ago, I made gnocchi from scratch for the first time. They turned out great and I froze half for a later date. When I tried to cook them this week, they completely disintegrated in the water. What’s the trick for freezing gnocchi? Defeated, I made popcorn with butter, salt, and garam masala (try it).
I’m almost done with my Omsom kit (obviously going to order another) and made the lemongrass bbq tofu for Julia on Saturday night. I served it with rice, cucumbers, and sugar snap peas with soy and sesame seeds. Brining the tofu beforehand is a great trick and the whole meal comes together quickly.
I talked about cream cheese toast last week and took it to another level recently. I had some starting to wrinkle cherry tomatoes, a few slices of sourdough bread, and a little cream cheese. I roasted the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 350 for 30 minutes. Make sure they burst. Then toast your bread, spread a layer of cream cheese, and top with the tomatoes, za’atar and a little bit of flakey salt. I had this for breakfast three days in a row and only stopped because I ran out of the ingredients.
Something to order:
Dale and I got brunch yesterday at Montesacro, which has a beautiful heated garden. The food is so good and it’s such a pretty setting. I got the egg panino on brioche, which came with fries (takeout fries never stay crispy so get them when you’re dining in person) and we also got cacio e pepe to bring home for dinner (they make the pasta in house). Dale got the french toast, which looked so good.
I got my order from Black Coffee Fort Worth this week and it’s improved my mornings. I don’t have a coffee grinder so I buy the ground Eastsider blend and store extra bags in the freezer. I’ve tried a few Black owned coffee companies and also really like Red Bay Coffee in Oakland (they don’t have as many ground options but their sourcing is amazing).
Spindrift launched lemonade seltzers which are in very limited supply. Seeing random influencers post them made me crave a spindrift so Julia and I grabbed them at a bodega on our way to Delia’s birthday hang in the park. The lemon flavor is great and hopefully I can find the lemonade ones somewhere.
Leah and I got drinks at Orebar, which has a great selection of hot drinks. I got one with mezcal, honey, and lime and they also have spiked Mexican hot chocolate and mulled wine.
Something to read:
André Hueston Mack is a renaissance wine man
The best chili crisps recommended by James Park
How a heart attack changed Rob Petrone’s relationship with food
Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco had a great Grub Street Diet
Jew has a new cookbook out and he and his cowriter spoke about the process of making a Chinese American cookbook
RIP to David Mintz, the inventor of tofutti. Those lil ice cream sandwiches are good.
Andrea Aliseda’s new newsletter started strong with an issue all about quesadillas.
How cooks create vegan alternatives to fish sauce
The best non alcoholic drinks from Wirecutter
The whiteness of the fermented food industry (this focuses on Australia but is very relevant to the US as well)
Have you been wearing more restaurant merch this year? Stella Bugbee calls it Zizmorcore.
The best $59 I ever spent: a rice cooker
Yewande Komolafe wrote about swallows, a staple of many cuisines
Ryan Walker Hartshorn shared her favorite Black owned food brands
The squishy allure of buff bear bread
The return of elaborate cake decorating as a Covid hobby
The online recipe debate and What it says about us when we want a cook's recipe but not their humanity
Was cast iron almost canceled?
Restaurant wine directors worry about the future
When the Storm Hit, Texas Chefs and Brewers Stepped Up
The Pros and Cons of Self Distribution for Independent Winemakers
A longread from Mayukh Sen: The wild and irresistibly saucy tale of the curry con man
‘It was always about proving myself’: Esther Choi of Mokbar on her rise from line cook to restaurant owner
Nisha told me about Ben’s Cream Cheese and I’m dying to try it. Has anybody found it in Brooklyn or lower Manhattan?
Now, let’s talk about your favorite toasts! Yes, avocado was the most popular response. It’s popular for a reason.
Susie also loves cream cheese toast: cream cheese toast! it’s the best! i accidentally bought miyokos’ fish free / dairy free cream cheese a few weeks ago and it is surprisingly good, especially after 6 years without smoked salmon. i love it on sourdough toast with pickled red onions and cucumber!!
Madison knows avocado toast is a classic: Oof I am such a millennial but... avocado toast. On a nice, crunchy, multigrain bread with seeds on the outside (seeds are key), a squeeze of lemon, and then a healthy sprinkle of TJ's Everything but the Bagel seasoning... perfection!
Jen’s tomato avocado toast sounds so good: The best toast is the all-time classic: mayo, avocado, tomato, ground pepper, and flaked salt. Runner-up is butter and either fig jam or hot honey with gruyere or aged cheddar.
Noah has two favorites:
Avocado toast with hot pepper spread and prosciutto: One day I'm working and Isa just brings in some avocado toast with local hot pepper spread and prosciutto on top. I have now made this every opportunity that I have gotten and it is DELICIOUS.
Fancy toast: We went to a bakery and noticed that they were selling "bread ends" for cheap - just the bread that doesn't look nice enough for them to use for customers. We had cantaloupe and homemade lemony ricotta. We toasted the bread (it was brioche) and spread some ricotta on top. Added toppings: cantaloupe, sour cherry jam, honey, mint, and a bit of maldon sea salt. Served some crunchy granola on the side. It felt way fancier than we are, but it was delicious.
This week, I want to hear about what you’d get from an ice cream truck. I know it’s early, but I want to get in the spirit. My order is a chocolate vanilla swirl cone with rainbow sprinkles. So good.
Paid subscribers support my work, get a bonus edition every Thursday, personalized recs, and discounts to cooking class. This week’s will be about last March and some big takeaways (plus updates on all my canceled and updated plans).
If you read this newsletter, you probably like quesadillas. I’m doing a special quesadilla class next week and I’d love to have you. You can bring a friend for free to make it a virtual party, just enter their email when you sign up!
Have a great week!