The best meals of 2021
Plus, outdoor drinks & grocery deliveries
It’s the last newsletter of 2021 and it’s not what I expected. I’m writing to you from Brooklyn, where Covid cases are quickly rising. Many local restaurants have closed temporarily to test staff members and deal with exposures and time has sadly taught us they won’t all reopen. Testing centers are backed up and the line to get a nose swab can take hours of standing in the cold, which many people cannot do.
It’s easy to make comparisons to March 2020 (I’ve done it) but so much is different: we know how Covid spreads, we’re actually being encouraged to wear masks (depending on the state you’re in), some parts of the world have access to vaccines, you can get a Covid test without being hospitalized, there are improved treatments for Covid, etc. What hasn’t changed, unfortunately, is a sense of “you’re on your own.” If you have to miss work to test, wait for results, and potentially isolate, you’re out of luck. If you have to take time off your hourly job to stand in line for a swab, it’s your loss. If you can’t find a fairly priced at home test, it’s too bad. And so on. I’m deeply frustrated by this, especially as we enter the third year of this pandemic. Some resources to help: you can make or request grocery deliveries for neighbors with North Brooklyn Mutual Aid (or your local group), Laurel Bristow breaks down the latest research on Omicron, and Ashley Spivey is helping people track down tests across the country. Staying home and canceling a trip to see a vulnerable relative is also an act of love and care. My parents had Covid in spring 2020 and my mom’s experience was in many ways defined by the people who stepped up to help her. If you’re able to, there are so many ways to help. I’d love to hear your thoughts in this Instagram post
With all this, I thought about postponing my best meals of 2021 because things don’t feel very celebratory. I decided to include it anyway, because there’s never going to be a definitive after and this year was made up of many moments and meals, some of which felt hopeless and some of which felt hopeful. It’s been a true honor to share them all with you.
I’ll see my paid subscribers on Thursday for a little more reflection and a cocktail recipe and I’ll see you all in January!
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
Ad break: Since the move, I’ve been restocking my kitchen for some cozy holiday cooking and baking and Fridge No More has made it so easy. I’m excited to share a special discount code with you—use TNHS50 for 50% off your first Fridge No More order. Fridge No More delivers groceries in 15 minutes in New York City and parts of Boston (the delivery range is big and includes many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens). The selection is impressive: a mixture of seasonal produce, goodies from small businesses (they have croissants from a local bakery, Soom tahini and Van Leeuwen ice cream), and classic pantry staples, like brownie mix, nuts, and cereal. They even have hot sauce! Very importantly, they don’t use gig workers—both the delivery workers and packers are employees with benefits, and surplus food is donated to community fridges around the city. You can download the app here and don’t forget to use code TNHS50 when you order. Thank you for supporting the brands that support This Needs Hot Sauce!
This week, I kept my cooking was super simple. Frozen dumplings were a real highlight (I got Bibigo ones but Sarah recommended getting a big bag here, which I’ll do next time I’m downtown). I made several meals of them, heating them up with some veggies (either broccoli or kale. I served them with some chili crisp and smashed cucumbers.
Last night, I made a pot of rigatoni (one of my favorite pasta shapes) with doctored up Rao’s sauce (I add some red pepper flakes and dried herbs) and spinach. I topped each bowl with parm and a dollop of ricotta and suddenly it was a special dinner.
After multiple negative PCR tests, we went over to my parents house for dinner with Lizzi! It was such a treat to see everyone and my parents made a hearty and comforting vegan shepherd’s pie. Dessert was simple—boxed brownies with extra chocolate chips and flakey salt and vanilla ice cream and being together was the best part.
Grossy Pelosi’s Instagram stories always brighten my day. On Saturday, they inspired my breakfast. I made his breakfast tacos/quesadillas with eggs, cheese, black beans and salsa, which were the perfect start to the weekend.
Erica and I are finalizing recipes for our meal prep classes and the first one is January 9th. We offer individual classes or a ~highly discounted~ bundle to take all four (classes come with on demand replays so they work for any timezone or schedule). If you’re looking for safe, virtual, and delicious gifts, these classes fit the bill and the recipes are really good! Get all the details here— we can’t wait to cook with you.
Something to order:
I’m relieved to report that the cream cheese shortage has not stopped Bagelsmith. I dropped off a bagel and coffee from Alita for quarantined Julia and both lifted her spirits.
Dale and I had an outdoor date night on Saturday at Le Fanfare, which has a large backyard with heaters at each table. We were the only ones there (it was kind of cold and misty to be fair) and it was worth it for the cacio e pepe and gnnochi with kale pesto.
After dinner, we walked to 99 Franklin, a speakeasy style bar behind a coffeeshop. They also have a good backyard that’s partially covered and has a fire pit and heaters for warmth. I loved the Better Days cocktail with mezcal and elderflower (the name didn’t hurt).
We also ran some errands on Saturday and ate a slice of pizza outside of Joe’s for a much needed snack break. The spinach slice is so good.
Something to read:
How The Holiday Pays Tribute to the Rom Com Genre
You might get a breakthrough case of Covid-19 this winter. Here’s how to prepare.
Call Your Girlfriend is ending on its own terms
A bar nut recipe and a warning against airport food
Coquito ice cream sounds so good
A really great conversation on gratitude (pairs well with this recent newsletter)
Julia Turshen and Alicia Kennedy discuss vegan baking and more.
Third culture cooking in Toronto
How to deal with Covid uncertainty
NYC is banning gas stoves in new buildings (restaurant kitchens will be exempt)
Just like Brandma made. So many “family recipes” originally came from the back of the box
The Night I Found a Lump in My Breast
Sweet or Spiked, Sorrel’s Appeal Goes Way Beyond the Holidays
Reaching for bell hooks in the darkness (I started All About Love earlier this year and can’t wait to read more during my week off)
An interview with Mollie Katzen (I grew up with Moosewood cookbooks)
Why Yellow Cake Is So Important to Black Celebrations
Best Meals of 2021: obviously an incomplete list
Chilaquiles in an Airbnb and cacio e pepe at Westwind Orchards in Accord on a trip upstate with Julia and Julianne the weekend after the coup.
Omsom Lemongrass Bbq tofu with smashed cucumbers, rice, peanuts, scallions and chili crisp. Julia and I ate this many times while watching the Bachelor franchise and I regret nothing. If you want to try Omsom, here’s $5 off your first order.
The King Arthur Baking Crispy Pan Pizza to christen my new cast iron pan.
Hamantaschen. I’ll be writing more about that in the Serving Up anthology, which you can order here.
Brunch at De Mole with Dale after my appetite came back after the second vaccine dose (for both vax doxes and the booster I had no appetite for a day or two, which was such a weird feeling).
Crispy potatoes and matzah brittle at an in person Passover seder in the backyard.
Saag feta with paneer and margs with Isa and Noah in Boston
Oysters and wine at Cafe Paulette with Erica, Q, Dale, and Oset in various combinations. The setting is just perfect, right on Fort Greene Park.
Pizza and vegan caesar salad at Scarr’s, especially the time I saw Tyler Cameron outside and lost my mind. Going there is also an excuse to cross the Williamsburg bridge and get the best dang views.
Rippers cheese fries with the cheese on the side and tacos with all the salsas at Tacoway Beach. My main summer goal is to spend as much time at the beach as possible and I’m pretty pleased with this year’s performance.
Apple cake and quality time with the Grandparents, plus all the tacos and outdoor meals I got to eat with people I missed in California.
Oysters and tapas at Maracuja where I always wind up staying longer than I meant to
Crispy rice with mushrooms at Bessou and fancy hotel bar drinks with Teal and Kristy
Drinks and pizza square at Tuffet, which has one of my favorite outdoor set ups and was the site of the only in person TNHS event this year
Parker House rolls at As You Are at the Ace Hotel
Coffee chip ice cream from Eddie’s, eaten at the kitchen table with the family
Sidesgiving, especially this mac and cheese
Here are some of your favorite meals of the year!
Zoe got experience a tahini shake this year, which makes her a winner: 1. Tri pie (marinara, pesto, vodka sauces) from Joe and Pats. It's from the parents of the guy who owns rubirosa and was worth the stop in Staten island!
2. The family style feast from Callie in Downtown San Diego.
3. Finally had a tahini milkshake from Goldie and lived up to the hype. Plus a visit to Laser Wolf in the same weekend.
4. A new food for me - Mas Huni - a Maldivian tuna salad made with fresh coconut that's served for breakfast. We tried recreating it at home but wasn't quite the same
Kathleen’s favorite food of the year has me dreaming of another trip to Vermont: The best thing I ate this year was probably the first pastry I bought from the farmers market in August when I moved to Vermont. Farmers markets are HUGE here and everyone always sells such good products that are made with so much love! The croissant I had rivaled only the one I ate in Paris (pretentious, I know but it had to be said) and I can’t wait to eat so many more pastries from that booth when farmers market season starts up again in May.
If you forgot to share your best meals of the year this week, I’ll share some more in January (I know it was a week). You can share them by replying to this email!
Thank you for making this year so special and being part of the TNHS community! I appreciate you all so much and hope 2022 is full of more delicious meals and chances to gather safely in person.
Take care and stay safe!