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The perfect summer meal
Obviously it involved oysters
It’s august and I’m writing to you from Long Branch, New Jersey. Welcome to any new friends and a huge thank you to Alicia for generously including me in this list of newsletters she reads (I’ve followed Alicia’s work for years and I, too, start my weeks with her newsletter). We’ve spent a beautiful weekend with Julia and her family. I first visited them two summers ago and we were relieved to be able to continue the tradition this year. The activities here are mostly outdoors and we only got one rude comment for wearing masks.
If there is someone in your life who is hesitant or averse to getting the vaccine, I wanted to share a few resources that might be persuasive and empathize with the challenge of having these conversations. First, my parents both got Covid in Spring 2020. My mom in particular was extremely sick and wrote about her experience here. Next, I spoke with Sibte Hassan, a Brooklyn restaurant owner who was hospitalized for 12 days with Covid. He’s still not fully recovered. Finally, this post, from a friend of a friend, about losing her (unvaccinated) father to Covid has moved a lot of people to schedule their shots. And if you’re curious about the vaccine experience itself, I wrote about getting my first shot this winter (the side effects were well worth it).
On a happier note, please save August 24th for an in person outdoor happy hour in Brooklyn! I’ll share the full details this week on Instagram and in the newsletter next week! I used to host monthly events (the last IRL one was February 2020) and am thrilled to resume them. Note: this event is for vaccinated guests.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
I cooked more Omsom (I’ve been very behind on grocery shopping so they’ve been clutch). This time, it was the yuzu misoyaki with tofu, broccoli, and rice. I used the leftover broccoli and rice to make fried rice with egg, garlic, and ginger.
We’ve been cooking a lot this weekend (Julia, Julianne, and I made a google doc so Julia and her mom could go grocery shopping in advance and it made things so much easier). Some highlights: beach sandwiches (eating them on the beach is very important), caprese salads with arugula, pesto, and balsamic, bagel breakfasts, avocado toasts with fried eggs, and this incredible farro salad. Karen also blended up some delicious frosé with just rosé and frozen strawberries, it’s basically a smoothie.
In an effort to clean out the fridge for lunch yesterday, we made a summery salad with leftover farro (with extra flavor because it had been cooked in apple cider for another recipe), watermelon, blueberries, feta, mint, grilled corn, and toasted sunflower seeds. The ratios are up to you. With such flavorful ingredients, it just needed some salt and pepper before serving.
Last night we cooked dinner for Julia’s fam as a heartfelt thank you (they are the best) and made a cozy meal to end the weekend. We made pasta alla norma (we combined these two recipes and roasted the eggplant for about 45 minutes) with an Italian restaurant inspired salad (with a delicious basil vinaigrette similar to this) and garlic bread (Julianne has a foolproof method). For dessert, a batch of salted chocolate chip cookies. We froze the extra dough for future cookies.
Something to order: Once again, this is divided by state because I cannot quit the Jersey Shore.
Melissa and I did some work at Talea which is really spacious and has fast wifi. I especially like their little courtyard (and their fruited sours).
Dale and I grabbed pizza at Scarr’s and saw the extremely attractive Tyler Cameron on our way out. At Scarr’s, get the sicilian, a plain, and the vegan caesar salad (one of my favorite salads). They always have good wines too—I got a chilled red.
Teal, Kristy, and I had such a fun evening downtown. We grabbed drinks at the Bowery Hotel and then ate at Bessou, a delicious Japanese restaurant. Teal and my dad had actually been there years ago and she had forgotten the name. As soon as we walked in, she remembered and was thrilled to be back. Everything is good, but the highlights were the crispy rice (I loved the enoki mushroom one), the smoked deviled eggs, and the grilled romaine with sesame dressing. In a full circle moment, the owner of Bessou worked with Omsom to develop the Yuzu Misoyaki starter I used earlier in the week.
I’ve also noticed some restaurants checking vaccine cards at the door or only allowing vaccinated guests (Doris in Bed-Stuy was the first one I saw and Dame is doing the same). I support this measure and hope people will be respectful of the policy.
On Saturday night, we headed to dinner in Asbury Park. They now have a bunch of open streets which are a delight. We ate the ultimate summer meal at the Bonney Read: oysters, fries, clam strips, and rosé. There is a ton of outdoor seating and we had such a good time. Note: you can’t reserve the outdoor tables but we were able to get seated immediately as a group of 6 at 7:30 on Saturday.
After dinner, we grabbed drinks at Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, which had a spacious rooftop and a pop punk heavy playlist. I would only recommend the beer (we realized that wine or beer is the best order unless you are in a spot known for its cocktails).
Determined to find a good cocktail, we ended the night at Asbury Park Distilling Co. next door, which has won awards for its gin. Unsurprisingly, the cocktails were excellent and the staff was so nice. Covid rates are a lot higher in that area than in Brooklyn, so we stuck to outdoor options and kept masks on inside.
Something to read:
A longread on who gets to create Black pop culture
The best way to quickly chill a bottle of wine (I usually use the damp towel method)
Now, let’s talk about group dinners! You had thoughts.
Natalie knows there is a difference between a dinner and a dinner party: I HAVE THOUGHTS ON GROUP DINNERS! I think up to 7, because 7 is a holy number, is good and still allows for one-on-one or smaller group conversation among the guests. A group of 4 feels more like a “dinner,” sans party, which is also okay. For my bday, my aim was 12 people total because I think that allows for the “roving dinner party,” i.e. grazing and music and meeting new people, but is not so small that you must be sedentary and not so big that there are groups of people gabbing who show no interest in being introduced or talking to you whatsoever.
Julianne agrees that 4-6 is a real sweet spot at a restaurant: Totally agree that 4-6 is the ideal amount of folks for a group dinner. Any fewer and you don't get to share as much; any more and it's hard to get anything done, unless everyone orders separately or one person orders for everyone. But for an at-home group dinner, I think 8 is the max I can host and I so sorely miss hosting them. I wish my computer didn't take up half my kitchen table; as you remember, we used to pull it out and add every chair we could find (and my couch) to the table! I hope group dinners at home are a part of our near future!!
This week, I’d love to hear your thoughts on music while eating, drinking, and cooking. I’m very bad at noticing music in a restaurant or bar, I get distracted by the food and conversation. But I have friends who can walk out and recall every song that was played. Where do you fall? And what’s your ideal dinner party playlist or cooking soundtrack? I listen to a lot of podcasts while cooking or sometimes just one song on repeat. Reply to this email with your thoughts (and song suggestions) and I’ll share the responses next week.
We did a fun round of highly specific restaurant recommendations on Instagram this week. This is a service I offer paid subscribers. You email me your request and I’ll share options within 24 hours, including checking availability where applicable. Paid subscribers support my work, including these free newsletters, and get bonus newsletters on Thursdays and discounts on cooking classes (our August meal prep class is fast approaching—and oven free to beat the heat).
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