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The perfect dessert for the Instagram vibe shift
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This week’s newsletter is a reprint of my most recent newsletter for TASTE (plus some Snack Cart additions), where I’m part of a rotating cast of newsletter writers. To get my newest stuff as soon as it’s out, subscribe to TASTE.
Fall has undeniably—at least in New York—hit. For me, the first chilly days bring a spike of energy. Maybe it’s the ingrained school calendar or the fact that I’m not sweating all the time, but it feels like the start of a new year. It makes me think about new projects. Inside projects. Projects that require the oven, which I’ve been avoiding since April.
As it gets colder, I’ll be thinking about Zola Gregory’s suggestion to make vanilla slice. Gregory interviews Melbourne baker Natalie Paull (of @BeatrixBakes) about what Americans need to know about the Australian pastry, and she provides her own recipe for a cranberry-tinged version.
To me, this seems like the perfect fall cooking project. It’s hard, but it’s not so fussy that you will feel like you failed even if you did just an okay job. It’s rustic but still attractive. It also perfectly syncs up with food Instagram's laissez-faire vibe shift.
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Fred Franzia, a wine world rebel who eschewed snobbery in favor of trying to bring wine to the masses, died this month at the age of 79. While you might instantly recognize the name from his iconic boxed wines, he was also the person behind Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw (aka “two-buck chuck”). The Takeout summarizes his story well and links to several other places to read more about him.
Speaking of American icons, I didn’t expect to be enthralled by the story of the family that created the ballpark nacho. If you have ever wondered why the movie theater sells chips covered in cheese sauce and jalapeños, read this.
For as long as I can remember, there has only been one jam in the Gee household. Full Bonne Maman jars stocked the pantry, and empty ones were hoarded past the point of sanity. I thought this was a quirk of my family’s Francophilic bent, but I learned from Rachel Sugar that the small jars are the best-selling jam in the United States. She digs into a company that we know very little about, despite its huge popularity.
“The great Midwest cheese duel of 1935” is a lovely yarn, well told, by Doug Mack at Snack Stack. If it doesn’t put a smile on your face, you can’t smile.
Matt called it out last week, but I have to +1 Cathy Erway turning her eye toward instant noodles, where a new generation of companies and innovators are taking the dorm room staple to another level. It’s time to start working “ramen night” into the schedule the same way we do “taco Tuesday.”
The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull writes about American consumerism better than anyone since Thorstein Veblen, and her essay on how hard it is to get a table at a hip restaurant captures the current dining moment perfectly. The idea that “when anything is both culturally meaningful and scarce, it generates a hunger of a different sort” crystallized thoughts I’ve had in my head for at least six months.
PUNCH looks at the rise of the vodka martini. While many used to sneer at vodka, bartenders are embracing the neutral spirit as a better platform for delicate flavors like olive brine or lemon (or not-so-delicate flavors like espresso).
Hope’s wine meme of the week
I… what… I don’t… what is this sign??? I get that it means “good quality.” But it tells you nothing about the coffee! Does Bordeaux really have such a strong luxury brand? Mostly, I’m expecting the coffee to be expensive.
We’ve made the case that you can put the savory, citrusy Middle Eastern spice mix za’atar on everything from garlic knots to scrambled eggs to flat hummus. Read all about buying and cooking with this versatile spice blend.
Karima Moyer-Nocchi and Adrian Miller dive into the lengthy history of macaroni and cheese for Epicurious. They trace the dish from its Roman origins to its current identity as a Southern staple. Thomas Jefferson and James Hemings make an appearance, but the essay explores many ways the dish crossed the Atlantic. If you finish the essay craving homestyle crusty cheesy goodness, TASTE has two great recipes: one for down-home baked mac and cheese and one for sriracha baked mac and sheese.
The Neapolitan cookie once marbled itself into a baked internet sensation.
There’s a very strong case for making onigiri, Japanese rice balls, at home, and with some frequency. When armed with a countertop cooker and some furikake, you can make a fresher, warmer rice ball.
There’s a theory on the internet that the New York Times’ Style section is an elaborate long con to foment the class war, and this story about how fancy houses now need a second kitchen so the hired help can cook out of sight while everyone hangs out in the main kitchen does not disprove it!
My mom emailed me a fun recipe for re-creating the classic McDonald’s apple hand pies. While not deep-fried, these oven-baked versions shoot for the same crispy crust as the originals. Got extra dough? Go savory with some chicken pot pie hand pies.
Watch, stream, listen
New this week on the TASTE Podcast, Matt catches up with Craig Mod. He’s a Tokyo-based journalist who is also part ethnographer and part performance artist, and we’re really happy that he stopped by the studio for a lively chat about all things Japan.
It’s a few weeks back at this point, but I loved the TASTE podcast interview Matt did with Jimmy Butler. The Miami Heat basketball star is also a coffee fanatic who recently started his own coffee brand. During the 2020 NBA season, played inside an on-site COVID protocol bubble, Butler ran a high-end coffee shop out of his hotel room. He sold pour-overs and lattes to his fellow players. (He then went on to pretty much single-handedly bring down the Boston Celtics in the Conference Final, the jerk.) Matt loves coffee and basketball in equal measure, and he and Butler have an excellent rapport. Great convo.
Coolio, rapper and cookbook author, died last week. In the content maelstrom surrounding his death, I really enjoyed watching this video and the accompanying Reddit thread about the time he crashed a house party in England, jammed on an acoustic version of “Gangsta’s Paradise” (with a bonus verse!), and cooked a three-course meal (link to the comments thread on his cooking).
Whether you celebrate the Jewish High Holidays or not, listen to this episode of The Sporkful podcast about a group of seniors who celebrate Friday night Shabbat at Wendy’s. It’s a beautiful story about tradition, community, and found family.
Out of context J. Gold of the week
“The chefs are fond of fishing big prawns out of the tanks, letting them nip at your nose a bit, and then beheading them in front of you before taking them back into the kitchen.” - link