Letter 006: Our Week of Rest and Relaxation

Sort of. Kind of. Not really.

Hi all! Thank you for bearing with us and reading our quickie letter last week while we were getting our shit together. Some housekeeping: we collabed with the delightful Wear Your Snacks on some cool-ass bracelets, which you can buy here. $1 for each item sold goes to ROAR, because our New York restaurant friends are stuck dealing with yet another indoor dining situation minus a relief package or a vaccine fast-track. Anyway, on to what we’ve been up to!

Taylore: After spending a couple months at home in New Jersey with my (mostly) vegan parents, I arrived back to the city CRAVING seafood. It was like I had that parasitic cephalopod demon from the shitty last season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina wrapped around my brain stem. So, I indulged—here, the highlights.

Matty Matheson’s Fish Sticks

A healthy-ish and stupid-simple substitute for the Gordon’s version I used to smother in ketchup before cheerleading practice. While they’re worth it on their own, the chunky tartar sauce amped up by crumbled hard boiled egg and a fist full of dill makes them feel more grown up. I would make these once a week if I could, and you know what? I just might start. 

A Non-Tradish Halibut Curry

If you know Central Jersey at all, perhaps you’ve heard of Oak Tree Road, where you will find the absolute best Indian food in these United States. (I’m biased, but I’m not the only one.) It’s one long, winding yellow brick road of delicious shit, and it happens to run through my hometown. The ice cream is glorious, technicolor sweets fill the pastry shop windows, and you can smell the dosas from the parkway. On my old commute home on NJ Transit as an intern, my nose would perk up as we approached Metropark station, the spices in the air my cue to grab my stuff and make a break for the door to beat the rush. Anyways, I miss the food every day, so I used the leftover halibut from the fish sticks to whip up a South Indian-ish curry thing. It was by NO means traditional, but it was an excuse to break out all the spices I have stashed away from India and Morocco. I toasted up some fenugreek, mustard seeds, chili, garam masala, whole cardamom pods, ginger, turmeric, and a sweet yellow curry blend in coconut oil with onions and garlic, then simmered it all down with the fish and a can of coconut milk (sadly, I had no tamarind on hand, but if anyone has a brand they love please DM me.) Basmati rice, spoonful of yogurt, flurry of cilantro, big squeeze of lime, boom.

A Birthday Bonanza

Myself and a couple friends (who could not have possibly gotten COVID tested more times) indulged in weekend upstate in late January—in part to celebrate my birthday, but mostly just to drink to excess in a hot tub and bask in the glory of T***p leaving the White House. The trunk was stuffed with seafood and vinho verde, so much so that we ended up having to get towed the last few yards up the icy mountain. It was all very metropolitan.

We dressed to the nines for a night (because why the fuck not) and leaned into cocktail hour. The spread included salmon roe from Kasia’s caviar guy (???) with sour cream and potato chips à la Melissa Clark, crab rangoon—the sleeper hit—doused in fermented chili sauce, fried olives, and some obligatory deviled eggs.

We were too drunk and full to cook after that, so we had a leisurely brunch the next morning with everything we picked up from Dame on our way up: squid in tomato oil, saffron potted shrimp, aioli, and Mel sourdough slathered with Kerrygold and flaky sea salt. (Note: Dame’s owners, Patricia and Ed, just landed a lease next door to their to-go spot and I can’t wait to sit very close to strangers and drink A Cold Martini, as a recent sample menu phrased it.) We roasted cod over sweet peppers and blistered shishitos, then drizzled boquerones with EVOO. No, I have not checked my bank account recently.

Fish Cheeks’ Crab Curry

Mentioned in our last letter, I thought this might help me sweat out my 24 hour hangover. It didn’t! (Still sensational, though.)

A Smoky Tin

If you’re within walking distance of Tompkins Square Park, the adjacent Maiden Lane has hot cocktails and tins to go. I went with a ginger gin toddy (which tasted like Gin-Gins melted down, in the best way) and habanero-marinated smoked oysters with a baguette, butter, and a zingy parsley salad.

A Moroccan Fish Sandwich

If this banger was the nail in my mercury poisoning coffin, then so be it. Everything from Wildair’s pop-up with bakery Eti looked delicious, but I sprang for the saucy red snapper with chickpeas and peppers, all stuffed into challah and gloriously messy. I ate it in the street and practically skipped home.

In closing, I’m on a vegan cleanse now.

Christine: Initially, this section was going to be a straightforward list of wine pairings for each dish above. Instead, we’re going to talk about one type of wine, both because I’ve been craving it lately and also because it would be killer with any of the fish dishes Taylore wrote about.

(unrelated: I had never heard Matty Matheson speak until I watched the recipe video Taylore just linked to, and is it me, or does Mr. M sound like Grover from Sesame Street?)

Anyway, I missed no nuance November and my coffee never really kicked in today, so with all the love in my heart, I’m gonna be honest with you.

You probably think you don’t like Sauvignon Blanc. You’re wrong.

It may sound like I’m contradicting myself when I go on to say that no one can or should ever tell you that your preferences are wrong. Your tastes are your tastes and they are correct. They may change, they may evolve, but no one can put a value judgment on them. That is some nonsense elitist bullshit and we are not here for it.

I have no doubt that you genuinely don’t like the Sauvignon Blanc you’ve had before. You may have stolen it from your mom’s screwtop bottle in the fridge when you were in high school. You may have gulped it down at college parties. You even may have ordered a disappointing glass at fancy restaurants in an attempt to be open-minded (or in attempt to order something reasonably priced). You should never have to suffer through those experiences again.

But, there is some looovely Sauvignon Blanc out there and you deserve to experience it. It may just change your mind about the whole grape.

I tell you this because I care. I also tell you this because, after teaching hundreds of wine and cheese classes, I know that a lot of people think they hate Sauvignon Blanc until they taste a well-made Sauvignon Blanc in a slightly different style.

Most of us cut our wine teeth on New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which is all PEACH! GOOSEBERRY! PASSION FRUIT! SUNSHINE! It also, quite famously, has aromas of “cat pee.” Not kidding.

I enjoy NZ Sauv Blanc every once in a while, but I also had my first sip of alcohol at age 21 after growing up Mormon, meaning that I never had the otherworldly high school/college hangovers from guzzling bad Sauvy B. I drink it during the summer, with Vietnamese food, or if someone has a bottle open.

A lot of us associate its flavor profile with Mom wine or bad wine, and that’s not exaaactly true, but rather than trying to convince you otherwise, let’s just opt for another flavor profile. As with any other grape, if you grow it somewhere else, it will probably have a different personality. So, elsewhere we go. You can find great French Sauv Blancs (specifically from the Loire Valley and from Bordeaux, the grape’s birthplace), but I want to talk about somewhere slightly closer to home.

Some of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs come from Long Island, which feels thematically appropriate, as it’s a slept-on grape from a slept-on region. A whole episode of the Netflix show Friends from College centered around how the group went wine tasting in Long Island, where all wine is terrible. Which, like, funny haha okay, but there’s also some really good wine being made in Long Island.

Sauvignon Blanc from Long Island is soooo pretty. It’s like if you’d only had Tang all your life, and then tried freshly squeezed orange juice for the first time. It’s more delicate, more nuanced, and easy to love. It’s also BANGIN’ with fish dishes, thanks to its pretty notes of lime blossom and fresh herbs. Long Island has a maritime climate, meaning the wines tend to have moderate alcohol (looking at 12%ish for the Sauv Blancs), fresh aromatics, and plenty of acidity.

As my friend and wine genius Sarah Looper (hi, Sarah!) says, don’t be afraid of acidity in wine! When we think acidity, we often associate it with harshness, when really, we should be associating it with our favorite condiments—a squeeze of lemon juice, buttermilk ranch dressing, hot sauce. Acidity refreshes our palates and pairs beautifully with food.

The easiest LI Sauv Blanc bottle for you New Yorkers to nab is probably Channing Daughters "Mudd West Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc from Astor, which is gorgeous and the perfect place to start. I also adore anything made by Macari, their standard bottling of Sauvignon Blanc is lovely, and their 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Lifeforce, fermented in concrete, is also very special.

If you’re gonna make the fish sticks at home or even just order something fishy on Door Dash because we have you craving fish now, please treat yourself to some Long Island Sauvignon Blanc as well. It’s worth your time.

P.S. because I’m a cheese person, I think I’m legally obligated to share with you that goat cheese + Sauvignon Blanc is life-changing.

I was going to write more about rest, but I’m too tired

Christine: I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. It’s winter and I’m tired. I also am grappling with what it means to have been brought up in a capitalist system that values profit over people, and how that’s influenced my beliefs about rest and whether or not I’m worthy of it.

For our next letter, we’ll be talking more about this, but in the meantime, I’m interested in your relationship to rest. I created an anonymous Google Form here with four quick questions about rest that I’d love for you to answer if you’re game. Skip any questions you don’t want to answer, etc etc. You’re also welcome to DM me on Instagram with your thoughts on rest, if that’s easier. I’ll share some responses next week.

As always, thank you for reading! Hope you’re in for a cozy, tasty week.

P.S. Kasia, can you share the info for your caviar guy? Does he deliver to Vermont?
P.P.S. You think that’s vital information? Ask her about her feta guy.