I hang onto things. In some cases this is a good thing: it’s the reason why I’ve got a vast menu collection going back almost 50 years. And in some cases it’s absurd: I also have every letter I’ve ever received, including the ones from summer camp.
As for my dishtowels… Some of them should have been consigned to the rag bin a very long time ago, but I just can’t seem to let them go.
If you have a friend who is equally reluctant to let go of aging objects, they’d probably be thrilled with this extremely unusual monthly tea towel subscription. Each one is handmade by a Maine artist, and each is different. Best of all, they’re so lovely that even the most ardent collector would be embarrassed to store them in a drawer filled with tattered old rags. .
The first time the late great chef Jean-Louis Palladin encountered Jamison lamb he burst into tears. “This is my childhood,” he said, telling the young shepherds that from then on he would serve only their lamb in his restaurant.
He went on to tell his chef friends about the Jamison’s lamb. That was in the eighties, before the farm to table movement, and a time when great American food products were rather rare. “How big do you want to get?” he asked John and Sukey Jamison; before long America’s great restaurants were all serving Jamison lamb.
The Jamisons are still raising their lambs on the lush bluegrass of the Pennsylvania hills, and they’re still doing it the old-fashioned way. If you’re looking for lamb chops, a leg or a rack, you can’t do better.
But I am personally obsessed with Sukey Jamison’s lamb pies. Made of ground lamb, fresh vegetables and spices, and wrapped in a lovely crust, this is what pot pies dream of being. And in these crazy times, what could possibly be better than knowing a few savory little pies are tucked away in the freezer?
Floyd Cardoz was one of the chefs I admired most. When he opened Tabla for Danny Meyer in 1999 I was blown away. (You can read my review here.) Floyd’s cooking was utterly new to New York. There were plenty of Indian restaurants, but none were as original and modern, and none went beyond tradition to give us a true chef’s vision of what Indian food might be.
Floyd was a game changer, one of the people who put an end to the dominance of European restaurants and paved the way for others to demonstrate what their native cuisines might be in the hands of extremely talented chefs. He went on to win Top Chef Masters in 2011 and open his own wonderful Paowalla. (You can read about my first meal there here.)
Floyd was, tragically, one of the first victims of the Covid pandemic. But he’d been working on this array of masalas for Burlap and Barrel, and after his death his wife, Barkha, continued to develop the line.
They’re wonderful. If you have any interest in cooking Indian food, you’ll want a set of your own. Each masala is distinctly different, and you can’t help playing around with them, adding their punch to all manner of other dishes. They make almost everything taste better.
While you’re on the Burlap and Barrel site, take a look at the other spices. I’m completely addicted to their cured sumac, their black lime, their intense cumin. And I’m not sure I could cook anymore without their really wonderful black peppers.
You know who they are. The people who scrupulously follow recipes. The ones who worry their ovens aren’t perfectly calibrated. Those who insist that the water for their coffee must be exactly 205 degrees before they begin to pour.
If you know that particular person, they need the Hestan Cue Induction Pan with Cooktop. This pan leaves nothing to chance. It even comes accompanied by a helpful little app with precise instructions for obtaining perfect results for whatever you happen to be cooking. Program your heat to the exact temperature, flip at the precise moment, and voila! No muss, no fuss, no accidents.
The Hestan Cue removes all the guesswork from cooking. It’s certainly not for people who love the accidental surprises that can happen in a kitchen, but everyone else would be thrilled with this gift. And at the moment, it’s even on sale.
This gamtae seaweed is even more beautiful. Wrapped around a bit of seasoned rice, with a tiny piece of raw tuna, a pickled carrot or some umaboshi, it makes a gorgeous snack.
If quarantine has you missing Korean cooking, you’ll want to know about the Gotham Grove site. It offers the most delicious roasted sesame oil I’ve yet to try, a spectacular perilla oil, various gochuchangs, aged soy sauces, exciting vinegars and the like. These day all sorts of sites are offering pre-made spice mixtures and sauces that promise to give your dishes a vaguely Asian flair. But if you have friends who really love Asian cooking, you could hardly do better than some of these super-premium condiments. I first learned about Gotham Grove from the wonderful chefs at Atomix, which is probably all I need to say. It’s one of the restaurants I’ve most missed over the past 8 months. (They’re open at the moment, but I’m not in The City.)