Give me all the groceries

Heirloom corn tortillas, black sesame-almond butter, balls of labneh in red pepper oil

One of my favorite activities is food shopping. Sadly, what was once a wholesome and necessary outing has been punctured by fear and aggressive feelings towards strangers over the past many months. And yet I have not been deterred. 

When the pandemic first hit—now a full year ago—I wasn’t going to grocery stores at all. We ordered from Chef Collective and Baldor instead. Then the government finally stopped lying to us about the need to wear masks, we realized that surfaces weren’t such a danger and that gloves weren’t paramount protection, and I mindfully made my way back to grocery stores. 

It’s amazing how much a trip to H Mart for a bucket of daikon kimchi, frozen vegetable dumplings, and citrus galore can lift my mood; how happy I am while roaming through the aisles of Kalustyan’s searching for asafetida, grabbing einkorn flour along the way, and filling a baggy full of plump Medjools. Recently I went to Edy’s Grocer and picked out a jar of labneh in pepper-infused oil, the house blend of Lebanese za’atar, pomegranate-marinated grape leaves, pickled button mushrooms, some muhammara, and a pack of pitas, which altogether made for wholly satisfying snack times throughout the week. 

I saw on Instagram that my friends Connor and Alex were in Sheepshead Bay the other day, and I excitedly told them to drive over to Brighton Bazaar for caviar and pelmeni and the glorious steam table of Russian savories. Connor mentioned that they also planned to go to D. Coluccio & Sons for Italian staples in Borough Park.

When you’re secluded within your own city for months on end, and especially when it’s a city like New York, trips to stores like 3 Aunties Thai Market in Woodside or Holyland Market, the Israeli grocery in the East Village, are the closest you can get to travel. 

I also love the greenmarkets, especially Union Square, Mekelburg’s for the pricey array of artisanal goods, and even my local Food Emporium, which has a solid produce section. And then there are restaurants.

I’ve made my way through tubs of fat, silky white beans from Hart’s, collected stacks of tortillas and jars of salsa macha from Sobre Masa and For All Things Good, bought canned Bianco Dinapoli tomatoes from Leo to make pasta sauce at home, and tacked prepared salads like spicy broccoli rabe and grilled cauliflower with garlicky white sauce onto my sandwich order from Rolo’s.

I wonder if the restaurants that have been selling groceries or cheffy prepared foods for takeaway will continue to do so even after COVID curbs, if the added revenue has been meaningful, and whether it can remain meaningful once dining rooms are full again. I certainly hope so. Here’s an interview between Jon Bonné and Andrew Tarlow that touches on some of this.


I miss California. As a kombucha fiend, I’ve been lusting over Sunset Cultures’ Instagram feed, and so I jumped on the opportunity to have some of their preserves mailed to me, including dill-and-lemongrass-laced sauerkraut, which I recently used to make broccoli Reubens. So good. And when I saw that Destroyer was shipping roasted almond & black sesame butter (and other goodies) nationwide, I emailed them immediately, asking for a jar—by the way, it’s the best nut butter I’ve ever had—in addition to neon-orange nasturtium vinegar, allspice whiskey honey to use in hot toddies, and Tonka-Tahitian vanilla maple syrup for pancakes. These hauls will hold me over until I can get to Los Angeles.


I really like Riverdel’s “Billy” cashew cheese, the truffle flavor. It’s vegan.


Soup Shop is a lovely concept. Every week a different restaurant crafts a few types of soup, which are then jarred and dropped at a handful of wine shops across Brooklyn for Thursday pick-ups. Each soup order comes with a small loaf of fresh-baked sourdough from Nick + Sons Bakery. Lucky for me, my local wine shop Radicle is participating. Tanoreen’s yellow lentil number, spice-laden and pureed, was a win.


Saarim and I plan to try food from every Bangladeshi cook near to us on Shef, a platform that connects home cooks to locals looking for authentic, homemade food. We’re 1/5 so far. There are also Indian cooks, Caribbean cooks, Southern cooks, and more.


I’ve created a sandwich recipe that’s equal parts creamy, spicy, acidic, and smokey. It does not yet have a name, but it is extremely delicious. Speaking of, one of my life goals is to have a sandwich named after me. Just putting that out there. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices sourdough bread

  • Whipped tahini (I got mine from Hart’s, but you can make your own by blending tahini with a few tablespoons lemon juice, a clove or two of garlic, salt, and water if needed)

  • Crushed Calabrian chili peppers

  • 1/4 of an avocado

  • Roasted peppers, sliced thinly (I like these)

  • Your choice of pickled vegetables (Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, beets, etc.)

  • A small handful of arugula

Preparation:

Lightly toast your bread, unless it’s fresh. Spread one side of each slice with whipped tahini then crushed Calabrian chilies. Lay your avocado down on one slice, mashing it slightly so it’ll hold followed by the roasted peppers, pickled vegetables, and arugula. Close the sandwich. Cut it in half. Enjoy.


T-minus 13 days ‘til spring.

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Published:

My March Hit List for Resy NY, which is all about lunch.

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A few recommended reads:

Hugh Merwin for Grub Street: RIP to David Mintz, the P.T. Barnum of Tofu

Liana Satenstein for Vogue: Meals, a Food-Centric Label From L.A., Will Make Your Mouth Water

Jenn Harris for the Los Angeles Times: L.A. restaurants struggle with a new form of dine-and-dash

Zoey Poll for T Magazine: Where the Rare Citrus Grows

Bill Donahue for Outside: An Oral History of the National Brotherhood of Skiers

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I’m @emilyjwils on Twitter & Instagram.