April went by as a blur. A month that blended together hints of winter and summer in a vague interpretation of spring. The flowers bloomed. The wind blew. It was definitely less miserable than last April (though, let’s be real, we didn’t exactly leave the house last April) but we were still caught in bouts of cold with a fair share of actually nice days. But enough about the weather.
April was a pivotal moment because in New York, it meant all adults were eligible for the vaccine. Which, in combination with the nicer weather, meant a lot more people out in the streets, masked and unmasked. But that craving for a sense of life in the city is omnipresent.
The month began with a very special dinner on the re-opening night for Van Da, a modern Vietnamese restaurant in East Village. They so generously dedicated the night to women warriors, with a dinner that was not only filled with delicious bites and drinks, but also incredibly inspiring conversation.
The evening was cold for outdoor dining (that early April sun was deceiving) but the atmosphere was warm. And a very memorable Thursday evening for a girl who doesn’t get out much, especially on weekdays.
the month ended with a fun dinner and drinks night with some of the same people, this time in Brooklyn at Sama Street for pan Asian food and creative cocktails. I got rained on while walking over, but would do it again without question. The last thing I consumed this month was a shot of tequila, right before heading out the door and gleefully walking home, basking in the glory that is NYC feeling alive again on a Friday night.
Two phenomenal meals bookending an otherwise unremarkable month (but in a good way).
Idk what compelled me to go back and deep dive on this, but sometimes, even for those of us who don’t particularly enjoy reading, good writing is healing. And so time after time I find myself turning back to the worlds of the late Jonathan Gold. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s homesickness. Maybe I was in need of some inspiration before diving into my own LA writing. But either way, after everything that happened since the last time I did this (two years and a lifetime ago), this article hit different.
But change in Los Angeles is often easier to track by looking at its restaurants rather than its boardrooms, and from the business end of a pair of chopsticks, extreme diversity didn’t look so bad. Sometimes equality, democracy and tolerance are virtues you fight for on distant battlefields, and sometimes they are as close as the frozen-food aisle at Vons. The neighborhood wasn’t tidy, but until those few hours in late April, it worked.
It was the idea of the grand mosaic, of L.A.’s multicultural exceptionalism that melted down as well. For months, it became uncomfortable to stroll into a cafe off of Central Avenue for a plate of pigtails and greens, or even for a chili dog at Florence and Normandie, without having to confront the unspoken questions of why you were there, what you were looking for, and when you were planning to leave. Apparently “eat lunch” was not the appropriate answer.
In retrospect, the strength of Los Angeles as a restaurant city may owe less to the average Angeleno’s cosmopolitanism than it does to the desire of homesick expatriates to reproduce exactly the tastes, the smells of their hometown. Here you can find the cooking not only of China, or even of metro Shanghai, but of Wuxi. The best-regarded Thai restaurant specializes in fishy, pungent dishes from coastal Southern Thailand. South-side street vendors peddle fermented cactus drinks unknown outside a 10-mile radius of the proprietor’s coastal Mexican hometown. A thousand tiny worlds.
After the riots, L.A.’s insularity somehow fostered restaurants with a strength of purpose, even stronger and more specific than they had previously been. Mainstream restaurants began to find their inspiration within L.A.’s communities rather than outside them. You began to see chefs congregating at places like Guelaguetza and Sapp on their days off, and the standard Los Angeles style of service grew to become more like the shared-plates meals at local Japanese izakaya, or Thai coffee shops, or Korean pubs, or Mexican botana bars — almost as a sign of L.A. cultural literacy, but perhaps something more.
The difference between high cuisine and street cuisine, between “ethnic” cooking and American food, began to fade. Some of the best new “mainstream” restaurants of the last couple of years — Lukshon, Spice Table, LaOn, Post & Beam — were opened by classically trained chefs looking outward from their traditions rather than inward.
So I did end up deep diving on this. And several sociological papers and personal essays and culture pieces later, I actually kind of miss school? The hard part is distilling all of this information into digestible conversation. And then channeling the knowledge into a cultural strategy that dismantles the system.
’twas a month of deep introspection and nostalgic brain candy and nothing in between.
Keep It, gotta keep up with culture and since I don’t have the energy for opinions I’ll happily borrow some.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version), let’s take a trip straight back to middle school. Except this time obsess over different songs.
Sherlock, again, before it’s gone from Netflix. Because again, we need some comforting nostalgia.
Time, Terroir, Taiwan
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, because Ocean Vuong’s poetic language is painfully beautiful. Still working on this one though.
IYKYK, because IK. And lets be real a hefty food magazine that happens to center on a specific facet of Chinese food culture is right up my alley.
aka things I didn’t regret buying
lesson one: if you see a japanese market, go in.
Randomly came by a little Japanese market and picked up this bright and tangy sesame yuzu dressing that I want to douse on everything.
These Chelsea yogurt candies. Unsure why they’re called Chelsea. But they remind me of childhood when my mom would buy them as a treat for us. I personally prefer the caramel, but nostalgia won over.
These happened to be on sale at that Japanese market. I checked and they’re Made in Taiwan so I did the logical thing to do and bought it. Workday snacks.
lesson two: try new things.
Do you ever veer on the verge of an anxiety attack and go outside to walk it off and end up at the CBD store spending a silly amount on products you don’t really know how to use? No? Just me? Ok but this CBD cooling stick is fun. Who knows whether the actual CBD part works but the cooling feeling is nice.
What do you bring to a spa and drinks type of activity? Me in mild panic at Whole Foods thought, yes, logically hard kombucha (which I’ve never purchased before) and probiotic tea seltzers (another first). And a cheese platter. But honestly, this does feel better than drinking a beer. Here for the fun flavors.
Ah yes a book. Not just a new book as a new thing, but the very idea of reading is something I don’t do, haven’t done in years. Especially nonfiction. And yet here I am, peer pressured to read this. And sure, I’m only 10 pages in, but so far so good.
$1 boba at honestea grand opening; tiktok made us do it
brunch with a new friend at maman
an uncoordinated cheese plate success story
proof of spring
eeee that summer light is back
it was raining but it was also sunny and it was absurdly windy. the gingerbread house looked great, me not so much
sweet & savory from poetica
ordered the full menu at reception bar. slept very well that night.
so this is a new york slice
noodles with an old friend
what did i do to deserve to live right around the corner from leo
there was a week of just compulsive food ordering but anyways, the good new is that Fan Fried Rice Bar is within delivery range so comfort can in fact come knocking on your door. their pork chop fried rice is up to snuff and their chili oil slaps, what else can a girl ask for?
reception bar, a place that had snuck onto my radar via work, got tucked away for a few months and then somehow i was there on a sunday evening with 30 cups in front of me. yes, we ordered the entire menu. yes, these cocktails were very good. yes, im ready to go back. honestly im just glad to be going to more places again.
get vaccinated! never been so excited to get a shot. and besides a little arm soreness, thanks in part to my diligent vitamin intake and immune system boosters, i felt just fine. i dont f*** w my immune system though so i literally ordered a juice while in my 15 minute waiting session.
and even though i was in the middle of times square, it felt sunnier once i was out (it actually warmed up quite some and got real sunny). and the city warmed up too as everyone started crawling out.