This post originally appeared on February 5, 2019, in “Add to Cart” — the weekly newsletter for people who love shopping (almost) as much as they love eating. Subscribe now.
I’ve got wedding registries on the brain, and not just because I just got engaged. Every morning on my commute I’m surrounded by subway ads for Zola, the wedding site startup. As the Goods recently pointed out, traditional registries filled with cooking tools can feel like a relic, largely because couples today get married years into adulthood and often after establishing homes (and stocking kitchens) together.
But registries can also feel outdated when they reflect a traditional way of dining. A couple weeks ago, I swung by the Zola pop-up store in New York, an IRL showroom version of the site. Alongside the more high-tech features of the space, there is a “Build Your Own Place Setting,” in which a formal place setting is mapped out on a countertop as a helpful guide. The map includes a mind-boggling 15 items, including a salad fork, a butter knife, a cup and saucer, and multiple glasses.
As an interactive service, the countertop guide is certainly clever. But in a store literally engineered for millennials, it seemed more like a chalk outline at a crime scene in which the deceased is the era of dining formality. How many of us still set tables with salad forks and butter knives? Or fine china, for that matter, a registry classic that’s been rapidly falling out of favor? At a time when even high-end restaurants are turning to offbeat ceramics and more rustic-feeling dinnerware, the 15-piece place setting and the formality it evokes feel intensely retrograde. Plus, there are so many more things to register for...
Things to buy
- It’d be impossible to pull statistics on “the most-recommended cooking tool of all time,” but I’m beginning to think it may be the mini offset spatula, sometimes referred to as a palette knife. Chefs like Caitlin McMillan, Dale Talde, and Genevieve Gergis have cited it as their favorite kitchen tool, and sites like Bon Appetit and Delish have written odes to it. The 4.5-inch Ateco is on my registry.
- Millennial-pink dishes may be a rather extreme alternative to fine china, in terms of both design and timelessness. But endless photos of the congee at LA’s Nightshade make me want to consume my every meal in baby-pink bowls. Nightshade sources theirs from Felt+Fat, while Year & Day’s small bowls in Daybreak are a more affordable option.
- This sake-in-a-can, with its Bambi-like design, will immediately find a second life as a holder for pens, votive candles, makeup brushes, or really anything your heart desires. It’s one of several playful sake cups that we highlighted this week on Eater.
Things to know
- As a non-meat eater, I’m eager to try Spicy Moon, a new vegan Szechuan spot in New York. In the meantime, the restaurant’s Instagram offers some great dishware inspiration, with plates and bowls (and lace placemats!) that are a refreshing change of pace from all the bare, minimalist place settings out there.
- As far as Instagram memes go, starter packs aren’t exactly new. But @starterpacksofnyc is an endlessly amusing follow for the food products and trends it puts in pitch-perfect cultural context, from Soma water bottles, S’Well bottles, Winc wine, Sakara Life meal boxes, and Daily Harvest cups to Oatly, KeepCups, Le Creuset cookware, and those whiskey stones that I wonder if anyone ever uses. (To be honest, the account may also inspire a purchase or two...)
- The physical manifestation of such starter packs might be Platform, the bougie complex in LA that houses the first West Coast outpost of Roberta’s, along with Blue Bottle Coffee, Sweetgreen, Aesop, Reformation, SoulCycle, and more familiar brands that tend to arrive as a set. As Meghan McCarron notes, the “eerie sameness” of such shopping-and-dining spaces is as convenient as it is disheartening, and it’s a reminder of how firmly shopping and dining are tied together: At a certain level, they’re both about Building Brands.
- The New York Times’ story last week on millennial work culture, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” was thought-provoking on several levels. But one detail keeps nagging me: How the hell did someone carve those cucumbers like that??
Correction: February 6, 2019, 9:07 a.m. In the newsletter, I wrote that Nightshade sources its pink bowls from Match Stoneware. While the restaurant does use Match pieces at the restaurant, the bowls are by Felt+Fat.