Our Guide to Surviving the Dead of Winter

Who we’re following and what we’re eating, drinking, making and doing to help take off that February edge.

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Little Tong’s menu is an homage to chef Simone Tong’s experiences and creativity. In addition to half a dozen mixians, Tong whips up eight appetizer-portioned delicacies, and her tingling beef tartare stands heads above those on other city menus.

Don’t let this warm-ish spell or the groundhog fool you: We’ve still got nearly two months of winter ahead of us. While there’s no telling where temperatures will hover in the coming weeks, the short days combined with an extended post-holiday hangover have us pulling out all the stops.

That’s why at this halfway point between issues, our team’s sharing what’s keeping us alive. Welcome to our very first seasonal guide, which this time around, is in response to, well, February. Including Manhattan and Brooklyn, here’s who we’re following as well as what we’re eating, drinking, making, and doing to help take off that dead-of-winter edge:

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Chef Simone Tong is the brains and talent behind Chinese food favorite Little Tong.

🥢 We could warm up at Little Tong any day of the week 

We’ve been Little Tong fans ever since we first tried their steamy Little Pot Mixian, aka a deep, soothing copper bowl of bone broth, minced shiitake-pork, garlic chives, pickled mustard stems, pea shoots and chili vinaigrette. Our writer Rachel Nuwer got to know chef Simone Tong, aka the brains behind the restaurant, for a recent profile that takes us from her childhood in Macau to an early career stint at Louis Vuitton during which she found a knack for online poker playing. Spoiler alert: Simone obviously eventually made her way to the top of the city’s restaurant scene, but if you want to find out exactly how, you’ll have to read the full story.  And if you jump to the point entirely, then head to either their East Village or Midtown location (they’re first come, first serve).

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Mustipher is a rum expert and author of the upcoming book Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails out next month.

🍹 Shannon Mustipher’s drinks are like a one-way ticket to the Caribbean

Appearances are not deceiving at Glady’s in Crown Heights. A block north of the Franklin Avenue stop at Eastern Parkway, the vibrant turquoise and highlighter yellow facade promises a lively urban escape, and thanks to beverage director Shannon Mustipher, it delivers. We recently asked Mustipher to share the bottles she’s drinking now and from citrusy mezcals to complex rums, you can get the full list here.

👏 Indoor 👏 farmers 👏 markets 👏

Trying to eat as local as possible in the winter is a challenge I’m up for. First you can find out what’s in season at the Greenmarket’s handy page. Then, what to do with those lesser-known or year-round agricultural products at the farmers market? I start with the pros and ask the farmers. What can I make with apples I haven’t tried before? Parsnips? Potatoes? Turnips? Beets? How to best prepare that particular variety of squash? This is a season of soups. A chance to master your borscht and Irish stews. I like to go into it with a sense of adventure and enjoy the chance to connect with my local farmer. —Carrington Morris, managing editor

🌸 The restaurant opening we’re anticipating like spring’s first cherry blossoms

When I do decide to brave the cold, I’ll be heading to the new West Village restaurant Llama-San, which should open any day now. I’ve been slightly obsessed with Juan Correa’s and Erik Ramirez’s takes on Peruvian cuisine ever since discovering Williamsburg’s Llama Inn for our 2017 Travel Issue’s Aftertaste column. I can’t wait to taste what they have in store in their latest venture, which so far promises Japanese-Peruvian fusion. —Bridget Shirvell, digital strategy editor

🥄 Hands down the city’s best grain bowl

Many of us subsist off of now-ubiquitous bowl food. It can be hit or miss depending on changing menus and a lack of dressing to loosen up your curly kale, but a consistent spot I know I can count on is the Grain Bar at Grand Central’s Great Northern food hall. I actually don’t want to tell you about it since I almost always get a seat for a midday meal, but their talented cooks deserve a shout out for taking common ingredients like chicken and Brussels sprouts and turning them into a truly delicious and fortifying meal with mixed barley, julienned Granny Smith apples, shallots, mustard seed vinaigrette and raw hazelnuts. They make it to order, right there in front of you, too. It’s one of the best $12, Midtown-middle-of-the-work-day meals I know.

🌱 Where to lay off the carbs

When you need a break from the carb-heavy foods that cold weather can steer you towards, Win Son in East Williamsburg is a solid choice. The chefs have created a Taiwanese-American menu that’s a satisfying balance between traditional and funky, playful dishes as well. All of the food is big on flavor and spice, while not feeling too heavy or rich. —Liz Clayman, photo editor

🍺 …or, y’know, just have a beer

Most people think of winter beer as a dark, roasty, often high alcohol, stout. Mad Elf Beer from Tröegs Brewing Company definitely stands out from that pack with it’s ruby-red color and flavors of spiced cherry. Many people like to age this one, but it’s a beer I look forward to drinking every year because I love the bright cherry flavor in winter. —Mandy Naglich, social media editor

🍷 If wine’s your jam, this local subscription’s worth the commitment

In theory wine subscriptions seem like a win-win: a discerning professional handpicks a few bottles that come to you complete with a wealth of information about the drink and where it’s from. Too often though these packages fail to engage and educate like, say, a visit to your local wine shop might. This in part is why Chris Leon, owner and wine director of Clinton Hill’s Leon & Son Wine, has started his own service as an extension of his neighborhood shop. Called Leon Circle, each monthly $75 shipment is a three-bottle combo of his choosing that comes with friendly, no-fuss descriptions. He details each bottle like he might do in the shop, with reasons for “why we’re drinking it” along with the grape(s), taste, feel, what it’s “great for” and additional wine recommendations for “if you dig this.” Subscribers also get access to the Leon Circle Facebook group where Chris and team post videos on everything from decanting to additional info on a given month’s selections. The group’s also a great forum to reach him directly, too, which you just can’t do with a booklet of index cards. 

🥣 We’ve never had oatmeal like this before

I first picked up Maine Grains‘ rolled oats at Dimes Market near the East Broadway stop. I made them in my usual way the next morning and have been hooked every since. While there’s definitely have a fresh flavor unlike any oats I’ve tasted before, where they really win is with their silky texture—no beige gloop here. In fact they have exceptional grains across the board with James Beard Award-winning baker Sarah Owens taking home Overall Show Winner at the 2018 World Bread Awards with their products. Rachel Nuwer wrote about them for us a little over a month ago—read more here.

📚 Our cookbooks du jour

When it’s too cold and gray outside I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’m new to preparing Korean food and Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking has recipes that are simple (to build up my confidence) and complicated (to give me a nice weekend project). Plus the spice-forward, intense flavors make winter a little brighter. —Mandy Naglich, social media editor

I’m a major homebody, especially during the winter months. I love staying in and having my apartment fill up with delicious smells as I try out a new recipe or make an old favorite. This winter I’m particularly looking forward to cooking some of the dishes in Mayada Anjari’s The Bread & Salt Between Us. —Bridget Shirvell, digital strategy editor

🥧 What we can’t stop baking

When it comes to working with limited farmers market offerings (see above), bare cupboards and the need for maximum comfort to ward off the winter blues, one culinary offering stands above the others: the savory pie. Master this one-dish wonder and you have mastered winter. Variations include the potpie, the shepherd’s pie, hand pies and more. They’re economical with a great ROI, capable of stretching out minimal quantities to maximal flavor and abundance. What’s more, they’re fairly forgiving of novices and lend themselves to experimentation, and you’ve got two months more of winter temps to try your hand at one. —Carrington Morris, managing editor

🧣Like most things, winter’s better with friends… and babka

For many years I lived in an old-school New York loft on the Bowery. Character galore it had though it fell woefully short in basic amenities like heat. My roommates and I made it through the coldest nights by embracing traditions of the Old World. We’d play chess in Russian hats. Read stories like A Day in the Life of Ivan Dinosevich for perspective. It added a romantic touch to our hardship that went an unusual distance in seeing the winter through. I stand by the practice and in this spirit recommend looking to the old country’s winter baking traditions for inspiration. Easter breads show up across the Western world. And, if you listen closely, you can hear babka, stollen, strudel and rugelach recipes calling your name.

🐄 And, yep, hear us out: you need our go-to moisturizer

Last fall I traveled three hours south of Atlanta, GA to visit the pioneering White Oak Pastures. They’re a leading farm practicing regenerative agriculture with a zero waste philosophy that’s responsible for everything from their whole animal butchery and beef tallow moisturizer. The latter (in lemon) has been a face-saver this winter with a texture not unlike my mom’s cold creme. Put on right after you shower for a maximum hydration feeling. 

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Ariel Lauren Wilson

Lauren is the editor-in-chief of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.