When everything’s not quite

When you are sick and exhausted and have a massive to-do list (see: burnout), sometimes you just want to escape for an hour or two. And sometimes a brand-new restaurant is just the place.

I first encountered Hunky Dory on a sort of extra vacation day I had right at the start of the year, when it obligingly opened up for coffee and pastries right as I was looking for a destination. I ate a beautiful decadent bowl of oatmeal with poached pear, along with a hot cup of coffee, as I watched the owners work toward putting the finishing touches on the space. (Perfect fuel for a January day in the Botanic Garden, where you might encounter my old friend the torii, also working on some personal growth and r&r.)

Hunky Dory’s location on Franklin Avenue around Park Place makes it easy for me to drop by–it’s loosely on my way to the garden, home from work, to other fine establishments in the neighborhood that I frequent. So last weekend I found myself impulse buying a tastier banana chocolate chip muffin than I had any right to expect.

And tonight I nabbed a seat at the bar; some delightful cod tots; a ham, beans, rice, and egg confection; and a warm chocolate chip sesame cookie: a perfect three-course meal in bites. Perhaps even more enticing than the food were the drinks (chosen from a shortened, second-day-of-opening menu): a cocktail with oolong tea, whey, and meyer lemon, with whispers of new components weaving through each sip, and a nonalcoholic concoction mostly hibiscusy with an edge of toasted rice. Sitting and reading a pretty Brooklyn essay collection and coughing merrily to myself, I got to luxuriate in a brief escape from everything awful. Everything besides the restaurant wasn’t quite hunky dory, but, maybe, like SEPTA, getting there?

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(PS: This post was apparently brought to you by hyperlinks! Who can say why or where they’ll go.)

Bread and butter

When a friend gave me a sourdough starter a year or so ago, I didn’t know it would alter my life in a small but lasting way. I’ve always enjoyed homemade bread (on one ill-advised occasion, after a three-course dinner, I ate most of a loaf at another friend’s house) but somehow it never occurred to me that I could make it myself, not having much experience in that realm. (Other than one surreal attempt at making the New York Times‘s no-knead bread for a college seminar. I mostly remember yet a third breadly friend telling me to turn the bread, toss it, take it out in the moonlight and sing to it, or some such similarly mysterious tiny adjustments over many hours; I also remember, upon seeing the result, declaring with astonishment, This looks like bread! What did you expect, my friend asked. I don’t know, surely not that, though.) And even if I could manage to make bread once or twice, could I manage not to kill the starter, which needs to be fed, every week, like an undemanding yet persistent pet?

Happily, the bread is a success. I make a loaf on average every couple of weeks. It’s a process–typically I start feeding the starter on Thursday or Friday night, prep the dough the next day (this takes a couple of hours though not a lot of active work on my part), and tear into a loaf with fancy butter and/or cheese the following afternoon. The bread is certainly best when it’s freshest; luckily, it doesn’t really last long enough to get stale. In fact, in my humble opinion, freshness is really the determining factor for how good bread is. I’d just as soon eat my own bread hot out of the oven than trust the professionals. (Though I love you, L’Imprimerie!)

Man, isn’t it great to have a fun, unique activity? Except that here, too, as with so many other things, I am a millennial cliche. Bread is so hot right now that the New Yorker is talking about it. There are think pieces about how we are turning to anxiety baking in these stressful times. And, of course, tech bros are trying to optimize bread.

While I don’t think my bread is optimized (I haven’t tried too many variations, and am mostly just pleased that the dough is pretty forgiving of the vagaries of kitchen scale and timing) I do recognize myself in these pieces. It’s satisfying to be able to make my own food (my significant other does so much more of the cooking, generally). l appreciate having a routine in the midst of political and personal stress–the bread is a nice backdrop to board gaming, knee stretching, internetting, and other cool things one does around the house on a Friday night, plus I like going to the library and the food co-op on Saturday morning to pick up reading material and bread fixins. (As for politics, my starter has good vibes; he came to life when Doug Jones was elected.) And it’s nice to share my creations with friends, assuming they last that long: bread is a good centerpiece for a gaming afternoon, and, maybe even better, giving starter to friends so they can make their own bread or pancakes is its own reward.

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