Magpie Edits

The Magpie Diary: Jan. 28, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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This week, we celebrated Mr. Magpie’s birthday by going out with friends for drinks at Death & Co (if you’ve read Magpie for awhile, you know we consider their cocktail book Gospel, but we’d never been to one of their watering holes! — really fun program, but the lighting was distressingly dim), dining just the two of us at recently reopened Chez Billy Sud (delightful, with great service, beautiful food, and a cozy ambiance), and enjoying a special meal at home.

I cook so infrequently these days that I felt rusty — not so much at the stovetop, but when conceptualizing the menu and coordinating my trips to the groceries (yes, plural on both fronts). I normally enjoy baking, but this year, I purchased him a cake at Bread Furst so I could focus more of my efforts on the meal itself. We’d just had a red-meat-forward dinner at Chez Billy Sud (steak frites for him; tavern burger for me, preceded by a green salad and Coquilles St. Jacques gratin), so I wanted something a bit lighter. I made Missy Robbins’ seafood stew from this cookbook, which proved excellent and was convenient from a preparation standpoint, in the sense that I was able to make the stew base (a spicy and garlicky arrabiata sauce) Sunday afternoon, and was then able to pull off compiling the dish the next night (his birthday, a work day!) in under an hour. I was nervous because I hadn’t been able to find clams, so I doubled up on mussels, and marjoram (the star herb in the dish) was nowhere to be found in all of Bethesda, so I swapped in parsley (technically, oregano is closer to marjoram, but that was also out of stock at Whole Foods and Safeway alike!), and we all know how absurd it is to swap out lots of ingredients and then expect a stellar result.


I pulled it off! I focused on cooking with my senses, taking care to wait until each mussel was fully opened before plucking it out of the broth; reducing the amount of chili flakes in the broth (she is a daredevil, calling for 2T of it! I halved it and it was plenty spicy — I’d had advanced warning on this front because Mr. Magpie prepared her arrabiata sauce a year ago to serve with meatballs, and it was very fiery then); adjusting seasonings. I even parroted Mr. Magpie’s pro-level moves by filling our shallow stew dishes with boiling water a few minutes before serving — this means the dishes will keep the food warm a bit longer (!). I served the stew with a sourdough bread from Bread Furst and a salad with Missy Robbins’ house dressing (also from the aforementioned cookbook), which is a fancy riff on the Wishbone classic. You more or less confit garlic and shallot in olive oil, cool, and then mix in herbs and vinegar. It was delicious. Another pro tip: we like to shave fresh parm over our greens for most simple green salads. The parm adds great texture and salinity.

Before the main event, we enjoyed some champagne and caviar! The caviar was a happy accident: the butcher (we are loyalists to / evangelists for The Organic Butcher) had felt badly that he was out of the clams I was requesting (and he became very involved in the entire meal plan, suggesting blood orange citrus and helping me estimate how many mussels to include) as he knew I was preparing a birthday meal for a very tenured cook. He threw a jar of paddlefish roe into my bag free of charge (!) and suggested I either dot it on the top of the fish stew or serve with potatoes and creme fresh. I went the latter route, accessorizing with fancy potato chips (this brand, which work well since they’re fairly thick) and was finally able to make use of the caviar service dish and marble spoons we’ve used all of…once in our lives. It was so thoughtful and generous! P.S. – I always receive questions about my coupes. They’re from Zafferano and easily one of my favorite possessions!

After dinner, Mr. Magpie opened his gifts, which included fancy thermals and socks from French brand Hemen; new ski goggles; Aesop incense (we’ve both been so obsessed with incense thanks to this little incense smoker we used over the holidays); this beautiful handmade Japanese mortar and pestle; tickets to a concert; and this card game a few Magpies have recommended. He was completely shocked by the goggles — had no idea I’d been listening to him complain about the way his ancient ones were basically disintegrating. Mr. Magpie so rarely treats himself to anything, so I love showering him with gifts, especially ones that are well-researched and connected to current interests. (One current obsession of his is buying an outdoor, propane-fueled wok — I was too scared to dabble in that arena. Next-level cooking ambition!). P.S. The gift wrap below is from Dear Annabelle — SO cute. I think they’re sold out of this exact pattern but they have other great prints, too. (More gift closet must-haves here.)

What else? I wrote about this yesterday, but I really leaned on my “just move the dirt” mantra this week. I’ve been devoted to my fitness regimen this month, but it felt much easier at the top of January. Now I’ve grown bored of indoor cycling and mat exercises, and it’s been too cold and snowy to run outdoors. (I am perhaps over-skittish about slipping on black ice? I do not want a busted knee.) I have my personal training sessions once a week, which provides a nice change of pace and scenery, but besides that, it was a lot of “just get ‘er done” type self-coaxing. My new Nike duds helped in this department, too — happy and hot pink and more functional than all of my running-oriented gear. The shoes make such a huge difference! I had been doing side stepping drills and lifts on one leg and my ankles had been wobbling all over the place in my running shoes! The Metcons provide a lot more stability.

Honestly, is there anything more January than the last photo above?! Like, the gray ice and slush and the desperate need to override that insipidness with hot pink?

Looking ahead to February: Mini’s Valentines arrived! We’re bundling them with these little disco ball keychains.

And, Patchology sent me a little gift box with these lip gels and this lip sleep mask (which is delightful, and which I’ve toted around with me all week), and I immediately conceived of a cute Galentine’s card to send out with these little cards from Shop Surcie. They appear to be sold out of the xo cards, but you can find similar here. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day? I always make February 14th special for my children (some thoughts here), but Mr. Magpie and I have a nice meal and call it a day. Might be fun to do a Galentine’s gathering one year. I know this is probably going to disgust some of you, but apparently there’s this TikTok trend of “candy salads“? I heard about it from Katie, who is making her own for a Galentine’s gathering. I used to absolutely love gummy/sour candy, and when I lived in Lyon, I would go to the bulk candy shop a few blocks away at least once a week for a little bag of goodies — it was, perhaps distressingly, a core food group of mine at the time, along with Coca Light, baguettes and brioches from the local boulangerie, emmentaler cheese, and apples. (How did I live?) Over the past five years, though, I have found myself much more interested in salty snacks, and frequently turned off, full stop, by candy. What is this?! Do our taste buds change? Is it hormonal? Still — when I saw Katie brandishing her pile of sour candies, I have to say, my mouth watered, and I was tempted to order one of these Dylan’s Candy Bar tackleboxes so I wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of assembling an assortment myself. So, Mr. Magpie, if you’re reading this…!

Last but not least: ah, the familiar emotional whiplash of parenting young children. My children wore my patience thin last week when they were unexpectedly at home thanks to snow, but then I missed them horribly the minute the door closed behind them on Monday morning. I thought back, with heartburn, to my son sitting at my feet, not-so-quietly working on his sticker puzzles, while I pecked out some thoughts on my computer. He chattered for hours. It was deeply disruptive, but footnoted by our hugging intermissions, where he’d pause in his prattling, and climb into my lap. Four is maybe the best age? So sweet and curious. Of course, my study felt empty without him at my feet on Monday, and yet I was happy to clip back into a routine, and so I sat there, half-full and half-empty, and wondered if this is, simply, the baseline condition of parenthood. Once your baby enters the world, you toggle between sensations of over-fullness and incompleteness on a routine basis. I miss him / it’s too much / I’m so tired / I’ve never been so happy before / I’m not good enough / etc.

Well, as we say — onward —

P.S. Veronica Beard has my number these days. I absolutely love everything they’re releasing — elegant, chic basics with a twist. Currently obsessing over this vest and these sneakers. (More chic sneaks here.) The vest though…!!! AHHH!

P.P.S. On prayer.

P.P.P.S. A poem that always makes me feel inspired.

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19 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: Jan. 28, 2024.

  1. Ahhh! This is such a lovely way to celebrate Mr Magpie! Gift-giving is my love language, too (for everyone I love, but especially my fiancé) — so I relate to your pride in selecting a lovely assortment of gifts! Also, your approach to grocery shopping is familiar to me — multiple stores all the way! There are five spots in my usual rotation, all for different things that each does better than the rest. I sometimes tell myself that this is my Americanized version of the French convention of grocery shopping!

    Also: keep us posted about Mr Magpie’s wok experiments! We have been SUPER obsessed with the Kenji wok book this past year.


    1. Will do – and I agree, it’s a more European take on food shopping!! Too bad mine isn’t pedestrian, though 🙁


      1. I feel you — only 3 of the 5 are within walking distance for me! The other 2 are more specialized, so we can do them less frequently (a conventional grocery store for peeled grapefruit wedges in extra light syrup — lol! I am obsessed! — and a Persian market for our favorite 15-lb bag of rice, which is our staple starch)

        But that said … I do often drive to, say, Whole Foods, where I am routinely carting away 5 large, heavy tote bags. No shame in that game, I say!


  2. My husband bought me The Wok by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (he wrote the Food Lab as well). It’s a fantastic cookbook, but what I really love is its discussion about the science behind wok cooking (the shape, the thermodynamics, etc.) and how to use various equipment for the absolute best final dishes. It might be worth a try if your husband’s next foray is into this type of cooking!

    I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. Thank you for all the work that you do!

    1. Yes!! The Kenji book / what he’s written about the wok is exactly what inspired Mr. Magpie! So cool – have you had any great successes with specific dishes?

      Thanks for chiming in and for your loyal readership, Faith!!!


  3. I love the butcher’s investment in the birthday meal. You put together such a special celebration for Mr. Magpie. Also fondly remember a similar French student diet.

    1. I know – I was so touched by the butcher! I might need to write him a little thank you note.

      HA – ah to be 20 in France…


      1. What a beautiful gift you gave Mr. Magpie with that beyond thoughtful meal!!
        Re: the butcher… John just gifted me the slim, fantastic book Brodo by Mario Canora- might be a great thank you for the butcher?
        Also, curious… how did you like Tulum? I know some people love it, and some think it’s gotten far too touristy! Love to know your thoughts 🙂 XO

        1. Such a cute idea re: brodo! Thank you!

          We enjoyed Tulum! We were there for my best friend’s 40th, and so the key highlight for me was hanging out with friends at our AirBnB. We did also tour the Mayan ruins, go to a beach club, and explore some of the restaurant/commercial areas, but we didn’t thoroughly navigate the area (I know lots of people love the cenotes, the surfing, diving, boating, etc). I enjoyed it but probably would go elsewhere for another tropical vacation! Great venue for this particular visit though!


          1. Thank you so much for taking the time on this intel! I’m so glad you had a lovely time 🙂

  4. I relate so much to your emotional whiplash. I am constantly vacillating between feeling overwhelmed and guilty/unfulfilled. Is this the baseline, as you say? Or is there an answer? I truly don’t know but join you in the feelings.

    1. Thank you for the solidarity! It can be so intense!! I am really feeling this today, after getting back from a four day trip with my husband and a bunch of friends to Tulum. I missed them terribly and was so happy to see them and yet also there is no on-ramp back into parenting, and you’re just immediately into “did you brush your teeth” and “stop doing that to your brother” territory. No in-betweens in motherhood…


  5. Do you Peloton for your indoor cycling? I am by no means a cycling fan, but I do have some Pelo instructors that I enjoy, and it really helps to make the time go by faster and inspire me to get on the bike. On the other hand, some instructors make me cringe and wonder if this is how I am spending my life! So, in other words, keep exploring to find what you enjoy. It may take a few duds before you find something that works for you.

    1. HA — “some instructors make me cringe and wonder if this is how I am spending my life.” Yes! I’ve been there. I do not do Peloton – we have another stationery bike and I use the Apple Fitness+ videos, but I’m wondering if I should switch things up. Thanks for the nudge!


  6. I had no idea Death and Co was in DC now – we love the book as well. Just booked an early resy for Thursday night when I have a friend in town – thanks for the tip!

  7. Thanks for the Valentine’s recommendations. Your cooking adventure sounds like it ended well! So odd everywhere was out of marjoram.

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