Hello! This is your monthly letter from the Cut Council, a community for our most dedicated readers. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Here’s what you’ll find inside this month’s edition: perfectly fermented-yet-still-crunchy kimchi, bystander intervention training, the ideal napping conditions, and more.
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Our thoughts are with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community following the devastating mass shooting in Georgia last week. In the last year, there’s been a dramatic and tragic surge in violence against Asian Americans. At least five AAPI individuals were attacked in New York City this past weekend alone. We put together a list of suggestions to help combat anti-Asian violence and show solidarity. Here, our fashion and beauty teams share their favorite picks from AAPI-owned businesses that you, too, can purchase as one small way to show support.
Matthew Schneier, features writer
The pineapple linzer cookies from the Taiwanese tea shop Té Company in NYC are the single best cookies I have ever eaten, and their loose-leaf oolongs have made a tea drinker out of me. My current favorite is Mount A-Li, which they say — and I’d never have believed until I tried it — tastes of nougat, chestnuts, and buttered brioche.
Daise Bedolla, social media editor
Though Tower 28’s SOS Save.Our.Skin Daily Rescue Facial Spray will always be my favorite product from the brand, their Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer in “West Coast” has recently won me over. I’m no expert in bronzer application, and I actually fell through the rabbit hole of bronzer hacks on TikTok recently trying to learn, but the formula is so creamy and adds a really subtle, sun-kissed warmth to the skin. It helps that you can easily apply it with your fingers instead of a brush, too. Just dip your (clean) fingers in the pan and lightly pat it around your face.
While Kravey Beauty can’t market their Beet Shield as a sunscreen in the United States because it uses some advanced sun filters that aren’t yet approved here (but are very common in Asia), it is very much a sunscreen, and one of the best at that. It’s so lightweight that you feel as though you’re just adding on another layer of moisturizer, and it adds a beautiful dewy glow to your skin without looking like you’re sweaty or dipped yourself in highlighter. And not that I wear much makeup these days, but on the very rare occasion that I do, the Beet Shield doesn’t make my products pill or look cakey.
I wasn’t an acne sticker girl until I met Hero Cosmetics’ Mighty Patch. Time and time again, I’m blown away by how effective they are. I keep a bunch of them at hand, especially around the time of my period when my chin starts to act up. I place one of these on my spots before going to bed, and the next morning, the pimple’s size is dramatically decreased.
Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer
Photo: Retailer/Mischelle Moy, 2020 B).
Wing on Wo & Co. is the oldest store in Chinatown. They’re known for their porcelains, but while working on our Zizmorcore merch story, I learned that they also make great merch. Some can be found on their own website, like this tote, but also at Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots initiative to support Chinatown businesses.
Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor
I know a lot of people are wild for Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream, but it’s a tad too dewy for me. The brand’s oil-free Water Cream, though, is perfect for my oily-but-thirsty skin. The texture is pillowy but not too rich, and the scent is light but feels fancy. I can’t swear that it shrinks my pores (does anything, truly?), but it does make my skin look brighter and happier.
How pretty are these pleated masks from Sundae School? The weed-meets-fashion brand has a range of masks in interesting textures (accordion, corduroy) and colors (peach sherbert, mustards), but I’m partial to the pastel shades of the bubblegum two-pack.
If you’re the parent, aunt, uncle, or babysitter of an elementary school kid, may I recommend the graphic novel Superman Smashes the Klan? My 7-year-old is obsessed. The plot is exactly what it sounds like: The Man of Steel helps a 1940s-era Chinese American family fight back against a neighborhood hate group. The themes are heavy, but they’re treated in an age-appropriate, story-driven way, making it a good springboard for conversations about racial justice.
Kathleen Hou, beauty director
I don’t often drink coffee, but when I do or feel like making it for others, I use Nguyen Coffee Supply. The brand was started by Sahra Nguyen, a first-generation Brooklyn Vietnamese American. Its famed robusta beans taste strong and smooth with zero bitter aftertaste. It is extra delicious with condensed milk. To make a Vietnamese coffee, I use a phin filter. If you’re a coffee nerd, you know that a phin filter is like if a V60 pour-over and French press mated. For noobs like me, I describe it as an hourglass and coffee maker in one. It is very satisfying to watch your beautiful coffee drip drop by drop into a glass with crushed ice. I’ve been gifting the Coffee Phin Filter kit, which comes with a phin filter and a bag of beans. True Grit is the strongest blend, with twice the caffeine as their other blends. Try that one if you like staying awake for two days straight.
When I want something a little more mellow than coffee, I love the Chai Concentrate from the Chai Box. This chai makes Starbucks’ chai taste like sugar water. It’s rich, flavorful, and spicy, and each of the spices (cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, cloves) burst in your mouth. You can easily mix the concentrate with water or your favorite kind of milk to create your own special chai drink experience. The company was founded by Atlanta-based Indian American Monica Sunny.
Andrew Nguyen, fashion news writer
Jewelry can not only make a good outfit even better, but it also has the power to change your mood. Whenever I wear Notte Jewelry, I can’t help but smile. It sort of falls in line with the recent fashion phenomenon of dressing like a toddler, but this brand strikes a particular chord deep in my memory. To bribe me into going with her to the Vietnamese market on the weekends without making a fuss, my mom would always let me pick out a teeny tiny glass figurine, which I proudly displayed above my bed. Notte’s trinkets — like dolphins, roses, and baby bok choys — remind me of those precious moments.
I wear HMNKIND masks every single day. The material is supersoft, breathable, and so comfortable that I usually forget that I’m wearing it. My favorite color is the brown because it kind of matches my skin and makes me look like a weird alien with no nose or mouth. If that’s not really your thing, they have other colorful options too.
Erica Smith, beauty writer
My aunt on my Korean side makes the world’s best kimchi, but she lives in California and I made the mistake of moving to the opposite coast. I’ve spent years trying to find something on par with her secret recipe, and I finally did: Mama Kim’s Spicy Kimchi. It has the perfect amount of heat, that authentic homemade flavor, and arrives the perfect amount of fermented-yet-still-crunchy by the time it gets to your door. It also comes precut in perfectly sized slices for topping things. The little jars you find in stores last me about two seconds, so I’ve been stocking up on the 32 ounce bags to hold me over until I can get back to the west coast.
Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Pore-Tight Toner is also pretty perfect in every way. It exfoliates and moisturizes at the same time, meaning your face gets brighter, dewier, and softer in one fell swoop. It also feels good (bouncy and silky), looks good (pink potion in recyclable photogenic glass), and smells good (herbal and refreshing, not extremely watermelon-y) — it’s basically everything you want from K-beauty products distilled into a single bottle, making it perfect for skin-care minimalists who want to feel like they’re doing a whole luxurious ritual routine thingy in as few steps as possible.
Paddy’s Day baking In honor of my ancestors and this pandemic St. Patrick’s Day (which was the best kind because there was barely anyone running around Midtown in green puffy vests this year), I made soda bread. I like this recipe, but basically any traditional old soda bread recipe is good; it’s incredibly easy, it tastes delicious, and you can do it in a cast-iron skillet. Slainte. —Bridget Read, writer
Reading plays I’m having trouble getting through books right now. I just don’t have the concentration or willpower. So instead, I’ve taken to reading plays. American dramas, more specifically. The plots tend to move along at a steady clip, and they take just a few hours apiece to read. I’m familiarizing myself with titles from the canon that I’ve always felt I should read, but hadn’t until now: The Glass Menagerie, Fences, True West, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and A Raisin in the Sun, for example. —Rachel Bashein, managing editor
Breakfast sandwiches, any time Did you know you can make a bacon, egg, and cheese at home? I mean, of course you can, but somehow I had never realized I’m allowed to make them whenever I want. But now, what was once my weekly treat, the main thing that got me out of bed on a weekend morning, has become a recurring dinner staple. This breakthrough discovery has brought me more joy than any of the self-care tips I’ve half-heartedly tried in recent months, more pleasure than face masks or weed gummies or even sleeping in. —Jordan Larson, essays editor
Milan Kundera’s first novel in 15 years A book I just finished that I really enjoyed was The Festival of Insignificance. I think it’s the perfect pandemic read because it’s both serious and unserious, if that makes sense? It’s frivolous and silly, as the title suggests, but still is based in reality. It’s an escape, but it’s still slightly tethered to the real world. —Taylor Roberts, Instagram editor
Napping like a pro I recently had a baby, so for the past few months my waking hours have been largely consumed with getting her to sleep. Out of desperation, I ordered blackout shades and a white-noise machine, which essentially turn her room into a sensory-deprivation chamber. Turns out it’s quite soothing and an ideal nap environment. Of course, she does not yet appreciate the luxuriousness of this setup, but I recommend it for adults, whether you’re trying to sleep better yourself or just escape the world for a few minutes. —Erica Schwiegershausen, editor
Getting to know Susan Sontag I’ve been spending a lot of time curled up with Susan Sontag’s journals, which I like so much more than her “actual” work. It’s a raw way to read her mind moving a mile a minute as she talks about films she’s watched, places she’s traveled, and artists she has become (devastatingly!) entangled with. I feel like I’m John Malkovich-ing her experience. But it turns out ultimately that Susan feels just as inadequate and nervous and stir-crazy and heartachey as any of us. —Avery Trufelman, The Cut podcast host
Unwinding in the bath I have a new self-care ritual: I got one of those bathtub trays, and I’ll light a joint, start a movie on my computer, and smoke just a li’l. (Okay, fine, once I have even eaten ice cream in the bath. ) A whole pre-rolled joint turns me into a total zombie, but I discovered these li’l baby pre-rolls from a weed company called besito. They get me the right amount of high, and then I don’t have a dried-out half-joint lying around to deal with later. Also, like mini-hot dogs or mini-pizzas, apparently joints are improved by shrinking because they are more adorable and nobody will pressure you to share. —Allison P. Davis, features writer
Do you like listening to white noise or ASMR while you work? If yes, we highly recommend playing North American bird songs like this or this. The sounds are lovely and nonintrusive, and will help tide you over if spring hasn’t yet sprung where you are.