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Puck’s 2nd Annual Guide to Mirth and Merriment

The Editors
December 14, 2022

Season’s greetings from the Puck family, and welcome to our Second Annual Guide to Mirth and Merriment! It’s been a remarkable year at Puck H.Q. and for our journalists spread across the country. We’re beyond proud of the work that our supremely talented team has produced over the past twelve months; thankful for our robust and engaged community of subscribers and readers; and excited for what’s to come.

As you know, our business hinges on the promise of bringing readers as close as possible to the inside story at the intersection of Washington, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the media. And in that spirit, we’ve asked our uniquely connected reporters—and our equally talented behind-the-scenes staffers—to share what they’re reading, watching, buying for friends and family this holiday season, the trips they’re looking forward to in 2023, and more.

Thank you for your support, and a Happy New Year to all. 

  • I just binged Low Country on HBO, about the Murdaugh family murders. It nails a lot of the class and cultural divides that still rule in certain sweaty corners of South Carolina, but I also thought it was an infuriating story of wealthy white privilege that could just as well happen in Greenwich or Palm Beach or Beverly Hills. –Peter Hamby

  • Right now, I’m watching Shantaram on Apple TV+. I haven’t read the book, but enough people recommended both to me that I figured I’d start with the series. It’s great! I’m also rewatching both The Newsroom and The West Wing because I find Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue comforting. I don’t know what that says about me, either.  –Julia Alexander

  • Snabba Cash on Netflix is an astonishingly thrilling show about the Swedish criminal underworld, the drug trade, immigrant communities, and a Puck favorite: billionaire investors. Yes, they’re all in one show, and yes, it makes excellent television. –Tina Nguyen

  • The Empress, about Elisabeth of Austria, is amazing. It’s a high-budget German-language series picked up by Netflix, and perfect for those who love period dramas and need more Crown but can’t wait until Season 6. –Tara Palmeri 

  • Atlanta is one of the funniest, most clever shows in recent years, and Donald Glover blessed us with two excellent final seasons. I couldn’t get enough after the series finale, so I’m now rewatching the last two seasons, binge-style. –Isabella Lichauco

  • My mint-colored wool blanket from Loja de Burel—a Portuguese wool shop I love. Amazing quality, perfect for curling up with a good book or, who am I kidding, a delicious nap. Oh, and of course my Riedel wine glasses. They break if you look at them wrong, so about a quarter of my salary goes toward maintaining a dinner party’s worth of them in my cupboard, but that’s what my ancestors would’ve wanted, right? Right?  –Julia Ioffe

  • My Airpods Max. I live on a very, very busy Brooklyn street where the only constant is a never-ending stream of sirens. These headphones are silly expensive, but I love how seamless Apple’s headphones work with every device I own and how well they block out every noise. I got them in the aqua green color, and they’ve become my second favorite Apple product (just behind the Watch). –Julia A.

  • The Breville espresso machine my wife got me for Christmas a few years back—undeniably my favorite tangible thing I own. I drink espresso all day and can’t really get started in the morning without it. My first summer job was as a barista—I’m from Seattle, it’s a rite of passage—and I love to geek out on beans and grind measurements and things like that. And foam. Foam is an art I am forever trying to master. –Dylan Byers

  • The Niche Zero Grinder is an absolute rocket of a machine that grinds great for espresso. It does so without much noise, and definitely looks nice on the kitchen countertop.  –Daniel Tsinis

  • D.S. & Durga candles. Best scents in the game from the Brooklyn-based perfumers. Big Sur After Rain. Portable Fireplace. Concrete After Lightning. Parquet Leather. –Peter 

  • I scolded myself when I handed over my credit card for Diptyque’s Vinaigre de Toilette, and now just seeing the bottle on my vanity makes me supremely happy. It’s a truly multipurpose product—I dab it on before running out the door in the morning, and use it as a bath soak before falling asleep at night. –Alex Bigler

  • Silk pillowcases from Slip! Your hair and skin will thank you. –Isabella

  • I’ve recently read a few books by the incredible French author Emmanuel Carrère. Highly recommend his writing. Yoga is his latest book. It’s excellent. I am also deep into The Divider by friends-of-Puck Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. Also excellent but oh-so painful to relive that awful time. –Bill Cohan 

  • I’m obsessed with Andrew Weiss’s Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin, which is a graphic novel about Putin’s rise to power. It’s illustrated by the well-known Brian “Box” Brown and it’s so, so great. I’ve already gotten it for a bibliophilic couple of nephews, though it’s great for adults, too. –Julia I.

  • I recently finished Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer by Rax King, a collection of personal essays celebrating the simple joys of lowbrow pop culture and bad taste. Each essay centers on a cultural artifact from millennial childhoods—Samantha Jones, Gym Tan Laundry, and Hot Topic—and it’s wonderfully nostalgic, bitingly irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny. –Isabella

  • Bill’s Power Failure, about GE and Jack Welch. No joke. I almost resisted because it’s such a massive, heavy tome, but then everyone and their mother gave him such glowing, positive reviews that I felt compelled to see for myself. And lo and behold, it’s really masterful—compelling, engaging, informative. It’s also essential reading for every business journalist. –Dylan 

  • We were lucky enough to go to Paris this summer, and dinner at Le Petit Lutetia checked every box. It’s a picture-perfect French brasserie with glass walls, tiny tables, and a bartender with a fantastic mustache. Get the steak au poivre and chicken with morel cream sauce. Closer to home in Los Angeles: Little Prince, in Santa Monica, has become a weeknight favorite, and Horses, in Hollywood, lives up to the hype. Get the burger. –Peter

  • Keith Corbin, the head chef at a fantastic soul food restaurant in L.A. called Alta Adams, wrote a great new book called California Soul about his insane childhood in Watts, where he was involved with street gangs and ended up in prison. In connection with the book publication, his agents threw a little dinner at Alta Adams, so Keith cooked for us all. It was a real treat.  –Matt

  • The long-anticipated Torrisi Bar & Restaurant on Mulberry Street finally opened in the historic Puck building and it did not disappoint. Order the tuna caponata, the Dover sole and the linguine with Manhattan clams. Good luck getting a table though. The dining room was buzzing on its second night. –Tara 

  • The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in Treme, New Orleans. No frills. Amazing chicken. Say yes to everything they offer and consider a second trip on your way out of town. –Micah Robinson

  • For the best meal in Paris, find the Marché des Enfants Rouge in the Marais. It’s the oldest covered market in Paris, dating back to 1615. Wind your way past stalls of fresh fish, produce, and restaurants of every kind. You might feel overwhelmed. Take a breath and keep moving. In a far corner you’ll find the counter of Les Enfants du Marché. Squeeze in. Put your phone away. Enjoy the mussels in gorgonzola cream, the lamb croquettes, and whatever fish they offer. You may be tempted to order a glass of wine. This would be a mistake. Order a bottle instead. You’re welcome. –Baratunde Thurston

  • I cannot explain why I prefer the Leuchtturm1917 to every other notebook I’ve used during my career. If I had to guess, I think the paper is good for frantic scrawling while talking to a source—lightweight, durable, and doesn’t bleed through to the other side. Pair that with some Muji pens and the writer in your life will love you forever. –Tina

  • Rose Los Angeles Delights, which are gummies infused with Sativa, Indica or CBD. Rose partners with sustainable cannabis farms and highly acclaimed chefs to create unique and delicious flavors, like Rose Hibiscus and Nünchi Citrus Oolong Boba, but what’s most notable is how relaxed and measured the feeling is—entirely enjoyable and without any of the overwhelming feelings one sometimes gets from edibles. –Dylan 

  • Perfume sample kits are a fantastic gift when you don’t quite know what scent will tickle a friend’s schnoz. I highly recommend Thin Wild Mercury’s Los Angeles collection (Zuma 1975 is a standout with notes of bergamot, jasmine sambac, and vetiver), and I’ll soon be trying a kit from Imaginary Authors (check out Cape Heartache with notes of fir, strawberry, and mountain fog). –Becky Aydin

  • Scratch-offs! After convincing myself I was the winner of multiple Megamillions this year, I’m feeling optimistic for the holiday season. –Julia Baldyga

  • SmartLess, in which the invariably hilarious co-hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett sit down with an actor/musician/celebrity and ask genuinely enjoyable and probing questions. It’s the model for what a great conversational podcast should be. Media insiders, start with the Anderson Cooper, Michael Lewis or David Remnick episodes. –Dylan

  • I’m a little biased because he’s a fellow Ringer podcaster, but Derek Thompson’s Plain English pod always brings me clarity on major issues I know nothing about. There are so few generalists out there that are smart no matter what they are talking about, and Derek is one of them. A guaranteed value add. –Matt

  • I love the NBA, and a few years ago my oldest friend turned me on to All the Smoke, an interview show hosted by beloved former semi-journeyman pros Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, two staples of the pre-Steph “We Believe” Warriors team. The show is incredible for its level of access and insight into the league, the stuff that only the pros experience. At Puck, we fixate about the inside conversation, the plot that only the insiders know. And this show constantly delivers that conversation with the game’s greatest legends—A.I., CWebb, K.D., and so forth. It really demonstrates that the arc of media is moving toward authenticity. –Jon Kelly

  • I don’t want to seem like too much of a fan-boy, but it really is The Town. Despite my east coast roots, I am enthralled by all things Hollywood, especially on the business side, so hearing Matt’s insights and stories every week allows me to feel as if I’m in the action. –Jack O’Connell, aka Intern Jack

  • Who has time for podcasts since Midnights came out!? –Liz Gough

  • My partner is taking a sabbatical next year, so we’re planning a three-week long trip to Asia. I’ve never traveled that far east, and I’m so excited to visit Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, and so many other cities. I’m really looking forward to visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, which is all about Studio Ghibli. And, of course, I’m looking forward to all of the food. –Julia A.

  • My husband is competing in a winter pentathlon in St. Moritz, Switzerland in February. What does that entail, you may ask? It’s a test of athletic and mental endurance across five Olympic disciplines (of which he has experience in none), requiring individual athletes to ascend, descend, and traverse mountains and frozen lakes in the Engadin valley. I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to more… our stay at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, or watching him attempt to monobob. –Alex

  • In 2023, I’m going back to both Provence and Puglia for a fourth and a third time, respectively, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. On each successive trip, I’ve discovered something new to love. In Provence, I found the Gourt de Mautens winery, a tiny little outfit run by the eccentric Jérôme Bressy, who makes blends that are not “allowed” under the strict French system but about which I dream at night. On my last trip to Puglia, I learned about the heavenly puccia, a sandwich containing octopus and burrata—holy shit. –Julia I.

  • I can’t wait to return to Monteverdi in Tuscany. It’s in the heart of Val d’Orcia—a UNESCO world heritage site. The property has a few villas, as well as regular hotel rooms. There’s a restored 13th-century chapel, a farm-to-table restaurant, a super deluxe spa, a gym, and an infinity pool. The service and the food are exceptional, and everything about the village (you can walk from building to building) was respectfully restored, lowkey luxurious, and perfectly relaxing. –Liz 

  • A clean and simple martini, preferably with Botanist or Sipsmith gin. Dirty martinis are having a moment right now, which I really appreciate; they’re divine, and ripe for experimentation with various brines and sherries and stuffed olives and the like. But a classic, cold-as-ice gin martini—two parts gin, one part vermouth, with a twist—is what I gravitate toward during the holidays. It’s timeless and classic, like Frank Sinatra and snowfall and a stocking-adorned fireplace. –Dylan 

  • One evening, after the House of the Dragon meme got stuck in my head, I ordered a negroni sbagliato at All Souls Bar in D.C. The bartender told me that they ran out of Campari and suggested replacing it with Cynar. Reader: it is so much better. Tina 

  • I drink nothing but whiskey, so I always go with a classic old fashioned. There’s an amazing whiskey bar near Red Hook in Brooklyn called Travel Bar that is excellent for a night of whiskey tasting and whiskey-based cocktails. My go-to if I’m making one at home is Hudson Baby Bourbon by Hudson Whiskey. –Julia A.

  • For the elderflower diehards out there, there’s Twinkles: vodka and St.-Germain shaken with ice and strained, served in a chilled coupe glass and topped with champagne, garnished with lemon zest. –Becky

  • I lose hats, I lose gloves, but I will never, ever lose a giant blanket-sized scarf. And the fact that I haven’t lost my plaid wool Muji stole over the past six winters is a testament to how much I love the damn thing. (It also doubles as a cape for all you Grey Gardens aficionados out there.) –Tina 

  • My Panerai Luminor has never failed me, though I wish its numbers lit up a little more in a dark movie theater when I’m checking my watch… –Matt

  • In addition to making killer watches and big clocks, Shinola, of Detroit, has taken to making smaller Runwell desk clocks. I saw some at the Shinola store in Venice, California recently—Abbot Kinney, ya know—and I would highly recommend it as a stocking stuffer. Anyone out there related to me listening? –Bill 

  • RAEN Remmy collection sunglasses in slate crystal/vibrant brown. I know they’re my favorite because everytime I lose them I begrudgingly buy another pair. Sort of like AirPods—which, come to think of it, are certainly the most necessary accessory. –Dylan 

  • My Oura ring. I got it for free when speaking to a company whose leaders gave them to all the employees. Now I don’t know if I got a good night’s sleep unless my ring tells me I did! Honestly, it’s been helpful to see the relationship between exercise, meditation, drinking, and my sleep. See if you can get someone to get this for you. –Baratunde

  • Bespoke Post, which sends you a different product or box of products from a small business every week—weekender bag, cocktail smoker, soaps, etc.—for the same discounted price each month. If you don’t like what’s in your box you can swap it out for something else or skip the shipment. But the real benefit of this service is that they’ve got a curated shop of very giftable items for almost everyone in your life, which comes in handy around birthdays and, of course, the holidays. –Dylan 

  • Going to have to say an exact tie between my Liquid Death Subscribe & Save and my Scribe Winery quarterly delivery. Life is about balance.   –Alex 

  • The only app that brings me true joy is TikTok, and therefore I’m also very concerned that something will happen (geopolitics, regulatory scandal, etc.) that causes it to become less fun or disappear entirely. I still won’t go back to Reels on Instagram. –Julia A.

  • Warner Bros. Discovery spins off CNN and sells it to wipe away $10-$15 billion of debt. The buyer is Jeff Bezos, who merges CNN with the Washington Post and puts the entire company under the direction of Jeff Zucker. No no, I’m kidding. But then again… why not? –Dylan 

  • After Clarence Thomas goes missing, a debate erupts in D.C. about how long Biden must wait to nominate a successor. Three months go by. A news conference is scheduled. And a few minutes before Biden takes the stage with his pick, Thomas sends out a press release saying, “I’m back.” No explanation is ever given for the disappearance. –Eriq Gardner