It takes a village to make a website. This week, we're introducing you to our Partnerships Editor, Samantha Weiss-Hills—with insight to why she's an evening person, the one thing she wishes she could cook, and why the bowling alley near her house is secretly the best place in New York.
Here are a few quick facts about Sam, the Partnerships Editor at Food52: She competes on two bowling teams (one of which she’s the captain of), is originally from Vincennes, Indiana but is now a fully reformed Brooklynite, has a neon sign on her wall that reads “Mr. and Mrs. Sandwich,” a nickname she and her husband have earned, and hates watermelon. At work, she’s known for her knack for inventing great cocktails, her infectious laugh, and Instagrams of her puppy, Elsa, and cat, Penny. I sat down with her to find out more about her favorite place in New York, her ideal cocktail, and the last time she tried to bake a cake:
Are you a before-work or an after-work person? What’s your routine like during that time?
After-work, definitely. I would love to sell myself as a morning person, but it would just be a lie! Mornings are fast and, to be honest, I’m always a little late getting out the door. And I always have a coffee, too. If I’m at home, it’s a cup made with my Aeropress. If I'm ordering in a café, it’s an americano, short and black.
The evenings are when I can share dinner and a cocktail at home with my husband, cuddle with my dog and cat, and relax. We stay up late chatting and listening to music—it’s what I look forward to most during the day!
Left: Sam's morning coffee routine; Center: Her sun-kissed living room in Brooklyn; Right: Her dog, Elsa taking an afternoon nap.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Food52?
The creativity. The colleagues. The innovativeness. (And, who am I kidding? The food.) It’s all inspiring and I’m constantly full. And honestly, the little things are great, too: I can make my lunch on a real stove everyday, I can sit on a couch while I work, the lighting is low, and there are plants.
What’s something you want to learn how to cook? Why?
I want to make better cakes. I have always dreamed of being a better baker, but I’m heavy handed when I cook and I feel like you have to have a softer touch than I do with pastry.
Any baking disasters you'd like to share?
Oh! I tried to make a flourless chocolate cake for a small dinner party earlier this year and it was just a huge failure! I used butter I wasn’t familiar with and I think I put my oven rack a little too far down. I had to throw the whole thing away because it just wouldn’t set, and also it didn’t really taste that good.
Also, for the longest time, I was also making my grandmother’s molasses cookies with way too much salt. I had no idea why they continued to come out so differently from when my mom made them—and then by the time I’d messed up multiple batches, we finally checked what I was making against the original recipe and found out that she had given me the wrong amount.
What’s your favorite place in the U.S.?
I love Charleston and the South Carolina coast. The Spanish moss, the long roads, and green marshes are dream-like and transporting. I have distinct memories of chilly, dark evenings on the beach with a picnic and friends with the ocean roaring alongside us.
In the world?
It’s a three-way tie between Florence, the Costa Brava, and Rekyavik. Iceland is like another planet with its sparse, moonlike landscape, salty ocean air, and quiet streets. It feels far-away from everything and it doesn’t matter—it's its own world. Florence was a turning point for me in a lot of ways. I studied abroad in Italy in college and it was what introduced me to good food and wine. Art became more of an accent, because you are just surrounded by it all the time there.
My husband and I went on our honeymoon to the Costa Brava—it was the most magical trip. Barcelona is teeming with creativity—it’s a city with such an eclectic mix of art, architecture, food, culture, and history. And it’s easy to see how the Costa Brava (or the Savage Coast) inspired so many great artists and why so many of the world’s best chefs flock to it to cook with its regional ingredients.
If you were moving somewhere and you only had room to pack one cookbook, one item from your apartment, and one piece of art, what would it be?
Cookbook: The Essential New York Times Cookbook (and not just because Amanda wrote it!) because it’s so versatile and every recipe I’ve made from it has come out aces. Item: a record of great importance to me—Live at the Old Quarter by Townes Van Zandt. Art: There’s a weird painting in a beautiful wooden frame that was passed down to me when my grandmother died. It’s of peonies on a table, very 15th-century Flemish memento mori. It’s heavy and really old, and not actually very pretty, but I love it.
Sam and her husband and bowling partner, Alex
What’s a phrase or word that people always call you out for using?
Less of a phrase or a word, but actually that I just talk too much, and too loud!
Where’s your favorite place in NYC?
I know I should say somewhere lofty and sweeping, but if I’m answering honestly, it’s The Gutter, my bowling alley! I’m the captain of my league team there.
What are your favorite cocktail components?
I like these things, but not necessarily together: Campari, vermouth, gin, whiskey, lime juice, and mint.
Is there anything else you'd like to know about Sam? Anything you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments below!
Last photo by Caroline LeFevre; all others by Samantha Weiss-Hills