With Hanukkah already lighting up the calendar and December 25 bearing down like Buster Poindexter behind the wheel of a Checker cab, time’s running out to stuff the stockings of the New Yorkers on your list who envy the five pounds of veal Frank Cross found under the tree in Scrooged.
To make their miracles happen, we’ve haunted the city’s best culinary pop-ups, websites, and shops for Nordic cookbooks and bottled cocktails, handcrafted chests of chocolate and automated nut milkers — all of them as appetizing in Christmas wrapping and tinsel as butcher paper and bakery twine.
Sure, the Soho bookstore stocks this year’s top recipe tomes, from Magnus Nilsson’s whale-braising manual, The Nordic Cookbook, to The Food Lab, J. Kenji López-Alt’s manual for better eating through chemistry, but what separates McNally Jackson (52 Prince Street, 212-274-1160) from its more noble competition is a bounty of hard-to-find foodie periodicals, like feminist quarterly Render and the stylish Spanish Tapas, that make flying home for the holidays so much more bearable when you’re delayed on the runway.
While seeing a Starbucks shutter is a gift in its own right, its outpost on the corner of Union Square West has just been replaced by the Food52 Holiday Market (41 Union Square West, no phone). Open until December 20, the online cooking community’s real-world pop-up stocks culinary quirkiness like raw-pine Pieboxes, pancake-flavored Minocqua popcorn, gently used Food Network props, and a schedule of special events from book signings to pie-latticing workshops.
Gustiamo (1715 West Farms Road, Bronx; 718-860-2949) is the place for small-production Italian specialties you can’t find anywhere else, all carefully sourced and imported to the company’s wholesale warehouse in the Bronx. Owner Beatrice Ughi and her small, dedicated team make frequent trips to Italy, ensuring each producer is staying true to Ughi’s high standards. This year, Gustiamo put together a variety of themed gift boxes, which can be rustically packaged in crates salvaged from the city’s produce markets. Find them online, or in person — every Saturday through December Gustiamo is opening its warehouse doors to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Karen Tedesco)
Gwyneth Paltrow brings Goop Mrkt (10 Columbus Circle, no phone) to the Shops at Columbus Circle at the Time Warner Center through Christmas Eve. Fans of the lifestyle guru’s ascetic indulgences can enjoy Chalait’s green-tea lattes by day and Dewar’s by night while perusing Soyabella nut milk makers, Staub cocottes, and custom-wrapped copies of Thug Kitchen.
If you’ve ever had to settle for a hightop table in the front room at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria (53 Great Jones Street, 212-837-2622), you know too well the temptations of the deli cases, countertops, and breadbaskets piled high with Umbrian flavor. Stock up on house-label olive oils (which can be refilled behind the counter), perfect for pairing with head baker Kamel Saci’s country loaves, or resist all temptation with an already bowed-up pain d’épices. Impossible to resist? You can also opt for packaging you can eat through, like pastry chef Genevieve Meli’s wood-grained chocolate box of chocolates.
DUMBO’s Mouth.com keeps an ear to the ground all around the country for the best regional purveyors in every major food group, including chunky half-pound fruit and nut bars from Los Angeles’ Valerie Confections, Tuscan salami from Portland, Oregon’s Olympia Provisions, bottled Saratoga cocktails from Fluid Dynamics, and Chicago bar snacks like Bee’s Knees chipotle-lime peanuts. Even better, there’s same-day delivery in the city, perfect for homesick visitors who don’t like anything New York has to offer, except for everything they’ve ever wanted from their own kitchen.
Filling the void left by Ruby et Violette, and in all their customers’ bellies, Schmackary’s (362 West 45th Street, 646-801-9866) sates Hell’s Kitchen’s bakery cravings with eight daily cookies both chewy and eclectic. Even better, Schmackary’s is open late, so when the lights go out on Broadway it’s not too late to fill a tin with a dozen of its seasonal variations, like cream-cheese-frosted dark-chocolate Dirty Peppermint, cinnamon-dusted eggnog, and the place’s classic Super C, which studs a sea-salted chocolate chipper with holiday M&Ms.
Astor Wines (399 Lafayette Street, 212-674-7500) is downtown Manhattan’s unofficial party supply warehouse for a reason, and this season it’s stocked with new and exclusive holiday bottles smoky, fizzy, and fruitful, like Tamworth Distilling’s tamarind cordial (probably the first liqueur ever inspired by nineteenth-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt), Compass Box’s coveted fifteenth-anniversary expression of its Flaming Heart scotch, and Champagne for day and night like Nicolas Feuillatte’s Land of Wonders and Taittinger Nocturne.
Ample Hills Creamery (305 Nevins Street, Brooklyn; 347-725-4061) solves the problem of how to stay up while binge-watching the last six — er, three — chapters of the Star Wars saga. Order a four-pack of pints in flavors like the marshmallow Light Side, studded with the dark forces of cocoa crispies, and the espresso chocolate Dark Side, lightened with white chocolate pearls. Sure, the movie’s out before Christmas Day, but it’s not like whoever’s receiving this isn’t going to see it again.
Looking for smoked salmon and a smoking gun? Head to Soho’s flagship Dean & DeLuca (560 Broadway, 212-226-6800), where every pantry provision from Siberian caviar to walnut cutting boards look as cinematic as the white-aproned fromagers and charcuterists immortalized on screen in Basquiat and The Night We Never Met.
The Museum of Food and Drink, a/k/a MOFAD (62 Bayard Street, Brooklyn; 718-387-2845), has a lot more to offer artful gourmandizers than MoMA’s still lifes of Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes or Michael Anthony’s edible re-creations of them at the Whitney. And if the opening exhibition, “Flavor: Making It and Faking It,” isn’t engaging enough, package it with tickets to Dominique Ansel’s January chocolate sauce workshop.
BKLYN Larder (228 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-783-1250) is stocked with screen-printed sandwich art good enough to eat alongside every outer-borough condiment in history worthy of a smear, from A. Bauer’s horseradish mustard to Sam Mason’s sriracha-hot Empire mayonnaise.
Where do you find a hand-formed terracotta tureen by Astier de Villatte topped off with a white glazed Snoopy? ABC Carpet & Home (888 Broadway, 212-473-3000), which is also the place to find what to stew inside it. And in-house restaurant ABC Kitchen offers an annual ABCSA which every summer delivers ten weeks of the same organic Hudson Valley grass-fed meats, eggs, cheese, and vegetables used by the restaurant.