5 Hot New Holiday Markets In New York City

new york city holiday market

Come December, New York City becomes a veritable mecca of holiday shops, festivals and bazaars. Most tourists are familiar with the classic gift emporiums at Grand Central, Bryant Park and Union Square. But those markets tend to turn off the newer, younger, more independent brands with their hefty vendor fees and multi-week commitments.

For a different scene, check out some of the city’s newer holiday markets, which offer food, drinks, workshops, art exhibitions and, of course, innumerable gift ideas from some of the city’s hottest up-and-coming brands. Here are five of the most buzz-worthy.

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar
The scene: A Williamsburg warehouse is transformed into a month-long hipster spectacular of art, music, food, drink and holiday shopping. Weekend nights feature concerts curated by Fader, Hype Machine, Gothamist and other musical tastemakers.
Gift ideas: Handprinted iPhone cases from Blissful Case, artisan soaps from Ebb & Flow, reclaimed wooden cutting boards from Grain.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, November 23 to December 22, 6 p.m. to midnight
Where: 45 N. 5th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Admission: FreeGIVE GOOD Market*
The scene: A two-day market featuring close to 40 socially conscious businesses owned by women, along with a full lineup of DIY craft workshops, film screenings, musical performances, art exhibitions and a panel on the role of entrepreneurship in women’s empowerment.
Gift ideas: Reclaimed leather handbags from Shannon South, contemporary cow horn jewelry from Kora, hand-knitted hoop scarves from Indego Africa.
When: November 30 to December 1, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Starrett Lehigh Building, 601 W. 26th St., Chelsea, Manhattan
Admission: Free

Bust Magazine Holiday Craftacular and Food Fair
The scene: A kick-ass selection of more than 200 vendors, selling handmade craft items, artisan foods and craft beers over two days. Arrive early; the first 300 shoppers each day get a free goodie bag.
Gift ideas: Artisan cosmetics from The Elixery, shibori-dyed pillows from Eighty8Percent, Hipster Bingo.
When: December 1 to 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 82 Mercer St., SoHo, Manhattan
Admission: $3

Hester Holiday Market
The scene: More than 40 gift and food vendors take over a historic Nolita building in this holiday shopping event from the organizers of the Hester Street Fair. Opening day on December 1 will feature a tree-lighting ceremony, animated light show and Christmas carolers.
Gift ideas: Upcycled charm bracelets from Tillydoro, handprinted socks from Strathcona Stockings, hand-blended looseleaf teas from Not Just Tea.
When: December 1 to 2, 8 to 9, and 15-23, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 233 Mott St., Nolita, Manhattan
Admission: Free

Brooklyn Craft Central Annual Holiday Market
The scene: This two-weekend event features a curated selection of (mostly) Brooklyn-based crafters and designers. Holiday cocktails and spicy pupusas will also be on tap.
Gift ideas: Hardwood wine holders from Gowanus Furniture, quirky tees from The Fencing & Archery Printing Co., whimsical jewelry from Virginie Millefiori
When: December 15 to 16 and 22 to 23, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Littlefield Art Space, 622 DeGraw St., Park Slope/Gowanus, Brooklyn
Admission: Free

*Disclaimer: The author of this post is on the organizing committee for this event – another reason to check it out!

[Photo Courtesy: Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Facebook]

Photo of the Day: San Telmo antiques

Few things make me happier than flea market shopping in foreign cities. Perusing the gorgeous antiques, handcrafted jewelry, and other treasures at the weekly Feria de San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was pretty close to a heavenly experience. This photo, from Flickr user Guillermo Esteves, captures one of the market’s beautiful arrays of antique seltzer bottles and was taken with an Olympus XZ-1.

Does your photo belong here? Upload your favorite travel shots to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Holiday gifts for food (and drink)-loving travelers

gifts for food loversHoliday shopping is easy if the people on your list like to eat and/or imbibe. If they’re into travel–be it armchair or the real deal–the options are endless This year, think beyond the predictable bottle of wine or pricey “artisan” cookies and give reusable, portable, eco-friendly gifts or small-batch edibles that are the taste equivalent of a trip abroad.

As for where to get these items, look at farmers and flea markets, street fairs, specialty food shops, wineries/distilleries, and boutiques. One of my favorite spots to shop: foreign supermarkets.

For the green at heart

An inflatable wine bag is ideal for wine and spirit-loving travelers. They’re multi-use and work equally well for olive oil, vinegar, or other fluid specialty products.

A logo tote bag (preferably made from recycled materials) from a specialty food shop, winery, etc. is great for practical recipients. A co-worker recently brought me a signature navy blue number from Neal’s Yard Dairy, a famous cheese shop in London. In two months, it’s traveled to South America and across the U.S., doing time as a souvenir satchel, laundry and grocery bag, and all-purpose carry-on. When I don’t need it, i just roll it up and stash it in my duffel bag or day pack. Love it.

Gift a wine key (opener) salad tongs or bowl, chopsticks, or other kitchen utensils made from local, sustainable materials such as wood, antler, bone, bamboo, or shell. Do a quick online search or ask (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: phrasebooks) about the origins of said object. If you have any qualms about the eco-aspect, don’t buy it and let the shopkeeper know why.

[Photo credit: Flickr user noramunro]gifts for food loversDrink coasters are always appreciated. I’ve picked up woven palm versions in Indonesia, as well as purchased colorful Portuguese azuelos tiles for this use. If the country or region you’re visiting is famous for its leather, woodwork, ceramics, or even recycled metal handicrafts, you’ll probably find a nice, inexpensive set of coasters. Again, be sure they’re made from sustainable materials.

Vintage kitchenware–even if it’s not functional–can be a great gift, especially if your intended is a collector. Salt-and-pepper shakers, wine openers, cheese knives, a set of Melamine bowls: hit up antique stores or street fairs, because you’re sure to find treasures at affordable prices.

For the adventurer

A pocketknife or plastic folding knife from a famous cheese shop or winery is indispensable to hikers, campers, foragers, and DIYer’s who enjoy a good picnic while on the road. Just make sure your loved ones aren’t the type who don’t check their bags when they fly. A mini-cutting board of wood/bamboo or slate is also a nice gift.

Know someone who’s into mountaineering or other high-altitude pursuits? Coca leaf tea (or for a less effective but more entertaining option, caramels or hand candy) really works, and it’s legal.

For the locavore

If you have a friend of the “Eat local/Support family farms” variety, a gift from your travels can still fit the mold. Whenever and wherever I travel, I make a point of purchasing local, handcrafted foodstuffs: jam or other preserves, honey, cheese, candy. What I buy depends upon where I am and whether or not I have to abide (cough, cough) by customs regulations or have access to refrigeration.
gifts for food lovers
If customs and temperature aren’t an issue, consider a gift of cheese, charcuterie, or even some spectacular produce (A would-be suitor once presented me with a tiny disc of goat cheese and one perfect peach before I departed on a flight; I wasn’t into the guy but loved the thoughtfulness of his gift).

If you you’re looking for a shelf-stable product, some suggestions: leatherwood, manuka, or tupelo honey (from Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Florida Panhandle, respectively); sea salt (I love the red alaea salt from Hawaii); Argentinean dulce de leche; drinking chocolate; real maple syrup; dried chiles or posole from New Mexico; palm sugar from Indonesia; spices from India or Morocco; Spanish saffron or paella rice–look for Calasparra or Bomba from Valencia; Provencal chestnut cream; Italian tomato paste or canned sardines (canned tuna from overseas is very often not from a sustainable fishery); barbecue or hot sauce; heirloom dried beans; stoneground grits…

I particularly like to buy items grown/produced by farmer co-ops but unless they’re manufactured for export or are a dried good, beware. A jar of manjar (the Chilean version of dulce de leche) I purchased from a tiny bakery wasn’t sealed properly, and was contaminated with mold when opened. Botulism or other foodborne illness is not a thoughtful gift (although I suppose it’s better to give than receive…), so make sure you’re getting professionally packaged goods.

[Photo credits: wine opener, Flickr user corktiques; honey, Laurel Miller]

On a tight budget this year? Make your own edible gifts based upon your recipient’s interests, favorite holiday spot, or ethnic heritage. Check out the below clip for an easy holiday recipe; bonus points if you know where Moravia is.

Moravian Spice Cookie Wafers

Summer travel: best U.S. cities for localized food lovers

best cities food loversWhat’s that you say? Summer’s half over? Those of us living here in the Pacific Northwest had no idea, given the lack of sun in these parts. But even if you’re getting slapped by the mother of all heat waves, it’s still early in the season for the best produce summer has to offer. As for where to get great food featuring locally-sourced ingredients? Allow me.

Some cities are inextricably linked with food; they’re destinations unto themselves if you’re the type who plans trips around meals. I do. Museums are great and all, but personally, I’d rather eat.

As a longtime proponent of sustainable agriculture, I want to support local growers as well as get a sense of place when I take a trip (that the food be good is still number one). That’s why a city like Santa Fe is so intriguing to me. The cuisine is rooted in the state’s history, indigenous peoples, and native foods, and there’s a fantastic farmers market. The fact that Santa Fe is beautiful in its own right seals the deal.

If you also let your appetite guide your vacation-planning, I’ve listed my favorite U.S. cities in which to stuff my face, based upon repeat visits or previous/present residency. It’s like choosing a favorite child, but someone had to do it.

Seattle
I currently reside in Seattle, and work at a cheese shop in the 14-month-old Melrose Market in Capitol Hill. So perhaps I’m a bit biased when I say that Melrose rocks. But really, I don’t think I am. It’s the best thing to happen to Seattle since Pike Place opened in 1907 and became the model for public markets nationwide. But Melrose isn’t a tourist trap, and you won’t find anyone hawking crappy t-shirts. It’s housed in two adjacent, restored historic automotive shops built entirely of reclaimed materials; there’s a soaring cathedral ceiling, and lots of exposed brick.

[Photo credit: Flickr user La Grande Farmers’ Market]

The Benefits of Buying Eco-Friendly Local Foodbest cities food loversAlthough home to just four dedicated retail spaces and a wine bar, sandwich shop, and restaurant, Melrose has garnered lots of national media attention. The Calf & Kid (aka My Day Job) is a European-style fromagerie, while Marigold & Mint is a lovely little nook full of antique apothecary jars and cut flowers and produce from the owner’s organic farm. At Rainshadow Meats, without question one of the finest local/sustainable butcher shops in the nation, there are hard-to-find cuts like pork cheeks, and excellent housemade charcuterie.

There’s also Bar Ferd’nand, a miniscule wine and tapas bar, Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop, and the jewel in the crown, Sitka & Spruce. Chef/owner Matt Dillon’s farmhouse mod space features an open hearth, room-length communal farm table, and rustic but refined, hyper-localized cuisine–this time of year look for foraged mushrooms, local goat cheeses, halibut, and Juan de Fuca spot prawns. Do.not.miss. Next door, Taylor Shellfish Farms–one of Washington State’s most beloved growers of oysters and Manila and geoduck clams–just opened a retail shop where you can scoop live shellfish from tanks, or puchase live Dungeness crab or housemade geoduck chowder.

Should you make it over to the Scandinavian-flavored Ballard neighborhood, be sure to dine at La Carta de Oaxaca (get there early or be prepared for a very long wait). Seattle can’t do Mexican food to save its life (I speak as a native Californian), with the exception of this Oaxacan treasure, where everything is made the slow, traditional way. Best of all, two of you can fill up–including beers–for under 30 dollars. For a more upscale treat, hit Bastille, a truly beautiful bistro featuring produce and honey from its rooftop garden.
best cities food lovers
Portland, Oregon
Portland has a vastly different vibe from easy-going Seattle. And while the attitude may be a bit much at times (do not raise the ire of a barista), it’s also got a phenomenal food and mixology scene (and yes, better coffee than Seattle). There’s no one neighborhood with all the great eats; they’re scatted throughout the city: Southeast, Pearl District, Alberta Arts District

Carnivores won’t want to miss Beast or Olympic Provisions (which also makes its own charcuterie for retail). There’s Cheese Bar, which specializes in beer parings, six glorious farmers markets, distilleries, artisan ice cream, and new favorites Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty (wood-fired pizza in the former–and much-missed–Lovely Hula Hands space) and Little Bird Bistro, the sister restaurant from former Food & Wine Best New Chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon.

If street food is your thing, Portland is swarming with food trucks, carts, and stands: Mississippi Avenue and downtown are both hot spots; check out Food Carts Portland for the inside scoop. If you feel the need to work off some calories in between food cart visits, (this is one of the best cities for outdoorsy types, after all), sign up for the Grub on the Go bike tour with Portland Urban Adventures.

Santa Barbara
I grew up near Santa Barbara, and have lived there a couple of times. It’s truly one of the most picturesque cities in the world, and over the course of 30-plus years, I’ve watched it evolve from sleepy small town to L.A. North. Spendy boutiques aside, Santa Barbara really didn’t start turning into a sophisticated dining destination until about five years ago.

The original hidden gems focused on locality–Bouchon, and the venerable Wine Cask (which recently changed hands and is now co-owned by the very genial owner of Bouchon) are still going strong. The executive chefs at both restaurants now lead farmers market tours, which I highly recommend. Both the Saturday and Tuesday farmers markets are major community events, and the sheer breadth of offerings–dozens of varieties of citrus, tropical fruit, olive and walnut oil, goat meat–is dazzling. Seafood lovers won’t want to miss the Saturday Fisherman’s Market, held at the Harbor.

The Hungry Cat
is my favorite restaurant in town (it also has a raw bar), followed by the superbly fresh Arigato sushi. Milk & Honey makes fantastic cocktails (and the small bites aren’t bad, either), as does Blue Agave. My true addictions, however, are Lilly’s Taqueria–a downtown hole-in-the-wall where for under five dollars, you can stuff yourself senseless on the best street tacos this side of the border. I also never fail to get an adovado or carnitas burrito at Taqueria Rincon Alteño. The same guys have been running the place for at least ten years, and it always feels like coming home.
best cities food lovers
Oakland, California
Nearly a decade of living in Berkeley, on the Oakland border, has enabled me to see this much-maligned city grow up, both aesthetically and culinarily (it’s always had a great Chinatown and taco trucks). In the gentrified Temescal neighborhood, you can literally hit a different restaurant every night of the week on the block between 51st St. and 49th St. on Telegraph Avenue. There’s Asmara for Ethiopian, Chez Panisse alum eateries Bakesale Betty and Pizzaiolo; Doña Tomas, and the new outpost of San Francisco’s wildly popular Burma Superstar (delicious). On 44th, late night chef’s haunt Koryo has great, cheap Korean bbq. Just around the corner: the wonderful Sunday Temescal Farmers Market.

Nearby, on 51st and Shattuck is the new Scared Wheel Cheese Shop, while down on Grand Avenue, by Lake Merritt, is Boot and Shoe Service (sister to Pizzaiolo), Camino (chef/owner is longtime former Chez Panisse chef Russ Moore). Don’t miss Market Hall Foods in nearby trendy Rockridge.

Brooklyn
I admittedly don’t know Brooklyn well; I couldn’t tell you how to get from Point A to Point B. But I know that some of the best food in New York lies within this dynamic borough. In Williamsburg, keep an eye out for Leeuwen Ice Cream’s roving, butter-colored truck–after you enjoy the heavenly pizza at Fornino. I also love the Brook Farm Genbest cities food loverseral Store, which has all manner of lovely vintage and vintage-inspired items for the kitchen and dining room. Bedford Cheese Shop and Stinky Bklyn (in Cobble Hill) are two of the country’s finest cheese shops, full of esoteric domestic and imported selections.

Over in Bushwick at Roberta’s, chef Carlo Mirachi, a 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef winner, fires up pizza and other treats in his wood-burning oven, and utilizes produce from his rooftop garden. If you’re still hungry, other tasty stops: Fatty Cue or Fette Sau (both in Williamsburg) for barbecue, Saltie for crazy-good sandwiches, (Williamsburg), and the oddest ice cream flavors ever at Sky Ice (Park Slope). Be sure not to miss the various weekend Brooklyn Flea markets, where you’ll find all manner of good-to-eat treats, artisan beverages from Brooklyn Soda, and retro kitchen equipment. Note: every Saturday is the Flea’s new dedicated food market, Smorgasburg, in Williamsburg.

My other top picks for great food, made with local ingredients:
Chicago
Denver/Boulder
Santa Fe
Portland, ME
Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you some tips on where to get your feed on!

[Photo credits: Portland, Flickr user qousqous; courthouse, Flickr user Silverslr; Vietnamese food, Laurel Miller; pizza, Flickr user h-bomb]

Bargain hunting in Madrid’s famous Rastro market


Shopping is a fun part of any trip, yet sometimes it’s hard to find something truly unique, something that tells a bit about the culture but stands out from what 10,000 other tourists bought that year. Finding a good souvenir can be a real problem.

In Madrid, you’ll never have that problem. At El Rastro, a giant open-air market that happens every Sunday from about 7am to 2:30pm, you can find pretty much anything. Part swap meet, part flea market, part bargain emporium for cheap imports, El Rastro has something for everyone, and piles of things you’d think nobody would ever buy.

Take this fish-shaped candle holder, for example. It’s hard to imagine someone taking this home, but it’s got a certain lure that made me almost cave in, because it’s so bizarre it deserves a home. Then there’s that collection of door locks behind it. The box contains about thirty of them, and only one still has its key. Is there a market for locks with no key? I do know someone who collects antique keys, so is this just the flip side? Do these people meet somewhere and try to reunite old locks with their long-lost keys?

It’s hard to get out of El Rastro without buying something and just the experience of wandering through the crowd looking at all the cultural detritus is a great way to learn about Spain. El Rastro has been voted by Gadling as one of the ten great markets of the world. Gadling also named it as one of the top ten places to have your pocket picked, so be careful. Madrid’s pickpockets are some of the best in the world, and they loooooove El Rastro.

Armed with a camera, a small amount of cash stuffed deep into a buttoned-down pocket, and no other valuables whatsoever, I headed out to explore, accompanied by Madrid’s leading ghost story writer. Somehow that felt appropriate.

%Gallery-96401%The most popular way for madrileños to visit El Rastro is to go to Metro stop Tirso de Molina and head downhill. This Sunday the square was filled with communist, socialist, and anarchist tables selling mementos of Spain’s Second Republic, as well as books, punk CDs, and lots of pins, stickers, patches, etc. to help you flash your leftist identity. Working our way downhill we ran a gauntlet of cheap imported kitchenware, tools, jeans, and heavy metal t-shirts. Not a bad hunting ground if you need to pick up some disposable clothes to wear on your trip, but nothing that really screams “Spain.” Except for the Chinese-made and very flammable-looking flamenco costumes for little girls.

El Rastro has no core and no real boundaries. Stalls sprawl along side streets and antique/junk shops line both sides of some avenues. Our path was the usual madrileño meander with no set course except a general direction downhill. The further you go down, the more interesting it becomes. Soon the open-air Walmart is replaced by sketches by local artists, handmade crafts, dusty old toys, and tattered movie posters. A circle of old men rummaged through a table of battered VHS tapes. A long table filled with old carpenter’s tools tempted for DIY fans. People selling stamp collections stood next to stalls piled high with used porn and old martial arts magazines.

The pop culture stuff is some of the most interesting. Here you can see what those old men with the VHS tapes consumed when they were kids–comic books with gaudy covers, Mexican pulp novels, and pennants for half-forgotten football (soccer) championships. There’s something very revealing about rummaging through another culture’s nostalgia. Forty years ago Spain was a fascist dictatorship with a struggling economy. Yet Spain was still Spain, and people liked to have a good time. The paper might be cheap, the print a bit blurry, but I could imagine Spanish kids devouring the latest issue of Coyote or Esther as eagerly as we read Superman or Archie. Come summer they’d head to the beach blaring Spanish pop music on that bright green plastic transistor radio, kicking that old soccer ball in the days when it was still inflated.

Now we had reached the bottom of the hill, where some real antiques (and a whole lot of junk) was being peddled. A cluster of stalls did a brisk trade selling ten year-old laptops with cigarette burns, rickety old chairs, and a collection of fine mirrors and glassware that had graced a some stately home a century ago but now were in desperate need of some love and attention. Every price is open to haggling. The prices for cheaper stuff tend to be less flexible, but it’s always worth a try and haggling is part of the fun. Some people get quite animated, showing Spain’s Arab heritage. At times it felt like I was in the bazaar of Cairo or Damascus.

So what did we buy? Remarkably neither of us spent more than 12 euros ($15), although we could have easily spent ten times that.

Me:
A collection of three classic films on DVD that was originally part of a newspaper promotion
La sangrientas battallas de Montecasino (part of a WWII series that came every week in a newspaper back in the Eighties)
Buffalo Bill contra Los Fumadores de Opio (a translation of an c.1900 American dime novel, translated & reprinted c.1930)
An imitation Zippo adorned with a symbol of the Spanish Republic

Andrew:

Two dirty old lampshades he plans to use for an art project.

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday morning?