Sunday, March 30, 2008

Touring One's City

Yesterday, I took a walking tour of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market through Foods of New York. It might seem strange to take a tour of district in the city in which I live, but guides can often get access to some additional areas that aren't open to just anyone. Several weeks ago, I'd been on a pub crawl/history tour of some of Wall Street's most famous drinking establishments. Best of all with some of the food tours is that they are also eating tours as well, with the price of the samples included in the fee.

I'd written about the market last year, but it seems as though my photos have gone AWOL from that post so I thought I'd share what we saw yesterday on our jaunt through the market. We met at the Chelsea Wine Vault:


Our first stop was at a display window where we got to hear a history of the building. This was the old Nabisco Biscuit Factory. More importantly, it was where the Oreo was invented. Did you know that Nabisco was the first company (according to our tour guide) to wrap its cardboard cracker boxes in plastic wrap so that they would not get wet when it rains?

Then, we stopped at our first store for a sample of its wares: Eleni's. I would show you a sample of their everything cookie, but I ate it and the extras with which we left. The combination of oats, coconut, semi-sweet chocolate, walnuts, and dried cranberries was just too much to resist. Eleni's is also known for its gorgeously decorated cookies, photos of which you can see on their website.

To help us wash it down, we stopped off at Ronnybrook Farm's store in the market. Rich, thick, creamy chocolate milk was just the ticket to wash down the last of the cookie. Along the way, we took a peek at the prep windows for Amy's Bread, where you can see the loaves being prepped and proved.

Then, we stopped off at The Lobster Place.

We were able to get an inside peek at just what these beauties look like, well before they become the lobster bisque that we were able to sample. The lobsters that come in to this shop are sold to some of the top restaurants in the city, we were told.

One of the architectural features pointed out to us on our way to the next stop was the transom windows at the top. When steam trains used to come into the factory, the windows were the way to release all the heat and moisture. The levers that controlled these openings, reminded me a little bit of the ones that opened and closed the really high windows that were in my high school gym.

The waterfall in the center of the market helps to mute some of the noise from the foot traffic and to create a calming atmosphere.

The next stop on our tour is one of my favorite shops in the entire market: Buon Italia.

Aside from all the great things to buy there - olive oils, cheeses, cured meats, and lots of other wonderful items from Italy - the best part was that we got to taste some of these goodies. With the help of some whole wheat bread from Amy's Bread, we sampled marinated olives, smoked mozzarella, mortadella, salami, artichoke spread, and pickled mini onions.

After a brief stop to look at the Manhattan Fruit and Vegetable Exchange, where there were lots of oohs and ahhs over all the fresh produce, we got to visit Sarabeth's Bakery. There we were treated to samples of her homemade biscuits and fruit spread.

We paid a visit to Chelsea Market Baskets and looked at all the foods and chocolates that they can put together for gifts. Then, we stopped off at the T-Salon, where I discovered they have a little cafe in the back. The blossoming teas that they laid out to show us were almost too pretty to drink.

Amazingly, after all of that, we managed just enough room leftover to sample some gelato from L'Arte del Gelato.

Then, after all the eating, we did some walking around. We looked at the outside of the factory and saw the High Line, the rail line that ran into the warehouse buildings and which delivered goods into the factories and manufacturing plants. This is now destined to be come an elevated park running the length of the old train tracks. This is a piece of New York's industrial history that will be preserved and recycled into a more modern use.

This is the first time I've taken a tour with this particular group. I think that it won't be my last. I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to check out an area of the city which has great eats - and maybe drinks.

Buon appetito!

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