From Halloween through the New Year there are tons of recipes floating around for ways to get cooking in this cozy holiday season. All the November and December issues of our favorite food magazines beg you to cook the perfect bird, amazing sides, stunning desserts and decorative cookies and treats to gift. But sometimes it can be difficult to find what you need when making a recipe for the first time, especially when its for seasonal items. The cold weather lately had me in a restocking mode – with a full kitchen I can avoid being out in the cold after work shopping. I have a short list of places to shop in my left hand column (over there <) but I thought this would be a good time to tell you about some of my favorite places to find special ingredients in the city and most often at good prices, too.
Boy do I love this place! I just stopped in yesterday to refresh my grain supplies and a few spices, too. This is a little specialty food store with huge bags and full bins of grains, spices, beans, flours, nuts and more to purchase in bulk. Buying in bulk is my favorite way to stock things like arborio rice (for risottos), cornmeal (for endless dishes of polenta), dried black beans, unique flours, and nuts. Since I’m usually cooking only for myself I don’t like to buy huge supplies of things and I try to avoid packaging whenever possible. At International Grocery you’ll find things like high-gluten flour and 6 different kinds of couscous with the option to get only as much as your recipe requires. Go with a list, go with cash ($10 credit card minimum), and don’t be shy in loading up on supplies and taking notes for the future. The gentlemen working at the store will assist you in scooping and weighing everything, so a list helps expedite your visit. Also, since the shop is not too large, ask if you don’t see something you think they would have – they probably do but it might not be obvious (like octopus or yogurt stored in the cooler).543 Ninth Ave 10018 | 212-279-1000
International Grocery has a number of options for bulk spices, but at Kalustyan’s you’ll find a seemingly endless supply of ground, whole, mixed and unexpected spices, herbs and seasonings. The prices are excellent on most things – you can buy 3oz. packets of tons of spices at a price that is still less than buying them in a jar at the grocery store (most spice jars hold 2oz. give or take, $3-5 depending on the spice [in Manhattan at least!]). If you like to use your own spice jars or tins this is a great place for you, too, since the spices come in little plastic bags. They also have a TON of other specialty items. Come here first with your list, go to International Grocery to fill in the gaps. Also, for my Moroccan/New Years/Birthday party last year I bought nearly all of my supplies from Kalustyan's and International Grocery.123 Lexington Ave 10016 | 212-685-3451
If baking is your focus, this is the spot. You will find pans, molds, packaging and ingredients you need to make those jaw-dropping gorgeous cakes and cookies to take you from your Thanksgiving feast, to your Ugly Sweater Christmas Party and out through a New Year’s champagne brunch. Definitely try to come here with a list. Prices could be better but its worth getting almost everything you need in one place. It might interest you pastry groupies that I’ve even seen Michael Laiskonis shopping there.
Their hours are a bit limited since they’re catering to a restaurant/pastry crowd who preps during the day time, not after work, so be mindful of their 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday schedule when planning to shop.56 West 22nd Street 10010 | 212-675-CAKE
Spices and Tease
I found out about this place by shopping the Holiday Markets throughout Manhattan that pop-up after Thanksgiving. They have bowls and bowls set out of spices and teas and other fun ingredients like dried flowers and flavored sugars. Beyond the beautiful display you can choose to purchase your finds in attractive tins with a little window or just a small plastic bag. A good place to stop by if you are needing quick spices or if you want to give someone a fun spice set or a selection of teas as a holiday present.2580 Broadway 10025 | 347-470-TEAS
78 Grand Central Terminal 10017
And find them at the various Christmas Markets throughout the city.
For the most in-season, local produce there’s no better place than New York’s own Greenmarkets. Find your brussels sprouts, endless kinds of squash, maple syrup, and local breads for your stuffing across the city. While you’re shopping for dinners and desserts think of your Christmas list, too. Maybe a little chili pepper wreath is just what your aunt would love or local soaps or lavender sachets for your favorite girlfriends?
For locations and hours consult the Grow NYC website here.
These are the main places I like to shop for unique, hard to find ingredients but you will make good finds (at good prices) at Fairway Market [various locations – another great bulk resource], Trader Joe’s [various locations], Whole Foods [various locations, less so on the “good prices”], ordering from Fresh Direct, and the original Zabar’s and Eli Zabar’s many shops across town.