Although the calendar—and this magazine’s production schedule—say winter doesn’t begin until after Christmas, Brooklynities are in winter holiday mode now through New Year’s Day. To help you in this time of manic cooking, gifting and partying, we’ve compiled a holiday shopping guide to our ever-edible borough.
1. BOOZE YOU CAN USE: A responsibly consumed drink or two is a must at just about any holiday party/year-end blow-out/average winter weekend. Our favorite quaff for them all? Bierkraft’s 64-ounce growlers, little brown jugs filled and refilled on-site with artisanal draft ales, including a few made locally. (Heck, these are totally giftable, too. Just remember: One for me, one for you.) Bierkraft has cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates, local pickles and a massive bottled beer selection too.
Lavish liquor selections, on the other hand, are tougher to find in this town, so here are two suggestions: In Red Hook, LeNell’s is well known for its super-selective set of bourbons and whiskeys, but they’ve got hard-to-find varieties of other spirits, too. And the appropriately named Love Liquors and Wines also stocks an impressive number of spirits (especially rum, thanks to the Caribbean natives in this Prospect Heights neighborhood).
If you’re damn proud of the borough you drink in, stop by artez’n for their “Brooklyn Love” flasks and cocktail shakers, decorated with a cityscaped heart. Those of you buying growlers: pour ’em out into the artez’n pint glass series, currently featuring the Willamsburgh Bank building and that famous bridge.
2. STUFF IT: Our culture dictates that when the temperature drops, we all oil up the turkey baster/pie pan/soup pot/cookie cutter/knife steel/napkin holder set. Luckily this borough has two top-notch kitchenware stores: Tarzian West and Cook’s Companion. Like the bird at an intimate Thanksgiving table, these stores are small but stuffed.
But if you’re one of those whose kitchen style is more my-toaster-is-real-art-deco-and-I-don’t-care-if-it-occasionally-catches-on-fire, then you need period pieces. Head to Bob and Judi’s Coolectibles. They’ve got plenty of gently used cooking gear—some with old Brooklyn logos—including kitchen clocks, mixing bowls, martini glasses and wood-handled kitchen tools, which might make a fine $5 gift, if you’ll be giving.
Speaking of gifts, at Leaf and Bean, you can buy a press pot, a coffee scoop and some fancy Fair Trade beans and have a gourmet-pleasing package in under 15 minutes. (We’ve waited.) The Park Slope shop also stocks a small collection of non-coffee and tea gift-worthy kitchen goods.
3. SAUSAGE SURVIVAL KIT: Immediately after reading this, go to your nearest Italian pork store—perhaps Esposito’s—and buy as much sweet and/or spicy homemade sopressata as you can safely carry home. Then, for the next three months, you’ll always have on hand: a) snack food for late night gift wrapping sessions; b) antipasto on the fly; c) a really, really great gift for Dad. You can repeat this process Polish-style if you head to one of Greenpoint’s many butcher shops or Jubilat Provisions in Greenwood Heights for one of several kinds of house-smoked, garlicky kielbasa. (Although technically, this probably wouldn’t be called an antipasto.) Both Jubilat and most pork stores also sell all manner of pickled produce, breads, mustards and those tinned salty little fishes that go so well with cured meats.
4. DEEP FRIED & SANCTIFIED: If you’re not planning to roast your own bird this year, take the spread up a notch with a bona fide Brooklyn fried turkey, courtesy of Jive Turkey in Fort Greene. Sure, you could try and make your own, but unless you have a yard, a deep-fryer with a propane tank and some of those super heat-resistant silicone oven mitts (for those, see #2), you might as well have someone do the work for you. Just be sure to call well in advance: Around Thanksgiving, not surprisingly, they sell out fast. And if fried isn’t your cup of turkey, Eagle Provisions, the Polish supermarket that smokes its own meats, will hickory-smoke holiday birds for those who order ahead. Plus, they’ve also got kielbasa (see #3) and one of the better beer selections in town (see #1).
5. GET BAKED: At some point this season you’ll probably need to serve somebody something sweet. Bakeries—selling everything from babkas (Greenpoint) to rugelach (Brighton Beach) to Caribbean Christmas breads (Crown Heights) to Mexican sweets (Sunset Park) abound—but why not put out some real Danish pastries? Leske’s is one of the last Scandinavian bakeries in the borough. And in addition to the pastries, almond tarts and dozens of holiday pies, they make one of the best black and white cookies around.
6. GET FRESH: Something about these cold, short days instills a craving for tropical fruits. And one of the best places in the whole Northeast to find them is 1367 Coney Island Ave. At The Orchard, a Brooklyn fruit and gift basket company, owner Mitchell Spitz picks out the finest mangos, blood oranges, sapodillas, mangosteens and nearly any other fantasy-like fruits you can think of. He doesn’t always have everything—waiting for best flavor and harvest seasons from prime growing areas—but anything in orange, red and pink is bound to tempt your frozen taste buds.
7. BOOK IT: Let’s say you’ve been asked to bring a tortilla casserole to the office holiday potluck, but you don’t have a recipe. No sweat: Get thee to the Brooklyn Central Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, where the second floor cookbook collection takes up a whole wing. Okay, so we know you could probably look up several thousand tortilla casserole recipes online, but browsing the books—from the latest (Mario Batali) to the greatest (Julia Child)—is a lot more instructive. While you’re there, check out two of our favorite Brooklyn-centric tomes. The Brooklyn Cookbook by Lynn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy Jr., traces the myriad styles of Brooklyn foodways from Sephardic pickles to Norman Mailer’s stir-fry. Of Cabbages and Kings County: Agriculture and the Formation of Modern Brooklyn by Marc Linder and Laurence Zacharias, tells the story of farming right here in Brooklyn, which in the 1880s was second only to Queens as the most agriculturally productive county in the country. And if you just have to have your own copies—or want to give a few as gifts—they’re both still in print.
Editor’s note: LeNell’s, artez’n, Bob & Judi’s Coolectibles, Leaf and Bean, Jive Turkey and Eagle Provisions have closed.