Note: A holiday shopping list for your consideration. Don't know a New Yorker? Try our full complement of gift guides. —Ed.
Whether you live in the city and you're sending a loved one New York's best, or you're bringing an expat New Yorker memories of home, there are all sorts of quintessential NYC eats.
New York Cheesecake: After an exhausting tour of New York's best cheesecakes, we've settled on a few favorites. For an in-city holiday gift, stop by Two Little Red Hens; if you need something shipped, opt for Mona Lisa Pastry Shoppe or Eileen's Cheesecakes, both of which ship nationally. For locals, twolittleredhens.com; for shipping, monalisabakery.com or eileenscheesecake.com; prices vary
Bialys: One the greatest and sadly overlooked New York foods. Kossar's is one of a handful of traditional bialy bakers left in New York (and therefore America). Its bialys are not just bagels without holes. Rather, a Kossar's bialy is light, crisp, and toasts up perfectly. kossarsbialys.com
Smoked Fish: Russ & Daughters' Mark Federman has finally passed the 100-year-old family smoked fish torch to the fourth generation, his daughter Nikki and nephew Josh. The Russ family hasn't missed a beat. The smoked fish is as good as ever. russanddaughters.com
Pastrami from Ben's: Ben's owner Jay Parker is perhaps the last of the old-fashioned deli men. He gets his pastrami from a small traditional smokehouse in Brooklyn, Empire National. Make sure whoever gets the pastrami knows to steam it for a couple of hours to get it meltingly tender. It is better to order pastrami by the piece rather than sliced. bensbest.com
Papaya King Hot Dogs: If you know a hot dog lover who loves juicy, beefy New York kosher-style hot dogs with snap, Papaya King hot dogs are for them. papayaking.com
Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta: A small cheese operation run from a restaurant kitchen in the Boerum Hill neighborhood. According to our cheese correspondent Jamie Forrest: it's rich, milky, slightly lemony (because cheesemakers Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark use lemon juice for curdling), and "truly a thing of beauty." At around $14 a pound, it's pricey but "you can't get ricotta like this outside of Tuscany," promises Jamie. Available at Bedford Cheese Shop, Marlow & Sons, Blue Apron, Grab, Stinky Bklyn, and Saxelby Cheesemongers. For more info visit salvatorebklyn.com or email [email protected]
Baked: The Red Hook bakery has New Yorkers taking MTA buses, water taxis, and Ikea shuttles to get to this corner of Brooklyn. Signatures include: house blend granola, vanilla marshmallows, and cupcakes. We also love their chocolate chip cookies. 359 Van Brunt Street (map). 718-222-0345, order select goodies online.
Downtown Cookie Co.:As far as cookies go, we should also give a nod to Downtown Cookie Co. Their chocolate chip cookies are addictive—perfect for the doughy cookie lover—and their oatmeal and ginger are pretty awesome, too. Available online at downtowncookieco.com , 12 cookies for $24
Brooklyn Beer: Many breweries are born and bred in Brooklyn, including Sixpoint, Kelso, and of course Brooklyn Brewery. Grab a six-pack or fill up a growler (half-gallon glass jugs used to refill draft ales) at artisan beer superstore Bierkraft. 191 Fifth Avenue (map; 718-230-7600).
Slyboro Cider: Looking for a hostess gift, but tired of bringing the bottle of wine? Instead, pick up an elegant bottle of ice cider from Slyboro Ciderhouse. We're partial to the Special Reserve Ice Harvest Cider—smooth, subtle, and pleasantly (but not overwhelmingly) sweet. $11.99-$24.00, available online at slyboro.com
Pickles: Brooklyn has a rich brining history. Rick Field of Rick's Picks started pickling for fun in Prospect Heights in 1997, and now has a whimsical line of jarred veggies, including Phat Beets (beets in a rosemary brine) and Smokra (okra in a smoked paprika brine). Call 212-358-0428 or visit rickspicksnyc.com.
Wheelhouse Pickles is another small-batch pickle source, but from Park Sloper Jon Orren. He offers similarly funny-named creations like Big Bang Okra. Wheelhouse Pickles: area farmers' markets, Blue Apron, Stinky Bklyn, Bedford Cheese Shop, Marlow & Sons, and Whole Foods Bowery, or wheelhousepickles.com.
The McClure brothers add to the list of pickle entrepreneurs. Swimming in big hunks of garlic and chilis, their cukes are full of bite and the leftover briney juices are great in Bloody Marys. Bedford Cheese Shop and Brooklyn Kitchen, or visit mcclurespickles.com.