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Today's gift guide is for the New York food lover. Recipients can be New York expats or those who've never actually lived in the city but have come to appreciate quintessential Gotham foods. This year we've added a Brooklyn element, since there are so many skilled bakers, picklers, and cheesemakers opening shops and popping up at neighborhood farmers' markets, contributing to the budding artisan food scene in the borough.
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
Bialys: I know I sound like a broken record (remember records?) but bialys are an awesome overlooked New York food. 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
Eileen's Cheesecake: You could just give a Junior's Cheesecake to the cheesecake lover on your list, and that would be acceptable if predictable. Eileen's Cheesecake is lighter, fluffier, and maybe a tad more satisfying. eileenscheesecake.com
Bagels: At Bagel Oasis they still boil their bagels, sweeten them with malt, and make them small enough to eat on a diet. I find Bagel Oasis bagels to be far superior to the too sweet and too big bagels sold by H&H.
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 is why some people take MTA buses, water taxis, and Ikea shuttles (the Scandinavian mega-chain is right around the corner) to get here. Signatures include: house blend granola, vanilla marshmallows, and cupcakes. Baked is at 359 Van Brunt Street (map). Call 718-222-0345, order select goodies online, or just purchase the Baked cookbook (released this year) to make them yourself. We've already had fun with this one on Cook the Book.
Smoked Meats: Head to one of the Polish or Russian neighborhoods. In Greenpoint, Steve's Meat Market sells house-made spicy kielbasas or in South Slope, try Jubilat Provisions for house-smoked sausages, pickled produce, and many mustards. Steve's Meat Market is at 104 Nassau Avenue (map; 718-383-1780). Jubilat Provisions is at 608 Fifth Avenue (map; 718-768-9676).
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 or the smaller, but still great, Grab in Park Slope. Bierkraft is at 191 Fifth Avenue (map; 718-230-7600). Grab is at 438 7th Avenue (map; 718-369-7595).
Mitzy's Macarons: Mitzy actually lives in New Jersey, but the macaron goddess sells her chestnut, cranberry, gingerbread and other seasonal macaron flavors at the Brooklyn Flea (she'll be there this weekend), where she's slowly building a fan club. Serious Eater/macaron bureau chief Robyn Lee says they're better than any you'll find in Manhattan. You can also order them through Mitzy's website, itzybitzypatisserie.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 are available at area farmers' markets, Blue Apron, Stinky Bklyn, Bedford Cheese Shop, Marlow & Sons, and Whole Foods Bowery, or check 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. Available at Bedford Cheese Shop and Brooklyn Kitchen, or visit mcclurespickles.com.
Rugelach: The rolled cinammon-raisin pastry known as rugelach can often be leaden, dry, and tasteless. But at Margaret Palca Bakes, Margaret's rugelach is buttery, light, and oh so delicious. The recipient of your gift will not be able to eat just one. I promise. Margaret Palca Bakes is at 210 Court Street in Cobble Hill (map). Call 718-802-9771 or visit margaretpalcabakes.com.