Oh, yes, it's that time of year, when we get to live and eat vicariously by giving food, books, gadgets, and all the other things we think our fellow food lovers would crave and covet. So over the next 28 days we're going to tell you about lots of stuff we would be thrilled to give or get. Every item we tell you about we've eaten, read, or tried, so you can be confident that if you do order something from our guide you'll be giving or getting something delicious or crazy good.
Today I'm going to focus on New York foods. Let's face it, it's not just New York expats who appreciate quintessential New York foods. We know lots of people who have never lived in Gotham who have come to appreciate the pleasures New York foods afford serious eaters everywhere.
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.
Rugelach: The rolled cinammon-raisin pastry known as rugelach can often be leaden, dry, and tasteless. But Margaret Palca's rugelach is buttery, light, and oh so delicious. The recipient of your gift will not be able to eat just one. I promise. No website. Call 718-802-9771 to order.
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.
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.
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.
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.