The holidays are about presents and family, but we’re most excited about the food. We don’t care if it’s Hannukah latkes, gingerbread houses, or Christmas buche de noel. For the best in holiday traditions, we’ve gathered a standout line-up of must-have treats this season. For starters, there’s old favorites, like Balthazar Bakery where they raise the bar on fruitcake or fresh-baked pannetone at Grandaisy spackled with rum-soaked raisins. We discovered mince pies at Brooklyn’s DUB Pies and even peppermint cornflake cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar. Ready, set, celebrate the holidays!
Duane Park Patisserie
Address: 179 Duane St., btw. Greenwich & Staple Sts.
Phone: (212) 274-8447
Rumor has it Christmas pudding can be traced back to Medieval times,
when the Church decreed that pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday
after Trinity with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12
apostles. While we’re not die-hard history buffs, we are serious
foodies and we know a good Christmas pudding when we taste one. For a
traditional and tasty plum pudding, there’s Duane Park Patisserie.
Their steamed English pudding cake is one of our favorite, new
discoveries. Full of dates, nuts, apples, figs, apricots, oranges and
brandy, it even comes with hard sauce and instructions. Serve it to
guests and take all the credit. No one will ever know you bought it.
Address: 176 West 72nd St., at Amsterdam Ave. (multiple locations)
Phone: (212) 334-9435
For Italians (and those of us that love feasting like Italians) the
Christmas table simply isn’t complete without a moist and fresh
panettone. The part-bread, part-dessert is difficult to make, so for the
sake of your sanity, go ahead and pick up a fresh panettone from Grandaisy Bakery. Each bite yields the rich flavors of rum-soaked raisins, citron, and a touch of honey.
Address: 80 Spring Street, at Crosby St.
Phone: (212) 965-1785
Once a holiday staple, fruitcake has faded to the background in recent years. Though Johnny Carson once dubbed it “the worst holiday gift,” we’re pretty sure he’d be singing a different tune had he received Balthazar’s holiday fruitcake. Their traditional British-style cake is laden with dried figs, cherries, apricots, dates and almonds, soaked in rum and brandy, and topped with decorative marzipan. This is one holiday tradition you won’t be re-gifting… or saving for next year.
Address: (The Pie Shop) 211 Prospect Park West, at 16th St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 974-1683
If you’re not familiar with England’s culinary tradition of fruit mince pies, this is a great year and place to sample your first. Australian-bent DUB Pies is turning out handmade mini mince pies – think two-inch round pies chock full of chewy, dried fruit with brandy in a sweet, short-crust pastry. While the British typically add suet (animal lard) to their crusts, DUB’s are suet-free, so there’s really no excuse.
Eleni’s New York
Address: 75 Ninth Ave., btw. 15th & 16th Sts.
Phone: (888) 435-3647
This Chelsea Market shop crafts nut-free, kosher cookies using all-natural ingredients year round, but this time of year we only have eyes for their creative collection of gingerbread houses. Eleni’s has baked up a Candy Land-inspired house, outfitted with a peppermint swirl candy-topped roof and gumdrop accents. There’s also a red peppermint house, intricately decorated in red and white with peppermint candies. Or go the DIY route with the decorate-your-own gingerbread house or the color-your-own gingerbread house with edible markers — great hostess gifts and holiday activities.
Waterfront Ale House
Address: 540 2nd Ave. & 30th St. (multiple locations)
Phone: (212) 696-4104
Love it or hate it, eggnog is synonymous with Christmas. If you’ve sworn off it, you may want to reconsider because there happen to be a variety of great, new store-bought concoctions and even more offered up some of the city’s best bartenders. One of the best in town is “Sam’s serious eggnog” at Waterfront Ale House. Owner Sam Barbieri has rightfully earned praise for his version, a blend of dark rum, 151 rum, brandy and bourbon. The good news is you can enjoy it by the glass while cozying up at the bar, or in the comforts of your home by purchasing a bottle to-go. We recommend both. It’s that good.
Momofuku Milk Bar
Address: Union Square Holiday Market
On the heels of a brand new cookbook, Christina Tosi has been taking the country by storm with her cookies, and it only takes one bite to understand why. We’re big fans of the compost cookies and the cornflake cookies found year-round at the various Momofuku Milk Bar locations, but we’re even bigger fans of the holiday-inspired versions available this month at their Union Square Holiday Market outpost. For Christmas, there’s the peppermint cornflake chocolate chip cookie.
Erica’s Rugelach and Baking Company
Address: 349 4th St., at 6th Ave. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 965-3657
Christmas cookies may dominate the sweets category this time of year, but Hannukah treats like rugelach shouldn’t be overlooked. Especially if Erica’s Rugelach and Baking Company is baking them. They hand-roll their ruglech the old-fashioned way with a sweet, all-butter and cream cheese pastry dough and there’s plenty of variety, including traditional, rolled with cinnamon, currants, walnuts, chocolate, and all-natural fruit preserves. We prefer the more creative versions, like raspberry, apricot, or chocolate. While you’re there, sample the terrific almond-apricot linzer hearts or the hamantaschen.
Address: 10 Columbus Circle (Time Warner Center)
Phone: (212) 823-9366
Gingerbread men of all genders and ages are a holiday staple this time of year and can come in a variety of forms – big, little, frosted, plain – we’ll take them any way that we can get ‘em. Some of our favorite ginger-friends can be found at Bouchon Bakery. Their crisp edges are complimented perfectly by the moist center and rounded out with a simple touch of spice. There’s also the cuteness factor, with the gingerbread women donning pink polka dot dresses and the gingerbread men sporting pastel green pants.
Silver Moon Bakery
Address: 2740 Broadway, btw. 105th & 106th Streets
Phone: (212) 866-4717
Did you know that Jews eat oily foods during Hannukah in honor of the oil that burned for seven days instead of one? We didn’t either, but we’re happy to partake in the food festivities with Israeli jelly donuts, or suvganiot, made with a pillowy brioche dough and filled with a wonderfully juicy raspberry jam.