“They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
I say the best way to explore a city is through our stomachs, something I’ve done recently in Barcelona and Quebec City. Can you imagine a better way to learn about a city’s culture and history than through its famous foods and favorite restaurants?
Food tours are a great way to explore both new and familiar cities. A good tour will offer tasty samples, background on the purveyors, and the history of the area. During a recent trip to New York City I knew a food tour was needed, so I began my research.
The options for neighborhood food tours is endless in a city like New York, but eventually I settled on Chelsea. This section of the city has experienced a significant transformation in the past decade and now offers great markets, restaurants, and shops. A few companies offer this tour, but I opted to register with Foods of NY due to their excellent reviews.
We began our tour in front of the Wine Vault in the Chelsea Market with our guide, Robin, where she gave us an overview of the tour as well as the history of the building.
Chelsea Market was formerly the home of Nabisco, the first company to package “biscuits” or as we Americans call them, cookies. For many Americans, Nabisco is most famous for their invention of the Oreo, and this tidbit provided a nice segue to our first tasting.
How not to diet–Eat a deep fried oreo at Creamline
Each summer during county fair time I hear of people eating all kinds of deep fried treats, but never consider trying them myself. That changed when I was offered an Oreo deep fried in buttermilk batter and topped with vanilla whipped cream from Creamline.
It. Was. Delicious.
Originally a dairy, Creamline has recently revamped their space and now offers a range of sandwiches and soups in addition to their milk based items like ice cream and milkshakes (some even include booze!).
Best Hot Dog Ever at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats
Next door to Creamline is Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, a meat seller and butcher that makes their own hot dogs. Jason told our group that this was the best hot dog he’s ever had. (Robin quickly commented that Dickson’s ships all over the country.) The meat was smokey, not overly salted and the snap of the casing was perfect. It would be dangerous if we lived near this shop!
Recommended by Oprah–Sarabeth’s Bakery
Sampling a fruit spread doesn’t sound too exciting, but it’s a perfect example of why food tours can be so informative. Sarabeth is the creator or her own fruit spreads made from all natural ingredients. They can’t be called jams or jellies because they don’t contain pectin. We were provided two samples--raspberry and marmalade--on a tasty buttermilk biscuit and both were excellent. My son does not have a sweet tooth and didn’t expect to like these samples, but he was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. The fruit is what shines, not the added sugar or coloring that is typical in jams and jellies. I liked Sarabeth's Bakery so much that I brought home a catalogue.
A Quick Stop in Chelsea Market Baskets
Chelsea Market Baskets offers high end packaged foods along with handmade baskets which can be combined for gifts. We had a few minutes to browse this store and were also offered several samples. If I lived nearby this would be a great special occasion store.
We exited this shop to the street outside where Robin shared more information about the market and the area. It turns out the the Food Network is located on the second floor of the Chelsea Market. Google owns the building across the street and in April of 2018 purchased the entire Chelsea Market building for 2.4 billion dollars. This gives visitors an idea of how affluent the neighborhood has become. A once run down warehouse district has become one of the hottest sections of New York City.
Darn Good Sausage Rolls at Tuck Shop
We headed back inside the market to the Tuck Shop, a small food stall specializing in Australian meat pies. Small plates were prepared for us that included a sample of a sausage roll and a few bites of kale salad (we have to eat something healthy during a food tour!).
Jason and I really liked these sausage rolls. Robin noticed our enjoyment and offered us an additional sample. The combination of savory meat with the flaky pastry was perfect.
Pizza at Gansevoort Market
After several generous samples we were all happy to get some exercise and walk a few blocks to another Chelsea neighborhood establishment, the Gansevoort Market. Here we gathered around a large table and waited for our Napoletana style pizza from Luzzo’s to be prepared.
While New York style pizza is everywhere in the city, we found many restaurants offering Napoletana style instead--a small, very thin crust pizza cooked at high temperatures for just a few minutes. Everyone in our group enjoyed Luzzo’s margherita pizza.
Ending on a High Note At Ample Hills Creamery
After Gansevoort Market, Robin gave us a brief overview of the historic neighborhood adjacent to Chelsea called the Meat Packing District. What was once a collection of warehouses used to butcher and ship meat is now the home of some high end fashion houses like Diane Von Furstenburg.
Then we followed our guide up the stairs to the Highline--a 1.45 mile park located above the city streets on a former railroad track. We walked a short distance along the Highline, then back down the stairs to our final stop, Ample Hills Creamery.
Amongst many delicious food stops, this was my favorite. We received a generous sample of Ooey-Gooey Butter Cake ice cream. Wow, the ice cream was super sweet! But in a small portion it was a perfect ending to a lovely tour.
How you can pig-out on a Chelsea Market Food Tour
I would happily recommend Foods of NY Tours. The number of tastings was generous and our guide, Robin, was terrific. But I also appreciated the brochure we received which recapped all of our tastings, provided a number of coupons, and offered advice on other restaurants in the areas.
If a food tour is not for you, then definitely visit Chelsea Market and enjoy the great food stalls, restaurants and boutique shops. The developer of this market has made it even more attractive with interesting art pieces throughout. Anyone could easily spend a couple of hours just strolling through this historic and attractive market.