On my most recent trip to New York, I did the Foods of New York’s Chelsea Market/Meatpacking District tour. Last time, they impressed me with their Greenwich Village tour and although I thought this year’s one was decent, I think I preferred last year’s tour a little bit more. Perhaps it was the fact that our tour guide, though funny, wasn’t particularly memorable, or that a number of the places where we were supposed to visit were shut.
We started off the tour at Eleni’s, a baking artisan specialising in hand decorated and edible cookies and cupcakes. They shut their store down just for us, so that they could serve us one of their hearty cranberry oatmeal cookies, definitely filling and delicious. They also had a special cookie, decorated in celebration of Obama winning the presedential election (picture courtesy of their website). One strange thing about their shop though is that you aren’t allowed to take photographs yet they still strangely put all their photos on their website.
Our guide was funny, reasonable, and extremely hyper that made him pretty entertaining. He gave us some great tips, like eating the bar menu in the lounge of the extravagant Del Posto, or visiting the rooftop bar in the Hotel Gansevoort, a not very well known location with great views looking out to other parts of the city and a break from the night time intensity that the rest of the meat packing district can have.
We then headed into the Chelsea Wine Vault, whose large store front doesn’t even begin to do justice to their apparently several block large vaults where they store not only their own wine, but plenty of other people’s wines as well including numbers of famous restaurateurs, and chefs. I think you can even store your own wine there, should you happen to have that much. Unfortunately we didn’t get to taste any wine, instead heading to Ronny Brook Milk Bar to wash the cookie we had down with some of their rich, creamy chocolate milk.
Our tour guide continued to point out many interesting facts and features of the building, previously owned by the Nabisco Biscuit Factory, and intentionally shaped afterwards to hold gourmet food places. We continued to walk around before stopping at Buon Italia, apparently one of the largest Italian grocery suppliers in New York. Our guide prepared a small platter of cured meats, a number of cheeses, olives and some breadsticks that we then helped ourselves to in very old fashioned picnic plate style. He cleaned up, leaving us to wander the store after which he then brought us to L’Arte Del Gelato where we had a tiny, tiny cone of gelato (I picked the passionfruit sorbet instead) where they focus on seasonal flavours including a weird (only in the US) pumpkin flavoured gelato.
Not too far from there, we ended up in the closed store of Chelsea Market Baskets (think of gift baskets or food hampers) where we had some British cheese, onion relish on a water cracker. Our guide also served us some finishing salts (those that don’t melt away the instant it touches any moisture) though I passed on tasting the smoked salt, pink salt and celery salt since I’m sure I already have too much sodium in my diet. Funnily enough, a lady besides us couldn’t get enough of it, constantly pouring herself a mound each time instead of the few crystals everyone else had.
From there, we finished up our walking around the market with a cup of herbal tea from the T Salon, and some scones (they call biscuit) and jam from Sara Beth’s. After all this food, we then prepared ourselves to head outside of the warmth, into the lightly falling snow to see a guided tour around the rest of the meat packing district. We visited a number of places and significant buildings (like the basement bar of Morimoto’s pictured above), often just standing outside while the guide chatted about some strange aspect about the place. To make up for a number of the closed stores, he also took us into a friend’s B&B, a spectacularly well kept but old building showing us an interior of a place most visitors wouldn’t end up seeing the insides of.
The Chelsea Market/Meatpacking tour that Foods of New York offer is still much better than many other tours out there. I don’t think it quite beat out last year’s tour though for it is a fairly good investment considering it takes about four hours all up.