Tuesday, December 28

Part I: A food trip to Arthur Avenue!

A trip to Arthur Avenue
in the Bronx
to shop for fresh products and prepare for a collaborative 
holiday celebration!

Yes it is that crazy time of year again when we parade ourselves through a slew of parties, dinners and celebrations.  December is jam packed with shopping, cooking, wrapping and entertaining.  

This is PART I of a two-part post about cooking for the holiday season.  The "slow movement" that is taking hold of the food industry revels in the idea of shopping locally.  This concept helps to keep your local artisans, farmers and cooks in business and promotes the small mom and pop shops that most certainly are in your neighborhood. As I have written about many times on Nest, when I am in Eastern Long Island on my weekends I almost always opt to shop at the farmer and fish markets. These vendors are slowly being squeezed out of business by the larger food chains, and I do my part by bringing them my business. In Manhattan, there is a convenient upscale market on every corner. Don't get me wrong, I pop into all my favorite specialty markets out of convenience, but because New York is rich with a multitude of cultural neighborhoods, I am quite curious about these particular grocers. I wonder are they thriving in this economy?  By shopping at these places a home cook can learn a great deal about various types of cuisine and the ingredients. There is an area in the Bronx that I find particularly interesting -- the few block area called "Arthur Avenue".  This Italian neighborhood grew up organically around the bustling city during the early twentieth century when immigrants settled in.  There are many Italian grocery markets, salumerias, specialities cheese and meat stores that have set up shop over the generations and sell their authentic products to both home cooks and professional chefs. The cab ride from Manhattan takes only 10-minutes and I save lots of money by shopping for the freshest ingredients. I am now smitten with these local merchants who make and sell delicious homemade ingredients and dishes at reasonable prices.  There are many great restaurants on Arthur Avenue as well. 

Here is PART I --  the shopping trip was lead by my knowledgeable "foodie" friend Irene.  She gave a small group of us a private intensive tour of this culinary block.  We enthusiastically shopped from corner to corner breathing in the next adventure.  Please stop back next week for PART II --  the dinner party we threw together using the fresh products we culled from the area -- an Italian holiday feast!. 

A tour of the food markets lining Arthur Avenue   
What could be better, shopping with friends in search of the freshest ingredients, and later sharing a dinner together with our husbands. Irene knows every nook and cranny of the infamous Arthur Avenue shopping area of Italian markets.  She and her husband Rob are amazing cooks and both have a passion for cooking and culinary adventures. Her knowledge and enthusiasm made for a wonderfully, informative tour of the area.  Many people were lined up at each shop to pick the day's freshest items: fresh mozzarella at one place, bread straight from the oven at another (but be sure to get there at 11am sharp for fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves), sausage, salami, fresh and dried herbs, olives and Italian specialty products hard to find in other areas.  

I learned a great deal about Italian cooking just by walking from market to market, and what I love about this area is the enthusiasm the locals have to teach the novice about the ingredients.  At the core of Italian cooking lies the passion to utilize fresh ingredients.  At each market, I asked questions and came away with many new ideas.

Borgatti Ravioli & Egg Noodles
632 East 187th Street
 open everyday but Monday 

pasta made while we waited...

The ravioli is divine!  It is hands down the best I have ever had in New York City and I am certainly a fan.  I also picked up fresh cut pasta, and they even customized the width of the noodles. I felt like I was in Rome with the warm welcoming staff. It was evident this is a family owned establishment with photographs and religious relics lining the shelves.  Lots of love goes into making these noodles. 
that's a lot of salami and proscuitto

Terranova Bakery
691 East 187th Street
 while waiting in line for fresh mozzarella two ladies from New Jersey excitedly told us about the amazing bread that comes out of the ovens promptly at 11:00 am everyday over at Terranova- of course we rushed over.  In New York City, we have access to some of the finest bread in the world.  This donut shaped bread at Terranova has an amazing crust on the outside and is soft and flavorful inside  -- one of the best I have tasted!

not in the mood for cooking from scratch but you have guests coming for dinner? 
they make and sell pesto, marinara and bolognese sauce as well as other daily hot dishes. Especially during the holiday season, the home cook can surely use a helping hand.  One way to make entertaining less stressful is to buy products already made fresh at these markets and intertwine them with your homemade dishes. 

Mike's Deli
2344 Arthur Avenue
Open Monday through Saturday
Casa Della Mozzarella
604 East 187th Street
It lives up to its reputation --it is the best homemade mozzarella I have
tasted outside of taly.  
We arrived bright and early and sampled the goods!
I also bought capers packed in salt,
reduced balsamic vinegar,
parmigiana cheese (cut from the wheel)
the ladies were getting hungry
so we stopped into a local street side
oyster bar for a sampling
I'm keeping it a secret as to where we popped in for lunch  --
you'll have to head to Arthur Avenue to figure it out!
Delillo Pastry Shop
610 East 187th Street
open seven days a week

 the best cookies are here

I will be honest with you that Italian cuisine is my favorite type of cuisine,
Italian desserts are sometimes a tad too sweet for me 
(please don't tell but I prefer the masterfully crafted French desserts).
I do love Italian cookies and Delillo Pastry shop makes light, not overly sweet cookies, especially the pignoli cookies which are moist on the inside and crunchy and savory outside.  

We left loaded with goodies and ingredients for our dinner party. 
Please stop back next week for
Part II -

the Holiday dinner party we creatively shared together
from our shopping trip to Arthur Avenue
 This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is available.  And of course, Arthur Avenue is only one little enclave in New York City that offers amazing food at great prices. I encourage you this season to venture out and shop at your local authentic markets.  It will most likely save you money and time. The icing on the cake is your support for small, often family owned business.

To be continued...



My Dog-Eared Pages said...

T, I loved this visit to Arthur Avenue and can't wait to read about the dinner party, Part 2! I shop in Boston's Italian North End neighborhood during the holidays, especially to buy amazing home-made Italian-style Madeleines for my Trifle {a must!}. : )

Art Style said...

You made it to Borgatti's! I absolutely think that this mom-and-pop shop has the best pappardelle the world over. It almost made my heart melt when I picked up boxes and boxes for the Martha Halloween special, only to find it strewn on branches of a tree for set-styling purposes.

How are things going on your side of the Park?

deborah said...

shared your Arthur Avenue tour on my facebook page! cannot wait for part 2!! thank you !!! well done!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for all the good ideas. I wrote them down and will head to Arthur Ave soon to get that ravioli and bread. charlene walsh

Anonymous said...

T, You continue to outdo yourself every month with your blog. The photos are so beautiful and your writing and presentation puts all others to shame! Your talent shines through with everything you do.


Lisa said...

Tamara, Oh my gosh! You added the gift button and once again have been so kind and supportive of me and my blog. I can't even begin to tell you how much your friendship means. Thank you.
Now back to reading more of your wonderful stories.
xo Lisa

Design in the Woods said...

Okay, I'm officially starving now. Must have ravioli and bread! What a wonderful experience, thanks for sharing it.