Our first gastro-centric stop on my recent visit to NYC (the very first stop was actually my sister's midwife appointment!) was the food-lovers paradise that is Chelsea Market. This increasingly trendy place is a miniature foodie nirvana, packing over 32 food-related stores into what was once a production building for the National Biscuit Company. The handsome brick buildings still have a postindustrial feel, with factory-like decor and a few display cases to highlight the location's fascinating history.
|Artifacts from the National Biscuit Company - these days we call it Nabisco!|
Of course, most of the visitors to the market come for the food, not a history lesson. The market is home to such high-profile spots as Sarabeth's Kitchen, Fat Witch Bakery, and Amy's Bread, so it attracts a lot of tourists, but locals also show up for the ethnic offerings of Buon Italia, to pick up the latest sleek kitchen gadgets at Bowery Kitchen Supply, or to indulge in some crazy-fresh sushi or a lobster roll at The Lobster Place. It's not a market in the traditional sense - there's no haggling, no giant boxes of mystery produce, and very little fishy smell - but it's still a fun destination for the hungry and the food-obsessed.
|Some of the beautiful - and pricey - cookies from Eleni's|
My sister and I wandered through the long arcade for a couple of hours, stopping at each shop along the way and purchasing a few small treats at Amy's Bread, the Fat Witch Bakery, Jacques Torres Chocolates and The Nut Box. Many shops offer samples to lure in customers - as if they needed any inducement - and some are just as full of eye candy as the edible kind. You can find kitschy kitchen accessories at Chelsea Market Baskets, drool over some artisanal cheeses at Lucy's Whey, or take your taste buds on a trip Down Under with one of the savory pies at the Tuck Shop. Those less kitchen-crazy can even pick up a good read at Posman books (currently under construction) or browse the trends at one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie.
|Gorgeous baskets from Chelsea Market Baskets|
These days, the Chelsea Market has another draw for food fans - it's home to the Food Network NYC offices. I wasn't aware of this when we arrived, but apparently Iron Chef America and Emeril Live are actually filmed at this location. There's no open access to the studios or the offices upstairs, but this is clearly no deterrent to the crowds of Food Network lovers wandering the halls in the hopes of scoring an autograph from Emeril or catching sight of Bobby Flay on his lunch break. To be honest, I'm pretty sure 99.9% of them leave disappointed.
Thankfully, These celebrity-hunters are usually pretty easy to spot and even easier to avoid, so don't let them deter you from visiting Chelsea Market on your next trip to NYC. If you come in search of good food, fresh ingredients, and some fun gastro-tourism, you're almost guaranteed to leave satisfied - just be sure to come hungry!