by Chrysa Smith

For several years, I’ve been wanting to go to Chelsea Market in NYC.
It’s a foodie attraction, housed in an old Nabisco warehouse in the Meat Packing District of the city–a fairly hip and trendy area (once the site of hanging slabs of beef). It’s been featured on the Food Network (which has office space in the building) and in culinary mags. So yesterday, with son back at college and husband out of town, I decided to take a trip up to NY and check it out for myself.
It’s small. I thought it would fill at least a couple hours of exploration and consume at least a few floors of the warehouse. Wrong. It was only a short stroll through shops on two sides of a main walkway on the first floor. Several bakeries, some eateries, fish and meat markets, grocery store, chocolatier and one of the best parts of my day: Chelsea Wine Vault The wine store was a great find; especially for those of us stuck in the provincial wine state of PA. During the economic slump, with higher end wines struggling with sales, vintners have wound up selling grapes to some pretty affordable labels. And wine marketers have come up with a promo called 100 under $10 (or something close to that)—good, affordable wines. Haven’t seen hide nor hare of it in the PA state stores, but in NYC, there was an abundance of them and I bought myself several bottles. Also nice were the tasting notes; not typical, standardized blurbs from the media or bottlers. A more personal tone (ie; why we like this one….) leads me to think that the shop has its own opinions—-not sure if I’m right, but it goes a long way in helping me select something.
At the market, Sarabeth’s Kitchen is there (nice bakery selections/nice brunch in their uptown location), Fat Witch Bakery (brownies with bragging rights thanks to endorsements from Oprah) a lobster market with an incredible array of fresh-looking seafood and the Ninth Street Espresso Bar whose aromas wifted nicely through the tall, open corridors. Unfortunately for this ex-New Yorker, that didn’t completely make up for the parking garage fees that could have bought me a lobster dinner (well, maybe a baby lobster–or half of one).

But I did have lunch at one of my favorite places in the area; an authentic French bistro called Pastis—–complete with tile floors, newspapers, mirrors, French menu offerings and tea cloth napkins—-plus a seat next to a lovely little Boston Terrier named Olive. Her soulful eyes watched me as I took a bite of my very tender short ribs. Her owner, after all, had a pasta dish–no match for a piece of beef in the meat district. Who knows a good thing when they see it?
If you’re headed to NYC, anywhere near Greenwich Village, SoHo or Lower Manhattan in general, I’d encourage you to check it all out. I just wouldn’t make a dedicated trip solely to visit Chelsea Market. Next culinary outing will be to our very own Italian Market on 9th St. in Philly, where the biggest known name is DiBruno Brothers, but it’s also where I can park, eat and shop—all for less than it costs to rest a car for a couple of hours, just two hours north.