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Sep 8, 2000 02:26 PM

The Authoritative Chelsea Market Thread

  • j

Speaking of Chelsea Market (in the "Fabulous Cheese Wafers" thread, just below this one), we've never really done the authoritative thread.

Let me start.

Thai place: great lemongrass chicken, everything else iffy (though it's slowly improving). This is my somewhat stale, old opinion. Anyone been there lately?

Ronnybrook Farms shakes: already discussed.

cheese wafers at Chelsea Market Basket: already discussed.

Bouno Italia, nice homecooked Italian sometimes...they're really inconsistent. Any navigation tips?

brownies from the Fat Witch Bakery (already discussed)

Amy's Bread: anything new or obscure to recommend or warn us away from?

And....any other places to add? Preferably with strategy advice?

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  1. At the risk of going over old ground, while the shakes (and ice cream) at Ronnybrook can be very good, the real treasures are: 1) the wonderful milk, which is as close to an artisanal expression of the land as good wine; 2) the un-ultrapasteurized heavy cream, which not only tastes great but works for making clabber, clotted cream, etc.; 3) the sweet butter (although I like Egg Farm's slightly better); and 4) the coffee milk, which is well nigh perfect--and better than the shakes.

    I also like the aged steaks at Frank's a lot, but perhaps that belongs to another post. The seafood place is pretty reliable too.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Pepper

      No, steaks DON'T belong in another post! We're covering Chelsea Market, the whole thang. Finally! It's about time! If you've so much had a good (or bad) stick of gum there, please tell the thread about it!

      Everybody raves about Ronnybrook's coffee milk....have you tried their chocolate milk?

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Check out the Chelsea Wine Vault. Some nice selections and reasonable prices. Staff is helpful too.

        1. re: Rex

          I have to agree about the Wine Vault. The attraction here is the variety of bottles not seen elsewhere in the city. I was looking for a dry rose recently and they did have more than the usual suspects, for example current vintages of the Provence winery, Domaine Sorin. If you're looking for offbeat wines, stop in. If you're looking for mainstream, you can do better elsewhere (eg, Garnet) to the tune of about $2.00 per bottle.



          1. re: Andrew

            Great thread guys!

            I'll have to give more kudos to Manhattan Fruit Exchange. The BEST quality fruit/veg in the city at the cheapest prices. There is definitely something to be said about turnover for better quality! (Mesclun mix for $3.50/lb!!)

            Bowery Kitchen Supplies is also great...

            And check out Tracy's on the side at Frank's Butcher Shop. She makes sauces and deli type stuff and has one of the best prepared Pestos I've even tasted.

            1. re: Barry Smith

              I like the Sandwiches at Frank's .Tasty Cold Cuts served on a nice crusty roll!

          2. re: Rex

            I have to disagree about the Wine Vault. They price every bottle on the back, forcing you to pick up every bottle and turn it over to learn the price. And I don't think their prices are good at all.

            I happen to really like the food at Zia Tonia (the catering part in the back of Buon Italia. I get lunch there about twice a week.

          3. re: Jim Leff

            For some reason, the chocolate milk is subpar--certainly compared to the Altadena product flavored with Guitard chocolate that was briefly available in California. Ronnybrook's is somehow flat-tasting, wan. While their coffee milk is evidence of a living God.

            While we're on the subject of Chelsea Market, the vegetable stand isn't bad. It is, true, the same stuff you see at markets all over town (it is but a small retail outlet for a big wholesaler) but the selection is good, and the produce arrives a couple of days earlier on the food chain.

            1. re: Pepper

              Went to the Chelsea Market yesterday for the first time in a while, and bought some muscat grapes at the produce place. Astonishingly great: pretty much the most complicated-tasting fruit I've had in a long time. All sorts of wonderful, subtle under-tastes--marzipan, orange flower water. Don't know how long they'll last, so get'em while you can.

              Also: the selection of dried pasta at Buonitalia is awesome. Someone on another thread was looking for whole-wheat pasta. They don't carry DeCecco here, but they have many Italian brands I've never heard of in shapes I've never seen.

              Also: Ronnybrook pistachio ice cream rocks!

              1. re: Steven Stern

                This is, I suppose, Not About Food, but not entirely.

                Chowhounds going to the Chelsea Market in the next weeks should definitely check out the show hanging at Gavin Brown's Enterprise on 15th St. btwn. 9th & 10th. Beautiful abstractions by the (NY-based) Thai artist Udomsak Krisanamis, done with (among other things) cellophane noodles.

                Hey, it could add a whole new wrinkle to that Art vs. Food discussion.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              I've sampled a few of the propietorships within the Market about a month ago on a beautiful day on a walk up Manhattan (major subway trouble) after stopping off at Cones on Bleeker. For one, I'd have to say that Bowery Kitchen supply is a little overpriced for much of the paraphenalia that they sell. Certainly more reasonable than a Williams-Sonoma, but you can do better in Manhattan without much of a problem. Yet, they do have some things at reasonable prices, and its always fun to walk around a large store with tons of equipment!
              As for food, I only sampled some small treats at Sarabeth's bakery. Very good stuff, but on a couple of the items- particularly the "not a cookie/ not a brownie" concoction that I can't remember the name of, the sweetness of the dessert blew away much of the flavor. Good, but not great for the limited taste I had.

          4. The fresh juices place has exceptional orange and grapefruit juice that is not only delicious and a very good price but does not have the usual flavor of orange or grapefruit skin oils to make the taste harsh and polluted.

            Buono Italia has Flott Italian tuna in jars and cans (jars have better quality fish). These are fairly expensive but much less than in other places in the city. The tuna is wonderful, packed in olive oil and can't be beat for authentic salade nicoise. Imported from Italy, the tuna actually tastes the way tuna should but hasn't tasted for years (grammar questionable).

            Something really excellent at Amy's bread (also available at other outlets of Amy's bread) are the anise, raisin and semolina rolls(thats one roll with all those ingredients).

            1. I like the Lobster Place (fish store) quite abit. They do not carry the exotica one can get at citarella, but what they do have is quite fresh and well priced. And the joint is the best smelling fish store I know.

              1. I work in the Chelsea Market Building so I get to sample all the treats all the time!
                There are some lesser-known tips about the market...

                -Amy's Bread has, arguably, the BEST brownies in the city. They beat Fat Witch hands down...big, moist but not gooey, with fat walnuts and full rich chocolate flavor that's not cloyingly sweet
                -The Lobster Place, while not cheap, is one of the few reliable sources of sushi-quality tuna. They also have fabulous homemade low-fat seafood sausages.
                -Chelsea Market Baskets has great fresh Belgian chocolates (I forget the brand) flown in fresh regularly from Europe. It's also a great source for Anglophiles with genuine clotted cream, lemon curd, and other makings for a proper afternoon tea.
                -Bowery Kitchen Supply has some amazing, authentic, elegant Japanese cookware and dishes.
                -Chelsea Thai's restaurant is nothing to write home about, but it's one of the few sources for authentic Thai spices, rice, and sauces north of Chinatown. The prices are pretty reasonable as well. They don't sell fresh lemongrass, but the fruit and vegetable place now stocks that hard-to-find item.
                -Buon Italia's hidden back counter, as staffed by the Sicilian woman who co-owns the joint, is a virtual feast of fresh and reasonably priced Italian fare that changes by the day. Service is slow but very friendly. Nothing is ever bad.

                And the overrated:
                - Fat Witch Brownies (see above note on Amy's)
                - Ruthy's (Rugelach is good, but the cakes are almost sickeningly sweet. Service is also unfriendly - why most of us who work in the building avoid the place)
                - Tracy's: the food is good and carefully made, but who wants to pay $3.50 for a small cup of corn salad? Prices are a bit out of whack for the product.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Pam

                  I also work in the Chelsea Market building, and I agree with pretty much everything Pam wrote. . .but, I don't find the service at Ruthy's unfriendly. Most of their products are not very good, but if you choose carefully you'll do OK. Also, they're the best source for morning coffee in the building. For really good cakes and pies try the Little Pie Company around the corner 14th next to Western Beef.

                  But thank you for speaking the truth about Fat Witch brownies! I'm tired of being the only one in my office who thinks they're nothing special. I once made the mistake of saying aloud that I could make better brownies, and I was literally laughed out the door. Oh well. If I ever do make those better brownies, there's one with your name on it, Pam.

                  1. re: Pam

                    I work nearby and eat there almost everyday (breakfast and dinner sometimes, too).

                    You're absolutely right about Tracy's. The food is good and very carefully made, but $4.00 for a side of corn salad, which I love, is a little much. Though tasty and well made, the offerings are basically glorified deli sandwiches and pizzeria food. Of course if it was cheaper I'd be there everyday!

                    The butchers at Frank's are the sweetest and most helpful.

                    The flower market has great buys, especially in the spring where you can purchase daffodils and tulips for a few dollars per bunch (10 stems). They also make beautiful arrangements for a lot cheaper than other florists. Their minimum is $50 and the arrangements are stellar.

                    The newsstand in the front carries Smarties. A better version of M&Ms.

                    Amy's now has panini sandwiches (looks like they just recently purchased a press.

                    I like the fish place, but dear G-d! The smell of the disinfectant is a bit much sometimes. This spring, I purchased some shad roe and loved it, so I returned 2 days later to get some more. It seemed that the stuff I bought the second time around was also there the first time, and after cooking it, I could taste and smell that disinfectant! I suppose the heavy cling of it in the air really seeps into their products. Yes, it was in a container.

                    Zia Tonia has fantastic foods. Their pizza is terrific.

                    Buon Italia is a great source for olives that's NOT IN OIL! Yay! Big green Cerignola (sp?), too. And also cheeses, pates, squid ink, and anchovies. I've seen mullet roe there...not sure what to do with it. Also, last week, I spied huge hunks of bresaola, but am not sure if this is *THE* bresaola...sure was expensive though. In general a great shop to poke around in.

                    The Thai place carries Granny brand snacks. Try the shrimp chips.

                    As well as having great produce, Manhattan Fruit Exchange also has nuts, dried fruits, seeds, wasabi peas (avoid the green crusted ones, go for the beige) at very cheap prices.

                    Who's eaten at Bimmy's? No one I know has tried it, some haven't even heard of it. It's in the front of the Restaurant supply store.

                    1. re: Maria

                      I've tried Bimmy's, and their wraps and salads are pretty good. My favorite is the tandoori chicken wrap, which comes with a yogurt and mango chutney sauce and veggies. They do all the standard wraps plus some exotic ones - Indonesian, a stir-fry with hoisin sauce, etc. All the wraps come with a small container of brown rice and some delicious lemony sauce.

                      Coffee is also very good there - though strong. They do excellent lattes, full-fat milk only.

                      The one thing to avoid is the pizza. The toppings are fine but it's done on wrap bread instead of real pizza crust...put more than two ingredients on top and it turns into soggy cardboard in your hand.

                      For real pizza, truck on over to Zia Tonia. I'm especially partial to the Margarita - a cheeseless blend of fresh tomatoes and basil on an olive oil coated crust. Very simple, but the pristine flavors shine through.

                      1. re: Pam

                        From your description, Bimmy's sounds like a great option! I'll have to get my lunch there this week. Thanks.

                        And I cannot agree more about the pizza at Zia Tonia. I love the crust and the sparing hand used in the toppings. I had some today and always look forward to getting pizza there.

                        1. re: Maria

                          I'd like to give a shoutout to my "usual:" Bimmy's cajun chicken salad. Nice fresh greens with tomatoes, cukes, and chick peas -- topped with well-seasoned peppery chicken chunks. Fills my bottomless pit up for hours.

                          Just as an aside: the oriental chicken wrap needs work. Pockets of hoisin -- as well as carrots and cukes -- are stingy and scattered; the rest is dull.

                      2. re: Maria

                        I've tried Bimmy's twice. It's terrible.

                    2. s
                      Stuie Griffin

                      Reading about all these great places is awesome, but can someone please tell me where this market is?


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Stuie Griffin

                        Sure! 9th between 15 and 16. A very cool, catacomb-ish, industrial-chic tunnel filled with cool food concessions. Definitely worth a look.

                        I'm kind of disappointed that this thread crashed to a halt. We could not have fully milked the topic. C'mon, you all...what are some unsung strategies in this place?