Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Chelsea Market in NYC's Meatpacking District

For those not familiar with the Chelsea Market, it’s NYC's historic indoor food market mecca and fairyland of fabulous shops nestled underneath the 'High Line', in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, and located in the 112-year-old historic landmark National Biscuit Company’s factory complex — birthplace of the Oreo Cookie. A block long and a block wide and just a short cobblestoned walk from the Hudson River, the Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls in America, with more than thirty-five vendors selling everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake, along with its vegetable, meat, and seafood shops, top-notch restaurants, kitchen supply stores, and everything food-related in between.

The Chelsea Market's iconic brick passageway

The area has always been the locus of food in the city, beginning with the Algonquin Indians, who traded their game and crops on the banks of the Hudson River at this same spot. The trains of the High Line once served the wholesale butchers who lined the streets beneath the tracks and cooled their provisions with blocks of Hudson River ice, and the National Biscuit Company established its factory here, now reclaimed as the Chelsea Market, to take advantage of the butchers’ lard in the nineteenth century. This long history, and the stripped-down brick architecture of the building, gives the Market a unique character. For food enthusiasts and casual tourists, it's possible to enter the Market at one end in the morning and not exit the other end until lunchtime, without ever growing bored — and most certainly, without ever going hungry.

An overwhelming sign post shows the splendour of shops at the market

Dickson's Farmstand Meats

Mouthwatering rotisserie chicken sits in the window enticing everyone who walks by

'Spices and Tease' at Chelsea Market

Pots and pots of fragrant spices and exotic tea leaves

Tacos, quesadillas and tostadas for busy New Yorkers looking for take-away meals

Amy's Breads at Chelsea Market, another location of the one we had coffee at in Greenwich Village

Giovanni Rana at Chelsea Market where we had lunch the previous week

The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market

From New Zealand cockles, Maine mussels to Manila clams from California

Miles of oysters on beds of crushed ice

Spectacular Tiger Prawns

The Lobster Place has aisles of fresh fish from across the globe

Lobsters can be purchased for preparing at home or feasting on-the-spot

For tiny ladies, they certainly devoured their lobsters

Take-away Lobster Roll from The Lobster Place

Lucy's Whey Cheese Shop at the market

In celebration of its 15-year milestone, The Chelsea Market Cookbook collects the most interesting and famous recipes from the market’s eclectic vendors and celebrity food personalities

After exploring the market, just step outside and stroll on the 'High Line', the remnants of the old dilapidated elevated railway, which has been turned into America's first overhead park, a one-mile-long public park built on an elevated railway that hovers over the meatpacking district, with great views of the Hudson River. The 35-foot-high structure blends plant life with long, narrow planks, forming a smooth, linear, virtually seamless walking surface. It features viewing platforms, sun decks, restaurants and gathering areas used for performances, art exhibitions, and educational programs. The park includes naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and recall the High Line's former use. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush. The success of the High Line in New York City has encouraged the leaders of other cities, who see it as "a symbol and catalyst" for gentrifying neighbourhoods. For New Yorkers and visitors alike, the park provides a unique perspective of lower Manhattan, and brings people together to enjoy a quiet oasis in the midst of a bustling city. It's a beautiful thing.

The High Line integrates portions of the original track with modern architectural details 
and indigenous planting

'Spring had sprung' on the High Line

Creative built-in bench seating integrates ipê timber and polished chrome

One of NYC's iconic water towers that can been seen all over the city, perched on top of buildings

A modern art installation along the High Line

Even graffiti makes an appearance along the walk

Glimpses of nature's colourful display punctuate the walk along the High Line 

The High Line meanders along the same route that the elevated train once took

Fragrant cherry blossoms with a backdrop of the Meatpacking District 

Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of the Green Table, Chelsea Market

2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 leeks, white and pale green parts coarsely chopped and rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsl finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups heavy cream, as needed
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 butternut squash
1-pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup freshly grated hard cheese

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400°F. Generously butter a two-quart shallow baking dish that's about two inches deep.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leaks, season them with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but not browned, about eight minutes. Stir in the thyme. Remove them from heat.

Combine the cream, paprika, and nutmeg with one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring them to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Cut the top "neck" from the squash, then peel and remove the seeds. You should have about one pound of squash. Cut the squash and potatoes into eighth-inch slices. Mix the potatoes and squash together in a large bowl. Spread one third of the potato/squash mixture in the baking dish and top with one half of the leeks. Pour one third of the warm cream mixture evenly over the vegetables. Repeat with another third of the potato mixture, the remaining leeks, and another third for the cream mixture. Finish with the remaining potato mixture. Slowly pour the remaining cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, moving them with a fork to spread them into an even layer, until they are barely covered with the cream mixture. Add more cream if needed. Sprinkle the top with cheese. Loosely cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and put on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and reduce heat to 350°F. Continue baking until the gratin is golden brown and tender and the cream has thickened, about 45 additional minutes. If the top becomes too brown before the vegetables are tender, tent the gratin with foil. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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