Holiday Markets

My heart flutters a little bit when I see the sea of red and white striped walls going up in Union Square around Thanksgiving.  They make a labyrinth that turns into the Union Square Holiday Market.  When you wander, thousands of other people are also converging on the same few booths so sometimes you get a little crowded, but I love exploring, shopping, and eating at this market and many others around the city in the winter.

Union Square has the most popular market and vendors vie for a booth.  On one trip, I discovered a tiny treasure at the market: La Sonrisa empanadas.  We were just strolling and I decided I wanted to grab one of these to snack on.  $3.50 and a few minutes later, I had in my hand a scorching fried empanada shaped like the namesake "smile" (sonrisa).  They fried it up to order on the spot, which I found remarkable for a stall that's probably 3 feet by 3 feet in dimension.  I settled on a type of empanada only after resorting to my new favorite question to vendors: "What is your favorite?"  Hers happened to be coconut curry chicken so coconut curry chicken was what we had and wow, it was an amazing empanada.  The crust was crisp and toothsome without being oily.  The real pleasure in this little bite though was the sweet coconut curry chicken interior.  The stuffing was searing hot, moist, and tender.  La Sonrisa certainly put a smile on my face.  We took turns whittling this little baby down while walking and when we finished, I wanted to turn around and get another...but we had wound ourselves in this maze only to encounter new destinations and discover new treasures.

Another holiday market we visited on a separate occasion was up at Bryant Park.  Here, the stalls are less maze-like and more spacious.  We also uncovered a real treat here from a stall called Mmm...Enfes!  I walked by and could not resist the tempting aromas wafting from the stall.  We got a beef gozleme, which is like a square savory stuffed flatbread.  They heated it up on a griddle and cut it in half for us and rolled the two halves in an easy-to-eat cylinder.  Super hot but also super delicious!  The beef had some unique spices, not unlike gyro meat.  The meat itself was dry but having it stuffed between the flaky light bread on either side helped the gozleme to retain moisture.  Weirdly, some grease seeped through the napkin and onto my hand.  You know how sometimes you eat a food and get it on your hands and it lingers all day no matter how much you scrub?  I was craving gozleme the rest of the day!

Now onto sweeter things!  At Union Square, we had a cup of Gluehwein from German Delights.  These guys have all sorts of German and Bavarian knicknacks like Christmas tree ornaments and chocolates.  The wine, nonalcoholic of course, was extremely sweet and fruity.  It was an interesting little taste of Germany!

Bouncing back to Bryant Park and its booth for Churreria!  These are not your average Sunset Park sold-from-a-cart-at-Pacific-Street-subway-station churros.  These steaming hot churros are lovingly dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon and soaked on one end with Nutella so they look like fat speckled matchsticks.  I thought I wouldn't be such a fan but I soon found myself stealing bites of these awesome churros.  When I was in Madrid, Spain, I had the real thing -- churros con chocolate -- but sadly the real thing is not often the real thing.  By this, I mean that in central Madrid there are probably some terrible junky touristy churrerias. I think I went to one of them because my churros were stale and chewy. The chocolate dipping sauce was the consistency of brown water and tasted like it too.  The churros at La Churreria, however, are pleasantly fresh.  They have a bit of chewiness but nothing to suggest they've been sitting out all week.  The Nutella is a great touch to mimic the thick chocolate pudding that Madrileños have with churros (the real thing).