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Hungry Cabbie Food TourWheelhouse PicklesBooks: Three Lives, Kitchen Arts & Letters, The StrandMeg Cohen Designs HousewareMajesco's Cooking Mama for Nintendo'wichcraft holiday piesDoughnut Plant seasonal doughnuts

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

This month’s feature hardly needs an introduction. It’s that wonderful time of year when everyone is frantically looking for gifts for his or her loved ones.

I’ve chosen a range of 7 food-related options that will hopefully not only appeal to food lovers but also family members of food lovers — even if they are not fanatic about gastronomy the way you are :(.

From Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tour on the Wheels of Steel to Nintendo’s fun and educational video game Cooking Mama, there’s definitely something for everyone, and lots of family/group activities. After all, food is not a solitary passion, and needs to be shared, in order to be truly enjoyed and appreciated.

Alright, I know everyone has long shopping lists so without further adieu, here are some gift selections that might make someone you love, love you even more!

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Tours on The Wheels of Steel

Some of you might remember from this past August’s feature on . Dave Freedenberg, a.k.a. The Hungry Cabbie, a bright young cab driver with a keen interest in food, offers eating tours within the five boroughs of New York City. Dave is larger than life, and I don’t mean physically, rather his personality. He possesses the perfect qualities to be a guide. He’s outgoing, curious, fun and interesting. Oh, and of course, he loves to eat! I had an awesome time on my mini-tour with Dave and think this the perfect gift for a foodie you love. It’s a unique and fun idea that will be a wonderful surprise and adventure!

Gift certificates are available for eating tours with Famous Fat Dave. Here are some guidelines for the tours:

  • There are several different private tours but you can also customize your own
  • Food, water, gas & parking tickets included
  • No more than 4 eaters per tour
  • $100/hr, including food regardless of # of eaters
  • 4 hour minimum per tour

For more information, check out Dave’s website or email him.

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

Wheelhouse Pickles

Oh my god! Brooklyn-based Wheelhouse Pickles not only produces amazing tasting products, but they also have a great sense of humor. I keep cracking up just reading the product descriptions on the website. For example, here’s an excerpt from the About Us page, “Fair warning — if you’re the kind of person who has great difficulty handling exposure to things once thought impossible, this website is not for you. However, if you are a pickle lover or a lover of pickle-related Internet content, and can cope with having your mind blown repeatedly, then venture forth…” The site is also great because you can buy the pickles directly online! How many small businesses have good products, a fun loving website that works with real content and e-Commerce all set up?!

The Wheelhouse 8 is the “permanent collection”: Bread & Butter Pickles, Top Shelf Beets, Sour Barrel Cucumbers, Big Bang Okra, Irma’s Pears, Full Contact Sport Peppers, Gin n’ Turnips and Horseradish Spiked Wax Beans. For those who are more adventurous, there’s the Wheelhouse Whims, experimental or small-batch pickles made from seasonal local produce. So basically, the Wheelhouse 8 are the tried and true creations and the Wheelhouse Whims are part of the experimenting process to find new varieties. So far, I’ve tried the permanent Big Bang Okra and Top Shelf Beets and they are fun and delicious! I love okra but have never had pickled ones but these taste great and would go really well with beer. The beets are pickled with fennel and exude a complexity in flavor that makes me want to keep eating them. The great thing about these beets, as my sister pointed out, is that unlike other pickled beets that lose their crunch and become soft and rubbery, Wheelhouse pickled beets keep the solid texture that is so fulfilling to bite into.

Jon Orren started Wheelhouse Pickles last year, though he’s been pickling his whole life. And he’s only in his twenties! I can’t wait to taste the great variety of pickled goods he’ll be making in his forties.

Wheelhouse 8 and Whims are $8.50 a pint. Also check out the Wheelhouse Merch section on the website, at least for the hilarious comments the pickle mascot makes as he pops on the screen intermittently, trying to sell t-shirts.

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006


Three Lives & Company
154 West 10th St
@ Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10014

Kitchen Arts & Letters
1435 Lexington Ave
(93rd & 94th St)
New York, NY 10128

Strand Book Store
828 Broadway
@ 12th St
New York, NY 10003

Books may seem like the most conventional and boring gift, but personally, I find them to be the most endearing. The selection of a book as a present shows how well you know someone and how much thought you’ve put in to the gift. For example, I once received an out-of-print copy of a book on my mentor, Milton Glaser and I was moved to tears! The gift of a book can communicate so much.

While I do love cookbooks, I think all books are great gifts so I’ve selected three different types of bookstores as possible options: Three Lives & Company, Kitchen Arts & Letters and Strand Book Store.

Three Lives is the most charming little West Village establishment with a loyal customer base who trusts owner Toby Cox and the rest of his knowledgeable and warm-hearted staff. It’s more than just a bookstore, its a real establishment and contribution to the community. Once inside the store, you immediately feel a sense of warmth. The atmosphere is inviting and I could stay there for hours to chat with the staff about books or cultural ongoings. The service is completely one-on-one and personal so you feel at home. It’s a place that gets you excited about reading. Three Lives offers a Book-a-Month Club in which the recipient receives a book hand-selected by the Three Lives & Company staff at the beginning of each month. The sender just needs to let the staff know the recipient’s reading preferences, the duration of the gift and preference for paperback or hardcover. The sender’s credit card is charged monthly for the price of the book plus shipping and handling. If you trust the great taste and sensibilities of Three Lives (which you should) this is a great gift option. It’s not insincere that you are not personally picking out the books, but rather you are soliciting help from top professionals. It’s like sending someone flowers monthly but with richer content and meaning.

Kitchen Arts & Letters is a food lover’s book haven. It carries the largest selection of books related to food and wine in the U.S. You are likely to see world-renowned chefs and obsessive foodies alike at this small Upper East Side store. Owner Nach Waxman and manager Matt Sartwell are extremely knowledgeable and if there’s something they don’t know, they are eager to help you find the answer. It’s a great resource to have in the City and fun to come and chat with them as well. The only difficulty may be getting there during its hours of operation which are Monday 1-6pm, Tuesday through Friday 10am-6:30pm, Saturday 11am-6pm. While summer hours tend to be even more irregular, for the month of December, Kitchen Arts & Letters will be open on Sundays from 11am-5pm! They also offer gift certificates and ship anywhere in the world.

On the opposite spectrum, there’s the Strand. What used to be “home of 8 miles of books” has grown to “home of 18 miles of books.” Yes, the Strand is rather chaotic and always bustling with people and activities. You won’t get the intimacy of the other two stores but it certainly has a large selection of books on diverse subject matters at reasonable prices. It’s a different atmosphere but another great New York institution and resource. Plus they’re open until 10:30pm every night (though the rare book room closes at 6:20pm)!

So you see, there’s definitely something for everyone. Give the gift of a book! It won’t break your bank and it will hopefully enrich someone else’s life.

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

Meg Cohen Houseware

Meg Cohen Design Shop
59 Thompson St
(Spring & Broome St)
New York, NY 10012

Meg Cohen is known for her cashmere fringe scarves and knit accessories. Paul Smith started carrying her scarves in his stores 15 years ago but Meg opened her own little boutique in SoHo just this month. I was captivated by the playful swirls of her home accessory designs, including place mats, coasters and tables, whether colorful or monochrome. These items would be good to use around the house anytime of year, but particularly for the holidays they seem to add the appropriate spirit and cheer for festive dinners and parties. My favorites include the bentwood low tables (originally designed for the Japanese market) and taller folding tray tables that are easily collapsible for storage if need be (perfect for small New York apartments). While at the store, you’ll probably pick up other holiday gifts, as well. I can hardly resist the soft touch of cashmere, especially when both men’s and women’s accessories are both so elegant and beautiful.

Note: the image above shows a tray and coasters.

Houseware price list:
18” tray                                      $50
25” tray                                      $100

18” low tray table                        $150
25” low tray table                        $185

25” tall tray table                        $250

place mat (rectangular)               $15 each
place mats (circular)                   $60 (sold as set of 4)

coaster                                      $10 each

Turkish breakfast

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

Cooking Mama for Nintendo

I’m not a gamer, although I do have a weakness for Ms. Pac-Man and DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). But I just might try to pick up Nintendo’s latest game console, Wii, which went on sale in the U.S. last week. The remarkable thing about Wii is that the controller is wireless and works based on motion, so you just have to point towards the screen to control it rather than figure out how to use a million buttons. The Times review of Wii is entitled Majesco Entertainment.

Cooking Mama teaches you how to cook, from chopping onions, draining pasta to shaping dumplings. And since it’s a video game, you can compete with others so it’s like the video game version of Iron Chef… well, kind of. With the DS version, players use the stylus to control movement, speed, etc. One of my favorite things is that you can blow on the mic to cool food.

It’s a fun game, but it’s also educational. For example, when making a meat sauce for pasta, after prepping the ingredients, the player must cook them in a fry pan and decide what to add in first. If you place the meat in before the garlic, inevitably the meat will burn before the garlic is done and so you lose points. Another example is the multiple steps it takes to dice onions. You will need to halve the whole onion first, then slice the halves before dicing them. Depending on the speed at which you cut, your onion pieces may be larger or smaller. Isn’t this great?!

I imagine that the Wii version will be even more intense since you’ll probably be using the game controller as the knife to chop, tilting it to drain pasta and more. I can see myself becoming very competitive at this game. Anyone up for the challenge?

Nintendo DS Lite (game console): $129.99
Available at

Cooking Mama(Nintendo DS game): $19.99
Available at

Nintendo Wii (game console): $249.99
Currently sold out but best bet is to check with Toys ‘R Us in Times Square.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off(Nintendo Wii game):
To be released early 2007

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

’wichcraft’s Holiday Pies

Still trying to digest my Thanksgiving feast, I am reminded of the delicious pies from ’wichcraft that I’ve ordered two years in a row now. Yes, only during the holiday season, sells pumpkin, apple crumb and pecan pies!

Very recently, a friend had asked me who makes the best pumpkin pie in town, and I immediately thought ’wichcraft. I am so excited to say this because for years I have been looking for the best pumpkin pie, and after a while, much like the search for the best burger, I thought there just wasn’t a best pie out there. But when I tasted ’wichcraft’s pumpkin pie last year, I was in love.

The simple garnish of pumpkin seeds on top of the pie makes the otherwise unsuspectingly common-looking pie graceful. Not only is the pumpkin filling fresh and delicious, but the best part is the graham cracker crust! It tastes like it’s been caramelized and I literally can’t stop eating it — and I don’t even really like sweets.

The brilliant thing this year is that ’wichcraft is selling individual mini-pies at the stores. I was able to snatch both a pumpkin and a pecan to whet my appetite last week, pre-Thanksgiving. These individual pies are perfect for one person in terms of portion. Also, since they are small, the ratio of the crust to filling is tilted in favor of the crust, which makes me even happier.

The larger pies must be pre-ordered 3 days in advance. The mini-pies are available in limited quantities at the stores (call to check for availability before making the trip, to mitigate disappointment). ’wichcraft is also offering other holiday goodies like brandied fruit cake, cranberry walnut cake and cookies, which like the larger pies must be pre-ordered. All holiday offerings I’ve mentioned will be sold through December 24th, with the last orders taken on December 21st. Jeez, it’s all sounding a bit complicated, I just want pie and cake! Best to check out their website or call
212-780-0577 for details.

’wichcraft holiday offerings:
    Pies - $22 serves 6 – 8:
            Apple Crumb             
            Pumpkin with graham cracker crust

    Brandied fruit cake – $15, serves ~ 6

    Mini-loaves – $4, serve 1 – 2
            Cranberry walnut bread 

   Cookies – $5, six to a pack
            Pumpkin seed snowflakes
            Gingerbread men & women

Famous Fat Dave

Holiday Gift '06

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 9, 2006

Doughnut Plant Seasonal Doughnuts

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
(Norfolk & Essex St)
New York, NY 10002

Lately, everywhere I look I see the seasonal favorites from Doughnut Plant, whether at Joe’s, Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods, or Citarella. And I’m thankful. Mostly because the Doughnut Plant is slightly out of the way for me on Grand Street close to Norfolk. Only when I’m throwing a party and need 4 dozen doughnuts will I make the trip there. Otherwise, I’m perfectly content to go downstairs to Dean & Deluca to pick up my Doughnut Plant doughnut.

Mark Israel started Doughnut Plant in 1994, following his grandfather’s doughnut making recipes, and boy, are they good. In the City, there’s the one and only original Doughnut Plant, but there are actually 10 Doughnut Plant stores and cafés in Tokyo. When I visited Tokyo last year, a friend was raving about the doughnuts from Doughnut Plant and I was so confused because I said, but it’s from New York! Well, the Japanese know good food and this is a good import.

The doughnuts at Doughnut Plant are handmade. There are two main categories of doughnuts: the regular (yeast) doughnuts and cake doughnuts. Cake doughnuts have more of a cupcake-like consistency, and yes, they are very decadent! Within each of these categories, there are more categories. For example, there are regular cake doughnuts and then there are the cream cake doughnuts (yes!). So most recently I had the black out chocolate and tres leches cream cake doughnuts and as you might have guessed, there’s creamy chocolate or milk cream oozing once you bite into these doughnuts.

I always save the best for last. Now I know most people probably gravitate towards the cake doughnuts but I like the regular doughnuts. So within this category, there are the staples like vanilla bean glazed, the jelly doughnuts like peanut butter and jelly, and then there are the seasonal doughnuts. Earlier in November, there were the most amazing pumpkin glazed doughnuts! Then right before Thanksgiving, the seasonal flavors changed to cranberry and roasted chestnut. I’m looking forward to whatever is coming next for the holiday season.

There are other pastries at Doughnut Plant other than doughnuts, like the savory butterfly roll, cinnamon buns and churros. They are open until they sell out of goods, which may or may not be the 6:30pm closing time. Call ahead if you plan to buy them by the dozens so they can pack them up and have them ready for you.

Doughnut Plant’s U.S. website is under construction but I actually found an enormous amount of information from the Japanese website, and a bit of "Engrish" to amuse myself. Even if you can’t read Japanese, there’s a good amount of English subtext and pictures to look at.

Select purveyors in NYC who sell Doughnut Plant goodies:

  • Dean & Deluca
  • Whole Foods
  • Agata & Valentina
  • Zabars
  • Citarella
  • Joe’s
  • Orens
  • Dishes

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