During my trip to NYC I was given the opportunity to see neighborhoods I haven’t been to and neighborhoods that I have been to, yet haven’t taken a closer look at.

One of the days there were a few hours of free time where I decided to hop on the subway and head south to Chelsea. I’ve driven by Chelsea before, but have never taken the time to explore the neighborhood itself.

Lo and behold, I came upon Chelsea Market.

Outside Chelsea Market.

Picture this: a humongous brick building. Several floors of offices on top….the main floor filled with food. Lots of food. An article on Chelsea Market’s website calls walking through here “is to stroll through a sort of postindustrial theme park.” This is so true. This building, also according to the article, used to be the home of the National Biscuit Company Complex and “baked everything from Saltines to Oreo’s.”

Walking inside the big glass doors on one end of the building, I looked to my right and saw signs for not only Food Network, but for several other TV networks as well. But my friends, as it is a market, there were tons of food establishments to check out.

This was very much a fun trip down foodie-lane!

A beautiful waterfall inside Chelsea Market. It changes color!

I walked by several tempting food stores, including BuonItalia, an imported Italian food market, Eleni’s New York, a really cute cookie/cupcake place, Lucy’s Whey, an artisan cheese shop, a Jacques Torres chocolate stand and I even found a raw food restaurant, One Lucky Duck.

But two places in particular called my name that day: Chelsea Wine Vault and Fat Witch Bakery.

There was a sign in the window of the Chelsea Wine Vault for a free wine tasting happening right at the moment I was there. I immediately went inside the vault, which had a very homey, country feel with a wooden interior. To the right of the cashiers was a room where the wine tasting was happening.

With my wine tasting I took a “Wine Report”: the vault’s monthly newsletter. In the January 2011 edition, there was an article on “New Year’s Wine Resolutions,” highlighting new wines to try and giving the reader wine suggestions for this year (including taking wine education classes). There was also a listing of all of the vault’s upcoming classes in wine education, including a wine and cheese pairing class with Lucy’s Whey. There was even a recipe on the back of the newsletter for a Ricotta and Sausage Pasta.

But what I studied most closely was its “January top ten:” ten recommended wines on sale at the vault. Four of ten wines were offered at the tasting I went to.

After being to wine tastings throughout the past few years (including the Great NY State Fair at the wine tent with my friend and exploring the Long Island vineyards with my family) and trying several wines when out to dinner with my family, I discovered I love dry over sweet. I love a good Pink Zinfandel and a Rose, but for the most part, sweet wines have been way too sweet for my palate. What do you prefer, Syracuse?

However, if you asked me whether I like white or red more, I couldn’t answer that. There are certain reds and whites that I like more than others, that’s all I’ll say.

Back to the wine tasting: the man in charge started off with the whites. The first wine I tried was Montinore Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009 (BIODYNAMIC) (on sale there for $12.99). The vault’s wine report says it comes from Willamette Valley, O.R., and is a Pinot Gris grape. The winemakers note in the report says: “Very aromatic with notes of fresh ripe pear, yellow apple and a pleasant floral/herbal accent. On the palate it bursts into flavors of ripe honeydew melon with hints of mango overlaying ripe apple/pear character. An almost creamy mouthfeel and long finish of crisp apple essence and distinct mineral qualities.” After swirling my small, plastic cup, I tasted a light, and sweet wine that was just okay in my book.

The second white was Hedges CMS White Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale for $10.99 there). This wine hails from Columbia Valley, W.A., and combines the grapes of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Marsasnne. This was another light wine, but more on the tart side. Definitely better than the one before. The winemakers note, according to the wine report, said it’s a “blended white with Sauvignon Blanc dominating over 75% of this wine, this was one of the original malic-acid friendly white wines released from Washington State. Beautifully structured with wonderful Sauvignon Blanc character; the mouthfeel has a delicate balance of acid angularity and defined herbal sophistication. Perfect as an apertif or as an accompaniment to a variety of seafood and shellfish.” Out of both whites, this was the winner of the white tasting.

Onto the reds. The first was Independent Producers Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale there for $9.99). Another wine coming from Columbia Valley, W.A., this merlot was most certainly a dry wine. After reading the winemakers note in the wine report, I could pick out the rich, yet tart flavors of plum, black currant and cherry: “Plum, black currant and cherry fruit make a strong showing in this well-balanced Merlot. Its producers are more focused on terroir than marketing, so this wine often flies under the radar. Let it land on your table and it will enhance any meal, from pizza to lamb chops.” This one was good, but I liked the next one better.

The overall winner of the tasting was the following: Tenute Valdifalco Loacker Brillando IGT Toscana 2008 (BIODYNAMIC) from Tuscany, Italy. It’s on sale there for $13.99. This was the most surprising of the four wines: the man pouring described it having a candy-like taste to it. It most certainly did, following with a nice oaky flavor, which I love. The grapes in this wine, according to the wine report, are 85% Sangiovese, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot : “With concentrated berry and spice aromas balanced by firm oaky tannins, this wine can either be enjoyed young or cellared for up to 10 years. Serve with game, veal, steaks and aged steaks.” I loved the different sweet, yet dry flavors I tasted in this one, and out of all four, this one I recommend trying the most if you come across it.

Fat Witch Bakery.

After my wine trip, I came across Fat Witch Bakery, which I saw one day reading a blog post on Serious Eats. I remember looking at the picture of the brownie (they’re actually called “witches” at Fat Witch), and thinking, “This looks sooooooo good.” I went inside the cozy, yet open designed white establishment, picked up an original Witch, and took it outside to try.

The original Fat Witch.

This brownie was extremely moist and fudgey the whole way through. It wasn’t cakey at all, it was very similar to eating a flourless chocolate cake in brownie form. It took me on a trip through chocolate land and back.

This bakery has been around since 1991, and its website says the philosophy behind the bakery and the witches are “No icing. No preservatives. No nonsense. Only the best, most natural ingredients. ” Fat Witch says on the website it also bakes the witches in small batches and are in “no hurry.”

If you are ever in Chelsea, please go stop at this delicious brownie kingdom, which also has several other Witches including pumpkin, java, blonde, red , snow and breakfast.

The Fat Witch unveiled. YUM.

And if you’re looking for something smaller, Fat Witch also sells Witch Babies, which I was very tempted to get: smaller, bite-sized witches.

And these were just two of the several restaurants in the market. If you get a chance to head over to Chelsea, take a stroll through the market and try a few items along the way. You will not be disappointed.

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