I think each season in New York City has something special to celebrate. I would say winter is my least favorite season for obvious reasons–it can be very cold, especially when you are walking around. Many times I’ve worn two pairs of socks and gloves, a scarf, a hat with a scarf and a hat over it. And no one likes when the puddles at the corner look more like swimming pools and there’s no way to cross the street except to wade through them. But such is life in a New York winter. Despite these nuisances, there are many reasons to visit New York in the winter. Here’s my top ten.
- There aren’t as many tourists in January. Snowstorms can mess up travel plans, so it’s not the best time to travel. But if there is ever a time in New York where it is not as crowded, it’s this month.
- New York City Restaurant Week occurs in January, and it’s a great time to try out a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. I would just say to keep in mind that because prices are cheaper, the menus are not as exciting as they normally would be. I would also say to book early at the popular ones.
- Hot drinks. I love to get hot chocolate from Grom, who makes the thickest, most decadent hot chocolate. My all-time favorite café to get warm drinks is La Lanterna in the Village. They have the most extensive menu of spiked coffees you will ever see.
- Valentine’s Day and chocolates. NYC has a plethora of delectable chocolate. From Jacques Torres to Royce to Kee’s and Stick With Me, there’s something for everyone’s taste. And it is fun to taste them all! Check out my Dina’s Guide to NYC Chocolate Shops for more great chocolate in NYC!
- Lenten foods–OK, Lent isn’t for everyone, but even if you are not Catholic, you can still partake in the delicious goodies that can be found this time of year like hot cross buns and the Italian chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood, sanguinaccio. It’s also a time to abstain from meat on Fridays, so I get to make all my favorite Lenten dishes like eggs with sauce.
- Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown. A very fun event that is packed, but it is possible to get a good view. Follow the parade with soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai. Spend the day in Chinatown shopping and visit the Museum of Chinese in America.
Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings
- Purim–Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther outsmarting King Haman who was planning to kill the Jews. Like Halloween, it’s a day for costumes and celebration. I like this holiday for its delicious cookie, hamentaschen, or Haman’s hat. You can find these all around the city, but my favorite are at Moishe’s.
- Japan Week–For a week in March, Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal becomes an expo of Japanese culture and food. I like to follow this festival with a visit to Minamoto Kitchoan for some Japanese sweets. (This location has moved since I wrote that blog post. It’s now on Madison Ave. between 52nd & 53rd.)
- St. Patrick’s Day parade–The one day everyone is Irish, including an Italian girl like me! I love the parade and the after-party at local Irish pubs. Also corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. And let’s not forget the elusive Shamrock shake from McDonald’s.
a festive take on the New York black & white
- St. Joseph’s Day–This holiday on March 19 is celebrated by Italians in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Mother. Traditionally, we make zeppole, the fried dough balls you get at street fairs. But we also have zeppole with custard and sfinci/sfingi. You can find these during the season at any of the Italian bakeries in the city, such as Rocco’s, Veniero’s and Ferrara or out in the boroughs.
Veniero’s zeppole (l) and sfinge
Posted in New York
Tagged best of New York, Chinese new year, Ferrara, Grom, hamantaschen, hamentaschen, hot cross buns, Jacques Torres, Japan Week, Joe's Shanghai, Kee's, La Lanterna, Lent, Lenten, macaron day, Minamoto Kitchoan, Moishe's, Museum of the Chinese in America, New York, New York City, New York City Restaurant Week, NYC, Purim, Rocco, Royce, sanguinaccio, sfinci, sfinge, sfingi, St. Joseph's Day, St. Patrick's Day, St. Patrick's Day parade, Stick With Me, Veniero, winter, zeppole, zeppoli
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Now, everyone can partake in the festivities with a gluten-free version of zeppole or sfince/sfinge di San Giuseppe. I used the basic gluten-free cream puff recipe from King Arthur Flour. However, I did not have gf King Arthur flour on hand, so I used a homemade blend. My blend is from the all-purpose flour blend in Gluten Free & More magazine with a little tweak.
Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
1 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
OK, so you will still use 3/4 cup of this flour blend to make the cream puffs. Follow the directions for cream puffs. I spooned generous tablespoons of dough onto the parchment paper. For me, it made 8 cream puffs. When they are cooled, you will add the ricotta filling.
about 2 lbs. ricotta (or two containers, some containers are 15 oz.), drained in a colander or cheesecloth to remove excess water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (or to taste, if you like it more or less sweet)
candied citron or orange peel
Mix the ricotta and sugar. If it is too thick, add a bit of milk (not too much because you don’t want it liquidy). If you want, you can add some chocolate chips or candied citron. You can also decorate them with candied citron, candied orange peel, crushed pistachios, and/or a maraschino cherry.
–Dina Di Maio
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Many cultures celebrate March 19 in honor of St. Joseph (San Giuseppe), the husband of the Blessed Mother and the patron saint of workers and pastry chefs. In New Orleans, Italian Americans have parades and a St. Joseph’s Day table. There are two pastries that are popular on this day. One is zeppole–not the fried dough balls from street fairs. Known as zeppole di San Giuseppe, this Neapolitan pastry is a choux that sandwiches a custard cream, often with a cherry on top. The other pastry, known as sfinge from Sicily, are also made from a choux pastry of a more rounded shape and filled with a ricotta filling.
This year, I got sfinge, my favorite, from two NYC-area bakeries, La Guli in Astoria, Queens,
and Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery, also in Astoria, Queens.
The bakeries are around the corner from each other, so you can easily sample both.
Posted in Holiday, Italian, New York
Tagged Astoria, La Guli, March 19, New York, Queens, Rose & Joe's, sfinge, St. Joseph's Day, zeppole
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! I got some sfinge and zeppole to celebrate the day.
To read more about them, check out my other blog posts on St. Joseph’s Day.
De Robertis is now closed.
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Two for Tuesday just happened to fall on St. Joseph’s Day, so the two are the two variations of St. Joseph’s Day treats–zeppole and sfinge. The zeppole are a kind of cream puff filled with custard cream, sometimes topped with a cherry (or not). These are Neapolitan treats (from Naples). Sfinge are also a type of cream puff with a cannoli-cream filling. These are Sicilian. I prefer the sfinge because I prefer the cannoli-cream filling. But both are good. My favorites are from Monteleone’s bakery in Jersey City, New Jersey (a few blocks from Journal Square).
Monteleone’s sfinge (l) and zeppole
I also like the ones from Villabate bakery in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
In Manhattan, since there are fewer Italians living in the borough, the turnover for these is not as large as it is in the outer boroughs where you will wait on a line to get them. You can find them at Rocco on Bleecker Street in the West Village; Ferrara‘s, Caffe Roma (I’m guessing they have them–didn’t actually go), Cafe Palermo (ditto) in Little Italy; Bruno Bakery in Noho and Veniero’s
and De Robertis
in the East Village.
Ferrara zeppole (l) and sfinge
I got some at Ferrara in Little Italy. Another customer asked a waiter and counter staff for “St. Joseph’s Day” pastries, but no one knew what they were even though they were sitting on top of the pastry case. So I told him where they were. The times they are a changin’.
Veniero’s zeppole (l) and sfinge
I also got them at Veniero’s and De Robertis’s. If you are curious and want to try them, I’d say any Italian bakery in Manhattan is a good bet.
De Robertis zeppole (l) and sfinge
Posted in Bakery, Holiday, Italian, Local, New York
Tagged bakery, Brooklyn, Bruno, De Robertis, Ferrara, Italian, Jersey City, Monteleone's, Neapolitan, ricotta, Rocco, sfinge, Sicilian, St. Joseph's Day, Veniero's, Villabate, zeppole