In celebration of Essex Street Market’s 75th anniversary, we have partnered with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the market’s vendors to offer a series of free one-hour tasting tours this fall that share the history of New York City’s public markets and the stories and flavors of the diverse array of businesses that occupy the market today. As part of this special tour series, we’ll also be sharing highlights from our research every week on our blog.
In preparation for Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a shopping guide so you can find unique, delicious, and affordable items right in the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market. But when it comes to market shopping guides, we have big shoes to fill.
Starting in 1934, WNYC began hosting a daily five-minute segment at 8:25 a.m., Monday through Friday, targeted at housewives on topics related to food shopping, recipes, and healthy eating. Narrated and hosted by Frances Foley Gannon, Deputy Commissioner of the Consumers Service Division of the Department of Markets, the segment was heard by over 100,000 listeners daily. In preparation for the show, her team of researchers visited wholesale markets at 6 a.m. each morning to investigate and report on fair consumer pricing for the fresh ingredients of the day.
Recipes and healthy cooking tips were also shared on the broadcast, drawing from the Department of Markets’ Food Reference Library and recipe pamphlets, including “134 Ways of Preparing Potatoes,” “Fifty Ways of Preparing the Cheaper Cuts of Meat,” and “Sixty Ways of Preparing Green Salads.” While we’ve yet to track down the food reference library and pamphlets, we did find on WNYC’s website her extended report for shoppers from March 12, 1943, in which Ms. Foley Gannon is joined by Markets Commissioner Daniel P. Wooley, “inquiring homemaker” Susan Blair, and Russell Walker Varney from the American Institute of Baking, in which they discuss fruits and vegetables that won’t bust your ration book.
So, in honor of Ms. Foley Gannon, we’re putting a spotlight on a range of Thanksgiving-themed ingredients, products, and gifts available at the Essex Street Market for your last-minute shopping this week.
What’s Thanksgiving without turkey on the table? Place your order for a 9-18 lb. turkey from Luis Meats, a butcher shop operated in the market since 1998 by husband and wife team, Luis and Ramona Rodriguez. Be sure to stop in as soon as possible before they sell out!
Thanksgiving is all about tubers, and the market’s grocery stalls range in variety from potatoes and sweet potatoes to cassava to ñame. The Essex Street Market’s three grocery businesses – Essex Farm, Viva!, and Luna Brothers – are all family-owned and operated, and offer a wide range of expected staples for your Thanksgiving menu, as well as ingredients from Latin cooking to freshen up the traditional menu.
Bread, Rolls, and Pastries
From sour dough bread to cranberry pecan rolls (a fantastic addition to the Thanksgiving table) to fresh-baked croissants, Pain D’Avignon has your holiday festivities covered. A charming stall with glass windows on the east side of the market, Pain D’Avignon’s home in the Essex Street Market opened in 2010 as the company’s first retail location and is a must-stop for fresh-baked, traditional European-style breads, pastries, and rolls delivered daily from the company’s bakery in Long Island City, Queens.
Pain D’Avignon was founded in 1992 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts by four friends who emigrated from the Former Yugoslavia and longed for the bread they had eaten growing up in Europe. They set to work in the kitchen and, as self-taught bakers, used their own recipes and palettes to recreate the breads of their upbringing to sell to stores and restaurants. In 2000, two of the company’s founders, Uliks Fehmiu and Bane Stamenkovic, expanded the business to New York City by opening their Queens bakery. Today, this bakery alone employs 70 bakers of all skill levels and operates in three shifts around the clock. The company delivers an average of 10,000 breads, rolls, and pastries to stores and restaurants throughout the New York Metro area.
Finishing your Turkey and Flavoring your Stuffing
For your Thanksgiving stuffing, Formaggio Essex’s house-made sausage is being offered uncased, which makes for a perfect stuffing addition. And if you want to get into the Christmas mood, Spanish chestnuts are also available, store manager Andrew Clark’s personal favorite.
For finishing the turkey, the specialty shop recommends Stonybrook Squash Seed Oils, from Geneva, New York, replete with what Clark describes as, “rich, toasty, and nutty. Terrific autumn flavors.”
A business that dates back decades, husband and wife team, Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal, have long sought to recreate the experience of visiting European markets through their shops in Cambridge and South Boston. Ihsan grew up in Istanbul, Turkey and Valerie, originally from Miami, lived in Spain, and both loved the market atmosphere of cities in Europe. In 2006, they expanded to New York and opened Formaggio Essex inside the market where their curated selection of high-quality specialty foods join the eclectic array of cuisines and ingredients in the surrounding stalls.
Aprons and Potholders made by girls at social enterprise La Tiendita
Looking for a meaningful gift to thank the cook of the household for their efforts on Thanksgiving Day? La Tiendita Fair Trade and Girl Made Gift Shop in the Essex Street Market sells a range of gifts, from aprons and potholders to greeting cards and baked goods, all of which are made by girls and young women, ages 8 to 23.
La Tiendita is a social enterprise of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, an organization founded in in 1996 to break cycles of poverty in the neighborhood and provide local girls and young women from low-income families with opportunities for leadership development. While the median income on the Lower East Side has skyrocketed in recent years, the most recent census revealed that at least 30% of neighborhood residents continue to live at or below the poverty line, and rates are higher than 50% along the East River, where the organization has its community center. La Tiendita is just one of several social enterprises operated by the Lower Eastside Girls Club, all employing girls and young women, and cultivating entrepreneurship and leadership skills. Support Lower Eastside Girls Club by making a purchase at their gift shop or consider making a donation this holiday season to support the organization.
Turnstile Tours offers free tours of the Essex Street Market on select Friday evenings at 5:15pm & 6:30pm. These tours include tastings from 3–5 different vendors, and advance reservations are required. We also offer monthly tours of the Moore Street Market and the neighborhood of East Williamsburg. These programs are hosted in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and participating vendors.