News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
January 18, 2021
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Food + Drink

The Gift of Brooklyn Food

By Erin Behan
A garden of foodie delights at Stinky Bklyn on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens

Here in South Brooklyn we live in the epicenter of a local gourmet food movement. What better gift this holiday season than a box of fine local products, impossible to obtain in most parts of the U.S.A., mailed straight from the shop.

Gift boxes have come a long way from the days of cheese logs, caramel popcorn tins and foam-wrapped fruit. South Brooklyn has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to local, organic and fairly-traded foods, not to mention hand-made treats like artisan mustards, Brooklyn-made fruit spreads and cheeses from upstate farms. But there’s much to consider: Who brines the city’s best vegetables? Where to find exotic yet approachable cheese? How to give the gift of alcohol without looking like you stopped at the nearest liquor store?

No worries. This is New York City. Experts have done the work for you, and wrapped it all up in a ready-to-impress gift receptacle.

In Carroll Gardens, Stinky Bklyn, on Smith Street near Degraw, is a favorite gourmet gift purveyor. The little shop is packed to the gills with specialty condiments and spices, cheeses and imported cured meats, fruit spreads, fancy candies, specialty butters, and a wall full of specialty beers. And they’ve put it all together in a Brooklyn-themed basket ($100), stuffed with the shop’s most popular items, including D’Amico’s coffee, nunu chocolates and those ubiquitous McClure’s pickled goodies. Create-your-own boxes and shipping are available.

For a more creative, and pricey, idea, there’s Stinky’s Cheese of the Month club, available in three-, six- or 12-month increments. Club memberships starts at $180. For this, you can gift someone three months of three half-pound chunks of select cheese. The club goes to $840 for a super-sized 12-month World of Cheese package–way better than a last-minute gift from Barneys CO-OP.

With so much new-school emphasis on old-school ways of eating, it’s appropriate to remember a true old-school institution, G. Esposito & Sons Jersey Pork Store, on Court Street near President. The deli has been in the neighborhood and hand-making pork products and Italian delicacies for 88 years. If there’s one thing for which Esposito’s is most famous, it’s the hand-made, house-cured sopressata. The spicy, air-cured Italian salami is included in Diane Esposito’s gift basket ($75 or $100), alongside such items as pepperoni, a ball of sharp provolone cheese (imported and aged in the shop), Italian wine, crackers and Italian chocolates.

A gourmet tour through brownstone Brooklyn wouldn’t be complete without mentioning “The Franks.” That is Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo, the two-man force behind much of the neighborhood’s fetish with beards, meatballs and Amish eggs. The Frankies import and blend a truly amazing olive oil, a perfect gift for any lover of food. You can pick up the green/gold oil at Cobble Hill’s Café Pedlar, Carroll Garden’s Prime Meats and grocery stores such as Union Market and Park Natural, for about $27. Even the most amateur cook can wield that bottle of olive oil with authority.

If you want a more substantial gift, a wooden gift box set from the Frankies contains a 2010 hardcover edition of Frankie’s Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual, a small red paperback Cocktail Reference Book and a bottle of the extra virgin olive oil. The package is $72 online and at the Prime Meats retail store on Luquer Street. The Frankie’s cookbook, in particular, is a perfect gift for an aspiring gourmand, and features easy-to-follow, classic Italian-American recipes that focus on Greenmaket ingredients.

If you step out of the neighborhood a bit, it’s worth a trip to Prospect Height’s BKLYN Larder, a beloved gourmet food shop from the owners of Franny’s Pizzeria. BKLYN Larder packages everything tasty about the borough and thoughtfully wraps it in The Brooklyn gift box ($85), available for local or cross-country delivery. Among the goodies included are Mast Brothers Chocolate, McClure’s Pickles, Bloody Mary Mix and house-made peanut brittle.

“People are really into “The Brooklyn,” which is not surprising given the whole Brooklyn food movement going on,” says owner Francine Stephens, who also operates Franny’s restaurant with husband Andrew Feinberg.

Stephens said another favorite is the Chef’s Larder box ($45 or $100), featuring high-end basics including fleur de sel, Martin Pouret vinegar and the Larder’s own olive oil in a reusable wooden cheese box. Personalize boxes are also available.

“People are cooking more now,” Stephens says. “This is a nice gift to give to wannabe cooks out there.”

Of course, shoppers can always go a more traditional route: holiday beer. The Mikkeller spiced holiday ale comes with a fancy “To” and “From” label right on the bottle. The beer is available at both Bklyn Larder and Park Slope craft beer emporium Bierkraft on Fifth Avenue. Or stop in to Stinky or the American Beer distributor on Court and pick out some exotic un-chilled import from Bavaria or Hungary, and make a splash at your next soiree.

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