Staying in Town for the Holidays? Here’s How to Stock Up for That Staycation

Take a Brooklyn Winery tour. Photo by Clay Williams.

Preparing meals while traveling can involve a certain amount of letting go and a lot of sniffing around in other people’s kitchens. I don’t generally bring a favorite cast-iron pan with me when I travel to see family, for example, or pack an entire medley of carefully curated spices when heading to an AirBnB. Cozy holidays during a staycation in Brooklyn mean having access not only to my kitchen, but also to a bevy of butchers, green grocers and specialty food stores.

I make the most of my home-for-the-holiday experiences by spending days picking up foodstuffs and drinks at various shops throughout Brooklyn. Some of my meals end with cocktails and sparklers on the roof, and occasionally with a late-night walk with hot-chocolate-laden thermoses to the East River for a view of the skyline. I’ve had gatherings that I’ve thrown on a dime, and I’ve also lived it up on the rare occasion when I’ve had more of a disposable income. Here, just a few ways you might also make the most of your Brooklyn staycation.

Take a tour at Brooklyn Winery.
Brooklyn doesn’t exactly conjure images of wineries and vineyards, yet smack dab in the heart of Williamsburg, winemaker Conor McCormack makes small-batch wines using grapes grown in New York State, and for 25 bucks, his winery, Brooklyn Winery, hosts fun evening wine tours and tastings. Make sure to pick up a few bottles to enjoy as you make meals at home in the days ahead. You can’t go wrong with the winery’s Fall Bundle, containing a Riesling, Cabernet Franc and a lovely red blend.

Pick up a hunk of meat, and then some.
Just a brisk walk from Brooklyn Winery rests Marlow & Daughters, which is, hands-down, my favorite butcher in Brooklyn. Working with small, local, family-run farms, the shop specializes in using whole animals that have been humanely raised. My favorite? Buying a couple of chickens and a slew of potatoes, carrots and herbs from the shop’s seasonal vegetable stand, and then planning an impromptu dinner party for friends who — like me — are home for the holidays. When I have a little extra cash to throw around (which is once in a blue moon), I’ll pick up pricier meats like lamb, which makes my kitchen the most popular meeting spot in Brooklyn, if even for an evening.

Find an oasis in the city and an affordable Greenmarket.
My favorite vacations include gorgeous vistas, quiet mornings, and walking down long paths shaded by trees. I find all of these things on Saturday mornings at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and if I get there between 10:00am and 12:00pm, admission is free. Through fall there are still gorgeous flowers in bloom such as anemones, cosmos, and asters, and even into winter some of the trees still dazzle with bright orange and red leaves.

After working up an appetite, I head to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket for one of the city’s most affordable outdoor fruits and vegetables markets (SNAP and EBT are also accepted!). I pick up all manner of farm-fresh items, including cider and bags of apples for making pies, and then head home to sip on cider cocktails while spending long hours in my kitchen. My favorite hot cocktail? A toddy version that contains a half ounce of Campari, half ounce of bourbon, ounce of sweet vermouth, cinnamon and sugar to taste, and then poured into a mug and topped with boiling water and a slice of blood orange.

Consume as much non-caffeinated chocolate as possible.
A few years ago, I tried to (unsuccessfully) quit caffeine and was thrilled to learn that chocolate doesn’t actually contain any (unless it’s been specifically added by chocolatiers), but rather, another stimulant called theobromine. Oh, happy day! Does it still give a buzz? Sure, but hey, at least it doesn’t typically keep me up at night like caffeine. Some of the best chocolate in Brooklyn is found at Fine & Raw, which is a small outfit started in loft and was originally delivered via bicycle. Cacao Prieto is also wonderful, with beans sourced from the Dominican Republic. (See our guide to Brooklyn chocolate for more options.)