Our final city on our Harney Holiday Desteanation adventure is New York City. Did we save the best for last? Since our company is located in New York state, and we have a store in New York City, we’d have to say yes, we did save the best for last!
New York City is so well-known across the globe, and there are so many reasons why! One of the things that’s most interesting is of all the cities we’ve explored during this series -- Tokyo, Bangkok, Paris, London and Dublin -- NYC is the only one that’s not the capital of its country, although it was briefly from 1785 until 1790. It is, however, the most populous city in the U.S., with a population of 8.8 million. It is known around the world as a cultural, financial and media megapowerhouse (we made that word up because NYC deserves its own words), with a huge influence on entertainment, commerce, fashion, technology, education, politics, dining, arts, sports and just about everything you can think of. It’s been called many things, including the Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, Gotham, The Empire City, The Capital of the World, The City So Nice They Named It Twice and who knows what other names it’s been called!
New York’s five boroughs -- The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island -- are inhabited by a highly ethnically diverse population. More than 3.2 million residents were born outside the U.S., and as many as 800 languages are spoken in New York City, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. America has been described as a melting pot, and NYC certainly embodies that description. It’s just one of the things that makes NYC so unique.
The list of iconic New York landmarks is nearly endless: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, One World Trade Center, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Wall Street...the list, as we said, goes on and on. You could do nothing but be a tourist for weeks and months on end -- doesn’t that sound wonderful!
To really know New York, however, native New Yorkers will tell you that those attractions are only at the surface of understanding the city. There are so many neighborhood treasures and not-so-world-famous things to see and experience. For sure, dine at The Rainbow Room or Tavern on the Green, but then make sure you check out lesser known but equally New York eateries like Lombardi’s Pizza in the Little Italy section of Manhattan. Lombardi’s opened in 1905 and is recognized by the Pizza Hall of Fame (yes, there is one) as the first pizzeria in the U.S. Or Katz’s Delicatessen for classic Jewish deli offerings like a brisket or pastrami sandwich. Located on Houston Street (and it’s not pronounced like the city in Texas; it’s pronounced “how-ston”), this deli was the site of the famous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally. You know, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Of course, one must-see during your stay in NYC is the Harney Tea Store in SoHo! Located in Lower Manhattan in the tony SoHo shopping district (SoHo is short for “south of Houston street”), we opened this store in 2010 and are happy to report that after having to close shop during the height of the pandemic, we are open for business again! Stop in for a Hot Cinnamon Spice latte and a warm scone, they’re both so ho ho good!
New York-Inspired Teas
Move over, Britain! Afternoon tea in New York City is a THING! For a very relaxed, definitely affordable tea experience, we can again highly recommend our SoHo shop for a lovely cream tea and treats shopping break (although you can shop our teas and wares while you’re there!). But if you’re looking for a true afternoon tea experience with all the atmosphere and trappings of an elegant outing, there are loads of options. Some of the most popular are the BG Restaurant at the top of Berghdorf Goodman overlooking Central Park; Tiffany’s Blue Box Café where the clotted cream is dusted in glitter and the almond cakes are finished as little edible versions of Tiffany’s famous blue boxes; the Baccarat Hotel offers four tea themes: British, Russian, French and Turkish; Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon offers a five-course tea in a cozy setting with armchairs and fireplaces; Alice’s Tea Cup on W. 73rd is especially wonderful if you are bringing children, they’ll love the whimsical Alice in Wonderland atmosphere; Tea & Sympathy in Greenwich for a slightly less high-falutin’, more affordable tea; Cha-An Teahouse has recreated a Japanese teahouse experience complete with matcha and Japanese desserts; and of course the Star Lounge in the Ritz Carlton and the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel. Seriously, we could go on all day.
Some of our most NYC-inspired offerings:
- New York Blend
- Hot Apple Spice
- Met Gift Set
- Garden Therapy Herbal Tea - The Met
- Hot Apple Spice - The Met
- Taste of British History - The Met
- Royal Pomegranate Green Tea - The Met
The Holidays in New York City
The holidays in the Big Apple -- it’s like Santa’s giant bag of presents exploded and peppered the city with lights, trees, decorations and all things merry and bright. It all starts, of course, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is the world’s largest parade. Bookending the holidays is the world-famous ball drop in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve to usher in the new year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there’s a LOT to see and do.
- You can make like every romantic Christmas movie set in New York and go ice skating in Central Park.
- You can watch as the lights atop the Empire State Building turn green and red, which happens every year in conjunction with the opening of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes and their famous kick line.
- You can see the enormous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, a live tree generally between 70 and 100 feet tall that has been decked out in spectacular fashion every year since 1933… and, oh yeah, you can ice skate there, too.
- Since you’re so close, you can drop in to FAO Schwartz, the oldest toy store in America (and while you’re there, you can play the big floor piano made famous in the movie Big)
- You can walk Fifth Avenue from Central Park to Herald Square for the spectacular department store window displays.
- You can take the kiddos to the New York Botanical Gardens’ Holiday Train Show with 25 G-scale trains that run on a half-mile track with handcrafted miniature landmarks, and when you’re done with that, go on their Winter Wonderland Tree Tour.
- You can shop for handmade gifts at the Union Square Holiday Market, open mid-November through Christmas Eve, or hit NYC’s largest winter market, Bryant Park Winter Village.
- You can see The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet, a holiday tradition since 1954.
- You can mosey over to the burroughs and see what’s happenin’ there, like the Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Tour in Brooklyn, where the neighbors go at it like Betty Lou Who and Martha May Whovier in The Grinch.
In other words, you can do just about anything and everything in NYC during the holidays!
With a population as diverse as New York’s, there are of course other holidays that are celebrated in the city. For those who celebrate Hanukkah, or for anyone who wants to see something else spectacular, you can watch the lighting of the world’s largest menorahs. Both Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and Grand Army Plaza in Midtown offer lighting of their 32-foot high steel menorahs at sundown during the Jewish festival of lights. In search of great latkes, mile-high pastrami sandwiches or authentic bagels during Hanukkah? In addition to Katz’s Deli that we mentioned above, Russ & Daughters on Houston Street has been a latke go-to must for over a century. Another popular spot is Zabar’s on the Upper West Side. Zabar’s is known for their bagels, deli, latkes, rugelach and Hanukkah-themed gift baskets including a latke-specific insulated basket called A Lot ‘a Latkes Box. Liebman’s Deli in the Bronx offers up “bagel-sized” latkes during Hanukkah, so popular they make 2,000 a day during the holidays. One more we have to mention: Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side. They’re famous for their latkes and other wonderful eats, and they’re also famous for being featured in several movies and TV shows like Seinfeld, 30 Rock, Law & Order, You’ve Got Mail, Revolutionary Road, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and others.
People looking for Kwanzaa celebrations in NYC will not be disappointed, either. While there are many events held during the holiday, one that is sure to please is the Kwanzaa Celebration at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem. Since 2006, the Apollo has held this festive Kwanzaa event featuring dance and music honoring the traditions of Kwanzaa. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum also puts on five days of special Kwanzaa events highlighting the holiday’s culture, art, dancing and music and the exploration of Kwanzaa’s seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, faith and creativity.
In celebration of New York City’s diverse and vibrant population, we wanted to feature holiday dishes each representing Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Enjoy!
New York Cheesecake
A New York City staple, New York cheesecake is a heavier, denser cheesecake made so by the addition of a heavy cream or sour cream along with more eggs. It’s a beautiful addition to any Christmas dinner.
Ingredients for the Crust:
- 1 ½ C graham cracker crumbs, from 12 whole crackers
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
Ingredients for the Filling:
- 32 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 C sugar
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp packed lemon zest, from 1 lemon
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 6 large eggs
- ½ C sour cream
- 9- or 10-inch springform pan
- 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Berry sauce for topping (optional, see below)
- Set an oven rack in the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Wrap a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside and extending all the way to the top so there are no seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. Repeat with another sheet of foil for insurance. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Stir until well combined. Press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Set a kettle of water to boil.
- Make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour together on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt; beat on low speed until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary. Mix in the sour cream. Make sure the batter is uniform but do not over-mix.
- Check to make sure your oven has cooled to 325°F, then set the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the batter on top of the crust. Pour the boiling water into the large roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the side of the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes (the cake should not look liquidy at all but will wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged; it will continue to cook as it cools). Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecake in the water bath until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath and discard the foil. If necessary, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools), then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- For serving: Remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake right from the base of the pan or, to transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to carefully transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. Serve with berry sauce, if you like.
Berry Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
- 6 oz. (1 half pint) fresh raspberries
- 6 oz. (1 half pint) fresh blueberries
- 6 oz (1 half pint) fresh blackberries
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- ¾ C sugar
Berry Sauce Instructions:
- Combine all the berries in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Spoon about ⅔ of the mixed berries into a medium saucepan; transfer the remaining berries to a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Add the lemon juice and sugar to the berries in the sauce pan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and cook until the fruit is syrupy, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the hot berry mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the sauce into the strainer and use the back of a soup ladle and circular motions to force the sauce through the strainer. Discard the seeds that remain in the strainer. Refrigerate the berry sauce until cold or ready to serve.
- Before serving, add the reserved berries to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add a few tablespoons of water, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Traditional Hanukkah Potato Latkes
Fried foods are part of traditional Hanukkah dinners in a nod to the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the holy temple in Jerusalem. Also, they’re just delicious!
- 2 ½ to 3 lbs. potatoes
- 2 onions, peeled
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ to ¾ C all-purpose flour
- 1 C canola oil, for frying
- Applesauce or sour cream for garnish
- Line a platter or plate with paper towels and set aside.
- Peel the potatoes. Place them in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them, so they won’t turn brown. When ready to prepare the latkes, drain the potatoes.
- Place potatoes and onions in a food processor fitted with a knife blade. Pulse until smooth. Drain the mixture well, getting out as much moisture as you can.
- Pour the potato mixture into a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Add enough flour so the mixture holds together.
- Pour the oil into a large, deep frying pan for frying. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Carefully drop ¼ cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil. Flatten the pancake slightly so the center will cook. Repeat with additional batter, taking care not to crowd the pan.
- Fry for several minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.
- Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to drain and continue frying the remaining latke batter in batches. You can keep the finished latkes warm in a 200° oven while you make subsequent batches.
- Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream, if desired.
West African Jollof Rice
While there is no truly traditional Kwanzaa meal, you’ll most often find food with African, Caribbean, South American or Southern influences. This African dish also fits the red, black and green colors often found in Kwanzaa dishes.
- 2 C rice (long grain or medium variety)
- ¼ C groundnut oil or ¼ C olive oil
- ½ tbsp butter
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 2 tbsp fresh
- ¼ tsp curry powder (optional)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 C chicken breast, diced and not cooked (omit if vegan)
- ½ inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 tbsp ground paprika (smoked if possible)
- 2 tbsp cayenne, more or less to taste
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped finely, or 1 small can pureed tomatoes
- 1 carrot, cubed
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 C chicken stock
- 2 C water
- ½ C portobello mushrooms (optional)
- 1 C frozen peas
- ¼ C cilantro or ¼ C parsley for garnish
- Add oil and butter to a heat-resistant pot, then add the chicken breast, paprika, cayenne, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic and ginger. Saute for about 3 minutes.
- Add the chopped carrots next and saute for a minute with a little salt.
- Add the tomato paste, tomatoes along with curry powder, bay leaf and thyme. Cook until tomatoes get slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Add the frozen veggies and rice. Saute for another 2 minutes or so.
- Add 3 cups of vegetable stock/water, bouillon cube, salt to taste. Cover with a lid and cook until about 90% cooked, about 30 minutes.
- Allow the rice to continue cooking until it’s soft. If it’s not dry at this point, then switch the heat to low to allow it to dry the excess water without making the rice much softer.
- When rice is finished, it’s ready! Put into a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and/or parsley if desired.