Can I share a little secret? I didn't love New York when I first moved here this summer. The city was a swamp, with funky garbage smells and such intense heat and humidity that we mostly stayed inside, cooped up in front of the air conditioner.
But then fall came. The air cooled (slightly) and you could finally leave the apartment without needing to shower immediately. In that time, we settled into our new apartment in Brooklyn, exploring our new borough with bike rides through trees shedding orange and gold leaves. One of those bike rides ended in thick, chewy slices of square shaped pizza. As I took a bite of the crispy, crackling crust, it was then that I first thought: oh — this is why people like New York!
And now winter is here, and the city has undergone another transformation. All around Manhattan, there are giant Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands on the classic iconic buildings. People are bundled up in cozy wool sweaters and coats, and there seems to be a festive skip in everybody's step. And it was while looking up at the giant Christmas tree in DUMBO, with the Brooklyn Bridge shining in the background, I sighed happily and thought to myself: oh — this is why people LOVE New York.
At this point, there's no denying it; there's nothing quite like New York City at Christmas time. Without further ado, here are the top five things that I've done to get into the holiday spirit:
- Check out the different Christmas trees around the city. There's the famous one at Rockefeller Center, but I also love the lower key ones at Madison Square Park (where you can get a sugar cookie shake at the OG Shake Shack as you enjoy it) and in DUMBO (which has the view of the Brooklyn Bridge as well).
- Shop at the holiday markets. Both Bryant Park and Union Square have a pop-up holiday markets full of booths selling ornaments, winter accessories, and other festive Christmas gifts. I'm especially partial to the Bryant Park holiday village, which has a pretty amazing selection of eats that I got to preview earlier this year (mmm... truffled duck fat fries). If you're in Brooklyn, I recommend checking out the Winter Flea + Holiday Market by Brooklyn Flea. Their current spot in Fort Greene is very pretty, and you can find lots of vintage gifts and get bubble waffles (!!!) at Smorgasburg.
- Stroll down Fifth Avenue for the holiday windows. It's Christmas tradition for Barney's, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, and other fancypants department stores to decorate their windows for the holidays. Decorate is sort of an understatement here — a lot of the displays are full-blown dioramas, taking you to otherworldly scenes set in fairy tales, various greeneries, and different time periods.
- Do a hot chocolate tour of the city. I like the hot chocolates at Jaques Torres (of course), City Bakery (that comes with a giant marshmallow), and the Nutella latte at Eataly in the Flatiron (it's technically a latte, but it has Nutella in it, so come on now).
- Host a holiday brunch with friends! And finally, if you prefer not to fight the crowds and cozy up at home, there's always this:
Some baker's notes:
- To quote the wise words of my fellow food blogger, Jen from Savory Simple — shopping for eggnog is a bit like shopping for wine; you can't buy just anything and expect it to taste good. I like Organic Valley (check out the cinnamon rolls I made with them a few years ago!), but if you're in New York like I am, I recommend shelling out for the Ronnybrook variety.
- I like to use instant/rapid rise yeast because unlike with active dry yeast, it doesn't necessarily need to be activated at a certain temperature and I find that it leads to more consistent rises. That being said, it is helpful to have the butter still warm from being melted when mixed into the dough — it just speeds up the rising slightly faster, especially if you want to eat the waffles immediately and don't want to wait overnight for them (see next note).
- If you're all about instant gratification and want the waffles IMMEDIATELY, no worries! You can cook a waffle or two after the first rise at room temperature. However, the waffles probably won't be as boozy and flavorful versus if you had waited overnight. It's all good, just means you get to use more maple syrup, right?
For the Eggnog Waffles:
(makes around six 8-inch waffles)
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant/rapid-rise yeast
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) eggnog, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
For the Eggnog Waffles:
- In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk until combined, and set aside.
- In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1 1/2 cups eggnog, 2 large eggs, 1 tablespoon bourbon, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract until combined.
- Use a large measuring cup to make a well in the dry ingredients (from the 1st step) and pour the liquid ingredients (from the 2nd step) into the well, using a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together until combined. Add 6 tablespoons melted and warm unsalted butter and mix until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm and draft-free spot for about an hour. After an hour, transfer the mixture to chill in the refrigerator at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- When you're ready to make the waffles, remove bowl from refrigerator and preheat a waffle maker and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Fill waffle iron with batter amount recommended by the waffle maker's manufacturer. Cook waffles until golden brown, before serving immediately with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Enjoy!