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#ILOVENY: Celebrate New York State & the Holidays Gift Guide 2020

'Tis the season. Are you stumped on what to get for the holidays this year? While this year has been interesting, to say the least - let's celebrate and get gifts that support NYS businesses.

This guide has everything from food, books, and supporting small, women, Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and more businesses as some of the must-have gifts to give clients, friends, and family. Celebrate all things New York this year.

If you can go out or your local shop has an online store, BUY LOCAL! I cannot stress this enough - small businesses are the backbone of America and you need to support your local creators. If you know any NYS small businesses that have great online shops please supply them in the comment section of this article.

Another great gift idea is donating to or volunteering with local charities or philanthropic organizations in your community. These organizations are struggling and your donation can help keep them stay afloat.


I'll start with food because it is perishable and move on to the more unique "stuff" further down the list.

Check out the great Taste NY - the official Eat-local Drink-local program for New York State. Launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2013, Taste NY highlights the quality, diversity, and economic impact of food and beverages grown, produced or processed in New York. They offer really lovely gift boxes here. Prices range from $30-$150.

Gift Basket Idea for Clients, Family & Friends - Who Might be Homesick for NYS:

Give your clients inside or outside NY a Taste of NY. Here are some of my personal favorite gift and nosh baskets to give this holiday season.

Lox & Bagels

Any New Yorker (current or former) or food lover will go wild for this mouth-watering spread. I love using Goldbelly, a curated online marketplace for regional and artisanal foods crafted by local food purveyors throughout the United States.

Chanukah Essentials. $145; NY Brunch, $179; New York Nostalgia, $205, Kiss from the Sea, $165 and so much more here | From Russ & Daughters | This landmark shop started with an Eastern European immigrant selling food to support his family and save up for a pushcart… which turned into a horse & wagon… which eventually turned into a widely acclaimed appetizing shop recognized for its contributions to the historical landscape of New York's Lower East Side.

New York Breakfast, $189; NYC Essentials Basket, $265 | From Zabar's | Zabar’s is kind of like a cross between Russ & Daughters and Dean & Deluca. The gourmet deli and grocer has been in the same location for over 80 years, selling high-quality cheese, meats, and baked goods - but they’re famous for their smoked fish. We like the nova breakfast sandwich, but you also can’t go wrong with the classic pastrami sandwich or any of the soups. Eat a bagel with smoked fish and some chocolate babka while you read the morning paper, and you will feel like you’ve lived in this city for way more than three years.

Cheesecake/ Cheese

Who doesn't love cheese? I love cheese! Give the gift of cheese and vegan cheese this year to boost some serotonin. Bet you didn't know this. The credit for the creation of the NY cheesecake is bestowed upon Arnold Reuben, also known for his signature sandwiches. Reuben was born in Germany but moved to America at a young age. The NY styled cheesecake was actually an experiment that Reuben did with a cheese pie.

New York State Cheese Assortment, $59.99 | From igourmet | Although the name "New York" brings to mind a bustling metropolis, New York is also home to some of our favorite farms, dairies, and cheesemakers. In the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York, artisan cheesemaking is alive and well, albeit living at a much slower pace than NYC. This assortment encourages you to stop, take some time with family and friends, and savor these exceptional products of New York's agricultural bounty.

VEGAN Holiday Cheese & Charcuterie Box, $139.00 | Riverdel | Riverdel is the original vegan cheesemonger, proudly offering a highly curated selection of artisanal vegan cheeses and gourmet foods. Riverdel offers a wide variety of dairy-free cheeses, some of them made in-house, as well as non-dairy yogurts and nut milks. There's also a variety of lunch sandwiches and a large selection of condiments.

VEGAN Aged Cashew Cheese Bundle Box, $70 | Dr-Cow | Raw foods shop for cheeses, butters & milks made on-site from nuts, plus vegan pastries & granola.

The Ultimate Cheese Board Collection, $225 | Murray's Cheese | Really anything from Murray's Cheese is a win. Murray's Cheese has been catering to cheese lovers since 1940. Visit our retail store locations in New York City or shop online. Founded in 1940 in the heart of Greenwich Village, Murray’s has a vital part of New York’s rich food history. The Murray’s family of businesses has come a long way over the past two decades, which includes two flagship stores and a restaurant in New York City, a wholesale business that supplies fine restaurants, a mail-order business that ships cheese nationwide, and mini-Murray's within grocery stores in 11 states.

NY Nuns Cheesecake, $65 | The Nuns of New Skete | This small monastery in upstate New York is producing what many believe to be the finest cheesecakes in the country all made by hand by the sisters. In between daily prayers, the nuns make a limited number of cheesecakes each day, just as they’ve done for nearly four decades.

NY Cheesecake, $56 | Ferrara Bakery | As America's first pasticceria and espresso bar, it was only natural that people came primarily for the coffee, cookies, and cakes, and despite the many changes in the neighborhood over the decades, their offerings are still wowing everyone who walks through the door, instantly transporting them to Southern Italy.

Marble Cheesecake, $49 | Carousel Cake's | Some hometown pride of Rockland County, NY (I will say home to baked goods, like Rockland Bakery, Didier Dumas, Caked Up Cafe, Anna's Bakery, & Linden) At Carousel Cakes, the family tradition of baking goes back generations. Raised in a foster home, Martin Lefkowitz's sweet tooth led him to his ultimate destiny - founding the bakery to the stars. Carousel Cakes' recipe for success may be straightforward, but it’s also nearly impossible to duplicate: First-class ingredients, five decades of expert baking skills, and the extra effort of mixing everything by hand and with love go into every cake and cupcake.

NY Sampler Gift Box, $90 | Orginal Herkimer Cheese | The Original Herkimer Cheese Company is the one-stop-shop to buy cheese online. Original Herkimer County Cheese Co. was founded in 1949 by Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Basloe. Since that time, we have earned a national reputation for our finely-crafted artisan cheeses, carrying the proud Herkimer County tradition forward into the 21st Century.


Jewish delis were once the heart of the New York food scene; now their numbers are greatly diminished. Low-fat and anti-meat mania over the last couple of decades has had its effect, but so have newer and more faddish forms of food that make hot pastrami, gefilte fish, and matzah ball soup seem hopelessly old-fashioned.

Luckily, being in the New York City area, there are plenty of delis left.

New York Deli Kit for 4, $129.95 | From Sable's Smoked Fish | Danny and Kenny Sze learned their trade working at the appetizing legend, Zabar’s for 12 years. In that time came to know all the best purveyors of smoked fish in New York. Located on Second Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Sable’s has been known as one of the city’s finest sources for smoked fish, bagels, and other Jewish “appetizing” specialties since it opened in 1992. Its legendary lox and classic New York bagels—along with smoked sable, sturgeon, whitefish salad, and other brunch must-haves—keep the tradition of the great Jewish deli alive and keep die-hard fans like Derek Jeter coming back for more.

Jerry Seinfeld's Deli Order, $159 | From Mendy's Kosher Delicatessen | Is soup dinner? When made with love by Mendy's Deli in midtown Manhattan, we may have to side against Jerry Seinfeld on this one. Mendy's Kosher Delicatessen takes the classic Jewish deli up a notch with their Glatt-Kosher corned beef, pastrami, and legendary meal-worthy soups.

Chicken in a Pot, Salami or Rugelach in Tin | From 2nd Ave Deli, Kosher Restaurant & Caterers | I love 2nd Ave Deli - I have a nickname at 2nd Ave - I could if it wouldn't kill me eat the gribenes (fried chicken skins) every day. The 2nd Ave Deli has been an internationally renowned Gotham landmark for more than half a century. Over the years, its founder, Abe Lebewohl, provided the best Jewish fare in town, transforming his tiny ten-seat Village eatery into a New York institution. The late Abe Lebewohl was a great restaurateur in the showman tradition and a well-known and much-loved New York personality. The famous 2nd Ave Deli attracted hundreds of celebrity patrons, drawn by the thick deli sandwiches piled high with expertly prepared meat, the greatest chopped liver, delicious chicken soup and other Jewish delicacies that are just like Bubbie’s – but better.

New York Deli Experience, $160 | From Eli Zabar | Eli’s Deli basket is designed specifically for the homesick New Yorker. It contains all the items that make us dream of the Big Apple: chocolate babka, pastrami, fresh rye bread and onion rolls, ballpark mustard, u-bet chocolate syrup, and that New York essential, an edible MetroCard.

Kishka/Derma, $79 | Liebman's Kosher Deli | Now, this might be only for niece Shai, who loves derma. Kishka/derma is Jewish “sausage” stuffing served with our homemade brown gravy. A classic Jewish Eastern European tube stuffing made with grains, vegetables, spices, and beef fat smothered in gravy. This is one of my husband Eric's favorite delis (I think because they deliver to Harlem). The Bronx’s Last Standing Kosher Deli. When Joseph Liebman opened his restaurant in 1953, there were over 100 Jewish delis in the Bronx. Today, Liebman’s is the only one standing. It’s not only a testament to the quality of their food, but also to the care and commitment of the people preparing. In 1980, Joseph Dekel, a native Israeli, bought the kosher deli and went great lengths to preserve Liebman’s old recipes. When he passed away in 2002, his son Yuval took over. Then a drummer in a heavy-metal band, he soon became a fixture at Liebman’s—and still is. For too many people, stepping into Liebman’s is a time warp—from its simple neon sign to the no-frills Formica tabletops and padded booths, this deli is a genuine taste of old New York.

VEGAN Knishes, $79 | Yonah Schimmel Knishes | The Oldest Knishery in America. Without a physical storefront, Romanian immigrant Yonah Schimmel first sold his knishes using a pushcart around the Lower East Side. As the business grew, he established his bakery on Houston Street in the 1890s. Yonah Schimmel Knishes has since been a neighborhood fixture, even despite the continuous changes on the Lower East Side over the decades. Today, Yonah Schimmel’s still makes knishes the traditional way—hand wrapping a filling of potatoes or kasha (buckwheat grain) with a thin layer of dough before sending it to the oven to bake. On top of the traditional potato and kasha knishes, they have also added modern flavors—sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, jalapenos, and even sweet cheese ones!

Alcohol, helping a lot of people get through 2020...

Hudson Whiskey NY Bundle, $180 | Hudson Whiskey was one of the brands at the forefront of the American craft whiskey movement. The distillery behind it, Tuthilltown Spirits, was the first distillery in New York State to operate since Prohibition when it launched back in 2003. The label design and the liquid found within the bottle has undergone a significant relaunch, focusing on its role as a true representative of the New York craft whiskey scene, along with a price shift that should please consumers.

Isolation Gin, $43.00 | Crafted one batch at a time at a barn in the Catskills, this gin will make you wish you had someone to drink it with. They distill, bottle, and ship each order. Sure, it gets lonely, but someone has to do it. Follow their Instagram, for more of their seasonal flavors & where you can purchase this limited batch gin.

For a real sip and cheers to New York State Made Liquor checkout the best keep secret New York Craft Spirits - it is craft spirits from the Big Apple. New York distilleries only.

I Love New York & Other Sweet Treats

Local Women, $69 | Chelsea Market Baskets | Specialty foods and tastefully designed gifts. Gifts are filled with the creations of small food businesses. They work with and support many small food producers who create innovative and authentic products. This gift celebrates companies owned and operated by women and features five of CMB favorite specialty treats made by local women who are passionate about food. Empowered women, empower women!

Markets Of The Boroughs, $98 | Chelsea Market Baskets | This is a great gift for someone that likes to buy local and support small producers or just wants to try some new goodies!

Each set contains an assortment of six individually packaged 2.64 oz chocolate bars crafted in the shape of a Harlem Brownstone and dusted in gold. Packaged in boxes decorated with iconic Harlem images, the set can be gifted in whole or shared across several chocolate lovers in your life.

Golden Brownstone Gift Set, $48 | Harlem Chocolate Factory | Harlem Chocolate Factory is an artisan chocolate company located in Harlem where they use chocolate to covey the various cultural experiences of Harlem.

Catskill Provisions Breakfast Tote, $54 | Savory Pantry | A lovely gift to bring someone whom you're visiting overnight is this recyclable jute tote filled with organic pancake & waffle mix, Grade A maple syrup, and autumnal honey all from the Catskill Mountain region of New York.

Hudson Valley Breakfast, $95 | Olde Hudson | In this breakfast box is Olde Hudson's take on our best Valley Breakfast ingredients: healthy and delicious items made by neighbor food artisans dedicated to creating the best products for your giftee.

Hudson Valley Farms, $50 | Russell Farms | Russell Farms has been in business in the Hudson River Valley since 1976. After moving to New York from Vermont, where he made maple syrup as a child, Grandpa Russell started making maple syrup with his family in 1976. Today, Russell Farms is run by his granddaughter. Located on 34 acres in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the Russell Family strives to provide the highest quality maple syrup, honey, and pancake mixes for your enjoyment.

Riches of the Empire State, $180 | Jennifer L. Salvemini | This gift box was curated and produced by Jennifer L. Salvemini, who curates and produces happy homes in the NY Metro and Hudson Valley Regions. All of the items in this box were made by women-owned businesses in the Hudson Valley, (even the gorgeous natural dyed silk ribbon the box is adorned with!). This box is a sample of the riches currently coming from the Empire State and includes a luscious scented candle in a reusable ceramic vessel, a bar of handmade vegan soap, small-batch three pine flavored shrub, brown-butter milk chocolate bar, wholewheat seeded flatbread crackers, adaptogen root nectar (made with local honey), pure NY State maple syrup suckers, small-batch “revive” eye serum.

For the Traveler: Stop Traveling, There's a Pandemic

Checkout ILOVENY great social distancing activities that can be found here: Unique Ways to Celebrate Winter Holidays in New York

I personally love LuminoCity Festival. It features all-new light art installations spanning several acres! Each of the three parks illuminates the night with beautiful sculptures inspired by nature, history, and magic! You can walk it outside and of course be socially distant.

Enjoy a virtual trip around New York.

Final Thoughts

During this once-in-a-generation moment, it’s an act of love to keep your friends and families safe — for as long as it takes. The best way to express our gratitude for loved ones this year is by staying home and keeping our celebrations small. This holiday season, we will spend money and send gifts.

But let’s not forget the gift of our TIME to those we love, those who love us, and most of all, those whose lives we have helped impact from near and afar.

That’s the greatest gift of all. Except for jewelry. Jewelry is also the greatest gift of all.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and wear a mask.

Happy Holidays!

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