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Ivy Stark
Photograph: Courtesy Ali Garber

Time Out Market New York culinary pros share holiday tips and traditions

Including festive things to do in NYC and how to keep the season stress-free

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako

For Time Out Market New York’s hospitality professionals, the most wonderful time of the year is also one of the busiest. When your business is food, drinks and fun, the holiday season is all about helping other people celebrate. But Clinton Street Baking’s Neil Kleinberg, Ess-a-Bagel’s Melanie Frost and Ivy Stark’s proprietor of the same name still make time for festivities. They recently sat down with us at the market to share their best seasonal traditions and tips that might just help you do the same.  

Frost, for example, is starting a new tradition at the market with the introduction of a kind of culinary first-aid kit she prescribes for January 1. 

“We’re probably going to be open the night of New Year’s and we are going to have what we call a hangover recovery package,” she says. “It’s going to be a bag of a dozen bagels and some spreads and some Nova and you can pick it up the day before.”

“Definitely get the bagels for New Year’s Day for sure,” Frost says. “I know people have been talking about the cream cheese shortage, but we make a lot of our cream cheese and we’ve been able to really keep up with that and also we’ve got all different kinds of tofu spreads as well as some vegan, plant-based spreads. You won’t be able to get into the store [on New Year’s Day]. Lines will be out the door. So I say, plan ahead.”

“Prep ahead,” Stark also says. There are a lot of things that you can buy pre-made ahead of time that are of excellent quality. Maybe make your own salsa or sauce so you have that touch of homemade with something that’s pre-made to make it a little less stressful and easier on yourself.”

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“Don’t try to do too much,” Kleinberg cautions. “Do a lot of room temperature things if you’re cooking or baking and then do one showpiece that you really like to eat yourself or really like to make yourself, whether it's a lasagna or mac and cheese or roast beef with horseradish sauce. Do one thing that you really love and you really like to eat and then, the rest, make in advance and keep simple so you’re not stressed out.”

Neil Kleinberg
Photograph: Ali GarberNeil Kleinberg at Time Out Market New York

The trio’s not only relied upon to author, plan and execute menus in their restaurants, but also to bring their talent and expertise into their own home kitchens. Frost makes time to prepare personal must-haves for the holidays, including, “of course latkes,” she says, with sour cream and applesauce. “You have to have a latke,” she says. “You have to have a latke with a jelly donut.”

“I prepare them at home,” Frost says. “My dad when he used to make them he used to hand grate the potatoes and there was a certain amount of time you had to leave the potatoes sitting, and fry them really, really crisp and thin.”

For her part, Stark’s always going to repurpose leftover turkey into enchiladas. “I also like to make guacamole as an appetizer for Christmas dinner,” she says. And “there’s no holiday without cranberry sauce. I just love it, I always have.”

Stark, Frost and Kleinberg’s traditions extend beyond the kitchen, too, of course. Stark gets the season started with decor.

I put my lights up on my balcony and now I’m going to do the tree,” she says. “I have several friends that have given me ornaments that are precious to me. It’s really great to unwrap them.”

She also makes time for a turbocharged Christmastime adventure each year. 

“I always go to see the Rockettes every year,” Stark says. “I am going to see the Rockettes this Saturday night. It’s a big deal. Me and one of my best friends go every year, then we go ice skating at the Rockefeller Center rink and I just can’t wait. It’s the most Christmassy thing that you can possibly do in New York.”

Stark brings some of her own holiday happiness to events right around the market. 

“I love the Dumbo Christmas tree lighting,” she says. “I go every year, and the last couple years we’ve been at Time Out Market we’ve served some sweet treats to the neighborhood as they’re lighting the tree.” 

Kleinberg also likes to take in the sights and the lights, both in his old Brooklyn neighborhood and around his present home near Central Park on the days surrounding an annual tradition he’s been enjoying for decades.

“Christmas day it has to be Chinese food and a movie, because I’m Jewish, I’m from Brooklyn,” he says. The Godfather is a favorite. “I just love that movie so much and I have to watch it during the holidays.”

“That’s the time to go out to dinner; Chinese and a movie,” Frost says too. 

Melanie Frost
Photograph: Courtesy of Bella Dubens

“I was just watching Home Alone with my nephew and it’s a great movie that I would definitely recommend. And I think, of course, It’s A Wonderful Life, that’s just a classic.”

Stark shares the sentiment. 

“My top holiday movie has to be It’s a Wonderful Life,” she says. “It’s the iconic Christmas movie and as far as traditions go, it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching it.”

And all three agree that, aside from all of the business to conduct, all the time spent working on fêtes for others to enjoy, in New York City, this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

One of Kleinberg’s reasons is a practicality relished by many New Yorkers.

“I love the fact that New York City is my city, and I live here, and I grew up here, and I feel like I can go anywhere I want during the holidays,” he says. “It’s kind of like I have my neighborhood back and I have my place back. I can do whatever I want without all the crowds and all the craziness and it happens every year no matter what.”

Frost is fond of the magic in the air.

“It’s the feeling of home and tradition and warmth. New York, during the holiday season, there’s nothing better. Everybody has this great energy about them during the holiday season.” 

And Stark notices a cheery shift, too.  

“Everybody is just a little bit nicer to each other,” she says. “People slow down a tiny bit, there are more smiles, there’s much more warmth in the city and it’s my favorite time of the year here for that reason.” 

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