When I studied abroad in London some years ago, I made it my mission to seek out the very best Christmas market—and trust me, there were a lot to choose from. I found that Londoners really treasure the quintessentially warm-and-fuzzy holiday, something I knew I could get behind as a student far away from home. Even before I could celebrate a Thanksgiving abroad (with fellow American roommates, of course) I had already checked off five Christmas markets.
I started with the largest, the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland—truly an extravaganza in itself, it consists of several different markets, restaurants, rides, and ice shows. Without a doubt, the most magical part was the live music that rang throughout the park amid thrilling screams from carnival riders. Winter at Southbank Centre (my favorite!) introduced me to a more classic market with wooden chalets, a thick wintery forest of evergreens, and a German-style beer lodge. Across the way, Christmas by the River overlooked the stunning Tower Bridge and had something that I learned was a staple at every market—decadent food and warm (mostly boozy) drinks.
Since many markets are on hiatus this year, visiting timeless favorites may not be an option. If you, too, find yourself yearning for mulled wine and a night under a twinkle-lit sky (no, not a Hallmark movie, but real-life Britain), try transforming your home into your favorite part of the holiday market with these at-home tips.
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1. Whip Up Some Classic Beverages
Since Christmas markets originate from Germany, brisk outdoor biergartens often serve up seasonal beer and spicy mulled drinks. For the grape version of this spiced drink, grab a bottle of Cabernet and concoct a mulled wine for yourself—or Glühwein as it’s called at German markets. I’ve made it several times already this year, and this one in particular transports me back to those shimmery chalet stands. I had this drink at every market I visited, so brewing up a homemade version can trick you into being back. For those who want to indulge their sweet tooth, try another market hallmark—hot chocolate. This one gets an extra seasonal kick with the addition of cardamom.
2. Curate a Holiday Playlist
If Hyde Park Winter Wonderland had its very own karaoke bar, so can you. And while your home market excludes the exciting chatter of crowds, you can still incorporate the sweet sounds of a Christmas market. Whether you start slow with Michael Bublé or go full-throttle with a Mariah Carey Christmas, curate your own playlist to turn up the yuletide spirit. Have your lyrics ready to join in cheery singing—but you may want to warn your neighbors first…
3. Turn Your Bar Cart Into a Chalet
Chalets (the wooden stands that house the individual shops) are what make Christmas markets so whimsical, and while crafting a traditionally German chalet may not be accessible, you can use what you have around the house. Turn your bar cart into one of those charming stands, by draping it in twinkle lights, candles, and a mini tree. Since chalets house food, drink, and holiday knick knacks, you can keep your ciders and beers on it, turn it into an ornament craft station to DIY those you'd normally buy on site, or pile it high with themed treats.
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4. Upgrade Your Christmas Tree and Lights
Along with most markets, Winter at the Southbank Centre has dozens and dozens of Christmas trees lining a pathway to a biergarten, so a lone tree just won't cut it for your stay-at-home market. In addition to adorning your living room’s main Christmas tree with twinkle lights and ornaments, sprinkle table-top trees and miniature fake firs around your home. Even more festive? A tree that is a light itself.
5. Bake Festive Market Treats
Looking for a holiday refresh? Shake up your classic cookie routine and add Christmas market staples to your menu, from doughy pretzels to roasted nuts and Dutch pancakes. While some treats may be tricky to make at home, mince pie is a traditional British dessert you’ve got to try, since I never failed to find these spiced mini pastries at every market I visited.
6. Capture the Scents of the Season
Even though you can’t replicate the smell of All. The. Food. wafting from dozens of chalets, you can still get your living room smelling festive and bright. Scatter your favorite holiday candles about your living room to give the room a warm glow and complete the Christmas market transformation.
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Where is your favorite holiday market, and how are you bringing it inside this year? Tell us below!
Egg and cheese sandwiches are often just that: egg and cheese on a roll or bagel or toast. Just as often, they co-star a choose-your-own breakfast meat, be it bacon or sausage or ham. But arguably the most festive version, especially during Hanukkah, features a crispy, chewy latke.
The latke, egg, and cheese sandwich on house-baked challah from B&H Dairy in Manhattan’s East Village has technically been available for years, yet only just became a permanent menu item.
“One of the things that drives my eating is being able to go to a restaurant and put together disparate elements to make something even better,” Lawrence Weibman, the de facto creator of the sandwich, told me over the phone.
Weibman doesn’t work for B&H. He’s a regular customer, as well as a video producer and food-lover, who runs the Instagram account @nycfoodguy. He’s always on the hunt for the most exciting dishes at restaurants, even if they’re not on the menu—yet.
The native New Yorker moved to the East Village in 2008 to glimpse some of the “old” New York that constantly appeared in books and movies, but wasn’t in his neighborhood growing up: “To me, the East Village is one of the few areas left in the city that still has true bohemian soul. This is a place that embodies the last vestiges of the New York of the past. B&H embodies [that feeling].”
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B&H does represent classic New York charm, where restaurant employees know the names of their regulars, and vise versa. Weibman is just as familiar with the owners of B&H, Ola and Fawzy Abdelwahed, as well as the restaurant’s cooks and front of house employees, as they are with him. Sometimes, they’ll name specials after certain customers.
“I said you’re more than welcome to create your own dish. In the beginning, it was just a conversation,” Ola told me over the phone, describing the evolution of Weibman’s sandwich from suggestion to menu item. At first, she was skeptical: “Potato pancake inside of the egg sandwich? But he said, ‘It's delicious,’ so I said ‘Okay, I’ll try one.’” Her thoughts now? “It’s awesome, everybody loves it.”
The addition of a latke to an egg and cheese sandwich was, as is the case with many ingenious creations, an unplanned yet illuminating success. “I was probably craving bacon one day,” Weibman said. As B&H is both a pescetarian and Kosher establishment, an alternative came to mind: an order of their salty golden-brown potato pancakes, one of which he slid onto the egg and cheese sandwich. “What goes better with squishy and melty, than crispy-crunchy? It’s all about sandwich construction.”
Speaking of construction, Weibman has thoughts. “Fried eggs, over medium, with American cheese. You want to be able to squeeze down and have that yolk in the middle, not on top.” The challah—B&H’s homemade signature—is untoasted: “You want the squishy bread, because you have to be able to smush it down a little to fit it in your mouth once the latke goes in, unless you’re a boa constrictor.”
And of course, there’s the condiments factor. For Weibman, that’s salt and pepper, plus ketchup and hot sauce. Staying true to his brand, Weibman didn’t just go for the hot sauce on the counter. “The guys who work there have their own stash of hot sauce in the fridge…sometimes they had a ghost pepper sauce. The real secret was to ask for the hot sauce in the back.” He says that extra heat, with the sweetness from ketchup, are non-negotiable.
Until just recently, to get this sandwich at B&H, one had to order an egg and cheese sandwich and side of potato pancakes, then rearrange accordingly. Yet, as Weibman got to know the cooks and owners more, he felt comfortable requesting the whole sandwich (“a trepidatious ask,” he added).
When he first shared photos of the sandwich on Instagram, he noted it was an off-menu creation. “But then people started coming in and ordering it. They have other dishes named for regulars. I’d mess with [Ola] and be like, ‘Where’s mine? I’ll take a sign!’”
“I said, ‘Next time we print the menu, I promise we’ll put your name on it,’” laughed Ola, relaying the same story. “Some new customers see it online, and say they want it just like the photo. For me, it was something new. It’s very popular.”
Latke, Egg & Cheese Sandwich, Inspired by B&H
Will you add a latke to your next egg sandwich? Let us know in the comments!
We teamed up with Kerrygold to highlight pasta’s favorite plus-one: butter. Here, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker—Meryl Feinstein of Pasta Social Club—shows us a few tasty ways to pair up Kerrygold’s creamy-rich Pure Irish Butter with gnocchetti, spaghetti, ravioli, and more.
Growing up in the ‘90s, butter was not a staple in my house. Low-fat, sugar-free yogurt? Sure. Velveeta? Yes. But real, delicious, creamy butter? Not so much. It wasn’t until I met my British husband that butter started to make its way into my life and onto my toast. And it was even later, in culinary school, when I realized I could hardly go a day—or a meal—without it. So here I am, 30 years old, just trying to make up for lost, butter-less time.
As a chef and pasta-maker, butter often takes center stage. It’s the cooking medium of choice in much of northern Italy, where cattle is abundant and the temperatures are cooler. And although I love a good butter sauce, I also find it’s when butter lingers in the background—the first layer of flavor in a ravioli filling or swirled into a meaty sauce at the last moment—that a dish becomes truly luxurious, satisfying, and altogether balanced.
Take this recipe’s caramelized onions, for example, which are perhaps my favorite wintertime pasta accompaniment. They’re sweet, they’re savory, they’re perfect in every way. And they're best when they start with no small amount of really good Kerrygold butter.
Here are some of my favorite ways to pair butter and pasta year-round, so you’ll never have to be without two of the world’s greatest pleasures again.
1. As a sauce, of course
Ok, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Melted butter on pasta brings our childhood dreams and adult cravings to life. But when I’m not downing late-night spaghetti with butter and Parmesan, I generally serve it with stuffed pastas so the flavors of the filling (vegetables! Proteins! All of the cheeses!) can really shine.
Whether it’s simply emulsified with starchy pasta water, cooked until nutty and golden, or infused with fresh herbs, butter is an ideal dressing for delicate tortelloni, agnolotti, and ravioli.
Pasta with Brown Butter & Brussels Sprouts
Chestnut and Ricotta Ravioli
2. As a finishing touch
Sometimes a dish just needs a little extra something—that’s when I reach for the butter. In meat sauces (or, in my case, sauces with a meat substitute), a final touch of butter can bring a subtle layer of richness that pulls everything together.
In creamy sauces, kill the heat and whisk in a few small pieces of cold butter to keep things smooth and luscious. And my favorite: In tomato sauces, a pat—or three—of butter helps tame the acidity (so it actually tastes like tomatoes!) and imparts a velvety texture while still feeling light (thank you, Marcella Hazan!). You can even add a little butter to store-bought sauces to wake things up. It’ll make all the difference.
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter
Mandilli de Sea With Sugo Finto & Parmesan Crisps
3. As a vehicle for your favorite flavors
Fancy compound butters aren’t just for steak. Simply mix some softened butter with a few pantry and fridge staples and you have yourself an instant pasta upgrade. Of course, fresh herbs and raw or roasted garlic are always a win, but the combinations are endless: sharp Parmesan, spicy chiles, sweet black garlic, briny anchovies, dare I say truffles…you get the point.
4. As a pasta filling hero
I first saw butter used as an ingredient in pasta filling when I was working at a restaurant in New York. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back. My favorite combinations are a generous drizzle of brown butter alongside squash in the winter and sweet corn in the summer. The best part is that it makes the filling mixture creamier and easier to work with, and transforms each bite of the finished dish into an explosion of buttery goodness.
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What’s your favorite way to pair up pasta and butter? Tell us in the comments!
We’ve partnered with Kerrygold—you know and love ‘em for their butters and cheeses made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows—to share all sorts of delicious recipes to dig into this winter. Whether you’re baking up tender apple scones with brown butter-maple drizzle or whipping up this comforting gnocchetti, Kerrygold’s lineup of butters and cheeses are must-have kitchen staples.