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I know it isn’t even Halloween yet, but it is mid-October and time is flying. I don’t usually get into holiday shopping until much, much later. . . think mid-December, but since I am working with a really great client this year, I wanted to share a different idea for your holiday shopping this year, if you live in the Northeast.

Hampshire County of Western Massachusetts is a perfect spot for boutique and artisan shopping. From art and handmade jewelry to antiques to specialty food gifts, you can find it all in this beautiful place.

Pottery work by Christy Knox | Photo by Lynne Graves

Pottery by Christy Knox. Photo by Lynn Graves (Source)

One of the great things about holiday shopping in Hampshire County is that special events for artisans are sprinkled throughout the fall, making it easy to plan a visit even if you have a busy schedule.

Get an early start in October with Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton and continue into November and December with an assortment of open studio events like Cottage Street Open Studios in Easthampton (December 4-6 & 12) and pop-up artisan shops at places like Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program in Williamsburg, which hosts “Seconds Sales” (November 13-15, 20-22 & 27-29) for almost-perfect items at a discount. I am really hoping to get to Snow Farm this year; it sounds beautiful.

Food gifts are delicious and easy to come by in Hampshire County. The County has six breweries and six wineries, including Black Birch Vineyard, a winery I visited last summer. I love their wine! There’s Heavenly Chocolate, Esselon Coffee, bakeries, maple sugar houses, and a ton more for foodies.

And since Amtrak now goes directly to Northampton from NYC, Hampshire County is easy to reach. It’s a great spot for a weekend getaway, with beautiful outdoor scenery, not-to-be-missed restaurants, farms, five beautiful college campuses (UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Hampshire College) and so much more. Plan to get away to do your shopping, then stay the night for some relaxation in one of the most beautiful places in New England.

Hampshire County is a client, but it is also one of my favorite places in New England, and I am thrilled to be able to share this little piece of heaven with you.

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Tags: Hampshire County, holidays, Massachusetts, New England, shopping, Travel, Western Massachusetts

While news of the Boston Public Market opening dominated the food scene over the last couple of weeks, a beautiful new artisan food store opened quietly in Brookline, welcoming friends and neighbors into a serene, light-filled space filled with delicious things.

The Olive Connection, in the interest of full disclosure, is a client of mine, and I love working with them.  The dream-come-true of a Brookline family, the Olive Connection is more than a store. It’s a tasting room, a takeaway cafe (for charcuterie, bread, and cheese), a gift shop, and a place where the owners truly want to connect with customers and to share with them their favorite tastes.

honey  I spent Friday afternoon perusing the shelves of the Olive Connection and wanted to buy everything I saw. From beautiful bottles of honey from around the world to their opening theme – BBQ items – I found myself thinking of ideas for entertaining and cooking at home.

Denny Mike's Seasonings

One of the most fun parts about the Olive Connection is its selection of products available to taste, including flavored balsamic vinegars and olive oils. Chocolate Espresso Balsamic Vinegar? I could see this being a delicious addition to a brownie sundae.

chocolate espresso balsamic I thought Toasted Coconut sounded amazing too; maybe in a peanutty Asian-inspired slaw?

toasted coconut balsamic vinegar I could see this Champagne Mimosa Vinegar being great in a refreshing cocktail for Sunday brunch. Olive oil and vinegar cocktails are becoming increasingly popular, and the Olive Connection has so many flavor options for experimenting.

champagne vinegar

In the end I went with a classic Balsamic and a Citrus Habanero oil, which has been heavenly on avocado toast in in whole grain salads with fresh garden veggies.

citrus habanero olive oil The Olive Connection has so much more than vinegars and oils; they’re well-stocked with ingredients for your perfect pasta dinner and have all sorts of other items like salts, syrups, and even teas.

Olive Connection Brookline  salts While I was in the store, a sampling of Mem Tea was happening, and the Olive Connection has plans to have many more in-store tastings and events. They have the ability to help you create custom gifts for parties, weddings, and corporate gifts, all to the taste of the recipient.

 

Mem Tea

The Olive Connection is a store with food lovers in mind, and as we head toward the fall, I see it being the perfect place to pick up ingredients for a cozy night in.

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Tags: artisan food, cooking, Food, foodie, ingredients. Brookline, shopping

I am a bit late to the game, but better late than never, I say, when it comes to visiting a place like Eataly. I am sure you have heard of Eataly, and if you have been to New York City in the past year, you have also likely been there. This collaboration between Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich, with consultants Slow Food International, brings all sorts of high quality food, beverage, and kitchen items together under one glorious roof.

Eataly

Located at 200 5th Avenue, Eataly has something for everybody, and if you love all things food and wine, it will be a place you will want to spend a lot of time.

We walked the 23 blocks from our hotel near Times Square, stopping to check out some store windows and the Rockefeller Center tree on the way. Post to come!

Once we arrived in front of Eataly’s gelateria entrance, we reconvened with our group and then went off to explore.

Eataly

gelato Eataly butcher
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Much of Eataly’s manifesto speaks to the reasons I love food. I especially love these first four items. I too am in love with food and think it’s pretty amazing the businesses that Batali and the Bastanich family have been able to build through their passion and commitment to quality.

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Eataly

gelateria

On our way in, we passed the Gelateria ( I had the straciatella, which was divine.), vowing to return on our way out of Eataly. In addition to indulging in some rich gelato on the way out, we also saw Jennifer Love Hewitt who is absolutely gorgeous in person and very, very small.

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A Lavazza café and Caffe Vergnano (I had a doppio espresso.) offer quality coffee and coffee drinks, and, if you are so inclined, a Gran Turino, which is a mix of espresso, vodka, and coffee or chocolate liqueur.

Eataly

A Pasticceria loaded with sweet and festive  desserts lined the entry area, each and every one decorated beautifully.

Eataly

Eataly

Eataly

One of our favorites was the heavenly Piazza enoteca, complete with perfect soppresatta, prosciutto, speck, and  cheeses, which we brought back to our hotel for a late night dinner/snack.

Eataly

I salivated at the fish market and oyster bar, wishing this was my regular place for grocery shopping.

Eataly

And wondered if I should buy another suitcase as I browsed dried pastas, olive oils, canned fish, and vinegars. We snagged a bottle of aged balsamic and some olive oil to eat with our meat, cheese, and bread but forgot to open them. I am sure they will go to good use another night.

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The produce section in Eataly is like a display of edible art. Again, I found myself wanting a kitchen in NYC so I could fill my arms with meyer lemons and satsumas

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Every inch of Eataly was inviting. Whether the customer is a seasoned chef, a curious home cook, or someone who doesn’t step foot in the kitchen, you can find what you need, and as Chef Batali states above, someone to help you.

Eataly

After tons of wandering, we found a stand up table in the Piazza to stop and rest over a bottle of sparkling wine. Our server, Ada, was adorable and took into account my taste for drier bubbly, offering us, after some thought, a Contessa Rosa sparkling wine from Italy.

Eataly

sparkling wine sparkling wine

Imported from the Piemonte region, the Contessa Rosa, I learned, is made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and aged on its lees for three years, resulting in flavors of honey-soaked brioche. The bubbles were tiny and persistent,  adding to our festive holiday spirit. Unlike many Italian bubblies, this was not a Prosecco, and it exhibited more characteristics of Champagne that you would expect from an Italian sparkler. We all adored it, and the service was absolutely delightful.

With a large variety of places to eat and drink, along with the perfect foodie shopping experience, Eataly has become a must-visit on any trip to New York City for me.

Have you been to Eataly yet? Or is there a similar market you love?

Eataly on Urbanspoon

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Tags: Eataly, Food, Mario Batali, New York City, shopping, Travel, wine

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