Lunar New Year Traditions

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Although the Western calendar has been adopted by most Asian cultures, Lunar New Year (also called the Spring Festival) remains a holiday of great cultural and historical meaning going back at least 2000 years! Like Thanksgiving in the United States, travelling home for a family reunion dinner is an imperative for people who celebrate. In fact, in China Lunar New Year counts as the biggest annual migration of people on Earth (even larger than the number of Muslims who visit Mecca every year), with just shy of 400 million expected to take to the railways to travel to their hometowns for the holiday this year. And in New York City, public schools are closed on the first day of the New Year holiday.

The Lunar New Year varies by date year-to-year. It occurs on the second New Moon after the December solstice. This year, the Lunar New Year begins on Friday, February 16th, although the New Year’s eve family dinner on the night of the 15th is the true beginning of the holiday. It lasts 15 days, and culminates this year on Saturday, March 3rd with the Lantern Festival: lanterns are lit at night and then let go into the sky en masse with wishes for prosperity and good luck in the coming year. It is truly magical to behold.

Lunar New Year is not just a holiday celebrated in Asian countries. With our sizable population of Asian immigrants, Lunar New Year and Lantern Festivals are celebrated in many towns and cities across the United States. Here in New York City, the Chinese New Year’s Day parade is a popular multi-cultural event. This is a fun, happy and lively holiday, vivid with colors, music, noise and special foods.

Origins of the Lunar New Year Holiday

Lunar New Year began in China with the fable of a horrible monster named “Nian”. The story roughly goes that Nian liked to eat people and it would come into the villages on New Year’s Day and gobble up the villagers, finding children a particular delicacy. The people of the village would flee from their homes every year before Nian was due to arrive. But one year, and old man stayed to try to fight the beast. The old man draped red papers all over the town and set off firecrackers all night long. Nian did not come and the village came to believe that Nian was afraid of the bright color red and the loud noises of the firecrackers.

This is why red is such a significant color for this holiday. Red repels bad luck and thus allows good fortune the opportunity to reign. People dress in red, decorate their homes in red, and give money in red envelopes. In Lunar New Year parades, Nian is depicted as the familiar dragon that winds his way through the streets and people on the sidelines set off firecrackers and use noisemakers to frighten the monster away and keep them safe.

Preparations for the Lunar New Year Celebration

People spend a lot of time preparing for the Lunar New Year. They clean their houses not just to be ready for family and guests at the New Year’s Eve dinner, but also because it symbolizes the washing away of any bad luck left over from the preceding year and allows room for the good luck in the new year to accumulate. Once the cleaning is done, the brooms and dust pans are put away so that any good luck that comes cannot be “swept away”. Homes are decorated in red paper and some people actually paint doors and window sills with a fresh coat of red paint. Some homes are also decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese phases that will bring good luck. People buy new clothes, often in red or other bright colors, again as a symbol of a new beginning. This is similar to what we see in the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, where people wear new articles of clothing to signify a fresh start with the New Year.

Also analogous to the traditions of Rosh Hashanah is the attention paid to homonyms: words that are spelled alike or pronounced similarly even if they have a different meaning. Auspicious words that mean good fortune, wealth, health and prosperity are emphasized as are foods and other items and activities that sound like auspicious words when they are spoken. For example, the word “hair” in Chinese sounds like the word for “prosperity”. So if you need a “hair cut”, you are wise to get it done before the Lunar New Year otherwise you may “cut your prospects for wealth”. Similarly, you would wash your hair in preparation for the New Year, so as not to “wash away” your chances for good fortune. More on other superstitions under “Taboos” below.

In Asian cultures, business and personal debts, whether of money or of gratitude, are expected to be paid up before the New Year and this is not dissimilar to the thanks and apologies and amends made in Jewish cultures on Rosh Hashanah.

Lunar New Year’s Eve Dinner

Family members will travel far and wide to return home for the traditional annual reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve. It is customary for guests to bring gifts. If you are invited to such a dinner this week, you can bring or send ahead our “good fortune” gift basket of lucky fruit and Year of the Dog hand-iced cookies in the propitious colors of red and gold!

People will spend days preparing all the special foods customarily found in the Lunar New Year’s Eve meal, not unlike many cross-cultural holidays. Similar to the Jewish New Year, foods that are eaten on the Lunar New Year are homophones for words that convey good luck and prosperity.

Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but the way they are prepared, the way they are served and how and when they are eaten are also significant and will vary depending on local customs and individual family traditions. But a Chinese New Year meal almost always includes the 7 lucky foods: whole fish, dumplings, spring rolls, a rice-based cake called niangao, longevity noodles, certain fresh fruits, and sweet rice balls called tangyuan.

WHOLE FISH:

Certain fish when pronounced out loud sound like auspicious words and so these fish are usually served as the main dish at a Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner party. For example, carp (jee-yoo) sounds quite similar to the Chinese word for “good luck” (jee), and catfish (nyen-yoo) sounds almost exactly like the Chinese word for “year surplus”. And if you eat two fish, it means “surplus year after year”! So the belief is that if you eat these fish you will also literally absorb these good wishes and have much abundance in the New Year.

The fish is usually placed in the center of the table with the head facing the eldest or most important member of the dinner party. This positioning connotes respect to the chosen person, and he or she is to eat the fish first. Fish is generally the last dish eaten. Some fish is always left over to be eaten the next day in the New Year so that the “surplus” can be continued.

DUMPLINGS:

The making and eating of dumplings is also a traditional family activity at the Lunar New Year, especially in Northern China, where they are made after dinner and eaten around midnight at the very start of the New Year. Dumplings are boat-shaped like ancient coins of silver or gold, and thus they represent wealth. Eating lots of dumplings means making lots of money in New Year!

The most lucky dumplings are the ones that are made with many pleats, and some people conceal a white thread or a copper coin inside one of the dumplings: whoever bites into that one will get the gift of long life or wealth, respectively.

SPRING ROLLS:

Named because they are eaten at the Spring Festival, these treats are little dough rectangles filled with vegetables or meat, rolled into bars, and deep fried. The golden color and the shape make them look like “gold bars” and hence they symbolize wealth. Spring rolls are especially popular in Eastern China.

NIANGAO:

Niango (also called Eight Treasures Rice) is a special cake or pudding made primarily of a sticky, glutinous rice and sugar, layered in patterns with a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, seeds such as lotus and gingko, berries, and sometimes red bean paste. The literal translation of niango means “New Year cake” and when spoken sounds like “increasing prosperity year after year” or “getting higher and higher”. The suggestion is that you will gain a better position in your business and your bank account when you eat this traditional treat. In Southern China, niangao is given as gifts to family and friends through-out the 15 day New Year celebration.

LONGEVITY NOODLES:

Noodles are often a part of the Lunar New Year’s Eve meal. They are made especially long (up to 2 feet in length!) and are uncut to symbolize a long and healthy life. Longevity noodles can be prepared in numerous ways, and traditions will vary with the local cuisine.

FRESH FRUIT:

Citrus fruit are especially coveted on the Lunar New Year. The round shape is a symbol of fullness and the yellow, golden color denotes wealth. In keeping with the purpose of many other foods at the reunion dinner, the names of certain citrus are homophones for good luck. That’s why we include only the best citrus fruits in our Lunar New Year gift basket.

TANGYUAN:

These sweet rice balls are featured prominently during the Lantern Festival at the end of the 15 day Lunar New Year celebration, and in Southern China are eaten throughout the holiday. Again, the round shape signifies fullness and the sound tangyuan makes sounds similar to gathering together, like the family reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

Lunar New Year’s  Day Celebrations

After staying up all night, or at least until after midnight to greet the New Year, daytime celebrations may be quieter, although in New York City, the annual “Chinese New Year parade” that snakes around Chinatown and little Italy is a lively and festive New Year’s Day celebration. Firecrackers and fireworks are set off to ward of evil in order to allow in all the good fortune. Giving gifts of money in brightly colored red envelopes is another holiday tradition and most people will receive a red envelope from someone. People will dress in new clothes, often red (the luckiest color) or other brightly hued colors to reflect their wishes for a good year and their happy mood.

Lunar New Year Taboos

The traditions of many cultural holidays arise from ancient myths and fables that are passed down over generations and while they may become diluted, they often persist and Lunar New Year is no exception. There are many superstitions surrounding this holiday in Asian cultures.  Following are some interesting examples of beliefs and taboos for the first day of the Lunar New Year:

  1. Don’t take medicine or you will be sick for the entire year.
  2. Don’t go to the hospital or you will bring sickness on yourself for the entire year…. unless it’s an emergency!!
  3. Don’t take out the garbage or you will be dumping out all the good luck that has accumulated in the house.
  4. Don’t use knives, scissors, needles or other sharp objects that you could hurt yourself on. Any accidental injury can bring bad luck and loss of security.
  5. Don’t break tools or equipment as it can cause a loss of wealth in the New Year.
  6. Don’t eat porridge for breakfast because it is what poor people generally have for breakfast and the New Year doesn’t want to start off “poor”.
  7. Don’t let children cry because it will bring bad luck to the family.
  8. Don’t wear white or black clothes because these colors are associated with death and mourning and you don’t want to bring that into your house.
  9. Don’t allow anyone to steal from you, especially don’t be pick-pocketed because it means that your entire accumulated wealth for the year will be stolen.
  10. Don’t owe any money lest your wealth will go to others.

Next year will be the Year of the Pig, representing the 12th and final cycle in the 12 year lunar calendar. Until then, wishing everyone a very lucky and prosperous Lunar New Year!


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Unique Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Her

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Valentine’s Day has been celebrated here in the United States for over 300 years. It’s a popular and happy holiday, particularly for couples who are romantically inclined. However, it can also be stressful. People often feel pressured on Valentine’s Day to find a way to adequately express the depth of the affection they feel. As a result, you may end up spending a lot of money searching for something unique to buy, something different to do, or something impressive enough to demonstrate just how much you love and appreciate your special person.

While I would certainly not recommend waiting to the last minute to think about the Valentine’s Day gift you want to give, nor would I recommend using your local supermarket for a store bought card and plastic wrapped roses, I can say with confidence that you can find small and sweet ways to acknowledge the subject of your adoration that will carry just as much meaning as a grand gesture.

There are two key guidelines to follow when looking for unique Valentine’s Day gift ideas for her:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Put in a little effort

When your gift reflects her individual tastes and preferences, you are telling her how intimately you know her. And when your gift shows that you had to put in time and thought, you are telling her how much you care. This is what romance is all about – it’s not about the money.

Classic Gifts With A Twist

Red roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, champagne and sexy lingerie have become rather predictable gifts for Valentine’s Day and while they are sure bets, they are also fairly banal so don’t make the cut for unique Valentine’s Day gift ideas for her. Why not play a bit with the classic ideas?

FLOWERS: For example, instead of sending roses, get her favorite flowers instead. These days, our access to flowers is not confined to the seasons so that’s no excuse. Spring flowers such as tulips and hyacinths are readily available and can be the harbinger of warmer weather and bluer skies. Of course, if you don’t know her favorite flower…. well, you should!

CHOCOLATES: Sweets are a lovely Valentine’s Day gift for her, but there’s no need to be restricted by the ubiquitous chocolate-covered strawberries. A little research on the web will reveal all kinds of fun and unusual chocolates to treat her with. When she opens our precious “jewelry box” of bonbons, she will behold an array of shiny “gemstones” that are as beautiful to look at as they are delectable to eat.

Our one-of-a-kind French bulldog chocolates are an adorable and unique Valentine’s Day gift for her and you can’t beat the charming packaging.

The old-fashioned “conversation” hearts can be a nostalgic Valentine’s Day sweet gift for her. Pair it with a Victorian-era Valentine’s Day card asking her to “Be Mine” and some tea roses that looked like you picked them from Grandma’s garden, and you have a very traditional gift with an old-time feel that makes it seem fresh again!

LINGERIE: Instead of lingerie, think about something else in a sexy, satiny fabric. How about a silk blouse in a bright ruby red, sapphire blue or emerald green? Be sure to get the size right! If you don’t want to splurge on satin sheets, satin pillowcases are a real treat and women like them because they help keep our hair in place while we sleep. Besides, they feel wonderful against the skin.

CHAMPAGNE: Champagne is very festive, but maybe it’s not her preferred drink. Think about gathering the ingredients to make her favorite specialty cocktail, or visit a local distillery where they are making artisanal gins and whiskeys and enjoy an afternoon of tastings. Remember, it’s not about giving a gift that the holiday dictates: it’s about giving a Valentine’s Day gift that is personal to her.

Surprises Big and Small

Organizing a surprise definitely takes time and effort and if your sweetheart likes spontaneity, then this could be the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Surprises can come in lots of packages. There is, of course, the grand display: tell her to pack a weekend bag, pick her up at work and go to the airport headed to Paris, Milan or Reykyavik! But there are many ways to surprise and delight that are more modest.

For example, what does she do every day? Let that guide your gifts. You could present her with a Starbucks card (or put the app on her phone and hook it to your account for a week or months worth of morning coffees), or get her a subscription to a wine of the month club. Gifts that give more than once are truly memorable.

Show her you love her by doing some of the chores she does every day: make the bed; clean the kitchen; take out the recycling; plan, shop and prepare a nice meal; walk the dog; pick the kids up from school, etc.  Gifts like these take effort on your part, and give her the precious gift of time. She can choose how she wants to spend it.

Leave little hand-written love notes where she will find them all day long on Valentine’s Day. Put one in her wallet, in her briefcase, on the bathroom mirror, in the fridge, in her lunch bag, in her underwear drawer, in the car, on the alarm clock in the morning, etc. Anywhere she will discover them through-out the day. You’ll be reminding her multiple times how much she means to you. And isn’t that the point of a Valentine’s Day gift?

Take it Public

Valentine’s Day gifts for her are often shared in private. Why not make a statement with a public display of your affection? Send a gift to her at work. This will surprise her and bring attention from her co-workers. Go to her work and take her out to lunch. Kiss her in public. Hold hands while you walk.

Do something she enjoys with her. Take her to her favorite store and participate in the shopping experience, whether it is testing perfumes, looking at jewelry, or trying on clothes for example. How about getting side-by-side pedicures and manicures? Sign the two of you up for a wine tasting class, or a cooking class, or a lecture at the museum, or a sporting event. One year, Jehv came to an exercise class of mine and it was hysterical watching him as he tried to keep up with the tough work out. He is very physically fit, mind you, and he never had much respect for what he perceived as the “girlie” gym classes I went to. But after taking this class with me he was rather chagrined and he let me know how much he admired my strength and stamina.

Tell her why you love her

Although the meaning of red roses and other Valentine’s Day gifts may be readily apparent don’t miss the opportunity to use your words! Make it personal if you can. If you do give her a card, take a little time to write something yourself. Although the card will hold the sentiment, to make it personal it needs your own touch. You can never go wrong if you simply tell her why you love her.

Note that while the focus of this post is on unique Valentine’s Day gifts for women, many if not most of my ideas can easily be translated into unique Valentine’s Day gifts for men. This holiday is traditionally about gifts for her, but why be mired in convention? Believe me, your guy will be thrilled to be acknowledged on Valentine’s Day. Remember, the same guidelines apply: make it personal, and put in a little effort. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!


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Gift Ideas for the Lunar New Year 2018: The Year of the Dog

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This year, Friday February 16th marks the first day of the New Lunar Year! The date changes every year and is based on the Chinese Lunar calendar which uses a 12 year cycle instead of the more familiar Western 12 month cycle. The holiday used to be called Chinese New Year (and still sometimes is), but since the holiday is celebrated among many Asian cultures, it has now become more commonly known as the Lunar New Year, and more recently, the Spring Festival.

Despite the fact that most Asian cultures have adopted the Western yearly calendar, Lunar New Year has maintained its status as a culturally significant and historically important annual holiday. The celebrations begin on the eve of the holiday (February 15th this year) and last for 15 days culminating with the magical Lantern Festival.

The Lunar New Year is a big gift giving holiday. Gifts that symbolize prosperity and good fortune for the coming year are offered to business associates and extended family alike. Whether you are sending it from afar, or bringing it to your host for a traditional Lunar New Year’s eve reunion dinner, there are some simple rules to follow when choosing an appropriate gift for Chinese New Year.

Fruit Baskets

Fruit baskets are time-honored gifts for Lunar New Year. Lucky for Manhattan Fruitier! And luck is what this holiday is all about. Customary gifts are those that are symbols of good luck, wealth and prosperity. Typically, citrus fruits are given this time of year for several reasons. First of all, the Lunar New Year falls during the cold winter months when citrus is the most abundant fruit. Secondly, citrus fruits are round in shape and “gold”en in color: roundness suggests fullness in the belly and the pocket, and having “gold” means having wealth. Finally, the way the names of citrus fruit such as tangerines and oranges are pronounced in Chinese sounds like the same word for “success”.

Every year at Manhattan Fruitier we like to create a new Lunar New Year gift that incorporates only propitious fruits along with cookies hand-iced in lucky red and gold colors and made in the shape of the animal of the year: this year, it is the dog, known for its loyalty, sociability, smarts and courage. How adorable is this gift?

Traditionally, fruit baskets are displayed on the Lunar New Year dinner table as a kind of centerpiece so a pretty fruit basket filled with symbols of good fortune is a perfect Chinese New Year gift to bring whether for family, friends or business partners!

Money

Cash gifts are also common to give on the Lunar New Year. This makes sense as the holiday is all about welcoming wealth. This time of year, shops in Chinatown here in Manhattan are simply overflowing with lucky red envelopes for cash. If it’s wrapped in red it’s more than just the dollar amount: it’s considered lucky money! Make sure the bills are clean and crisp as it would be considered highly disrespectful to give a gift of old or dirty cash. And take care not to use white envelopes: these are reserved for cash gifts given at funerals only.

Numbers hold great traditional significance. For example, the number four when spoken is very similar to the word for death in Chinese. So for the lucky Lunar New Year, you will want to avoid giving a monetary gift in an amount that includes the number four. Even numbers are the best bet and since the luckiest number is eight and it is believed that good things come in pairs, it has been suggested that $88 is the perfect amount of money to give if you are going to give cash for a Lunar New Year gift.

Among business associates, paying off of any debt incurred during the past year is expected before the Lunar New Year begins. It does not bode well for prosperity if you carry a debt into the New Year, so it is also considered de rigueur to refuse giving a loan to someone you care about.

Dog-Themed Gifts

Since 2018 begins the Year of the Dog, it could be a fun idea to send a gift that is sweet and untraditional, but on topic with the Lunar New Year, such as our litter of six chocolate French Bulldog puppies: 2 each of dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate!

 2018 Lunar New Year Gift Idea

2018 Lunar New Year Gift Idea

Dogs themselves are considered lucky animals to the Chinese. Dogs are faithful companions who will be loyal to you whether you are wealthy or not. One adage is that if a stray dog comes into your home, it is a sign that good fortune is coming soon. So an unexpected gift of chocolate dogs will be welcomed on Chinese New Year!

Rice Jars

A symbolic gift to give for the Lunar New Year is a proverbial jar full of rice! In Asian culture, a full rice jar connotes affluence and the good fortune to be free from concern about having enough food to eat. During the Lunar New Year celebration, it is important to have food be plentiful as a harbinger of the riches to come. While many modern day kitchens do not have an actual physical jar of rice, the sentiment of this gift for the holiday will not be lost.

Liquor

A gift of liquor is also quite common at this holiday, especially among corporate colleagues. Look for the amber-colored spirits and wines in keeping with the belief that gifts of gold color will bring wealth and good fortune. There are so many interesting options available these days with the artisanal spirits trend: whiskeys are more popular than ever! Before giving a gift of wine or liquor, it’s always a good idea to be sure that your recipient drinks alcohol.

Gifts to Avoid

There are certain gifts that would be considered bad omens to bring into one’s home and should be avoided during the Lunar New Year. For instance, although fruit baskets are customary gifts at this time of year, pears should not be included because the way the word for pear sounds when spoken in Chinese is not auspicious. Scissors and knives are thought to represent the act of slicing apart or splitting and can suggest the severing of a relationship. Also, if you were to cut yourself on the gift, it would bring bad luck for the following year. Clocks symbolize the passing of time and the approach of death, which is not what one wants to bring into their home. Beware about giving a necklace, a tie or a belt as a gift, unless it is to someone you have an intimate relationship with as these items are all things that are believed to bind you together so are usually exchanged only between couples.

Colors carry deep meanings in Asian cultures. As I mentioned above, the color white is associated with funerals. Black or blue color signifies death. So when considering a gift for the Lunar New Year, be careful to wrap your present in a lucky color. Red is believed to be a color that scares away evil spirits that bring bad fortune; yellows and golds symbolize wealth and prosperity. So be sure to include these colors in your Lunar New Year gifts and you will clearly communicate the wish you want to bring with the gift you give.

In my next blog about the Lunar New Year, I’ll talk about some of the history and holiday traditions of this fascinating ancient celebration.


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Valentine’s Day Gift Basket Ideas

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As January progresses past New Year’s and the month of February approaches, our attention begins to turn to the next holiday: Valentine’s Day! Most people associate the spirit of the day with romantic and sexual love, so when we think about giving gifts on Valentine’s Day, we have a tendency to focus on things that are associated with passion and indulgence. And that’s what I’m going to spotlight today when I share with you my classic “themes of love” Valentine’s Day gift basket ideas.

Sensual Fruits

Fruits embody sensuality. First, fruits are actually “ovaries” that develop around fertilized seeds after the reproductive process of pollination. Second, think about the words we use to describe fruit: sweet, fleshy, juicy, succulent, luscious, ripe, and tender to name a few. Third, the way we eat fruit can be pretty sensuous to experience and to observe. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the sexiness in all that!

Finally, certain fruits are believed to possess properties of an aphrodisiac. For example, the apple is a notorious symbol of temptation since Biblical times, and in Greek mythology, the lure of eating pomegranate seeds was too much for poor Persephone to deny and thus she sealed her own fate to live below the earth’s surface in Hades.

To learn more about other “fruits of love”, refer to our popular blog from February 2014 written with knowledge and affection by our own Matthew J!

Roses

The red rose is a classic symbol of love. When you send red roses, the meaning of your missive is unambiguous! Many of our Valentine’s Day gift baskets are paired with red roses for that very reason. A fresh fruit basket or a box of chocolates suddenly takes on a whole new implication once we add red roses to the gift.

We order well over a thousand long stemmed red roses for Valentine’s Day every year! We actually start looking at the roses much earlier, around the middle of January. We purchase several varieties from different farms and we experiment with them to find the best performer. We want to learn how fast they bloom, how big they open, and how long they last. We want the roses you send to open in a wildly flirtatious way and look good even as they are fading! This year, we have selected a red rose called “Freedom”. If you are looking for Valentine’s Day gift basket ideas that include red roses, ours will be available on February 12th, the Monday before the holiday.

Chocolates

Chocolates have also become rather de rigueur in Valentine’s Day gift baskets for him or for her. Chocolates and their creamy sweetness represent indulgence and Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to pamper your sweetheart with treats of all kinds. Chocolate-covered strawberries are ubiquitous this time of year. For the best options, look for smaller strawberries as they are the tastiest. Some even come with their green tops still on for extra charm. Harder to find is a strawberry dipped in real, premium chocolate, like Valhrona. Most “chocolate” that is used is completely fake, and although it may look like chocolate, it doesn’t taste like chocolate.

Not sure whether to send fresh fruit, roses or chocolates? Why choose? We can solve that dilemma by offering Valentine’s Day gift baskets (for her or for him) that include all three components! We call them our Three Part Harmony Gifts, in three sizes:

Three Part Harmony: Tenor, Alto (pictured), and Soprano

Lavish Gifts

This may be the year when you want to express your ardor in a monumental way: go for it! Think sumptuous and extravagant. Create a feast of love with an intimate tableau in your own living room (or bedroom). You can do it yourself, or let us do it for you. Our luxe and deluxe Epicurean Hamper will tempt with delicate delectables from appetizers to dessert. Consider having it delivered with caviar and champagne to amp up the passion even more.

Epicurean Hamper with Caviar

Or perhaps you’d prefer to send our “Lavish Love”: a new Valentine’s Day gift basket idea that we developed for 2018. The name says it all! We set the stage with champagne, chocolates, caviar and red roses, and you provide the rest for a perfect romantic experience.

New for Valentine’s Day 2018

Whether you create your own “themes of love” gift baskets, or choose to send one of ours, don’t be sexist in your thinking about this holiday! Traditionally, Valentine’s Day gifts tend to be for her, but men like getting Valentine’s Day surprises too. Our romantic selections make great Valentine’s Day gift baskets for him as well!


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Imbibing in Manhattan: A Guide to Popular Drinks by Neighborhood

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Last month we looked at three iconic drinks that best represent each of New York City’s five boroughs. Now it’s time to dive into Manhattan and find out what drinks best exemplify a few select neighborhoods. Grab a glass (have your Lyft app loaded) and let’s explore what each neighborhood has to offer.

Upper East Side

The Upper East Side is the embodiment of haute Manhattan culture. With lavish townhouses and mansions overlooking Central Park, this is the epitome of luxury. Whether its window shopping down Madison Avenue or spending a day strolling museum mile, the USE has something for native New Yorkers and visitors from around the world!

Classic Dry Martini:  Whether you like it shaken or stirred, a Classic Dry Martini is the perfect embodiment of the lavish lifestyle of the Upper East Side. From movies to literature, this cocktail has become synonymous with swanky dinner parties and elegant bars. If you’ve never ordered a martini at a bar before, we recommend you try a gin martini and just tell the bartender you want a dry martini straight up with olives! That should do the job.

Ingredients:

  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ½ ounces London dry gin, such as Beefeaters of Hendricks
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth, preferably Noilly Prat
  • Green olive for garnish

Method:

In mixing glass or cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin and vermouth. Stir well, about 20 seconds, then strain into martini glass. Garnish with olive and serve.

Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne:  Moet is by far one of the most recognized luxury champagne brands around; and for a good reason! Founded in 1743 Moet & Chandon has become a staple drink in high society. From exhibition openings at the Guggenheim to exclusive penthouse parties, Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne is elegant enough to launch any party the UES can throw!

Upper West Side

The earthier, more ethnically diverse and artsy sister to UES, the Upper West Side is home to such cultural venues as Lincoln Center (ballet, opera, classical music and jazz, theatre), Beacon Theatre, and Symphony Space. People come to the UWS to be entertained. During the day you can see families strolling about or grabbing a bite at the UWS’ famous Jewish eateries, Zabar’s or Barney Greengrass. This area is the perfect mix of boogie and family life.

Galil Mountain Alon Red Kosher 2011:  With the UWS being home to a large Jewish community, what better way to celebrate their rich heritage than a glass of kosher red or white wine from Galil Mountain Winery, using grapes grown in Galil Mountain range in Israel. We sell bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon that can be delivered anywhere in New York City or New York State.

Tom Collins: First made famous in London in the 1800’s, the Tom Collins became a classic cocktail for a night out. Made with gin and lemon, this refreshing cocktail is well suited for a night of opera or ballet.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 2 parts gin (we recommend Queens Courage Gin made in Queens, NY)
  • 2/3 part simple syrup
  • Soda water to taste
  • 1 Wedge Lemon
  • 1 Cherry

Method:

  1. Stir lemon juice, gin and simple syrup in a highball glass.
  2. Fill with ice cubes.
  3. Top up with soda water.
  4.  Garnish with lemon and a cherry.

Tribeca & Soho

Known for its hip industrial vibe, Soho and Tribeca have something for everyone: great shopping, diverse food, music … it’s the place to be.

Mojito: One of the most versatile cocktails around, with so many flavor options it’s the perfect drink for a night out on the town! Why not add passion fruit or coconut for an exotic twist to the night out!

Ingredients:

  • 1-ounce lime juice (for different flavors, try a different juice)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounce white rum
  • 1 ½ club soda
  • Mint leafs

Method:

  1. In a shaker, lightly muddle the mint with wooden spoon.
  2. Add the simple syrup, lime juice, and rum, and fill with ice.
  3. Shake well and pour (unstrained) into a highball glass.
  4. Top with the club soda and garnish with a mint sprig.

“Launch Over It” IPA:  This boutique brew is made by Birreria in Manhattan. It is cask-conditioned in bourbon barrels, and has notes of bourbon, citrus, and tropical fruit. It pairs well with a variety of foods, or perfect for drinking on its own.

Wall Street

With billions traded each day, Wall Street is very much the financial capital of NYC and the world. With the extreme volatility of the stock market, you need a drink that can handle even the bear market.

Macallan 18 year Single Malt Scotch: Some of us conjure up an image of leather-backed chairs, cigar in one hand and a glass of scotch in the other when we think of Wall Street. It may be a cliché today, but that doesn’t mean Scotch isn’t a go to drink for traders and bankers. That’s why we’ve decided on a Macallan 18-year-old single malt Scotch, aged in a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. It’s a rich and complex scotch, not for the faint-hearted. Whether it is in the boardroom or sipping at home, one thing is for sure, this scotch will make a statement.

Habit Red Bordeaux: The investors and bankers of wall-street are famous for their extravagant dining habits, from business lunches to wining and dining clients. The one thing a meal always needs is a powerful wine that makes a statement. Habit Red Bordeaux is an esteemed bottle of organic red wine from Santa Barbara, CA. It’s full-bodied with notes of blackberry, dark cherry, chocolate, and earthy undertones that are sure to impress!

Harlem

Since prohibition, Harlem has been a cultural center of Manhattan, from jazz to soul food to gospel churches, this neighborhood has something for everyone. Walk along 125th Street starting at the historic Apollo Theatre and explore the rich culture and history Harlem has to offer.

Harlem Cocktail: While it bears the name of such an iconic neighborhood, much like the Manhattan cocktail, little is known about its origins. Its roots can be traced back to the prohibition era. The unique combination of pineapple juice and gin makes for a delicious cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce Gin
  • 1 ½ ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
  • Pineapple chunks (for garnish)

 

Method:

  1. Combine all, shake with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
  2. Garnish with pineapple chunks.

 

Gin Ricky: The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s brought in a new age of music and a new popular drink. Singers such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday popularized blues and jazz vocals, during this period. To honor the deep jazz roots of Harlem, no drink is more synonymous than the Gin Ricky. It was said to be the preferred drink of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Ingredients:

1 ½ Ounce Gin

1 lime cut in half

Club soda

Method:

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice and add the gin.
  2. Juice the lime halves into the glass and drop in the juiced lime shells.
  3. Fill with club soda.

This ends of our Manhattan neighborhood alcohol beverage tour. More neighborhoods in other boroughs are just around the corner. Until then, visit the Manhattan Fruitier website to learn more about the wines featured in this blog post, as well as other natural wines. Manhattan Fruitier delivers wine and Champagne in New York.


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