Have gift shopping and entertaining gotten the better of you? Here are some ideas for dialing it down.
By Melissa Schilling
The Hostess Gift: Let some other Jane Doe opt for a boring vanilla candle. Go for power flavor and bring your party hosts some serious local tang. PICKLES! Or how about a bouquet of pickles from Oakland’s Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop, where you’ll find pickles from San Francisco Pickle Company, Gills Gourmet, and Emmy’s Pickles along with the house-made pickled eggs in several delicious marinades (Franks Red Hot is my favorite)!
The Pre-Party: Maybe I read Valley of the Dolls one too many times, but for me, nothing sets the tone for a good night out better than an ice cream bombe from Ici ice cream shop on College Avenue in Berkeley. I like to eat one in my bedroom while I sip champagne, listen to music, and apply makeup at my vanity.
The Post-Party: We should all thank Berg Injury Lawyers for offering free cab rides (up to $35) within SF, Berkeley,
Oakland, and Alameda on certain holiday evenings. Personally I always swing by a taco truck on my way home. New Year’s hours are typically from 10pm Tuesday, December 31 through 3am Wednesday, January 1. Within San Francisco city limits, call Luxor Cab at 415.282.4141 and tell them “Berg Injury Lawyers is picking up the tab.” Within Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda city limits, call Veterans Cab at 800.281.4488 and tell them “Berg Injury Lawyers is picking up the tab.”
The Hangover Cure: So you’ve pried one eye open and you know you need a few things in order to feel human again? Let two of them be the spicy bánh mì sandwich and a mug of hot Roast CoffeeCo. coffee at Chop Bar in Jack London Square.
Christmas Eve Comfort Food
Chris Pastena’s Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Hazelnuts & Anchovies
If you’ve had a chance to peruse the Winter Holidays 2013 edition of Edible East Bay, you may have already reserved a table on Christmas Eve at A16 or Bocanova for a Feast of the Seven Fishes. If those Oakland eateries are booked up, try Lungomare, a new Jack London Square dining spot, where the cuisine runs toward Tuscany and Liguria. Lungomare is another project of Chris Pastena, co-owner of the popular Oakland eateries, Tribune Tavern and Chop Bar. He’s busy getting ready to open another one, but don’t expect to find Chris around Oakland on Christmas Eve, since he’ll be in New York cooking the Feast of the Seven Fishes for his Italian-American family. He’s shared the following recipe as an example of a dish that’s always part of his family’s feast, but don’t look for it on the menu at Lungomare: “This is home cooking,” says Pastena. “Those recipes don’t translate to restaurant food.”
We quartered the quantities, went a little heavy on the garlic, used a good, fruity local olive oil (like Chris suggests), and really enjoyed the unique hazelnutty twist on this very traditional Italian dish. Make sure to toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavor, and maybe add some salt and pepper. (The anchovies and cheese provide some saltiness.)
6 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces anchovies, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 pound hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
4 pounds of spaghetti
Grated pecorino cheese as needed
Slowly heat olive oil and anchovies in a pot over low heat until the anchovies melt into the oil, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and then add garlic and parsley. After about 2 to 3 minutes, slowly add the water and nuts. Then let the sauce sit as you make the pasta.
Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water. Once cooked, drain and mix in the sauce. Top with cheese and serve.
More Recipes for Holiday Comfort
Book reviews by Kristina Sepetys
Hygge is a Danish word that loosely translates to coziness, simplicity, and fellowship. Think relaxing with good friends and enjoying comfort food by firelight during the cold, dark winter. For the December holidays, here are three books filled with cured fish, preserved meats, root vegetables, pickles and preserves, warm drinks, lots of sweets, and loads of inspiration to help you get your hygge on.
Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann (Sterling, 2013). Copenhagen-based caterer and café owner Trine Hahnemann’s new book is all about Nordic (mostly Danish) Christmas foods, particularly those of the baked variety. Tuck into pages of wintry photographs, Danish styling, and just enough background and folklore to explain the dishes and their specialty ingredients, like sea buckthorn vinegar and orange pickled herring. Hahnemann advocates for sustainable and organically sourced food, writes regularly in magazines and newspapers in the U.S., Britain, and Denmark, and has authored five cookbooks in her native Danish and two in English: The Scandinavian Cookbook (Andrews McMeel) and The Nordic Diet (Skyhorse). From her latest, try the Meatballs with Pickled Beetroot, Redcurrant Almond Cupcakes, Rice Pudding with Hot Cherry Sauce, or a richly satisfying Turnip and Bacon Gratin. These are dishes that taste good when it’s cold or after a long day out in the snow. You may find yourself googling for more background to better understand Hahnemann’s occasionally spare instructions, but it’s worth the effort.
Duck, Duck, Goose by Hank Shaw (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
For many, nothing says Christmas and the winter holidays like a duck or goose in the oven. The author of the award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Shaw (who lives outside Sacramento), has delivered a richly illustrated cookbook about getting, cleaning, preparing, and cooking ducks and geese (“one of humankind’s oldest domesticated animals”). Duck, Duck, Goose includes detailed guides on species and breeds, selecting a duck in the market, and plucking and hanging a wild bird. Shaw’s delicious and manageable recipes include basics like Grilled Duck Breast and Slow-Roasted Duck; international flavors like Duck Pho, Sichuan Fragrant Duck, Mexican Duck with Green Mole; and holiday-worthy dishes like Perfect Roast Goose. It also features an array of duck and goose confit and charcuterie, from fresh sausages to dry-cured salami. “Crispy duck skin,” proclaims Shaw, “is one of the greatest pleasures of the dining table.”
Home Made Winter by Yvette van Boven (Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2012). This book was new last year, but worth another mention. Caterer, food stylist, and writer van Boven followed her popular Home Made with this stylish volume featuring original from-scratch recipes inspired by Dutch, French, and Italian cuisine, and best enjoyed during the cold winter season and December holidays. Atmospheric photographs of European street scenes and Irish countryside during the chilly, rainy months, together with palate-enticing photographs of finished dishes and hand-drawn notes, make readers want to head to the kitchen to cook up dishes like Beet-Marinated Rainbow Trout with Horseradish Mousse, Poppy Seed, and Apples; Wild Mushrooms with a Red Onion Compote; Beet Blinis with Salmon Marinated in Star Anise Syrup; Tartiflette of Cod; or ridiculously delicious Mudcake with Homemade Nut Butter (“may be the best recipe for the best chocolate cake,” notes the author).