Remember when I told you about the awesome Azorean cookbook we got from our neighbors? Well, I've dabbled in a thing or two beyond the molha. One of the recipes that intrigued me from the beginning was one for a milk liqueur. The name alone is enough to pique one's interest. But lest you think this is a creamy drink like Irish cream, let me disabuse you of that notion.
Rather, the idea here is that milk is combined with liquor and other ingredients, most importantly citrus. The acid from the citrus causes the milk solids to coagulate, and the milk liquids that are left behind give the liqueur a viscosity and weight that you cannot get from alcohol and sugar alone.
Best of all, as with nearly all the recipes in the book, is the grace note:
Around Christmas, it was traditional to make, quite in advance, various homemade liqueurs, destined for the friends who were to come round. These liqueurs, characteristic of the Christmassy period, were tenderly named the "wee of little Jesus" or "o xixi do menino Jesus." This tradition, with the passing of time and the running around for time, is now starting to disappear, although it is continued by inviting friends over for the so-called "xixi" that now, at the best of times, is no more than a gin, a whisky or any other purchased drink.
So, if you, like I, are interested in keeping this treasured tradition alive, read on.
I can't think of the last time I bought commercial egg nog. The very thought of it was sort of gag-inducing for a long time. As a child I loved the stuff, but at some point my tastes changed, and the last grocery store nog I remember drinking was sickly sweet with a thick, gloopy texture that evoked a mixture of molasses and Elmer's glue.
But when Amy reached out with an invitiation, collaborating with Beth from Whole Foods Northern California, offering a tasting of different egg nogs, my curiosity was piqued. Surely there must be good egg nogs on the market, and I intended to find out.
I figured it would be all, drop in, taste some nogs, and blow. Yeah, not so much. Beth had laid out an entire table with not just the nogs, but some other goods she wanted us to try. From the bakery, we had a chocolate turtle cake and an orange upside down cake, the latter of which was good by any metric, even though it had oranges all over it.
And there were cheeses, most notably a nice gouda with holiday spices (nutmeg and cumin prevailed) that immediately evoked egg noggy goodness, and a manchego paired with a curiously good cranberry nut cake.
And then Beth whisked away for a moment to retrieve the ham. Because, of course, you need ham to taste egg nog.
Positioned as we were smack in the middle of a very public space, seated around a table positively laden with cartons of egg nog, plates of nibbles, bottles of wine (yes, there was wine) and a big old ham, we of course got a lot of attention. One lady passed by our table no fewer than three times, ogling us with crazy eyes while dragging a granny cart behind her, before she stopped to say, "You've got a picture perfect party going on. But I guess you knew that. Ha ha ha ha. But it could be better, if you had rattlesnake handlers." Riiiight.
We are fortunate to live in an area that, despite an exorbitant cost of living, still manages to support a vibrant scene of artists, artisans, craftsmen and craft food purveyors. So this season I encourage, nay implore you to shop micro-local and support the folks who put their heart and soul into their handiwork. Here's a list of upcoming events where you can find the best and brightest.
Hit up the Bayview Underground Food Scene Community Pop-Up Market tomorrow and each Thursday to get your hands on some serious indie eats. Pick up some organic beauty products from Beautiful You organic beauty products, grab sweet stuff from Earl’s Bread & Brittle, SF Honey & Pollen Co. and Yvonne’s Southern Sweets as a stocking stuffer, and stock up on Gratta Wines for holiday entertaining. Plus, yummy nibbles from a global array of food providers. Thursdays through February, 5-7:30 pm. Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St. @ Mendell, San Francisco.
Saturday, check out the very popular New Taste Marketplace on Potrero Hill. A huge selection of local foods will be represented, including a few giftables like Il Fiorello's local olives and oil, Hive 707's hyper-local honey, and Jerk 'n Pickles jerky and pickles. But you'll probably bust a gut tasting everything else there. Periscope and Linden Street will again be representing. Saturday 12/7, 11 am-5 pm. 500 De Haro, San Francisco.
Saturday and Sunday, the Jingletown Winter Art Walk decks the walls with local artists' works, including our pal Sam Breach's stunning photography. Textiles, jewelry, and much more, all in a charmingly gritty industrial neighborhood. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 11 am-6 pm. Various locations in Jingeltown, Oakland.
Also this weekend hit up the SFMade Holiday Gift Fair for, yes, handmade gifts from and themed on San Francisco. Nifty coasters, prints, bags and more, all with a SF motif -- including my favorite, Drywell Art. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 10 am-5 pm. Fort Mason Fleet Room, San Francisco.
The same weekend and also at Fort Mason is the Museo Italo-Americano's Mercato di Natale, featuring a variety of crafts, jewelry, and of course food. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 10 am-6 pm. Fort Mason, Building C, San Francisco.
If you're headed south, swing by Happy Girl Kitchen's Holiday Craft Market in Pacific Grove for a carefully curated group of local artisans, featuring, and I quote, "glasswork, ceramics and pottery, knitting and crocheting, baking, preserving, air plants, candles and cordials, kids corner, printmaking, paintings and MORE!!!" Sunday, 12/8, 10 am-4 pm. 173 Central Ave, Pacific Grove.
Next Friday, local food incubator La Cocina will have their annual marketplace, showcasing many of the artisans whom they've helped usher into the world. Longtime favorites like Kika's Treats and Clairesquares (pictured, above, from a previous marketplace) will be there, as well as many others. Friday, 12/13, 11 am-7 pm. Crocker Galleria, 50 Post St, San Francisco.
That same evening, come to our 'hood for Let It SNoe, the final microhood project put on by The Bold Italic and Google Local. Shop the local boutiques in fair Noe Valley, and enjoy drinks, treats and "unexpected delights." Friday, 12/13, 6 pm-?? Along 24th Street, Noe Valley, San Francisco.
The artsiest, fartsiest spot in Oakland, the Crucible will be hosting their annual Holiday Gifty Art Sale and Open House. In the huge 56,000 square foot space, watch industrial art demos, sip and nibble delicious fare, and shop for art, jewelry and, uh, bicycles? Yes, bicycles. Saturday, 12/14, 12-6 pm and Sunday, 12/15, 12-5 pm. 1260 7th St, Oakland.
The Bay Area Homemade Market takes to Berkeley's FIREHOUSE.ART.COLLECTIVE, with a healthy selection of local artisans. Think brittles, cookies, jams, soaps and plenty to eat on hand. Satueday, 12/14, 12-6 pm. 1790 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.
The South of Marketplace Holiday Fair brings yet another (and as yet unlisted) cadre of crafty souls. Bonus prize: A photo booth, so put on your showiest garb and grab a snap. Sunday, 12/15, 11:30 am-6 pm. 1425 Folsom St, San Francisco.
Last but most certainly not least, just in the nick of time, the Renegade Craft Fair takes to the vacuous Concourse Exhibition Center with more than 250 (!) makers; of course food, drink and music; yup, another photo booth; plus cool workshops to make your own woodcut maps and wood beer case. Saturday and Sunday, 12/21-22, 11 am-6 pm. Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St, San Francisco.
We get a lot of food-related books, in large part because I know many of the authors. This has been a rather spectacular year for them, and here's a few of the ones that we allow to occupy precious space in our pantry shelf. If you're here in San Francisco, please trek down to Omnivore Books and pick a few up, won't you?
Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese When I heard Stephanie and Garrett were working on a mac and cheese cookbook, I did not imagine that they would literally redefine the concept. Forget elbow macaroni and day-glow orange cheese sauce. With erudite information on artisan cheese and pasta, this book will make you think about the combinations of noodles and cheese in entirely new ways. I'll be cooking from this for a long time to come.
Duck, Duck, Goose Another blog friend, Hank Shaw returns with his second book (the first being the very useful Hunt, Gather, Cook), a compendium of recipes for duck and goose. Even if you're not a hunter, it's a great resource with tips on butchery and approachable recipes with a global influence. We haven't cooked much duck at home, and goose just twice, but we'll probably do more now.
Homemade with Love When Jennie's husband died abruptly a couple years ago, it rippled throughout the blog world. One of the ways she was able to put her broken life back together was through cooking, and this book reflects the heart and soul she has been putting into the food she makes for herself and two young daughters in the wake of the tragedy. Jennie graciously hosted a few of us for a brunch; you truly can taste the love.
Vegetable Literacy Deborah Madison, famously of the vegetarian restaurant Greens, turned out this stunner that goes beyond mere cookery and into the realm of botany. By grouping vegetables into families, you understand more about how their flavors complement each other, enabling you to become a more creative cook. Or, just leave it out as a gorgeous coffee table book. I won't judge.
Southern Italian Desserts I love Rosetta Costantino's first book, My Calabria, featuring one of Italy's most intriguing and overlooked cuisines, and moreover from one of the regions my family comes from. With her second, she focuses on the extremey diverse sweets of five southern Italian provinces: Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicilia. From the rustic to the extremely fancy, each of these recipes look amazing.
The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook Kathy Strahs started her blog Panini Happy only a couple years after I started Hedonia. With her book, she busts out not only creative, crispy sandwiches (hello, Nutella, brie and basil sandwich? Yes, and it totally works) but clever ideas on using the humble panini press as a versatile tool in the kitchen. I got to sample a few 'wiches recently with her and Adam, the associate publisher, and am inspired.
Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook I met Jessica Goldman Foung by sitting across the table from her in our local coffeeshop. Because of severe health issues, she must maintain an extremely low-sodium diet. What's a foodie to do? She took the bull by the horns and developed a book full of recipes that have little salt but big flavor. It's quite literally a life savor for those who must cut back on salt but don't want to eat cardboard.
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook We're big fans of the Beekman Boys, and it's not just becase we bear a mild resemblance to them and aspire to a similar existence to what they've undertaken. While the recipes look perfectly delicious, the photography is the star here, with moody overtones and compositions reminiscent of Dutch Masters' still lifes. A real beaut, the kind of cookbook you just want to sit and thumb through.
San Francisco: A Food Biography Food is at the core of San Francisco's culture and identity, so what better way to tell its story than through the lens of food. From its earliest days, with windswept dunes and Indian villages, through the Victorian era and right to modern times, Erica Peters serves up plate after plate of the City by the Bay. Since I myself am a tour guide with Edible Excursions, I'll be mining this for relevant information as well as just plain good reading.
Inside the California Food Revolution Of course California's modern era is what most people know best. Former chef Joyce Goldstein was present in the most influential years from 1970 to 2000, when California drove the culinary scene across the nation. Using material from interviews with some 200 people (!), Goldstein gets a holistic view on how and why California came to rise as a culinary power. I saw her speak on the book, and she really knows her stuff.
Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting I hate dieting, and I'm terrible at it. I can follow a regimen for a while, but I always fail, because I hate denying myself delicious things. As Darya Pino Rose says, "seriously, screw that." A neuroscientist, Rose lays out a framework for a "healthstyle" that allows you to make simple choices that help you lose weight without losing your mind.