There is almost always a tangerine, maple sugar candy, a walnut and chocolate coins in my stocking every Christmas morning. These small traditions are a comfort that represent hope about the new year and refresh my connections with my family tree.
Another seasonal ritual for me is writing a column about food gifts nearly every year since the early 1980s. I have recommended local foods, cookbooks, treats, classes, dinners and tastings so my readers don’t end up getting Chia Pets from their loved ones.
Now, I stand behind those foodie suggestions but, frankly, they were gifts for you, not necessarily for me. For instance, I do not need any more cookbooks … ever. The wish list below is what I want in my stocking. The items are all food favorites made in Boulder County. I do like condiments because they stretch the gift over a few weeks instead of being gobbled in the early morning Christmas fog.
Frasca Red Pepper Jelly: Slightly hot and sweet, this great jelly is perfect as a dip over cream cheese and it also makes a nifty glaze on chicken. (Available at The Peppercorn in Boulder and at frascafoodandwine.com)
Lucile’s Creole Café Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: One of the many pleasures of eating at the Boulder-born Lucile’s is the housemade jam on every table. This jam tastes like strawberry rhubarb pie filling and it brightens any piece of toast and goes great with 34 Degrees crackers and a ripe round of warm Haystack Mountain Snowdrop goat cheese. (The jam is available at Lucile’s Creole Cafe locations and luciles.com. The cheese and crackers are available at local markets.)
Bacon Jam: Yes, bacon jam is exactly like the name suggests. Yes, it is as good as it sounds and spreads. (Available as a side order at Organic Sandwich Co., 1500 Pearl St., Boulder)
Powdered Roasted Green Chile: Ground red chile is relatively easy to find but powdered green chile is a much rarer commodity. I love the stuff for thickening stews, sprinkling on pasta and adding to bread crumbs. (Available at Savory Spice Shop, Boulder)
Winechick Colorado Cherry Wine: I love tart Montmorency cherries and this Nederland-bottled wine captures that flavor without being too sweet. This friendly wine is made to be served with holiday ham, turkey or roasted chestnuts. (Available at local liquor stores)
Cherry Pie a la Mode Truffle: It’s like a classier chocolate-covered cherry with a great chocolate cherry flavor in a couple of bites. Actually, I wouldn’t turn down any of the other 39 truffle flavors and fillings at Boulder’s Piece, Love & Chocolate. (Available at the shop and at pieceloveandchocolate.com)
Espresso Cocomels: I like these kinder, gentler caramels made from coconut milk pumped up with organic coffee that truly melt in the mouth. (Available at local stores and at jjsweets.com)
Creamed Wildflower Honey: This superior raw honey tastes like where it comes from: Boulder County. Because it is creamed, the honey is easy to spread on buttered rustic bread but usually disappears a spoonful at a time directly from the jar. (Available at local stores and at highlandbees.com)
Porter-Stout Ice Cream Shake: Each of these local brews tastes fine individually, but combine Avery Vanilla Bean Stout, Liquid Mechanics Peanut Butter Porter and/or Boulder Beer Shake Chocolate Porter with Glacier Vanilla Ice Cream and you have a fine holiday craft dessert.
Iced Bhakti Chai Coffee Blend: I like Bhakti’s chai with its sassy fresh ginger juice flavor, and adding coffee only makes it better. (Available refrigerated at local stores)
Local Food News
Once upon a time, Comida was just a cool Boulder food truck run by Rayme Rossello. Then the first brick-and-mortar Comida opened in Longmont’s Prospect neighborhood, followed by a second location in The Source marketplace in Denver. A third Comida is about to open at Aurora’s cool new Stanley Marketplace development. … Just in time for the holidays, Boulder’s Food Lab hosts classes: Take and Bake Pie Class (Dec. 21); Latkes and Bubbles (Dec. 22); Gingerbread House Making for Kids (Dec. 23). foodlabboulder.com. … Coming soon: Uturn BBQ and brewery, 599 Crossing Drive in Lafayette. The former Burger King site will serve craft beer and platters at tables and through its drive-up window. … Sancho’s Authentic Mexican Food, 2850 Iris Ave., will open a second location at 6545 Gunpark Drive in Gunbarrel.
‘The center of the North American food universe’
If you are into food as a passion and an issue, put aside July 14-16, 2017. The nonprofit Slow Food organization will hold its big North America gathering, Slow Food Nations, in Denver with workshops, seminars, dine-around dinners, tours and a grand tasting hall. As a result, Slow Food noted, “For three days, Denver, CO will become the center of the North American food universe.” To get involved: slowfoodusa.org/slow-food-nations
On the Shelves
You can now serve your ravioli dressed with bottled Bolognese sauce from One Hop Kitchen. It is rich with vine-ripened tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, redolent garlic and mealworms and crickets. Ask guests to guess the secret ingredient after they taste the dish and watch as the fun ensues.
Big Macs and General Tso’s
Two unexpected food pioneers died recently at the age of 98. Jim Delligatti, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, invented the iconic Big Mac in 1967, basing it on a similar sandwich served at Big Boy restaurants. Remember “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”? We still don’t know why there was an extra bun in the middle and why they needed to note that the patties were “all-beef.”
There was a historical General Tso, but General Tso’s Chicken is not a traditional Chinese food. Taiwanese chef Peng Chang-kuei invented the iconic Hunanese Chinese restaurant dish in 1952 for a visiting American admiral. The sweetly sauced preparation is often served surrounded by steamed broccoli.
Words to Chew On
“The majority of people can live well with 20 or 30 recipes and, in fact, all of their family traditions and rituals are expressed through those recipes. The dishes that matter are the dishes that have been cooked with love, dishes that are part of a family’s structure, passed down from a grandmother, mother, spouse, aunt, uncle or cousin. Those dishes remain much more embedded in our taste memory than the recipes and dishes of great restaurants.” — Chef and TV cooking legend Jacques Pepin
John Lehndorff is the former dining critic of the Rocky Mountain News. He hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 FM, streaming at kgnu.org). Listen to podcasts: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles. Send comments, concerns and unwanted fruitcakes to: email@example.com.