You have a busy few weeks ahead what with Solstice/Yule (12/22), Hanukkah (12/22), Festivus (12/23), Boxing Day (12/26) and Kwanzaa (12/26) plus Christmas and New Year’s Eve on the schedule. The one thing these year-ending festivities have in common is that they involve food. That means that you need to figure out food and beverages to cook, bring or wrap for festive celebrations.
My simple holiday message is this: If you are going to buy wine or cheese or salumi or dozens of other nibbles and sips for the season, choose local when you can. It’s not simply a feel-good, environmentally sensitive choice or a generally good idea for supporting Boulder County’s economy. You should sample, serve and gift the following local products from our various communities because they really are first-class foods and beverages and incredibly tasty.
Roasted Peach & Fennel Jam: Extraordinary exotic jams crafted in Boulder include Tomato Ginger Lime, Apricot with Honey & Lemon Verbena, Musk Melon, Rhubarb & Mezcal, and Meyer Lemon & Walnut Jam. sabajamsf.com
Pistachio and Pepita White Chocolate: Besides bean-to-bar 55% Light Milk Chocolate with Mint, Boulder’s Fortuna Chocolate makes a wonderful white chocolate bar. fortuna-chocolate.com.
Instant tea reinvented: Boulder’s CUSA produces instant tea for the 21st century: little envelopes of perfect, crystallized English breakfast, oolong, spicy chai, lemon black and mango green tea. Amazingly tasty and an ideal stocking stuffer for road trippers and backpackers. cusatea.com
Instant Coffee Reinvented: Equally portable and flavor-filled is the crystallized instant coffee from one of Boulder County’s Ozo Coffee locations, which makes fine hot or iced coffee on a plane or a mountain. Plus: No grounds or K-cups to dispose. ozocoffee.com
Umami All-Purpose Seasoning: I was already a fan of Seed Ranch Flavor Co.’s Umami Hot Sauce. Now the Boulder company offers Umami All Purpose Seasoning, a sprinkle-on combination of sea salt, porcini, kelp, smoked paprika and nutritional yeast that adds savory appeal to almost any dish. seedranchflavor.com
Jalapeño, Hatch Green Chile, Cheddar Grits: Really tasty, spicy, easy-to-prepare grits from Boulder’s FishSki Provisions are great for camping, but why wait? fishskiprovisions.com
Rosa de Jamaica: Best known for hot sauces, Green Belly Foods (Boulder) now bottles this refresher popular in Central America and the Caribbean. The drink is flavored with jamaica, the vibrant hibiscus flower that is the “red” in Red Zinger, plus a touch of cinnamon and a little raw cane sugar. greenbellyfoods.com
CBD chocolate: This great-tasting, single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate made in Boulder is infused with Colorado-grown full-spectrum hemp CBD oil. It’s organic, vegan, nut-free, gluten-free and non-GMO. mokshachocolate.com
Picaflor Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Flakes: Picaflor (Boulder) replaces flavorless red chile flakes with these heat treats made from fermented, dried organic peppers grown at Longmont’s McCauley Family Farms. picaflor.co
Rescued Fruit Preserves: Community Fruit Rescue (Boulder) uses fruit harvested by volunteers from local backyards to make Apple Sauce, Apple Butter, Pear Sauce, Spiced Canned Pears (with cardamom, star anise and cinnamon) and Plum Jam. fruitrescue.org
Hawaiian BBQ Sauce: This full-flavored tropical fruity barbecue sauce with some heat from Chiporro Sauce Company (Longmont) is made for grilled or smoked pork. chiporro.com
Sweet Milk Chocolate Toffee: Homemade by a Nederland family with butter, sugar and almonds topped with milk chocolate and pecans. Also: Espresso Dark Chocolate Toffee. tungstentoffee.com
Original Salted Pretzels: Broomfield’s On Tap Kitchen cracked the code on the best-tasting packaged pretzels that are winning national recognition. ontapkitchen.com
Orange Liqueur: The best tasting orange liqueur I’ve ever sampled is crafted by Longmont’s Grove Street Alchemy. grovestreetalchemy.com
Tingala: This is the world’s first liqueur infused with spilanthes — or buzz button flowers. Made with local corn spirits in Denver, it has a light cinnamon aroma and a taste that leaves your tongue both tingling and slightly numb for a few minutes. It’s an entertaining after dinner drink. tingalaspirits.com
More Culinary Gift Ideas: Any of the above local food and drink can be combined into a gift basket with the following:
• a gift card to a local independent restaurant
• a gift card to Local Table Tours (localtabletours.com), which guides group restaurant tours in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.
• A Thai cooking class in Lafayette with Thai-born cook Bee Rungtawan Kisich. facebook.com/beesthaikitchen.
• Gift your gluten-free friends a pizza cookbook that really yields yummy results: No Gluten, No Problem Pizza. The volume by Boulder bloggers Peter and Kelli Bronski features 75 detailed recipes to craft GF-free versions of thin to thick crust classics. nogluten-noproblem.com
• Forget the fruit-of-the-month club and give carb lovers a membership in the monthly Pasta Club from Boulder’s Pastaficio. Claudia Bouvier makes and delivers artisan, fresh, heirloom grain pastas and scratch-made sauces to homes in Boulder. pastificioboulder.com
• Give yourself a copy of How I Learned to Cook, An Artist’s Life published this year by Barbara Shark. The Lyons artist and cook chronicles her life in 326 pages of paintings, drawings and story-like recipes from pear kuchen to creamy zucchini gratin. howilearnedtocookanartistslife.blog
The Gift of Homemade Toffee
Jean Bolger — fiddler for Colcannon, Colorado’s premier Celtic band annually shares her recipe for wonderfully simple almond toffee. Colcannon performs an Irish Christmas Show Dec. 18 at the Longmont Theatre. colcannon.com.
Jean’s Microwave Almond Toffee
12 tablespoons butter (a stick and a half of regular salted butter)
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Line an 8-inch-square pan with foil. Put the sugar and butter in a biggish microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for about 3 minutes, then whisk it until it’s blended. Back in the microwave, this time for about 4 minutes. Now stir in the almonds and pop it back in the micro.
Cook it about 2 to 4 minutes more. This is where the timing gets a little tricky. In my microwave, which is not super powerful, it takes about three more minutes — you may have to experiment.
Using a spatula, pour it into the foil-lined pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over it. When melted, spread the chocolate evenly. Save a few chopped almonds to sprinkle on the top. Let it cool completely before serving. Note: Dry-roast almonds first for extra flavor.
Words to Chew On
“Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.” — M.F.K. Fisher
John Lehndorff was the founding director of Boulder’s Home for Unwanted Fruitcake and will celebrate National Fruitcake Day (12/27) if he can find a locally baked artisan fruitcake.