Laurann Claridge | Photos by Jenny Antill
- December 09, 2009
Over the river and through the woods, past heavy construction along I-45, it’s off to grandmother’s house we go! ‘Tis the holidays, the time family and friends gather, drink too much eggnog and prepare the big feast. Here are some of our favorite food and drink picks to tote to grandmum’s house.
Mom isn’t much of a baker? Put her three steps ahead of scratch and let her whip up Cobblestone Kitchens Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes ($8), Anna Mae’s Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Icing from Robert Rothschild Farm ($9) or the Christmas Tree Dipped Cookie Kit by In The Mix ($11), all at Central Market. Decorate them with Crate & Barrel’s Holiday Sanding Sugars/Decoratifs sweet set ($6, at Crate & Barrel). For the more adventurous, play Frank Lloyd Wright and bake your own Gingerhaus gingerbread house kit — complete with blueprints for a structurally sound abode ($35, at surlatable.com). Or go the ready-to-assemble route with Cobblestone Kitchen’s Gingerbread House Kit with tons of candy and easy-to-mix-up royal icing ($16.50, at Central Market).
Now we know how those Scandinavians keep toasty through the chilly winter months: with Glögg, a festive, warm beverage spiced with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and citrus. Try Grandpa Lundquist’s version ($11, at nordichouse.com). It’s a Hiball of a different sort — this version is a 10-calorie, no-sugar, sparkling energy water with ginseng and B vitamins that will put the spring back in granny’s step ($2), while Mash is water with a soda look, in flavors such as Lemon Peel Ginger Root and Grapefruit Citrus Zing ($2 each, all at Central Market). Grandpa gussies up his gin with Fentiman’s traditional tonic water fermented with herbal extracts and botanicals ($2, at Central Market). Need something stronger? Hudson Ferus is a new American vodka made by two Texans with fresh Sierra Mountain water and distilled from corn ($17). Or maybe Granny — or you — could use a tequila shot. Milagro’s limited-edition Silver Select Barrel Reserve goes down so smooth ($70). Or nurse a classic Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge ($50). The latter three at fine liquor stores.
Indulge your hosts with delicious tokens of appreciation. Crate & Barrel’s Sea Salt Caramels dipped in chocolate are even certified kosher ($20, at Crate & Barrel). Or try The Caramel Candy Co.’s Pecan Caramel candies, made in small batches in Chappell Hill, Texas ($16 to $42, at caramelcandyco.com). Maybe she prefers dark chocolate? Who can turn away the Barefoot Contessa’s new Dark Chocolate Toffee ($15) and French bark ($17), both at stonewallkitchen.com? Splurge on something they might not treat themselves to: an exquisite 12-year-old balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy ($30), paired with Marca Verde il Classico Extra-Virgin Olive Oil ($10), both at Sur La Table. Sorelle Nurzia’s Panettone is a traditional Italian fruit-studded bread that’s perfect for breakfast; try making French toast with it, too ($25, at Central Market).
Boil up some shrimp — the easiest hors d’oeuvre ever — and put out Stonewall’s new Lemon Dill or Tequila Lime Cocktail Sauce ($5). Cradle a bit of pâté or perhaps a dollop of gruyère fondue in Chef Laurent’s pastry spoons ($14). Craving something crisp and salty before dinner? Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs are healthy, crunchy snacks made without wheat or gluten ($4.50), while Pop Chips take air-popped corn and form it into a dip-worthy chip ($3). Potato chips and onion rings don’t have to be ordinary with Alexia’s Waffle Fries and Onion Strips ($2.50 each). It’s a Southern thing: We love those cheesy, savory, shortbread-like bites. Slice and bake your own fresh from the freezer with Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, made in Mobile (three rolls $53, at mamieswafers.com). Holland’s Beemster is aged 18 months for a complex depth of flavor ($14 a pound). Mourning the ban on imported raw-milk Vacherin? L’Edel De Cleron, a pasteurized version, can fill the void ($21 a pound). This Vermont-made Grafton Village Cheddar is aged up to a whopping four years and gives you a whole new take on cheddar cheese ($19 a pound). It would be apropos to pair them with Earth & Vine’s Provisions Apricot Chili Pepper Jam ($8, at earthnvine.com), Stonewall Kitchen’s Apple Cranberry Chutney ($5) or Ficoco All Natural Fig and Cocoa Spread ($7). All at Central Market unless otherwise indicated.
Anyone charged with the task of cooking the holiday bird should consider shortcutting the work with Urban Accents Gourmet Gobbler Kit ($14). Step one, ensure that your bird doesn’t dry out by presoaking it in a spiced salt brine; the next day, rinse and rub with olive oil and this smoky peppercorn rub. Easy, we promise. Serve with New England Cranberry’s Cranberry Chutney ($7) or Texas Sweet Creations’ Cranberry Pineapple Pecan Relish ($5), all at Central Market. Or wow them with an impressive Niman Ranch crown roast of pork ($180 to $300, at williams-sonoma.com). Granny gave up canning peaches ages ago, but folksy Amish Wedding, an Ohio producer of old-fashioned jarred foodstuffs, hasn’t ($4, at troyerscountrymarket.com). God bless granny, but she has nothing on Callie’s Charleston Biscuits in buttermilk, ham, cheese and chive (two dozen $34 to $46, at calliesbiscuits.com). Who can pass up mac n’ cheese? Better than boxed, these four come packed in heat-and-serve ramekins ($37, at williams-sonoma.com). Dessert’s easy with La Donatella’s imported tiramisu from Italy ($15, at Central Market). No assembly required — simply plate and defrost straight from the freezer. Perhaps it’s pie you crave? Bake one with Country Living’s Classic Pumpkin Pie or County Fair Pecan Pie in a Jar ($14 each) with CL’s flaky piecrust mix beneath ($10), both at hfsfoods.com.
Let the grandparents sleep in; you’re making everyone Daddy Cakes pancakes for breakfast ($11) or the Austin fave, Kerbey Lane Café’s Gingerbread Pancake Mix ($6, at kerbylanecafe.com). Barefoot Contessa’s Foolproof Popover mix ($5) is a cinch to make and bake. And popovers are especially yummy paired with Harvest Song’s artisanal Wild Strawberry Preserves ($7). Or whip up some Merry Eggnog Muffins by Sticky Fingers Bakeries ($5). While granny likes a watered-down supermarket brew, we prefer a jolt of something stronger. Mokk…a ($7.50) is one of the few good pre-ground dark roasts that aren’t over-roasted. Forgoing coffee? Try Revolution’s antioxidant rich Acai Green Tea ($5). Grandmother’s remedy for nearly everything: honey. Cure all with a spoonful of The Hamptons Honey Company’s raw and unfiltered Creamed Spring Blossom Honey in your tea. ($11). All at Central Market unless otherwise indicated.
SANTA’S COCOA AND COOKIES‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring — save for Aunt Tilda, who was surreptitiously whipping up some hot cocoa with BonJour’s new Hot Chocolate Pot with frother attachment ($35, at bonjourproducts.com). Top with Mini Mighty Marshmallows double-dipped in a blend of milk and dark chocolates ($7, at Crate & Barrel) or stir with King Leo’s chocolate-dipped peppermint sticks ($7, at Central Market). Ole Saint Nick would adore Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread, now in festive holiday shapes ($10, at Cost Plus World Market). Santa couldn’t pass up these Snowman Brownie Pops, and neither could we ($37, at williams-sonoma.com). Speaking of snow, we adore these snowman-boxed shortbread and gingerbread cookies enrobed in white chocolate — and we know the big guy will, too ($6, at Central Market).