Whether you are on the holiday hunt for gifts or maybe something to help get you through the season (ahem, booze), this list has you covered with a few gift ideas and at least one tip for working some much-needed green juice into your winter season.
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF ALTOMONTE’S, P.S. & CO.; PHILADELPHIA DISTILLING; METROPOLITAN BAKERY; CHRISTMAS VILLAGE; STATESIDE URBANCRAFT VODKA; EAT THIS YUM; CORNERSTONE CHEESE AND CHARCUTERIE
Whether you are thinking of a home-cooked New Year’s Eve dinner or looking ahead to Valentine’s Day, these adorable heart-shaped ravioli are a delicious way to let someone special know you care. Cooking for someone is always romantic, but wearing your heart on your plate can really take your meal to another level. Available at Altomonte’s Italian Market & Delicatessen, 85 N. York Rd., Warminster, 215.672.5439, altomontes.com.
It’s that time of year for major indulgence in the food and drink department; the least you can do for your body is duck into P.S. & Co. for a revitalizing green drink when you’re on one of your cookie-fueled shopping sprees in Center City. All options are organic, raw and coldpressed. We especially like the Fitler Square—a combination of Swiss chard, cucumber, grapefruit and ginger—because it tastes really good while being good for you. Available at P.S. & Co, 1706 Locust St., 215.985.1706, puresweets.com.
Time to revive the pizzelle-making tradition in your family? First stop: Fante’s, the chockablock kitchenware emporium in the Italian Market. Shop owner Mariella Esposito recommends the Palmer Pizzelle Maker. You can even have it customized so all your pizzelles will be imprinted with a personalized monogram. Available at Fante’s Kitchen Shop, 1006 S. 9th St., 215.922.5723, fantes.com
Small-batch specialist Philadelphia Distilling has created a new gin that you’d mistake for a fine whiskey—at least at first glance. Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin has a brownish color thanks to the aging process. And in fact, the spirit was inspired by bourbon. The finished product is a complex elixir that defies classification. There are woody, caramel notes thanks to the barrel aging, but the flavor of juniper is classic gin. Available in Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores
Sure, a bottle of wine is a perfectly fine hostess gift, but everyone brings one. You know what your mom/friend/ cousin/Airbnb host really needs? Breakfast. Metropolitan Bakery’s granola trio has something for everyone and is healthy enough that your host will feel good about eating or serving it for breakfast. If you want bonus points, bring local yogurt, too. Available at metropolitanbakery.com.
Cookie making isn’t for everyone. No one will notice you are cheating with something store-bought as long as it’s really outstanding. Gilda’s Biscotti has you covered on that score with baker Gilda Doganiero’s sweet, crunchy classics. Any variety will do, but we’re partial to the lemon fig, which has just enough lemony tartness to balance that honey-sweet fruit and sugar. Available at gildasbiscotti.com.
THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
Christmas Village returns to Center City’s Love Park. The festive outdoor market will be open for two special preview days this year—November 21 and 22—and continues through Christmas Eve. Now in its eighth year, the German-inspired event attracted more than 600,000 visitors last holiday season. The shopping, festive decorations, and Christmas tree that lights up the center of this fest are nice, but the real attraction is the selection of seasonal food and drinks, including mulled wine, hot chocolate, bratwurst, schnitzel, döner kebab and pasties. Nibble, sip and stroll (and shop) your way into the holiday spirit amid the twinkling lights.
Hours: Friday and Saturday 11am to 8pm; Sunday through Thursday 11am to 7pm. Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving Day hours are 11am to 5pm (closed on Christmas Day).
A VODKA UPGRADE
Vodka has had a tough time in recent years. The revival of pre-Prohibition cocktails—drinks based largely on the brown spirits—pushed this formerly dominant booze to the margins, at least in the craft cocktail crowd. But some people see a chance for vodka to regain its former place both in the home liquor cabinet and behind the bar at trendy drinking destinations.
Matt Quigley, co-founder of Stateside Urbancraft Vodka, thinks that if a local product of sufficiently high quality can be made, the drinkers will come. At his distillery in Kensington, the vodka is made in small batches, filtered seven times and treated with minerals.
“We aim to make our vodka taste as close to water as possible,” says Quigley. And while that doesn’t exactly make you want to order a glass on the rocks, it might make Stateside the ultimate mixer, according to Quigley. “Especially when you are talking about craft cocktail ingredients and fresh-squeezed juices, our vodka is perfect,” he says. Its clean character lets a drink’s other ingredients shine.
Stateside Urbancraft Vodka, available at Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shops, $27.99 per bottle.
CHEESE, CHARCUTERIE AND CLASSES
A new foodie clubhouse has opened in Wayne. Cornerstone Cheese & Charcuterie offers an impressive variety of its titular treats—plus a whole lot more. The space also operates as a micro-BYOB (just 14 seats), a coffee shop and a culinary classroom. Owners Christine and Nick Kondra are chefs who have traveled and worked all over the country, and lean on their relationships with top purveyors nationwide to stock their shop with excellent products, including Intelligentsia coffee and even some special cheeses exclusive to their store. One such product is Spanish cheesemaker Finca Pascualete’s sheep’s milk cheese that is warmed until it gets runny and served much like fondue. You’ll find the evolving schedule of classes available at cornerstonewayne.com; upcoming highlights include a session on cocktails as well as one on creating a winning holiday cheeseboard.
Cornerstone Cheese and Charcuterie
1 West Avenue, Wayne
THE STOCK MARKET
Leave it to the Paleo crowd to give a timeless foodstuff a new name and kick off an unstoppable craze. That’s exactly what has happened the past few years with bone broth—the liquid you have probably always known (and loved) as stock. But thanks to soup’s polished image, there are many new packaged options, and at least one is being made locally. Eat This Yum, based in Erwinna, Pennsylvania, got into the bone broth biz late last winter.
“We had bones left over from making some of our other products, like organic cassoulet,” says co-owner David Borgert. His partner, chef Gino De Schrijver, roasts those chicken and beef bones until they are a rich brown color and then slow simmers them with water and vegetables—exactly how you might make a batch yourself if you had the time.
ILLUSTRATION: HEATHER DIANE HARDISON
Soup it: Warm a generous glug of olive oil in a soup pot, add a sliced onion, and cook low and slow until the onions are very soft—about 20 minutes. Add a chopped head of cauliflower, 4 cups water, and simmer for about an hour. Purée and season well with salt.
Pulse a chopped head of cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles couscous, stir-fry for a minute in olive oil with garlic, and top with your favorite meat, bean or vegetable stew.
Add several inches of canola oil to a heavy pot and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add cauliflower florets and fry until crisp and brown. Toss with hot sauce mixed with melted butter and serve with blue cheese dressing— a vegetarian take on hot wings
Steam or boil chopped cauliflower until very tender, and then pulse in the food processor until creamy. Add a dollop of sour cream and chives and serve as an alternative to plain old mashed potatoes