Martha Stewart has just released a new book on entertaining, updated to modern tastes for global flavors and even more elaborate foods for eating and gift giving.
Sigh. Not only are we expected to throw perfect parties and come up with perfect culinary presents, but now, the world of opportunities is so much bigger.
To that, we say, thank goodness we live in Sonoma County. This beautiful county has always been a treasure trove of amazing edibles, and as the artisan/locavore movement continues to grow, it just keeps getting better.
And so, we turn to Sonoma’s best chefs, culinary producers and boutique purveyors to help us shine strong through the holiday season.
The Pink Box Baking Company
Sure, we look cute with a dusting of flour on our nose. But truthfully, baker pastry chef Stacy Willis does so much better with the sweet stuff with her new Pink Box Baking Company in Bennett Valley. It smells so good even before we step inside for pastries, cakes, cookies, brownies and bars.
Willis was most recently pastry chef for The French Garden in Sebastopol, and she makes everything in-house, down to the lacy-light puff pastry. Pretty much any cake you can dream of, she can make and lavishly decorate, such as insanely rich vanilla butter stuffed with creme mousseline and topped in white chocolate Italian butter cream. Naturally, all gifts are packaged in a pretty pink box.
2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-331-3453, thepinkboxbakingcompany.com.
From the Kozlowski family, and going strong since 1949, this artisan fruit ranch shop is so popular that for the holidays that it opens a second location. There is a seasonal store at Santa Rosa Plaza, plus the year-round store on the farm in Forestville.
What keeps the crowds coming are handcrafted goodies like jams, preserves and no-sugar-added fruit spreads, fruit butters in harvest flavors like plum and pumpkin, fruit syrups, mango-apricot chutney, and fruit vinegars. Of course, there are pies galore, ranging from finger-licking blackberry, to raspberry peach, to Gravenstein apple.
Other Sonoma-fresh specialties include gourmet mustards, salad dressings, chipotle grilling sauces and even seafood cioppino sauce. If you can’t decide, friendly shopkeepers will put together a gift basket or box of favorites for you.
5566 Hwy. 116, Forestville, 707-887-1587, kozlowskifarms.com. Also at 1071 Santa Rosa Plaza, Santa Rosa.
Salt Side Down Chocolates
Over the past few years, the world seems to have gotten wise about the beauty of salty and sweet. The combo stirs the taste buds in ravishing ways. So chocolatier Julie Herson built an entire business around the idea, showcasing dark chocolate truffles made with premium ingredients like heirloom cacao, local fruit, cream and wines and, of course, artisan sea salts.
She learned from the best (she’s a Culinary Institute of America graduate) and she puts her best creativity into seasonal recipes. For $20 a box, you can mix-and-match basic flavors with exotica like matcha green tea or basil cream.
Available at Share Exchange, 531 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-331-6850, or at saltsidedownchocolates.com.
Black Meat Pig Company
We got this last year as a gift certificate, and our life has never been the same since. Now, we are surrounded by bacon, heavenly bacon, and it has made us realize that we never really knew bacon before.
Because with the Black Meat Pig Company Bacon of the Month Club, we get meat from one of Sonoma County’s leading purveyors of artisan pork, sourced from a sustainable heritage breed hog ranch where oinkers are raised naturally and allowed to roam free range.
Duskie Estes and John Stewart, chef-owners of Zazu in Santa Rosa dry cured the bacon with brown sugar for 21 days and finish it with 12 hours of applewood smoking for a symphony of salt, sweet, and good old fat. It’s so good, their pork-won them titles as King and Queen of the Grand Cochon / Aspen Food & Wine competition for 2011.
Join the community-supported bacon membership, and, for $129 a year, you get a 12-ounce pack of porky joy each month (or, you can condense it into three packs, four times a year, or all 12 packs at once, which might be dangerous for diets even though bacon freezes fine).
Zazu Restaurant + Farm, 3535 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4814, blackpigmeatco.com.
Tamale-nista Karen Waikiki is a master of masa, making it from scratch, in the time-intensive old-school way starting with whole heritage corn kernels that are painstakingly stone ground. Few foods are as historically “holiday” as tamales, meanwhile.
So stock up on her steamy bundles of goodness, in an array of flavors like roasted green chile-jack cheese; pumpkin-white cheddar; and mushroom-spinach-salsa-2 cheese. There also are no-dairy recipes like butternut squash-green chile, and black bean-salsa. Sample the beauties hot and fresh, too, at her newish restaurant, El Molino Central.
P. O. Box 17396, Boyes Hot Springs, 707-939-9350, primaveratamales.com, or El Molino Central, 11 Central Ave (along Hwy 12), Boyes Hot Springs, 707-939-1010. Also available at various Sonoma farmers’ markets and groceries.