You’ll be cooking up a storm over the holidays—enjoy a well-deserved meal out while you can. These restaurants are putting a pinch of jolly and a dash of merry into their savory, sweet, and spirited offerings this month.—Meredith Barnes
(Photos by Andrea Hubbell)
The Silver Thatch Inn does Christmas English cottage-style with prime rib, fresh horseradish, creamed spinach, and Yorkshire pudding. The Chanukah food group is deliciously represented with a luscious dark chocolate challah bread pudding with house-made vanilla bean ice cream and a dried cherry and bourbon compote.
At Maya, you’ll want a spoon for your eggnog—it’s served in the form of crème brûlée. Or reward yourself after a tough shopping day with the molasses spice cake with sweet potato frozen custard. Don’t forget to toast Santa with a “Minter Wonderland,” bartender Ted Norris’s holiday brew of peppermint schnapps, espresso vodka, crème de menthe, and half and half with a candy cane garnish.
The Ivy Inn’s pastry chef Jon Thornburg “always has a seasonally inspired cheesecake up his sleeve,” said owner Angelo Vangelopoulos. This year Thornburg’s making the most of Planet Earth Diversified’s “beautiful, tender baby ginger” by adding it to a cheesecake with a spiced ginger cookie crust and topped with a pear-currant compote.
Forget sugar plums
Don’t settle for crushed candy canes and sticky ribbon candy when your sweet tooth is begging to be satisfied. These candies made and sold around town will sweeten your holidays and stuff your stockings with care.—Megan Headley
A cross between a candy and a cookie, the traditional French macarons at Albemarle Baking Company taste just as heavenly as they do in Paris. Until Christmas, they’re all decked out in seasonal colors and flavors —chocolate mint, vanilla, and peppermint. A clear, handled box of five costs $6.25.
C-ville Candy Company offers almond toffee crunch, a dark chocolate bark chock full of—you guessed it—almond toffee and toasted almonds in a $6.95 bag at Feast!.
Chocolates don’t get much better than Gearhart’s , but if you’re looking for something outside of the chocolate box, try the pecan halves caramelized with chai spices, dipped in dark chocolate, and dusted with spiced cocoa. A box of them costs $8.
Red Rocker Candy in Troy makes scrumptious chocolate-dipped toffee, peppermint bark, and brittle, but the Rocking Chair Mix (a blend of cereals, nuts, and pretzels dipped in white chocolate) makes for irresistible snacking. A 21-ounce can is available at gourmet stores around town for $20.
Sweethaus owner Tara Koenig makes holiday cake pops—cupcake and frosting balls on a stick decorated with candy—for $2 a piece. The chocolate Rudolph with pretzel antlers, nonpareil pearl eyes, and a red M&M nose is almost too cute to eat.
I’ve got the holidays on a string
Making your own cranberry and popcorn garland is as It’s a Wonderful Life as decorating gets—not to mention more environmentally friendly than glittery tinsel. You’ll need a few bags of fresh cranberries, a big bowl of popcorn (air-pop your own or pick up a bag of Blue Ridge Kettle Korn at the Holiday Market), a sewing needle, and some sewing thread, fishing line, or waxed dental floss. Knot the end of a long length of thread, thread your needles, and start stringing your own design. Snack on the extra popcorn and freeze any leftover cranberries into ice cubes for a drink with holiday cheer.—M.H.