Does anyone else wonder how it came to be late December? As of today, there are only six shopping days until Christmas. Yet the sun is shining, the weather is soft and warm, and really, the last thing we want to do is spend time battling crowds in a mall.
Luckily, with the treasure trove of edible delights available from Sonoma’s boutique purveyors, we can tie the holiday up with pretty ribbons and bows, and never step near a clearance case of ties or sweaters. Some products you can order online, but even better – plan a trip to the purveyor themselves, and experience some of Sonoma’s nicest farms and boutique stores.
Here’s an even better gift. Rather than simply give your friends and family the food products, invite them along for a day’s exploration and shopping trip to pick their own favorites. Make a pretty “road map,” roll it up and tie it with a ribbon, and after the holidays everyone can gather together and explore these gorgeous destinations together.
Preston of Dry Creek: Olive Oil
Preston Vineyards is celebrated for its organic wines, but it also grows organic vegetables, bakes artisan bread, and produces certified organic olive oil from its own olive groves. Like wine, this oil comes with tasting notes: floral and lightly peppery with a medium-rich palate and a smooth finish. There are two kinds: the early-release Chaste Maiden, which is a vibrant electric green, just-pressed and still cloudy; and the classic extra-virgin, released after a little rest and resolution. If you’ve enjoyed an amazing olive oil at a top restaurant, chances are great it came from Preston.
9206 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-3372, prestonvineyards.com.
The Kozlowski family has been farming since1949, and this artisan fruit ranch shop is so popular that for the holidays that it opens a second location. The main stop is the year-round store on the farm in Forestville, where you can shop amid the orchards and take a peek at where the jams are made. Or, for a more urban address, there is a seasonal store at Santa Rosa Plaza downtown. Both destinations brim with handcrafted goodies like preserves, no-sugar-added fruit spreads, fruit butters in harvest flavors like plum and pumpkin, fruit syrups, mango-apricot chutney, and fruit vinegars. Whet your appetites with 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.
The Pink Box Baking Company
What says "holidays" like a pretty package of fresh-baked cookies, cakes and tarts? Baker-pastry chef Stacy Willis comes to the rescue with her new Pink Box Baking Company in Bennett Valley. 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. The aromas are intoxicating as we step inside for pastries, cakes, cookies, brownies and bars, and Willis will make pretty much any cake you can dream of, such as insanely rich vanilla butter stuffed with crème mousseline and topped in white chocolate Italian butter cream. Yes, all gifts are packaged in a pretty pink box.
2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-331-3453, thepinkboxbakingcompany.com.
Salt Side Down Chocolates
Over the past few years, the world seems to have gotten wise about how salty and sweet work so amazing well together, for a combination that 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
It’s a gift certificate that keeps on giving. Because with the Black Meat Pig Company Bacon of the Month Club, we get meat from one of Sonoma Country’s leading purveyors of artisan pork, sourced from a sustainable heritage breed hog ranch where pigs 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).
Zazu Restaurant + Farm, 3535 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4814, blackpigmeatco.com.
Tamale-guru Karen Waikiki works magic with masa, making it from scratch in the time-intensive old-school way starting with whole heritage corn kernels that are painstakingly stone ground. She’s a wizard with tempting flavors, too, for 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. Here’s a tip – pile the tamales in a pretty Mexican basket lined with fluffs of colorful tissue paper and topped with fresh flowers or even some Mexican lace, and voila, gift wrap that’s a present all to itself.
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.
Tip: Pure Luxury Transportation has a lovely limo or Town Car waiting to ferry you, your friends and family on your holiday shopping trip around Sonoma.