The Sun Eats - Kristin Jorgensen


Delicious holiday gift giving

I simply cannot imagine living in a place with a more amazing selection of delicious, locally handcrafted foods, drinks and other delicacies.  These local foodie finds make the perfect gifts for anyone on your list… they’re certainly what everyone on my lists are receiving! Not only can you be sure that they’ll devour your gift, but you can feel good that you supported our small business people and saved yourself a ton of stress by leisurely shopping right here in town.

The tradition of eating beans on New Year’s, a custom my family regularly practiced — always with a ham hock, some collard greens and cornbread — is meant to bring prosperity in the coming year.  Who wouldn’t be thrilled by a gift of prosperity?  Especially if it tastes so good?  Since discovering Napa’s Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans, you couldn’t make me purchase those old, yucky grocery store beans. Rancho Gordo beans, no matter the variety, are amazingly fresh, always beautiful and extraordinarily scrumptious.  Make the gift of these beans extra special by also gifting founder Steve Sando’s informative and vastly interesting cookbook, “Heirloom Beans.”  Make the gift even more memorable by tucking the beans and the book inside a gorgeous clay cooking vessel from Bram, our favorite Plaza clay pot cookery shop.  They also conveniently carry many varieties of Rancho Gordo Beans and Sando’s book.

Giving the gift of wine in Wine Country can be downright stressful.  Just in time for holiday gift giving and my Christmas Milk Punch, the fun folks over at Sonoma’s HelloCello have launched Hooker’s House Bourbon. The spirit was born in Kentucky, where it was first aged in French oak barrels for more than four years, and then transported to Sonoma, where in true Wine Country style, it was aged again in Pinot Noir barrels.  The result is a unique, utterly smooth Bourbon, with hints of coffee, caramel and vanilla. Named after legendary Sonoma resident General Joseph Hooker, the bold and spicy character of the Bourbon matches the General’s notoriously outrageous and overindulgent lifestyle.  I simply adore finding a little piece of the South here in Sonoma and am so excited to use Hooker’s House Bourbon this year when whipping up my traditional Christmas Milk Punch: a creamy cocktail of happiness, prepared with a potent combination of milk, sugar, a tiny splash of cream, and a not so tiny splash of Bourbon.  Be sure to visit the Sun Eats section of this issue for the recipe.  Find Hooker’s House Bourbon locally at Sonoma Market.

The Sonoma Valley Nut Company, created by the Sun’s very own Jody Purdom, slow roasts a beautiful combination of excellent nuts with spices and fresh herbs.  The result is slightly salty, a bit sweet, a tiny bit spicy and very herby, a secret recipe that screams the holidays.  Perfection with a glass of champagne or decadent with a boozy egg nog.  A golden bow adds festivity to the little package and is an affordable and jolly offering for teachers, the mailman, a hostess or me. Find these addictive nuts at Sonoma’s Best.

‘New Oil’ is easily one of the most exciting parts of the annual olive harvest.  It has a deep green color, is a bit cloudy and has a super peppery, pleasantly bitter burst of fresh olive taste.  This fresh oil is bottled immediately after the olives are pressed, unlike typical olive oil, which is allowed to settle so fruit particles and other sediment is separated.  Sadly, Olio Nuovo is a fleeting treat.  Beginning this week, most of our local producers offer an Olio Nuovo on an extremely limited basis.  A beautiful gift, it’s meant to be simply and generously drizzled and enjoyed for it’s outrageously fresh flavor.  Sonoma County olive oils are amongst the best in the world, and when gifting for family or friends out of town it’s a spectacular example of just what makes living here in Sonoma so special.  Visit Sonoma’s Best or the Epicurean Connection to find a lovely selection of locally produced olive oils.

All of the girl and the fig’s products are locally produced and lovingly crafted, but none more so than the beautifully packaged and absolutely delicious fig cake.  It is a dense, sweet, nutty condiment consisting of mass quantities of dried, black mission figs, almonds and pistachios.  Simply sliced and arranged beautifully on a platter with cheeses or as an accompaniment to roasted pork, this little log is truly addictive and would make a special gift for any foodie on your list.  Visit thegirlandthefig.com for online ordering or visit the girl and the fig’s Plaza location.

Often, a present is opened, consumed or played with, enjoyed briefly and then quickly forgotten.  If you hope to give a gift that will remain in your friends and family’s memories for years, give the gift of an experience.  A gift certificate for a cooking class will offer not only a fun diversion during the slow Sonoma winter season, but will also provide skills that will remain with someone for a lifetime.  A few favorite options can be organized through Ramekins Cooking School at 933.0450, the Depot Hotel Restaurant at 938.2980, and Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg at 431.9999.  Sadly, dining out at a restaurant is sometimes relegated to special occasions or done only very sporadically.  Many local Sonoma restaurants offer gift certificates and I couldn’t think of a gift I would rather receive!  Not only is this a treat for the receiver of the gift, but a wonderful boon for restaurants during the sluggish off-season.

Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond.  Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at foodandwine@sonomasun.com.

On the menu

The award-winning authors of the Canal House Cooking series, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, will on hand at Oxbow Produce this Saturday, December 8 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. to sign their new cookbook compilation, “Canal House Cooks Every Day.”  This magnificent series celebrates the “everyday practice of simple cooking and the enjoyment of eating,” two of the greatest pleasures in life.  Call Oxbow Produce at 257.6828 for more information.

Join Pet’s Lifeline for their annual holiday fundraiser at Ramekins on Sunday, December 9, entitled, Miracle on Eighth Street.  Guests will enjoy glasses of bubbly, have the opportunity to bid on some wonderful silent auction items, and then indulge in a delicious gourmet dinner prepared by some favorite local celebrity chefs.  Call 996.4577, ext. 109 for information or to make your necessary reservations.

Visit Shiso Sushi and Grill for the new Late Night Happy Hour every evening from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Enjoy $5 sake cocktails & Chardonnay, $6 tall hot sake, and $3 draft beer.  Diners also may munch on snacks such as chicken Yakitori, sushi rolls, hand rolls and their ever-popular fried pickles with miso-ranch dressing specially priced between $2 to $6. Call Shiso at 933.9331 to make reservations.

Hooker’s House Bourbon Milk Punch

Here’s my recipe for a festive beverage that  is as decadent, but easier to prepare than egg nog.  It keeps well in the fridge for weeks, simply shake vigorously before serving.

— Kristin

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups Hooker’s House Bourbon
  • (found locally at Sonoma Market)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish

In a large bowl, pitcher or jug (I like to use a milk jug) place all the ingredients, except the bourbon or brandy and whisk well until the sugar has dissolved.  Taste and if the mixture needs to be sweeter add a little more sugar.  Whisk again until very frothy and add the bourbon or brandy.  Serve over ice and garnish with nutmeg.  Keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or so. Makes 1 gallon

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