the weird relations who always send you something so you have to tit for tat; the apple of some friend's eye, a child whom you don't even know how to talk to, let alone buy for; your ex's mother who still always gets you "a little something;" the miscellaneous great-aunt who may not send a check next year if you don't gift her.
Sigh. We all have our own Christmas demons.
Lucky for you, everyone eats. Lucky for you, food shopping means you'll have a day of noshing and no malls if you follow my directions:
For every chick on your list young, old, shriveled or botoxed: Stop in at La Bonne Vie, Grand America's completely revamped pastry shop. The place looks like a French fantasy now, packed with sophisticated whimsy and sweets, and new pastry chef Jeffrey deLeon's last gig was at Thomas Keller's Bouchon. Pastel macarons in pretty gift boxes,
teacups and cookies and all kinds of gorgeous pastries ready to be boxed and presented. While you're there, have a cup of hot chocolate.
Christmas morning breakfast can last all day, but Les Madeleines' famous kouing amans - great with champagne or coffee or milk - will be the best part whenever. Order a gift-boxed four-pack by Monday for delivery by Christmas Eve.
The ultimate box of chocolates would come from Caputo's Deli, which has the largest selection of fine chocolate in the country. Pack a box with gourmet bars like Vosges and Amano, or hand-select from Chocolatier Blue's case of extravagant little jewels for a daintier treat.
In New York City's Katz's Deli, there are still signs left from WWII suggesting "Send a salame to your boy in the Army." It only rhymes in New York, and I'm not sure about sending pork products to Iraq or Afghanistan, but the basic concept is still sound: cured sausages make a great gift. Order a gift box from Creminelli by December 22 and it will arrive by Christmas Eve, or pick up a box at one of their retail outlets like Caputo's Deli, Liberty Heights Fresh or Harmons. (Another Christmas breakfast idea: French toast made with the white chocolate-walnut loaf from Harmons artisanal bakery. Skip the maple and use raspberry syrup.
Back in the day, there was a knock on my door every Christmas morning. A friend made it a tradition to deliver stollen to all his friends early on Christmas, not as ambitious as it sounds, since he'd been up carousing all night Christmas Eve. (Of course, once the kids came along, the knock stopped.) For German Christmas treats like Christstollen and Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) you can't do better than Vosen's Bread Paradise. Their website doesn't do the place justice, stop by (downtown parking is free, remember?) and besides the housemade goodies, youâ€™ll find a whole collection of traditional German imported sweets.
If you live in the city of salt, chances are good you've got Greek buddies, or buddies who wish they were Greek for the sake of the food. Aristo Boutsikakis does it best at Aristo's and now he's made it even better by installing his sweet mother Katerini in her own pastry kitchen upstairs from the restaurant.
She's turning out her personal versions of Greek sweets made with the Greek's greatest gift to civilization, phyllo. (I mean, theater and democracy do have their downsides, you can't say that about phyllo.)
Buy a box of bitesize treats from the pastry case in the restaurant, and add a Greek gift basket packed with authentic Hellenic foods.
If you've been seriously shopping, this is a good place to stop for sustenance: a glass of ouzo and a pastry tasting.
On the Fresher side of things, Liberty Heights puts together gift baskets of fresh seasonal fruit with tuck-ins of chocolate, nuts and caramels. If you're really looking for love, you can also choose one of their big monster gift baskets like the Mediterranean Pantry which includes Spanish saffron, Marcona almonds, extra-virgin olive oil, vintage vinegar, Tunisian olives, piquillo peppers, parmigiana-reggiano, etc., etc. While you're there, fortify yourself with a sandwich to mitigate the ouzo.
At Trolley Square, two Ogden-based artisan food producers have set up a joint holiday shop: Beehive Cheese and Chocolat. Buy aged cheddar and handmade chocolates alone or in apparently infinite gift basket combinations with Beehive's rusks and wildflower honey. or let confectioner Ruth Kendrick's son Ryan help you put together a custom gift.
Hey! Your list is all crossed off! You've been an awesome elf all day! I suggest you stop in at Desert Edge Brewery - it's right there, in Trolley Square, so you already have a parking place - and have a cold one. Or two. And if you want to know more about our excellent local beer, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Salt Lake magazine. The one with the beer on the cover.
Yes, it's shameless self-promotion. I wrote the article. Not only that, but for just a miniscule number of dollars you can give friends a year's subscription to the mag and keep me employed a little while longer.
I consider that a true Christmas gift.