Greetings, Black Friday readers; I have great news: Those of you who have been listening to the holiday station in your cars for the past week can now do so without shame. The season is upon us. With the help of Facebook and Twitter, I've done some holiday food scouting on your behalf and pulled together a list of 18 (or so) treats to eat and drink this season in Anchorage. Enjoy!
1. An eggnog milk shake. Lucky Wishbone. $3.95 for a small. Go now. Don't skimp on the whipped cream.
2. Satsuma mandarins. Citrus season is in full swing. Look for Meyer lemons, grapefruits and mandarins. Satsuma mandarins, sweet and often seedless, fit nicely in a stocking. Lindsay "Kainoa" McGuire, produce manager at the New Sagaya Midtown Market, swears by the BlueJay brand, which he says are left on the tree longer, making them sweeter and easier to peel. If you find yourself in New Sagaya's produce section, you might also look for a citrus fruit called Buddha's hand. Mainly used for zest, it's only available for a short time. Prized for its exotic shape (think: octopus meets orange), it is given as an offering at Buddhist temples.
3. Tamales. Mexico in Alaska on the Old Seward Highway is taking orders for fresh-made tamales, $24 per dozen. Chicken are usually available same-day but tamales filled with other meats or vegetarian varieties must be ordered a week in advance, says owner Maria-Elena Ball. Call 349-1528. Bonus: take-out mole sauce, 8 ounces for $5.50.
4. Local chocolate. A box of four truffles from Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge's seasonal collection includes pumpkin spice, holiday rum, peppermint dust, cranberry cardamom or marzipan flavors. A four-chocolate box is $12.
5. Persimmons. Keep an eye out for Fuyu persimmons, the squat, orange winter fruit that can be peeled and eaten like an apple, sliced in salad, or made into a seasonal cake or quick bread. They are at most local grocers and can be purchased by the case at Costco. (Hachiya persimmons, also in season, are deeper orange and acorn-shaped. They have to be very, very ripe, the insides almost like jelly, before they can be eaten raw. They are also good for breads and steamed puddings.) New Sagaya Midtown also has hard-to-find chocolate persimmons, which are studded with chocolate-brown "sweet spots" and are best eaten when soft and ripe. Those are $1.50 apiece.
6. Pierogi. Eastern European Store and Deli on 36th Avenue sells fresh-made pierogi -- the potato and farmer cheese dumplings popular during the holidays in Russian and Polish homes. $15 for three pounds, frozen. The store also has fresh-baked sweet poppy seed roll, an Eastern European holiday delicacy.
7. Seasonal cheese. If you're in the market for a special, high-end treat, you might try a sliver of seasonal Rogue Rive River Blue, a sweet-salty blue washed in seasonally made pear brandy. It's a splurge at $48.90 a pound, available at Fromagio's Artisan Cheese on Spenard.
8. Spiced cider. Summit Spice and Tea Co. sells it right now by the cup or you can make it yourself. Their signature mulling spices can be used for cider or wine and are available for $5.50. They also sell perfect sweet-sour cider, Ryan's Organic Orchard Blend from Oregon, for $8 a gallon.
9. Duck. Chinese-style oven-roasted duck can be ordered for pickup from China Town restaurant in Government Hill. Call two days in advance. A half duck is $18 and a whole duck is $32. Call 272-8390
10. Something sparkly. If you're looking to toast the season but not ready to drop champagne-level cash, Chad Culley, owner of Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar, recommends a sparkling wine called Montsarra Cava for $17.95. "It's made exactly like champagne, same production method, everything is the same except where the grapes come from and it's a fraction of the price," he said.
11. Glühwein. Mulled wine from Germany or Austria is best served warm. La Bodega has Augsburger Christkindlmarkt for $11. If you're lucky, manager Deirdre Bonfield might give you her recipe for regular mulled wine, using mulling spices, brandy, merlot and white ginger syrup.
12. Chocolate babka. Dark chocolate and cinnamon rolled with rich brioche dough is irresistible when served warm and makes a nice gift. (Careful toasting it, as it burns easily. Instead, try just a couple minutes sliced on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 degrees.) "All we have to do is sample out a warm loaf and the next 16 people in line buy it," said Rachel Saul, general manager/co-owner of Fire Island Bakery, which sells babka for $16 each.
13. Ponche de frutas. Find all the ingredients (including cane sugar, pineapple, tejocotes and guava) for Mexican holiday punch at Mexico Lindo on Tudor Road. Co-owner Maria Herrera can help you with the recipe. Mexico Lindo is also taking orders for Roscas de Reyes, or three kings cakes, ring-shaped confections studded with hidden plastic babies, made by French Oven Bakery. They are eaten on Jan. 6 for Dia de Reyes, commemorating the arrival of the three kings. Order before Christmas.
14. Duk guk. This Korean beef soup with egg and glutinous, silver-dollar-sized rice cakes is eaten for good luck on New Year's Day. At Korean Rice Cake, a shop on Fireweed Lane, you can purchase enough fresh-made rice cakes for four people for $10, said Sung Shin, one of the owners.
15. A holiday cocktail. Shawna Calt, bar manager at Spenard Roadhouse, recommends a holiday special called All Spruced Up. It's made with muddled lemon, Rogue Distillery Pink Spruce Gin, Peychaud's bitters, soda and simple syrup. It'll set you back $10.
16. Winter beer. Midnight Sun Brewing has special, seasonal CoHoHo IPA brewed with honey, brown sugar and juniper berries. A growler is $15. Broken Tooth Brewing has the Winter Warmer, a malty, spicy dark beer. A growler is $16.50.
17. Stollen. L'Aroma bakers begin marinating lemon zest, candied cherries, candied orange peel, lemon peel and candied angelica in a mixture of rum and Grand Marnier three months in advance of baking their stollen, a yeasted German holiday bread, said Leanne Chatfield, who manages the bakery's southside location. Stollen is available about all L'Aroma locations for $16.99. "We run out of it every year," she said.
18. Ham. Readers with ham opinions say that a good quality bone-in city ham (as opposed to country ham, which, they say, is hard to find in this town) can be obtained at a good price at Red Apple Market in Mountain View. At the moment the ham shank portion is $2.59 a pound. The butt portion is $2.69.
Julia O'Malley writes a regular column. Reach her by phone at 257-4591, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @adn_jomalley.