The end of the year means holiday treats for many. Cookies, cakes and pies are delightful. What's even better is not having to cook them yourself.
That's where Anchorage's Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop can help. The bakers are busy making holiday favorites like babka, stollen, Bavarian pumpkin layer cake, chocolate and carrot cakes, tarts, apple galettes, chocolate peppermint tortes, apricot walnut rugelach, cookies, breads, rolls and other assorted treats.
"Babka is a rich egg dough layered with loads of dark chocolate, butter and cinnamon. Europeans describe babka as being closer to a cake than a bread," says co-owner Janis Fleischman. "The holiday favorite can be found on our December menu because we are Polish, from New York and we really like babka.
"The fact that babka stars in one of the funniest 'Seinfeld' episodes, 'The Dinner Party,' did add to its appeal! Elaine and Jerry are hilarious in a NYC bakery. Forgetting to 'take a number,' they watch as the last chocolate babka is sold to some people that came in after them.
"Luckily, at Fire Island you do not need to take a number and we are fairly confident that we will bake enough babka for all our great customers."
The stollen is another favorite. It is a traditional German Christmas bread filled with in-house candied citrus and rum-soaked fruit.
Because the holidays fall on Wednesdays, Fire Island will have additional hours in December. Starting Wednesday, the bakery will be open until Christmas Eve. "We want our breads and desserts to be as fresh as possible for the holiday meals," Fleischman says.
After the holidays, the bakery will shut its doors for an extended January vacation.
"We then close on January 1 for four weeks, reopening on January 29th," Fleischman says. "We will be working on the shop -- painting, deep clean everything and getting the shop ready for another year. Most of our baking staff will be traveling to excellent bakeries around the country -- learning new techniques, fabulous recipes and just furthering their professional careers as well as keeping Fire Island current."
THE GIFT OF FOOD
There are loads of Alaska food options for friends and family Outside.
Several were highlighted in last Wednesday's Market Fresh column. Here are a couple others to consider:
FishEx: Alaska seafood is the highlight here, with loads of pre-made seafood gift boxes, along with the ability to create a specific box as desired. Among the crab options are red king crab, snow crab and blue crab. ( www.fishex.com )
Alaska Sausage and Seafood: Smoked salmon and gourmet sausages are the main focus here. ( www.alaskasausage.com )
AT THE MARKETS
Arthur Keyes of Glacier Valley Farm and the South Anchorage Winter Market says "last weekend's orange extravaganza was a huge success." Sarah Bailey of Sequoia Orange Farm is back again Saturday with navel oranges.
Other vendors lined up for the market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Dimond Center include: Arctic Choice Seafoods, Stockwell Family Farm, Mat Valley Meats, Glacier Valley Farm and Earthworks Farm.
At the Center Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays), look for several regular vendors including A.D. Farm with fresh eggs, pork chops, fresh side pork, Italian sausage, ground pork, spicy sausage, steak, hocks and liver. Alex Davis will also have Alaska barley products from Delta.
Rempel Family Farm will have 11 varieties of potatoes, sugar pumpkins, jumbo pink banana squash, acorn squash, red kuri squash, stripetti squash, beets, green cabbage, parsnips, rutabagas, daikon radishes and carrots. They are at the Wednesday market.
Here's a health factoid from Mark Rempel: "In recent reading I have learned that dark purple potatoes have about four times as much anthocyanins (cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease fighters) as any other potatoes that are available here. A glass of beet juice a day can improve endurance by as much as 15 percent. In fact, it was consumed by a recent British Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000 meter race."
The Center Market at The Mall at Sears is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Johnson Seafood folks will be busy this week. They will be at The Mall at Sears parking lot both Wednesday and Thursday. Friday they will be on Tudor Road across from Tozier Track, and on Saturday they will be at the Mercantile in Girdwood.
Alaska Seafood includes spot and side-stripe shrimp, three sizes of Kodiak scallops, red and golden king crab, along with Cook Inlet razor clams and cold smoked king salmon.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By STEVE EDWARDS
Daily News correspondent