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    • Georgeanne Brennan

      Columnist and Author
    • December 13, 2013 in Columnists, Food

    Holiday gourmet gift-giving ideas


    As the days grow shorter and colder, our thoughts turn to cracking open a new book and reading it by the fire, to family coming home and to holiday gift giving. There are so many books, old and new favorites, to choose from for those on your list who love food. Here we pair a few of our personal cookbook library favorites with something to eat or experience, and a few holiday alternative gift-giving ideas.

    Bees are on our mind as they bed down for the winter now. Ann just harvested her hive’s fall honey and honeycomb. In just two months, come February when the almonds begin to bloom, just about all the bees in the United States will be heading to California for pollination duty.

    To celebrate the bee, the Robert Mondavi Institute at UC Davis, has a Winter Feast, the tickets for which might be fun for the beekeeper or honey lover in your life. Darrell Corti, the renowned Sacramento gourmand and grocer, will lead diners in mead tasting at the end of the meal. Proceeds support the work of the RMI’s Honey and Pollination Center.

    Tickets are available to The Robert Mondavi Institute’s “Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast: A Taste of Mead & Honey,” at http://rmi.ucdavis.edu/events. Single tickets are $125.  Pair tickets with a jar of local honey, one of Ann’s favorite books, “Following the Bloom – Across American with the Migratory Beekeepers” by Douglas Whynott (2nd Edition, 2004), a great read about family beekeepers who drive semi truck loads of their hives across the country – arriving in California in February.  Ann created the menu for the event with Mani Niall, author of the honey cookbook, “Covered in Honey,” another possible pairing with the tickets.

    Earlier in the year, we wrote about a whole lamb butchering class we took at The Fatted Calf in Napa. For the wannabe’ butcher in your life, or your favorite hunter or chef, consider giving them a class there in 2014. Classes fill up very fast, so shop early.

    Pair it with a book by Fatted Calf owners Taylor Boetticher and Topania Miller, “In the Charcuterie – The Fatted Calf’s Guide to Making Sausage, Salami, Pates, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods.” Or, consider pairing the book with a sausage attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer, or a ball of red and white butcher’s twine.

    The California food revolution is well known by now, symbolizing everything new, young, fresh, local, and multiethnic. We were involved, Georgeanne with her seed company, Le Marche Seeds, which imported seeds from all over Europe and Asia for the burgeoning organic farmers across the nation, and Ann with early farmers markets and food cooperatives and their respective legislative and regulatory needs.

    Author and Chef Joyce Goldstein researched the revolution and University of California Press has just released her book, “Inside the California Food Revolution” (2013). This is great gift-giving for anyone on your list serious about history and food. The book is a chronicle of events and personalities, in which Georgeanne as well as some regional farmers such as Rich Collins are mentioned. Largely focused on restaurants, it is filled with facts and stories about what went into the making of California cuisine, real and rustic – and how we differed from developments in food around the country, such as in New York. Pair it with a trip on the Vallejo ferry and enjoy the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – or a gift certificate to one of the many northern California restaurants that are featured in the book.

    For all things cheese, consider one of Ann’s new favorite books, “The Whole Fromage – Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese” by Kathe Lison (2013) who writes tales of exploring cheese makers and cheese making traditions in France. Or, an old time favorite, “Cheesemonger – A Life on the Wedge” by Gordon Edger (2010) which is his laugh-out-loud-in-bed memoire about working in the cheese section of Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, “in the day.” It’s a combination of anarchist, punk and cooperative philosophy, with a lot of cheese lore in between.

    Georgeanne wrote the Williams-Sonoma book, “Cheese – A Collection of Sweet & Savory Recipes for Every Course” which is also a great reference as well as cookbook. Pair the book of your choice, with a set of cheese plates and knives, or cheese from a great selection offered by the Davis Food Co-op, Nugget Markets throughout Yolo County, or Lorenzo’s Market in Winters.

    California chef David Kinch’s new book, “Manresa: An Edible Reflection” and his two-Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos is on our list. The book profiles his purveyors (what is a California restaurant without them?) with mostly recipes from the restaurant we’re eager to try. One of our new year’s resolutions? Plan a trip for our national blog “Who’s Cooking School Lunch?” to the area, and eat at Manresa. Perhaps someone in your life would love that as well.

    Our friend and compatriot in improving school food, Chez Panisse restaurateur Alice Waters, has a new book, “The Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden.” Complete with 200 recipes that reflect Alice’s passionate advice for recipes by season for full flavor and what to grow in your garden. All of Alice’s books are a treasure. Pair it with a reservation for dinner at Chez Panisse, upstairs or down. Alice is one of the icons of the California food revolution that Joyce Goldstein writes about.

    Alternative gift giving provides much needed resources to many non-profits who are providing direct services to those in need, or investing in our collective future. A donation to the Yolo Land Trust can save agricultural land. Consider also the Yolo Food Bank, Yolo Farm to Fork Foundation, Winters or Davis Farm to School, the Heifer Project, Solar Cookers International, or the Davis Community Church’s Mosaic Tea and Coffee shop that serves as a job-training program for adults with disabilities.

    If we haven’t yet suggested something that captures your imagination, perhaps go with a comfort food favorite — mac’ and cheese. There’s a new book we haven’t seen yet, but it might be just the thing — “Melt: The Art of Mac & Cheese.” Pair it with a package of pasta and three cheeses. Happy Holidays.

    Ann M. Evans and Georgeanne Brennan have a food and agricultural consultancy, Evans & Brennan, LLC. Follow their blog, Who’s Cooking School Lunch? (www.whoscookingschoolunch.com) or reach them at info@evansandbrennan.com.






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