A man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry. Ecclesiastes 8:15
Writing about Christmas treats and festive beverages is dangerous territory. Locals are adamant about their favorite spot to score an authentic stollen, the most buttery sugar cookie, or the strongest hot toddy. So while I won't claim to offer the most exhaustive list, the following spots are sure to whisk you through the madness of the holiday season with some semblance of sanity and satiation.
While there's something about this time of year that inspires me to break out my whisk and apron, I also love what our local bakers and pastry chefs produce. Whether you're looking for a treat to go with your coffee or want to contribute to the holiday table this year, these folks have got you covered in the seasonal sweets department. Let's face it they do it better than most of us can anyway.
There's something to be said about a simple piece of pie, and nobody does seasonal slices better than Mission Pie. For Thanksgiving, it will feature pumpkin, apple, pear/cranberry, walnut (much like pecan but made with a sister nut), and a vegan apple with brandied raisins ($3.50/piece). Mission Pie is adamant about getting its fruits and flowers from local farms, so it only uses what's in season. Later in the winter, the Mission District destination will feature desserts made with winter fruits, like my favorite: the bright, sharp, citrusy Meyer lemon perfect with a cup of hot tea.
2901 Mission, SF. (415) 282-1500, www.missionpie.com
If traditional pie isn't your bag, pastry chef Elizabeth Faulkner is your gal. Leave it to her to take a seasonal dessert like pie or a simple holiday cookie and turn it upside down. This year, Faulkner is planning her usual butter and lard crust for Thanksgiving pies (mmm, lard) filled with innovative flavors like apple and cheddar or a bourbon chocolate pecan ($25$28) as well as her infamous pumpkin sage cheesecake ($30). And of course, a holiday at Citizen Cake wouldn't feel right without the gingerbread Joes and Janes ($4) in festive bikini attire.
399 Grove, SF. (415) 861-2228, www.citizencake.com
ARIZMENDHI BAKERY AND NOE VALLEY BAKERY
The leftovers and the in-laws have come and gone. Hallelujah. Now look forward to a wintry season hunkering down with a fruitcake. I know, I know, fruitcake's got a bad rap. Are you scared of those plastic tubs of pseudo-fruit with sticky green cherries? Me too. But bakers who do traditional fruitcakes don't touch those. Instead you'll find a variety of boozy fruits, citrus, warm spices, and nuts. What's not to like about that? Arizmendhi does one of the most popular fruitcakes in town ($12). It's smaller than your average loaf and made with dried apricot, papaya, pineapple, currants, and cherries, along with healthy doses of brandy, spices, and citrus. Noe Valley Bakery also makes a much-loved fruitcake, specifically an iced German Christmas stollen ($21). Owner Michael Gasson has updated an old family recipe that includes housemade candied orange peel, toasted almonds, fresh ground nutmeg, and lots of brandy. Much like a fine wine, fruitcakes get better with time (which is one reason they were so popular in pre-refrigeration days), so Gasson starts making these treats early to allow the flavors to ripen and mellow. For all you fruitcake skeptics out there, this is the year -- and these are the places.
Arizmendhi Bakery, 1331 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 566-3117, www.arizmendibakery.com; Noe Valley Bakery: 4073 24th St., SF.