It’s such a great time of year, especially when you have a handle on the season. Entertaining, gifting, gathering: It can seem overwhelming at times, so I like to break things down into smaller packages of time. Working at Surdyk’s, I am surrounded by wonderful, delicious things to eat and drink, so I typically do my Christmas shopping right here. My top five gifts to give for the holidays are extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Tartufo, chocolate—lots of good chocolate— and canned fish such as oil-packed tuna from Spain and sardines from Portugal. These will all find their way under the tree, in loved ones’ stockings or tucked into a gift bag with a bottle of Champagne as a host/hostess gift.
When entertaining, I can also get much of what I need right here. It’s great to have cheeses that are unusual, new, seasonal or local, such as Rush Creek and Bent River Camembert. Though not local, Rogue River from Oregon is one of our absolute, hands-down favorite wintertime blues. Wrapped in grape leaves and soaked in pear brandy, it is a real treat. (Also treat yourself!) Other cheeses we love this time of year are the wonderful Alpage Mountain cheeses. The Alpage designation means the cheese was made during the spring and summer months high up in the alpine meadows from the rich, flavorful milk of cows that grazed in those same meadows. The cheeses are usually made over open wood fires and then brought down from the mountains in the fall when the cows come down for the winter. Our current list of Alpage cheeses includes Abondance, L’Etivaz, Hoch Ybrig and Gruyère—and hopefully, we’ll see a wheel or two of Alpage Beaufort, too. All of these alpine cheeses
make excellent fondues and raclette dinners as well.
Another delicious thing that we make sure to stock during the holiday season is Fermin Iberico Bellota. These hams from Spain are a national treasure made from free-range, black-footed Iberian
pigs that forage on a diet of acorns, producing an incredible flavor of sweet, salty and nutty, and the fat is high in oleic acid, the same chemical found in olives. Chestnuts and chestnut paste or cream are often called for in holiday recipes but hard to find; we have both. Foie gras from Au Bon Canard is always stocked this time of year, as well as the duck leg confit we make here in our kitchen from the same ducks. (It is always a good idea to reserve in advance as they can sell out quickly.) Look for pickled crabapples made by the people from New Scenic Café up on the North Shore just outside of Duluth; they are gorgeous on a charcuterie or relish platter.
And be sure to pick up one of our Figgy Puddings. A seasonal tradition, they are quite heavenly and heady, especially when warmed and served with a dollop of our brandy hard sauce. Happy Holidays! – Mary Richter, Surdyk’s Culinary Director