Food for Thought
---- — Here are some suggestions on how to give a little bit of Cape Ann and the North Shore this holiday season.
Seabiscuit Bakery. This coy little Lanesville kitchen introduced Fish Shack Ginger Cookies, gingerbready cookies nipped with rum, and Fish Shack Bread, an anadama-inspired loaf, to Cape Ann’s baked choices. Currently Seabiscuit Bakery is producing a holiday gift package: Maple Almond Granola (a Rockport Farmers Market favorite), Fish Shack Ginger Cookies, French Chocolate Bark, and Almond Tea Biscuits. The smart Seabiscuit packaging alone justifies pride-in-gift, but Seabiscuit’s signature serious flavors — cinnamon, molasses, homemade five-spice, and almond — rule. A little bit Lanesville, a little bit Paris, the Cardamon Brioche is not to be missed, particularly fine served with Sasquatch salmon pate. Tea biscuits and thumb-print cookies can be made gluten-free if you ask nicely.
Call 978-282-4745 to place an order, or watch for the “Bread today” sign at 1105 Washington St., Lanesville (corner of Washington and Andrews).
Nothing gets more to the heart of the local matter than a cookbook assembled by local keepers of the recipe boxes. Cape Ann has three gems:
“A Circle of Recipes,” commemorates the Annisquam Sewing Circle’s 175th anniversary. The contributors know for whom they write. There are more tea sandwich recipes here than in Fannie Farmer. Recipes such as Poulet Grand’ Mere and Roast Leg of Lamb with Cranberry, Prune and Macadamia Nut Stuffing make this native treasure not only a solid collection of dressed-up New England recipes, but an homage to a community which values Cocktails on the Porch, Drinks before the Play, and Sledding in the Pasture, as chapter subtitles attest. It’s a wonderful gift for those who live this way, or those who wish they did. The book also contains some very old curiosities, such as “Chocolate Sea Moss Pudding,” which recommends harvesting sea moss after a storm.
The Temple Ahavat Achim Cookbook, a local best-seller when it was first published by the Gloucester temple in 2009, still represents the joyous cooks within Gloucester’s Jewish community. From stylish recipes such as Sweet Pea and Avocado Vichyssoise to brilliant innovations like eggplant latkes, to gilded brisket recipes, the temple cookbook is a treasure. Mark the Persian Chicken Stew page, wrap a bow around the book, and leave it in your hosts’ foyer at the next holiday party. That recipe — dried apples, cranberries, chives, parsley, mint and chicken — is a gift all by itself. The Temple Ahavat Achim Cookbook can be purchased at the temple weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“Gifts of Gold, In a Sicilian Kitchen with Sista Felicia,” is Felicia Ciaramitaro Mohan’s assembly of many of her Sicilian-Gloucester family recipes. “Gifts of Gold” is available on the “Sista Felicia’s Kitchen” website.
Fudge Everything. One pound of pure cane sugar and high-grade, dark Dutch-process cocoa, with a few other friendly ingredients, this jar of fudge sauce may be the easiest local gift to give. Creators Anne Girian and Debra Bloomingdale produce it in Manchester; they say it’s cheaper than therapy and works just as well. In the spirit of chocolate-as-medicine, I say make sure there’s a jar in your own cupboard this holiday season, too. You can find Fudge Everything in The Cave on Main Street, Gloucester; Lula’s Pantry, 5 Dock Square in Rockport; or check out the Fudge Everything website for more availability.
Salt & Ayre, the new updated line of Harbor Sweets Chocolates is not for your grandmother anymore. Almond buttercrunch toffee enhanced with chipotle sea salt, caramel sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt, crystallized ginger topped with Thai ginger sea salt, all wrapped in a minimally chic aqua box, are flavors your child’s hipster kindergarten teacher will declare “cool.”
The Salem chocolatier’s equestrian line of chocolates, with a corgi photo-bombing itself on the back of the box, still makes me smile, as does the welcoming Colonial pineapple chocolate in a little Nantucket basket.
These touches declare this 40-year-old chocolate business squarely “North Shore,” beautiful examples of local giving. Sold in Gloucester at Harbor Loop Gifts at the Building Center or in Beverly at Beverly Hospital Gift Shop, Casa De Moda, Henry’s Market, and The Paper Store.
Dinner Dealer. It looks like a deck of cards; it feels like a deck of cards, but it’s actually 52 deals to locally-owned — no chains allowed — North Shore restaurants from Swampscott to Newburyport. The discounts — $5 off your $20 meal, $10 off $30, or $20 of $50 — actually pay for the $25 deck after three evenings out. For the single brother-in-law who knows his way around a menu or the favorite teacher who appreciates local cuisine, Dinner Dealer is lots of local love. One dollar of each sale is donated to a local food pantry. Sold at The Cave and sites listed on the Dinner Dealer website.
A growler of Chili Stout. Fresh-tasting. locally-brewed beer — as far from liquor store bottled beer as freshly baked bread is from a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Sliced White — is a gift, even for the six-pack estranged. For those on the way to the party without a present, you can’t go wrong by running into Cape Ann Brewing Co. and filling up a growler, a charming 64-ounce jug, with a freshly-brewed beer of your choice. I particularly like the Chili Stout; if Taza Chipotle Chocolate were a cold, frothy, fermented beverage, it would be this. Cape Ann Brewing Co., 11 Rogers St., Gloucester.
M. S. Foley Stoneworks Granite Rolling Pins, and more. Some of my favorite kitchen gifts this year are rocks. Gloucester stone artist Michael S. Foley is creating beautiful pieces for the kitchen: mortar and pestles, spoon rests and soap dishes made with granite and marble. The granite rolling pin is a masterpiece, truly kitchen sculpture. Foley makes cheese slates, too, all available at The Cave on Main Street in Gloucester.
Rosanne’s Biscotti are not the spare, subtly flavored Tuscan variety; these are biscotti gone Marie Antoinette. Great slabs of homemade cookie gloriously bejeweled in coconut, cranberries, and various nuts, dripping in white and dark chocolate. These magnificent creations belong on the silver tray beside the plum pudding and trifle. They are baked by Gloucester’s Rosanne LeBlanc, and sold at The Cave or from the website, rosannesbiscotti.com.
Appleton Farm Sunset Hill Triple Creme Cheese. This bloomy rind, brie-style cheese, named for a favorite Appleton Farms grazing location, is a gift of North Shore terroir: local milk turned to buttery, peppery local cheese. Or, simplify things and give the gift of milk and cookies: A quart of Appleton Farms Milk and a box of Lark Foods Cha-Cha’s, the spicy, chocolate shortbread cookie produced in Essex, is a gift that cannot be improved. Appleton Farms, Route 1A in Hamilton and Ipswich.
Lobster is one of Gloucester and Rockport’s best commodities; don’t forget that it makes a great gift. Think of sending Gloucester lobster the way the rest of the world thinks of sending Omaha Steaks. Choose your favorite aunt in Indiana. Call your favorite fish market — Connolly’s? Intershell? Turner’s? — you choose. Make Aunt Helen’s Christmas a little Cape Ann special.
More quick suggestions are “Baking by Hand,” the cookbook from Salem’s A&J King Bakery, a Cape Ann Farmers Market mainstay’ French market baskets from La Provence, 4 Main St. in Rockport; and Frosted Snowmen Cookies from Manchester’s Batter-Up Bakery, www.batterupbakery.com.
Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.