Grace’s Holiday Favorites for 2020

Great gift suggestions for any foodie on your list! 

Holiday Favorites by Grace Singleton, Zingerman’s Delicatessen co-managing partner

holiday favorites

I always get excited when the winter holidays arrive.  It’s such a fun time to sell food at Zingerman’s Deli.  All of our seasonal and holiday favorites return–like holiday sweets (panettone and stollen!), special cheese (Rush Creek reserve and extra aged Comte cheeses) and meat (Iberico hand sliced ham).  It’s also just so much fun to help you with your gift selections.  Whether you are buying for that special someone in your life or looking for just the right thing for that “hard to buy for” person that seems to already have everything they need, we can help you find just the right gift. I guarantee that we have great food on our shelves that you can’t buy anywhere else in the US and we can easily make a pretty package for you with ribbon and tissue or arrange your purchases in one of our illustrated gift boxes that won’t require any other wrapping.  Just add a card and you are set to go.  

This holiday, the items I hope to find under my tree or in my Christmas stocking are a mix of old classics and some new finds are making their first appearance at the Deli in 2020.  

Lobster from Scout Canning 

photo credit: @scoutcanning

Imagine being able to eat lobster meat with drawn butter anytime of the day or night, no matter where you are. That is the option we now have thanks to Scout Canning’s tinned lobster.  They use a mix of lobster claw, knuckle, and tail meat.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the size of the pieces–I had a whole claw in the last tin I opened! The lobster is MSC certified, wild caught and harvested off the shores of Prince Edward Island, Canada. This Atlantic lobster with butter is poached, tinned and beautifully packaged.  I love that it has a pull tab top so you don’t even need to have a can opener available!  Simply submerge the tin in some hot water (water brought up to a simmer and then turned off, or straight out of a kettle) for a few minutes before opening, then grab a cocktail fork and dig in for a delicious treat.  I also had some fresh bibb lettuce from the Farmer’s Market last week that I dressed with a creamy vinaigrette dressing, added some watermelon radishes and grated carrot (also tasting great right now from the Farmers Market) and topped it with the warmed lobster.  It was a delicious entree salad that brightened my whole day! 


Mount Mansfield Maple Drops  

I love all things maple and I was so happy to stumble upon these individually wrapped hard candies this year. You may be familiar with the soft maple candies that are a bit more fudgelike and crystalline in flavor, but these are a more traditional hard candy made with maple syrup.  (Mount Mansfield also makes other types of hard candies, granulated maple sugar and maple sugar flakes–all are delicious and available at Zingerman’s Deli!) The candies are in the shape of a maple leaf (of course!), and are a clear deep dark amber color with a full rich dark maple syrup flavor to match. The benefit of the hard candy is that it lasts longer and you get to savor the maple flavor longer.  I can’t resist chewing the soft maple candies, but these I can pop in my mouth and enjoy for much longer, slowly savoring the rich maple flavor. It’s like having a spoonful of maple syrup (yes, I sometimes eat a spoonful of syrup for a sweet treat) but having it last and last.  I sometimes get disappointed because many maple products can be weak in flavor–they may be made with 100% maple syrup, but it’s the lighter grade fancy syrup that has a more delicate flavor. Mount Mansfield, located in the foothills of the Vermont Green Mountains, has managed to capture the intensity of the dark robust grade maple syrup (formerly known as B grade) in all the products they produce.  The candies are sold as a bag of 20 individually wrapped candies, so you can share them with others, or stash a few in different places so you’ll always have a sweet full-flavored pick-me-up nearby. 


Zingerman’s Coffee Company Holiday Blend 

holiday favorites: holiday blendZingerman’s Coffee Company has roasted up another exceptional coffee for us this year!  We sell the Holiday Blend every year, in the same pretty red foil bag that looks so good poking out of a gift bag.  Each year, it has a slightly different flavor profile. Like all agricultural products, there are variances in the coffee crop and in the coffee bean flavors every year.  The experts over at Zingerman’s Coffee Company roast and “cup” multiple different combinations of beans and test several different roast levels to come up with the final blend. This year they paired coffees from Hacienda Miramonte in Costa Rica and Daterra Estate in Brazil, with beans from the ASPROBALBOA co-op in Colombia and used a medium roast level to bring out the best of each coffee bean. The blend this year is rich, layered, and silky smooth with hints of cocoa. It’s the kind of coffee you can drink day or night, at breakfast or with dessert. An added benefit is the special price–$18 each or 2 for $30.


Dates from the Rancho Meladuco Date Farm 

photo credit: @rancho_meladuco_date_farm

These dates were such a surprise to me when I first tasted them.  It changed my entire understanding of what a really good date can be. I can’t say that I took much notice of dates before I tried these. I knew it was a dried sweet fruit and my aunt used to make these little date cookies, but I was never really impressed by them and certainly didn’t go looking for them.  Thanks to Joan at Rancho Meladuco, I now keep a box of dates in my fridge and have a whole new appreciation for the delicious depth of flavor a really good date can have.  These dates are big Medjool dates (the king of dates), about 2” in length.  There are about 20 dates in a one-pound box. These dates have pits so the fruit is intact (which I think helps keep the flavor, and keeps them so moist), but the pits are easy to remove. These are great to just snack on, or you can browse the recipes on the Rancho Meladuco site. I want to try the dessert tamales myself!  The sweetness of these dates is a wonderful accompaniment to any style of cheese and meat, and they are an exceptionally easy way to upscale any cheese and meat platter. The dates are hand packed in a sturdy box with fun illustrations on it that make them another easy gift to give that doesn’t need any extra wrapping on it–you can just add a bow!  Soft and moist with little bits of fine crunchy sugary texture. They definitely have a honey sweetness to them– similar to the meadowfoam honey we sell from Moonshine Trading Company–with maybe a little leather and basswood honey undertones. It’s hard to express the level of sweet flavor and the depth of flavor these have–it goes on and on.  It’s one of those foods that once you eat it you don’t want to put anything else in your mouth because you want that flavor to last all day long. 


Luxardo, the original Maraschino Cherry 

photo credit: @luxardousa

I grew up with the bright red maraschino cherries that were used to make my Shirley temples, or to garnish Old Fashioneds. They were pretty and bright red (or sometimes we’d get green ones around St. Patrick’s day) but not very flavorful–just sort of a bright sweet fruit. Then my husband and I took a vacation to New Orleans about 20 years ago and we ordered Manhattan’s at the boutique hotel we were staying at. That was when I first experienced the flavor explosion of the Luxardo cherries. I was blown away by how delicious they were and asked the bartender what they were and where you could get them (I also asked for double cherries in my second drink!).  I’ve stocked them on my home bar ever since.  The maraschino cherries most of us are used to are made from light colored sweet cherries (Rainier, Gold or Royal Ann varieties) that are preserved in brine using sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride which bleaches the fruit. They are then finished by soaking in a sugar syrup colored with red food dye (FD&C 40).  In contrast, the Luxardo family candies their cherries using only Marasca cherries and cherry juice.  The Marasca cherry is a small sour cherry with a dark almost black color.  The texture is firm and almost crisp on the outside, and along with the rich thick syrup, improves any cocktail it accompanies. The Luxardo family started producing the candied Marasca cherries, along with the Marasca liquor, and Limoncello in Dalmatia in 1821.  Seven generations later, after surviving the destruction of the original production facility during WWII, and leaving in exile from Dalmatia to Torreglia in northern Italy, the candied Marasca cherries are still produced using copper pots, with a distinct crisp firm texture, and a deep dark red color.  In every jar you will find equal amounts of the thick rich cherry liquor and whole candied cherries which allows you to not only enjoy the fruit but also add the delicious syrup to your drink. Use it as a sweetener for your cocktail, make an exceptional Shirley Temple, or enjoy the most delicious cherry on top of your gelato sundae that you’ve ever tasted.


Marabissi Amaretti alla Mandorle (aka Marabissi almond cookies)

If you like a moist but light and fluffy cookie with almonds or marzipan, then these are for you.  They only show up in late November and we’ll have them until they sell out in December.  They are soft and tender, coated in powdered sugar, and wonderful to have on a cookie tray or to nibble on with a cup of tea or coffee. They are handmade by the Marabissi Company located a little south of Florence in Tuscany, Italy.  The bakery has been in business since 1948 and everything they make is done with traditional ingredients in small batches which equates to exceptional flavor and quality.  I’m never really sure if I should call these a cookie–on the Marabissi website they translate it from Italian and call it a macaroon. Whatever you call them, they are delicious!  They are made of 43% almonds, to which they add egg whites, sugar, and some ammonium carbonate for leavening.  They are also gluten free.  Imagine an almond paste that is still moist and tender, but slightly “fluffy” in texture due to the egg whites and leavening, shaped by hand into a little cone shape, and coated with powdered sugar.  I always try to savor them and eat them in 2-3 bites, but I usually have to take just one out of the package and hide the box so I don’t eat them all at one sitting!  


Walnut Beigli from Zingerman’s Bakehouse

holiday favorites: walnut beigliZingerman’s Bakehouse started making this Hungarian nut roll after doing extensive research on Hungary several years ago.  It’s a Christmas staple in every home in Hungary and it brought back so many fond memories for me when I first tasted it.  My grandmother on my mom’s side came over to the United States in 1920 from Austria when she was only 18. She was an incredible cook and every Easter the entire family gathered at her house to enjoy a massive feast which always included her nut kuchen.  I’d never heard the term beigli before, but as soon as I tasted it, I was transported back in time to those amazing family gatherings and the delicious flavors of my grandmother’s nut kuchen.  The Walnut Beigli is a buttery yeasted dough, that is rolled up jelly roll style with a walnut filling and baked until it’s a dark mahogany color on the exterior. The filling is made of ground walnuts combined with raisins and a little lemon zest, and sweetened with honey.  The combination of the dark baked crust with the sweet filling is delicious on it’s own, but if you really want to take it over the top you can prepare it like my father used to. He’d slice a 1” piece and butter both cut sides and fry it in a skillet until each cut side was lightly browned and the filling was warmed through.  A very decadent treat that will be sure to make you smile!  This is a Zingerman’s exclusive–and it’s only here through December (insider tip: it freezes great if you want to stash one away for a spring celebration).  You can also find the recipe in the Bakehouse cookbook if you want to recreate it at home yourself!