I love the holidays. Whether in a time of recession, economic recovery or unapologetic decadence, I love to find ways to indulge. But, I can be a very self-indulgent person. In any case, I grew up in a house with an Italian-American mom who’d pull out all the stops creating, at once, magic and holiday refinery every year – from the elaborate decorations that included three to four Christmas trees in our house, to the elegantly placed ceramic manger scene on the mantle, shrouded in fresh, balsam fir scented garlands, and, of course, the glowing lights everywhere that, when I’d stare too much, which was too often, made my eyes water and blur. Okay, maybe it was the Eggnog. Nope, I don’t drink that stuff. I’ll continue to blame the twinkling, glowy lights…
The food at home consisted of our seasonal favorites that blended our Italian-Austrian heritage and Roman Catholic custom. Sorry, Dad. Your Viking customs were pretty much defeated by Roman conquering. No lefse, princess tortes, pickled herring or Glögg. And, so, my memories warm my senses with the familiar flavors of mom’s anise-kissed pizzelles, spiced lebkuchen and pfeffernusse. Then there’s the Tuscan roasts, the Sauerbraten and, best of all, the Southern-Italian tradition of seafood seven ways for La Viglia di Natale–the Christmas Vigil- also known as ‘The Feast of the Seven Fishes’. You’d think my mom would throw my dad a bone and include a pickled herring in the mix of fishes. Not a chance. I can smell my mother’s kitchen as I write, looking forward to traversing the air miles cross country to get home for the holidays.
It should also be recorded that we drink well in the Jorgensen house. We celebrate with German salmon and caper brunches with well-topped flutes of German bubbly. We drink excellent Oregon Pinot Noir. And, after sitting for hours around the dinner table, dad will then disappear and re-emerge from his bar in the basement with Champagne cognac, brandies and other spirits. A family that drinks together stays together. Or, something like that. All kidding aside, we do partake in moderation and enjoy the range of flavors that special wines and spirits offer.
But, I digress. While I’m still here in Portland, in full delight with glowing lights, holiday trim and delicious tastes to be had, there are some things that I covet and must indulge in to savor the enchanting flavors of the season. Here are a few of my favorite things…
HOLIDAY INSPIRED COCKTAILS
The Holiday Lennert
An update to my favorite summer cocktail.
4 cl Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy
2 cl Lime Juice
(fill to top) Prosecco (or Blanquette de Limoux, or Crement)
Serve in a Champagne Flute
Sexy Santa’s Bog Nog
Okay, there’s no real “nog” to this, but it sounds good.
2.5 cl (shot) Disaronno Amaretto
(fill to top) Vincent Family Cranberry Juice
Serve in a highball glass
Note: Pour 1 measure of Disaronno into a highball glass half filled with ice cubes. Top up with chilled cranberry juice. Squeeze a wedge of lime in to the drink and leave in as garnish. For a richer, fuller flavor increase to 2 measures of Disaronno.
Passing on the alcohol? Instead of a glass of full-bodied red wine, substitute with a glass of Vincent Family Cranberries Cranberry-Blueberry juice. It’s rich, full body is unexpected! It’s naturally sweetened and just wonderful.
Clyde Common Eggnog
Before last year, you couldn’t get me to drink Eggnog, even if someone’s life depended on it (see my note in the opening paragraph). Well, I met a friend for holiday imbibing at Clyde Common last December and was told I had to try this classic drink. None too excited, I reluctantly ordered one. Conceived by well-known Portland mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Clyde Common Eggnog is rich, spicy, frothy deliciousness. Who knew? It’s now a Portland holiday season tradition for me and, well, everyone else who likes to drink in Portland. Try to grab a seat by the bar if you can. Cat’s out of the bag, especially since the cocktail was featured with the recipe in Playboy Imbiber’s Dan Dunn column.
There are lots of reasons to visit downtown McMinnville. It’s in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. Great shops. And, great food. Thistle is a culinary destination. I could wax poetics about the menu. But, I’m going straight to the back of the restaurant. To the bar. Music from ambient sounds to the uber cool likes of The Cure and The Flaming Lips. Yup. Quaint and in-part hipster-esque, this bar is serving up some ridiculously good cocktails. Strong. Well-made. Get the Brooklyn. Get’s me in the holiday spirit. Rye whiskey, dry vermouth. Plus, they scored BIG points with me because instead of a nasty maraschino cherry, there was a lovely amarena cherry at the bottom of my pretty glass.
Again, passing on the alcohol? Then go by Cacao and order some of their elixir of comfort and joy – drinking chocolate! Go get some now! It’ll get you in a cozy mood. Soon, you’ll be walking down the streets of downtown PDX, or in the Pearl, whistling “Sleigh Ride”. You won’t even notice that it’s freezing and raining.
HOLIDAY INSPIRED FOOD & WINE PAIRING
Feeling decadent. Om. So, why should I bother running through the typical courses? I’m gonna cut to the chase, to the mantra of eternal tasting bliss. The best holiday thrill is none other than this ridonkulous dessert pairing. I learned about this when I managed the Best Cellars wine shop in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, nearly a decade ago. When I tried this pairing, I realized that if I died, all would be well. I had reached nirvana. It really doesn’t get much better than this. And, to be honest, nothing else really matters after you taste this. Really. You’re so blissed out that there is no fear, no stress, just pure light and joy. So, what better way to lose your fear of dying?
I recommend eating and drinking this now, if not sooner:
Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Rabitos Royale Bombon de Higo. That’s fig bonbons. I have to admit, I’m slightly miffed that the best friggin’ pairing of the season doesn’t belong to the Italian people. Spain, baby. Spain.
Sono spiacente, mia cara mammina.
You can find a listing of Pedro Ximenez producers here on Snooth.
HOLIDAY INSPIRED FOOD
I was going to include a recipe for Rum Raisin Ice Cream with Pizzelle Cookie. But, I’m tired and no longer in the mood to list any more favorite things for the season. I’ve been sitting in traffic all day. The stores were slammed today with impatient, vexed people holiday shopping. Loads of screaming kids. Then, I got home and realized I was out of Disoronno, so, no flippin’ Sexy Santa Bog Nog tonight. Oh well. Deep breath. It’s the holidays, after all!
And, in the brisk and carousel-like moments of hustle and bustle that go with the season, I try to keep a sense of humor as best as I can, and, mostly, reflect on all of the blessings that make the season bright. It’s love, love, love. And, I wish that, along with peace and joy to all.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!