If you’re anything like us, you’re probably running around doing lots of last minute shopping for the holidays. Lately it seems we’re tending less toward buying more “stuff” that will just accumulate in closets and more toward consumable gifts, food items that will look beautiful on our tables and provide extra-special taste for this festive time of year. So as we edge closer toward Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we’d thought we’d share with you a few of our favorite local places for specialty foods that inspire our entertaining and provide that unique gift for the person who has everything.
At least twice a week we do a brisk walk down by the marina and typically finish by heading into the Santa Barbara Fish Market to choose our fish for the day. It’s an amazing place any time of year but the folks here really gear up for the holidays, making it a must stop for traditionalists who serve fish on Christmas Eve. And if you’re preparing the Feast of the Seven Fishes (more on this soon) you’ll find the variety you need. Smoked fish, ceviche, seafood platters are just a few of the seafood delights that await you at this marina treasure.
Il Fustino offers award-winning regional olive oils and vinegars ready for you to sample from their gleaming stainless steel tanks. Check out the Tuscan blend and Sicilian olive oils, and for the gourmet cook, how about a little precious truffle oil to flavor a risotto or add additional richness to a mushroom pasta? In addition, they stock a variety of unique items to fill a gift basket or two. A few of our favorites: anchovy-stuffed olives to use in a puttanesca sauce, butter beans from Italy to mix with a little tuna, red onion and red wine vinegar, Castelvetrano olives from Sicily – bright green and delicious. The color alone will knock your socks off.
At Metropulos, Ann Addis does a fantastic job curating this little neighborhood European-style deli . The cheeses, cured meats, and prepared foods are delicious and make an impressive presentation. Ann will personally help you with your selections for a distinctively pleasing match of flavors. Metropulos’ recent holiday newsletter announced the arrival of one of their best selling items, a Calabrian fig ball: dried figs glazed with molasses and honey, wrapped in a fig leaf and tied with a piece of straw. Sounds positively biblical and a perfect accompaniment to a cheese platter or served over ice cream. They also stock a variety of Italian and Greek specialty foods and feature tantalizing holiday catering menus, leaving you more time to enjoy your guests.
If you’re looking for a local wine for your holiday table or that perfect bottle of Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Cabernet Franc, then we suggest you visit Carr Winery. Ryan Carr, the winemaker, is a family friend, but we’re not the only ones who appreciate Ryan’s award winning wines. The Wine Enthusiast and Pinot Report, among others, have consistently rated Carr Pinots in the 90s and Carr Winery won the 2011 Santa Barbara Independent’s Readers Poll award for the best county winery and the best place to taste wine. In fact, if you have out-of-town guests visiting, be sure to stop by this hip Funk Zone winery for some urban winetasting. And if you happen to be in Santa Ynez, you can visit their newly opened tasting room there.
Hopefully these suggestions will make your lives a little easier and help you get your shopping done faster so you can find more moments to breathe deeply and spend time with the people in your lives who are most precious.