.Planning the Menu for Holiday Parties

One down, two to go—holiday meals, that is. The folks at Whole Foods have their act together as far as helping both savvy home chefs and the semi-clueless ones (we know who we are) make sure the Hanukkah and Christmas tables look fabulous. You can sit down at the holiday table at the front of the store and work with Whole Foods planners to order a complete meal for your guests, or perhaps simply a tray of mouth-watering antipasti for that upcoming open house. If you have your act together, you can order your Diestel turkey from Whole Foods, pick it up, take it home and roast it in your own oven.

There are, of course, all of the side dishes ready to pick up and serve, and classic desserts including—yes, even a gluten-free pumpkin pie. To order your holiday meal—from chopped liver paté, to vegan, to spiral-cut ham, simply swing by the store at 911 Soquel Ave., (or call 426-9901), place your order and make a date to pick it up. Simplicity itself. Now all you need to do for dinner is show up and look good . . .

And, while you’re at Whole Foods, check out the holy grail of gluten-free items: the bagel. Canyon Bakehouse has shattered the gluten-free ceiling with its new, sensational 100-percent whole-grain bagels. Yes. Bagels. Gluten-free, yet offering a convincing chewiness that will have you in tears. At Whole Foods they run close to $6 for four fat gluten-free bagels. Think of it as a buck-and-a-half a piece. If you had abandoned hopes of ever being able to enjoy a bagel again, this is indeed a bargain. We also found them in the freezer section of New Leaf Market. Yay! This gluten-free upsurge is a veritable movement, driven by consumers who want to live without the issues surrounding gluten, and yet refuse to compromise. I am genuflecting (to Canyon Bakehouse) as I write this.

Owl’s Brew Tea Crafted for Cocktails

A new discovery from Owl’s Brew, and wow this stuff is tasty: Owl’s Brew tea “syrup” crafted for cocktails. We found this at the ever on-the-edge Cafe Ivéta on Delaware Avenue, where bottles (of various sizes) of this fun new mixer are available. I was offered a sample taste, which I didn’t refuse. So here’s what it is: An intense infusion of Darjeeling hibiscus tea, tinged with the floral notes of strawberry and a sass of lemon (sweetened with organic agave), this syrup is exceptional swirled into a cup of green tea, or a tall glass of lemonade. Or. An updated Kir Royale—just add champagne! At Iveta, where we discovered this delicious concoction, they add it to glasses of white wine. Patrons love it. If you’re looking ahead to throwing a holiday cocktail party, you might want to pick up a bottle of Owl’s Brew. You will be celebrated throughout the county.

A Better Tamale

My father searched high and low for a tamale to match the ones he tasted as a boy at Mrs. Omnes’ boarding house in Boulder Creek. Chances are he would approve of the ones you’ll learn to make with Melissa’s Mexican Made Easy, on Sunday Dec. 4. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., join Melissa at the Westside New Leaf Market, where for $65 you’ll learn to make two kinds of tamales with chicken, salsa verde, jalapeño, and cheese. You’ll make sauces, a fiesta salad and hibiscus punch—and you’ll take home six tamales! Class includes lunch, recipes, supplies, and music. Bring an apron and an appetite. To register, email in**@me*********************.com or call 251-5640.

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