Patak’s Hot Mango Chutney can be your secret flavoring weapon this Thanksgiving.

Patak’s Hot Mango Chutney can be your secret flavoring weapon this Thanksgiving.

Everyone has a favorite condiment, a go-to jar or bottle of something that invariably adds dash, spice, interest, sex appeal and just plain more bang for the buck to a favorite dish. In addition to a shelf full of hot sauces and mustards, our refrigerator never lacks a jar of Patak's Hot Mango Chutney. Mango chutney is incredibly clever at adding both forthright and soft focus flavor to any number of creations. Take turkey, a timely example. Turkey in and of itself lacks anything remotely close to flavor. But it accepts other flavors with all the graciousness of a TV star at the Emmys. It adores mango chutney, and I don't mean the mild kind, either. I mean hot mango chutney, which definitely puts lead in the otherwise lackluster pencil of turkey (with apologies to metaphor mavens everywhere). The kick, the sweet/pungent sass of hot mango chutney gives turkey serious attitude, and it will not detract one iota from mom's traditional stuffing. Au contraire. A hit of chutney will also pump up the volume on everything from those inevitable peas and broccoli casseroles, to stuffing. Even—just think about this for a minute—pumpkin pie. And if you're contemplating roast goose, or a ceremonial baked ham for the holidays, grab an extra jar of Hot Mango Chutney. Think of it as a culinary pro-choice moment. Your guests will be dazzled. A few more tips from my gonzo culinary style sheet.  I've added hot mango chutney to black beans. Chile verde loves it and so do those thin-cut pork chops I sear up for quickie dinners. Put some on pancakes. Live a little!

Stocking Stuffers: Part 1: Cruising the sparkling display cases of Gayle's is a joy all year 'round, but as the winter holiday season gears up so do the treats at this vibrant shop. A clear cylinder filled with Cantuccini—oh so buttery and crisp, the Venetian-style baby biscotti studded with almonds, not the hard, jaw-breaker Bolognese ones—will run you just under $8. Perfect stocking-stuffer size.  I defy you to not open the container and wolf down a couple on the way home!

New on the Horizon: Once it's the first of December, and that turkey dinner has faded into a sweet memory, start looking for imminent restaurant openings.  One is Maharaja, housed in the former Royal Taj, and looking to be a whole new, refurbished place to satisfy your aloo gobhi cravings. The menu, billed as offering “authentic Indian cuisine,” looks long and mouthwatering. Start cruising Soquel Avenue at the corner of Riverside and keep your eyes peeled for the opening day. Or just call and be the first on your block to find out when the garlic naan is out of the oven—(831) 427-2666…Also scheduled for early December is a new eatery with the very postmodern name of Your Place, where the former La Mission used to be in the Pizzeria Avanti and Sushi Totoro complex on Mission St. The new “farm-to-table” restaurant plans to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Whew! Keep your ear to the ground.

Wines of the Season: Meanwhile, quickly run over to Soif and grab a bottle of Birichino 2011 Pinot Noir Lilo Vineyard, a stunning creation of subtle orange peel, currants, bay leaves and mineral perfume. Velvety tannins and an intricate spice finish gives you a whole lot to like for only 12.5 percent alcohol. More soon on this perfect holiday table wine with the memorable medieval woodcut label. From the alternative winemaking minds of Alex Krause and John Locke, it’s $40—and worth every penny.