Pecan sandies (especially from the Buttery) are part of a holiday culinary tradition.
The Cookie Before Christmas: If ever a culinary charmer deserved our attention during the Yuletide, it's the cookie. Consider its history: a portable snack, satisfaction in two bites, comfort food that can be consumed completely without a knife or fork—I mean, how easy is it to adore? The sweet cousin of the savory biscuit, the cookie was designed to offer easily transportable sustenance, as in the Middle Ages when riding from town to town required food that didn't need refrigeration or fuss. Once those old patriarchal marauders had finished raiding the Spice Islands, the cookie became not only a direct pipeline to sugar and butter, but also the bearer of the incomparably fragrant cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. What's not to love?
Spending many childhood Christmases in Germany gave me a chance to sample seasonal specialties like Lebkuchen and anisette kuchen. Once tasted, never forgotten. My mother carried on, and embellished the tradition of holiday cookies by baking and baking for months in advance. Brown sugar brownies were her specialty and I can still taste the first bite of the season of those chewy, dense bits of heaven. One of my own cookie specialties involves a cranberry, orange and almond variation on an old Sunset Magazine award-winning cookie recipe. It is simply brilliant. The other is an aggressively spiced (lots of white pepper and coriander) version of ice box shortbread, laced with candied citron and pecans. But enough about me. If you want to treat yourself to the ultimate local cookie—any time of the year, but Christmas does provide an extra excuse—you'll roll on over to The Buttery and stock up on the stupendous Pecan Sandie, its broad buttery expanse bordered with crushed pecans (lots of them) and topped with a huge rosette of chocolate ganache. OMG.
Wines of the Season: Part 2: My recent visit to the charming Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room in the hamlet of Davenport resulted in many discoveries:
1. The tasting room itself, awash with atmospheric light in the late afternoon, is still a work in progress. The customized tasting bar has yet to be finished, and in the meantime the capable tasting room team led by manager Casey Zarnesworks amidst the sleek decor designed by Suna Lock of Stripe. The sage green walls, low-slung couches and witty retro shelving are punctuated with bold graphic prints by Santa Cruz artist Louise Leong, who also designed the custom label for last year's Roussanne.
2. There's much wine here that belongs on one or the other of your holiday tables—as well as under the tree, given the “highly incentivized case specials,” as Zarnes noted. A $16 bottle of the new Cabernet Sauvignon-driven Claret is one righteous bottle of red, guaranteed to go well with everything but Dungeness crab. A Sparkling Moscato frizzante with a sensuous faux Mucha label sounds like a New Year's plan in a bottle ($32), and the flagship 2009 Le Cigare Volant seems poised to appear prominently at cool-weather gatherings. Boasting more syrah (36%) than in any previous Cigare, this elegant 13.3% alcohol creation offers fine balance of tannins and silk thanks to 25% grenache and 19% cinsault, some masculine angularity (probably aided by 20% mourvedre), and plenty of licorice and black pepper notes to satisfy intellectual palates. For that special connoisseur on your gift list, consider the Cigare Reserve ($75), whose extended aging in glass carboys has given it a softer, mellower elegance far exceeding its actual years. The new tasting room sits next to the Davenport Roadhouse, on Hwy. 1, in an old-fashioned white frame structure. Open Thurs-Mon, 11am-5pm. 888.819-6789.