Current Fixations — December 2014

How did we get to the last month of the year already? Even if that's the question on everybody's mind, there's no use scratching your head over the answer — just stop for a split second, and soak up everything that is December: lightning sales, holiday baked goods, twinkling sidewalks, cheesy Christmas music, and the always gratifying smell of a fireplace being warmed. Oh, and the few things I'm obsessed with right now.

Big Sur Bakery's Holiday Stollen. Last year, Heidi Swanson of QUITOKEETO started selling limited amounts of Dresden-style stollen, a yeasted German bread with rum raisins, candied citrus, quince, and almond paste, from Big Sur Bakery ($30). The store ran out before I could order any, but you can get notified when the festive-looking sweet loaves are back in stock. 

Helvetica noodle tee. I already wear my heart on my sleeve, so I figure it's okay to wear noodles on my shirt, then, too. I love Helvetica and I love Japanese noodles, so when it comes to this funny statement tee ($20) from Food52, I don't see a better candidate for model than myself. This would make a mighty fine gift for friends and family, too, don't you think?

Pomegranate-accented floral arrangements. The food wasn't the only highlight at POM Wonderful's recent San Francisco event; I was so blown away by the seasonally-appropriate concept of pomegranate arils as decorative accents that I took one of the vases home. (Note that since arils are perishable, arrangements do require some upkeep.) 

OMG Everything Is Fucked mug. I just discovered the writer, illustrator, and designer Emily McDowell, who can't help but make you laugh with her descriptions of the human condition, like greeting cards that say, "There is nobody I'd rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to." I'm itching for this "Everything will be okay//OMG everything is fucked" mug ($16).  


STEM. After the Mid-Market area gentrifies, SF's going to turn all its attention toward the quickly-developing Mission Bay neighborhood. The newest restaurant to open there is STEM, a 158-seat sustainability-focused restaurant with an adjoining garden. Snag one of its excellent  salads or pizzas, then head out to the heated terrace to enjoy bocce, a fire pit, and sweeping Bay views. 

Plantains. Sure, I feel less sluggish when I cut back on the refined carbs, but what's a girl to do when she just loves all things starch? The answer is plátanos. North American cuisine doesn't give these banana look-alikes nearly enough love — I like to pan-fry them in a little bit of coconut oil with cinnamon and other winter spices sprinkled on top. 

Forget Your Presumptions and Check Out The San Francisco Meadery

Aside from sleep, one of the first things I did when I hopped off the plane from Turkey was attend a preview of the latest menu items at The Ice Cream Bar. It was fun to try the shop's fall cocktails, like the SF Honey (below), but my favorite thing turned out not to be the ice cream or the cocktails at all. 

I learned that the Ice Cream Bar's also started carrying a line of meads, or honey wines, by a small company called The San Francisco Meadery. At the party, mead maker Oron Benary was on hand to pour samples — and they were fantastic. 

Oron and his wife, Sarah, only source ingredients and materials locally — we're not just talking apple cider from Sonoma, but also packaging from Oakland. (The farthest-sourced ingredient is their orange blossom honey, which comes from Ojai, CA.) They also own another label, Brothers Drake Meadery, out of Columbus, OH, and only use Ohio ingredients for those meads; his goal is to eventually open more meaderies, and expand to become a national brand with local production and sense. 

The San Francisco Meadery has three different meads. The Orange Blossom ($19.99) is named as such because one third of each bottle is made of orange blossom honey; it's aged for over a year for dry, light, and aromatic attributes. The fuller-bodied California Gold ($29.99) has only three ingredients — honey, water, and yeast — but comes across like an elegant semi-dry sherry, in part because it's been aged for two and a half years. And The Apple Pie ($19.99) is sweeter, with 8 percent residual sugar; it's made from Sonoma apple cider, as well as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. With such warming spices, it's a nice drink to get you in the mood for fall. 


Until this point, all of the meads I'd tried had been too sweet and one-dimensional, but I could actually see myself lingering over each one of these, the California Gold being my favorite. "I'm pretty much a winemaker who uses honey instead of grapes," Oron told me. He and winemakers have at least one thing in common, though: he uses wine yeast in his fermentation process. Those who enjoy wines but have reactions to sulfites, however, can rejoice: these meads are sulfite-free. 

Oron and his wife hope to eventually sell throughout the state, but currently they're only selling in the Bay Area. You can visit The San Francisco Meadery at its tasting room in the Bayview, or find the meads at Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, The Jug Shop, and Northern California Whole Foods stores.