Food is the center of most holiday celebrations, and this is the time of year when local eateries and food vendors fill their menus and shelves with specialty items. Whether you’re looking for tradition or trendy, we can help. The Bugle has compiled a short list of some of the fare (and fun) you can find at area businesses this month.
* Tim Faacks at Tim and Tom’s Speedy Market, 2310 Como Ave. W., starts cranking out his signature Christmas sausage right before Thanksgiving and tries to keep it in stock through New Year’s Day. He describes the popular product as a lean beef and pork sausage with a hint of allspice, but that’s all he’s going to tell you about it. It’s a secret recipe that was handed down to him by the Lindquist family.
The patriarch of that clan, Harry Lindquist, a butcher and grocer in the Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis from about 1920 to 1960, made the sausage each Christmas and never shared the recipe. Eventually, the family passed it on to Faacks, who has been running the full-service butcher shop at Speedy Market for 15 years. One of Harry’s daughters, Charlotte Lindquist Hansen, raised her family in St. Anthony Park and is the mother of St. Anthony Park residents Dave and Mark Hansen.
* Toni Panelli, chef-owner at Caribe Caribbean Bistro, 791 Raymond Ave., is bringing a little of his home country, Puerto Rico, into his December menu. A traditional Christmas meal there is roast pig, rice with pigeon peas, fried plantains, a coconut dessert called tembleque and coquito, a coconut eggnog that usually includes rum-lots of rum, Panelli said.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the right licenses to roast a full pig outdoors or serve rum, but he will have tembleque (which he describes as a coconut Jell-O) and coquito-without the rum-on the menu. Coquito means “little coconut.”
* The Finnish Bistro, 2264 Como Ave., has stollen (a bready fruitcake) and julekake (a cardamom bread with candied cherries, citron and raisins) on its seasonal menu. Manager Sandra Weise said other holiday treats on her bakery shelves include almond kringlers, cardamom bread pudding, Russian teacakes, holly berry sandwich cookies and ginger heart and angel cookies.
The Bistro recently updated its menu to include the Finnish names for its dishes, along with a key to tell you how to pronounce those words. One new item on that menu is Perinteiset, a traditional Finnish breakfast that includes smoked salmon, pickled herring, salami, a hard-boiled egg, cucumber, tomato, Swiss cheese and rye crisp or bread.
* Lady Elegant’s Tea Room, 2230 Carter Ave., is hosting a six-course Victorian Christmas tea featuring actor Luke Peterson’s one-man show of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on two Saturdays, Dec. 11 and 18. The meal includes Ebenezer Scrooge’s cheddar soup, eggnog scones, Mrs. Fezziwig’s English trifle and Mrs. Cratchit’s plum pudding. There will be two seatings each of the days. Reservations are required. Call 651-645-6676.
* If you are looking for that perfect gift for the foodie on your list, check out the Minnesota-made cheeses and meat products at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus. The Andrew Boss Meat Science Building, 1354 Eckles Ave., houses both the Department of Food Science and Nutrition’s Dairy Store (open Wednesdays, 3-5 p.m.) and the Andrew Boss Laboratory of Meat Sciences’ salesroom (open Wednesdays, 2-5 p.m.).
The Dairy Store, in room 166, has four flavors of holiday ice cream: pumpkin pie, cinnamon, eggnog and peppermint chip. It also sells award-winning cheeses, including aged white cheddar, gouda and two kinds of blue.
The meat salesroom, room 26 in the lower level, offers a variety of meats and gift boxes that include steaks and roasts, assorted sausages, and University of Minnesota honey, maple syrup and some varieties of U of M apples, depending on availability.
* Chocolat Celeste has reopened in the area at 652 Transfer Road. Proprietor Mary Leonard says she has a number of new designs and flavors for the holidays. For Hannukah she has chocolates with Stars of David and menorahs on them. She’s also got Christmas tree designs to put on top of her artisanal chocolates. New flavors this month include eggnog truffles, cranberry bon bons and peppermint truffles. The store will be open from 11 am. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through Dec. 24 and will be open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.