'Tis The Season for Holiday Dinner Help

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The last two months of the year are always filled with the sounds of holiday cheer: the jingle of bells, the crunch of shopping bags being filled with goodies and holiday music being played on our Pandora stations. But with all of that hustle and bustle, sometimes we can also find ourselves uttering words of frustration as meals are burnt or we realize that we don't have that one ingredient to make grandma's favorite dish.

But have no fear! Many of our local vendors have already been busily preparing to make sure that your holiday dinner tables are filled with what you need to gather around for a festive meal without any hitches.

According to Sara Feinberg, marketing and communications manager at Market Hall Foods, "The holidays are the time when we bring in all sorts of extra cheeses, ingredients and gifts to help our customers prepare." Linda Sikorski, Market Hall's head buyer, is stocking the shelves with cooked chestnuts and chestnut cream, an extensive selection of holiday baking ingredients and freshly pressed California extra virgin olive oils and special balsamic vinegars, which make for "perfect hostess gifts."

Ver Brugge Foods co-owner Michael Balliet says that much of creating the perfect holiday meal is taking simple dishes that you already know and adding a little something special. "Wrapping a pork tenderloin with thin slices of prosciutto and just adding sprigs of sage leaves, and some salt and pepper goes a long way," Balliet says. You can get more recipe ideas from the store's weekly email. Visit Ver Brugge to sign up - you can even win a $25 gift card.

If you're not in the mood to cook, Market Hall is also offering its "Whole Feast" Thanksgiving Day meal for the second year in a row. A full meal including a roasted BN Ranch turkey, sides and classic pumpkin pie serving 8 to 10 people is available to be ordered on its website by Sunday, November 23. (http://www.rockridgemarkethall.com/pasta-shop/holiday-menus/thanksgiving...)

Whether you conquer the cooktop or decide on something already prepared, College Avenue newcomer The FloraCultural Society (6307 College Avenue) wants to make sure that your tablescape is as beautiful as your meal. Owner and purveyor of flowers Anna Campbell says the best tip for creating an easy centerpiece is to "include branches as your starting point as they act as a natural flower holder."

The FloraCultural Society will host a centerpiece-making class that's kid-friendly on November 22 at 11 a.m. Register on their website at http://floraculturalsociety.com, or stop by their new shop to purchase one of two special holiday wreath designs that use organic and local farm-sourced fall leaves, mixed berries and pomegranate.

And if you do decide to give the cooking a go and it doesn't go the way you planned, there's always Zachary's to the rescue. The Chicago pizza joint is offering some seasonal specials, including a new roasted potato, rosemary, and garlic pizza - perfect for that back-up holiday meal. Fa la la la la.

Author Lauren Herpich is the owner of the new Rockridge Neighborhood Heritage & Walking Food Tour. To gift your new neighbors or treat your holiday guests, go to www.rockridgefoodtour.com