Turn down a tin of artisan-crafted sweet treats? Not me! In the spirit of giving and the mantra “all foods fit,” I’ve rounded up my top picks for pastries, chocolates, cakes, ice cream, and candies that will make quick work of your Christmas list. Thank me later.
Tis the season when every health outlet is offering tips and tricks for “beating the holiday bulge,” “navigating the buffet at the office Christmas party,” and, if you catch the headlines at the grocery checkout, how to lose twenty one pounds in as many days with the latest iteration of keto. Enough!
Here’s my mantra year-round: never skip dessert. You can read some of my argument in favor of a daily treat here. While I’m a firm believer that indulging a sweet tooth on a daily basis can indeed nix the vicious cycle of deprivation and overeating, sugar is still a bit of a four-letter word in the mainstream media and gets the brunt of the blame for the current (obese) state of the nation. Below, you’ll see that the data on sugar consumption tells a different story.
Luckily I have some friends who are 100% down with all things in moderation, and we have a tradition of exchanging sweets in December. Sometimes it’s regional, once in a while the confection in question involves an inside joke, and whatever it is, it’s always something crave-worthy. While I wouldn’t EVER consider any of us food snobs, we all know our stuff. And yes, all foods fit – including drugstore candy and Hostess snack cakes – but we’re talking Christmas here. Step it up and send out one of these impressive edible gifts.
Pastry: Shatila Bakery, Dearborn, MI
A veritable treasure trove of delicious Middle Eastern eats, Dearborn is notably home of Shatila Bakery, which specializes in “America’s Best Baklava.” But don’t sell yourself short and order just this one embodiment of phyllo-pistachio goodness: Shatila offers buttery, delicate variations such as the Bird Nest and Mini Rose. There’s even a smattering of vegan offerings for those foregoing butter. Featured in the likes of Bon Appetit, Vogue, and AFAR, these pastries won’t disappoint. Order here - shipping is next day FedEx during the holidays.
Two words: chocolate and bacon. Yes, it was love at first bite when I stumbled upon my first Vosges bar. But this female-owned artisan confectionary offers so much more: truffles featuring globally-sourced ingredients, pecan toffee, and fluffy caramel marshmallows can all be delivered straight to a loved one’s door (or yours. As they say: treat yourself)! More reason to feel good about your Vosges purchase: these chocolates are manufactured in a facility that utilizes 100% renewable energy, and most are packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled materials. Who wouldn’t love to open up this box?
Specialty: Halvah Heaven, Massachusetts
If you’re not eating halvah, you’re missing out. Essentially ground sesame and sugar, this relative newcomer elevates the art with the addition of complementary flavors, like the Five Spice powder featured in the brand’s award-winning Silk Road variety. While this traditional Middle Eastern confection is delicious on its own, I’d advise the recipient to try sprinkling a bit on vanilla ice cream, nestle a wedge in a date, or even try it on roasted eggplant. Now look: you’ve gone ahead and made the gift of candy nutritious!
Candy: Shriver’s, Ocean City, NJ
There’s little gray area when it comes to salt water taffy. Needless to say I’m a huge fan, and when I’m gifting it, the sweet sticky stuff MUST come from Shriver’s! The texture is pleasantly soft, the flavor selection is broad, and, if you’re looking to mix things up, you could order something like this. Unless, the recipient is me, of course – then just send the taffy, please. A true taste of the East Coast, a gift from Shriver’s will bring a smile to any candy connoisseur’s face on Christmas morning.
Cakes: Duane Park Patisserie, New York, NY
If you’re old enough to remember Ring Dings, then you NEED to get on this page and order the slightly more refined incarnation from Duane Park Patisserie. I say “slightly” because these perfectly portioned little cakes capture all the nostalgia of the Drake’s original. Instagrammable as they are delicious, these crème-filled cakes are offered in a six-pack of mix and match flavors. You can’t lose with any of them, but if I HAD to pick six, I’d go Cubano, Funfetti, Pistachio-Raspberry, Rainbow, Matcha, and of course, Classic Original.
Ice Cream: Coolhaus, Los Angeles, CA
There’s a good old ice cream sandwich, and then there’s a Coolhaus sammie. Once you’ve had the latter, it’s hard to go back. I happened upon this memorable treat at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks lost (as usual), but the Mintimalism (“dirty” mint chip ice cream sandwiched between two double chocolate chip cookies) was a win. Check out their pint and sammie bundles and send this drool-worthy LA staple to your favorite ice cream fan, or treat a crafty home cook to their sammie-making guide.
What’s YOUR favorite mail-order Christmas confection? I’d love to hear about it!
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your life!