Local Brilliance

These Northwest-made gifts are good enough to eat.


Christine & Co. Catering is in the business of pies and cakes. Christine bakes up a storm every holiday seasonsometimes pies, sometimes cakes. This Christmas will be a cake Christmas. Don't get upset when her Bartlett pear and gingerbread cake arrives upside down, because that is exactly how it's supposed to be. Surrounded by sprigs of verbena and pomegranate seeds, the 9-inch-square cake serves nine to 12 people. Her gingerbread baby cakes look like ordinary chocolate cake, but she pulls another switch-a-roo: The gingerbread is spicy and bursting with the heat of ginger and black pepper. And we can't forget the rich and colorful highlight: a three-layered holiday cheesecake torte. Chopped pistachios coat the sides and sugar- coated cranberries, orange kumquats, and green grapes line the top. Call 206-623-3173 for a complete list of holiday dessert selections. Deadline for Christmas orders: Dec. 19. BRANDON IVEY


A lot of people jib at the notion that the Pacific Northwest can produce pepper products to rival those of the arid Southwest. But once they've tasted Howard Lev's high-octane version of his mother's family recipe, based on a central European pickling formula, they don't need any more convincing. Lev's secret ingredient is the Hungarian goathorn peppers he uses, which mature perfectly in Eastern Washington's hot, dry climate. This year (the firm's lucky 13th), Mama Lil is shipping 20 tons of sizzling hot product as well as milder versions suitable for jazzing up everything from scrambled eggs to a cream-cheese bagel. Send these to out-of-towners on your holiday list, and you'll have them begging for more. 206-322-8824, www.mamalils.com. ROGER DOWNEY

ZINGOS (about $12 per 1-pound jar)

They're zippy! They're sugar-free! They're kosher! And best of all, they're all-American! That's Zingos, the peppermint- or cinnamon-flavored candy mint made by Tacoma's own Brown & Haley. Altoids? We spit on your Altoids, an effete British product dating back to the reign of George III, who, you may recall, was the monarch who tried to tax our tea. Coincidence? We don't think so! And do you know how much of your mint dollar goes to pay for those ever-so-clever Altoids ads? Even better, Zingos also come in 1-pound jars for refilling your handy pocket tin! That's economy! That's American ingenuity! Zingo, whoever you are, we salute you! 800-514-1066, www.zingos.com. R.D.


It may seem that ice cream is as good as it can get, but in fact, there is room for improvement. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's velvet truffle sauce can take ice cream, cakes, and pastries from good to gourmet. The pourable chocolate saucesRocky Mountain rum, Black Forest cherry, ripe raspberry, semisweet, espresso bean, and mocha almond fudgecome in resealable, sexily labeled bottles. Shopping for them at the Factory is half the fun we defy you to leave without a fancy caramel apple, a dreamy truffle, or a cone of their rich, house-made ice cream. Try a few drops of the truffle sauce in coffee or espresso. 1419 First Ave., 206-262-9581, www.rmcf.com. KATIE MILLBAUER

COOKIE ORCHARD COOKIES ($3.99 per 18-ounce "chub")

Too often in the dessert world, healthy equals bland, dry, or hard as a rock. Not at the Cookie Orchard, where cookies made without butter, margarine, oil, or white flour are as moist and tasty as more sinful ones. They're kosher, mostly organic, and made in the Northwest (Troutdale, Ore.). Best of all, Cookie Orchard cookies are sold as doughin plastic-wrapped "chubs"so less scrupulous customers can pretend they made the divine treats themselves. Pick your poison: chocolate-chip pecan, with dark chocolate and coconut; cherry pie, with real cherry pieces; peanut butter; or a scrumptious oatmeal raisin. 503-618-7809, www.cookieorchard.com. K.M.

LOCAL CHEESE ($11.99-$12.99 per pound)

You know Tillamook makes pretty good, reliable supermarket cheese, but do you know it also produces higher-end cheeses? Terms such as "medium" and "sharp" have to do with how long a cheese has aged. Tillamook makes a great extra-sharp cheddar (aged 15 months) and a killer extra-sharp white cheddar (aged two years). The latter can hold its own against English farmhouse cheddars costing twice as much. www.tillamook.com. K.M.

SALSA DE ROSA ($7.50 for 16 ounces)

Redmond may seem an unlikely breeding ground for great salsa, but one bite of Salsa de Rosa's fiery product should put any doubt to rest. Made spicy and chunky from fresh tomato, tomatillo, onion, jalapeƱo, and cilantro, it lives up to its tag line: "A fiesta on a chip." The small, family-run operation makes its salsa in mild, medium, hot, orfor the iron-tonguedextra hot. All are fine dips, and the medium salsa is great for cooking, too. The salsas are fresh, not the cooked and preserved kind, so they need to stay refrigerated and should be eaten in a relatively short period of time. That shouldn't be a problem. 425-241-4894, www.salsaderosa.com. K.M.

AUTHENTIC CANNOLI ($4-$6 for a box of six)

Something from Italy by way of the East Coast might not seem local, but it would be nearly impossible to enjoy good cannoli this season if not for Seattle's own Dolce Europa. Dolce Europa's Boston-made cannoli shells come plain or dipped in chocolate. Their sweet, creamy ricotta-based filling is delicious. They're great any time of day: as a sweet breakfast, a midday pick-me-up, or an after-dinner delight. Order a box or two for holiday entertaining. Or enjoy one with dinner at any of the local restaurants that serve Dolce Europa treats. For a list of locations, or to order directly, call 206-329-4444 or visit www.dolceeuropa.com. B.I.


With all the sweets that the Grand Central Baking Company is offering this year, even the worst main course can be saved by their baked goods. Pies are on top of their fantastic list with three selections: Pumpkin, bourbon pecan, and apple ($12 plus $2 pie-tin deposit) are sure to please. For a lighter dessert, they offer Christmas cookies: snowflake shortbread, mini ginger and almond biscotti, and double chocolate mint ($1.45). But wait, there's more. The bakery claims its panettoneItalian egg bread with raisins, candied citron, and orange ($3-$4)is "what fruitcake should be." And just in case the main course needs some help, they sell packages of rustic stuffing with recipes ($2.95). Order treats at least three days before you want to pick them up. 214 First Ave. S., 206-622-3644, www.grandcentralbakery.com. B.I.


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