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Christmas Countdown: Spanking New Olive Oil

You've got until next Friday to finalize your gifts for your foodie friends and family. Your time is similarly limited when it comes to olio nuovo, olio nuevo or—a less cool way to say it—new olive oil. The fall is when most of the olives around here are pressed and the oil is generally available at the latest until mid-winter. New olive oil is peppery, robust and has some serious personality compared to its mellower, older sibling. Here are a few we'd recommend. They make great, if heavy, stocking stuffers.

Market Watch: Mandarins, Cherimoyas And Perfect Wreaths

Despite the scattered rain and bitter cold, the December market is bustling. It’s that time of year when Cypress Flower Farms’ Saturday stand is brimming with wreathes and holiday swag made from Eucalyptus, heather, fir, cypress, and redwood branches and leaves. They smell fantastic and they’re so bright and beautiful they’ll inspire even the biggest holiday scrooge to brighten their homes with a touch of the natural world.

The Four Best Winter Beers

One cool thing about beer is that it's so seasonal. Brewers can make a new batch anytime they want and tailor its flavors and styles to the season. Winter beers and Christmas ales have long been a favorite among both brewers and drinkers. And here in the Bay Area we have more than our fair share of choices. Here's a four of my faves, each in a different style: 

The Year In Review: Food Trends of 2009

Oh 2009, we hardly knew ye. But now with (gulp) exactly two weeks left in this year and this decade, it's time to look at the food trends of 2009.

Lowering the Bar: 5 Places to Drink For Cheap (or Free) This Week

Each week, former sf.myopenbar.com editor Allie Pape brings you her picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF. This week: The holiday spirit(s). Have an event coming up? Want to share a tip? E-mail her.

1. SF Appeal Holiday Party: The SF Appeal, made up of hardworking journalists covering the issues, is a cause worthy of your support. Show them you love them by dropping in at their holiday party, where they'll have free Trumer Pils. And be careful: we journalists are pretty good at drinking. RSVP here. (Tonight, Wednesday, December 15, 7-10 pm, at PariSoMa, 1436 Howard St., SOMA.)

Classic Cocktails, Twitter Taste-Offs: The Drinking Trends of 2009

1. Cheap and Cheerful
The economy has got people drinking cheaper bottles of wine. But learning something along the way. As a sommelier in a high-end restaurant told me, “Maybe wine drinkers are learning that often what makes wine expensive is not only high quality, but things like fashion and availability.”

2. DIY Everything
Bartenders started the DIY trend a couple of years ago by making their own bitters. But now witness the portfolio of shrubs (syrups made from fresh fruit and vinegar) from Nopa’s Neyah White and the tonic water made with cinchona bark and assorted herbs and flowers from her backyard made by Pizzaiolo’s Cate Whalen. What’s next? Glass blowing?

Sweet Wines for Holiday Sweets

You know you're deep into the holiday cheer when you open the door in the morning and find brownies and cookies on your doorstep. Let the poundage begin! Whether you like it or not, holiday sweets are unavoidable. So, all the better to make them palatable by drinking the right kinds of things with them. While I'm not a prolific drinker of dessert wines, they do have their time and place. So there are three versatile types of sweet wines to keep around to cover most of your holiday needs. Just remember the basic fact of pairing sweet things: The wine should always be sweeter than the dessert. If you don't follow that, neither dessert nor wine will taste good. If you do follow it, it's all good!

Christmas Countdown: Gifts for the Butcher Girl

The thirst for blood is a draw during the holidays: While the tweens (and their moms) are swooning over New Moon, the lady foodies are finding the butchers mighty fine (Ryan Farr! Ryan Farr!). For that special woman in your life, there is no end to Christmas present ideas.

First Bite: Chilango Does Churros

I'm not even a huge churro fan. I like fried dough, sure, but given a choice of desserts it wouldn't top my list. But the churros at Chilango, which opened earlier this fall on the site of the forgettable Aztec Taqueria at Church and Market, are so good that they make the other very good food that you might order before dessert almost pale in comparison. With their crisp exterior, just-cooked almost custardy interior and generous dusting of granulated sugar and Mexican cinnamon, these set the gold standard.

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