• Back in September we promised that we would find something to make fun of about the winners of the Trib’s holiday cookie contest. The thing is, the first few paragraphs of Emily Nunn’s coronation of the winners really, you know, wins us over:
What makes the ultimate holiday cookie? Is it the prettiest pastry on the platter? The biggest biscuit in the box? The chemically perfect confection?
Or is it the cookie with homely looks and/or culinary imperfections but a truly beautiful soul?
As much as we’d like to say it’s the latter, we can’t. A big tin of bad cookies does nothing but make people sarcastic and cranky no matter how tender the back story; they’re hard to swallow—even with a glass of milk.
Sarcasm! Crankiness! We are among our people, O staff of the Tribune! The first place winner of the holiday cookie contest is a pretty cookie, to be sure, but it couples its attractiveness with a charming backstory. (Looks and personality? Winning cookie — call us!) The confection in question is Baba’s cream cheese kolacky, submitted by Emily Dressel of River Forest on behalf of her grandmother. We’re also not sure whether this statement is made in jest (awesome!) or in sincerity (even awesomer!): “Baba herself compares winning our contest to ‘getting three pain pills at once,’ said Dressel. ‘She has arthritis.’”
• Heather Lalley reviews ‘Comfort Foods Made Healthy,’ a new cookbook that sort of gives it all away with the title. We’re sort of seeing this as The Sneaky Chef, but for grownups. Make of that what you will.
• We ourself are throwing a holiday cocktail party this year, so we’re particularly delighted by JenMarie Brownson’s collection of easy-peasy recipes for nibbly bits. Then again, this is also the nine hundred billionth article we’ve read on holiday cocktail parties, which are apparently the recession-chic entertainment vehicle this year.
• Emily Nunn’s profile of chef Jose Garces (of Mercat a la Planxa) does double duty: it’s both an illuminating look at his philosophy and background (’”You must do your research, but also travel,” he said. “In Spain, we were able to really dissect dishes, to understand them, before figuring out how to adapt them…to what we do in the restaurants.”’) and a plug for his new cookbook, Latin Evolution.
• Christopher Borrelli writes a touching tribute to late food writer Laurie Colwin, who passed away a decade ago. Her cookbooks — touchpoints in the genre of cookbook-as-memoir — are works of everyday poetry, and we echo Chris’s recommendation that they make excellent gifts. We’ve given them ourselves over the years, and every time we do we get a phone call or email six months later saying something like “I finally paged through that cookbook you gave me and OH MY GOD it is SO GREAT.” Which is basically the goal in any gift-giving scenario, no?
• Bill Daley pairs up some wines with one of our favorites — beef stroganoff — which, like popcorn, is totally having a day today, since it turned up not only here but also on one of our favorites, Closet Cooking. One of Daley’s experts recalls a pairing of stroganoff with a bottle of 1961 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but since we don’t have hundreds of dollars lying around, we prefer the more accessible options presented: a California pinot noir, an Australian rosé, a sugary Alsatian riesling or gewurztraminer. Much more in our price range.
[Photo of beef stroganoff via Closet Cooking]