December 24, 2013

Finding traditional Christmas fare across the countryWhile Christmas used to be almost exclusively a time for a home-cooked meal where family and friends gathered around the dining room table, in recent years it has increasingly become an opportunity for restaurants to show off their specialties.

Now that the restaurant industry has taken its place as a bastion of creativity, exploration and artistry in America, more chefs are using Christmas as an outlet to offer up their own twists on traditional holiday classics, or cook something completely different altogether. Christmas has become yet another opportunity for chefs and patrons to indulge in the remarkable creations that have become a staple of modern dining while also celebrating the holiday.

Italian Christmas
Italian-Americans have been celebrating Christmas Eve with the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” for generations. So for anyone of Italian heritage, or who is simply curious about how other groups mark the holiday, finding an opportunity to indulge in this classic meal is a must.

Restaurants across the country will be cooking up their own variations of the Seven Fishes, which usually includes a mix of finfish and shellfish, depending on the resources available. One notable restaurant offering the feast is Ray & Stark’s Bar in Los Angeles. Any culinary course graduates on the West Coast will surely want to stop in and give this classic a shot.

Sugar plums
Always a Christmas staple, sugar plums are one of the tastiest sweets available during the holiday season. In Austin, Texas, the hip, bistro-style restaurant Parkside will be offering Pastry Chef Steven Cak’s version of these treats, and anyone who has taken Austin pastry classes will want to stop by to sample his take on this Christmas staple.

Spiced rum
With eggnog heading the list of cherished Christmas cocktails, the holiday is well known for its wide assortment of seasonal libations. One of the oldest of those is spiced rum. Unfortunately, spiced rum is generally difficult to come across. Unless, that is, you live in Chicago.

Every December, the city hosts a month-long Christkindlmarket, with craftsmen flown in directly from Germany to provide residents and tourists with some of the greatest traditional Christmas foods and drinks that can be found anywhere in the world. Among those is mulled, spiced wine, which is made from a secret blend of spices that make it well worth the wait in Chicago’s often frigid temperatures.