Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m in a holiday baking rut. Anyone else these days? I tend to stick to the same tried-and-true recipes—pumpkin bread, gingersnap cookies, apple pie—which are easy and familiar but leave little room for branching out. There are certain baking traditions in our family, like angel food cake for my son’s birthday, that are nonnegotiable. But this holiday season, I’m taking a new approach, inspired by Claudia Martinez, who thinks like a pastry chef but comes at baking with a cook’s ethos:
“I take a more relaxed approach to it, just kind of winging it,” she told managing editor Emily Havener for the feature, “Claudia Martinez Holiday Baked Goods”. That feels right to me. I’ll be following her lead and her recipes, swapping that pie for her apple loaf, spread with a fragrant cream cheese frosting, to end this year’s feast.
Speaking of feasts, tucked away in the corner of Western North Carolina, there’s a little town called Sylva that’s waiting to serve you one. At the height of summer, I visited the picturesque mountain hideaway and got to know the team behind Ilda, a tiny restaurant with a familial heart and a big city ethos.
Owners Crystal Pace and chef Santiago Guzzetti moved from New York to Sylva, Pace’s hometown, and in the process have reinvigorated the community with their Italian-leaning restaurant and the wine bar that they manage next door, both of which provide an open, welcoming space for locals and visitors. Their idea of a feast pulls from Guzzetti’s Argentinian-Italian heritage—whole lamb over an open fire, polenta on every plate—which we share more about in “An Appalachian-Italian Holiday”.
This is one of our favorite cooking seasons at TLP. Cassoulet, that hearty, rustic dish, shows up two different ways. There are dishes to celebrate Kwanzaa, as well as a very personal history of the holiday from the “chefarmer” Matthew Raiford in “Why We Gather”.
I personally love flipping through chef and author Carter Hach’s The Hachland Hill Cookbook (full disclosure: I worked on edits of the book and know Carter well), which pays tribute to one of Southern cooking’s true legends, Phila Hach. If you don’t know the name, get Carter’s book and do some research—her recipe for lebkuchen, tiny German cakes, are definitely going into my new baking rotation.
And, since this is the time of year for toasts, reflection, and gratitude, I want to raise a glass to our entire team here at the Local Palate. To our many contributors—writers, photographers, illustrators—your work elevates all that we do. And though not always recognized in bylines or on the page, our small but mighty team of creative thinkers, boundary pushers, and tireless cheerleaders makes this job a joy and a gift.
Angelique, Emily, Hannah Lee, Laurel, Amanda, Maggie, Brian, Chris, Joe, Alex, and Courtney—thank you for crushing it every day.
And to you, our readers, thanks, as always, for coming along for the ride. Here’s hoping it’s a warm, comforting, and delicious holiday season.
As you consider making charitable gifts this time of year, these three nonprofit organizations are doing powerful work in the food space.
This Nashville-based outfit grows and shares food, cooks nutritious meals made from their gardens as well as recovered food, and partners with other community groups to feed and nourish their city.
A vital resource for food service workers, Giving Kitchen provides emergency assistance through financial support and a network of resources and is now serving Georgia and Tennessee, with plans to continue expanding.
Founded by chef José Andrés, this organization of volunteers heads to the frontlines to feed communities in the face of humanitarian, community, and climate crises—work that is essential as people and their communities aim to rebuild.
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