Holiday Staples Guide

Photos by Nicholas Karlin

If you buy into the agenda, the holidays are a time for love and togetherness, but let’s be realists. This isn’t a time for people to let down their guards and be vulnerable with the people they care most about, this is a time to keep each other on our toes. You will have last minute guests that drive you up the wall. You will get that 99th hour invite to a dinner where you’re supposed to BYOB and BYOF (the f is for forensics food). You will have that person who promised they wouldn’t buy you a gift, buy you a gift. In these rough circumstances, the best defense is an offense. Keep this last minute holiday staples on hand and you might just survive the season.

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We hit up the lovely folks to Politics & Prose to ask what books they thought would make the best presents and we highly recommend you pick up all of them. Best case scenario, you have a bunch of great new books, worst case scenario, you have something to give to that person who swore they weren’t going to give you a gift, but did anyway.

BOOKS MAKE THE BEST GIFTS:

Lincoln In the Bardo
In 1862, President Lincoln’s 11-year old son Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. From this historical event, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo unfolds in the dual worlds of historical Washington D.C. and the timeless bardo, a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, confess, complain, andargue. As Lincoln grieves, a struggle erupts over Willie Lincoln’s soul in a bold story about love and loss. Winner of The Man Booker Prize, this book lives up to the hype and then some.

Obama: An Intimate Portrait
Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer during Barack Obama’s two terms, documented Obama’s most iconic, candid, and monumental moments. Obama: An Intimate Portrait presents over 300 of his images in an oversize collectible format that feels like a piece of American history.

North Station
For a unique gift, turn to small presses: North Station, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith, consists of seven short stories by Bae Suah. A German translator, the highly acclaimed contemporary author combines elements of Korean and European storytelling to create this mesmerizing collection.

The Annotate African American Folktales
Henry Louis Gates and Maria Tater revolutionize the canon with The Annotated African American Folktales. Complete with nearly 150 African American stories, 20 seminal African tales, an entire section of Caribbean and Latin American folktales, and 200 full-color images, the collection is both ground breaking and beautiful.

Joy: 100 Poems
It’s the season to spread joy, and poet Christian Wiman can help. Wiman’s Joy: 100 Poems gathers one hundred evocative poems on the emotion in an illuminating anthology that encourages readers to explore and experience joy.

Tenements, Towers & Trash
Tenements, Towers & Trash
 
is a wild, illustrated history of New York City. Graphic novelist Julia Wertz takes the reader on a tour of the blocks, building, and guts that will fascinate New Yorkers, tourists, and history lovers alike.

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We asked the amazing folks at Glen’s Garden Market for some sick snack recommendations because you never know when a friend / relative / enemy might stop by your house and decide to hang out a whole two plus hours longer than they really should. Alternatively, these are perfect for when holiday shopping has pushed you to the very extremes of hangry. Whichever one comes first

SNACKS TO KEEP YOU SATISFIED:

Picnic Gourmet Spreads
These yogurt and goat-cheese based spreads can be used in all manner of delicious ways. They’re an excellent dip for crackers or crudite, a fabulous sandwich condiment and a dynamite fish or burger topper. The Parmesan spread also makes a great, savory stir-in for pasta sauces. Ultra versatile, ultra tasty.

Rip Rap Crackers
These super-crunchy crackers are handmade in Pennsylvania. The whole grain and real salt flavors make a perfect accompaniment for your cheese and charcuterie plate, and when you’re done dipping them, you can smash them up and use them to bread chicken parm… and they last up to six months in a sealed container!

Snacklins
These gluten-free, vegan “pork rinds” got their start on our shelves, and they’re insanely awesome. They look and feel like pork rinds, but they’re mushroom-based, which makes them the perfect snack to keep on hand in case you’re unexpectedly visited by a band of hungry vegans… or if you’re just jonesing for a light, delicious snack.

Capital Candy Jar small peppermint bark
These DC-made seasonal confections are beautiful and make the PERFECT secret santa gift. They’re sweet and minty, with crushed candy cane pressed into luscious dark chocolate. They come in a presentation box, which makes them the world’s easiest holiday gift. But it probably makes the most sense to pick up two, so you can taste-test one and confirm they’re delicious before gifting.

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We asked our friends at Cordial Fine Wine and Spirits to recommend some booze you could bring to every party and pour for every person. Here’s what they recommended.

BOOZE TO GET EVERYONE DRUNK:

Green Hat Gin Fall Winter
Distilled by Hand from 100% Grain and Select Botanicals in Small Batches in a Copper Pot Still. This limited edition gin is the essential seasonal addition to your bar. Hand-made from grain to glass, this seasonal edition of Green Hat Gin is a unique expression of gin, featuring the distinct scent of juniper, powerful earthy notes of caraway and rye grain, exotic spicing and the mellowness that only barrel aging brings.

Chufly Rujero Bolivian Singani
Every bottle of premium Singani and wine Chufly bring to the American market is crafted in Bolivia, and benefits dozens of families. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, every hectare of grapevines planted in Bolivia lifts a family out of extreme poverty. Aromatic flavors of soft white peach and pear with white ginger and banana.

Lubanzi Chenin Blanc Swartland 2016
100% Chenin Blanc from granite shale soils in South Africa’s Swartland region. Aromas of tropical bright melon, fresh tangerine and orange zest. A soft palate of gold pear and apple with hints of papaya and banana balanced with bright citrus zest.

Lubanzi Red Coastal Region 2015
A blend of 46% Shiraz, 31% Cinsault, 20% Mourvedre, 3% Grenache. A lush blend of dark berry fruit with lifting aromas and flavors of mint, blood orange, and tart black currant. Awesome winter warming wine.

Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc Cracklin’ Savie
The Karearea or NZ falcon emblem features on the Lake Chalice Wines’ label. In a land with no native mammals, this rare, endemic raptor has always flown fearlessly above the rest.

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You’re going to have surprise visitors who will expect you to feed them. You’re going to be invited to last minute potlucks. In those dire situations, the first thing we recommend you do is assemble a meat and cheese board. We asked our friend and charcuterie expert Jeb Gavin to show us how to assemble a last minute cheese and meat board (featuring Righteous Cheese‘s cheese and MeatCrafters‘ meats). Heed his advice and you just might make it out of the holiday season alive.

EVERYONE LIKES MEAT AND CHEESE:

THIS IS NOT A DRILL PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL: ACTUAL ADULTS ARE MINUTES FROM ENTERING YOUR HOME – THE PLACE YOU GO EXPRESSLY TO AVOID, UH, PEOPLE. THEY WILL CLOMP IN AS THOUGH YOU INVITED THEM (PERHAPS BECAUSE, IN A MOMENT OF GUILT OR BRAVADO, YOU ACTUALLY DID) AND SAY THINGS LIKE “IT’S SO COZY” AND “HAVE YOU EATEN?” EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW THIS IS THE IN-PERSON EQUIVALENT OF A SUBTWEET WHICH READS, “SOMEONE REGULARLY FALLS ASLEEP ON THEIR TOILET MID-SANDWICH IN THIS PLACE.”

OK, OK, calm down. No need for all of the caps. Flip the couch cushions. Knoll the piles of catalogs and magazines on whatever acts as a coffee table. Blankets over the laundry piles, contents of the sink transferred momentarily (forever?) to the dishwasher (or possibly the oven) for storage. Febreze everything. You need only as many clean glasses as you have guests, and there’s either wine or beer around or perhaps they’re bringing some. Fancy decorative bottle on the windowsill? Fill with water, put in fridge, pretend you buy fancy bottled water for teetotalers. “Why yes, it’s artisanal. ‘Yeti’s Choice’ is the brand, though they’re so eco-friendly they neither label nor cap their bottles.”

Food! Food is good! Food is what people put in their mouths to keep them from talking. Food turns awkward conversation into awkward silence, which is slightly more preferable than answering questions about one’s self. But what food? You can’t serve these people a meal, all your plates are in the oven! Also, what’s the point of sitting through the Stasi-esque grilling by out-of-town relatives if you can’t then cajole them into taking you out for a meal at a slightly-fancier-than-you-can-afford restaurant around the corner?

OK, gotta come up with something. Communal serving device: big-ass cutting board it is. Dump can of SpaghettiOs on it? No, too messy. Also, no forks, and Aunt Ida’s probably never been desperate enough to fashion a crude utensil out of an old takeout menu. Snacks. SNACKS. Meat? Not including the now sentient Trader Joe’s cold cuts in the deli drawer? Wait, salami from the farmers market, yes, that’s an adult thing to serve! There’s a few of them back in the fridge. Sure they’re months old, but they don’t smell and came covered in mold to begin with, so let’s do this thing. Slice ’em thin, make ’em last. Fan out on the cutting board. Or pile up. Whichever makes it look like there’s a lot. Now slide it over, make room for…

Cheese? You have cheese. Who doesn’t have cheese? Let’s see, half a block of something firm, most of a round of something soft, and a hunk of something blue. Something for everyone. Finally, being a fancy cheese dilettante pays off. Will people eat meat and cheese alone? Rather, will other people each meat and cheese alone? Will they eat enough of it that we don’t have to talk yet also not get full? What else is around.

Fancy lamb snack sticks? Sure. Cut in half, stood up in a glass on the board. That little jar of spicy honey that was amazing on pizza when drunk? Why not. Maybe next to the blue cheese. Tell cousin Neil, “it’s like wings without having to gnaw on chicken bones.” Olives? Jam? Mustard? Crackers which are neither oyster nor saltine? Yes, yes, yes, and as a meat and cheese delivery vehicle, hell yes. Pepita and raisin gorp? Better sprinkle liberally between stuff so it looks like the board was “styled.” Better put the jam by the soft cheese so it looks like you’re supposed to eat them together. “Oh, this? I always throw this sort of thing together after work. Just a nosh to tide me over.”

Slide stuff piles out of the way on the coffee table to make room for the board. Yeah, that came together nicely. Wasn’t too difficult, either. Might have to do this again sometime. Wait, how long have you been talking to yourself? Out loud? In the second person? Are your roommate’s cats judging you for this?

Meat pictured:
– Truffle Mania Salami
– Chajari Recipe Salami
– Black Angus Beef Mini Salamis
– Lamb Merguez Mini Salamis
– Casbah Pork Mini Salamis
– Spicy Pork Chorizo Mini Salamis
– Duck Breast Prosciutto

Cheese pictured:
– Black Betty goat gouda
– Rush Creek Reserve
– Beaufort d’Été

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