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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Food & Dining

Houck: Get creative with Santa’s snacks

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We’re only 10 days away from the year’s most solemn, holy and significant exchange of retail goods.

And we’re only 9½ days from the most important snacking night.

On that evening, tradition calls for leaving cookies and milk for Santa to enjoy as he visits each home.

It’s a tradition that traces its lineage from a medieval German custom of decorating the “paradise tree” with cookies and apples and wafers. (At least, that’s according to the Internet, which I always believe.) Over time, children noticed that snacks disappeared between the time they went to bed and when they woke to their presents.

Bypassing the logical answer of large rodents taking care of the treats — no one really wants to welcome Santa Rat into their holiday gatherings — the snacks moved indoors to be put by the hearth, where Santa allegedly made his entrance. Eventually, the food moved from indoor tree to tidy plate. There’s no clear answer about how milk got to be part of the tradition, other than to eventually be used as a dairy marketing tool.

As you can tell by this highly accurate Holiday CSI, traditions change and morph with time. I think it’s time this old chestnut does so as well.

This is a pay for play deal. To expect largesse while Santa loses so lopsidedly — “XBOX ONE for baked goods? Why certainly!” — isn’t only poor manners, it’s poor strategy. You scratch his beard, he’ll scratch yours.

I’m no Santa, but if I were, there are plenty of other tasty local options I’d choose instead of cookies.

Have you had the Cuban bread pudding at Bodega on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg? Santa wishes he could. They serve it warm and sticky. Perfect for a long winter’s nap.

Guava cheese pastries from La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City, full of flaky, fruity, creamy goodness, are delicious enough to move even the darkest soul off the Naughty List.

A slice of Key lime pie made by Mike’s Pies would make the jolly man pucker in the best of all possible ways.

If you live near Hyde Park Village, you could be all trendy and stuff and leave a crunchy-yet-delicate Christmas cronut from Piquant next to the tree. If you dropped one by my house, I wouldn’t refuse to eat it, either.

The truly savvy would hire The Poor Porker in Lakeland to make fresh, candy cane-flavored beignets for the occasion. To be holiday appropriate and hipsterish, of course.

I have no earthly idea what a sugar plum is, nor what would make them dance. I do know that a couple of bites of Russian Coffee Cake from Moreno Bakery in Brandon would make a well-traveled belly extremely happy.

To match the color of St. Nick’s crimson attire, a baker’s dozen of red velvet doughnuts from Dough in South Tampa would do nicely. It might force Kringle to go a few notches over on his belt, but so be it. As the mayor of Pudgytown, he’s been there before.

I know Mrs. Claus would appreciate your leaving a cream-cheese frosting Hummingbird Cake for Santa to bring home to her from Wright’s Gourmet Deli in Tampa. If Mrs. Claus is happy, everybody’s happy.

Nonconformists could take a different approach by loading up St. Nick’s plate with dulce de leche chocolates from William Dean Chocolates in Tampa and Belleair Bluffs. Or go for a scoop of chocolate habanero from The Revolution Ice Cream Co. in Brandon. Or maybe an Ybor City Double Espresso milkshake from one of the Burger 21 restaurants throughout the area. Or a Gibraltar-size wedge of baklava cheesecake from Hellas Bakery in Tarpon Springs.

Or, you know, stick to your Toll House temptations and your cold glass of moo juice and see what happens. You might get lucky.

Whatever the result, you’d better not pout.

I just told you why.

jhouck@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7324

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