I don’t know if this would classify as ”˜chestnuts roasting on an open fire,’ but when I see chestnuts, I know that Christmas is near — or here. Here in the Philippines, chestnuts are sold at supermarkets and open markets cooking in a gigantic steel pot. The nuts are stirred frequently with a large wooden paddle, so as to distribute the heat among the little stones. It is these pebble-like rocks which ensure that the chestnuts cook evenly. There is no smell like freshly-roasted chestnuts still hot from the pot, steaming in the brown paper bag that the vendor hands to me.
And here those same chestnuts are again, this time arranged in a fancy glass platter, awaiting their debut on the Christmas table.
What would Christmas be without cookies? Here are two of the prettiest that I’ve seen this year. This one is from Starbucks. It’s a colorful gingerbread Christmas tree cookie with a silver dragee for décor. You can say what you want about Starbucks, but I find that they often have the best seasonal sweets and they taste so good too.
These decorated sugar cookies are from Classic Confections, that much celebrated made-to-order pastry shop. My Bin received these as a gift, presented in a glowing silver box. The cookies take some effort to bite into at first — the icing used to make the decorations dries hard, which is what it’s supposed to do. Once you get through that first bite however, the cookie is crumbly and not too sweet.
My good friend Kaie landed a breakfast buffet at some upscale hotel this morning, and she invited me to join her. While congee is not something I must have for Christmas, I simply had to take a photo of her congee — so artfully put together with the dried fish, peanuts, and sesame-encrusted tofu.
Ah, bibingka. My Christmas is incomplete without this most revered of rice cakes. The banana leaf that it’s baked on contributes a most characteristic fragrance that whets my appetite. Here, it’s dressed up the way it should be with all the accoutrements: grated coconut, muscovado sugar dotted with sesame seeds, and most importantly, margarine not butter. Butter is too refined a spread for something as rustic as bibingka.