Where to find regional holiday foods in D.C.

December 15, 2013

You may not know why your family has always eaten a yule log cake on Christmas Eve or Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. You just feel it wouldn’t be the holidays without certain foods, drinks or novelties. If you’re from out of state — or out of the country — finding regional seasonal delicacies can be tricky. Here are some ways to keep your yuletide traditions on your plate or in your cup.

greatlakes
Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale
D.C. is crawling with displaced Ohioans (blame all their seats in Congress). This means you might have to arm-wrestle another Buckeye for a six-pack of the spicy, honeyed, very limited-batch ale, much of which doesn’t even make it out of the state. “It’s exciting to see people go that crazy for it,” says Marissa DiSantis, spokeswoman for the Cleveland brewery. $16 a six-pack (prices may vary), Schneider’s of Capitol Hill (300 Massachusetts Ave. NE; 202-543-9300), Georgetown Wine & Spirits (2701 P St. NW; 202-338-5500), some Whole Foods stores.

Tamales
Texans and other Southwesterners traditionally gobble tamales on Christmas Eve. They can order pork, chicken or sweet pineapple-raisin ones by la docena (the dozen) from Mexican Cowboy Tamales, Ofelio Crespo’s Columbia Heights-based company. Crespo relies on a secret-recipe green salsa for his pork tamales (think jalapenos, poblanos and garlic), and he’ll do what he dubs “sacred tamales” for vegan or gluten- or dairy-free diets. $20 a dozen, $36 for 24; 202-702-0637,
mexicancowboytamales.com.

Christmas Crackers
Brits pull the ends of these gift-wrapped paper tubes until they snap open with a popping sound, then excavate the paper crowns, silly jokes and cheap toys inside. A dinner-table tradition since the 1840s, crackers appeal because they’re “really kind of an old-fashioned thing,” says Lisa Lasell, owner of U.K. foodstuff store The British Pantry. “British people love tradition.” $40 for 8 “luxury” crackers, $30 for 12 traditional/kid-friendly, The British Pantry, 41153 John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Va.; 703-327-3215, thebritishpantry.us.

Stollen
Ja, if you’re German or German-American, your grandmother probably plied you with this loaf-shaped dried-fruit and sugar concoction. The stuff’s been produced since as early as the 15th century. It’s good with coffee, and fries up into a decadent French, er, German toast for breakfast. And, yes, it tastes better than its distant U.S. cousin, the fruitcake. $5-$42, German Gourmet, 5838 Columbia Pike, Falls Church; 703-379-8080, germangourmet.com.

King Cake

kingcake

Depending on whether you’re from Latin America or Louisiana, you might order a King Cake to mark Epiphany on Jan. 6 or Mardi Gras, which falls on March 4 in 2014. New Orleans native David Guas of Bayou Bakery creates his version by meshing recipes from both regions: “It’s an oval-shaped cake with cinnamon and creamy filling, topped with green, gold and purple frosting representing faith, power and justice.” Customarily, a plastic baby is baked into the confection, giving whoever bites down on it good luck (or, maybe, a broken tooth). The cakes are available starting Jan. 6 (order in advance); each includes a baby for revelers to hide themselves. $40 for 14-inch cake, Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar and Eatery, 1515 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington; 703-243-2410, bayoubakeryva.com.

 

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Marissa Payne · December 15, 2013