Special/Signature Issues » 2012 Holiday Almanac

Holiday Digest

Five ideas for a mini taste run of the season.

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1. Richmond's artisanal food movement has never been as diverse and exciting, with local bread, honey, cheese, charcuterie, beer, wine and cider and a bounty that seems unstoppable. Locally roasted coffee from Blanchard's, Lamplighter or Rostov's is a sure bet to go with soft-textured fruit and nut granola (pictured) from baker Sheila Johnson (thinkingofyoucreations.com), who also packs gift boxes of cookies, brownies and anything with sugar.

2.Goochlanders take pride in the coziest outdoor dining in the area at Portico on River Road, where the candles, heaters and a massive, stacked-stone fireplace make a romantic but neighborly spot for winter cocktails and Italian appetizers under the stars.

3.Chocolate remains a perennial favorite — to drink with pastries at the new WPA Bakery in Church Hill, to indulge in a terrifically rich cup at Can Can while shopping in Carytown, or to eat in cube form at Heritage in the Fan. Local chocolatiers are in full production. Chocolate Cravings offers port truffles at J. Emerson Fine Wines that show gift connoisseurship.

4.Cooks and wannabes come together over holiday classes at Mise en Place in Shockoe Slip, Sur la Table in Stony Point Fashion Park, and Kitchen Thyme's commercial kitchen on West Broad Street. Learn how to carve holiday meats, create yule logs or pair wines with food, among an array of hands-on options.

5.Farmers' markets haven't stopped because it's almost winter. Find root vegetables, local eggs and meats and prepared foods, plus crafts, jewelry and gifts at locations around town (growrva.com has a partial list). The Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Urban Farmhouse Midlothian markets are two of the newest.

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