Get Stuffed: Holiday Eats in the Mission

Image shows Marco Senghor outside his restuarant.

Little Baobab owner Marco Senghor plans to offer special Senegalese dishes for the holidays.

It’s said that the holiday season is about peace on earth and good will to men, but the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without food.

We here at Mission Local want to help you stuff yourself with tasty comestibles and impress your visiting family members with local treats, so we prepared this guide to some holiday eats in the Mission. Enjoy and remember: diets are for the New Year.

Feel the Spirit of Terange at Little Baobab

Little Baobab owner Marco Senghor tries to practice the Senegalese principle of terange – a word that connotes generosity or hospitality. “You give as much as you can without expecting anything back,” he explained. “You expect your happiness comes from giving to someone. They’re happy, you become happy.”

It’s an idea sums up the best of the holiday season, and in that vein, Senghor has used his restaurant to give back to the community, hosting fundraisers for Bay Area nonprofits.

While Senegalese food may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of holiday fare, Little Baobab will offer special holiday dishes, including a couscous royal — lamb cooked with couscous and veggies. For dessert will be tiakry, a pudding of yogurt mixed with sour cream, couscous, raisins, vanilla and nutmeg.

Get Feet-y With Mission Cheese

Ah, the cheese platter — a classic way to finish a holiday meal, and best of all, it takes minimum preparation. Just unwrap a few different cheeses, garnish with a cluster of red grapes, and you’re set.

Eric Miller, cheese expert at Mission Cheese, recommends Rush Creek Reserve as a good seasonal cheese to round out your platter. Available until January, the cheese comes wrapped in spruce wood and has a bacon-y flavor, Miller said. “What you can do is warm it in the oven, and cut off the rind, then grab bread and dip away,” he suggested.

For a more unusual selection, Mission Cheese’s Liz Rubin recommended Tilston Point, a cow’s-milk cheese. “It’s washed in a brine solution,” Rubin said. “There are bacteria in the brine that when exposed to oxygen then create an orange color on the cheese.” The bacteria, called b. linens, lends the cheese a meaty, “feet-y” aroma, she said. “The smell by itself could scare some people away, but the taste is more approachable — sweet, nutty, really fruity. So if you can get past the smell, it’s really approachable.”

A Fishy Feast at Locanda

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an old Italian tradition for Christmas Eve that goes back to the idea of fasting before Christmas, said Ashley Bellview, director of communications for the restaurants Delfina and Locanda. Traditionally, many people — encouraged by the Catholic Church — would abstain from meat on the eve of holy days, eating fish and seafood instead.

In honor of that tradition, Locanda will be hosting a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Highlights of the family-style meal will include lobster spaghetti and whole fish served up several ways.

Go Gateau at Arizmendi

To satisfy your sweet tooth, Arizmendi Bakery will have a lot of treats for the holidays, including gift-sized bags of cookies and German stollen bread. “The closest way to describe [stollen] is basically a German version of panettone,” worker/member Isaac Hee said, referring to the Italian sweet bread popular around this time of year. Stollen is “a yeasted bread with a bunch of dried fruit. It’s not super-sweet, but definitely not a savory bread by any means.”

Another unusual treat to watch for is the gateau Basque – a traditional pastry from the Basque region of France. “It’s so traditional that everybody has their own version,” Hee said. “I have my own version. It’s sort of a combination tart/pastry that’s completely enclosed in an almond- and anise-flavored pastry dough, and the filling is a pastry cream.”

Although closed on Christmas Day, Arizmendi will be open Christmas Eve for those last-minute, emergency baked goods purchases.

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