Since you've been good boys and girls this year, Virginia B. Wood fills your stockings with lumps of foodie news instead of coal.
As the year rushes to a close, it's a race to see if I can get all the hastily scribbled notes off my desk before time runs out! Let's see what news items Mrs. Santa has in her bag. Though we usually try to concentrate on local gifts, it almost always happens that some mail-order company will send me something remarkable. A couple of years ago it was the crab products from the resort hotel in Maryland, and this year, it's rum cakes from Jamaica. The sampler pack of delightful little cakes that came from Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes (www.tortugarums.com, 800/444-0625) was the winner this year. While they have a full line of condiments, sauces, and candies, the rum cakes are really exceptional: The original golden, chocolate, coconut, banana, and pineapple varieties were moist and full of flavor, great on their own or with fresh fruit and/or ice cream. Also, if you're looking for a last-minute jewelry-style gift item for the chef/baker/bartender/foodie in your life, check out the offerings at the Decorated Chef (www.decoratedchef.com). The selection of lapel pins and earrings is very good... Our kudos to Molly Dickey for surviving a recent nightmare flu weekend with three men and a baby -- the three men being husband Sam Dickey plus sons Justin and Max, and the baby being their newest family member, daughter Claire Lucia, aka Peanut, who was born in October. We're glad to know everyone recovered... Regular Chronicle contributor Mick Vann and co-author Art Meyer are busting their buttons with pride this month, having just received word that their recent book The Appetizer Atlas: A World of Small Bites was named Best English Language Cookery Book in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. They hope to journey to Barcelona in the spring to pick up the award... Owner Ron Flores called to let us know he's now serving a Caribbean breakfast weekend mornings, 8am-1pm, at his Habana Restaurant (2728 S. Congress, 443-4252), and he invites folks to come and check out the new decks at his festive eatery... The master confectioners at Dr. Chocolate (454-0555) are leaving the Central Market shopping center at the end of this month and will be relocated somewhere else in the central city by the end of January. They will remain in production during the move, so if you need chocolate before they've reopened, just call, and the gents will come to your rescue. They've also signed a lease on new production facilities in East Austin, and their line of distinctive custom chocolates will soon be featured in the offerings of 2 Dine 4 Catering... Those of us who live in the Maplewood neighborhood have been keeping an eye on the increased activity at the building site of the new Pato's La Super Rica Taco Lounge (1400 E. 381/2). The general contractor told me last week that he was about to turn the building over to the former Pato's owners who planned a December opening, but nothing has happened yet. We'll keep you posted... Katherine Clapner will be the pastry chef at the new Convention Center Hilton when it opens at the end of this month. She'll be responsible for desserts for their banquet operations, two restaurants, and an upscale coffee bar... Be sure to take some nonperishable food items with you when you go to the Westlake Farmers Market (4100 Westbank, 280-1976) this Saturday, Dec. 20, for their biggest Christmas market. The canned goods will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank... And finally, the recent fundraiser at Tecolote Farm raised more than $5,000 for injured farmer David Pitre and his family. Wife Katie Kraemer told me this today: "The money went out as fast as it came in. I've just written checks to cover so many medical bills. What we'll keep forever is the outpouring of love and support shown by the community. It was wonderful and we'll never forget it." Happy Holidays, indeed.