Food-o-File

V.B.W. is serious about fruitcakes; plus, the Event Menu is in holiday heaven


But, Seriously, Folks!

All the clichéd holiday jokes notwithstanding, I really like fruitcake. Many years ago, a friend began sending me one every year from a famous northeast Texas company, and I developed a taste for them. I'm not a fan of all fruitcakes, mind you, but I know of three exemplary versions to enhance the holiday table. Right here in Austin, Sweetish Hill (1120 W. Sixth, 472-1347) co-owner Jim Murphy is so meticulous about his fruitcakes, he even candies all the fruit from scratch. The cakes, $7.25 for a small loaf and $14 for a round, are wonderful and available in the store through the holidays. Another worthy choice is the pecan-studded cake from Mary of Puddin Hill ( www.puddinhill.com; 800/545-8889) that even has roots here in town. Company founders Mary Horton Lauderdale and her husband, Sam, were cash-strapped UT students in post-World War II Austin who began selling cakes made from her family's heirloom fruitcake recipe for extra money. After graduation, the Lauderdales returned to the northeast Texas property that Mary's ancestors had received for "meritorious service to the Republic of Texas" and built a very successful mail-order cake business. The cakes are predominantly pecans with candied cherries, pineapple, and dates, plus just enough batter to hold everything together. Over the years, they've added other baked goods (the Praline Pecan Pie is gaining in popularity, thanks to a boost from Dr. Phil) and a line of signature candies in order to have something to satisfy every sweet tooth. My absolute favorite fruitcake, the source of my own conversion, is from the Collin Street Bakery (www.collinstreetbakery.com; 800/292-7400). Folks in Corsicana have been making fruitcakes for more than 100 years, and they have an international following. The company is the largest processor of native Texas pecans in the state, and you'll believe it as soon as you open the package. In my opinion, the Apricot Pecan with glacéed Australian apricots and the Pineapple Pecan with glacéed Costa Rican pineapple are the best choices. For fruitcake alternatives, check out the pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, and candies sold under their Cryer Creek Kitchens (www.cryercreek.com; 800/468-0088) imprint. I'm looking forward to the arrival of my fruitcake this year. I won't re-gift it or use it for a doorstop. I'm going to eat it all myself.


Event Menu: Dec. 10-18

The annual Holiday Fair at the Westlake Farmers Market at Sunset Valley (www.westlakefarmersmarket.com, Toney Burger parking lot) features great local food and crafts for holiday giving. Santa will be there! 9:30am-1pm, Saturdays, Dec. 11 and 18.

Zin American Bistro & Bar (1601 W. 38th, 377-5252; www.zinbistro.com) invites you to join them for Bubbly and Bonnes Bouches. Chris Miller of Ambassador Distributing will pair four delightful sparkling wines with chef Sean Fulford's elegant appetizers for $29. Reservations are necessary. 6pm, Tuesday, Dec. 14.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Zin American Bistro, Chris Miller, Sean Fulford, Westlake Farmers Market, Cryer Creek Kitchens, Collin Street Bakery, Mary of Puddin Hill, Sweetish Hill, fruitcake

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