Woof. It's the Year of the Dog.

Japanese New Year's traditional celebrations center on family and food

a Nengajo, or traditional new year's greeting card.

a Nengajo, or traditional new year's greeting card.

Thomas Martin, special to Edible DC

According to the Chinese zodiac, we've said goodbye to the Year of the Rooster and are saying hello to the Year of the Dog. Japan, along with many countries in Asia, uses the Chinese zodiac system, which rotates through 12 animal signs for each year in a twelve year cycle. Celebrations in Japan have already welcomed the transition, and the Year of the Dog in 2018 is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard and communicate well. Other astrologists predict that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

We talked to the staff at the Japanese Information and Cultural Center (JICC) to learn more about Japanese traditions for what is their most important national holiday. 

EdibleDC: Tell us about New Year's in Japan. How to you celebrate, and what are the most important New Year’s traditions?

JICC:  Oshogatsu (New Year’s, January 1-3) is the most important holiday season in Japan. It is a time to be together with family, friends, and relatives, and many return to their hometowns to spend Omisoka (New Year’s Eve) and Ganjitsu (New Year’s Day). There are many traditions associated with the season, although some have fallen out of practice in modern times. Originally, Japan followed the Chinese lunar calendar, but since 1873 Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and has since marked January 1 as the start of the New Year.We have several things that are important to do at the New Year.

  • Nengajo: New Year’s greeting cards. Much like Christmas greetings in the U.S. it is an important custom to exchange greeting cards and they should arrive on January 1.  (The JICC will display the submissions and winners of their own local annual Nengajo contest through the month of January 2018.)
  • Joya no kane: On New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples around Japan will ring the temple bell 108 times, one for each bonno (earthly desire), in order to drive these desires/attachments away and purify. Each strike of the bell must be allowed to fully reverberate before the next strike is made.
  • Hatsu-mode: Literally “first shrine visit.” People will visit a shrine early on New Year’s Day (often before sunrise) to pray for good fortune in the coming year, buy omikuji (fortune lottery) and omamori (charms). Some people will wear kimonos for their hatsu-mode.
Mochi, a rice cake, is a key ingredient in zōni which is eaten on new year's day.

Mochi, a rice cake, is a key ingredient in zōni which is eaten on new year's day.

EDC: What are considered classic New Year’s dishes for Japan? Do they have any special connotations, such as providing luck, good fortune, etc?

JICC: We have many special dishes at this time of year. Here are some:

  • Osechi-ryori: A variety of dishes that celebrate the change of the season. This is a tradition that is over 1,000 years old. The dishes are often served in stacking lacquer boxes and items vary from region to region but typically include boiled beans, boiled fish, and su-no-mono (sliced vegetables in vinegar). They are prepared in large quantities before New Year’s so that there is no need to cook or prepare during Oshogatsu.
  • Mochi: Pounded rice cakes. Consumed at other times of the year as well, mochi is an essential ingredient in zoni. There will often be a mochi-tsuki (literally: “mocha pounding”) event towards the end of December to make it in preparation for New Year’s. (The JACL DC Chapter holds an annual Mochi-Tsuki event in the area).
  • Zoni: A soup eaten during the season. The ingredients vary from region to region but usually has seafood and vegetables as well as mochi. Usually, it is eaten on New Year’s Day.
  • Toshi-koshi soba (noodles): Literally “year-crossing” soba (noodles). It is supposed to be eaten around midnight, during the crossing over into the New Year. One reason is that eating the long noodles is done in the hope that one’s life will also be as long.

EDC: How do Japanese citizens celebrate New Year’s? Do traditional celebrations differ in the country and city?

JICC: Celebrations are typically practiced in a similar way in both the city and country. There are some region-specific celebrations that are well-known, such as the Yamayaki (literally, “mountain burning”) that takes place in Nara. Other variations will typically be small variations in the ingredients of the dishes or the kinds of New Year’s decorations. Every new year in the north of Japan, “demons” known as namahage, go around visiting homes holding cooking knives to bless families with good health, a large catch and a rich crop in the New Year.

EDC: What public New Year’s festivities occur in Japan?

JICC: The joya no kane (described above) is one public activity and some temple bell ringings are broadcast on radio and television. There is one long-running television program that has become a part of the New Year’s experience in the later 20th century, namely, the Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red-and-White Song Festival). The show features two teams (red and white) of singers, usually the most popular artists in that year, who compete against each other on New Year’s Eve. It has been running annually since the 1950s.

EDC: What sort of goals/resolutions do people in Japan make for New Year’s?

JICC: Typically, people will pray, or wish, for good fortune in the coming year. Since the school year ends in March, January is the time when students will take exams for entering high school or university. This makes praying for good luck one of the most common “goals” (or rather, “wishes”) for students.

EDC: What gifts, if any, are typically given at New Year’s in Japan?)

DX: Otoshidama. During the New Year’s holidays, children receive special presents of spending money, known as otoshidama, from parents and relatives.

EDC: What else makes New Year's unique in your country?

DX:  Our New Year’s Decorations. Kado-matsu is the most common and popular New Year’s decoration. It uses bamboo and pine and are placed at the entrances of homes or shrines.

Bonenkai and Shinnenkai celebrations are also unique. While the time round around New Year’s is usually reserved for time with family, the days and weeks just before and after are usually filled with parties and banquets held with various social groups such as co-workers, neighborhood associations, and friends. The parties prior to New Years are called bonenkai (literally, “year-forgetting party”) while the parties held after New Year’s are called shinnenkai (“new year party”). These parties are an essential part of social life around this time and people will often find their schedules packed with bonenkai and shinnenkai.

We hope you enjoyed this roundup. If you want to celebrate Japanese-style, try one of our local Japanese restaurants; a great list from Zagat: /www.zagat.com/l/best-japanese-restaurants-in-washington-d.c

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Thomas Martin is a sophomore at Yale University studying English. He is a staff writer for Yale's The Politic and writes about food, politics, and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shop Made in DC: All DC, All the Time

Words and photo by Vina Sananikone

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Shop Made in DC, located in Dupont Circle, is a playground for DC devotees, the creative community and those who love to shop local. This modern café and boutique is a just-launched collaboration between Neighborhood Restaurant Group (The Partisan, Birch & Barley and others) and Made in DC, a program of the DC Department of Small & Local Business Development dedicated to supporting and promoting businesses that make, design and produce in the District.

Led by Stacey Price, founder of consulting firm People Make Place, whose warm smile and energetic spirit are enough to warrant a trip, Shop Made in DC is a vibrant space with wooden tables, industrial fixtures, repurposed medicine cabinets and red brick walls, an artfully curated space filled with DC-made art, stationery, home goods, food and clothing.

The boutique will feature around 24 different artisans at a time, with a current lineup including pop art posters of the District’s neighborhoods by Anthony Dihle, baby swag onesies and bibs by Yinibini Baby sporting the DC flag and all-natural soy candle and beauty goods by Handmade Habitat. Chocolate lovers and coffee aficionados will love the Hot Commodity bar (think dark milk chocolate meets coffee beans) by chocolatiers Harper Macaw.

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Start your day in the café with Small Planes Coffee and Bullfrog Bagels, have a nomadic Tibetan lunch of Dorjee Momo chicken dumpling soup or vegan sunflower buns and Sichuan eggplant salad, and come back for Bluejacket’s Turning Road IPA at happy hour. Pick up a jar of Gordy’s Bloody Mary mix for the weekend and start (and finish!) your holiday gift shopping with unique goods by DC makers.

Shop Made in DC is not just another new addition to busy Dupont Circle or a great place to get your morning coffee on your way to the office. It’s more than that. It’s intended to be a place that showcases the DC makers community, a must-visit place for tourists who want a unique keepsake, a place where locals can support homegrown small businesses, a place where makers meet and network with each other and say hello to the customers who take their wares home.


Shop Made in DC, 1330 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; shopmadeindc.com. Open Monday–Friday 7am–8pm, Saturday–Sunday 11am–6 pm.

Flying While Vegetarian: 5 Savory Spots To Hit At Reagan National

Words and photos provided by the concessions program at Reagan National Airport

Planning for travel can be difficult when you’re vegetarian and/or vegan — whether you’re flying all day without many (let alone delicious) options, or unexpectedly stuck in an airport during a delay. Luckily, more and more airports are stepping up to the plate and offering amazing, nutritious options — Reagan National, in particular, has some stand-out eateries. Check out our favorite tasty vegetarian dishes at Reagan National below! 

1)     Matsutake Sushi – National Hall: This full-service Japanese restaurant is conveniently located pre-security — so whether you arrive with some time to kill or are getting a meal to go, it’s a great, quick option. With tons of noodle options — we love the Kitsune Udon Noodle Bowl (thick noodle soup topped with fried tofu and veggies) and the Tofu Teriyaki, especially — you’ll fill up on a savory meal before your flight.

2)     Good Stuff Eatery – Terminal B: While Spike Mendelsohn’s Capitol Hill eatery is known for its juicy, delectable burgers, his vegetarian options do not disappoint — and pack a seriously savory punch. Meet Good Stuff Eatery’s Fried Green Tomato Sandwich: With fresh ruby red tomatoes, sliced avocado, creamy goat cheese and peppery arugula, this thick, juicy sandwich is beyond satisfying.

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Plus, if you’re flying before 10 a.m., The Goodstart breakfast sandwich is not to be missed — featuring a farm-fresh fried egg, American cheese, avocado and a ruby red tomato. Make it a combo, and you’ll also get a cup of hot coffee, and Sunny’s Homefry & Onions!

3)     Kapnos Taverna – Terminal C: Local chef Mike Isabella rolled out yet another hit with this Mediterranean concept! The Garden Mezze menu is a smorgasbord of vegetarian delights: Spanokopita with flaky phyllo and creamy feta, Fried Greek Potatoes with orange and Greek Island Sauce, Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with golden raisin and fresno chili, oh my! Plus, don’t miss the famous Crispy Brussels Sprouts with burnt coriander honey and spiced almonds. Who needs meat?

4)     Ben’s Chili Bowl National Hall: While Ben’s Chili Bowl got famous for its chili and half-smokes, Ben’s vegetarian options don’t disappoint! Found in 1958 in D.C.’s U Street Corridor, Ben’s Chili Bowl is one of D.C.’s core eatery institutions — come soak up all the delicious vegetarian options, with a Veggie Burger, Veggie Chili Cheese Fries or Ben’s Salad Bowl. You can even sub a veggie burger on any breakfast sandwich!

5)     &pizza Terminal C : This revolutionary new make-your-own pizza place has tons of vegetarian — and even vegan — options to choose from! The menu makes it simple to see which ingredients are right for certain food restrictions, including gluten-free options. With amazing options like Vegan Cheese and Vegan Beef, even the most specific needs can be deliciously accommodated here!

Don’t sacrifice quality while traveling — plan to swing by these high-quality eateries for a tasty vegetarian meal that will fill you up for take-off!

This content is sponsored by the concessions of Reagan National Airport.

Travis and Ryan Host an Oyster Roast

Two generations of Croxtons enjoy the bounty of a Tidewater oyster roast. 

Two generations of Croxtons enjoy the bounty of a Tidewater oyster roast. 

Tidewater traditions bring families together at Rappahannock Oyster

By Susan Able, Photography by Jennifer Chase

Ryan Croxton and Travis Croxton founded Rappahannock Oyster Company, a resurrection of family business started over 125 years ago. 

Ryan Croxton and Travis Croxton founded Rappahannock Oyster Company, a resurrection of family business started over 125 years ago. 

The two-lane highway that delivers you into Topping, VA, from “the other side, as the locals say, brings you over a big bridge, so you know you’re somewhere near the water. But as you cruise past a few gas stations, a tiny airport, the Pilot Inn and take a left by Eckhard’s restaurant, you don’t necessarily know you have arrived anywhere special. That insight hits as you course down a windy rural road and suddenly you realize you’ve ended up at the Rappahannock River and a little slice of heaven called Merroir.

An oyster roast in full swing. 

An oyster roast in full swing. 

The Croxton cousins, Travis and Ryan, founded the riverside restaurant in 2011 after starting the Rappahannock oyster farm in 2001. As with all epic journeys, this one started with a unique opportunity, great timing, pluck and a lot of Googling. The tale has been oft told, but a recap: Grandpa Croxton had been an oysterman, but by 2000 oystering had declined to the point where it was almost irrecoverable commercially in Virginia. His boys, the elder Croxtons, were of the mind that it was probably time to stop paying the state license fees on the long-dormant beds held in the family name since the late 1800s.

But Ryan and Travis saw new life in the idea of oyster farming and told their fathers that they had decided they would take over to start again, essentially from scratch. “Our dads didn’t think it could be done,” Travis said. “They really believed that for all intents and purposes the industry was dead.”

Flash forward 16 years to a stunning October afternoon on the porch at Merroir and a conversation with two men who have played a big role in the resurrection of the Virginia oyster and ultimately, given the water-filtering power of the oyster, to a cleaner bay.

Rapphannock's oyster men start work before daybreak.

Rapphannock's oyster men start work before daybreak.

Rappahanock Oyster Co. now harvests over 10 million oysters from over 60 producing beds and ship not only to their restaurants, but to hundreds of vendors on the East Coast, also shipping daily to Los Angeles and the West Coast, and internationally. Travis told me that Rappahannock oysters are sold across to Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, across China and more. Dogged determination from the farm team, a great product and getting the logistics right for sending a highly perishable product up and down I-95 and around the world contributed greatly to the success of the company. And timing. The public’s growing interest in eating local, rather than imported, seafood has been huge.

“Oysters have always been a big part of tidewater and low-country cuisine, and a big part of this region’s heritage,” Travis said. “It’s pretty ironic that when we were kids, we’d all go to community oyster roasts or the Urbanna Oyster Festival, and yeah, we’d eat oysters but they were all brought in from other places. It’s so amazing now that we are eating 100% local product, oysters from our very own waters. I’d guess if you asked anybody back then, I’m not sure they would ever have seen our oysters coming back.”

Which brings us back to the oyster roast, a fixture of southern gatherings. Ryan and Travis both agreed that, like picking crabs, shucking a roasted oyster is a communal activity and has become a tradition in mild Virginia and Maryland winters. Pouring out hot oysters on a table, then easily opening the softened shells with a knife is just something that lends itself to groups of friends. Travis explained that there just seems to be a community feel to eating shellfish and that back in the peak oyster days of the late 1800s the Chesapeake was lined with oyster saloons where shucking, beer and gossip drew neighbors in.

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Today’s roast features Rappahannock oysters fired up over wood briquettes, some clams, a bourbon punch and Autumn Cline’s amazing pozole.

When I ask the Croxtons what they are most excited about, they answer in unison: “Autumn!” Executive Chef Autumn Cline joined the Rappahannock Oyster Company team in 2016 from from a stint at Rose’s Luxury. She currently oversees the kitchen and menu development at Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Union Kitchen and will also be in charge of the new location aiming to open at The Wharf in the spring of 2018.

That restaurant will be in the middle of a fish market, a perfect situation for a cook who loves to experiment with local fish that aren’t common to menus: think black drum, puppy drum, sheepshead and migratory species. She also wants to try using new parts of fish in ways we typically don’t see (think salmon skin chicharrones) and weaving Latin flavors throughout the menu.

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That brings us to her wonderful pozole, which she was inspired to create by her Latin cooks. She tells me, “We all work so hard to create the best food that goes out of our kitchen, and when we get together to eat, we want good food too. So pozole is something we all love. And it screams change of season and is so layered with different flavors and textures. Pozole is really perfect.”

So in addition to Chef Autumn and The Wharf, what else are the Croxton cousins looking forward to in the next year?

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“Two things: We’ve got our eye on raising scallops. They were extinct [locally] since 1933, and so we’re still learning because no one has commercially grown them for a long time. But, we’ve got eel grass in place and it’s growing like mad, which is good because that’s what scallops need for a habitat,” Travis said.

And the other? Creating the perfect oyster. Ryan and Travis are both committed to evolving how Rappahannock raises oysters. To continue to grow as a business, they need to figure out how to scale up production of a bivalve that takes time to grow. Ryan said, “What we’re working on actively now will change the way we are doing oysters, so not only will we have new methods to increase production, but I think we are on our way to an even better product and I know we can do it. That’s very exciting.”

How to Have an Oyster Roast

By Susan Able, photography by Jennifer Chase

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First, invite some friends—say, a dozen—over for a late-afternoon roasting party on a sunny, blustery day.

Set up traditional oyster roast tables by setting a long piece of wood (an old door? A plank of plywood?) over tall two garbage cans, high enough so that you can eat standing up. If you have time, have a handyperson cut a hole  over each garbage can so you can easily throw the shells in there to recycle them.

Or forget about the table and just use whatever you have outdoors; get a bin for recycling shells. The best part about an oyster roast is not overthinking it.

Next, get seven or eight dozen oysters from the Chesapeake. Scrub them down a bit. Get a big piece of burlap, or heavy foil. If using burlap, soak it through and fold it so it is about the size of your grill.

If using a charcoal grill, get the fire going, spread briquettes out, then do a batch of oysters at a time, covering with the wet burlap and grilling about 10 minutes, until they start to open and soften. Remove them from the grill with a pair of tongs and serve.

You can also use a gas grill the same way, and if you are without a grill, you can still roast oysters in your oven. Roast them in batches on the bottom rack at 450°F with one cup of water in the pan, covered tightly with aluminum foil, for about 10 minutes.

Feel like clams too? Get after it with about four dozen local clams. Scrub them and then steam them in pot filled with a bottle of beer for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat, covering the pot while steaming. Strain the liquid carefully as there might be sand and sediment, then serve the strained liquid on the side to dip the clams in to clean them if needed.

Serve with the following: cocktail sauce, hot sauce with a little melted butter, mignonette if you like, saltines of course and more beer. I personally get very excited when pimento cheese shows up. Any good gathering during the holidays would also require a bourbon punch, but straight bourbon on some rocks would also be quite festive.

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A Brilliant Obsession with Italian Food and Culture Comes Alive at Via Umbria

Bill and Suzy Menard Amore Italia

By Tim Ebner, photography by Jennifer Chase

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Suzy and Bill Menard aren’t Italian by descent, but now they’re both Umbrian—at least part of each year, and perhaps always in their souls.

In the late 1990s, the couple turned their passion for the Italian region of Umbria into a business by launching an online marketplace where they sold high-end Italian products—things like ceramics, textiles and wines—that were hard to come by in the United States.

Their retail business allowed them to travel frequently back and forth to Italy, but they still found they wanted something more. In 2014, the couple decided to open an Italian specialty shop, café and demonstration cooking space in the heart of Georgetown, called Via Umbria.

“When we first walked into the empty space, we looked at each other and knew that this was the building where we were going to create our dream,” says Suzy Menard. “Our job from day one has been to invite people in and give them a taste of Italy.”

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Visiting Via Umbria is an experience in itself. Enter through the door, and you’ll feel like you’re visiting a rustic alimentari in central Italy. It’s an especially popular place to visit during the holidays—whether it’s for gifting one-of-a-kind kitchenwares or picking up a few last-minute meats and cheeses for your next party.

And it’s especially true that during the holiday season, just like in their adopted Umbria, the Menards go all out on sharing their love and passion for their second home. In their own words, they explain how both the shop and their travels help to add just a touch of Italy to Washington, DC.

Q: What’s it like to visit Via Umbria for the first time?

Suzy Menard: Well, we really want to take you by surprise. We want people to feel like they’re entering a little Italian village in Georgetown. So, by design, the front of the store has old hardwoods and brick walls. In the back, we have a café, where we wanted a brighter, more modern feel. Because Italy is many things, ancient and modern. For the demonstration kitchen upstairs, we designed it to be open and functional. It also showcases some of the beautiful Italian ceramics, which hang on the wall. Our galleria space, across the way, is where we host events and rotating art exhibits. Each space is meant to capture the great varieties and experiences of Italy.

Q: You travel a lot to Umbria. Tell us about your last visit.

Bill Menard: We own a farmhouse there that we use for business when we are there, and we then we rent it out by the week year-round. A couple times each year, in the spring and fall, we host small food and wine tours. Recently, we had a group of eight from the U.S., and we took them around Umbria for a week touring vineyards, farms, and visiting with local producers and artisans.

Q: Why did you decide to buy an Italian farmhouse?

BM: About 10 years ago, we bought the house with the idea of it being our base of operations for our business. Our farmhouse is in Umbria, which is called the green heart of Italy, and it’s located in a small village near Assisi, called Cannara. It’s a rural town famous for the Cannara onion. And this part of Italy is really quite magical.

Because before we opened Via Umbria, we owned and operated a small Italian goods shop in Bethesda, called Bella Italia. We imported goods from all over Italy, and as we grew step-by-step, from gourmet food products to ceramics to housewares to specialty wines, What we love about this business is the opportunity it gave us to travel to Italy and share it with others; we can now also be a purveyor of the Italian experience.

Q: Tell us about the new chef you just hired.

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SM: Our new chef is actually someone we’ve known for a while. Liam LaCivita—he’s half-Irish and half-Italian—was the chef at Centro, which was next to our shop on Bethesda Avenue. We used to eat there a lot for lunch and dinner. One day, he came into Via Umbria and was blown away by the shop. It was very fortuitous for us.

Any time you join us for dinner at Via Umbria, you’ll be eating at the chef’s table upstairs. It’s designed to be interactive and communal. We want it to be an opportunity to meet new friends, which we think is what meals are all about.

BM: Food is essential and elemental to Italian culture. And Liam just gets it.

Q: In Umbria, the focus is on sourcing locally. How do you do that here?

SM: That’s what’s fun for us. We import from Italy, but behind our deli counter we also have meats and cheeses from local farmers and purveyors. For produce, we work a lot with Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-Op. We’re in this great situation where we are small enough that we can also go to small and local farms and buy direct.
Q: Do you have any holiday traditions that relate to Italian tradition?

SM: Our Thanksgiving is the peak of celebrating family and friends. We fly over at least four Italians friends for the holiday because they also want to experience an American Thanksgiving.

BM: We typically have anywhere from 40 to 60 family and friends gather, a very Italian way to celebrate. Everyone comes and we build out a calendar of food events. We roast a whole animal over a fire pit. We do a prime rib on the grill. We roast a turkey. And don’t forget about the seafood. Like any Italian celebration, there’s plenty of seafood. And like any Italian celebration, the meals go on and on and last for hours.

Where Grandma Fern’s Christmas Pudding Reigns Supreme

Family traditions served up at Bakers & Co.

By Leigh Glenn, Photography by Sarah Culver

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What would Christmas be without food that connects us more deeply with our family and even our ancestors? For Lucy Montgomery and Chris Simmons—spouses, bakers and owners of Bakers & Co. in Annapolis’ Eastport neighborhood—that special food is Christmas pudding. How it came to be featured as a holiday staple at Bakers & Co. is a tale that wends its way from England through Jamaica and from the U.S. Midwest to Annapolis.

As children, Lucy and Chris were exposed to different cultures and foodways. Chris’ father was an art history professor and Peace Corps director and the family lived in northern England and Tunisia;  Lucy’s parents, both British, were theater designers who worked in the Caribbean and gave birth to her in Kingston, Jamaica. The family eventually left Jamaica for upstate New York, where Lucy’s father got a teaching position.

Both Lucy and Chris have fond memories of what they loved to eat as children. At a rest stop in France, a young Chris Simmons found some francs under a table and was allowed to buy whatever he wanted with his windfall. He chose a baguette—not candy–that he got to eat all himself. Lucy loved the street food in Kingston, including Jamaican patties (like Cornish pasties, but with turmeric in the dough and a filling of curried beef, onions and carrots) and fried fish and bammie (cassava).

The couple met at St. John’s College and shared a passion for travel and cooking; they might have fallen in love baking and cooking together. But at holiday time, they found that both of their families had strong Christmas pudding traditions. Lucy’s Granny Mary would smuggle her Christmas pudding and Christmas cake into Jamaica while Chris’ grandmother Fern, whose parents emigrated from England to settle in Springfield, Missouri, passed her recipe along to Chris’ father, who made the pudding no matter where the family was living.

So their first Christmas together, Lucy and Chris held a friendly competition to see whose Christmas pudding was tastier. Both puddings blended dried fruits and spices, so one can imagine the scent in that kitchen where the dueling puddings were being steamed. Granny Mary’s pudding was made with suet while Grandma Fern’s was not. Lucy had to admit Grandma Fern’s was the tastier, with a lighter, though still rich, flavor. So it is Fern’s pudding that reigns supreme at Bakers & Co.

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In 2007, Lucy began baking bread at home. Her “wonderful and eccentric English aunt” challenged her to sell bread at the local farmers market on Saturdays. She and Chris—both self-taught bakers, except for a class Chris took at King Arthur Flour in Vermont—snagged a coveted spot at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market. They worked hard to show up the first time with about two dozen loaves—instant sell-outs. It dawned on them: They’d have to do it all over again the next week. The following year, they added pastries and other items—including their Christmas pudding.

As demand for their breads and pastries ramped up, they needed a larger baking space than their home kitchen and wanted a space that would foster community. The stone building at the corner of Burnside and Chesapeake streets in Eastport, originally built and run as a grocery by the Rodowsky family, became available and they opened in 2012.

With space constraints, baking at the store is an eternal dance, Lucy says, especially on “Stir-up Sunday,” the traditional day many British bakers make Christmas pudding. By then, the chopped-up, dried fruits have been soaking in brandy for a few weeks and it’s time to mix the batter—the heaviest for the team at Bakers & Co.

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From there, they scoop the pudding into pudding basins—special bowls created by another Annapolis wife-and-husband team, Printemps Pottery’s Nevan and Doug Wise, who Lucy met at the farmers market in her early days of selling. She loved the richness of Nevan’s glazes and had her create special “pudding basins” with thick walls that could withstand the first cooking and later an afternoon of steaming in a saucepan. Customers who are hooked can also return their Bakers & Co. bowls to be refilled the next season.

On Christmas Day, the pudding basin is wrapped in foil to prevent water intrusion during steaming, which takes about an hour. The hot pudding is then flipped onto a serving plate and the brandy heated in a ladle over a candle to “flame” the pudding. A brandy butter hard sauce comes next and “a dollop of whipped cream … for blithe abandon,” says Lucy. The Bakers & Co. puddings come with instructions on prepping the pudding and making the hard sauce.

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, Lucy is ready for “Bun”—Jamaican Spice Bun, a malted treat she makes with Caribbean stout and that she enjoys with award-winning cheddar cheese from local cheesemaker P.A. Bowen Farmstand, and a nice glass of wine, all to accompany the wrapping of presents.


Bakers & Co. begins taking Christmas pudding orders the weekend after Thanksgiving. Starting December 1, puddings may also be purchased at the store, 618 Chesapeake Ave., Annapolis, MD 21403, 410-280-1119, or at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market, 275 Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD, and Saturdays, 7am–noon. Supplies of pudding are limited; Jamaica Spice Bun will be available during December.