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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ Extra For Santa [Up On The Rooftop, Snack, Snack, Snack]

Posted Dec 24, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Dec 24, 2013 at 02:28 PM

For Santa

We’re only a day away from the year’s most solemn, holy and significant exchange of retail goods.

And we’re only a few hours from the most important snacking night.

On this evening, tradition calls for leaving cookies and milk for Santa to enjoy as he visits each home.

It’s a tradition that comes from a medieval German custom of decorating the “paradise tree” with cookies and apples and wafers. (At least, that’s according to the Internet, which I always believe.) Over time, children noticed that snacks disappeared between the time they went to bed and when they woke to their presents.

Bypassing the logical answer of large rodents taking care of the treats – no one really wants to welcomes Santa Rat into their holiday gatherings – the snacks moved indoors to be put by the hearth, where Santa allegedly made his entrance. Eventually, the food moved from indoor tree to tidy plate. There’s no clear answer about how milk got to be part of the tradition, other than to be eventually used as a dairy marketing tool.

As you can tell by this highly accurate Holiday CSI, traditions change and morph with time. I think it’s time this old chestnut does so as well.

This is a pay for play deal. To expect largesse while Santa loses so badly - “XBOX ONE for baked goods? Why certainly!” - is not only poor manners; it’s poor strategy.” You scratch his beard, he’ll scratch yours.

I’m no Santa, but if I were, there are plenty of other tasty local options I’d choose instead of cookies.

Have you had the Cuban bread pudding at Bodega on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg?


Santa wishes he could. They serve it warm and sticky. Perfect for a long winter’s nap.

500 Years of Florida Food Lecture

Guava cheese pastries from La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City, full of flaky, fruity, creamy goodness are delicious enough to move even the darkest soul off the naughty list.

A slice of key lime pie made by Mike’s Pies would make the jolly man pucker in the best of all possible ways.



If you live near Hyde Park Village, you could be all trendy and stuff and leave a crunchy-yet-delicate Christmas cronut from Piquant next to the tree. If you dropped one by my house, I wouldn’t refuse to eat it.

The Poor Porker

The truly savvy would hire The Poor Porker in Lakeland to make fresh, candy cane-flavored beignets for the occasion.  To be holiday appropriate, of course. (The ones pictured above are bacon and maple. Got a problem with that?)

Moreno Bakery

I have no earthly idea what a sugar plum is, nor why they would dance. I do know, that a couple bites of Russian Coffee Cake from Moreno Bakery in Brandon would make a well-traveled belly extremely happy.

To match the color of St. Nick’s crimson attire, a baker’s dozen of red velvet doughnuts from Dough in south Tampa would do nicely. It might force Kringle to go a few notches over on his belt, but so be it. He’s been there before.

I know Mrs. Claus would appreciate you leaving a cream-cheese frosting Hummingbird Cake for Santa to bring home to her from Wright’s Gourmet Deli in Tampa. And if Mrs. Claus ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Hellas Restaurant and Bakery

Non-conformists could take a different approach by loading up St. Nick’s plate with dulce de leche chocolates from William Dean Chocolates in Tampa and Belleair Bluffs. Or go for a scoop of chocolate habanero from The Revolution Ice Cream Co. in Brandon. Or maybe an Ybor City Double Espresso milkshake from Burger 21 throughout the area. Or a Gibraltar-size wedge of baklava cheesecake [pictured above] from Hellas Bakery in Tarpon Springs.

Or, you know, stick to your Toll House temptations and moo juice and see what happens. You might get lucky.

Whatever happens, you’d better not pout. I just told you why.

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