Nosh Box: Better to Give than to Receive


Thaan Thai Binchotan, made sustainably from orchard grown rambutan fruit wood, has a consistent, even heat that imparts a very mild flavor, letting your grilled food speak for itself.


If it’s better to give than to receive, why is gift selection often such a predicament? Sometimes difficulty is inevitable. But in many instances it’s avoidable, especially when gifts are food and beverage related, where size, style, and fashion preferences aren’t part of the equation.

Holiday Spirits

The Golden State holds 89 licensed craft distillers, and their numbers continue to grow, as 2017 sales increased by nearly a quarter. In 2016, distilleries were allowed to sell bottles directly to consumers—provided they had participated in a proper tasting. More recently the Craft Distiller Opportunity Act permits direct sales at distilleries. even if they don’t have tasting rooms.
In 1982 Jörg Rupf founded St. George Spirits distillery in Alameda, thereby starting the craft spirits movement in America.

Hangar One distills vodkas: straight and infused vodkas, as well Fog Point Vodka. Call it genius, call it a gimmick, or call it experimental—as they do—but they “…installed our very own fog catchers to turn fog into fresh water…,” which is then “…blended with vodka crafted solely from the distilled wine of California's Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc plus Viognier.”

Fog Point may be crisp tasting, but it’s definitely one of a kind. Now, not only can you talk about our local marine layer, but you can also buy friends a taste of it—preserved with spirits in a bottle.

Meanwhile, in not-too-distant Petaluma, Griffo Distillery produces one London Style English Gin, as well as Stout Barreled and Stony Point Whiskeys. But its holiday star is Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, a partnership with Equator Coffees & Teas, “…pairing their premium Mocha Java Blend with five-times distilled vodka. The result is a rich and smooth spirit with chocolate and berry on the palate, and a long-lasting caramel finish.”

Griffo Distillery, 1320 Scott St, Suite A., Petaluma, 707.879.8755, Available through Southern Wine and Spirits Artisanal Group.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for boutique spirits, brews, and wines, consider Craft Beer & Wine on Santa Clara in Alameda. It offers a broad selection featuring local producers, as well as a knowledgeable staff.

A Lump of Coal

Once reserved as St. Nick’s reward for bad children, a lump of coal takes on a contemporary holiday meaning, thanks to the East Bay’s temperate climate. Backyard chefs have year-round access to outdoor grilling, with just a few rain-delays or postponements.

Charcoal briquettes are popular, convenient, and heat evenly. The popular mildly upscale types include oak, mesquite, cherry, and hickory, produced by multiple suppliers including the 600-pound charcoal gorilla, Kingsford.

Here are three more esoteric choices.

Coconut Shell means no trees are cut, burns twice as hot & twice as long as regular charcoal briquettes! Ashes are nontoxic and a natural fertilizer, low smoke.

Thaan Thai Binchotan is made sustainably from orchard grown rambutan fruit wood, which according to the producers, “…Than Charcoal's consistent, even heat imparts a very mild flavor, letting your grilled food speak for itself. These briquettes are available from a small local firm, Greenwood Supply Company of San Francisco, 415-938-7402,

Olive Pits look just like conventional briquettes, but they are 100 percent renewable and recycled, from the pristine olive groves in the countryside of Kalamata, Greece. Supposedly sweet smelling and smoke-free. Good for the environment, they are chemical free, and release 30 percent less carbon monoxide than wood charcoal.  They have high heating power of 6366 kcal/kg.

And just in case this information has piqued your interest in the minutia of charcoal briquettes, be sure and check out

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