Cookies, cookies, cookies

·5 min read

Sharing Christmas cookie recipes has been one of my favorite annual stories since I became food editor.

I would start looking for new baking books early in the Fall and putting scraps of paper between pages with recipes that interested me. The pile of books would occupy a table in the living room until I'd choose about 10 to make.

I'd make a shopping list with tons of butter, eggs, flour and sugar and whatever other ingredients I'd need such ingredients as pistachios, cranberries, cherries and extracts.

I'd spend two or three days in the kitchen. I learned to make macarons, biscotti and fig filled cookies. I'd take notes and my family and friends happily tested the cookies.

I cooled trays all over the house and sometimes used the washing machine when making spritz cookies. My husband brought me a bottle of colored sugar he found on the dryer and said he didn't want to know.

Then I'd bring trays of the cookies to The Journal office for photos and share them with my colleagues.

The physical work of cooking and cleaning, the typing of recipes and the writing of a story with helpful hints, was a lot. But it was satisfying.

I remember the phone call I took about five years ago.

"I don't want to make them, I want to eat them," said the man. "Where can I get what I saw in the paper today."

From then on, I always included a story with a few places to buy trays of Christmas cookies.

But I kept making new recipes, til now.

Today, you'll find a dozen bakeries and dessert shops and a list of the cookie trays they sell and their prices. Gathering that list was far less satisfying, but I hope it will serve you dear readers best.

I still made my first seven kinds of cookies this weekend, including a new one for delicious Oatmeal Butterscotch.

One of my cookie trays.
One of my cookie trays.

More: Love Christmas cookies but hate baking? Here are 12 places to get a holiday cookie fix

The other list I compiled for this week was for restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I know it's a list people look for as I've started getting requests.

Don't take too much time if you want a reservation. There are not as many as there once were.

There aren't a ton of spots open on Christmas Day, but hotel restaurants always are. And of course many Asian restaurants open for takeout.

There are a handful of restaurants offering La Vigilia, Feast of the Seven Fishes, on Christmas Eve, and even days before.

Back when travel was easier, my family would fly to visit my sons in San Francisco, and we found a lovely Italian restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner. We went to House of Prime Rib the night before, never able to get a reservation before 10 p.m. But we loved that big city dining out experience.

House of Prime Rib in San Francisco two days before Christmas in 2019 for festive and fun dining.
House of Prime Rib in San Francisco two days before Christmas in 2019 for festive and fun dining.

More: Restaurants open on Christmas 2021: How and where to book a table in RI

The front of the Beacon Diner on South County Trail in East Greenwich. Before Route 4 opened in the 1970s, beachgoers headed to South County had to drive past the diner on the way.
The front of the Beacon Diner on South County Trail in East Greenwich. Before Route 4 opened in the 1970s, beachgoers headed to South County had to drive past the diner on the way.

I enjoyed talking to Judy Harris this week. She will be closing down the Beacon Diner in East Greenwich on Sunday. Her family has owned and run the breakfast and lunch spot since 1967.

She deserves to retire and visit with her grandkids and garden, but it is something important that will be lost.

The Beacon was a gathering spot, especially during COVID when seniors were isolated. That's no small thing.

Harris also brought up something else we don't think about often, and that is what a highway has done to the landscape. This is a story told across America.

But she talked about how crazy busy the first few years were at the diner, especially on summer weekend days. Being on South County Trail, all the beach traffic went by their restaurant. Harris said the road looked like a parking lot with all the cars waiting to park and grab breakfast or lunch to go.

But then Route 4 opened up, making it so much more convenient to travel south of Narragansett and beyond. But all those businesses along the side roads suffered.

Harris said her family still made a nice living, raising five kids and doing just fine.

But now, her father, Vern Knott, is 91, and in Florida. And she said people don't eat like they used to. No one is coming in for a lunch of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Time marches on and the Beacon will not be a diner going forward. Go to their Facebook page to say goodbye and share memories that Vern can read.

More: Beacon Diner regulars will have to find a new booth. The iconic RI diner is closing for good

Lidia visited Carol Gaeta at Scialo Brothers Bakery in Rhode Island ten years ago and wrote about the bakery in her book,  "Lidia's Italy in America" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. 11/2011
Lidia visited Carol Gaeta at Scialo Brothers Bakery in Rhode Island ten years ago and wrote about the bakery in her book, "Lidia's Italy in America" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. 11/2011

Guess who is coming to East Greenwich? Lidia Bastianich to sign copies of her new book at Dave's Fresh Marketplace. She hasn't been here for three years and she told me she was excited to see her Rhode Island fans.

She is a rare bird for a celebrity chef and businesswoman. I can just picture her in the kitchen on Thanksgiving making something special for each one of her five grandchildren.

Remember my call for your holiday memories? I've gotten some lovely stories. I still want more. Email me at gciampa@providencejournal.com and make me cry.

Til next week dear readers, stay well and enjoy every day.

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Christmas cookies, Lidia and the Beacon Dinner are on my mind today