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Let the Holiday Countdown Begin!

By Christina Waters

THE YEAR 2000 brought less than we expected--no Y2K crisis, for example--and more than we expected. In addition to full employment of judges in Florida, this year introduced the world to THE Product of the Millennium. Are you sitting down? Then check this out: Fat Free Half-and-Half!! I wouldn't lie about something this serious. From the culinary wizards of Land O' Lakes, this godsend has absolutely, positively no (as in "No!") fat and a mere 20 calories per two-tablespoon portion. Who do I thank? Half-and-half was my last serious vice, the one thing I refused to give up--even for my adorable personal trainer, Aura, who told me that half-and-half would just sit there on my waistline no matter how many ab-busting crunches I did. Well, Aura dear, the Land O' Lakes people have saved my you-know-what. This is not a nondairy creamer, by the way. Somehow, and with a little help from high-tech processing, they've found a way to actually create a dairy product that tastes luscious and creamy, but without the fat. Try it and you'll throw away that anemic 2 percent milk you've been trying to like all these years. (If the producers of Land O' Lakes Fat Free Half-and-Half want to send me a kickback, like a case of the stuff, I will gladly accept it.)

Gingerbread Dreams

Last weekend a fabulous bit of holiday eye-candy was installed in the very center of the Fairmont Hotel's Fountain Restaurant. Not just the traditional gingerbread house but an entire winter wonderland village of unique gingerbread houses has been cooked up, so to speak, by the pastry chefs of the Fairmont. Come and enjoy the display through Dec. 26. It took four weeks of preparations to whip up this village containing 50 pounds of gingerbread, 3 gallons of egg whites and 35 pounds of powdered sugar. And that's not even counting the creative, wild and crazy decorations made of unexpected items like shredded wheat, pastas, candies, cookies, rice noodles, peanuts, coconut, licorice, pretzels, candy canes, chocolate raisins, and white and dark chocolate.

A selection of gingerbread houses is also available for sale at $100 each, benefiting the "Courageous Kids." Come by the Fairmont, at 170 S. Market St., and see this year's Christmas tree in the lobby on your way to the gingerbread village in the Fountain. For details about purchasing a gingerbread house to benefit deserving youngsters, and for details about the Christmas champagne buffet and December 25th Christmas brunch, contact the Fairmont at 408.998.3962.

Campari for Christmas

Our personal love affair with the pungent, orange peel-scented bitters, Campari, grew during the past year. Experimentation gave birth to several new variations on our favorite aperitif.

Of course there's Campari and soda, the sophisticated summer libation. And its winter sister, The Red Drink--2 parts Campari to 1 part Bombay gin. We have tried this with Bombay Sapphire and prefer the classic Bombay--it's got a slight edge that cuts nicely into the fruit of the Campari. But this year we discovered The Sacred Heart: 3 parts Campari, 2 parts Fernet Branca (a murky digestif of roots and bark) and 1 part gin. I'm happy to say that The Sacred Heart--named for both its color and its ecstatic properties--spawned the Triple Bypass: equal parts Campari, Fernet Branca and gin. Once you've acquired a taste for the bitter syrup that is Fernet Branca (an elixir that separates the women from the girls), you'll be ready for the ultimate after-dinner tipple: The Witch's Brew. Not for the timid, this deep mahogany drink--the color of dried blood--is made of equal parts Campari and Fernet Branca and Punt e Mes (an Italian prune liquor). You add a single drop of Bombay gin. Sip slowly.

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From the December 14-20, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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