Hot chocolate, afternoon tea, and cookies galore

Totally Decadent Hot Chocolate

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Since adding two small children to my life, the holidays have become a totally different ball game. That is, it’s become SO much more fun than my less-than-inspiring Christmases in my 20s, when my mother’s tree was still the only one that mattered. Now I’m reliving all the wonder through their eyes and my Grinch-y adult self is all the better for it (and so is my exponentially growing ornament collection). One of my favorite traditions is taking them to a posh holiday tea at one of San Francisco’s gorgeous hotel lobbies (Palace Hotel and the Fairmont truly bring their A-game to the holidays). Tiny sandwiches and pastries, sparkling cider for them and sparkling wine for me, and the opportunity to dress them in all the festive red plaid makes for a lovely afternoon in December. Attending a performance of the SF Ballet’s Nutcracker on Christmas Eve and lunch at Hayes Street Grill are the cherry on top before we settle in for hot chocolate, cookies, and a visit from Santa. Cheers and happy holidays!

Ellen Fort, food editor

Maya’s Corner

Holiday Cookie Decorating
Jessica Yoon

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Holiday Cookie Decorating

The week leading up to Christmas always includes a dedicated night to cookie decorating at my parents’ house. Every year, my siblings and I sit around our old kitchen table with mounds of sugar cookie dough stationed between us, containers of random sprinkles, and music about a very famous snowman and notorious reindeer playing on the radio (an actual radio station, not Spotify!).

My usual batch of designs always leans towards any cookie shape completely covered in rainbow sprinkles (blame it on laziness or nostalgia, or both), but I also take inspiration from these DIY holiday cookie decoration ideas that prove a minimalistic wreath or snow-covered matcha Christmas tree is actually doable. This year I’m excited to add new additions to my sprinkle collection: Supernatural’s “Great Big Blizzard” made with miniature blue and white snowflakes and “Into the Woods” made with dark green pine tree-shaped sprinkles and white snowballs. They’re beautiful, and made without artificial dyes or gnarly preservatives, so go forth and decorate.

Maya Wong, assistant editor

Lock Down Your Holiday Menu

Glazed Carrots with Pecans
Photo: James Baigrie; Styling: Randy Mon

Whether you’re hosting or being hosted, here are the recipes for amazing sides, appetizers, entrees, food gifts, cookie recipes, and more.

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Dungeness Crab Season
Getty Images

Looking for more inspiration? Head over to Sunset Recipes for our winter cooking highlights.