As Southwest Florida prepares for the holidays, a certain excitement fills the air. Along with the seasonally cooler temperatures that signal the approaching festivities, we find ourselves entangled in strands of garland and twinkling lights as we decorate our homes for the anticipated visits by family and friends for a festive dinner or New Year’s Eve party.
Caught up in the spirit, we not only maneuver our way through packed shopping malls but also head to the region’s downtowns and island boutiques, where winter- wonderland displays provide images of scenes reminiscent of northern climes. And even though many of us have chosen Southwest Florida to escape frigid temperatures, there’s something warm and familiar about these holiday decorations. Perhaps it’s a childhood memory of making snow angels or of the backyard fir tree weighed down by powdery white snow.
Once past all the displays, though, serious shopping begins. At this time of year, checking things off your list as you buy presents for loved ones becomes a major pastime. But don’t forget yourself: After all, it’s almost impossible not to scour the racks in search of a dazzling holiday dress or some other new party attire that will make you the best- dressed hostess or guest.
This is also the time of year for indulging the taste buds. Whether your choice is a traditional dinner of roast turkey with chestnut stuffing or a Florida- style feast with herbed mahi mahi as the main course, food can be an expression of love. My husband and I have always embraced the connection between love and food, and sharing a savory meal paired with exquisite wines and the good company of friends and family is something we enjoy year- round. But during the holi- days, the dining experience is even more special as chefs roll out seasonal delights. And passing on dessert is inconceivable when a freshly baked pumpkin pie or bûche de Noël is presented.
When dining out, we have one rule: Turn off the smartphone. Too often, a lovely dinner turns into a texting party as diners, distracted by a cacophony of catchy tunes, ringing bells, and even drumbeats announcing newly arrived messages, wander into cyberspace. Make dinnertime an hour or two spent focusing on your dining companions and savoring dishes that the chef spent hours creating and preparing for you.
Whether you are cooking an elaborate Thanksgiving meal with gourmet recipes collected over the years or dining out with friends this holiday season, we hope you will use the wealth of information in this issue to make your own love- food connection. From finding the best olive oil and choosing the perfect wine to discovering the restaurants about which locals are raving, let the stories in this issue guide you and your taste buds.
As 2013 comes to an end, we want to raise our glasses in a toast to our readers, subscribers, advertisers, and the great TOTI Media team. Thank you for being part of our wonderful publishing family. May you share with us the love and energy we put into our magazines all year long. Friedrich and I wish you happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year!