From carrot pies to scotch ale on tap, mix it up with these small batch Peninsula perfections for your big Turkey Day meal

If we know anything about about Thanksgiving, it’s that the food is predictable and the company (read as—family) drives us to drink. So rather than languish in some holiday hell, we’ve learned to take matters into our own hands by jazzing up the fare and stocking up on the booze.

Lucky for us, the Peninsula has a lot to offer in these areas, so skip the status quo Safeway fare and mix it up with some artisan offerings, from freshly baked bread and pies to top-notch brews and spirits. You can support small local businesses and have a happier holiday, too.

Take a look….

Mayimin shows off her wares. (Photo by Nicole Ruiz Hudson)

Little Sky Bakery—Olive Rosemary Bread

Local baking phenom Tian Mayimin has been on our radar for a little while now as we’ve increasingly had the good fortune of running into her Little Sky Bakery pop-up at various farmer’s markets around the Peninsula.

In her short baking career (she used to be a lawyer) Tian’s Little Sky has made a reputation for itself as a real-deal baking outfit that inspires (certainly in our experience) a-ha moments of what bread is really supposed to taste like.

While her olive rosemary bread is our personal favorite, we’ve learned that there really is no wrong selection, so mix it up with Black & White Sesame, Pumpernickel or the seasonal Dill & Dandelion Challah.

Little Sky breads will be available this weekend at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market Saturday and Menlo Park on Sunday, as well as at Portola Valley and Saratoga Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoon. Or, if you’r looking for that fresh-out-the-oven awesomeness on Thanksgiving Day, get your custom order in by this Monday via their website. But be warned—Little Sky’s wares are known to sell out quick.

For custom orders and other info go to

Frpm left: Chocolate-cherry-pecan bread; Olive Oil and orange challah with golden raisins. (Photos by Nicole Ruiz Hudson)
Alfred Ra’oof showing off his pies at a local farmer’s market. (Photo by Danny Acosta)

Ra’oofs’ San Jose Bean Pies—Carrot Pie

Derived from a secret recipe and a savvy entrepreneurial streak, Alfred Ra’oof’s unique line of pies have evolved from a guest spot in his daughter’s Santa Clara cafe (the now-closed Alyis N’ Rose) to a Bay Area farmer’s market staple. The rush to Thanksgiving is his busiest time of year, slinging his usual menu: bean pies, carrot pies, and sweet potato pies. It’s also the only time he sells pumpkin pie.

“I like to make pies you can’t get anywhere. Where can you get a carrot pie? Or a bean pie? Can’t find ’em anywhere, so you gotta come to me,” he told us with a hearty laugh.

So what is a bean pie exactly? Alfred makes it with navy beans and says that it is like a healthier version of a pumpkin pie (and a dish that was popularized by the Nation of Islam within the African American communities). Carrot pie? Alfred compares it to a tastier kind of sweet potato pie…and we agree!

Ra’oof’s pies come in three sizes (nine, 27, 32 ounces, the larger ones eight and nine inches around), all a quarter of an inch thick. If patrons want his pies for Thanksgiving, they have to pre-order by the 21st and pick them up at the Evergreen Farmer’s Market in San Jose.

Visit for more details and ordering info.

An assortment of pies from Ra’oof’s. (Photo by Danny Acosta)

Devil’s Canyon Brewery—Holiday Growler Fills

Devil’s Canyon founder Chris Garrett and his team seem to be the most savvy in helping us cope with our families throughout the holiday weekend: from Monday thru Wednesday of next week the brewery will have public hours so that customers can fill up jugs with large amounts of their favorite draft beers.

So forget about just picking up a generic six pack for your Thanksgiving guests and head over to Devil’s Canyon for a hefty supply of specialties like Blackberry Sour Ale or Habanero Red. All the house mainstays are available too, such as Dedicated Amber and California Sunshine Rye IPA. Or better yet, go with the Six Fifty fave—the 7.4% perfection of Full Boar Scotch Ale; a few sips and those same tiresome stories you’ve heard from your uncle dozens and dozens of times…just aren’t so bad anymore.

For tap listing and growler fill hours check out

Beers on tap at Devil’s Canyon headquarters in San Carlos. (Photo by Charles Russo)
Owner Scott Townsend pours one his port wines (technically, it classifies as a Forte) in the Russian Ridge tasting room. (Photo by Charles Russo)

Russian Ridge Winery—NV Forte Port-Style Wine

When it comes to drinks during dessert, our local go-to is a wonderfully offbeat option out of Russian Ridge Winery in San Carlos—NV Forte.

“NV” stands for “non-vintage,” a term often seen with Port and Port-style wines. This means that several vintages are blended together to make a style that’s relatively uniform year after year.

Forte is no different, explains Scott Townsend, of Russian Ridge Winery.

“It is a Solara style port, which means in this case it was started in 2006. Every year, after it is ready to bottle, we bottle 25% of the lot and replace it with the next vintage sourced from vineyards all over California.”

The result is a silky and subtly sweet wine that hints as much of cognac as port, and comes with a much more reasonable price tag.

Check out the Russian Ridge Winery website for tasting room hours and online orders.

Scott Sisemore (left) representing the latest from Waxwing Wine Cellars. (Images Courtesy of Waxwing Wine Cellars)

Waxwing Wine Cellars—Sparkling Riesling

If you’re family drives you to drink, we recommend pacing yourself in style. In this regard, allow us to introduce you to Waxwing’s sparkling riesling.

When owner Scott Sisemore explained it to us, he spared the vintner mumbo jumbo: “It’s a more down and dirty sparkling, more natural.”

Sourced from grapes in Monterey County, Sisemore saw a niche in making this rare type of California sparkling wine, which straddles the line between a sweetly refined white and a light carbonated champagne.

It’s a festive alternative to predictable chards and who knows…maybe it can help loosen the family up too.

Visit Waxwing’s website to purchase.

Kuchan’s “Rusty Negroni” cocktail, made with his barrel-aged Rusty Blade gin. (Photo by Charles Russo)

Old World Spirit—Rusty Blade Gins

When it comes to making cocktails for the holidays, our go-to local source remains a low-key high-quality distillery over in Belmont.

Davorin Kuchan’s Old World Spirits has been producing award-winning gins and other luscious liquors for over a decade now. And while we love their more classic (old world?) spirits, our hands-down favorite is the more offbeat Rusty Blade Gin, a barrel-aged spirit that Kuchan claims can easily appeal to whiskey fans by “toeing the line between spirits in a delicious way.” Rusty Blade spends 15 months in French oak barrels that have been used to age zinfandel wines.

As one industry pub pegged it: “Rusty Blade Gin has unique notes of caramelized orange, maple syrup and apple pie, which nicely balance out the spicy notes of clove, ginger and allspice.” Or better yet, as one delighted online reviewer wrote, “Christmas in a glass!” Well…close enough.

Check out the Old World Spirits website for tasting room hours and product info.

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More local eats from The Six Fifty:

We ate our way around Silicon Valley’s Asian Street Food Market. Here are our favs.

The 650’s 3-minute guide to the Peninsula’s best ramen

Brisket by the Bay: the Six Fifty’s guide to southern BBQ on the Peninsula

Exploring the aisles of Takahashi Market, the Peninsula’s emporium for Hawaiian & Japanese goods

Plant-based Peninsula: the Six Fifty’s guide to vegan & vegetarian eats around Silicon Valley

Charles Russo

Award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience across mediums, including videography, investigative reporting, editing, advanced research, and a wide range of photography.

Author of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America; represented by Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency.

Freelance clients include Google, VICE and Stanford University.

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