Renaud and Nicole Gonthier, behind the display case at Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro.
Paul Wellman (file)

Seasonal food existed long before people figured out how to market it, especially when it comes to December. These three purveyors carry on wonderful traditions for this special time of year.

Masa for Tamales from La Bella Rosa Bakery: Mayans began eating tamales about the time Christ was born, and today many people make and eat them to celebrate Christmas. Crucial to any tamale is the hominy flour dough called masa that makes up the bulk of its steamed deliciousness, and while you can cook all sorts of fillings (from veggies to pork), it’s easier to buy the masa made correctly, for you’ll still have plenty to do yourself. That’s where La Bella Rosa comes in, a true Santa Barbara favorite that will get you started on a fine tamale. 1411 San Andres Street, (805) 966-9660,

Eggnog Ice Cream from McConnell’s: Why choose between having a drink or dessert when you can do both in a single bowl? That’s the brilliance of eggnog ice cream, and McConnell’s has been scooping it up for years. Set a bit of this out with Santa’s cookies, and you’re bound to get better presents. Get it at the Mission Street shop or by the pint at Whole Foods, Vons (Montecito), Gelson’s, and Lazy Acres. 201 West Mission Street, (805) 569-2323,

Bûche de Noël at Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro: This festive faux-foliage cake looks too good to eat and tastes even better, especially with 2011 Santa Barbara Independent Foodie Award winner Renaud Gonthier as the baker. He promises four different varieties, including chocolate decadent, chestnut, praline, and a mystery style (still being taste-tested), and you have to order by December 22 in sizes serving four, six, eight, or 12. If it’s good enough for France, this dessert is good enough for you. 3315 State Street, (805) 569-2400, and 1324 State Street, (805) 892-2800,


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