Fruitcake gets a bad rap. You ask anyone from young to old and they’ll turn up their nose, proclaiming that it’s “dry” or “heavy” or that they’re scared of those neon-colored fruits. Well the times have changed and fruitcake, if made well, can be moist, a little bit boozy and incredibly tasty. At least that’s the case at Arizmendi on 9th Avenue in San Francisco.
While it seems like many of our families avoid fruitcake, it's been around for quite some time. In fact, the name can actually be traced back as far as the Middle Ages with the oldest reference going back to Roman times where they often included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins. Since the bread is preserved with high levels of booze, crusaders and hunters were rumored to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home. All of the neon-colored fruits that folks fear today came much later down the line.
At Arizmendi, you won’t see any of those dried fruits either. Instead, you’ll find small warmly-scented loaves packed with dried fruits and nuts from Rainbow Grocery across town. They use currants, lemon zest, orange zest, raisins, papaya, pineapple, apricots, almonds and cherries along with a smattering of spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. If you haven’t yet tried it, this is your year. The 9th Avenue location is doing 400 small loaves and they sell out quickly, so make sure to get down there beginning the first week of December to snag yours. They’ll hold until whenever you’re ready to serve it (the brandy functions as a preserver) -- some of the staff actually hang onto their loaves year after year and come in to re-dip them during the annual fruitcake-dipping process.