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The Glutton

December 20, 2007

Before the internal combustion engine. Before preservatives. Before the Earth was round . . . there was fruitcake.

For those with a hankering, the sweets of Christmas long, long ago can still be found in the modern world. At Costco, $12.99 gets you a dense, chewy ring topped with irradiated maraschinos. The Whisper Cafe in Encino offers a fruitcake that's still crazy sticky, but the ingredients are decidedly fresher -- real figs and whole walnuts. With $21.95 and 24-hours' advance notice, you get one of your own.

More appealing to the modern palate is mincemeat pie. At some point in post-medieval times, shortening became the new suet and fruit became the new meat, transforming mincemeat into fruit, raisins and spices. During winter, Pie 'n Burger in Pasadena serves a version that's more like fruit compote in a pie crust, though it's redeemed by a hard sauce of powdered sugar and water ($3.55 by the slice).

For connoisseurs, the must-have mincemeat comes from Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock. Again, you'll need to call in advance (48 hours) for the $22.95 pie, but the result is thick, beautifully constructed and with a superb mince unified by a light glaze and seasonings that aren't too cloying or too sweet. Unlike its monstrous cousin the fruitcake, this isn't a dessert to be trifled with.

-- theguide@latimes.com

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