Street food shirts

If you've spent any time wandering around San Francisco's Mission District, you've likely seen artist Sirron Norris' playful murals. (Personal fave: the Victorian mural that runs down Balmy Alley, off 24th Street.) Now Norris has done a T-shirt design for Off the Grid, the street food fest peeps, that shows his irresistible characters chowing down at three street food trucks. The limited edition Triple Truck is a benefit for La Cocina, the San Francisco incubator kitchen that has jump-started so many street food vendors. Signed shirts are $50, with $20 of that going to La Cocina; unsigned, they're $30, with $5 going to that cause. Perfect stocking stuffer, by the way. You stick one of those in a stocking, and there's no room for anything else. Find them at Store.OfftheGridSF.com.

Who put the Melba in the toast?

In an age of crostini and bruschetta, Melba toast is an odd duck. Who would buy those dry, crisp, perfectly shaped squares now? Turns out the toast's origin story is kind of adorable: Felled by a case of the fin de siecle queasies, soprano Dame Nellie Melba asked the great French chef Auguste Escoffier to fix her a little dry toast. The result, says James Winter, author of the new "Who Put the Beef in Wellington?" (Kyle Books, 2013), was "akin to asking Caravaggio to give your bedroom walls a lick of paint -- he's going to over-deliver." The opera singer -- who also inspired Escoffier's Peach Melba -- loved the perfect little squares, and the rest, as they say, is food history.

If you're a trivia lover, you'll love Winter's book, which delves into the back stories and recipes for 50 iconic dishes, from eggs Benedict -- invented at Delmonico's for LeGrand Lockwood Benedict, a 19th-century New York stockbroker -- to Caesar salad, Tournedos Rossini and, yes, the martini. Our martini, the Gold Rush-era cocktail invented in San Francisco or Martinez, depending on the tale.

Buche de Noel

When it comes to holiday desserts, we're staunch DIYers. We make our own pies, cakes and croquembouche -- and, yes, we sit down to the big feast in a state of utter frosting-spattered, flour-flecked dishevelment. It's a point of pride. But even we are tempted by the Buche de Noel cakes from La Boulange. Chef-owner Pascal Rigo has decorated this delicious, traditional French holiday dessert -- a chocolate, jellyroll-style cake that resembles a Yule log -- with tiny trees, woodcutters and other little details. There's a strawberry version, too, if you're into pink. They're $25 for a small cake, $38 for a large; www.laboulangebakery.com.

-- Jackie Burrell