If Bitcoin can be mined in a factory in frigid Iceland, then the panettone mines must in the hills outside Milan. There, robot workers shape them into cylinders, pack them into boxes, and ship them all over the world. Then they sit on shelves for a few months before being gifted, and re-gifted, over and over. By the time they reach the table, they're dry and flavorless. The best use for them is to be turned into bread pudding (or ice cream).
Luckily, in New York we have a plethora of bakeries making fresh and fragrant panettones that put to shame the industrial version. This year, I bestow my "Best Panettone" award to Il Buco Alimentari's Chocolate Panettone ($25). Crafted by master baker Kamel Saci, this loaf conceals delights under a crust sprinkled with sugar crystals. The crumb is soft, only a touch sweet, and rich with cocoa powder, giving it a deep chocolate flavor. It's dotted here and there with chunks of 74% chocolate, which are offset by a liberal dose of chopped candied ginger. It's decadent without overwhelming you with too much fat or sugar.
Kamel also reveals his subtle touch with his new Almond Date Bread ($8.50). This is a whole wheat bread into which Kamel has mixed finely chopped medjool dates, giving it a slight but rich sweetness. To complement the crunchy crust, he also adds coarsely chopped roasted almonds, which blend well with the flavor of the whole wheat. It goes well with both sweet and savory, but I'm going with a smear of ricotta drizzled with honey.
Both breads are available through January 1st.