For those of us whose lives are driven by the school calendar, winter break comes late this year, and that’s my excuse for finding myself totally unprepared for the holidays at the very moment when I should be driving gifts to the post office—and less than two weeks before houseguests hit town. I tried to jump-start my efforts recently with a trip to North East Mall in Hurst, fueled by dinner first at the shopping center’s outpost of Carrabba’s. It was a matter of convenience, really, but it turned out to be a nice meal. Take note that all but two of the pasta dishes come with meat or seafood, and the remaining options—cheese manicotti or pasta with tomato and basil sauce—are a little boring. But probably other pasta dishes could be adjusted upon request. We split what they call Insalata Fiorucci, which is mixed greens salad with grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and, best of all, a round of hazelnut-crusted fresh goat cheese. The greens were dressed too heavily but that could easily be remedied—just ask—and it was otherwise delish. Also split a pizza margherita (their pizzas are baked in a brick oven). Paired with the Folie à Deux Cabernet Sauvignon, it was a very satisfying start to some holiday shopping. They even put the rest of the bottle in a sealed plastic baggie for us so we wouldn’t get in trouble on the way home.