Food and lifestyle expert Cassandra Anderton of Good Life Vancouver rounds up the top gifts for foodies
Who doesn’t love to receive delicious food and bevvies over the holidays, or perhaps even the tools to cook or serve these items in or on? We all have enough socks and scarfs, well at least I do, so bring on the treats this season and you’ll be sure to get on Santa’s nice list.
1. Drink up
Philippe Dandurand Wines and Central City BrewingFor those who’ve been extra nice this year, why not spoil them with some bubbles? Taittinger Champagne Brut Reserve is on for $58.99 until December 30th at BC Liquor Stores, or you could choose something local and go with some Okanagan wines. I love the Haywire Baby Bub, only $15.90, or get super-fancy by picking up a three-pack Bubbly Box from Noble Ridge ($170). I do hope you’ll get an invite to drink these wines with your friends on New Year’s Eve.
Still wines I’ve been lucky enough to sample lately and love include the Schell Chardonnay ($33.90 at Marquis Wines) and Catena Chardonnay (around $25 to $30 at private liquor stores), both of which would be great with roast turkey; and the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, perfect for New Year’s Eve’s oyster course. Heading out for a more hearty dinner party? Grab a bottle of Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot ($15.99), or the Reserve Merlot ($25.99) and you’ll be sure to be invited back.
The best wine to give may actually be a bottle that gives back. Pick up the Les Dames d’Escoffier Dames Red, White or Rose ($28.61 at Marquis Wine Cellar or online here) and you’ll be contributing to scholarship funds for women’s education in culinary, wine and hospitality.
Beer lovers will appreciate the new Sapling Series small-batch brews from Stanley Park Brewing, or perhaps the Great White Wonder Holiday Pack, an advent calendar collaboration from Central City Brewing and Parallel 49.
East Van RoastersFor those with a sweet tooth, the aisles are full of temptations, but for the true gourmet in your life, it will take more than mass-market chocolate to please them. One of my favourite bean-to-bar chocolatiers, and another business that gives back to the community by providing training and work opportunity for the residents of the Rainier Hotel, is Gastown’s East Van Roasters. Their 16-piece Holiday Confection Box is a wonderful selection of delights, including the Mayan Spiced truffles; so decadent.
La GlaceIf may be cold outside but La Glace ice cream parlour will warm hearts with their festive line-up of seasonal ice creams, pastries and confections. Pick up some gingerbread cookies, peppermint meringues and marshmallows, and a few pints of their limited edition ice creams, featuring flavours such as eggnog and rum. All perfect hostess gifts.
Beaucoup BakeryCookie lovers would be happy to receive the Beaucoup Bakery Holiday Cookies featuring six varieties, including their Spiced Rye Sablés and Chocolate Pistachio Sandwich Cookies. Tins come in two sizes, one with two cookies of each (a dozen) for $25, and a larger one with four of each (two dozen) for $50. Those who prefer cake will appreciate Chez Christophe's Yule log, or Bûche de Noël, in all sorts of flavours.
3. Other edibles
Domenica FioreThere are so many great stocking stuffers and hostess gifts that aren’t just cookies, candy and chocolate. I found Chef Anne Kirsebom’s Cranberry & Onion Confit with Grand Marnier liqueur at a local craft fair this weekend. It’s a delicious accompaniment to roast meat and poultry; you’ll want a jar for yourself for your sandwich of leftover turkey.
Domenica Fiore's organic olive oil is delicious; I gave bottles to guests as wedding favours this summer. They’re now also offering tomato sauce and honey sourced from their property in Italy, and offer all three as a holiday pack.
Another great product I discovered this year was the shrubs from Route 18, a great alternative for those who aren’t imbibing this year; they are locally made drinking vinegars and great mixed up with a bit of soda. My favourite is the Turmeric Peach, available at Home on The Range Organics. Pick up some sausage rolls, charcuterie, cheese and more and don’t forget to order your free range holiday turkey while you’re there.
4. For the home
Presidents ChoiceHave a cocktail enthusiast in your midst? President’s Choice has a beautiful hammered cocktail shaker with festive glasses adorned with reindeer and holiday sayings. Maybe throw in a bottle of local liquor such as the Xfour Blueberry Vodka and they may just mix you up a drink.
President's Choice and Bower and ToulsonThere’s also some great serving trays from President's Choice, such as the marble and acacia paddle board or PC Cheese Board ($15 to 25), and there are beautiful locally made heirloom wooden boards at Bowyer and Toulson.
5. Tools of the trade
This year, the multi-cooker has received top billing. There are cheaper versions on the market, but I couldn’t resist the All-Clad Pressure Cooker, with slow cooking, searing and rice-cooking functions. It’s a bit pricier ($299 at Cook Culture) but it’ll last far longer and is stunningly beautiful... and wouldn’t you want to give the best?
Other cool kitchen tools for those who have the Kitchenaid mixers, are the newest attachments such as the Exact Slice food processor attachment or the spiralizer, both at London Drugs for $300 and $100 respectively. A less pricey gift is the great spice grinder from Kitchenaid as well, for just $34.99. Once you try fresh-ground spices, you’ll never go back to pre-ground.
Ming WoLooking for that perfect Dutch oven for the ones you love? The Combekk (at Ming Wo for $300) is an enameled cast-iron option made in Holland, entirely from 100 per cent recycled metals, and is fitted with an easy-view thermometer for precision cooking. This Dutch oven has very even heat distribution with no hot spots, which means even cooking. The oven would be perfect to cook up a bunch of pasta that you made in the Philips Viva Pasta Maker, a compact version that makes penne, fettucini and spaghetti in mere minutes! It's on sale at Best Buy for just $179.
Silk Road TeaHave a tea lover in your life? Breville has come out with a new tea kettle that can be programmed not only for black, green or white tea, but also for tea strength. The kettle senses when the water gets to the right temperature and descends the tea into the pot and pulls it up again once it has steeped for enough time; available at Hudsons Bay for $270. Stop into Silk Road Tea and pick up some teas as an added treat and don’t forget to stock up for yourself.
The Gourmet WarehouseI could go on for days about all the great cookbooks that came out this season, but I’ll stick to some of the locally produced ones this time so as to narrow it down. I adored Chef Ned Bell’s Lure, with its focus on sustainable seafood, Chef Rod Butters’ The Okanagan Table and Rebecca Wellman’s cookbook, First We Brunch, with brunch recipes from Victoria’s restaurants. Local photographer, Sofia Kuan, put together a beautiful Recipe Box complete with recipes from top Vancouver chefs. For vegans or anyone allergic to eggs, there's Aquafabulous, a cookbook from Rebecca Coleman with recipes made with chickpea water as an egg substitute.
My fellow members of Les Dames d’Escoffier also had some great books out this year, Jennifer Schell’s The Butcher, The Baker, Wine and Cheesemaker is Okanagan-focused, Lee Murphy put out a book called The Preservatory with recipes for cooking with artisanal preserves, and Denise Marchessault penned British Columbia from Scratch full of local ingredients from our home province.
Don’t miss Caren McSherry’s newest book either, smartly titled, Starters, Salads and Sexy Sides, available at her cookshop, Gourmet Warehouse, which is, by the way, a spectacular place to shop for gifts for food lovers and has some of the best pricing out there.