This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now
I adore December! So many parties, and so many good reasons to eat, drink and be merry. I love that by around the first week in, we’re all just having Baileys in breakfast coffee and throwing back bubbles at lunch (surely not just me?). It’s that most joyous of months, so get out there, indulge in all your favourite things and make sure you spread that love around… buy an extra hot chocolate to give to the homeless person you always see on the way to work and send cash (yes, it’s what is most useful) to your local food bank. Happy holidays!
As always, grab napkins 'cause it’s gonna get messy…
1. Dine Out PSA
Dine Out VancouverEvent tickets are on sale now at Dine Out Vancouver. New events for 2019 include a four-course winemakers dinner with Painted Rock Estate at Tuc Craft Kitchen; a Vive La Vodka tasting at YEW with oyster shucking (pictured), and pairing oysters and martinis; plus old faves, including the Secret Supper Soirée, Chef Ned Bell’s Ocean Wise pop-up at the Vancouver Aquarium, Mamie Taylor’s Low Country Pig Roast, and, of course, the World Chef Exchange and Street Food City.
2. Slay hangovers with XLBs
DinestyI had assumed that everyone who lives in Vancouver was aware of the joys of XLB (Xiaolongbao), aka soup dumplings, but from the reaction of people on my Facebook, I guess not. People, what the hell? XLBs are pretty much one of the most amazing things in the world: paper-thin dumplings with an amazing liquid soup and spicy meat, seafood or vegetable filling. They’re pretty ingenious: the soup is made from a gelatinous stock which solidifies in the fridge, then melts into liquid form when it’s steamed. You have to eat them carefully, take one from the basket, put it on a spoon, gently bite in and slurp the soup out then eat the rest up in one bite. So good!
I’ve been obsessing about these little steamed moments of joy, and for me, the only place to go is at Dinesty on Robson. You can watch them being made through the window. Try the pork, the amazing XO sauce and pork, and hell, the shrimp, scallop and pork too. In short, take friends and have the lot. They''re guaranteed to stop any morning-after-the-night-before wobbles.
3. Drink all the nog
Leila KwokI’d rather drink out of a puddle than sip a pumpkin spice latte. My seasonal sip of choice is eggnog. I set a strict "not until December 1st" rule, but then basically any excuse to hose down a bucket of that sweet, sweet lait du poule and I am there. I love Avalon’s organic, usually as a cheeky pour in my morning coffee and then shaken with ice and gin (seriously, this is delicious; the ice dilutes that sweetness and the botanicals in the gin really work) for a festive early evening cocktail served up in my moose mug.
Away from home, I’m gonna be checking these out over the season:
- I’m thrilled to say that YEW is bringing out their moose mugs again (pictured) for their traditional Cog Nog with Hennessy VS cognac.
- Head to Royal Dinette to try startender Kaitlyn Stewart’s riff on a White Russian, the "Little Lebowski" with vodka, coffee liqueur, Galliano, house-made eggnog, espresso and chocolate bitters.
- Vegans can enjoy that creamy 'nog joy thanks to San Diego bartender Erick Castro’s recipe. Jason Laidlaw has a tiki take on this planned at the Shameful Tiki Room.
- The Lobby Lounge at the Fairmont Pacific Rim is always a hella festive place to hang and they have two varieties of 'nog on offer: a spiked one rich with cream, egg yolks Spanish Brandy and Mount Gay XO rum; and a vegan-friendly take with Cazadores Anejo Tequila, Mount Gay XO Rum and Ramazzotto Amaro called Feliz Navidad.
4. Stuff yourself silly with stollen
I fell in love with Four Seasons pastry chef Gerhard Weitzel’s fantastic stollen at first bite. It is simply the most delicious festive treat ever. Despite retiring, chef Weitzel is back for his 27th year to make those incredible roasted almond, rum-soaked raisin and melting marzipan fruit breads. Head to the hostess desk at YEW in the Four Seasons lobby and snap one up for $28, guaranteed to be the ultimate hostess gift (actually get two—you have to have one for yourself).
5. Get festive AF at the Christmas Market
Cheese Me RacletteDress warmly and head down to the Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza, which is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. until Christmas Eve when it closes at 6 p.m. There are some solid festive eats to be had this year. These four caught my eye:
- Das Fleischekäse Haus, which has a crazy sounding meat-lovers sandwich called the Fleischkäse-Semmel.
- Das Spätzle Haus because who doesn’t freaking adore freshly made spätzle?
- And then moving to the all-important cheese course, make a beeline for Cheese Me Raclette because few things in the world are as wonderful as freshly melted raclette cheese on a pile of mini potatoes, pickles and cocktail onions.
- For dessert, make it a Transylvanian Chimney Cake, which they describe lyrically as, "a spiral of sweet, flaky dough coated with sugar while roasting on a spit." Yes, please!
6. Make a gingerbread house while you drink beer
“We’ll bring the gingerbread pieces, frosting, candy, a board to build the house on, a box to take it home in and some holiday spirit. You bring your smiling face, your family and friends and your gingerbread house building 'A' game.
"How it works: Buy a house, add on a gingerbread family, pets and maybe some fantasy characters, RSVP so we know how many to expect. Show up with your ticket(s) at 2 p.m. to gather your supplies, and get to decorating! We'll have some chocolates from The Drunken Chocolatier to supplement our delicious confections, so plan to snack on that gingerbread house once it's been built!”
7. Treat yo’ self and do some good
Two great annual fundraising campaigns I always like to support are Famoso’s Campania Tomato Sauce and Justin Taylor’s Hot Buttered Rum. Grab a few of each for gifts (and for yourself) to have that perfect "feels good, does good, tastes good" happy glow.
Famoso is in its sixth year of fundraising with MealShare to help end youth hunger through sales of their Campania Tomato Sauce ($8 for a 500 ml jar), available for purchase in store now through December 31st. It's made from hand-picked, vine-ripened plum tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius in Naples and hand-milled to capture authentic Neapolitan flavour. It's delicious, simple and fresh, with only two ingredients: tomatoes and salt.
Justin’s Hot Buttered Rum Mix comes in a 250 ml jar and contains brown sugar, butter cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and salt, just add hot water (and rum!) for a festive warming winter drink. Partial proceeds from the sales go to support the amazing work of the Fawkes Academy, which provides individualized educational programs for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, other complex developmental disabilities or different learning needs. Pick up jars at The Cascade Room, El Camino's, The Union and Main Street Brewing Company.
8. Bag all the sweet treats
There are, of course, some very cool chocolate and pastry treats in the shops at this time of year, but I love the sound of Chez Christophe’s DIY Chocolate Bark Kits ($29.95), which come in candy cane and spiced hazelnut flavours and contain everything you need to make your own DIY bark. It's such a cool idea, combing crafting and chocolate all in one handy kit—this is going to be a huge hit at holiday parties and it’s easy enough for the whole family to try.
Creative and playful at the best of times, Beta 5 (pictured) is ratcheting it up even more this season with a trio of new festive puff flavours including eggnog, hot chocolate and a ‘"Mystery Mountain" puff inspired by the classic French Mont Blanc pastry. They also have old favourites back, such as their lump of coal and the snowball.
Visit West Van’s Temper and pick up a sugary showpiece for your holiday table! This is so cute: you can pick from a snowman head, reindeer head, Santa head or a tree ornament. There’s a host of other festive eats and treats on offer, and throughout December, Temper will also offer in-store guests a little sweet treat as a surprise.
9. Go, go, Buffalo
Switch up holiday desserts with Uno Gelato’s delicious buffalo lemon gelato, which is made with water buffalo milk. I’d tried this back at Bella Gelato when James was there, and it was incredible, sooo creamy! James is using a new emulsification process from Italy (brand new to North America) and I cannot wait to check it out. Lactose-intolerant folks should know: “Water buffalo milk has several health benefits and is an excellent alternative to cow’s milk, with lower cholesterol and higher calcium and antioxidant content. Buffalo milk contains A2 Beta Casein protein, which many allergy sufferers look for in milk alternatives.”