You’ve Gotta Try This in December

This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now

This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now

We’re about to head into peak ‘comfortably loose eating pants’ season, and you know what? After the raging garbage fire of a year that the world has had (thanks, America!), I say have at it. Eat your feelings, people! And the good news? December in Vancouver is bringing treats which are pretty much guaranteed to make even the most world-weary news-junkie feel like there’s a bright—and delicious— light at the end of the tunnel.

So, you know the drill by now, grab napkins, it’s gonna get messy; and happy holidays!

1. Drink all the festive drinks

As always, it’s time for your annual reminder that the best dang eggnog in town is Avalon Dairy shaken over ice with a hearty slug of your favourite local gin (trust me, it’s brilliant). But… for your out-and-about cocktail needs…

It would not be the season without YEW’s super fun moose mugs (pictured)! This year they’re back with a shot of cognac for a ‘cog nog’—go treat yourself to one in front of the fire there. It’s Christmas in a cup!

The “Not Your PSL” at UVA is a fun play on a pumpkin spice latte with Lemonhart spiced rum, apricot oleo saccharum, an all-spice honey syrup, heavy cream, whole egg and Bittered Sling arabica coffee bitters.

I’m totally digging Rod Redford’s hot Appleton rum punch at The Diamond, with Aperol, grapefruit, pineapple and black tea, likely the best thing to dive into post-shopping sprees in Gastown.

I need no seasonal excuse whatsoever to hang out at Boulevard enjoying their kick-ass happy hour, but it looks like as soon as the clock strikes ‘regular menu o’clock’ I’ll be trying an Aquas Caliente: a creamy blend of mescal, Noilly Pratt, ancho reyes, crème de cacao and Kahlua: sweet, spicy, creamy with a coffee-chili kick and smoky kiss? Yes, please!

2. Eat all the sweet holiday treats

Just putting it out there—I would flip my lid for any of these beauties landing on my table this month…

La Glace ice cream now has festive flavours: pain d’épices and eggnog & rum. Best of all, you can get ’em in a fancy milk-glass jar for $15. Turn up anywhere over the holidays with one of these to win instant best guest status.

There are, of course, some wildly tempting holiday flavours over at Thierry Chocolates, but I am crazy about this terrific sounding bûche de nöel (aka yule log) with blood orange, yuzu, and white chocolate (pictured at top of article); basically everything I adore. There are four other flavours too and the cakes come in three different sizes.

Oh, and Thomas Haas seems to have found the solution to our small apartments in Vancouver: a chocolate Christmas tree decorated with hand-made chocolates and truffles. No clean up. No needles on the floor. Just awesome chocolate. Hurrah!

3. Say "hi!" to Mr. Bannock

Finally, Vancouver will have its own First Nations food truck, as Mr. Bannock rolls out in the new year. Owner Paul Natrall of the Squamish Nation was a member of Aboriginal Culinary Team Canada at the 2012 Culinary Olympics in Germany, and has been selling his bannock at the Ambleside Farmers Market in West Vancouver. Paul told me that his truck will be serving up his Indian taco (he bagged third place at the third annual Taco Fest at Swangard Stadium this year), as well as an all-Canadian burger, bannock pizza, plus a chef’s daily or weekly feature. Keep an eye on Paul’s social media for a launch date.

4. Famosos’s do-good tomato sauce

This sounds like an awesome way to do some good this holiday season! Go pick up a few jars of Famoso Campania Tomato Sauce ($8 for a 500 ml jar) as for each jar sold, Mealshare will provide a a meal for a Canadian youth in need. This is a fantastic initiative and it’s the fifth year this campaign has been running. Last year sales of the sauce served up 16,115 meals to youth in need across western Canada and Ontario—that’s surely a story that we all want to be part of too. The sauce is only available from Famoso locations during the holidays, and it’s a yummy rich tomato sauce made from vine-ripened plum tomatoes, hand-picked from Mount Vesuvius in Naples.

5. Buy this book!

Looking for something ace for the cookbook lover in your life? Look no further than this fab number from legendary B.C. chef Rod Butters. The Okanagan Table is designed for the home cook so there’s no complicated gizmos required, and each recipe has a photo so you can see what you’re aiming for! It’s divided into Sunrise, Midday, Sunset and Twilight, and takes you from a slow breakfast over fluffy pancakes to cocktails and dinner with delicious farm-fresh ingredients from the Lower Mainland. Inspirational and achievable recipes from chef Butters’ restaurants including RauDZ Regional Table and Micro Bar and Bites, and best of all, finally— the recipe for cult cocktail fave, the Lavender Bees Knees!

6. Rum fun

This season’s must-have gift for all boozehounds is clearly a jar of JT’s Hot Buttered Rum Mix, made with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and salt—just add your own rum for instant warming good times. The ‘JT’ would be Justin Taylor, GM of the The Cascade Room and all-round good chap. You can pick up 250 ml jars for $12 each (plus tax) at The Cascade Room, El Camino’s, The Union and Main Street Brewing Company while stock lasts starting Friday, December 1st.

Oh—and as an extra hug-in-a-mug, partial proceeds from the sale of JT’s Hot Buttered Rum Mix go to support the Fawkes Academy Parental Advisory Committee. (Fawkes Academy provides individualized educational programs for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, other complex developmental disabilities, or different learning needs.)


7. Forage December lunch

It’s baaaa-aaack! Every day can be Christmas Day in the West End over at Forage because their famous festive family-style lunch is back. Lunch is served Monday to Friday, December 6th to 22nd. The cost is $40 per person plus tax and tip. On Sunday, December 24th and Saturday, December 25th, it’s $60 per person plus tax and tip.

On the menu: treats including Okanagan apple and endive salad, baby kale, charcuterie board with cured ethically raised meats and terrines, roasted Fraser Valley turkey with all the festive trimmings, smoked pork rack roast and spiced Okanagan apple galette vanilla ice cream, salted caramel. Yum!

8. Raise a glass to Bartender’s Malt

This totally piqued my interest: a limited edition expression of Auchentoshan created by an international bartender collective—how cool is that! One of the team is Canadian rep Oliver Stern, a bartender from BlueBlood, Toronto who recommends citrus mixes to blend with the whisky’s ‘unique floral, buttery and zesty tasting notes.’ Basically it’s a shoo-in as a most-wanted Xmas bottle gift for the bar geek in your life (it’s you, isn’t it? That’s fine. It’s me too.) According to the press release, “…every single element of The Bartender’s Malt has been developed by the New Malt Order bartenders, from the careful selection of casked liquids to the packaging design and the branding of the expression.”
According to me, this is lovely: all bananas, caramel and a warm, smooth finish. It’s great on its own over ice, but not so precious that you’d feel bad tossing it into a cocktail and mixing things up. Great idea and deliciously executed!