Vancouver Holiday Treats Gift Guide

The holiday season has arrived, and it's bringing a variety of delicious and locally made treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Holiday Gifts For Those with A Sweet Tooth

Well known for being a foodie city, Vancouver doesn’t disappoint in the sweet-treats department.


Whether you need a gift for a holiday party, a present for a loved one, or you’re in the mood for a little self-indulgence (’tis the season, after all), check out our guide to some of the city’s best treats, featuring five small businesses that are fueled by creativity and passion.


CocoaNymph Truffles

Pictured are eight of CocoaNymph’s nine holiday truffles. Clockwise from top left: Navidad, Rosie, Basque, Linus, Shimmer, Blitzen, Cinder, and Mirth (missing is Devilish). (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

CocoaNymph Chocolates & Confections

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CocoaNymph owner and chocolatier, Rachel Sawatzky, always impresses me with her ingenious chocolate creations.

For the 2011 holiday season she’s offering nine special truffles to tantalize our taste buds. Forgoing traditional holiday flavours like peppermint, she has approached the whole collection from the perspective of “what gives people the warm fuzzies—I wanted warm, winter flavours that were reminiscent of a winter table.”

This year she’s releasing a special holiday-collection box featuring nine holiday flavours for $16, or individual truffles for $1.95 each.

Returning flavours include Basque (port and raisin), Linus (pumpkin caramel) and Mirth (eggnog).


“I would have a riot on my hands if I didn’t make the eggnog truffle because I’ve been making it every Christmas since I opened,” says Sawatzky of the ridiculously good truffle that’s spiked with real rum.


New creations include Cinder (“a texture experiment” with a cocoa nib praline and clove-infused ganache), Blitzen (maple bourbon), Shimmer (ginger), Devilish (molasses caramel), Navidad (orange cranberry) and Rosie (“a runaway hit” with rosemary and sea salt).


My favourites were the super-boozy Mirth and Blitzen, the surprising Cinder (cloves and chocolate together are a revelation) and the brilliant Rosie (you have to try this flavour combination).

Where to get it: CocoaNymph is located at 3739 West 10th, Vancouver

Monkey Butter Gourmet Peanut Butter

Monkey Butter’s six gourmet peanut butters. Clockwise from top left: Maple Bacon, White Chocolate Pretzel, Dark Chocolate Cherry, Banana Chocolate, Salted Caramel, and White Chocolate Raspberry. (Image: Monkey Butter)

Monkey Butter


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Sisters Kathleen and Gillian Gook launched their gourmet peanut butter company, Monkey Butter, this October.


“We’ve been trying to set up a business, the two of us, for a long time,” says Gillian, “and we’ve been making peanut butter at home for a long time. Finally we thought, ‘Why don’t we try this?’”

They currently have six flavours of gourmet peanut butter (with absolutely adorable packaging): White Chocolate Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Cherry, White Chocolate Pretzel, Dark Chocolate Banana, Salted Caramel, and Maple Bacon.


The butters come in two sizes: 375mL for $12, and a gift box with smaller jars of all six flavours that will first be available at the West Coast Christmas Show this weekend, price TBA.

PB on toast and ants-on-a-log are taken to another level with these gourmet flavours. My favourite is Maple Bacon, made with vegetarian bacon bits—I plan on trying Kathleen’s suggestion of smearing some inside a grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

Where to get it: This weekend at the West Coast Christmas Show, December 2 – 4, and through their website by emailing


My Therapy Bar Inspiring Chocolates


My Therapy Bar

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Shadi Javadi launched My Therapy Bar, a line of four delicious chocolate bars, during a difficult divorce. She found strength through sharing empowering messages with chocolate lovers and donating partial proceeds to women’s charities. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Shadi Javadi came up with the idea for My Therapy Bar while “going through a really nasty, nasty divorce. In the beginning when I was in quite a bit of shock, I was eating a lot of chocolate and reading a lot of self-help books just to ease the pain and help myself get through that time.”

“One day I had an ‘aha!’ moment, I felt like these two together would make a really good concept.” That was just over two years ago, and now her line of delicious, all-natural and locally made bars are available at a number of large retailers throughout BC.

“The bars have a fortune cookie concept,” says Javadi, “they’re inspirational and empowering, reinforcing the names of the bars.”


The line includes, in order of release: “I love myself” (50 percent dark chocolate), “I will survive” (33 percent milk chocolate), “Look at me now” (33 percent milk chocolate with local hazelnuts) and “I love you” (60 percent dark chocolate).

Javadi is a passionate supporter of women’s charities and a portion of My Therapy Bar proceeds go to Women for Women International.


“I also wanted to bring attention to other charities that are doing wonderful things for women, so we promote other charities throughout the year as well,” including Equality Now.

Where to get it: Select Whole Foods Market, Save-On-Foods and London Drugs stores throughout BC ($3.99 and up).

“It’s To Die For” Banana Bread

“It’s To Die For” banana bread comes by its name honestly. With gourmet ingredients like organic bananas, olive oil, Callebaut chocolate and salted macadamia nuts, it really is a swoon-worthy treat. (Image: Jeremy Lim Photography)

“It’s To Die For”

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For local food personality Erin Ireland, her entry into the fine food business happened unexpectedly.


She often gifted her trademark sweet and salty banana bread to friends and colleagues, and “started getting so many requests for the bread that I realized it was an amazing opportunity and just had to go with it.” And that’s how It’s To Die For Fine Foods was born.

After advertising a bake sale to test interest in her bread, she had to take down the order form after receiving over 30 orders in just one day—as the “little kitchen in [her] tiny Yaletown apt” wasn’t going to accommodate that kind of volume.

Following a chance meeting with Commune Cafe owner Amir Samei, he suggested they sell the bread there. The partnership began in July and since then things have taken off.


“It’s To Die For” banana bread is now available at a number of Vancouver cafes and is soon-to-be available at larger retailers (rumour has it that deals with Whole Foods Market, Choices Markets, The Dirty Apron Cooking School and Save-On-Meats are in the works).

The bread was also a deep-fried guest at the PNE this summer, and for the month of November Ireland partnered with The Juice Truck to offer banana bread smoothies, with one dollar from each smoothie being donated to Movember Canada.

Where to get it: By the slice ($2.50 and up) available at Commune Cafe, Ethical Bean and Milano Gastown, half ($10.50) and full loaves ($21) available to order through Commune Café’s site ordering under pastries.

JamaicanEats Rum Cake

The decadent JamaicanEats rum cake is the first in a line of branded products from JamaicanEats magazine, “A food magazine that brings the tantalizing tastes of Jamaica and the Caribbean to the world.” (Image: JamaicanEats)

JamaicanEats magazine editor-in-chief Grace Cameron is proud to take “the spirit of the islands to an intoxicatingly new level with a divine rum cake.” Meet the JamaicanEats rum cake.



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Moist, rich, dense and boozy cakes are one of my weaknesses and this truly divine rum cake hits all the right notes.


“It’s an interpretation of English plum pudding,” says Cameron, “and this particular recipe comes from an old Jamaican post card which has been tweaked over the years by a friend, an older Jamaican woman who lives in Vancouver.”

Perfect on its own, and made from scratch with real rum and fruit soaked in port and sherry, the JamaicanEats rum cake is even better when served with one of the sauce or glaze recipes featured on the label. I had it with butter rum sauce, pictured above. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

It’s made from scratch with real Jamaican rum and all-natural ingredients including raisins, currants, prunes, cherries and mixed peel (that have been elevated through soaking in real port and sherry).


For an extra kick, Cameron suggests serving it with butter rum sauce—I tried this amazing combination—rum butter glaze, rum and raisin ice cream or an additional splash of Jamaican rum poured over top.

In case you want to store the cake (“The older it is the better it gets,” says Cameron), the combination of sugar and liquor apparently acts as a preservative so it can be kept at room temperature for months, although Cameron says she usually freezes any cakes she wants to keep. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this as my cake, the perfect cold-weather treat, lasted mere days.

Where to get it: This weekend at the West Coast Christmas Show, December 2, 3, and 4 ($30). Check the JamaicanEats website in the coming months for details on online ordering, and availability at local stores and cafes.