Food is the easiest – and most satiating – way to anyone’s heart. And this year, food-related gifts for the holiday season can also provide a lifeline to struggling restaurants and small businesses that have taken such a harsh beating from COVID-19. Shop local and feast well with these suggested Vancouver picks for the epicureans on your list.
Holiday Gift Boxes
Food-filled gift baskets might not be new, but it’s certainly never been this easy to skip the malls and bundle up a box of delectable delights for delivery. The selection is staggering. If you can’t choose, may I suggest a collaborative box that combines goodies from multiple restaurants, caterers, farmers and food purveyors, including Granville Island Delivery Co., Coho Commissary, Commissary Connect and the awesome new online grocer Legends Haul.
We are extremely fortunate in B.C. to have the luxury of dining safely indoors. Any night out is special these days. Still, some restaurant meals are more celebratory than others and they make excellent gifts. Gotham’s Champagne Celebration and Dry Aged Beef are extra-indulgent. St. Lawrence Restaurant’s Cabane À Sucre table d’hôte menu is a Quebecois homage to all things maple syrup, returning this year (from Jan. 14 to Feb. 28) for dine-in or takeout. And for cocktail connoisseurs, the ultimate socially distanced dinner is the Botanist Bar VIP experience in a private room with a special tasting menu paired for a sensational selection of avant-garde elixirs.
Holiday Dinners To-Go
Turkey takeout is back and even bigger than at Thanksgiving. With smaller gatherings this year, it makes sense to give the gift of a hassle-free holiday meal. There are so many restaurants selling festive menus and meal kits (most available for pick-up on Dec. 23rd and 24th) it’s impossible to list them all. But a few of the more diverse offerings do stand out, including Minami’s decadent, five-tiered bento box, Heritage Asian Eatery’s dumpling and BBQ pork feast and El Santo’s Mexican-accented spread with achiote-rubbed turkey galantine. Check in with your favourite restaurant to see what they’re offering. Many have preordering deadlines this week.
Gifts From Chinatown
Small businesses in Vancouver’s Chinatown are hurting more than most, with an estimated 17 per cent of storefronts closed compared with the citywide average of 10 per cent. To assist, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation has launched a new online market that sells gift sets in various themes (wok chef, health and wellness, tea) plus some beautiful masks from Modernize Tailors. Proceeds go directly to the participating merchants and include a small contribution to the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation’s Economic Recovery Program.
One of the pandemic’s most laudable silver linings has been the loosening of off-premise alcohol regulations. Local bars and restaurants are shaking it up with creative takeout kits that include craft mixers, bottled spirits, garnishes, quality ice, tools and glassware. They make terrific gifts. The newly launched kits from The Chickadee Room at Juke offer great bang for 99 bucks with three different recipes per box. Available in four choices of spirit (gin, bourbon, tequila and vodka) they include detailed instructions, online video tutorials and enough ingredients for a dozen drinks.
Cookies and Chocolate
Go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth. After surviving 2020, you deserve it. Beaucoup Bakery’s new collection of chocolate bonbons is inspired by its popular pastries with creative flavours such as almond croissant and rosemary chocolate cookie. Flourist, Vancouver’s premium dry-goods company that kept bakers stocked with home-delivered artisanal flour during the COVID-19 closings, has a new head baker – Tommy Aird, who hails from the two-Michelin-starred Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. His box-set holiday cookies are baked with freshly milled rye, whole-grain einkorn and spelt flours. For a fun and festive edible bauble, local foodie influencer extraordinaire Mijune Pak has collaborated with Chez Christophe to create a Neapolitan baked Alaskan snowball that spills out crispy pearls and freeze-dried strawberries when smashed.
Dr. Bonnie Henry Pollinator Blend
Dr. Bonnie Henry brought tears to many eyes this week when she talked about the winter solstice and brighter days ahead. With West Coast Seeds’ new “Bee Kind” pollinator blend named in the Provincial Health Officer’s honour, you can literally plant that kernel of hope and watch it bloom into vivid orange, yellow and pink cosmos flowers come spring. A perfect stocking stuffer at only $5.89 a packet, the campaign has already raised $90,000 for Food Banks Canada.
The tactile pleasure of smearing paper pages with buttery fingers has thankfully made cookbooks impermeable to the digital revolution. And this year’s crop is plentiful. Andrea Carlson’s Burdock and Co: Poetic Recipes Inspired by Ocean, Land & Air, written in a lush, evocative style reminiscent of MFK Fisher, is an absolute joy to read. Angus An’s Maenam is packed with foolproof Thai recipes that are intense and time-consuming, yet accessible and much more satisfying (in my experience) than making sourdough. Hot off the presses, A Toast from Coast to Coast published by Corby Spirit and Wine features cocktail recipes from restaurants and bars across Canada, with 100 per cent of proceeds going directly to the Bartenders Benevolent Fund and the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association.
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