Holiday Gift Suggestions, Chapter 1: Food

Cracker Today on BC Almanac my chat and phone-in with Mark Forsythe is all about food gifts and tips for the holidays.  I wanted to concentrate on as many local products as possible, so here are the links to the products I featured:

Crackers from Lesley Stowe Fine Foods and Gone Crackers.
Those are both BC companies.

Artisan Crisps from Ace Bakery in Toronto.

Bees Honeys from Honeyview Farm in Rosedale, BC.
Albacore tuna antipasto, chutneys and spreads from Artisan Edibles in Parksville.

I'm all about flavour this year.  Cut down the quantities, increase the quality, go for intense flavours and you don't need to eat so much…try lots of little things so you get variety and can compare different foods in the same vein.

Cheese Cheese…head to a good cheese shop where you can get a little taste of the cheese before you buy a larger chunk, and then purchase in 100 or 200 gram chunks.  A little bit of strong flavoured cheese will go a long way.

Some of the shops I know quite well include:
Les Amis Du Fromages, in Vancouver.
Hilary's, in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island.
And McLean's Specialty Foods in Nanaimo.

Cm023 Cured meats:  Wow!  Sky is the limit here.  If it's one thing I learned in Italy is that a little cured meat can go a long way.  Some of them can be quite pricy, but for something like prosciutto di Parma, you ask to have it sliced paper thin and you'd be surprised how many slices you get in 100 grams and how much flavour there is in each slice.

Olives…You will be a popular person if you bring a selection of olives or serve them.  Again, you can buy them in small packages with widely varying tastes, oil-cured, brine cured, dried, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan.

Breads:  Seek out the local bakery and get different kinds of baguettes made with different kinds of grains, do the same with crackers….talk about locally made and Canadian crackers.

Vinegars and Oils:  Again, there's a huge range here with lots of opportunity to score points with a gift, or as a host, to make up a 'tasting station'.  Don't restrict yourself to olive oil, you can now try avocado oil, and some good quality nut oils to dip into bread.  Vinegars, go beyond balsamic to sherry vinegar, some of the Chinese red and black vinegars. But don't forget the Vancouver Island-made Venturi-Schulze balsamic vinegar.  Buy direct from the winery to cut your costs.

Chocbar180x1201 Chocolate…lots of places have little sampler packs with different flavours, or now, different countries, single plantations, variety of cocoa mass. Milk to dark to DARKER!

Patronize your local chocolate makers as well as your local coffee roasters…they are popping up all over the province.

Coconut Marshmallows from Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver.

Ebean Ethical purchases:  Fairly traded coffee from places like Ethical Bean and chocolate, dried fruits.  A share in a future side of beef or locally raised pig?

Home made gifts:
Spiced nuts.  Easy.  If you are in places like the Okanagan, Fraser Valley or parts of Vancouver Island, you can find local nuts.
Simmering pot pourri – Take the zest from lemons, limes, oranges, cut into thin strips, let dry.  Mix with cardamom pods, star anise, broken cinnamon sticks, cloves.
Chicken liver pate.  Better than it sounds
Small batches of jams made with frozen fruit you stored in the summer
Apple chutney made from local apples
Homemade cranberry sauce
Put some of these together in a gift basket…or just get a neat looking plate or bowl from the Thrift Shop and dress it up with some bright winter foliage.

Next week:  Kitchen Gadgets and Appliances

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