Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 at 10:52 pm

25 Gifts of Taste: A #yegfood Gift Guide

We’re just over two weeks away from Christmas, if you can believe it! I’m typically the type that squirrels away gifts all year, so I’m not usually in a panic at this point, but I know there are many who leave things to the last minute. But – if anyone on your list loves food, you’re in luck, as there are so many locally-sourced options available.

A basket of goodies we put together a few years ago

Here are some ideas to consider:

Stock Up the Pantry

A little can go a very long way, and for me, that often means taking the time to put together a gift basket filled with my favourite items from local producers. Some of those include:

  • Gold Forest Grains has gift-ready bags of some of their most popular products, including their Pancake Mix and Sturgeon River Cereal. Find them at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market every Saturday.
  • Irvings Farm Fresh is no longer a well-kept secret in Edmonton – more than a dozen restaurants including Tzin and Canteen serve their products, and their bacon is legendary. Pick up an Irvings gift certificate to treat a loved one to some quality meat (available at the Salisbury Greenhouse and Old Strathcona Farmers’ Markets).
  • Allan Suddaby started his labour of love, McKernan Food Works, earlier this year, but they’ve already launched two products: apple cider and mead vinegars. You can find them at Little Brick, which will provide you with a great excuse to visit the café and general store for yourself.
  • Also at Little Brick, pick up something sweet from the Red Balloon Pie Company. They have seasonal caramels in festive flavours like egg nog and gingerbread!

Stock up the Bar

For the amateur bartender, there are a few local options to help progress the festivities:

  • Eau Claire Distillery, Alberta’s first craft distillery, offers vodka and gin for the discerning palate. For the holidays, they have also produced a special Christmas Gin, featuring the botanicals of frankincense and myrrh.
  • It seems bitters are sold at every kitchen and food specialty shop, but only one is made locally: State Motto. Their handcrafted products include Earl Grey, lilac and orange bitters.
  • There are a number of local fruit wines available from the Edmonton region, including Shady Lane Estate, and Barr Estate Winery.

For Those Who Love to Cook

There is no shortage of cooking classes and cookbooks for those seeking some tips or inspiration in the kitchen:

  • Gail Hall of Seasoned Solutions began the original series of farm-to-table cooking classes, but she offers so much more, including ideas for entertaining and menus based around holidays. Pick up a gift certificate for one of her hands-on classes or express cooking tutorials.
  • Kathryn Joel’s Get Cooking features an array of guest chefs who specialize in global cuisines. The classes are held at a brand new facility at MacEwan University. It doesn’t look like the 2016 calendar is up just yet, but you can pick up a gift certificate for classes that start at $139 per person.
  • For more topic-specific classes or basic skills, consider Metro Continuing Education. They have a great selection of sessions, including knife skills, an introduction to sushi making, and bread making. Courses start at $89.
  • Calgary food tour operator Karen Anderson released her first cookbook, co-written with Noorbanu Nimji. A Spicy Touch features 200 Indian recipes in a full colour 320 page book. Join Karen at the Edmonton launch of the book on December 20, 2015.

Tableware and More

There are some local gems that can help you add some class – or some fun – to the kitchen of someone you love:

  • On Our Table makes some of the most beautiful cheese and cutting boards I’ve ever seen, and have even been featured in Bon Appetit Magazine. They are showstoppers, and worth the investment.
  • The mugs from Mod Pots Ceramics are well-used in my house – I love their classic but playful design, and the fact that they are the perfect size for a warm drink in the winter.
  • Everyone needs a bit more #yeg: this can be in the form of a screen-printed tea towel with images of our most cherished landmarks, including the Hotel Macdonald and the Alberta Legislature. Find these at Fine Mesh.

The Gift of Taste

We’re very fortunate in Edmonton to have some very knowledgeable and passionate food experts who are eager to share their learnings. Here are a few of them:

  • The Cavern on 104 Street hosts a Cheese School that teaches the basics of cheese varieties and wine pairings. Tickets are $75, with two upcoming sessions on January 17 and 31, 2016.
  • Transcend Coffee leads a number of coffee education sessions, including a coffee tasting and appreciation, a pour over basics workshop and a French press and Aeropress workshop.
  • I’ve attended a number of chocolate tastings put on by Jacek Chocolate Couture, and have enjoyed each one. Unfortunately, they don’t have any of their 2016 dates up just yet, but I’m hopeful they’ll have some tickets for sale in time for the holidays.

Gifts That Keep on Giving

Who says Christmas can’t be year-round, or at least prolonged? Choose a membership-based gift to bring cheer for a few more months of the year:

  • Farrow’s Bean Club is great for coffee connoisseurs. Every month, members are introduced to beans from a new roaster, some offered exclusively to club members and never put into Farrow’s rotation. Every 3, 6 or 12 month membership even comes with a free mug! Memberships start at $82.50. Transcend Coffee also has a similar subscription club, with beans roasted in-house.
  • Beer lovers in Edmonton flock to Sherbrooke Liquor, which has an incredibly extensive inventory of beers. But did you know they have a Beer Club, which entitles members to a monthly selection of beers and 10% discount off all beers for the duration of the membership? 3 month terms start at $175.
  • Sugared and Spiced’s Cake Club is perhaps most unique subscription in Edmonton. For $195, members are entitled to 3 cakes for pre-arranged dates through the year, with delivery included for those within city limits. Never be caught empty handed on special occasions again!
  • Who doesn’t love cheese? Cavern’s Cheese Club would be sure to please, with subscriptions starting at $55/month for a selection of cheese and a preserve accompaniment.
  • For a more practical gift, consider a grocery delivery service like The Organic Box or SPUD to make it more convenient for a loved one over the winter months.

Give Back to Those in Need

Many in our community go without at Christmas, so it’s also worth considering investing your gift in a charitable organization spreading cheer at this time of year:

  • The Christmas Bureau is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and with the economic downturn, expects to serve 67,000 Edmontonians this year. You can make a monetary donation of any amount, or donate a hamper for a senior or a family.
  • The Bissell Centre released their annual holiday gift guide, and you can provide meals to the homeless, the working poor, and young ones in their childcare centre.
  • Back again to bare all for a good cause, the 2016 Sexy Men of YEG Food calendar features over a dozen local personalities who posed in good fun to help raise funds for the Edmonton Food Bank. Last year, the calendar raised $19,500!

Happy Holidays!

  • Rob

    Good list. It appears the Christmas Gin is already sold out everywhere if anyone is looking for it.

  • Thanks for the heads up – I hope they can keep up with demand in future years!