Christmas is around the corner, lack of snow bedamned. And if you’re like me, foodie gift-baskets may be your usual go-to present. But gourmet food stores are chock full of little jars of this and that, turning a simple shopping spree into a daunting feat. No worry, here are 10 gourmet jewels that I personally love, and love to give, from terroir products to fave local brands. Whatever your choice, you can’t go wrong with any of these, I promise.
1. My affection for Michel Jodoin Rosé Sparkling Cider hasn’t waned through the years. It’s my year-long hostess gift, especially for Sunday brunches where you want something light and are tired of mimosas (okay, one never actually tires of mimosas per say). Pink bubbles, what more can I say…
Price: $20 at SAQ
2. I’ve turned into quite the gin tonic girl since a mixologist served me a crazy-good dirty tonic at a chocolate competition in Montreal. I know, kind of off-topic but then again, not entirely. Right now, nothing beats the Syrups and bitters from Montreal-based Le Lab. Choose the one best-suited to your giftee’s drink of choice and suggest he pour you the first one?
Price: $18.95 for 500 ml (online store and gourmet boutiques)
3. Little jars are a must when it comes to building the perfect gift-basket. And it’s hard to best Simon Turcotte’s Jams and Mustards. Pick them one by one or go for the ready-made trios (those make nifty Xmas gifts for the kid’s teacher, by the way). For the Holidays, Turcotte even produces a special Christmas Jam Limited Edition that is the bomb to make desserts or serve alongside pâté. Pretty genius.
Price: $11 (online boutique and gourmet food stores)
4. Geneviève Grandbois makes some of the best chocolates anywhere and she just launched a series of Grandbois Chocolate Squares with tasting notes inside the cute packagings. The series includes a Limited Edition Square inspired by her current fantasy (mine was made of white chocolate with green apple, jalapeno and cilantro). If you count amateur bakers among your friends, you may also like to include blocks of cooking chocolate sold in Grandbois boutiques. Bet you’ll keep the gianduja for yourself…
Price: $8 for 70 g (online boutique and gourmet food stores)
5. Anyone with a sweet tooth can tell you that Québec makes outstanding honeys that will grace any well-stocked pantry. The whipped honey Classe ouvrière from Société-Orignal is probably one of my favourites across the board, but it’s hard to find. Otherwise, the Raw Miels D’Anicet Honeys are also tops, with a choice of flower- or season-based flavours. Can you say Linden & Wild Mint?
Price: Classe ouvrière Honey, around $20 if you can find it… / $6.50 for 340 g of Miels d’Anicet honeys (online store and gourmet boutiques)
6. Take a mom chef who wanted to spend more time with the kids, add the entrepreneurial spirit, and with any luck you’ll get Les Zempotés, a series of condiments signed by Ariane Morin. Nice little jars filled with naturally good things, to choose according to your giftee’s tastes. I personally look forward to the ketchups and confits, but it’s your call.
Price: $7.25 for 212 ml (online boutique and gourmet food stores)
7. There’s maple syrup. And then there is Desève La Coulée Maple Syrup. My other Québec-made top of the hit list. Maple syrup cooked artisan-style in small batches, that tastes like maple taffy, it’s the ultimate! Plus, the whiskey-type bottle will make quite the statement in any food basket. Friendly advice: Buy one for yourself also, your tastebuds have earned it.
Price: $26.99 for 500 ml (in gourmet stores)
8. Let’s delve into maple some more. Making maple vinegar should come naturally given the local expertise, but truth is, most fall short. Except for PicBois Sweet & Sour Maple Vinegar, to be used like a balsamic vinegar, that’s how tasty and distinctive it is. Again, you may want to buy a second bottle for yours truly…
Price: $18 for 250 ml (gourmet stores)
9. During one of my usual summer food tours, I fell hard for Au fil du vent Sour Elderberry Syrup that can be used in salad dressings of course, but on the rocks with sparkling or white wine, it’s darn nifty. Think sweet, sour and colourful, a nice springboard to get acquainted with this little-known fruit. And if you have a pregnant friend among your Holiday guests, spoil her with a virgin elderberry spritzer all your other guests may envy… Cheers!
Price: $14 for 250 ml (in gourmet stores)
10. Finally, Les Canardises Gourmet Cassoulet is pricey, no doubt about it, but it’s a master piece, so if your budget allows, go for it. I have a weakness for Brome Lake Duck terrines but this cassoulet will surprise more, bringing our local duck taste to that very French specialty.
Price: $27 for 800 g (online store and gourmet boutiques)
And you, what is your favourite terroir specialty? Any incredible finds you’d like to share or local producers you want to help? Sound off!