We all know one of the best perks of the holiday season is food. There are endless Christmas parties, open houses, get-togethers, and big dinners, all of which have food at the centre of the celebration. Platters overflow with cheeses, meats, crackers, bread, pickles, pastry, and of course – never forget – the all-important plates of Christmas cookies.
(I recently signed up for a cookie exchange and will soon be happily laden with five dozen cookies. I am EXCITED). Holiday appetizer platters are one of my favourite ways to eat, and I have a hard time controlling myself around them, even they’re just meant to be a precursor to a much larger dinner. To me, crackers with cream cheese and red pepper jelly are as indicative of the season as hearing Dean Martin sing “Silver Bells.”
So, now that you know how enthusiastic I am about Christmas food, here’s a funny thing: when someone asked me to “Go to Steveston and seek out the best places to buy food for holiday entertaining,” they unleashed a beast. A snack-loving, cheese and charcuterie-obsessed BEAST.
I got a little out of hand when ‘researching’ this post. I limited myself to just four shops, because I knew that if I went to any more, I’d need to rent a car to get all the food home. Here are (most) of my spoils from these four great shops, all of which are excellent places to go buy for your own holiday parties!
First of all, in case you forgot who won this year’s World Cup, a visit to the sausage haus will remind you it was, in fact, GERMANY THAT WON THE WORLD CUP.
Owner (and proud fan!) Jens Hertha has filled his shop with German flags and everything else you’ll need for a beautiful cheese and charcuterie platter; they’ll even put one together for you, if you so desire.
Their selection of cured salumi and fresh sausages (made by fifth-generation sausage maker Drews Driessen) is wildly impressive, while the shelves holds European mustards, cookies, and plenty of other imports.
If you’re a fan of the marzipan-filled Christmas cakes called Stollen, they carry both traditional and gluten-free varieties, baked up by Pohl’s in Burnaby.
I bought some spiced gouda, Roaring 40’s blue cheese (from Australia – not an easy find!), hot smoked soppressata, saussicon sec, and bierbeisser. They also carry freshly-baked baguettes from the Sweet Spot, and soft pretzels (also from Pohl’s). They have gift baskets, too!
This store is a dangerous place for me to be. They have SO MANY amazing things neatly packed within their shop, which is all dressed up for the holidays.
Their refrigerators are a one stop-shop for snacking foods; it’s filled with house-made pates, cheeses, dips, dressings, pesto, and so much more. It’s never-ending.
Then there are the tall shelves filled with every variety of cracker you could imagine; fresh loaves from Terra Breads; jars of colourful mustards, jellies, chutneys, pickles, dressings, salts, and pastas; and all kinds of sweets, chocolates, and cookies.
Then, THEN, there’s their big counter, which displays all kinds of fresh meats and house-made meals like meatloaf and cabbage rolls. The top of this case is covered in even more snack and gift ideas. It’s overwhelming, in the best possible way.
They’re now also the proud owners of a flock of chickens, which are raised by a gentleman named ‘Farmer John’ in the Okanagan. The chickens never experience confined spaces, and the heirloom breeds produce eggs which come in various shades of white, brown, and even green sometimes!
I bought a slice of housemade organic Berkshire pork pate, a small baguette, some cheese crackers, Heringer’s own antipasto, their olive mix, some feta-stuffed Jalapenos, and because I couldn’t help myself, two cabbage rolls. Then I got out of there, lest I buy their entire stock.
The first reason to visit this shop: upon entering, you’ll be offered chocolate. I had a lemon mousse-filled chocolate cup when I arrived, and popped a hazelnut praline into my mouth before leaving. So that’s reason enough, but….
….the second reason to visit this shop: after you’re done your mousse cup, you’ll find yourself standing within a chocolate wonderland, and who doesn’t want to be in a chocolate wonderland at Christmastime?
Sinfully the Best has gone all-out for the holidays, and their shelves are packed with perfect gifts, stocking stuffers, and treats for holiday platters.
Especially impressive are their chocolate igloos (complete with tiny, adorable penguins), Santa’s boots, Christmas trees, and little decorated houses, which they can personalize for you.
I bought a pack of Christmas tree cookies; chocolate-dipped shortbread men; four chocolates from their truffle case; and a little edible “Seasons Greetings” plaque.
Bell’s Bake Shop
Last week, I caught baker Jennifer Bell a little too early for her seasonal baked goods, but there’s plenty on the way! Their Christmas tree is up, the ceiling is decorated in twirling snowflakes, and it’s all-around a cozy place to be. So what exactly is coming? First of all (and this is such a great idea), she’s hosting two gingerbread house-making nights: the kids’ turn is December 17th, followed by an adults-only gingerbread fest on the 19th. You can call the shop to find out more details and sign up!
Secondly, she’ll be baking up several seasonal cupcake flavours, including rum & eggnog and peppermint, and will soon be putting together her wonderful boxes of Christmas cookies. Those are a great idea for people who want treats but don’t have the time to bake them!
I left the shop with a caramelized apple cupcake with caramel buttercream, and a salted caramel nut chocolate tart (someone loves caramel).
I did not leave with this giant cupcake, sadly.
So, there are four great shops to visit on your holiday food tour. I’d also highly recommend heading to the Sweet Spot to stock up on seasonal goodies – their home-made marshmallows are outrageous! Perfect for big mugs of hot chocolate.
I got into the holiday spirit by putting together two platters, which my friend and I shared while watching a Christmas movie. We had one savoury:
and one sweet:
They were so satisfyingly festive. I may be a beast, but I’m a happy one.