Good things come in small batches. Here, our favourite artisanal edibles to give and receive
Leah’s Chocolate pretzels
1 At Leah Kalish’s Wychwood bakery, Leah’s, chubby salted pretzels get dunked first in caramel and then in dark chocolate before being coated in buttery toffee bits, leaving only the top of each crunchy twist exposed. $2.95 each. 621 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-785-4711, leahs.ca.
False Ox’s Shrubs
2 DDs no longer have to suffer holiday parties sipping on pop. Just mix one ounce of False Ox shrub—sweet-tart syrups in flavours like grapefruit-rosemary—with seven ounces of soda for a satisfying cocktail substitute. They’re also good for when Dry January rears its righteous head. $15. Available at various Toronto stores, falseox.com.
The Chocolateria’s Pop Rocks robots
3 Roncesvalles’ resident chocolate makers at the Chocolateria have come up with the perfect kid-pleasing treat trifecta: they melt chocolate to ooey-gooey goodness, load it with fruity popping candy and shape it into tiny retro robots. Biting into a droid releases a sweet short-circuit of sugary snaps and crackles. $1 each. 361 Roncesvalles Ave.,416-588-0567, @thechocolateria.
Dillon’s Small-batch vermouth
4 Good sipping vermouth is rare in these parts, but Dillon’s is hoping to change that: the Beamsville distillery uses Niagara wine, strawberries from a nearby farm and estate-grown wormwood to produce its nutty, tart vermouth. It’s great for sipping over ice or mixing into a terrific boulevardier. $19.95. Available at the LCBO, dillons.ca.
Bee Local 416’s Neighbourhood honey
5 Bee Local 416’s raw and unfiltered “neighbourhood” line is made using honey collected from apiaries all over the city—like backyards in Wychwood and rooftops in Riverdale—and each jar is unique, with honey that tastes like the wildflowers in bloom when it was harvested. From $7. Available at various Toronto stores, beelocal416.ca.
Bonjour Brioche’s Salad dressing
6 The house-made herbed basil vinaigrette sold by the bottle at east-end French bakery Bonjour Brioche is a magical elixir: a condiment that makes a simple side salad taste more like a main event. It’s tangy and earthy, with just a lick of sweetness and plenty of acidity—your mesclun won’t know what hit it. $7.95. 812 Queen St. E., 416-406-1250, bonjourbrioche.com.
Sanagan’s Traditional tourtière
7 Kensington Market butcher shop Sanagan’s Meat Locker makes traditional pork-filled pies that are flaky, savoury bliss—and a lifesaver for unexpected family ambushes over the holidays. We suggest you stash a few in the freezer in case of emergency. $15 and $28. 176 Baldwin St., 416-593-9747, sanagansmeatlocker.com.
Scout Canning’s Seafood spread
8 A sea chest from chef Charlotte Langley of Scout Canning comes packed with cans of things like smoked mackerel and cured trout, as well as a dozen fresh oysters, a lobster-roll kit, crackers, pickles and condiments. The feast feeds up to 12 hungry people—all you have to do is unpack the box and pour a drink. Who says you can’t be a little shellfish at this time of year? $300. Scoutcanning.com.
Soul Chocolate’s Fair-trade chocolate
9 Bean-to-bar evangelists Katie Bartlett and Kyle Wilson make 28-gram slabs of dark chocolate at their petite new Gerrard Street shop, including an 80 per cent dark Tanzanian with hints of banana. Each comes with tasting notes in a cool, custom-designed sleeve that makes it an ideal semi-sweet stocking stuffer. $5.50. 583 Gerrard St. E., 416-460-7551, soulroasters.com.
Bobbette and Belle’s Eggnog macarons
10 Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell, the creative geniuses behind the east-end bakeshop Bobbette and Belle, take eggnog—that most divisive holiday tipple—and turn it into incontrovertibly irresistible macarons. The gorgeous gold-flecked desserts wouldn’t be out of place hanging from an evergreen bough. $2.50 each. 1121 Queen St. E., 416-466-8800, bobbetteandbelle.com.
Elle Dee’s Perfect Disaster cake
11 Elle Dee’s crazy cake has a name—the Perfect Disaster: Holiday Edition—and it acts as both a dessert and an insanely eye-catching centrepiece. From $45. 416-219-3954, elledeecakes.com.
Ontario Sake’s Warm sake
12 Using Muskoka spring water, Ontario Spring Water Sake Co. makes 10 kinds of the Japanese rice wine. This winter warmer—a dry and sweet semi-pasteurized potable—makes for a festive sip, best enjoyed while roasting chestnuts over an open fire or walking through a winter wonderland. $12.95 for 375 mL. 51 Gristmill Ln., 416-365-7253, ontariosake.com.
Rhum Corner’s Pikliz
13 Jen Agg sells jars of this kicky condiment at her Haitian restaurant, Rhum Corner. It’s made of pickled cabbage, onions, carrots and scotch bonnet peppers, and can be eaten by the spoonful but is even better as a salve for that bone-dry turkey you couldn’t get to in time because Uncle Bob cornered you by the punch bowl. $6. 923 Dundas St. W.,647-346-9356, rhumcorner.com.
Spirit of York’s Gin
14 Spirt of York has brought booze production back to the Distillery District. Its gin is made with 100 per cent rye, 15 botanicals and water from Springwater, Ontario—home to what’s been called the purest water in the world—in stills hand-crafted by fifth-generation German copper workers. $49.95 for 750 mL. 12 Trinity St., 416-777-0001, spiritofyork.com.
Rosen’s Cinnamon buns
15 Pillsbury’s twist-and-pop canisters are adequate in a pinch, but they can’t hold a frosting-dipped candle to Rosen’s freshly made cinnamon buns. The College Street bakeshop sells its fat, sticky, pull-apart buns individually or in six-packs that are perfect for stashing in the fridge for weekend breakfast. $22. 825 College St., 416-534-2856, @rosensbuns.
Kinsip’s Barrel-aged maple syrup
16 P.E.C. distillery Kinsip House of Fine Spirits takes already good, extra-dark Grade A maple syrup from nearby Nyman Farms and ages it in whiskey barrels for six months. The smooth and smoky nectar is best used liberally on pancakes, drizzled over ice cream or as a sweetener in boozy fireside cocktails. $22.95. 66 Gilead Rd., Bloomfield, 613-393-1890, kinsip.ca.
Roselle’s Earl grey cake
17 If a pastry shop needs a muse, the folks at Corktown’s Roselle Desserts found theirs in bergamot, which flavours their shortbread cookies, soft serve, and the Earl, layers of earl grey–infused milk chocolate mousse and bergamot crémeux over vanilla sponge cake. It’s the best cup of tea you can eat. $7.50 for a slice; whole cakes from $35. 362 King St. E., 416-368-8188, roselleto.com.
CXBO’s Chocolate bonbons
18 Brandon Olsen, the executive chef of La Banane (and T.O.’s own Willy Wonka), crafts these edible works of art at his Kensington shop, in flavours like yuzu-sake and pistachio-bergamot-orange. His CXBO Signature Collection—nine or 18 bonbons in a hand-painted box—makes a far better hostess gift than a boring poinsettia. $22.50 and $45. 193 Baldwin St., 416-588-2926, cxbo.ca.
Craig’s Cookies’ Cookies by the dozen
19 Craig Pike of Craig’s Cookies bikes bags of his freshly baked treats all over the city, tempting pop-up shoppers wherever he goes (until May 2018 you can find him at Williams Sonoma at Yorkdale). His bonkers biscuits stuffed with sugary childhood vices (Oreos, Mars Bar bites, Reese’s peanut butter cups) put shortbread to shame. From $22 a dozen. Craigscookies.com.
Ardo’s Olive oil
20 Instead of blindly plucking the prettiest bottle off the shelf, let Ardo’s chef Roberto Marotta choose for you. He imports Mastri di San Basilio’s Due Sicile and sells it at his King East restaurant. The bold blend of oils from Sicily’s native Nocellara del Belice and Moresca olives adds just the right finishing touch to a creamy caprese or crusty sourdough. $23. 243 King St. E., 647-347-8930, ardorestaurant.com.
Ed’s Real Scoop’s Hot fudge sauce
21 The weather may suggest it’s not ice cream season, but there’s no wrong time for a sundae when there’s a jar of parlour-quality chocolate or caramel in the pantry. Ed’s Real Scoop’s sine qua non sauces are a must to have around for any sudden, urgent sugar cravings. $7.50. Four Toronto locations, edsrealscoop.com.
Lindsey Bakes’ Gingerbread mug toppers
22 Lindsey Gazel of Lindsey Bakes is the Picasso of piping bags. Using icing and food colouring, she turns sugar cookies into works of art. Her teeny gingerbread houses—minimalist in design, maximalist in cuteness—are made to perch on the rims of mugs filled to the brim with coffee or hot cocoa. $6 each. Available at Sam James locations in December, lindseybakes.com.
White Lily Diner’s Hot sauce
23 White Lily’s house-made sauce flows from the bottle easily, but it won’t cauterize your taste buds unless you overdo it: the heat comes from a blend of fermented espelette peppers and Portugal chilies, giving just the right amount of burn to the diner’s all-day breakfasts, patty melts and pork chops. $7. 678 Queen St. E., 416-901-7800, whitelilydiner.ca.
Blackbird Baking Co.’s Granola
24 These bags from Kensington’s Blackbird Baking Co. are brimming with toasted oats, nuts, seeds, raisins and what we can only assume to be fairy dust—because anything that gets a sprinkling of this crunchy topper instantly turns magically delicious. Warning: product can be habit-forming. From $12. 172 Baldwin St., 416-546-2280, blackbirdbakingco.com.
Forno Cultura’s Panettone
25 Panettone fatigue can be a real threat this time of year, when prepackaged loaves are passed off as the real deal. Don’t be fooled. Forno Cultura’s is the best specimen we’ve come across in this city, and, like everything else in the King West bakeshop, it’s meticulously fussed over. The golden domes are studded with dried fruit and grappa-fortified raisins, and topped with an amaretti crust. Available November 15 to December 31. $30. 609 King St. W., 416-603-8305, fornocultura.com.
Eastbound’s Crowlers of craft beer
26 For the beer geek on your list, Riverside’s Eastbound Brewing Co. is the first brewery in Toronto to sell crowlers, 950-mL cans of beer that fit nicely into a bike basket—unlike their heavier, breakable cousin, the growler. (They even sell oversize cozies for them.) You can probably squeeze two of them in a stocking—just don’t try hanging it on the mantel. $9 and up ($6 for a cozy.) 700 Queen St. E., 416-901-1299, eastboundbeer.com.
Foodie Holiday Market’s (Insert great gift find here)
27 Didn’t see what you wanted on this list? Think you can find something better? Well, visit our third-annual Foodie Holiday Market at the Toronto Botanical Gardens on December 16 and 17, and maybe you can! Tickets are on sale now—get yours before they’re gone. Eventbrite.ca.