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The best gift ideas for your food-obsessed BFF (or yourself!)

We asked the experts – Pay Chen, Paul Taylor, Joshna Maharaj and Suresh Doss – for their best recommendations.

Holiday shopping for the foodie in your life can be tricky business. You never know what they already have in their pantry, or what high-tech kitchen tools they’ve had their eyes on all year long. But finding something unique — maybe even bespoke or locally-made! — is a sure-fire way to impress them. So, we asked food experts Pay Chen, Joshna Maharaj and Suresh Doss for some shopping advice. Here’s what they said.

Pay Chen

Food Writer, Host of the Here’s the Scoop podcast

For acclaimed foodie Pay Chen, Christmas is a chance to get her friends and family hooked on the same delicious products she’s been loving all year long. The product at the top of her list right now is Wabanaki maple syrup, a delicious Canadian staple made on Tobique First Nation. “The mini three-pack is a great sampler of (each) maple syrup and already packaged as a perfect gift,” Chen says. She also recommends the sweet honey products from Ontario Honey Creations, and anything from Soma Chocolate, a Toronto-based company that creates world-
renowned chocolates and truffles.

Paul Taylor

Executive Director, FoodShare Toronto

FoodShare Toronto’s executive director Paul Taylor knows the holidays are going to be different this year. “This is a time when a lot of folks come together with friends, family and co-workers and build memories around good food. We’re missing much of that communal spirit this year and trying to recreate it in different ways,” he says. “At the same time, we know that it’s also a time when a lot of our friends and neighbours are struggling with access to food.” That’s why the food justice organization has come up with a way to help with both of those challenges—and Taylor says it makes for a great holiday gift. They’ve partnered with Drake Commissary to sell gift baskets containing locally sourced treats—including Reunion Island coffee, dark maple syrup and Cinnamon Toast Crunch-flavoured popcorn—to raise funds for their work. “You’re going to love it, the person who receives it is going to love it and we’re grateful for your contribution to this important work,” Taylor says. “Really, is there a better gift than good food that supports local businesses and at the same time helps put food on the table in communities hardest hit by the pandemic?”

Joshna Maharaj

Chef, Author and Activist

As a rule, chef Joshna Maharaj prefers to give the gift of “consumable gifts with minimal packaging” during the holidays. This year, she’s been big into preserving. “I’ve gone deep on making drink shrubs this year, and hit the jackpot with my cranberry version,” she says. Shrubs are concentrated syrups made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Maharaj makes hers with fresh cranberries from Johnston’s, a Feast On-certified cranberry farm in Muskoka, Osprey Bluffs honey and empire apple vinegar. She recommends serving them with sparkling water or warmed with a shot of your preferred alcohol. If you would rather bake, Maharaj suggests whole grain shortbread made with local grains. “This year I’ll use a rye flour from CIPM grains in Peterborough, some of that gorgeous Stirling cultured butter and Forbes’ maple syrup,” she says. Or, consider gifting a homemade pickle. Maharaj says pickled garlic scapes are “awonderful addition to a holiday charcuterie board,” but carrots, radishes or tomatillos make great preserves, too.

Suresh Doss

Food Writer

Kitchen tools are a foodie’s best friend, according to Toronto-based food writer Suresh Doss, and the ultimate kitchen tool is a well-made knife. It’s “the best gift you can give any aspiring or seasoned home cook,” Doss says. “Working with a good knife can be an empowering experience … [because it gives] you heightened confidence to slice and dice as you prep your favourite dishes.” He recommends any of the products at Knife Toronto for their quality and elegance. While you’re at it, consider giving the gift of new kitchenware. Doss endorses the homemade products at Chic and Basta for their refined “restaurant” appeal. Doss will also be taking any opportunity to gift the chile crisps from Zing to friends and family. Their products are “superbly aromatic from the moment you open the jar,” he says.

as part of the Great Taste of Ontario Special Report