Stuck for holiday gift ideas? Consider some of these fabulous local products and services that are bound to delight the foodies and tipplers on your list.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … four pounds of back bacon, three French toasts, two turtlenecks and one enrolment certificate for Serious Beer at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Good day, eh? The eight-week introductory beer program ($499, beginning Jan. 11) is taught by Chester Carey, Canada's first certified master cicerone. Guided weekly tastings explore the history, ingredients and brewing techniques of beer styles from around the globe. Suitable for hospitality employees, general enthusiasts and discerning hosers thirsty for more knowledge about the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage. Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts: 101-1505 West 2nd Ave., 604-734-4488; picachef.com/Beer_Classes.html
Fine Art Chocolate Shares
Beta5 is a new Vancouver chocolatier that sculpts fine-art edible centrepieces – consider an adorable handcrafted snowman filled with "holiday pebbles" (caramelized and chocolate-coated sundried Okanagan cherries, organic Agassiz hazelnuts and puffed cereal). For the gift that keeps on giving, indulge your favourite sweet tooth with a Beta5 Chocolate Union Membership (three-month subscription from $120), which entitles the recipient to a sack-full of limited-supply chocolates, caramels, baked goods and preserves at the start of each month. Beta5 Chocolates: 413 Industrial Ave., 604-699-3336; beta5chocolates.com
Chocolate Tasting 101
Some simply like eating chocolate. Others hunger to know where it comes from, to discover how it's made and to learn how better to appreciate its aromatic bouquet, crispy snap, smooth texture, multifaceted flavour and lingering finish. Eagranie Yuh, an organic chemist, French pastry chef and artisanal fondeur, takes you from bean to bar – via blind tastings – during her hour-long workshops ($20+, Jan. 27 and Feb. 2) on the science of chocolate at Elysian Coffee . Register at http://thewelltemperedchocolatier.com/
Northern Divine Caviar
Locavores of luxury can eat this acclaimed caviar with a silver spoon – and a clear conscience. Harvested from sustainably raised Fraser River white sturgeon on a land-based fish farm in Sechelt, these glossy black eggs were recently judged among the world's finest by the taste makers at Travel + Leisure magazine. "Crisp pop and creamy mouthful," is how a panel of food editors described the Canadian caviar ($99 for 30 grams), which placed third in the magazine's best in roe sampling of 15 ethical products gathered from Israel to Italy. Order online: northerndivine.com.
Don't sully that guilt-free caviar with the faux pas of foreign champagne. Pair your present with a well-chilled flute of Pemberton Distillery's organic potato vodka. Handcrafted in small batches from Pemberton Valley organic potatoes – approximately 7 kg for each bottle – and pure Coast Mountain glacial water, this smooth, full-bodied sipper ($48.99) with hints of vanilla and sweet spice won double gold at the 2010 World Spirit Awards. Available at B.C. Liquor Stores throughout the province; www.bcliquorstores.com/product/261990
Sticks + Stones Wine Rack
Much like rough-cut timber and Vancouver's granite skies, concrete is an essential building block of West Coast modernist design that slowly reveals its characteristic patina over time. Minimalist-loving oenophiles will appreciate these cube wine racks ($70), elegantly salvaged from the surplus concrete of custom countertops and fireplace surrounds. Designed by Sticks + Stones, an up-and-coming furniture company in Squamish, B.C. (shortlisted for the 2010 Western Living Designers of the Year Awards), their finish is destined to age as gracefully as the premium Okanagan shiraz they cradle. Sticks + Stones: 37819 2nd Ave., Squamish, B.C., 604-542-1322; sticks-and-stones.ca