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Foodie gift for a Calgarian from Toronto

Hi, my boyfriend and I will be visiting Calgary this summer. And his brother was gracious enough to offer us accommodations at his house. So, I want to give him a nice foodie host gift that's local to Toronto or, maybe at a broader context, Ontario (Niagara products come to mind). I know he loves to cook and eat all things tasty. My first inclination is a good aged balsamic or the minus 8 vinegar that was mentioned on another post. Any other good ideas? My budget would probably be around $200.

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  1. My first thought would be to bring a big VQA red to go with his Alberta beef. Ontario meet Alberta, Alberta meet Ontario.

    1. Ontario wines are scarce in Alberta.

      Veal is (surprisingly) almost non-existent, expensive, and often frozen.

      Great cheese is pricey, there are few vendors.

      Unbaked frozen Ace bread to bake at home.

      The sausage world in Calgary is dominated by Spolumbos, which to me are mediocre. The sausage guy in the SE corner of the North SLM is very good, esp the lemon.

      Smoked bacon from anyone here who smokes their own. Calgary is great at all things beef, not so much pork.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Scary Bill

        Thanks both for the suggestions so far.

        I was worried about getting wine since the host really knows his wines and the privatized liquor market meant that he probably has a better selection than I can find here. But now that you mentioned the scarcity of Ontario wines, maybe I'll add a bottle to the basket. And I'm sure smoked bacon would be a hit too.

        Any recommendations on a good smoked bacon I can find in Toronto?

        1. re: parallelrulegirl

          If you mean double-smoked bacon, Schefflers at The St Lawrence Market is popular and pretty good. My personal fave comes from St. Jamestown Steak & Chops on Parliament @ Winchester.

        2. re: Scary Bill

          It's funny that you mention veal, as we always bring a San Francesco care package to my uncle in Calgary. They'll give you veal, sauce, peppers, and buns in individual containers

        3. Although not from Ontario, Quebec cheeses might go over well since they are impossible to find in Calgary.

          There are also some great mustards, including at the mustard stand in SLM.

          The minus 8 vinegar is overpriced IMO - but some nice Ontario wine would probably go over well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cat123

            Whatever food you decide on, I suggest that you also add in a subscription to Toronto Life. A friend of mine moved from Toronto to Calgary a few years ago, and she really enjoys keeping up on the restaurant and food scene via Toronto Life.

          2. Awesome, I can't wait to go out to get everything. Definitely will do a wine shopping trip to Beamsville and Niagara On the Lake. Alright! Meat, cheese, wine! Maybe some local craft beer for some added variety?

            1. Ontario wines are somewhat scarce here in Alberta, but we do get a few. I've seen Vineland, Cave Spring, Inniskillin, Jackson Triggs, and maybe Henry of Pelham out here. I have not seen Lailey or Malivoire -- two of my favorites!

              I would advise against the Ace bread. It's not a bad idea, but there's a bakery in Edmonton (not toooooo far from Calgary) that beats the pants off of any bread I've bought in TO.

              -8 Vinegar might be nice! Ice wine jelly might be another thought, along with a bottle of ice wine or late harvest something or other? There are too many varieties to choose from.

              I like the Toronto Life idea -- I haven't had much luck finding it out here (not surprisingly, I suppose).

              What about some spices from the Spice Trader on Queen W? Do you have any fantastic spice shops in Calgary? If not, maybe get a few blends (jerk seasoning, baharat, chai masala, chinese five spice, za'atar, Tuscan blend, etc.) -- something that represents the diversity of Toronto's food scene.

              Good luck! I'll keep thinking.

              1 Reply
              1. re: littlegreenpea

                Based on the available wines lgp mentioned, something from Stratus would be sure to impress...

              2. Well my girlfriends dad is from Calgary and whenever he comes to Toronto, he picks up a vacuum sealed pack of PEAMEAL BACON from the St.Lawrence Market and takes it home. You can only find it here in Ontario and Albertans love their meat. Its a tourist tradition to have a peameal sandwich when you come to Toronto.

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                  1. Thanks again everyone for pointing me in some really interesting and definitely useful directions. Great insight into what's lacking in Calgary's food/wine selection too.

                    I'm so psyched about this. What I'm thinking is that the basket will be filled with local delicacies searched out on roadtrips to Southwestern Ontario, Prince Edward County, and of course the butchers, specialty grocers, and markets in Toronto.
                    The list so far:

                    Malivoire, Daniel Lenko, Stratus, or Thirty Bench

                    Meat (I was apprehensive about this at first since the logistics of bringing meat on a plane seems a bit daunting, but my boyfriend confirmed that his brother is a total carnivore, so the meat idea would be greatly appreciated):

                    - veal (will research where to get and which cut)
                    - peameal bacon
                    - smoked meat/ sausages/ bacon

                    Cheese (depends on what's available and fits the budget in the city and NOTL):
                    - Something from Monforte, maybe Niagara Gold, definitely some Quebec Cheeses

                    - still considering the minus 8; mustard's a good idea, local jellies...etc.

                    An anomaly from the rest:
                    - Thai spices, pastes, sauces etc. (b/c the host's fiancee really enjoys Thai cuisine)

                    All this, one big basket, and way more money than the original $200 budget.

                    The Toronto Life subscription is a really good idea too since the host is always flying to Toronto for business or a friend's wedding. But, it depends on how much the food stuff comes out to. Probably have no money left for the magazine. Maybe it'll be a Christmas present.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: parallelrulegirl

                      checkout out the lower rate subscription to Toronto Life, its only $14.00, supposedly you don't get the 2 for 1 coupon booklet or Toronto Life Fashion Magazine. I have been buying this subscription for years instead of paying $24.00. Unfortunately I can't seem to gethem to STOP sending th ecoupon booklet or the fashion mag!

                      1. re: Danybear

                        Lol, the extra fashion mag and coupon sounds great especially since it's technically free! Thanks for the info on lower rates.

                      2. re: parallelrulegirl

                        re PEC: Calgary only gets (to my knowlwdge) BC or British ciders. You may wish to take some Waupoos cider from PEC. It is different from British ciders and much better than BC ciders which I find too sweet.

                        re veal: Someone at the SLM will vac pack a rack of veal for you. This is the primo cut IMO. They also have great ones at Costco. Put any meat in a sealed plastic bag and into your checked luggage (immediately taken from the fridge before leaving for the airport). Cargo holds are chilly enough-if you have ever unpacked anything immediately upon landing you'll know this. Mrs Scary does this all the time when she travels.

                        re bacon and other smoked animal parts: Two places that smoke their own are Willy's meat on Hurontario and Alliston Meat on Bloor, both in Mississauga.

                        1. re: parallelrulegirl

                          If you're thinking mustard, I definitely recommend Kozlik's at the St Lawrence Market. It's now widely available at food boutiques and (shock) grocery stores. However, the SLM location still has the best selection. I do note that there are 3 locations that sell it in Calgary, but not certain about the selection. If your friend hasn't been turned on to it, now's the time.

                          One thing I should mention. When I lived in Calgary many years ago, the great incongruity for me was that although you can get a great steak a good potato was not to be found. Maybe not important and perhaps cured by now, but honestly I would have killed for a PEI potato back then. Killed.

                          1. re: Googs

                            The SLM is definitely the first stop... will probably go check it out super early this Saturday so I can actually talk to the vendors. I'm a total newb
                            at buying whole racks of meat, so there'll definitely be some serious learning curve. In fact, I'm just a CH-jr. (as if you haven't already noticed from my post and questions) So, I really do appreciate all the great response and generous tips.

                            Kozlik does look really good. I gotta finally check that place out and do some mustard tasting. As for the meat, the recs on CH seem to be Whitehouse, Rowe's, and El Gaucho.

                            Other food stops: Kensington, All the Best, Pasquale Brothers, Milbree-Viking, T&T (just cuz)... the list continues to grow longer. I'll keep you all updated on my progress.

                            1. re: parallelrulegirl

                              Wow! If I move to Calgary, can I be your friend?

                              I have had a couple of delicious things this week that I have to suggest:

                              -Two outstanding wines from Niagara College Teaching Winery. Their 2005 Merlot is developing into one of the nicest Niagara reds that I have enjoyed. There was a very short grape crop for reds in Niagara in 2005, which means that this is a very rare example of an entirely estate-grown red from that year (and the few grapes that did make it were superb quality). Their 2006 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is also delicious, and just won best white at Cuvee. Both wines are superb value at $18.95 a bottle.

                              -I went to a delightful Cumbrae Farms dinner at Vineland Estates last night. Cumbrae has stores in Toronto, and they were handing out smoked pork chops and chicken breast at the end of the night that are conveniently vacuum-packed for transport. Vineland has some delicious Rieslings that would be a good bet. You might also consider some Pingue Prosciutto from Niagara.

                              1. re: Gourmando

                                lol, Gourmando, I do go a bit crazy with gifts. I enjoy putting together elaborate things for people though. And this has really turned into a most exciting learning experience regarding local foods in our area. I will definitely look out for Pingue's proscuitto.

                                So many places to visit... but I have till end of June, which is plenty of time to get this all done.

                                One other thing to add to this ever growing basket: Forbes birch syrups, chokeberry jams, and spruce tips, etc. Will be visiting him at Dufferin Grove Park for sure!

                        2. I had a chuckle reading this thread....brought back many fond memories of 20 years living in Alberta....however there were things we longed for, so I'll second some you've already nailed down!!......peameal bacon (at almost any cost!), great local/Ont dark maple syrup, Toronto Life (had forgotten about this, but oh so true!), cranberries (I used to sneak a huge bag of fresh berries on the plane for year round use), and for mon mari...some St Benoit du Lac cheese, bagels and smoked meat. We've been back east for a few years so I'm sure it's changed, but 'back then' wine was cheaper in Alberta and you're right, they did have a greater selection!