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Last Minute Local: 12 Festive Favourites for Entertaining Made Easy

Friday December 1st, 2023, 11:29am

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Last Minute Local: 12 Festive Favourites for Entertaining Made Easy

Original blog by Tailgate Takeout

The festive season is upon us and on top of all the shopping and wrapping and planning, there are also countless holiday gatherings that are bound to happen.

Expecting a few pop-ins and visits but know you won’t have time to cook for your guests?

Wherever you are in YQG, there are plenty of easy entertaining options for those impromptu get-togethers; whether you’re in need of snacks, sweets, sips, or all of the above.

Forget the 12 Days of Christmas; here are 12 of my top picks for making your holiday entertaining a breeze…

THE CHEESE BAR  

Located on Amy Croft Drive in the Lakeshore/Tecumseh area, The Cheese Bar is one of my all-time favourite stops during the holiday season (and all year round, really… #cheeselover)

Not only do they feature the region’s largest selection of cheeses from across Ontario and abroad, they also offer a selection of pastries, snacks, and frozen meal options, plus adorable gift items for the foodie on your holiday shopping list. I love stopping in during their “Sip n’ Shop Sundays” to browse with a glass of local wine in hand.

Of course, they’re also known for their stunning charcuterie boards; a carefully curated selection of cheeses, meats, and all the delicious accompaniments, available in a variety of sizes. One of these plus a bottle of wine and voila! A quick and easy snack solution for when your besties pop by for a Hallmark holiday movie marathon.

During the holiday season, the do carry a selection of ‘grab and go’ options in store, but I encourage you to call or order yours online at www.thecheesebar.ca to ensure you get the exact size you need.

PAGLIONE ESTATE WINERY

Ok but what pairs better with cheese than wine?

Cin Cin! (or “Cheers!” in Italian) from Paglione Estate Winery is a light-bodied, sweet, and aromatic wine, with notes of lychee, banana, honeydew, and a hint of citrus zest on the finish. The perfect way to toast the holidays’ sweetest moments.

It’s one of my top picks for pairing with brie, but it is also a great complement to a variety of sweets like tiramisu and biscotti, as well as spicy Korean or Thai dishes.

Cin Cin is available online at www.paglioneestatewinery.com and at LCBO locations across Essex County, but if you have time in your hectic holiday schedule to visit their stunning location in the heart of our EPIC wine country, I highly recommend stopping in for a tasting flight and a wood fired pizza. Delizioso!

LITTLE FOOT FOODS

If you take a peek in my freezer at any given time of year, you’re sure to find at least 3-4 bags of Little Foot Foods pierogi. Super convenient and available in dozens of mouth-watering traditional and unique varieties, they are an easy meal option on those nights where the kids are hungry and mom is tired.

During the holidays, I like to keep a few extra bags on hand to use as appetizers when guests arrive hungry. Simply fry them up from frozen and in a matter of minutes you’re in carb heaven.

I love some of the local collabs they’ve done over the years (including Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co, Bubi’s, Butchers on the Block, and their latest with Sawyer’s Craft Barbecue) and the fact that they also carry vegan options as well. Some of my personal favourite flavours are the Spinach & Ricotta and the Angry Cheddar, but I suggest swinging by their facility in Old Castle and perusing their selection for yourself. While you’re there, be sure to check out their other easy meal options including cabbage rolls, soups, and those yummy (and slightly addictive) cheddar biscuits.

Out and about doing your holiday shopping? You can also find Little Foot Foods at a variety of retail locations across Essex County and beyond, so keep your eyes peeled!

ALLERGY EATABLES

When planning for my holiday gatherings, I always like to ensure I have something for everyone. Having friends and family with dietary restrictions needn’t be stressful when we have so many amazing local options for those with food allergies or plant-based preferences.

At a recent holiday market, I came across Allergy Eatables; a fantastic local business that specializes in vegan samosas and other allergy-friendly snacks. You can find them at markets across the region throughout the year, or at local retail partners including Little Foot Foods, Demarco’s Fine Foods, and Shop Cook Up.

I snagged a couple of their vegan samosa variety packs to have ready for those spur of the moment visits and I have to say, as someone who doesn’t have any food restrictions, I would gladly eat these if I saw them on any holiday app tray. I was blown away by the taste; complex flavours, the perfect amount of kick, a nice crunch. They check all the boxes. Plus, they are quick and easy to prepare; simply pan fry, pop them in the air fryer, or bake them in the oven.

STEVE GREEN FOODS

Whether I’m expecting company or looking for something easy to bring to a holiday potluck, I’m all about those easy-to-prepare snacks that pack a lot of flavour with minimal effort (this girl is B-U-S-Y this time of year!)

For my family who LOVES their traditional English fare, I love to bake up sausage rolls from Steve Green Foods.

Wrapped in deliciously flakey dough and filled with fresh pork from locally sourced, small scale farms, these hearty rolls are great as a quick meal, or sliced up and served as a part of an appetizer spread.

Available frozen in packages of two at Steve’s butcher shop located in the heart of Walkerville, simply brush them with melted butter and toss them straight in the oven. So simple.

Looking for other easy festive meal solutions? Be sure to check out the shop’s holiday menu featuring tourtiere and raised without antibiotics turkey, duck, beef, lamb, and so much more. The shop is also home to an assortment of other local foodie finds including sauces, spices, and fresh baked sourdough bread.

THE IRON KETTLE COMMISSARY

The holidays are a time for celebrating time-honoured traditions…and also eating your weight in baked goods and other comfort foods.

If you really want to treat your guests (and yourself) to some truly indulgent culinary delights, I recommend taking a drive to Comber to visit the all-new Iron Kettle Commissary for a wide selection of pastries, fresh breads, soups, and take and bake meal options.

While grabbing a loaf of fresh bread and a few croissants is a must, it’s a great idea to peruse their freezer for easy meal ideas including chicken pot pies and their popular tourtiere; made with a blend of lamb, pork and beef wrapped in their ultra-buttery crust. Straight from the freezer to your oven, it’s a hearty meal option your guests will love that requires zero effort on your end. What more could you ask for?

They’ll be well-stocked this holiday season with all your faves, so be sure to check out their gorgeous new space (oh, and don’t forget to snag a bag of their biscotti to dunk in your after dinner coffee.)

RED LANTERN COFFEE

Not only is coffee the perfect gift options and the perfect pairing for your holiday desserts, it’s also what we run on this time of year when festive cheer just isn’t enough to sustain us. Coffee culture is strong in YQG, and we are fortunate to have some great local purveyors to keep us fueled.

Located in Kingsville, Red Lantern is a specialty coffee roaster, focused on providing fresh roasted, approachable coffee from around the world.

They carry over a dozen varieties to choose from, including their Olivin Hernandez. This medium roast coffee features notes of honey, raspberry, sour apple, and allspice, making it a delightful pick for the festive season.

Order online and have them delivered to your home (free local delivery over $50!), or stop in and pick up a holiday variety pack and stay and unwind in their café with a latte or two before you head back into the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping.

WHAT’S POPPIN’ POPCORN FACTORY

Searching for the perfect snack to nosh on while you watch your favourite holiday movies with the kiddos? Looking for a great gift option for a teacher, co-worker, or foodie friend? Popcorn is always a good choice.

Whether you’re craving something salty, sweet, or a little of both, What’s Poppin’ Popcorn Factory has options for every snacker. I like “popping” by during the holiday season to pick up a variety of flavours to give as gifts, in particular their festive new Jingle Pop red & green kettle corn (although I will say their Cheddar Dill is also a personal ‘flavourite’ mmm…)

I love that they offer different sizes as well; small bags make for perfect stocking stuffers or classroom gifts, and the big pouches and pails are great for parties or the serious popcorn lover (a.k.a. me.)

Psst…for the ultimate festive fun, be sure to visit the What’s Poppin’ booth at Bright Lights Windsor during the month of December and grab some kettle corn to munch on while you take in the gorgeous holiday lights display.

ANCHOR COFFEE HOUSE

Santa isn’t the only one who loves cookies this time of year.

While I love to bake, I don’t always have time to; especially when I’m feverishly trying to clean the house and wrap the gifts before the guests arrive.

Thankfully, we have so many local cookie options to choose from, I can put the spatula down and defer to the experts (*phew* one less thing on my ‘to do’ list!)

Looking for festive favourites as well as the classics? Anchor Coffee House in Walkerville bakes up a scrumptious variety of cookies on the daily. Choose from some of their own unique creations like London Fog shortbread and oatmeal toffee, as well as their special holiday flavours including ginger molasses and chocolate peppermint.

You can stop by the café to choose from their daily selection, or visit their website to order ahead for pickup. For the holidays, they’re also offering two delivery dates (December 15th and 22nd), so be sure to get your orders in ahead of time to avoid that last minute panic!

THE FARM HOUSE MARKET

This time of year, every minute I save doing my running around is a minute more I get to spend doing the things I love…like watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on repeat.

When I’m out and about, I love to visit The Farm House Market for a variety of last minute must-haves. Situated in Amherstburg, this adorable family-run market is a convenient location to shop for fresh produce, dairy, baked goods, and specialty items.

It’s my go-to for local produce in the spring and summer months, but in the winter I like to explore their ready-to-cook meal selection, as well as their collection of YQG made goodies including pizzas from Oven 360Little Foot Foods pierogi, Blak’s Bakery breads, and so much more.

I was searching for something sweet during my last visit and was thrilled to find some Oreo Cheesecake egg rolls from local market favourite At Long Last Apps, as well as a salted caramel dipping sauce from The Iron Kettle and some Ontario grown Gala apples to complete my dessert display.

I love that I’m able to walk in here every time and just magically find exactly what I need (sometimes before I even know I need it!)

WALKERVILLE BREWERY – CRAFT BEER

What’s a holiday party without a little festive cheer?

This season, Walkerville Brewery has come up with another fabulous holiday blend for craft beer lovers to raise a glass with. Their new limited edition Caramel Macchiato Porter is a delightful fusion of the coffee world and the beer world. Luscious caramel sweetness with a touch of vanilla combine with Chance Coffee’s cold brew to create a rich and balanced, coffee-forward experience mimicking the flavours of the classic drink.

It’s available exclusively at Walkerville Brewery while supplies last in Limited Edition 500ml bottles. Trust me; you’re gunna wanna get your hands on this one.

Of course, while you’re at the brewery, it’s a great time to restock the beer fridge for the season with your perennial favourites, like Easy Stout and Argyle Apple Cider.

WOLFHEAD DISTILLERY

Making spirits bright this holiday season? Wolfhead Distillery in Amherstburg has you covered; whether you’re shopping for the perfect gift for the whisky connoisseur in your life or want to whip up some cozy cocktails for your guests.

The area’s first premium craft distillery not only carries everything you need to craft the perfect drink, they also share their know-how with fun, flavourful recipes on their website (www.drinkwolfhead.com), including one of my personal favourites: the Butter Tart Manhattan.

In a mixing glass:

  • 1 oz Wolfhead Coffee Whisky Liqueur
  • 1 oz Wolfhead Cinnamon Whisky
  • 4 dashes of Aromatic bitters
  • .5 oz Maple Syrup

Add in 2 ice cubes and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a cherry.

Ta da! A fast, easy way to be a merry mixologist. Cheers!

Searching for more great ways to #shoplocal this holiday season? Check out the 5th Annual Holiday Gift Guide at yqgholidays.ca 

If you have a bit more time on your hands click here for a few Locally-Inspired Holiday Recipes to whip up delicious meals using fresh, local ingredients!

Sponsored story by Tourism Windsor Essex. For more details on Tourism Windsor Essex click their website, or visit them on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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