Home | Featured | Thinking Inside the Box: Local Holiday food experiences
by Andrew Coppolino

The holidays will be different in 2020, and local restaurants and food businesses have created new ways to gather virtually and entertain and exchange gifts with family and friends, or thank staff and employees at year’s end. Here’s a sample of a few selections from the area.

Borealis Grille & Bar
With locations in Guelph and Kitchener, Borealis Grille & Bar has created a series of four packages that can be given as gifts or as entertainment events. The key here is that the packages aren’t merely collections of products but curated and paired items based on their quality and their local presence in the food community. One package includes the introduction-to-wine book “Winesense,” written by Borealis founder Bob Desautels; another is a virtual wine tasting hosted by Foreign Affair Winery, located in Vineland Station, Ontario.

Langdon Hall Country House Hotel
For a luxe occasion or a corporate holiday celebration alternative, Waterloo Region’s crown jewel Langdon Hall suggests celebrating together, but apart. Guests arrive at Langdon Hall for an overnight and settle into their guest rooms. Before dinner, each room will receives a “private cocktail reception” and sharing it virtually on Zoom. Find out more about their Corporate Holiday packages.

King Street Trio
The Uptown Waterloo restaurant King Street Trio and chef Kyle Rennie have created “Trio Takeaway:” the kitchen prepares the food for you to finish at home. It’s a good way to experience a fine restaurant dinner at home with your close family. Food will be picked up or delivered with simple instructions; at your end, it’s straightforward and quick with most of the work already completed.


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Little Mushroom Catering
Popular Cambridge-based food purveyor, Little Mushroom Catering has a reach across Waterloo Region. Check them out for group celebrations in the time of the pandemic including gift baskets chock-a-block full of local foods. The company also offers cooking classes via Zoom, as well as food and beverage alcohol deliveries and prepared meals.

Bingemans @ Home
Celebration is well warranted considering what we have been going through during 2020: accordingly Bingemans has named their special “Bingemans @ Home” program “Celebration Boxes.” Both large and small, flexible and customizable, the boxes are an option for safe and physically distant entertaining and holiday gifting. Boxes include various arrangements of sandwiches, charcuterie, cheeses, condiments, beverages and desserts. Order online for delivery or contactless pickup at their Shirley Avenue, Kitchener, facility.


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The Culinary Studio
The Culinary Studio offers take-away food, cooking instruction and virtual cooking events; it’s a venue with deep food roots on the site of the former Vincenzo’s in Kitchener and a host of unique services that it offered pre-Covid: from-scratch cooking and baking for eat-in or take-out, farmer’s dinners, team building and hands-on cooking classes. Virtual classes include chicken shawarma, holiday baking and family date night with the kids. Led by chefs Jody O’Malley and Kirstie Herbstreit, well-known cooks in Waterloo Region.


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Michie’s Kitchen
Imagine being ahead of the game, and having your meals planned for an entire week?  That’s exactly what Michie’s Kitchen offers – meal plans and cooking instruction, both 1-on-1 and an upcoming cook-along virtual instruction series as well.


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Relish Cooking Studio
Relish has a full calendar of virtual instruction from making pasta without a machine and Thai curry to cooking with an air fryer (Donna-Marie’s newest cook book, in fact). There is also a virtual lesson for holiday cocktails and appetizers, as well as holiday baking classes.


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Queen of Hearts Coffee and Tea House
The holiday season – whatever it might look like – might be the perfect time to connect virtually and enjoy a proper afternoon tea. The venue to help there is Queen of Hearts, located on Victoria Street in Kitchener. An tea for two to go includes choice of two premium teas (just add hot water), savories (such as  finger sandwiches), two scones and accompaniments such as clotted cream and jam. Check with Queen of Heart for delivery options.

Gather & Graze Company
Gather & Graze, based in Kitchener, can provide online ordering for boxes (serving up to 12 people) and platters, including vegan selections. These are touted as perfect for unique gift option for the holidays or a treat a socially-distanced nights-in.

Swine and Vine

It’s been interesting to watch this small restaurant evolve. While there’s dine-in, Swine and Vine also offers three-course dinners and charcuterie boxes (meats, cheeses, spreads, preserves and crostini) to go.


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Taste of Mennonite Country
Taste of Mennonite Country has created a line of “tasting boxes” packed with local and handmade items. Corporate gift boxes are also available.


Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. 


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