To say the least, these are unusual times. People want to re-capture an era they revelled in before the pandemic which saw them out and about, enjoying each other’s company and communing with food and drink and good times; that is much of what the holiday season is about, no matter what the cultural celebration.
However, it has given us pause for thought, and part of that includes at-home celebrations – perhaps smaller and bit more reflective – with family. To do that without sacrificing flavour and time, many local food purveyors offer feast kits for home. Here are a few selections from Spanish and Caribbean to Filipino and Japanese, along with good ol’ roast turkey with all the trimmings.
Christmas Dinner Kits at Home Charcoal Steak House
Famous as the premier steak house in Waterloo Region for six decades, this year the Charcoal Steakhouse is preparing a classic Christmas dinner kit in two serving sizes. It’s a way to enjoy a simplicity and comfort of that comes from the team of CSH chefs prepare your dinner along with easy heat and serve instructions at home.
Holiday Food Kits from Fat Sparrow Group
For all your entertaining needs, Fat Sparrow has you covered, according to Nick Benninger.
“It’s going to be a busy holiday season, so let us do the work for you,” he says of the cold-packaged kits that come complete with instructions for re-heating at home.
The kits, either large (4-6 people) or small (1-3 people) include roasted and carved white and dark turkey, country stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, herb-roasted fall root vegetables, rich turkey gravy, spiced cranberry sauce and fresh rolls and butter.
“We’re proud to be able to offer holiday kits with foods from our butcher shop and bakery, along with festive donut kits and charcuterie and cheese kits that can land on your doorstep,” adds Benninger.
Don’t forget to check out the nine or so fresh, whole pies and three varieties for bake-at-home dessert.
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Catering Kits from La Lola Catering Cambridge (Preston)
“The Fiesta packs at La Lola are part of every Spanish holiday – or any party,” says co-owner Vanessa Stankiewicz. “They are great for entertaining.”
The packs include a tortilla Espanola (a potato omelet); a ham and cheese, chorizo or tuna empanada gallega; spinach and goat cheese croquetas; and, Serrano ham croqueta. You can also buy a La Lola cheesecake too.
Kamayan Feasts at Sari-Sari Filipino Cuisine
If you know Filipino food, you will know boodle fights and kamayan as terms that represent a feast of Filipino delicacies – that you eat using your hands with family around the table. This month, Sari-Sari Filipino Cuisine will have its usual boodle fights, to which they are adding other interesting selections, according to Ylynne Enriquez of Sari-Sari.
“We will have a few special dishes this month as they fit into our rotating menu,” Enriquez says.
Make sure you get pancit bihon rice noodles with pork and vegetables. “It’s a popular New Year’s Eve dish as the noodles represent long life,” she adds. Sari-Sari will also be preparing pata tim, pork hocks braised tender in a sweet and savoury sauce, as well as bopis, a slightly more challenging dish with beef or pork offal that is cooked with onions, chili, tomato and a balance of spicy and tart flavours.
“Pata tim and bopis are popular as what are known as pulutan foods,” Enriquez says. “They are eaten during what might be called drinking sessions in the Philippines, and especially at the holidays.
Enriquez notes that you will also find available for feasting the classic menudo, a stew of pork and vegetables in a tomato-based sauce with, uniquely, hotdogs and raisins. “Menudo is a common fiesta dish. The raisins add a touch of sweetness,” she says.
“Of course, we will still have our kamayan boodle-fight feasts as we always do. They are great for holiday gatherings.”
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Holiday Jerk Chicken from Big Jerk Smokehouse Kitchener
Pre-order a jerk for the holidays – jerk turkey that is. It’s a recent addition to the Big Jerk Smokehouse repertoire, according to owner and chef Kevin Thomas, and for him it captures some of the aromas that make the season comforting.
“The holidays are a special,” Thomas says. “For me, meals at the season are a time for family and friends to be together and share special foods and favourite flavours.”
The Big Jerk at-home kit contains holiday jerk turkey prepared in their famous drum smoker, along with stuffing, cranberries, Jamaican rice ‘n’ peas, sweet potatoes, diner roll and your choice of classic rum cake or mango cheesecake.
Latin-Filipino Feast at Nuestro 88 Kitchener
From his restaurant in Deer Ridge Plaza, chef-owner Paul Masbad is preparing for a Latin-Filipino feast.
“It’s called Noche Buena, which literally translates as “evening of goodness,” says Masbad. “The tradition is to have an abundance of flavours that you can only get during Christmas.”
The items that play a big part in a tasty evening of abundance are lechon pork belly or chicken, beef and rice empanadas, Filipino spring rolls known as lumpia Shanghai, chicken and ube croquettes, rice and vegetables, stuffed roasted fish and coconut flan. A Christmas salad has fruits, cheese and roasted chestnuts.
For Masbad and Nuestro 88, the idea of goodness extends to enjoying oneself to the fullest at this special time of the year.
“It’s a chance to indulge yourself at home and with a plethora of dishes that will heighten all your senses,” he says.
DIY Bundles at Crafty Ramen
Select from about a half-dozen Crafty Ramen gift D-I-Y bundles. They are not holiday-themed, per se, but how can a gift of noodles not be a festive and celebratory experience? The “Everything Box for 2” includes two do-it-yourself ramen kits, two classic ramen bowls, two sets of wooden chopsticks and two “chirirenge” spoons, commonly called “renge” ramen spoons (a word that refers to a petal of a lotus leaf that has fallen off – that is just beautiful).
“Whether they’re a true noodle-head or just ramen-curious, the new holiday bundles are a great gift for the foodie on your list and give you everything you need for a night of restaurant-quality ramen at home,” according to Crafty Ramen’s Jared Ferrall.
The bundles are customizable to individual tastes and preferences, and there are vegan options available, he says. “Stay inspired in the kitchen and get Crafty!”
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Holiday Dinners from Little Mushroom Catering Cambridge
Little Mushroom ain’t so little any longer: they have opened their dining lounge for dine-in on Sheldon Drive, Cambridge, and as well have recently become the purveyor of upscale pub comestibles with their new kitchen at Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. on Victoria Street in Kitchener.
For the holidays, visit their website to learn more about their holiday dinners: roast turkey with cranberry sauce and gravy or roast beef with horseradish and beef jus. And of course a selection of seasonal sides
Turkey Dinner to Go from Proof Kitchen and Lounge
December is a hectic month, and Proof is here to help with both Christmas and New Year dinner options.
“Some people are still a little reluctant to go into restaurants, so we’re offering complete holiday meals,” says Proof executive chef Jeritt Raney. “They help give customers a restaurant experience at home and enjoy some delicious and easy-to-serve meals.”
The kit includes the classic Ontario turkey dinner, cider-brined and slow roasted and with savory sage brioche stuffing, medley of winter root vegetables, buttermilk-mashed potatoes, citrus cranberry compote and turkey pan gravy.
“For dessert, it’s our Christmas Pudding with a dark, sticky toffee sponge cake and dried mixed fruits, along with brandy, spices and rum-vanilla Anglaise,” adds Raney.
Bingemans @Home Celebration Boxes
Choose from a standard or deluxe selection or a holiday celebration box. This inclusive experience provides flexibility and customization for any and all Holiday occasions.
Note: Farm Boy grocery stores in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo locations has holiday meals kits: as well Pickle Barrel restaurant in Waterloo offers takeout holiday meals.
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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. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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