Get Better at Giving.

We’ve all heard it: “give experiences not things” – which is fine but what experiences are we talking about specifically here? One of the suggestions I heard recently is babysitting your niece. Great. But dude, that shouldn’t be a Christmas gift. It’s nice and all but if you live in the same city as the little rugrat, and you aren’t babysitting once in awhile, it’s time to step it up. And the ‘ol book of coupons for your main squeeze isn’t as awesome as you think, trust me. Sure, a foot massage sounds romantic, but there may be a reason it isn’t a popular request in your house (hint: you suck at it). All that said though, giving thoughtful and creative, experiential gifts is way better than going to the mall and buying everything in sight. But there is another way to be thoughtful and creative, so put away the craft supplies, set up a play-date with your niece for fun and instead, think local food and drink.

First up, West Coast Brewery Tours. What better way to check out Victoria’s booming brew scene than to actually go visit the breweries and speak to the malt magicians who work there? Tour choices range from a two hour jaunt to a five hour haul and all include transportation so you can imbibe, just make sure you grab a cab home! 

Why not give the gift of dining? Most restaurants sell gift certificates so your recipient will be able to go for a great gastronomic experience anytime. Even though there are so many incredible restaurants in town, it’s tough to step outside your comfort zone. This is where a copy of TASTE MAG is going to come in handy. With detailed restaurant profiles of quirky Victoria favourites like Mo:Lé and North 48, old standbys like The Keg, Pescatores and Willies Bakery you’ll find a ton of information to make the perfect decision. Plus, with the locals driven listings you can do some taste-testing pre-Christmas, just make sure you use the built in rating system to keep track of your favourites. This is going to come in handy year-round. Turn to the back of the MAG and you’ll find an awesome piece that lets you know where you can take those coffee connoisseurs on your list – try checking out one of the many open mic nights or grab a low key lunch with made with local ingredients. 

A gift basket full of local, edible goods is great for everyone. Surprise someone with a romantic picnic or let your family from out-of-town try the best of what Victoria has to offer. For a great homemade gift basket, your first stop should be the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. It’s an incredible place where you’ll find local artisans, farmers, fishers, butchers, bakers, cheese-makers, vinters, perservers, florists and brewers all congregating under one incredibly funky roof – just make sure you take a break from shopping and grab a bite at Roast. Top off your basket with a bottle of local wine, cider or beer – you just can’t go wrong.  

See? Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming, just remember that whatever experience you decide to gift someone this season, you’ll be in good hands pairing local fare with great company.  

Victoria's Top 5 Winter Activities

Now, before you head out to these awesome events, make sure you’ve got a copy of TASTE MG with you! You never know when you’ll need to take a martini minute or a beer break before heading back out to this busy, festive season. Oh you shopped late? Don’t want to go home and make dinner? Taste Mag. Seriously. It’ll end arguments and stop you from making hangry decisions. Ok, now go have fun!

Festival of Trees 

Need a quick Christmas fix? Take a stroll through The Bay Center for the Festival of Trees! From sponsors and organizations to local businesses and individuals, the Victoria community comes together to decorate Christmas trees any way they can! The result is a ‘forest’ of wacky, beautiful, crazy, imaginative trees all to help raise money for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. This indoor coniferous forest is sure to have you humming ‘Oh Tannenbaum’ in no time.   

November 15, 2018 - January 7, 2019. Free admission.

Gingerbread Showcase 

Move over Granny, these gingerbread sculptures are not your traditional confectionary casas. Created by both professional and amateur local chefs, these detailed, imaginative structures are a treat for your eyes (and nose!). While you’re soaking up inspiration for your own spicy, decorated domicile make sure you vote for your favourite and crack open that wallet to support Habitat for Humanity Victoria.

November 16, 2018 - January 7, 2019. The Parkside Hotel and spa. Free admission.


Pancakes in Pajamas

‘Tis the season to be cozy, so why not stay in your pajamas and join Santa for brunch at Hotel Grand Pacific with the whole family? Be sure to leave time for decorating cookies and making holiday crafts too! There will be a raffle for a chance to win WestJet tickets or a one-night stay package at Hotel Grand Pacific. All proceeds from the event support Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.

Sunday, December 16, 2018 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Free Horse-Drawn Trolley Rides:

Ever wanted to take a ride in a horse drawn cart but thought it was just too touristy? Well here’s your chance! Every weekend until December 20th, there are free horse-drawn trolley rides that tootle around downtown letting riders take in the festive scenery of old Victoria. It’s a great addition to a staycation weekend or a chance to rest after a day of Christmas shopping.

* Pre-set route: Store St. at Chatham St., Johnson St. near Warf St., Langley St. at Bastion Square and Government St. at Fisgard St.

November 28, 2018 to December 20, 2018, runs Saturday from Noon - 4:00pm; Sunday Noon - 3:00pm. Free admission.

Shop Local!

This season, make sure to check out our incredible local shops before you hit up the chain stores! Silk Road has an incredible line of health and beauty products, cute home ware, delicious tea (obviously) and a spa! The geniuses at Violette Veldor have curated an incredible selection of jewelry for every taste. Trounce Alley is home to the always fashionable, She She Shoes and She She Bags. Search Fan Tan Alley’s Heart’s Content for the most awesome collection of Mod, punk and alternative fashion and accessories. Let your third eye lead you to Triple Spiral, they’re sure to have something for that cool, crunchy, yogi in your life. And audiophiles will love a gift from The Turntable...well maybe a gift certificate. Mosey outside downtown for the littles in your life and check out Red Rover for quality consignment kids clothes and accessories – you’ll find seriously cute stuff for seriously cute prices. For the gourmands on your list, create your own gift basket chock full of local goodies! Maybe some hand crafted charcuterie from Whole Beast Meats, a great Sea Cider, local beer – think Phillips, Driftwood, Hoyne, C12 and a chuck of cheese or two from The Little Cheese Shop – et voilà!

The Beast, the Whole Beast and Nothing but the Beast

You know that moment when you walk into a holiday party and as you’re exchanging obligatory greetings, you’re simultaneously shooting surreptitious glances around the room for the food table? Yeah, us too. You discreetly sidle up to the table, sizing up the victuals; yup, the hummus and veg is present and accounted for, devilled eggs? Check. And then, just beyond the breadbasket, you spy your target - the charcuterie board. Now, there are some gatherings that don’t quite get the importance of a great artisanal cured meat selection. There have been times when I’ve suppressed the urge to lunge across the table and attack it like a wild animal, and instead, gracefully sidle up to the meaty target, all the while maintaining a conversation with the IT guy only to find that the board consists of cheap pizza pepperoni and garlic sausage slices speared haphazardly with toothpicks. Nooooooooooooooo! Oh the humanity!  Enter: The Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria.

It’s no secret that Victorians go the extra mile to seek out local sustainable food products. So when Cory Pelan opened The Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria in the summer of 2011, it was a calculated move in response to the growing desire for all things local. And it’s no surprise that Pelan has helmed this venture, given his passion for and involvement in local, sustainable food practices. As a former president and treasurer, now board member of the Island Chefs Collaborative, board member of the Slow Food Vancouver Island and stewardship team member representing Vancouver Island for Farm Folk City Folk, Pelan lives, breathes, eats and makes sustainable food a practice in the Capital Region. 

But this little salumeria is far more than cured meat counter offering local charcuterie, run by a passionate foodie – it is an artisanal workshop where local heritage meat gets transformed into high quality, handcrafted, cured delicacies using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives or fillers. So if you haven’t already checked out this little slice of spicy, savoury, meaty heaven you really need to. While you’re browsing, check out their selection of preserves – think kimchee, sauerkraut, mustards, pickles, vinegars and sauces, yum! They’ve also formed awesome relationships with restaurants all over the city, so while you’re tikiing on Tuesdays at North 48, or grabbing some grub at The Guild you’ll be getting incredible quality cured meat from right up the road.

So here’s the take away folks: when it comes time to host a holiday party or when you’re headed to a Christmas potluck, make sure that you aren’t the shmuck with the wheel of supermarket garlic sausage. Instead, be the babe with the kick-ass plate of artisanal charcuterie - just try not to eat it all before the party starts.