Shop local in Renfrew-Collingwood
BY JULIE CHENG
Whether you celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, December is a special time to spend with family and friends. Growing up, our family celebrated what my parents called Dong, which sounds like “cold” in Chinese and occurs every year during the winter solstice. And food was at the centre of our celebrations, of course.
Here in Renfrew-Collingwood, we’re lucky to have a huge variety of multicultural stores and foods to discover across the neighbourhood. Here are a few food gifts to bring to your next family gathering.
3219 Kingsway between McKinnon and Cecil
Jambo Grill is one of our family’s go-to restaurants in the neighbourhood, but it’s only recently that a friend told me about the Chaiwala Masala that they sell. Now you, too, can make your own tasty chai at home. Working from home, I have a pot of chai warming on the stove all day – so comforting on a cold winter’s day. I use oat milk, which, when simmered, turns slightly sweet. In summer, my daughter drinks it cold with ice.
The Chaiwala Masala makes a delightful gift for tea lovers. Just stop off at London Drugs for a box of orange pekoe or Earl Grey tea to go with it. I like the Ridgways organic brand.
2705 East 22nd Avenue and Slocan
Reflecting the historic Italian community, this cozy neighbourhood grocery store packs many good deals. You can find all the ingredients for tiramisu here. There’s a great deli counter where you can create your own charcuterie board of cured meats, cheeses and olives. Or you can ask them to put together a party platter for you. Go early as there’s often a line-up.
While you’re at the deli counter, pick up a bottle of balsamic reduction. It tastes wonderful drizzled over salad, particularly tomato-bocconcini salad. At a recent get-together, my daughter brought a good loaf of rosemary sourdough, which we cut up and served with a dish of olive oil with a swirl of balsamic reduction as dip. It was a huge hit.
Pick up a bottle of balsamic fig glaze while you’re at Banana Grove’s deli counter.
Chula Vista Grocery
2982 East 22nd Avenue between Renfrew and Nootka
This little grocery store across from Renfrew Park Community Centre brings in Asian foods that I remember from my childhood, like dried mushrooms, dried adzuki beans and a host of other familiar ingredients that I don’t know how to cook.
I recognized the adzuki beans as the essential ingredient in the red bean soup that’s often served at the end of a Chinese banquet. I love this dessert and am committed to learning to cook it so one day I can share it with friends and family.
2996 East 22nd Avenue at Nootka
Delivery is great, but there’s nothing like eating in at Ragazzi where you can get a piping hot pizza fresh out of the oven.
My family has been going to Ragazzi for their delicious pizza for 20 years or more, when brothers Nick and Paul first started this pizzeria. Their caprese salad is simple yet amazing. They also offer re-loadable gift cards.
Ragazzi means “two brothers” in Italian and, boy, would mama be proud. The family later opened the popular Via Tevere on Victoria Drive.
3340 Kingsway in the London Drugs mall
It wouldn’t be a celebration without one of Marui’s fresh mango cakes, which features two layers of airy white cake with chunks of mango and whip cream in between and covered with mango slices. It is an essential birthday cake in our family. Their egg tarts are exceptional, too.
Purdys Chocolate Factory
2777 Kingsway at Earles
What would we do without our local Purdys chocolate factory? It’s a neighbourhood icon, with its purple fountain and small playground out front. We spent a lot of time with our kids here.
5115 Joyce Street and Vanness
I consider myself lucky to have experienced the oven-fresh apple tarts from the Hong Kong Café many years ago. The apple tarts from Bao Bakery bring back memories of those days gone by, and I have made friends happy bringing over a box of these for dessert. Their buns and xiu mai from the warmer are convenient for a quick bite.
3317 Kingsway #102 near Joyce
During the heat of summer I stopped in to Los Guerreros looking for electrolyte water upon a friend’s recommendation and found it busy with customers picking up traditional Latin American foods and baked goods. I loved the pinatas hanging from the ceiling.
4409 Boundary Road at 29th Avenue
Masala Meats is one of my go-tos for mild lemon ginger chicken breast and their spicy Jaipuri teekha masala wings, both which are easy to cook in the oven or on the barbecue. Check out their frozen section for party favourites such as pakoras and samosas (try the mini ones that come with chutney).
Have too much stuff? Give the gift of community
There are many organizations in Renfrew-Collingwood that are doing amazing work to bring people together, support our most vulnerable and take care of ourselves and the environment. Consider giving the gift of community this holiday season instead of more stuff.
Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Recreation and programs for all ages including music, dance, art and physical and social activities. cnh.bc.ca
Still Moon Arts Society. Runs the annual Harvest Moon Festival and is involved in local art and environmental stewardship initiatives. stillmoonarts.ca
Windermere Community Fitness Park. A free fitness park for the whole community. Fundraising continues for additional amenities including signage, seating, landscaping and a table tennis court. windermerefitnesspark.com
Fresh Roots. Runs schoolyard farms and contributed to this summer’s community supported agriculture program to provide fresh veggies to residents in partnership with the Renfrew Collingwood Food Hub/Collingwood Neighbourhood House. freshroots.ca