I’ve curated this very special “pandemic survival kit” made up of products I loved having on-hand during isolation and ones I’ve stocked up on for the winter.
Staying true to tradition, each has a meaningful connection to me and the BONAFIDE tribe and I’m excited to share them alongside well wishes for health, safety and sanity for you and yours. This year’s version is quite personal and I encourage you to give the brands featured a shout-out on your social platforms as you experience their products…More than ever, small businesses need us to spread the word and help keep their doors open to weather the storm.
Thank you so much for supporting my clients and I in 2020 and for the continued gift of your time, referrals and friendship. Whether it was via email, social media, phone and Zoom – every interaction I had this year was valued (and many, quite cherished) and I really look forward to the day we can laugh and enjoy each other’s company over great food and wine again.
Garlic Crunch – Garchi Gourmet
“Don’t ever let a recipe tell you how much garlic to put in – you measure that with your heart.”
Truer words have never been spoken and you’ll find this quote on every jar of Garchi – a garlic condiment made in Calgary by Bella Flores and her husband Victor. Bella’s mother Thelma is the keeper of this coveted family recipe that dates back just over a decade to a market stall in the Philippines and today, at markets and shops in Alberta. Gino from the Italian Centre Shop was eager to share a jar of Garchi Crunch with me after meeting Bella and Victor. The moment I opened it, I knew I’d have a jar in my house at all times. I’ve sprinkled it on noodles, stir frys, eggs, roasted veggies, congee, fried rice, pasta, avocado toast…It makes EVERYTHING so good. One of the best flavour boosters anyone could have in their pantry – I’m addicted to it and thank god I live solo because it’s so staaaaanky delicious. Find it at Italian Centre Shop Calgary and local farmers markets!
Olive Oil and Beech Wood Smoked Salt – Clement Sales and ZOE
One of the nicest things to happen in 2020 was reconnecting with colleagues from the past. When I was introduced to Chris and Heidi at Clement Sales, Territory Managers for our friends at STAUB & Zwilling – it didn’t take long to connect the dots…Heidi was my counterpart in radio promotions back in the early 2000’s…Such a small world! Chris and Heidi represent Canadian brands specializing in culinary gifts and kitchenware and shared a unique line of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys and sea salts with me from Montreal-based ZOE. Tony Dracos and his family have been producing olive oil at his family’s estate on the hills of Morena in Greece for generations and freshly harvested Greek sea salt from Mesolongi. A couple new additions to my pandemic pantry is this Beechwood smoked salt – so good on meat, fish and potatoes and their signature extra virgin olive oil. Tony sent over both to share a taste of his homeland and bring his family’s pride and tradition to you. Find them at Calgary shops Kala & Lime and Limoncello in Inglewood or purchase direct online!
Sequoia Sweetgrass Candle – YouNeedThisBox.ca
I had a lot of uncomfortable and difficult conversations during the pandemic… As a woman entrepreneur, a person of colour, a communicator/storyteller, a representative of brands and as a human. When the Black Lives Movement exploded, like many people in the world – I didn’t know what to do but I knew I had to do something. You Need This Box is a program that stems from a project that began as part of Edmonton Shift Lab 2.0, a social innovation lab looking to tackle the issue of systemic racism and create a lasting legacy of social change through knowledge sharing and understanding. The free subscription service is offered to Canadians who seek enlightenment and a better understanding of racism, intended to inspire critical thought and reflection. Over the past few months, the idea of allyship has become top of mind in my work – more than ever – and I continue to work on gaining clarity on what it means to support marginalized groups in the work I do as a communicator working with clients who have public platforms and a highly engaged audience. The past few months have been charged with a lot of emotions from hurt and anger to confusion and curiosity for everyone. When things get overwhelming, join me in the ritual of lighting this sweetgrass candle made by Sequoia, an indigenous-owned small business from Ontario. It’s symbolic of one of the four medicines (in addition to tobacco, sage and red cedar) and considered sacred to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. Sweetgrass is used in smudging to purify the spirit, aid in healing and is known for its calming effects and smoke is also believed to attract good spirit (who couldn’t use more of that?) When you need a brain break – light this candle, sit straight up, feet flat on the ground – close your eyes and breathe. It’s going to be ok…
Sign up for a subscription here and do help spread the word to find partners to keep the program going.
Coconut Cookie Mix – Confetti Sweets
Over the years, it’s been amazing to see Alberta-based side-hustles at Farmers Markets and pop-ups become empires. In a nutshell, that’s the Confetti Sweets story. Kathy Leskow sold her cookies at Edmonton’s City Market 104 and when I would visit on the weekends – I’d pick up a dozen and lucky if I made it back to Calgary with a couple left in tow. To me, they’re the kind of cookies Mrs. Claus would bake…The perfect balance between crispy and chewy with lots of butter and grandma love – they taste like home. I saw a sample of Confetti Sweet’s new cookie bags showing off their new branding at a meeting I had with a printer and ended up sharing my undying love for their Coconut cookies. Coincidentally, that very same day Crystal at Prairie Chick Prints launched a giveaway that included Confetti Sweets – so introductions were made and now I get to share my favourite market cookies with you. I keep a couple bags of cookie mix in my pantry for emergencies like pandemic stress eating, birthday drop-offs and thank you treats. It’s a one-bowl wonder…Find their bakery and headquarters in Sherwood Park, AB or mail order!
CasusGrill and Wild Game Spice Rub – The Butchery by RGE RD
I stumbled upon the amazing design-award winning CasusGrill while searching for swag and products for The Butchery by RGE RD. It was baffling a grill made of bamboo and cardboard could possibly cook a steak but totally did (in fact, after we tested it – Blair gifted them to his hunting friends and got a 100% stamp of approval) and now we can’t stop talking about them. *Insert Oprah voice here* YOU get a grill and YOU get a grill…EVERYBODY GETS A GRIIIIIIIL!!! Imagine what a champ you’d be giving a glorious farm-raised, grain-fed ribeye steak, a bottle of red and this portable, eco-friendly and biodegradable grill as a hostess, birthday or just-because gift! Level-up meals during back-country jaunts, picnics and hikes all year-round. The crew at RGE RD also included a wild game spice rub made with mushroom powder, juniper, sumac, nigella seeds and green alder. You’ll want to keep this one for yourself but if you’d like to purchase one to gift over the holidays – The Butchery will carry them $20 each or 4 for $75. They will accept mail orders!
Wild Child Farmhouse-Style Cider – Bramble Cider
The team at Calgary-based agency Daughter continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders and are always keen to connect us with great people who make really cool things they’ve created brand identities for. They recently worked with husband and wife duo Tyler Crowdis and Alicia Enns with the launch of Bramble Cider – a labour of love Tyler began as a means to continue enjoying pints with his friends despite his celiac disease. Inspired by the growing west coast cider scene to the funky ciders of Northern France and sours of Spain, they’re using a selection of BC grown and pressed apples fermented with a blend of wild yeasts to give really earthy, funky notes and bright acidity to their craft creations. We really love how the pandemic has encouraged people to reuse, re-purpose and just be more resourceful with produce and ingredients. Cider is a great (and tasty) example! Wild Child is straight-up dry apple cider – not a single drop of sugar is added (it has da funk) and it’s delicious paired with pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches or bowls of creamy pasta. Find them at the taproom at Sunny Cider and at local liquor stores!
Adult Face Mask – Medium Rare Chef Apparel
Face masks. Who would’ve thought it would literally become the fashion must-have accessory of the year? Calgary-based Andrew Dallman and Cam Dobranski have been known to style Canadian chefs and hospitality pros with high-quality aprons and uniforms by Medium Rare Chef Apparel and like many – they did a COVID-pivot, redistributed their resources and started making masks for their loyal customers. The fit and quality is outstanding – but more importantly, they don’t fog up my glasses! I’m one of those people who bought dozens of masks early in the pandemic but this is the one I keep laundered and ready for use. I couldn’t help but share them with friends at Air Canada EnRoute for their round up of 7 Canadian brands making non-medical masks look good earlier this year and now – I get to share one with you! Find them online or at LUKES Drug Mart locations in Calgary.
Hive on Fire – Hive Gourmet
A freezer staple at BONAFIDE Headquarters is the Italian Centre Shop’s frozen pizza dough and one of my favourite pizza accoutrements is hot honey and I’m obsessed with Hive on Fire by Toronto-based Hive Gourmet. This pure Ontario unpasteurized honey is infused with a blend of fresh chillies for a kick of spice. The perfect balance of sweet heat makes every dish mouth-wateringly addictive. I’ve been putting it on everything from pizza, chicken wings and corn fritters to cheese (brie, goat and blue), roasted Brussel sprouts (with a splash of soy and fish sauce) and even grilled peaches paired with prosciutto. For the winter season – it would be really tasty in ginger lemon tea, too. Hands down, one of the most versatile additions to my pantry and definitely is a pandemic staple. I think you’re going to love it. Find it and more flavours at Italian Centre Shop Calgary.
Cheeky Plant Stakes – Justine Ma Designs
With 2020 travel plans cancelled, I found myself in a position I’d never been before…Grounded at home and like most, I did alllll the isolation things…Grew vegetables from scraps, baked bread and got into houseplants. I’ve never had much of a green thumb and now I’m around to remember to water them and watch them grow – kinda like how my friendship grew with Edmonton-based designer, calligrapher and maker of beautiful things, Justine Ma – this year. I had the pleasure of working with Justine on a couple of projects – raising money and awareness of the meal program at Ronald McDonald House which due to COVID-19 precautions, shifted from being volunteer-driven to requiring preparation in commercial kitchens (A Cappella came on board to supply individually packed meals for residents!) and we also hosted a back-to-school Instagram contest to treat Alberta teachers to Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Defence Hand Spray. We shared nearly 250 bottles of luxurious hand sanitizer with educators as a thank you for their commitment to students and the community during such a challenging time. One of Justine’s creations puts a smile on my face every time I glance over at my plant babies – these plant stakes are a cute reminder to water them and keep a sense of humour during these crazy times. Heading to Calgary’s 4th Street for some shopping? Find Justine’s goods at Calgary’s Cinder and Sage and all the cool places to shop in Edmonton.
Wild Amarena Cherries – Gigi Importing
The last meal I enjoyed in a restaurant pre-COVID-19 was with Flavio Vanacore from Gigi Importing and Gino from the Italian Centre Shop at ALLOY and holy smokes did we have a good time. I don’t think anyone at the table would’ve anticipated what happened just a few days later with restaurants closing and grocery stores becoming an essential service but since we only see Flavio once or twice a year – we always make it count so we had an absolute blast eating some of our favourite dishes, drinking too much wine and laughing really hard. The only thing missing was his sister Mena, who I was really looking forward to meeting up with in Italy this year. Needless to say, that trip got cancelled but one of the products my fave brother/sister duo is really pumped about is this Italian-made house brand of wild Amarena cherries. These are delicious out of the jar and I use them as cocktail garnishes, a topping to lemon sorbetto or a rich chocolate gelato and I love a couple spoonfuls on a Dutch baby or waffles with a dollop of whipped cream. All Italian Centre Shop locations will have these on the shelves by the time you’re reading this!
Portuguese Sardines in Tomato Sauce – SABOR Restaurant
While people were hoarding toilet paper, yeast and rice – I went straight for my secret love – canned meat and seafood. SPAM, Vienna sausages, smoked oysters and sardines…My kind of comfort food. I totally turned my nose up at canned anything when I was younger but thanks to Chef Lino at SABOR, during planning meetings he’d open canned octopus and sardines from Spain and Portugal, toast up fresh bread and open a bottle of red (It’s the simple things, folks!) To me – it’s an awesome pandemic snack. When I told him about the BONAFIDE Box this year (it’s so sweet – my clients anticipate it too!) he loaded me up with one of his favorites to include this year…These are in a delicious – eat them right out of the can on toasted buttered sourdough rubbed with garlic and topped with thinly sliced red onion or if you’re kickin’ it in pyjamas still and don’t want to cook, buttery Ritz Crackers are a great vessel. Don’t knock it…I’m serious.
Speachless Peach Green Tea – Rviita Energy Tea
One of the not-so-great habits I picked up during isolation was napping. Like, middle of the day napping (not the after work before dinner OR after dinner happy tummy kind)…Like most, my schedule was thrown off and a little bummed out as there was so much stress and anxiousness all around. Napping got a bit out of hand but I didn’t want to kick up my coffee consumption so I mentioned my secret midday siestas to one of the staffers at the Italian Centre Shop and she suggested Rviita Energy Tea and referred to it as “like Red Bull – but good for you”. This all-natural energy tea was created by Calgary-based siblings Karly and Mitch Jacobsen and pal Robert Wigg who were motivated to make an all-natural energy drink in honour of a friend who had a heart attack at the age of 30 from drinking energy beverages. The concoction is made with natural caffeine, is only 30 calories and has no artificial colours or sweeteners. It’s a great mid-afternoon beverage to keep me awake and energized. I love the packaging – 50% less material than most similar-sized plastic bottles, 1000% less material than most comparable glass containers. My fave part – you can refill them with water and make them ice packs to keep cooler bags cold. They really did think of everything…The amazing crew at Rviita sent my favourite flavour for you to try!
Geranium & Orange Hand Cream – Neal’s Yard Remedies
With most of my clients being in the hospitality industry, to say I was a bit freaked out about how my business would fare during the pandemic would be an absolute understatement. When Lisa Shelley, CEO of Neal’s Yard Remedies was referred to BONAFIDE to support a grass-roots campaign around the line’s Organic Defence Hand Spray, I knew it would be a great opportunity to expand my portfolio and connect the British brand to my network of writers, influencers and media friends. The hand spray was a smash hit with mentions in VITADAILY, the Calgary Herald, CHCH Morning Show and inclusion in this year’s SocialAtHome conference kits and the upcoming Candy Cane Gala supporting the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. With full-on prairie winter just around the corner and so many of us with dry and chapped hands from the constant washing and sanitizing – I keep this Geranium & Orange Hand Cream from Neal’s Yard Remedies on my desk. It’s 92% organic, made with natural essential oils and is super concentrated so a little goes a long way.
The scent is a fresh little pick-me-up and I love it because it immediately softens and nourishes without being greasy. Check out their annual holiday gift sets here.
Valpollicella Classico, Face Mask Holder
and Doggie Treats – Vin Room
Talk about a COVID-pivot – Phoebe, Dom and the team at Vin Room went from three busy restaurant locations to ready-made meals, wine and grocery delivery service when restaurants were ordered to shut down almost overnight. You can always count on this crew to get into survival beast mode and boy did they ever while continuing their mandate to support and partner with local businesses. Our good friend and SAIT pastry instructor, Christine Beard launched TAG Bake Shop and started supplying Vin Room with desserts and fresh bread for their date night dinners. In July – they invited Torills Table to include their vegan-friendly waffle/pancake mix in their at-home Stampede breakfast kits and of course, they never forget four-legged friends – every order for delivery had an option to include a complimentary Fur Baby Fare meal that included beef jerky by Pupper Select and biscuits by Bon-Pet-A-Treat.
I drank a lot of wine this year….Come to think of it, many bottles were delivered to my door by Vin Room. Traditionally, Phoebe has included a little bottle of bubbles in the BONAFIDE Box but we agreed it didn’t seem quite fitting this year so please enjoy a little bottle of Italian vino, a face mask case and as always – doggie treats from Dom.
2021 Planner – Prairie Chick Prints
and Mountain View Printing
Sherwood Park-based Crystal Derouin and her amazing brand of charming and cheeky goods, Prairie Chick Prints continues to produce potty-mouthed cards, mugs, pencils, decals that totally crack me up. I still love the “fuckety-fuck-fuck” mug the crew at Destroy the Box gave me for Christmas a few years back and this year, my clients and I placed ads in her annual planners that have developed a cult-like following over the years with her fans. With its combination of fun and function, while highlighting her creativity and peers in the local small business community, Crystal continues to practice what she preaches by supporting local – including print shops like our friends at Calgary-based Mountain View Printing.
Although 2020 is a bit of a bust, to me – this planner is symbolic of days ahead we can and should look forward to. These blank pages are waiting to be filled with projects and ideas alongside milestones to acknowledge and celebrate.
Do consider the last item in this pandemic survival kit an open invite for Zoom happy hours, random texts and unplanned phone calls…I wish each of you and your loved one’s health and happiness in the days, weeks and months to come. JPC