Club House for Chefs

Getintotheholidayspiritwithfestiveflavours

Get into the holiday spirit with festive flavours

November 24 2014

The festive season is fast approaching and it's set to really kick off at the end of the week as Black Friday - the biggest shopping day of the year in America - also comes to Canada.

According to CTV, Canadians have now 'fully embraced' the shopping extravaganza that takes place every year after the US-version of Thanksgiving. 

In fact, one in five Canadian retailers are planning a dedicated Black Friday sale this year and the Globe and Mail reports that a recent survey by IPG Mediabrands found that 2.8 million Canadians are planning to take the day off work to bag some bargains on November 28th.

Of course, it's not just the fashion retailers and toy stores that are getting into the holiday spirit - restaurants and cafes can also make the most of the season by appealing to shoppers' festive feelings.

Starbucks Canada, for example, has introduced its first new holiday beverage in five years. This is according to Restaurant Central, who say that the new drink - a Chestnut Praline Latte - is inspired by the 'time-honoured tradition of warm roasted chestnuts'.

The coffee chain is already well-known for its holiday menu, witch features other festive beverages like the Peppermint Mocha and Caramel Brule Latte, as well as holiday-inspired foods. The Hello Dolly Bar, for example, features layers of coconut, chocolate and shortbread.

For restaurateurs who want to add a bit of holiday cheer to their own menus, there are plenty of flavours that add a wintery and nostalgic twist to foods and drinks. Here are some ideas that you might want to try:

Pumpkin spice

This blend of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg is extremely popular south of the border. It seems like everything is made with it this time of year, from butter and cream cheese to marshmallows and cream-filled cookies. 

While the trend hasn't hit as much of a high back home, it's still widely available. Starbucks is famous for its Pumpkin Spice Latte, while other coffee chains like Second Cup, Timothy's and Tim Hortons all sell their own versions too.

Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph, notes that weather and the pumpkin yield may have something to do with how popular the flavour becomes each year. 

"This fall has been amazing," he told the Toronto Star. "So people are into pumpkins. They want to have that taste of spice."

In addition to coffee drinks, pumpkin spice is also a wonderful addition to cakes, pastries and ice cream.

Pumpkin

The spices most commonly associated with pumpkin may be a major trend, but the squash itself is another festive flavour that can bring some seasonal flair to your menu.

Try adding pumpkin to bread or cinnamon rolls - it adds colour as well as flavour - and it's also a popular ingredient in Italian dishes like risotto and tortellini. Meanwhile, pumpkin soup is another favourite winter warmer and you can add curry powder for a little bit of extra spice.

Cranberry

With their deep red colour and tart flavour, cranberries are a common sight at holiday meals and they are very versatile - so you don't have to serve them as a sauce.

For instance, cranberry juice is a popular ingredient in alcoholic drinks like the glamorous Cosmopolitan, which combines cranberry juice with vodka, orange liqueur and lime juice. There's also the bubbly - and festive - Poinsettia, which includes champagne and orange liqueur along with the red juice.

Alternatively, you can add dried cranberries into a wide range of foods for a burst of both colour and flavour. Use them to top salads, mix them into savoury breads or include them in sweet treats like muffins and cookies.

Peppermint

Candy canes have long been a favourite festive food and their traditional peppermint flavour can be added to other foods too. It's especially popular when mixed with chocolate - such as in peppermint hot chocolate or chocolate cake topped with a minty frosting.

Eggnog

This thick, sweet and boozy mixture is the epitome of holiday indulgence and it can be incorporated into other foods and drinks as well - from eggnog lattes and ice cream to donuts and cupcakes.

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