Going dry for January

This may not be the year to buckle down for dry January – no judgment either way – and maybe not even the year for resolutions. 

No one in my circle is really talking about either of these traditions this year, though Veganuary is on the upswing.

Dry January is thought to have begun in the U.K. around 2012 or 2013, encouraging people to give up booze and reap the health benefits after a holiday season of indulgence.

If January doesn’t work for you, Dry February supports the Canadian Cancer Society, learn more here, and there is always Sober October.

Maybe thoughtful moderation is the key, instead of going cold turkey this year? Here are a few options to consider.

Our cider colleagues to the south are celebrating their second annual Dry Cider January, thanks to a campaign by the American Cider Association. After a cornucopia of cookies in December, the goal is to find zero-sugar ciders to enjoy while working on shedding holiday pounds.

And since it’s Veganuary, resolve to tempt your taste buds with a vegan creation – you can find recipes anywhere online, but you can start with the Veganuary website for inspiration -- paired with a dry cider.

Baked apples drizzled in maple syrup with a dry apple cider (note, ciders are vegan), might be a nice, healthy treat for a Friday night binge-watching marathon.

Dry hopped beers are both dry and can often be vegan as well, a quick Google search says stouts are the brews of choice, paired with braised, roasted, or smoked dishes. 

Why not your favourite local stout paired with a roasted veggie dip or hummus? Or instead of a beef stew, how about lentils or beans as they key ingredient?

Of course, the easiest option is probably embracing dry wines for an alternate “dry” January. 

Thankfully many dry wines are great with vegetables, and if you’ve resolved to try some new wines or dishes, here are some pairing ideas:

  • Sauvignon Blanc with zucchini fritters
  • Dry Riesling with a broccoli and black bean stir fry
  • Oaked Chardonnay with butternut squash soup
  • Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled portobello mushrooms
  • Merlot with eggplant ragout
  • Malbec with vegetarian chilli

As we tighten our belts in January and welcome 2021, whether you go dry by cutting out alcohol, cut out residual sugar, or give veggies the spotlight this month – or some combo thereof – take a moment or two and acknowledge a new year of health, whatever making healthier choices means to you.

Sabering in a new year

You have the champagne, but do you have a sabre?

If you’re not familiar with the act of sabering a bottle of something bubbly, be that a French champagne or a sparkling wine or cider from British Columbia, a couple of caveats: don’t try this without some supervision if possible, do it outside, and take note of many failed attempts on YouTube.

Sabrage is literally using a sabre (the dull side of the blade), to ceremoniously open a bottle of champagne, and it stems from the days of Napoleon marking military victories in dramatic fashion.

Today, sabering often is part of celebrations, and you don’t need a sabre. A butcher’s knife will do. Or even the heel of a shoe. Or a properly placed wine glass. 

Summerland’s Lightning Rock winery recently wrapped up 12 Days of Sabering on its Instagram reels featuring bubbles from producers throughout the region, so you’ve got 12 videos to watch for inspiration both on sabering and the alternative items -- a can of hair spray, a chain saw, various farm implements, a lightsaber – that were attempted. 

Meanwhile, if you feel the need to rid yourself of 2020 with a big gesture, do it safely. Just open one of these options in a comfortable manner and enjoy the effervescence. Cheers to 2021.

Élan Effervescence 2016, Evolve Cellars $20: Stone fruit touched by floral notes and a slight sweetness on the finish.

Ti Amo 2019, Hester Creek $19: If you’re planning something special for NYE, the bottle says, “I love you” and this prosecco style wine is fruity and aromatic.

Seven Stars Polaris, 2017, Township 7 $36: A Blanc de Blancs (aka chardonnay), brut with elegant creaminess balanced with refreshing acidity.

Apple-Rhubarb Crisp Cider, Rustic Roots $7/bottle: Available by the individual bottle and sometimes in a six-pack of cans, a semi-sweet cider perfect to pair with apple pie to finish NYE dinner.

Fizzio Rosé Non-Vintage, Therapy Vineyards $25: Pink bubbly with notes of strawberries and citrus, and of course therapy may be in order thanks to 2020.

Integrity 2019, 8th Generation $23: A frizzante full of tropical fruit flavours and endless possibilities for sparkling cocktails.

Reserve Brut Non-Vintage, Mission Hill $24: Fresh crisp apple and pear notes that lead to a bright and refreshing citrusy finish.

sX Imagine 2019, Ex Nihilo $26: An aromatic blend of Riesling, Viognier, and Gewürztraminer, a prosecco style with floral notes on the nose and a crisp lemon finish. 

What the Fog! New England IPA, Slackwater Brewing $17/4-pack: An appropriately named brew for midnight when we can exclaim, “WTF 2020!” and start fresh.

The art of gift baskets

'Tis the season of gift baskets. You’ve surely seen many options popping up as you scroll through social media, or if you’ve ventured out, have walked by displays of cellophane-wrapped wicker.

Whether you go for a pre-fab option or choose to create some yourself to drop on the doorsteps of friends and loved ones, consider the six Ss of a good gift basket or box, and your creations will be sure to please.

Keep in mind, you don’t need all the Ss, and perhaps you’ll stick to just one S, but I hope this will serve as a sumptuous guide.

Savoury: consider this the main course of your basket, or the punch of protein. Meaty, mouth-watering bites of cured meats, such as those on a charcuterie plate. Aged cheeses that pack a punch, or even something fermented or pickled. Why not try thyme and cheddar shortbread, pickled beets, or a small mason jar of homemade kimchi?

Salty: given that most gift baskets or boxes are built upon the idea of having snackable options, salty snack is needed. A vessel on which to spread other items on will take care of this – crackers anyone? – but roasted nuts will do too, as will the ever-popular potato chip. Other options: a selection of flavoured salts, yam or kale chips, or a variety of olives.

Spicy: depending on the recipient, have some caution with the level of spice. This is a good time to create or purchase a spicy dip (or have both a spicy version and a mild version in the basket), such as a guacamole with your choice of hot peppers, hummus with harissa, or habanero salsa. Try your hand at creating spiced nuts with cayenne pepper or chipotle seasoning.

Sweet: not much explanation needed here. Every basket should have at least one sweet item as the dessert course of the basket, or an interlude between the first three Ss. Suggestions: go beyond chocolates in a box with a gourmet hot chocolate kit, icewine truffles, or Turkish Delight for something unexpected. Or butter tarts, fruitcake, or any other holiday baking.

Sip or serve: now that you have all of the ingredients together, here are two options to finish off your gift basket. Option one, include something to sip on. Wine is just fine, but if you’ve ended up with some sort of a theme, consider loose leaf tea, local spirits, or locally roasted coffee beans. As for serving: glasses, a cheese knife, charcuterie board, or look for sustainable (recyclable or compostable) dishes and napkins. 

Ask your favourite winery or restaurant if they have gift baskets this season that you can have them customize, or that you can add items to for a personal touch.

Sing this Christmas carol

It has become a refrain during the last number of months, ingrained in our consciousness like the holiday carols that will soon take over the airwaves.

To paraphrase one of the most popular holiday choruses of the modern age: all I want for Christmas is you … to safely celebrate local this season.

As food-and-drink creators and producers had to figure out how to keep going back in the spring, many ramped up their online presence as ordering for curbside pickup or delivery became the norm before some of us emerged to go back out when we could.

Did your local restaurant go out of their way to get your favourite grilled cheese to your doorstep this year?

Leave them a good review online to say thanks, or buy a gift certificate if you haven’t yet. Better yet, get some gift cards from a local coffee shop and leave them by your mailbox for the numerous delivery people to pick up for a warm treat.

Wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries all had to switch to pickup only for a while. Did a one (or more) of them bring a case of wine to the trunk of your car for a contactless drop?

Give them five stars on Facebook, sign up for their club, or see if they are creating gift baskets or special holiday packages this year and order one for a friend.

Your local store likely had to invest in PPE for their staff, and hopefully looked into stocking their shelves with more locally produced goods.

Are they collecting donations for a worthy cause? Throw a donation their way the next time you safely shop.

Speaking of shopping, some establishments are offering safe shopping options: you can book a private shopping time online (typically for a small fee), and enjoy browsing for yourself or those on you list with a little less stress.

It’s a great way to spend a little extra on a small business, and don’t forget to take the time to book a reservation at a local winery.

Support a new business that had the guts to open this year.

Send a thank you note to your go-to bakery or veggie shop.

Book a staycation nearby for a little escape and send some love to a hotel or motel, even if it’s only a few blocks away.

One of my favourite ways to support local — and It doesn’t cost a dime — is to call a local business that has powered through 2020. Ask to speak to the manager or owner.

Simply say, “You’ve made it this far, thank you for doing a great job.”

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About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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