Holiday Food & Drink: Minimum effort, maximum party

As the holiday season bears down on us, you, hapless holiday host, are agonizing over the upcoming title fight between you and a plucked 12-pound bird, a sack of potatoes, three cans of cranberry sauce and whatever the hell goes into stuffing.


This year, give yourself the ultimate gift – and make this season as easy on yourself as humanly possible. 

First off: outsource the eats. No, lavish catering won’t be in the cards for many at-home holiday events – but if your play your cards right, you could outsource your meal for not that much more than you’d end up dropping at the grocer’s. 

If your party plans call for hors d’oeuvres or canapés, call on some of Toronto’s pro chefs (or, more realistically, your neighbourhood chain grocery store) to deck out your snack table.

As for the booze, just dump a few choice ingredients into the nearest punch bowl, then supplement with a couple of top-notch bottles.

Read on, intrepid host, and be sure to save some of those cocktails for yourself.

Beyond Turkey

LASA BY LAMESA 634 St. Clair West, 647-343-1110

On top of doing fast-casual Filipino eats, the quick-service corollary to Queen West’s Lamesa also does party-sized trays of Filipino dishes – including roast bistek (a to-die-for blade roast braised in salty-savoury gravy) hamonado (pork shoulder with pineapple and cherries) or spring-roll-like lumpia, which no Filipino party would be complete without.

What you get À la carte options include roast bistek ($65), hamonado ($50), lumpia Shanghai ($20), BBQ pork skewers ($30) and cassava cake or ube leche flan ($30). Each dish includes portions for 10 to 12 people.

Order 48 hours in advance

Reheating necessary No

Delivery No

BARQUE 2198 Dundas West, 416-532-7700

The bad news: Roncey’s favourite BBQ spot’s catering menu isn’t a fit for smaller parties, clocking in at $32 per person with a high head count minimum. The good news: instead of being stuck with just turkey, you get to pick three selections from the smokehouse’s array of meats. 

What you get Chopped kale salad or Caesar two of: cornbread stuffing, grainy mustard slaw, herbed potato salad, mixed garden pickles, smashed potatoes, Cajun mac ‘n’ cheese, brown butter green beans three of: chicken thighs, smoked turkey breast, pulled pork, smoked pulled lamb, smoked beef brisket one of: cupcake jar or fresh fruit ($32/person 20-person minimum).

Order 48 hours in advance

Reheating necessary Available hot or cold

Delivery Yes (charges based on distance)

DOUG McNISH’S PUBLIC KITCHEN 561 Marlee, 647-341-1736

McNish’s specialty is vegan, gluten-free dining, and his holiday menu is among the most inclusive in town. Beef up your dinner (figuratively speaking) with inexpensive add-ons like butternut squash apple sage soup or baked apple crumble with a rolled oat, cinnamon and coconut sugar crust.

What you get Caramelized onion and squash lentil/millet loaf or red wine-herb-Dijon seitan roulade stuffed with mushroom and garlic spinach duxelles, wild rice and roasted apple stuffing, caramelized winter vegetables, creamy roasted garlic mash, roasted portobello mushrooms, gravy, cranberry sauce for $80 (feeds up to three people) or $150 (feeds up to five people).

Order Meal only available December 22-24 short-notice orders okay

Reheating necessary Yes

Delivery Yes (fee depends on distance) 

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Classic Turkey

McEWAN 8 Karl Fraser, 416-444-6262

Shockingly, for its chi-chi reputation, Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocer has one of the better turkey dinner deals out there, at under $22 per person.

What you get Whole turkey, turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts with caramelized onion and bacon, roasted root vegetables, spun potatoes, stuffing, bread and salad with champagne vinaigrette for $212 (seven-10 people), $297 (10-14 people) or $405 (15-20 people).

Order At least 24 hours in advance

Reheating necessary Yes 

Delivery Starting at $25

URBAN FARE 1415 Bathurst, 416-532-1010

The broad holiday menu at this Bathurst caterer features two takes on turkey dinner (bare-bones and deluxe) as well as chicken or brisket dinners, bite-size canapés and two dozen salads and sides.

What you get Boneless turkey breast, sourdough stuffing, smashed red-skin potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and carrots, green salad with pine nuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese and balsamic dressing, rolls with butter, Christmas cookies with fruit garnish for $19.95/person (six-person minimum). An “all the fixings” package includes all of the above with a whole turkey, whipped potatoes, green beans with shallots, and mince tarts for $26.95/person (10-person minimum).

Order 48 business hours in advance

Reheating necessary Yes

Delivery Starting at $25

SUMMERHILL MARKET 446 Summerhill, 416-921-2714 1054 Mt. Pleasant, 416-485-4471

Rosedale’s favourite gourmet grocer’s catering division kicks into high gear over the holidays, offering turkey with a smorgasbord of trimmings. The price is slightly higher, but you know it’s going to be good.

What you get Sliced free-range turkey (white and dark meat) apple, onion and sage dressing turkey gravy orange cranberry sauce, buttermilk mashed potatoes, maple-roasted butternut squash, French green beans for $29.95/person ($28.45 if you place your order online). Gluten-free options available.

Order 72 hours in advance

Reheating necessary Yes

Delivery Pickup only at either location

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KISS THE COOK 2490 Kingston, 416-264-4040 

Kiss the Cook’s impressive 20-page holiday catering menu has plenty of options for the corporate set (mashed potato martinis!) but caters to home hosts as well. Turkey dinners can be had for $21.95 a head, or make it one to remember with stuffing waffles topped with turkey and cranberry sauce and flanked with fluffy mash ($18.95/person).

What you get White and dark meat (or veggie pot pies) stuffing mashed potatoes cranberry sauce green beans with almonds honey glazed carrots green salad with dried cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese rolls and butter and cookies or an assortment of sweets for $21.95/person (between eight and 24 people discounts for larger groups). 

Order 72 hours in advance

Reheating necessary Can be served hot or cold

Delivery From $25 to $60

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Mike Ford


Apps & Hors D’oeuvres

LOKA 620 Queen West, 416-995-9639 

Charcuterie king Dave Mottershall’s Queen West kitchen makes putting together a beautiful board easy, offering vacuum-packed, ready-to-serve selections of his house-made cured meats as a takeout item for $19. Choose what you want, or leave it up to the chef.

Order Walk-in or in advance

Delivery No

FOOD DUDES 24 Carlaw, 647-349-3663

The Dudes do it all – catering, food trucks, high-end eats – and that shows on their catering menu. Salmon, chicken and sirloin plates can be had for roughly $20 a head – but their menu of finger foods, each priced to feed about 10 people, will put your prepackaged tray of crudités and dip to shame. Pick up a $20 tray of truffled egg sandwiches, or blow all those sad shrimp rings out of the water with their grilled shrimp and cocktail sauce for $50.

Order 48 hours in advance

Reheating necessary No

Delivery $35 flat fee

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Snacks

Specialty grocer or store brand? Choose carefully and your guests won’t even notice the difference.

1. No Frills fudge-covered chocolate mint cookies, $2.19, No Frills.

2. President’s Choice dark chocolate peppermint melts, $3.99, No Frills.

3. 52% dark chocolate-covered ginger pieces, $2.57/100g, Bulk Barn.

4. Yogurt-covered snow flake pretzels, $1.60/100g, Bulk Barn.

5. President’s Choice cheese and garlic Swiss sticks, $2.49, No Frills.

6. President’s Choice rosemary naan crackers, $2.79, No Frills.

7. Irresistibles cranberry-pumpkin seed crisps, $4.49, Metro.

8. President’s Choice olive tapenade hummus roll, $4.99, Loblaws.

9. President’s Choice olive oil and rosemary focaccia crackers, $1.99, Loblaws.

10. President’s Choice turkey-stuffing-flavoured ripple chips, $1.67, Loblaws.

11. Irresistibles olive and feta potato chips, $1.67, Metro. 

12. President’s Choice chocolate pecan pie bar, $9.99, Loblaws.

Get more Holiday Food & Drink Guide here.

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