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THE DISH: Sweet treats and holiday eats

I tend to avoid anything related to Black Friday mayhem, from the day itself to the ensuing week-long retail sales push.

I tend to avoid anything related to Black Friday mayhem, from the day itself to the ensuing week-long retail sales push.

Parking is a nightmare during this time period, crowds are overwhelming, and I frankly find it difficult to wade through the sea of sharpened elbows edging out competitors vying for gloriously high-speed, high-definition, slimmer-than-they-were-last-year electronic treasures conceived down in Cupertino.

I am not sanctimonious in this avoidance, not by a long stretch. But I am a consumer of a different kind at this time of year, seeking rewards that will stretch the limits of my belt more than my credit card.

Holiday eats make me much happier than new home theatre gear, but I recognize that the dining landscape can also be very busy and tricky to navigate. With that in mind, here are a few proven options to keep you on track and ensure that you too have even more reason to break in those new trainers in the New Year.

Confectionery has emerged as a North Shore specialty, with a number of celebrated spots producing world-class sweet treats.

Head over to visit Thomas Haas down by the Northshore Auto Mall for an entire catalogue’s worth of seasonally oriented chocolate creations, baking and decorative treats.

The Marshmallow Snowman, with its springy pillows of vanilla-scented marshmallow and hazelnuts coated in gianduja (the traditional hazelnut and chocolate spread upon which the famed Nutella is based) is a particularly unique and ornate invention but be warned: trying a proper marshmallow handcrafted by a master will forever spoil you against the mass-produced versions you bring camping every summer. Sorry kids. 604-924-1847

Chef Steven Hodge’s Temper Chocolate & Pastry in West Vancouver is one of the most festive spots in town right now, decorated throughout with painstakingly rendered Christmas creations including precision-screened chocolate puzzles, chocolate tree ornaments, spicy ginger bread biscuits and mugs of homemade eggnog lattes. His brioche doughnut with jam and pastry cream, sampled on a recent visit, was delicious and inspired.

While not technically a holiday treat, I suppose, its mainly red and white tones nevertheless qualified it for mention here (any excuse to have one of these is a good one). Temper also produces Buches de Noels (yule logs), available by pre-order. Flavours include chestnut, caramel apple, and raspberry cherry. 604-281-1152

Faubourg Paris at Park Royal, my year-round go-to spot for macarons, is also accepting pre-orders of Buches de Noels. Their lineup includes a gorgeous raspberry and lychee number in which mousse of the aforementioned fruit is fashioned into brightly coloured gift boxes and set atop a base of white chocolate studded with fresh raspberries.

A seasonal candy cane macaron is on offer and features a decidedly unusual peppermint ganache. It’s a very well-executed confection, but I am perhaps not the right audience for minty treats; I imagine those who relish mint sweets will love it. 604-922-7920

Artisan Bake Shoppe’s Markus and Ursula Jaeger, German certified backermeisters, still produce the best stollen available anywhere, in my opinion. The butter-dredged, sugar-rolled, semi-sweet seasonal bread, with its toasted nuts and fruits that have macerated in rum for 48 hours is, for me, one of the telltale signs of the arrival of the holidays and is the absolute perfect match for a double espresso. 604-990-3530

Our Arctic weather front, though due to pass soon, has recently prompted me to revisit some of my favourite cosy spots on the North Shore in seek of hearty seasonal comfort fare. To that end, there is perhaps no spot cosier than the ski chalet-like Hugo’s out by Eagle Harbour. A roaring fire, heavy, lounge-like furniture and a new winter menu are worth considering for a holiday party.

For those concerned about driving from the farthest depths of West Vancouver after a night out, you might consider brunch, a relatively new offering that Hugo’s rolled out in October. 604-281-2111

Another consistent, comfort-providing favourite, Burgoo down at the bottom of Lonsdale Avenue, is offering a seasonal cocktail list in addition to its usual rib-sticking stews. Holiday libation includes hot buttered rum, hot apple cider, and eggnog. The restaurant will be serving traditional turkey dinner later in the month, but at the time of this article’s publication, dates have not yet been set. 604-904-0933

Across the street at the Pinnacle at the Pier Hotel, the stylish Lobby Restaurant and lounge is kicking off two- and three-course Christmas lunches and four-course Christmas dinners on Dec. 8. Menu highlights include Lobster Bisque, Roast Turkey, Rack of Lamb, and, in a fantastically nostalgic move that could have been plucked from my early childhood when the dish was all the rage, Baked Alaska flambéed with rum. 604-986-7437

Bridge Brewing has released some holiday beers worth checking out, including a strong (nine per cent a.b.v.) Imperial Red Ale called Sleigh Booster, boasting deep notes of caramelized malt, as well as returning crowd-pleaser The Grinch seasonal ale. Previous experience trying to secure seasonal beers would suggest that you move quickly on visiting the brewery if you are interested in securing a supply. 604-770-2739

Finally, true to their name, Black Kettle Brewing has released some dark, brooding beers to hunker down with over the holidays, including a very limited quantity Black India Pale Ale as well as a deep, malty oatmeal stout called Keep the Lights Out. 604-987-9989

Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. North Shore News dining reviews are conducted anonymously and all meals are paid for by the newspaper.