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President’s Choice party: Five point oh

(thanks to our local Loblaw’s manager who provided us with the President’s Choice Christmas tree last year!)

Yes, it’s our FIFTH year hosting our annual holiday/ President’s Choice party! I can hardly believe it! You can check out the history of this party in last year’s post…  (and before you start, I am not a huge purchaser of prepackaged foods but anyone who know the President’s stuff will tell you it really is just like homemade. Only with less prep! ;-)) This year, I had the special privilege of getting a sneak peek of some of the new PC products, as featured in this year’s Holiday Insider’s Report, courtesy of the kind folks at Hill & Knowlton.

First up, the Gourmet Belgian Chocolate Collection

From left to right: Chocomousse, Speculoos, Almond Praline, Stragiatelli, Chili Mousse, Cappuccino.

Verdict? These were no Léonidas, Neuhaus or Godiva but for $14 a box, they are a pretty nice hostess gift for the holiday season. I found them to be overly sweet (the chocolate on some of them is very thick on the outside, making it a little cloying) and some of the flavours were lost (the chili) whilst others were a little overwhelming (the coffee) but for supermarket chocolates, they are an excellent deal. Très classe, M. le Président!

Next up, Chocolate Fruit Fancies

Yes, these are chocolates – coloured white chocolate filled with not jelly but more like fruit paste.  These were not only one of the most eye-catching products, they were also a favourite, both at our party and in my staff room…

For $8 a box, these are an even more amazing deal than the Belgian chocolate collection.  The flavours are subtle, which is nice – the flavours are all natural so even though they look otherworldly and strange on the outside, the insides are luscious and fruity with no artificial flavour to be found. A winner.

My basket also included a gift card to spend as I liked so, on Saturday, Neil and I headed to Loblaw’s to check out the new products. I was stopped dead in my tracks by this:

In the freezer section no less…  Even Neil who is normally walking away from me taking photos in the supermarket was insistent that I take a shot of these… Of course, we *had* to try them.  They take 15 minutes to thaw and then, suspiciously, you are advised to “discard after 2 hours at room temperature”. Why?  I don’t think it’s a food safety issue – I let a couple of them sit out for that long and they were just soggy. But that’s disappointing. I am  not sure you would want to eat 12 at once (well….) but for a party where they were going to be consumed quickly, they would be fine.

And the taste?

The coffee and chocolate were my favourites.  Subtle.  The vanilla and raspberry were way too strong (the raspberry was filled with jam rather than ganache) but one minute after being officially thawed, they were the right texture and consistency.  A few minutes after that, maybe 15-20, they started to go soft.  But they look impressive and they have feet so I can’t be too critical.  I just hope folks don’t buy these and think they’ve tasted a real macaron.  Because there is no substitute for a fresh one.

We also bought our absolute favourite hors d’oeuvre… sausage rolls!

A throwback to my childhood where a sausage roll was a decadent treat for lunch (yes, we knew how to live it up Down Under in the 70s!) and a nod to Neil’s British mum who makes the most amazing homemade ones, these PC beauties are little bites of heaven.  Flaky pastry giving way to tasty sausage meat, dipped in tomato sauce (ketchup for you North Americans) and I am instantly transported back to my childhood :-)

My basket of goodies also included the President’s Choice jumbo cashews:

Dubbed “the world’s best” , these surely must be a contender.  They are, indeed, jumbo and there are hardly any broken bits. Perfect for those of you who (ahem) have been caught rummaging through the Christmas nut collection to get the cashews, your favourite.  I know my dad would LOVE these to the point where he would have to say ‘Take them away” so that he didn’t eat them all at once. Neil and I ate our way through the jar over a week. Ahem.

Further down in the basket, we discovered chocolate coated sponge toffee. YUM!  Not quite as good as Violet Crumble but way better than Crunchie, this was another childhood memory revived!

The sponge toffee was not as dense as a Violet Crumble but denser than the way too airy Crunchie and the chocolate coating not too thick. I was not sure why there had to be white chocolate drizzle on top – I prefer my chocolate covered sponge toffee unadulterated thank you very much. But this, I will be buying again. Not too often though, cos I would eat it too fast…

Another favourite we happened upon when we were shopping were these…

Perfect holiday hors d’oeuvres. Bite sized, flaky puff pastry and tasty morsels of beef. Feels like Christmas to me!

A friend arrived for the party excitedly brandishing this:

Yes, a new product we’d all had our eyes on in the Insider’s Report…

On a chocolate base with a red velvet cake exterior and a cream cheese interior, this was pretty much my idea of cheesecake perfection. Not too sweet (we cut tiny slices…), and gorgeous rich Christmasy colours.  It’s made me want to try making this myself….

Other favourites (especially amongst the littler guests at the party):

We tried hard to identify the 22 flavours without looking at the cheat sheet. It was not easy. These were just like Jelly Belly beans…

And here we go with the rest of the dishes…


Yes, an odd selection of sweet and savoury and not quite enough to make a meal proper out of the afternoon but an excellent way to taste some new products and some old favourites.  This is my favourite way to catch up with friends over the holidays – at a party where noone has to cook :-)  I wasn’t even stuck in teh kitchen reheating things for very long this year either!

What to drink with all that?

Why mulled wine, of course.

I suggested we try Jamie Oliver’s recipe which Neil turned his nose up at, claiming mulled wine did not need a recipe and he was right. A little bit of this and a little bit of that and it was perfect for the about-to-snow weather. Limoncello, Mandarine Napoléon, Cognac and Cointreau all made an appearance as did star anise and dried lime peel. Oranges and lemons were studded with cloves.  The house still smelled amazing today :-)

We had drinks for the non mulled-wine drinkers too…

Not too sweet (though a touch medicinal) this new sparkling fruit juice is a treat for sure (at $3 for four 250ml cans) but a pleasant change from overly sweet fizzy beverages. This could also have a splash of vodka to make it into an adult beverage…

Other non-alcoholic beverages were firm favourites from last year…

I hope you all have a chance to relax and enjoy your friends’ company enjoying good food and drinks and much laughter over the holidays too. Sometimes, it’s ok to not cook. Thanks, Mr President!

Disclosure: Hill and Knowlton provided me with Presidents Choice products for the purpose of reviewing them. I did not receive financial compensation for writing this post and all opinions expressed are my own.

My holiday gift to you? Enter my giveaway to win a copy of Harold McGee’s new book, Keys to Good Cooking?  Simply leave a comment here before Wednesday, December 8th at 6pm EST.  Open to all, wherever you live!

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50 Responses to President’s Choice party: Five point oh

  1. Blog is the New Black December 7, 2010 at 05:29 #

    Wow, all of those look delicious!!!

  2. Pauline December 7, 2010 at 05:55 #

    Just jealous – x

  3. Jenn December 7, 2010 at 06:57 #

    Oh those truffles….drool.

  4. Amy at TheSceneFromMe December 7, 2010 at 06:57 #

    What a great variety! I would love the macaroons!

  5. fooddreamer December 7, 2010 at 07:02 #

    I had to stop by when I saw the title of this post because I adore PC products, and miss them desperately now that I live in the US. There just isn’t anything comparable down here. Loblaws scored a homerun when they came up with that brand, and most of their products keep being hits, every single time!

  6. Brenda December 7, 2010 at 07:06 #

    What a fun read! We love PC products and shop pretty exclusively at Loblaws/No Frills. I enjoyed all your reviews, thank you!

  7. cat December 7, 2010 at 07:27 #

    oh, this post makes me jealous!!! and makes me want to send steve shopping in windsor with a couple big coolers next time he heads to ann arbor for work . . . :) i can’t complain too much though – we are in fact having PC thai chicken for dinner tonight – one of the last bottles of cooking sauce from the stockpile we picked up in toronto over the summer!

  8. Ayngelina December 7, 2010 at 08:35 #

    I must admit that as much as I like to cook my own party food, PC products are really good.

  9. Belinda @zomppa December 7, 2010 at 08:43 #

    Five years? That’s incredible. Those little fruit things are so colorful.

  10. Sara December 7, 2010 at 08:57 #

    Who knew that such high quality store-bought products existed? Wow!

  11. ping December 7, 2010 at 09:51 #

    Gosh! Wish we have them here, they would make my life so much easier … esp this coming xmas!

  12. Sara @CaffeIna December 7, 2010 at 11:34 #

    I don’t much prepackage food but it really seems to me they have a great selection of yummy stuff. I would totally go for that chocolate :)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:26 #

      Yes they have a wonderful selection at reasonable prices with healthy choices – what more could you ask for?

  13. notyet100 December 7, 2010 at 17:58 #

    luv the macroons,..;-)

  14. tasteofbeirut December 7, 2010 at 18:35 #

    i had been talking to my kids about trying a red velvet cheesecake and bam! looks like it is being done and well! My daughter took one look at this and said she would eat the whole thing!

  15. penny aka jeroxie December 7, 2010 at 19:31 #

    Awesome!! Have a good one yourself babe.

  16. Neil @ Communal Table December 7, 2010 at 20:21 #

    We also tend to stay away from packaged goods as much as possible, but most PC products are quite good. We recently gave away a PC Insiders Report prize on Communal Table, and it was all I could do to stop myself from opening the Gourmet Belgian Chocolate Collection and the Fruit Fancies. Alas, they’ve now gone to the contest winner, so I think I’ll have to go buy myself some to try.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:25 #

      I am not much into other prepared foods but I know the quality of PC stuff can always be trusted. if I were single, I would probably live on the stuff.

  17. Paula December 7, 2010 at 21:47 #

    What a thoroughly entertaining review post of President’s Choice holiday product line. As always, your photographs are wonderful, especially loved the shot of the candy coated chocolates and the jelly beans (perhaps I favour primary colours???) I think it is awesome that you share your PC bounty with friends and what a great idea to host a party around all of it. Bet it was a hoot!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:25 #

      We always have a laugh – it started out very small years ago but now it’s a full-blown pig out. We all starve ourselves the day before to fit all the goodies in!

  18. Nancy@acommunaltable December 7, 2010 at 23:17 #

    What a fun afternoon Mardi!! Truly wish we had something comparable here in the U.S. but alas, no luck!!

  19. Carine December 8, 2010 at 01:33 #

    Oh my goodness I want those chocolates and those macarons!!!

  20. veggietestkitchen December 8, 2010 at 01:57 #

    Let’s face it. This is an awesome idea. And the best part is that your prep time is cut by hours (and hours and hours…) and you get to try a variety of good food. You should try to get President’s Choice to sponsor your next party. You’re promoting them. Why not try to just write to them, and hopefully next year you’ll have a wonderful story to share with us about how you got PC to host your party!

    BTW, frozen macaroons? Dream come true…or maybe not. I guess it depends on whether you can eat them during the short window of their peak performance =)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:24 #

      Well PC did sent me a whole lot of the treats described in the post to try so it’s definitely a start And no, I am not convinced about the macarOns… not at all…

  21. Anna Johnston December 8, 2010 at 03:19 #

    Green with envy ;)

  22. Jackie December 8, 2010 at 06:20 #

    So jealous. All of this looks so darn good! You guys get such good give-aways/offers. Nobody in the UK seems to care! Sad times indeed for this Feeder Lady.

    If I ever make it up to Toronto, remind me to come at this time of year ;)

    Jax x

  23. Suzie the Foodie December 8, 2010 at 08:47 #

    An impressive array of treats! How odd those macaroons started to get soggy, weird! I tried to remember that those were Belgian chocolates, not truffles. No way they could compete with Godiva, I agree, but for $14 it is quite a deal. I think those coloured fruit chocolates were a home run for the price and just for the novelty of them. Nicely done Mardi! That was a lot of food to write about at once.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:22 #

      Well I am not surprised the macarOns went soggy – they’re not treats to be frozen. And yes, the chocolates are a total steal for the price!

  24. Helene December 8, 2010 at 11:39 #

    Great post. I love PC products and can’t wait to try new products this year.

  25. Steve Zussino December 8, 2010 at 13:14 #

    I could not find the Chocolate Fruit Fancies in Victoria, BC.

    They look good!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 13, 2010 at 19:21 #

      Perhaps they were testing the market over here first? Everyone I know who has tried them loved them!

  26. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction December 8, 2010 at 21:29 #

    Those chocolates look FABULOUS… Actually, everything looks wonderful. Wish we had President’s Choice here.

  27. Conor @ Hold the Beef December 12, 2010 at 05:38 #

    Aw Mardi this has made me miss you AND Canada all at once, but it’s a strange feeling combined with nostalgia of getting stuck into a good old sausage roll and sauce, possibly with a little carton of choc milk (my favourite primary school lunch).

  28. Tonya @ What's On My Plate December 12, 2010 at 19:18 #

    this is totally my dream party! I love President’s Choice products.

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