Secret weapons in the kitchen

By Jessica Wong, CBCNews.ca

A sparkling wit, magnetic personality or perhaps the ability to pour a great cocktail may be the secret weapon of some people, but for me, my ace in the hole tends come from the kitchen.

It's satisfying to concoct something delicious from scratch, but I take equal pleasure in introducing friends and family to amazing food finds, be it a tapenade sweetened with mission figs or a luscious chili-laced chocolate sauce.

As the holiday season approaches, I get to stock up on these types of products because of the many seasonal food fairs and craft shows popping up.

Roger and Joyce Lambert of Hamilton, Ont., who carefully ferment their flavourful vinegars, are among the passionate Canadian food artisans at the Toronto One of a Kind Show. (Jessica Wong/CBC)

One of my personal favourites is the massive One of a Kind Show in Toronto, where — over the years — I've met all sorts of interesting and passionate crafts people, fashion and jewelry designers, artisans and specialty food producers from across Canada.

The so-called "food court" is a special highlight amid the countless aisles of hand-crafted goods.

Some might question spending, say, $12 on tins of fiery spice mix or $8 on a bottle of lovingly brewed vinegar, but for me it's an easy way to infuse a basic pork chop and green salad supper with a touch of gourmet flare.

With so many of us trying to stretch our food dollars these days by eating home-cooked meals more often, it's also an affordable luxury that can make brown-bagging your lunch or staying in for dinner a touch more like eating out — all the while continuing to supporting Canadian producers.