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Secret weapons in the kitchen

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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.

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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.

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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