Category Archives: Gift Baskets Vancouver

Title image with product shot of various chocolates

At Beta 5 Creating Chocolate Is A Work Of Art

14 Jun

You’d be excused for thinking the storefront of a chocolatier hidden in an industrial area of Vancouver wouldn’t be particularly busy on a Thursday afternoon. But the steady traffic of customers showed that people obviously know where to find them.

BETA5 Retail Space

Beta 5 was created by Adam Chandler and Jessica Rosinski, who had a creative vision for pushing the boundaries of chocolate. The name Beta 5 refers to the form-5 beta crystal structure, a stable form of cocoa butter crystallization that is created when chocolate is properly tempered.

I visited Beta 5 to learn about their unique approach to chocolate. As Adam gave me a tour of their kitchens, he shared their philosophy and how they take great care in the process, opting for methods that are more time consuming but yield a better product.

BETA5 Adam Portrait infront of fridge holding tray of choclates

Why did you start Beta 5?

Adam: It was the desire to have a creative outlet.

I had spent 10 years in the industry working for other people and while I still had my own creative vision, it was always being influenced by the people I worked for.

In pastry, you are limited in the opportunities available to you, so the purpose of Beta 5 was to have a space where we could explore our creative vision we saw for pastry and chocolate.

BETA5 CreamPuffs

What inspires your work?

Adam: There’s not really one thing in particular. For a lot of the core product, it starts with the ingredient. We want to showcase the qualities of main ingredient.

For example for the Okanagan dark chocolate cherries, we don’t want either the chocolate or the cherries to overwhelm each other. We search for the best quality cherries we can find and then pair them with chocolate that goes well with those particular cherries.

There’s a lot of stuff we do that is a lot more out of the box. In those instances we pull inspiration from any number of places. An idea like camping, outer space or tropical vacation and then work backwards and try to tell the story. We use textures, flavours and colours that convey the bigger idea and start to tell the story.

BETA5 chocolate production

What makes Beta 5 different?

Adam: The creative approach we take. While we want to do things differently, we really want to challenge ourselves and see what is possible.

A lot of others do what has been done before. We like to push the boundaries, using vegetables and different ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think of pastry and chocolate.

We want to explore the possibilities of those types of ingredients to create something different and add something new to the conversation.

A lot of chocolate is rich and comforting and perfect for winter. We paired cucumber, mint and chocolate because we wanted to come up with a flavour that would be light, crisp and refreshing. Something that people would want to eat in summer.

verdantforce product photo

What are the values that drive Beta 5?

Adam: The two things more important to us than creativity are quality and consistency.

Our creativity has no value if we aren’t putting out a quality product, consistently. We want people to depend on us as a supplier and know that everything we produce is the highest quality. We need to develop that trust so we can push the envelope and have people take a risk and try the new things we create.

Describe a typical day at Beta 5

Adam: There really isn’t a typical day at Beta 5. We designed it that way.

Things are much more repetitive in bigger production environments and we wanted to be inspired to come to work.

BETA5 chocolate production

We run a small, well-trained production team who are trained in everything. Each day there is a lot of variety. The day could be spent making bars or caramelizing nuts or pebbles or polishing and painting molds. The only typical part is that it’s a day spent around chocolate.

For me the variety makes for a more enjoyable experience.

At Saul Good Gift Co. many of our gift baskets include Beta 5’s delicious chocolates. You can see the full section here

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Title images of MEC staff in front of a MEC storefront

Inside MEC HQ: 3 Tips Employers Can Learn from Employee Recognition Initiatives

06 Apr

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a company with a mission. They want to inspire people to lead active outdoor lifestyles while being environmentally sustainable and respectful to the world around them. We think we’re in love!

MEC values their culture and strive to create an environment full of people that share their passion for the outdoors, and for social and environmental change. Water cooler chat is often about recent or planned outdoor adventures, current issues, or simply where to find the best locally grown produce.

In 2016 MEC’s employee engagement was rated at 74%, an impressive 8% higher than the national average. In 2016 they were also recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.

Pull quote and polaroid-style photos of MEC staff

According to Gallup, a critical component of employee engagement is recognition. Workplace recognition motivates employees, providing a self of accomplishment and helps them to feel valued. It also helps increase productivity and retention.

At Saul Good Gift Co, we’re proud to work with MEC to help them provide ongoing recognition to their employees. We’re inspired by this company and the good they are trying to do in the world. We wanted to see what’s under the hood at MEC HQ and what they are doing that makes MEC such a great company to work for. We talked to Anne Scott, MEC’s HR Coordinator to get the inside scoop.

What does MEC’s employee recognition program look like?

Anne: We recognize employees in a number of different ways at MEC, and sometimes a gift box adds a celebratory touch.  Some examples of when we might do this would be: the kick-off or completion of big projects, thank-you gifts for jobs well done, recognizing employee life events like newborns or weddings, and celebrating work events like milestone anniversaries, new managers, new store openings etc.

What challenges were you trying to solve when recognizing your employees?

Anne: We wanted to have some consistency in what employees received for certain events, which is very difficult with having locations across the country. We needed to make it easy for us – having a “go-to” vendor for each type of gift.

We strive to have good quality and meaningful gifts and awards. Something that is reflective of MEC’s values as well as the values of the recipient.

Pull quote and flat-lay image of sample products included in gift baskets

This means aligning ourselves with companies like Saul Good Gift Co, that are ethical, local, community oriented, and have sustainable practices as it relates to environmental impact.

What has been the impact of your employee recognition initiatives? 

Anne: We hear many comments about how receiving the gift is thoughtful, and that it makes staff feel appreciated. We’ve found that receiving a gift box is exciting and meaningful for people. They really feel valued because it’s noticed by colleagues when it arrives, making for a celebration of sort.

How has Saul Good Gift Co helped you achieve your employee recognition goals?

Anne: At MEC we care about how and where the products we sell are made – it’s important to our members and our staff. Saul Good Gift Co makes sure that their ingredients are presented in a way that exudes “local” and their statement or story about what drives them. This is something that is very appreciated by MEC staff, so the visibility of these stories within the gift itself is very important. It helps us, as an employer, convey to our employees that we care.

The quality and variety of the product surpasses that of any other “gift basket” vendor that I’ve been able to find. The team at Saul Good is responsive, flexible and personable – which makes them a pleasure to deal with.

3 Tips other employers can learn from MEC’s employee recognition initiatives

1. Make it about more than work.

MEC makes a point to celebrate milestones in people’s lives as well as their good work. This makes people feel important and valued beyond the work they do.

2. Where there is an opportunity, celebrate your employee with their colleagues.

MEC found that gifts are meaningful for people. The celebration that comes with receiving a gift elevates the feeling of appreciation.

3. Align your company values with the gifts and recognition you deliver.

At MEC gifts are selected because they are local, sustainable and have a story. For example, Saul Good Gift Co, products come from Vancouver artisans. They are packaged by Starworks Packaging & Assembly, a social enterprise established by the Developmental Disabilities Association. When a MEC employee receives one of these gifts, they feel connected to their local community and know that MEC cares.

Our favourite gift baskets for MEC staff include the Department Party, Confectionist and Fancy-Full.

Product shots of the gift baskets showing their ingredients


At East Van Roasters, Chocolate is a Vehicle for Social Change

11 Nov



Vancouver has many fine chocolate shops but East Van Roasters is one-of-a-kind. Located in the Downtown Eastside, EVR is a business with social change baked right into the DNA.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton founded East Van Roasters in 2013 as a non-profit social enterprise. Her mission was to create a training and employment program for the women residents of the Rainier Hotel located above the chocolate factory on Carrall Street.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


The women in the program face multiple barriers to employment and East Van Roasters serves as a place where they can develop skills and build their resumes before rejoining the general workforce.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


The business recently expanded to include a second location half a block away. The new location houses a retail bakery as well as the confection production facilities, while the original location operates as the Vancouver’s only bean-to-bar chocolate factory/coffee shop.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


The social impact of East Van Roasters extends beyond the local level. The chocolate at EVR is made in-house from responsibly sourced cacao beans. This means that the farmers that grew the beans were paid fairly. This is chocolate you can feel good about buying and giving as a gift.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Making chocolate is a long process that requires skill and attention to detail. Shelley and her team start with carefully selected raw cacao beans. The beans are sorted, roasted, cracked, winnowed, ground, refined and tempered before being molded into fine chocolate bars and bonbons.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


If you are a dark chocolate purist, you should try their single origin bars. They are made to highlight the unique flavour properties of the cacao beans. For a real treat, try a couple of bars side-by-side and observe the differences. A bar made of beans from Madagascar will taste drastically different to a bar made of Ecuadorian beans.


Jasmine Lukuku of ChocolateCodex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Jasmine Lukuku of Chocolate Codex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


If you prefer a sweeter treat, EVR has a selection of flavoured bars and delightful filled chocolates and truffles. Some recent standouts include the chocolate dipped cacao nib toffee and layered truffles featuring pâte de fruit. The fillings and inclusions are all selected to work in harmony with the chocolate. Love Nutella? EVR sells its own chocolate nut butters; perfect for slathering on toast or eating with a spoon.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Saul Good is proud to include East Van Roasters chocolate in many of our Vancouver Gift Baskets and Canada gift baskets. 




About the Author




Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.


She co-founded to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex





About the Photographer

leah bio



Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   


View more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site 

Celebrating BC Jam Masters

01 Jun


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


In BC, we are blessed with an incredible selection of lovingly handmade jams. From the Gulf Islands to the Rocky Mountains, there are numerous jam masters cooking up potent preserves with juicy local fruits. In addition to the fresh ingredients, there are jam recipes in BC that can be traced back through multiple generations. Handmade local food tells us stories about our diverse local culture. When we share these foods together, we build community.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



Our team at Saul Good Gift Co. had recently been searching for a jam to go into our gourmet gift baskets. This process has been extremely difficult. There are simply too many amazing options! In order to find the right jam, we asked local artisans to submit their jam for a contest. After selecting four finalists that we adore, we asked folks from our community to help us decide. We gathered at the Capilano Tea House in Vancouver BC. Attendees sampled jams on bannock and sipped handcrafted tea.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


This jam tasting event was attended by a variety of folks from our community. There were bankers, lawyers, financial planners, real estate developers, property managers, web developers, food bloggers, chefs, nutritionists, coffee roasters, local business enthusiasts…and a toddler. It was a great mix of people who offered a diverse range of input to help us decide.

Saul Good BC Jam Contest Finalists

East Van Jam 



East Van jams are a work of art. The jars are adorned with a variety of fun characters and the product quality is superb. Natalie captures the experience of fresh local BC fruit that is gathered seasonally. She keeps the sugar low so that you can enjoy wholesome goodness while keeping your blood sugar levels on an even keel. Indulge deeper into the narrative here: East Van Jam  You can also salivate over fresh Instagram photos: @eastvanjam



SaltSpring Kitchen Co. 



The anchor on the jar of Saltspring Kitchen Co. jam is an appropriate symbol. Melanie is an anchor for the perpetual momentum of island artisan excellence. She is a pro with her products and she paints your palette with both sweet and savory ingredients. These jams are fun to combine with other gourmet foods. Check out the Pairing Guide here: SaltSpring Kitchen Co.  and follow the island vibes on Instagram: @saltspringkitchenco







The kitskitchen’s  claim to fame is their nourishing local soups. They are rooted in a mission to make lifestyles healthier and easier. In their soups and jams, they allow the organic ingredients to speak for themselves. The goodness of their products seems to soak into your cells and make them smile. You can learn more about their offerings: kitskitchen and follow them on Instagram:  @kitskitchen 


Le Meadow’s Pantry 



At an early age, Geneviève fell in love with harvesting and foraging. Her jam style is influenced by her lineage and her travels in Europe. Le Meadow’s Pantry cooks classic jam using a traditional copper pot method. Learn more about Geneviève’s creations: Le Meadow’s Pantry and follow her on Instagram: @lemeadowspantry 






We are excited to find opportunities to include these jams in customized corporate gift programs. For our year-round gourmet gifts, we have selected Le Meadow’s Pantry Blueberry Honey Jam. Based on the feedback we received, it is ideal for a wide audience. 

Jam Tasting Slideshow – Photography by Leah Villalobos Bartok

About the photographer

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.55.34 PM


Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities. You can view more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site 




Chef Annabelle Choi’s charcoal sourdough made with local grains

05 May
Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Annabelle Choi is a talented chef and baker based in Vancouver. She was trained at Ballymaloe, the world-renowned cooking school located on an organic farm in Ireland. She’s known for her sourdough bread making workshops; events that sell out within hours of being announced.


We met up with Annabelle on a sunny spring afternoon in the kitchen of Elysian Coffee to talk about her approach to cooking and her love of Canadian-grown products by GRAIN. The series of photos below capture the process of making her legendary charcoal sourdough. 




Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



How did your education at Ballymaloe inform your food philosophy?


Ballymaloe was one of many things that helped me understand the significance of honouring where our food comes from…before it even hits our cutting boards as chefs. The 100-acre organic farm and surrounding natural permaculture illustrated what it means to respect the art of terroir, and how it’s so essential to stay humble in one’s craft, as we’re just mere instruments trying to communicate the true work that is done before it even reaches our hands.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah




What are your favorite local grains to work with when making baked goods?


I usually exclusively use GRAIN for their legumes & wheat grains, and Anita’s Flour for my bread making needs when I’m doing large orders.




How did you discover GRAIN products?


It’s hard to pinpoint as it feels like GRAIN has always been my go-to grain provider, but I think I started using their products right as they started reaching out to wholesale clients. Shira (co-founder of GRAIN) would come into Matchstick Coffee Roasters where I founded an all natural bread program at the time, and we got to geeking out over bread and legumes. I used them for one of my first pop-up dinner events for Kinfolk Magazine, and I was hooked!



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



Do you notice a difference in quality between local grain and legume products and the mass market products?


Definitely. When you have a smaller, localized purveyor who cares about their community, consistent quality, and customer relationships, you get a product that doesn’t need much manipulation if at all to create beautiful tasty dishes.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



Mass produced bread products have a list of the following: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% or less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), DATEM, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness)… I don’t know about you, but the latter just scares me as I can’t even pronounce half of it.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



How do you approach working with an unfamiliar ingredient?


I research first, then play, then dial it in. Usually, someone has done a lot of work trying to figure out where that ingredient came from, and what it’s original purpose was in the natural world. I think if I can first understand that, then I can best honour its potential as an inspiring part of a dish or product.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Have you ever had a kitchen disaster that resulted in a great new creation? A happy accident?


Oh man, those situations are ones that I think chefs/cooks both hope and fear for haha. I’ve definitely had my share. Most start with me looking sad at first at the object of my initial failed attempt, but then pushing myself to be creative so I don’t create waste, which usually results in happy, interesting outcomes or at the very least, lessons learnt!


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



Do you have any Vancouver food heroes?


One of my all time favourite chefs to have collaborated and eaten with was Jesse McCleery out on Galiano Island. He is co-owner of Pilgrimme Restaurant and is one of my local food heroes as he truly respects where his ingredients come from. Jesse is incredibly humble about his work, where the dishes really celebrate the terroir and aren’t overly plated/precious.


Another would be Kris Barnholden from Latab Restaurant in Vancouver. Kris has an excellent palate, considerate and well-thought-out menus where he also celebrates the narrative of his ingredients quite beautifully.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah




Your sourdough bread making classes are very popular. What are your students most surprised to learn about the bread-making process?


Yes, it’s pretty exciting to see so many folks interested in all natural sourdough! I think what most students find surprising during the class is the amount of time and work that is needed for one batch of bread. As someone who personally celebrates the process in all things, I think it’s a very important lesson to learn for folks who are leading busy lives, and are used to modern conveniences. It kind of puts things into perspective and calls on a simpler time when life wasn’t always dictated by money as a means of currency. I think understanding the narrative, from ingredients to the transformation of a simple grain, can become inspiring and worth pursuing.



Annabelle’s charcoal sourdough (below). 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



What advice do you have for the novice home cook who would like to include more local grains in their diet?


Start small, and give into the fear that it might f-up at the first try, and just go for it. I mean, if you can boil water you’re already past the novice stage when it comes to grains. Just remember that grains need to be broken down in some way to make the nutrients available to you, whether that’s by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



How can our readers find out about your upcoming workshops and events?


The best way to find out about upcoming workshops and events are to head over to my Instagram or Twitter account, @annabellechoistudio, or check out my Facebook page: Annabelle Choi Studio. I also encourage those who are looking to sign-up for bread workshops specifically should email me to be put on the waitlist, as they sell out fast:


We want to give a big THANK YOU to Elysian Coffee for lending us their kitchen and to Shira from GRAIN for providing products for this photo shoot. 


You can find local GRAIN products in Saul Good Gifts: Kitchen sink and Superior staples (below).

new home gift vancouver


About the author



Jasmine is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.


She co-founded to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine on Instagram: @chocolatecodex




About the Photographer

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.55.34 PM


Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   


View more of her work on Instagram:  @photogbyleahv and browse through her site 


[Recipe] Canadian Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter

07 Oct
Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

A Lighter Take on Fall Comfort Food


With Fall, we enter comfort food season. And what is more comfortable on Thanksgiving than a good old-fashioned sage bread stuffing? Some of my most cherished food memories involve sitting down at the holiday table and diving into my mother’s homemade bread stuffing. Gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, everything else was a means to that comfortable, aromatic goodness.


However, that same comforting goodness also tends to make you feel heavy and tired. It also doesn’t make for much of a meal, should you have any vegetarians at the table. Think of the recipe below as a solution to both problems. With the profound aromas of leek, brown butter, and sage, this dish has many of the warm, comforting qualities of an old-fashioned bread stuffing without the heaviness.


And for the vegetarians at the table, this dish is packed with protein. Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain boasts 6 grams of protein per serving and cooked chickpeas offer 15 grams of protein per cup. So this dish allows vegetarians to savour the autumnal comfort of Thanksgiving dinner while also enjoying balanced nutrition.


Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter


1 Kabocha squash, about 5 pounds

1 tsp butter

Generous pinch Vancouver Island Sea Salt

1/3 cup onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp butter

1 bay leaf

1 ½ cups Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain

1 ½ cups vegetable stock

Pinch Vancouver Island Sea Salt

1/3 cup butter

1 ½ tbl fresh sage, sliced fine

¾ cup leeks, diced fine

1/3 cup carrots, diced

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup raw cashews

1/3 cup raw pistachios, shelled

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 cup cooked chickpeas

1 tbl red wine vinegar

Vancouver Island Sea Salt to taste

Fresh cracked pepper to taste


1)       Preheat your oven to 350F. As it heats, take the squash and slice off the top, about an inch below the stem, so that it will make a nice bowl. Scoop it out, place a teaspoon of butter inside and season with a generous pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Place the squash on a parchment lined baking sheet and place into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Then take the squash out of the oven, spread the melted butter around the interior with a pastry brush, flip the squash upside down, and place back into the oven until roasted, about 45 minutes.


2)       As the squash cooks, place 2 teaspoons of butter into a medium-sized pot, along with the diced onion, minced garlic, bay leaf, and a nice pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Sweat over medium-low heat until the onion is transparent.


3)       Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and then add the golden quinoa. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the moisture. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, replace the lid, and set it aside.


4)       Heat a large pan and add the remaining 1/3 cup of butter. Cook the butter over medium heat until it has finished sizzling and the solids begin to brown. When your brown butter is ready, the milk solids will have taken on a medium brown colour and the butter will give off a sweet, nutty aroma. Remove the pan form the heat, so as not to let it burn, and add the sage.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


5)       Once the sage has finished sizzling, about 5 or 10 seconds, add the leeks, carrots, bay leaf, and a nice pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and sweat until the leeks are transparent and the carrots soften, about 5 minutes.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


6)       Add the cashews, pistachios, and cranberries, stir to combine, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


7)       Add the chickpeas and quinoa, stir to combine evenly, and heat the entire mixture through. Season to taste. Flip your cooked squash upright by grabbing the parchment paper underneath it to lift it gently from the pan.


8)       Fill your squash with the finished quinoa mixture, garnish as desired, and serve.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


This recipe serves 6-8 as a side dish or 3-4 as a main course.


Prep time: 15 minutes


Total cooking time: 90 minutes


This blog post and recipe were created by writer and chef, Charles Macurdy (below)

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Lovable local dry goods – Vancouver Island Salt & Saskatchewan Quinoa by Grain

07 Oct

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Eating local is not all about produce and protein. Sometimes, the most pleasant surprise comes in the form of a locally produced dry good you may never have considered was locally available. 


Here are two beautiful, Canadian products which not only boast lower carbon footprints than their imported counterparts, but they also give you a different look at some familiar staples. 


Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain

If you don’t think that you like quinoa, it’s probably because you have only experienced other varieties. The usual white commercial quinoa tends to get mushy. This can make it hard to use because the texture and flavour are working against you.


Golden quinoa is a much different product. When cooked, it retains a nice tooth. While it’s not exactly crunchy, neither does it get mushy by the time it’s cooked through. In that sense, the texture is reminiscent of red quinoa.


Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


At the same time, golden quinoa also has a pleasant, nutty flavour. The flavour and aroma are distinct from that of red quinoa, even though the textures are similar. Canadian farmers have been cultivating their unique brand of golden quinoa for years, resulting in a product which cooks and eats like no grain you have ever tasted.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah


Because it remains fluffy when cooked, golden quinoa substitutes perfectly for cous cous. Not only is this a high protein alternative with a lower glycemic load, but its nutty flavour adds an earthy dimension that cous cous never would.


Vancouver Island Sea Salt


When you taste this salt, you taste the west coast. If you have ever gone swimming in the ocean here, you will recognize its flavour in this sea salt.


One of the first things you will notice about Vancouver Island sea salt is that it appears clumpy. Its texture is due to the unique profile of nutrients found in British Columbia’s waters. When you harvest sea salt, those delicious impurities remain in the salt and leave it feeling almost like wet sand.



Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah



So, while it does not pour like ordinary table salt, neither does it taste like ordinary salt. You can almost taste the entire coastline, kelp-lined shores, and dark green waters of British Columbia. A few grains on your tongue and you have the taste of a summer day, emerging from the ocean after dunking your head below the waves.


This also makes it the perfect choice for seasoning some of our beautiful local seafood. What better to season a fresh salmon fillet than salt extracted from the very water where it swam? Its unique, briny character also pairs well with vegetables and fits into almost any savoury application. 


You can find these products in our Kitchen Sink new home gift basket (below)


Kitchen Sink - New home gift basket



You can play with these dry goods and make the delicious seasonal entree below: [Recipe] Canadian Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Eliminating the noise – Canadian chocolate legend Thomas Haas

17 Sep

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6569-EDIT

When we met Thomas Haas in person, he was warm and welcoming. His chocolate shop is a thoughtfully designed space where you can feel comfy and at home. When chatting with him, we discussed how important it is to be yourself and never waste time comparing yourself to other people.



Being authentic is one of Thomas’ secrets to success. It is interesting that this attitude is extended into how he works with chocolate. We are delighted to feature some of Thomas’ delicacies in our chocolate gifts and we are fascinated by how and why these chocolates are so delicious. The following is a review that dives into the details of Thomas Haas treats – thoughtfully prepared by local chef and writer Charles Macurdy.


Thomas Haas practices a very direct approach to chocolate.


Consider his dark chocolate bark. It is simply a disc of 79% cocoa dark chocolate, studded with dried fruit and a few nuts. That cocoa mass is substantial enough that you have a very rich dark chocolate, but not enough that it throws the whole thing out of balance.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6568-EDIT

The orange rind and dried cranberries play off the bitterness in the chocolate, but also emphasize some light, fruity notes which might otherwise go unnoticed. Meanwhile, a few blanched almonds and slivered pistachios help to draw out the more earthy tones. So, at first blush, it might appear a bit simple. But it becomes a more and more elegant presentation of chocolate’s true character the more you eat it. When you have a perfectly handled piece of chocolate like this, all you need is a little something to help the chocolate speak for itself.


Letting chocolate speak for itself


His hazelnut crisp shows you another look entirely. Here, you have a small bite of exceptionally smooth milk chocolate paired with a big hazelnut flavour. Again, it is a very familiar combination. Anyone who has ever tasted Nutella will understand it immediately. Except that here, the hazelnut is in a crispy praline, so there is a delicate crunch when you bite into it.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6660-EDIT

The creamy texture of the milk chocolate wraps around the crispy praline and the flavours of hazelnut and chocolate pair with a light caramel flavoured backdrop. Suddenly, a familiar thing has become a subtle surprise.

chocolate gift baskets

And what this all illustrates is the way that a skilled hand can manage chocolate without feeling the need to make it complicated. You can almost hear him saying “I don’t have to wow you. The chocolate will take care of that.”


Flavours as a counterpoint


His focus is on more familiar pairings, presented in with a delicate and refined touch. Of course, there are still a few surprises, like ginger, cardamom, thyme, and even matcha green tea. But they all seem to make sense.


Consider the chai bark. It is basically the same thing as the dark chocolate bark, except that the base is a spice infused milk chocolate. And as you eat it, within the smoothness of the chocolate, the spices of chai present themselves. So as you taste the cardamom and cinnamon, you get an almond or a cranberry and, just like with the dark bark, they round out and counterpoint the other flavours.


But as you taste the spices, the chocolate, the fruit, and the nuts together, you start to realize that this is not only the flavour of chai, but the whole thing together starts to take on the character of fruit cake. And once you notice it, you start to see how much sense it makes. Almost like the comparison was always obvious. Simple things, executed with restraint and skill, can make for truly novel surprises.



Honey sweetens our local economy

15 Aug



Vanilla infused honey drizzles nicely on toast and melts perfectly into black tea. As that sweetness dances on your tastebuds, it is interesting to take pause and reflect on the hardworking honey bees and how incredibly important they are. In addition to being nature’s little artisans, their pollination is essential to local food production. 




The honey we feature in our local gourmet gift baskets is from Mellifera Bees. Borrowing its name from the Latin Apis Mellifera, or “honey-bearing bee,” Mellifera Bees was founded by beekeeper Melissa Cartwright, whose first name means “honey bee.” She harvests honey from backyards and rooftops in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. It is unprocessed and infused with organic and fair trade ingredients from independent BC businesses.

Local bc honey                         Melissa Cartwright (photo by Tara Dwelsdorf for This Fair Land)


Like many local artisans, Melissa has seen some good success with her products. However, she faces a unique business challenge, because her bees are a vulnerable workforce. The decline in bee populations has been a serious global issue over the past decade. In order to maintain a steady supply of honey, Melissa needs to have a diverse selection of local hives.


gift baskets and honey bc



In addition to a reverence of honey bees and delicious honey, there is a growing awareness that the loss of pollinators would cause tremendous devastation to our local food systems, natural habitats and our local economies.


According to the British Bee-keepers Association, honey bees contribute more to their local economy than the royal family.



When you purchase locally harvested honey, you are supporting local bees and their lovely neighbourhood bee keepers. Your are also nourishing your body with awesome nutritional benefits. You can find Mellifera Bees Honey in our Vancouver Foodie gift, our Local Gourmand gift, The Locavore and The Key to Vancouver. You can also follow Melissa on instagram: @mellifera_bees and catch her Friday bee facts on twitter: @MelliferaBees


local bc honey



As you enjoy your toast and tea with honey, you can further support pollinators by planting flowering plants. According to Melissa, honey bees love purple flowers, such as Lavender. In addition to assisting pollinators, this resilient fragrant flower can endure periods of drought.

bees up close






An ordinary warehouse improving local business & local economy

06 Jul

Vancouver gift baskets - BC social enterprise


Our story begins on a Thursday morning at 8am. Sunlight and fresh air flow through the Starworks warehouse as pallets are received from the loading dock.  There is a calm busyness as each employee completes tasks at their work stations. Saul Good gift basket orders flow through. Projects for other local companies are completed simultaneously. It all seems quite ordinary, but there is much more to the story.


Starworks Packaging and Assembly is an innovative social enterprise that was started by the Developmental Disabilities Association 15 years ago. Starworks provides accessible jobs for adults with barriers to employment and scalable business solutions that help local companies to grow. This self-sustaining enterprise thrives, because they do great work. They do not receive any funding from the government. 


Creating Accessible Jobs 

When someone is hired at Starworks, they focus on abilities and determine what is needed for employees to succeed.  

“If someone is doing something backwards, we could take a day to teach them the ‘right’ way…or simply invert their workstation. Sue (one of the core staff members) knows how to build work stations that accommodate each individual’s skill set.” explains Kirsti Inglis, the Assistant Director of Employment Services at the Developmental Disabilities Association.



The small talk and smell of coffee bounce around with the buzz of the work day. As we chat with Sue, she tells us about a Starworks employee named Marie (above), who is publishing a kids book. 


The profound qualities of this enterprise live within the ordinary. It isn’t a black tie fundraising gala. It is just hardworking folks getting the job done. 


It is these everyday people doing everyday jobs that build our economy. When we make jobs more accessible, we are employing a greater percentage of our local citizens. This keeps money circulating in our local economy and creates benefits for all of us.

gift baskets - social enterprise


Everyone deserves the opportunity to work hard, get paid properly, and feel satisfied at the end of the day.


Will (assembling a Saul Good gift above) is one of many awesome Starworks employees. He is one of the hardest working people we have ever met. On an average day, you will see him in shipping and receiving, bustling around and assembling some of our gift baskets. We appreciate his eye for detail, his commitment to excellence and his awesome attitude.


“He is one of the kindest people you will ever meet” said Sue.

Social enterprises like Starworks strengthen local business

When Saul Good Gift Co. began to grow, we were really excited to work with Starworks. It had been a dream since Saul first started this business in 2006. We appreciate the social impact that Starworks creates as our fulfillment partner. This partnership has proven to be a great fit for us as we grow our business.


The business model of Starworks is similar to a co-working space, because you only pay for what you need. For Saul Good Gift Co., we’re very busy during the Christmas season and this allows us to increase our capacity when required.

“We provide business solutions for companies with episodic and repetitive work. The work we do allows businesses to focus on their core competencies. An example of this is putting labels on ice cream jars for Earnest Ice Cream (below). We also have the ability to scale up for busy seasons like when we assemble Christmas gift baskets for Saul Good Gift Co.” said Kirsti

Earnest Ice Cream

Earnest Ice Cream, Saul Good Gift Co. and Starworks are all members of LOCO BC. This non-profit local business alliance is working to strengthen communities, grow the local economy and build strong, sustainable businesses. LOCO is helping to increase local purchasing in alliance with consumers, businesses, institutions and government. 


Our partnership with Starworks has strengthened Saul Good Gift Co. by challenging us to increase standardization. When we design gift baskets, we build step by step guides with images.

BC Social Enterprise - gift baskets

This standardized model builds quality into the assembly process while increasing accessibility for a variety of assembly workers at Starworks. By improving the clarity of our workflow, we are improving the efficiency of our entire business. This allows us to devote time and energy towards our mission to radiate happiness.