The Foodie Gift Hunter

Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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It’s my birthday…

July 20th, 2016 · Foodie gifts

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The best birthday cakes ever from my tribe

 

And I won’t write if I want to. Or something to that effect.

So, normal service will be resumed once cake eating has stopped.

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What do food lovers get for wedding presents?

July 18th, 2016 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

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What do you get food lovers for a wedding present?

 

Hopefully not some of the things that we get as food lovers as Christmas! Maybe it’s just indicative that I’m at that age where there aren’t so many weddings, but I haven’t written about wedding gifts in six years.

Given that I’ve been through a few life experiences since the last wedding I went to (and it’s usually best not to mention that at a wedding) I wondered if I’d feel differently about advice I’d given. Well, here goes!

 

Surely there's a wedding gift more interesting than towels?

 

Buy off the list. Unless the list is dull.

Now, generally I still think if the couple have gone to the trouble of putting together a wedding list, then generally it’s better to stick to their list. Unless you’ve not been organised and got to it too late to find anything either in your budget, or interesting to give. And therefore I would stick with the original plan.

I found myself in this situation once, and it’s why I ended up breaking that rule, and went off list, and adopted an olive tree for them with Nudo. Was still a better bet than the two flannels that fell in my budget.

 

Add an extra food loving something to their honeymoon

 

Do something for their honeymoon

Yes, this could still be a great idea, if the destination is not secret, as it’s easier than ever to find foodie tours or cooking classes most places in the world with a click of the mouse. Just maybe check in that it’s not the kind of honeymoon with an hour by hour itinerary.

 

Fortnum & Mason Beemaster's Hamper

 

A hamper for their return

Let’s face it, coming back from any holiday is depressing, so a honeymoon must be doubly so. A hamper of gorgeous goodies, preferably things that would make a good carpet picnic, is still an idea that I think could go down well.

 

Add to their cookbook collection

 

Checking other wishlists

If the first bit of advice is holding true, and the official wedding list is not inspiring you, then checking whether they have things like an Amazon wishlist for some alternatives, particularly in the cookbook or kit area, might be a great idea for something more interesting than towels. It might be more things they really want, than things they think they ought to have, which I do think sometimes happens with wedding lists.

 

Date night!

 

Book a date night for the future

Originally my advice was about trying to book them a table at their must do restaurant for post honeymoon. But perhaps on reflection it could also be about buying something they can go off and do together? A wine tasting or a cookery class perhaps? You could try local to the bride and groom businesses, or try somewhere like Red Letter Days for a great selection nationwide.

 

To be fair, none of this has held up for the weddings I’m attending. One asked for travel vouchers, another for donations to a hot tub fund. Let’s face it, most of us have all the china we need, so why not? Or maybe even we need nothing at all, and donations to good causes seems to be on the rise as well.

Still, all more interesting than towels!

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Candles for food lovers on a summer night

July 16th, 2016 · Foodie gifts

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Candles and Lanterns for perfect summer night's

 

I keep hoping for those blissful summer evenings when you can sit outside, with a glass of something cold whilst you enjoy the last of the sun’s warmth and the smell of summer on the evening breeze.

Of course this year it’s been more likely to be a cup of tea indoors listening to the sound of the rain hammering on the conservatory roof. Which is why we need to bring our sense of smell into play, and bring on some great summer scents around the house. And this is perfect for food lovers as there are so many wonderful food based ones around at the moment.

Max Benjamin Lemongrass & Ginger Candle - great gift for a food lover

Summery with a slight Asian feel to kick us off: Lemongrass and Ginger from Max Benjamin at Love Aroma. I have their Moroccan Mint candle, and the fragrance lift is brilliant.

 

Tomato and Blackcurrant Candle - great gift for a food lover

 

Now, this next combination is unusual, but if I think of gardens and greenhouses of my childhood, then maybe it’s not so odd. Tomato and blackcurrant could be lovely, if it’s based on the scent of the sunshine on the leaves of the two plants. The fruits mushed together…maybe not. Good choice for a slightly more adventurous or back to nature food lover.

 

Mayfair Candle Company Pink Papaya Candle - great gift for a food lover

 

For a tropical summer scent, then Pink Papaya from the Mayfair Candle Company might do the trick. Papaya meets melon, mandarin and coconut, sounding like the perfect starter to a summer cocktail, just waiting for some rum. The candle is lower calorie.

 

Orla Kiely Earl Grey Candle - great gift for a food lover

 

I love a cup of Earl Grey tea on a summer’s afternoon (raining or not). This Earl Grey candle by Orla Kiely would make a stylish gift, and the bright bergamot scent blended with black tea will be like a cuppa: instantly refreshing.

 

Wild Mint Candle from The White Company - great gift for a food lover

 

Mint is definitely a summer scent to me, whether it’s brushing past the herb growing in my garden, and the sprig that goes into the Pimms. The Wild Mint candle from The White Company is simple and lovely in design, and with that perfect summer scent. I’d find this one hard to give away.

So, some great choices for food lovers, with the benefit of delicious food scents but with no calories involved.

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A recipe box for true Japanese food lovers

July 14th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

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Japan Centre for all things Japanese food

 

I love the Japan Centre, it’s always been a fascinating place to stop into on a trip to London, and it’s been brilliant to watch their web presence expand.

 

Japan Centre Fresh Recipe Boxes

 

I see they’ve now got into the recipe box business, and just thought how great this would be as a treat for a real Japanese food, or culture, lover. It could be for a night in for two of you, or there’s a family box for bigger gatherings, and there’s a vegetarian option.

 

Vegetable Katsu Curry

 

The classic box is described as a perfect mix of modern and traditional Japanese cooking, with ingredients for one meal, and they all seem to do that really well. There are recipes for Yaki Udon Stir Fried Noodles, Oyako Donburi Chicken & Egg on Rice and one of our favourites, Vegetable Katsu Curry and Rice.

Whilst this is a subscription service, you can cancel at any time up until the next payment is due, so really can be used in an one off way. Orders have to be in by 11.59pm on a Thursday for delivery the following week.

I think we’re going to give this a go, I know MGG would love this given her love of cooking and all things Japanese at the moment, and it wouldn’t mean committing to a whole load of new ingredients upfront.

I’ll keep you posted on how we get on.

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The art of Wedgwood, 286 years on

July 12th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Kitchenwares

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Happy birthday Josiah Wedgwood

 

It’s 286 years today since the birth of Josiah Wedgwood, and all credit that the brand that bears his name is still going strong. That said, I don’t think he’d recognise the designs now, they’re certainly different to the blue and white traditional image we might have of Wedgwood.

 

Green Chinoiserie by Jasper Conran

 

I mean, the Green Chinoiserie by Jasper Conran for Wedgwood looks like something modern and vibrant, and yet has elements of classical design to it. The one thing Josiah was great at was understanding trends and what people wanted, so working with a taste maker like Jasper might well have met with his approval.

 

Vibrance from Wedgwood

 

Or the sheer exhuberance of the completely aptly named Vibrance? Rich, sumptuous, indulgent…all things he wanted for his original wealthy clients. Whilst he is credited with the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery, he wasn’t in the cheap end of the market, far from it.

 

Intaglio by Wedgwood

 

But Wedgwood was also riding the wave of a new enthusiasm for classical design. Intaglio would seem to be doing that in my book, beautiful white pottery but with superb detailing for interest.

Wedgwood isn’t really a brand I think about very often, as I’ve not thought it was my style for quite a long time. I can see now though that this brand has kept moving forward, and actually is more appealing than I might have thought. I think Josiah’s legacy is safe for quite a bit longer yet.

What do you think? Were you ahead of me on this one? Or still thinking of blue and white trinket boxes?

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A quick photo trip round Paris

July 10th, 2016 · Foodie gifts, Foodie Travel

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Paris Time

 

Just in time for Bastille Day, I thought I’d share some photos from the two nights I had in Paris recently with the day job. Which is no bad thing, when in between the work stuff you can stumble across all kinds of great stuff en route to the next work thing.

So, just a few snaps to remind you why any time spent in Paris is a treat for a food lover. I mean, this was the local bakery just along the street from my friend’s apartment:

 

Just your average local bakery, when you're in Paris

 

There were beautiful napkins to browse at Fragonard, in amongst all the amazing fragrances:

 

Beautiful napkins at Fragonard

Fab chocolate displays for Father’s Day, which could have been very tempting.

 

Chocolate for Dads, Parisian style

I stopped in this store because their air conditioning was great (it was a fabulously warm day, about two days after they were moving paintings out the basement of the Louvre). They also had some great food based gifts.

 

Father's Day Gifts Parisian Style

And then back to the bakers, to discover why Parisians don’t bake. I mean, why would you when this was on the doorstep?

 

Why Parisians Don't Bake

And that was about all I had time to fit in. Well, that and drinking champagne in the Tuileries Gardens until late with good friends. Which is probably the best thing to do during any trip to Paris.

I highly recommend it.

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The Friday Five – Summer Party Time

July 8th, 2016 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

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Bring on the summer parties

 

It’s that time of year when we have a handful of birthdays to celebrate and also the thought of just gathering a few, or even a lot of, friends around the big table outside to celebrate the one decent day of sunshine of the summer. I don’t need much excuse to cook for a group, and often serve them up new dishes.

Let’s face it, they’re my loved ones, so you’d hope they’d forgive the occasional recipe mishap.

Yes, Mat, I know, you hated my gluten free bread.

It was 8 years ago.

I think you have to let it go.

So, if you fancy some inspiration for a big gathering, here’s five great books to give you plenty of ideas to keep you entertained as a cook, not just your guests.

 

Cook up a Feast with Mary Berry & Lucy Young

 

Cook up a Feast

Let’s face it, Mary Berry has definitely cooked up a few gatherings in her time, and given how long her writing relationship with Lucy has been, then these two know a thing about tried and tested crowd pleasing dishes. I mean, bacon and water chestnut bites with mango chutney sound like my kind of nibble to stave people off whilst I’m finishing off cooking. And a Moroccan platter sounds like a good sharing plate. What’s lovely about Mary’s books are that it’s a little bit of everything good to eat, not in loads of depth but enough to give you some great dishes.

 

Mezze: Small Plates to Share

 

Mezze – Small Plates to Share by Ghillie Basan

Now, this title desribes exactly the kind of thing I love to serve for a get together. I love Mediterranean flavours, and a platter of great dips and good breads, maybe some cold meats, some feta and watermelon…well, it’s summer on a platter to me. There are recipes for cold and hot dishes, as well as sweet, so something for everyone. Or just make a huge bowl of something like the labna with saffron, apricots and pistachios and stuff for dipping and that might do the trick.

 

Party Perfect Bites

 

Party-perfect bites

If it’s smaller bits you want to serve, then this is a great book, without things being over-engineered or poncey. This has sections inspired by different cuisines from the Americas to India. Fun to make, easy to eat, more time for garden games. Or cocktails

 

Terry & George - Feeding Friends

 

Terry & George – Feeding Friends

I’ve never heard of Terry and George, but given Mark Hix seems to rate them, that’ll do for me. They’re apparently famous for pop up events and are apparently Britain’s most fashionable foodies according to some. But it sounds appealing in this is classic British dishes with a twist, a sense of fun, and they sound delicious. Also says the recipes are filled with northern soul, so as a long time northerner, sounds good to me.

 

Thug Kitchen Party Grub

 

Thug Kitchen Party Grub: Eat Clean, Party Hard

A summer party does not mean huge chunks of grilled meat for some. I featured Thug Kitchen’s first book, and this one covers how to make vegan parties inspiring and delicious. Starting at breakfast, this runs all the way through amazing dinners to desserts and even the cocktails. Irreverent but delicious ideas.

So, it’s been a pretty rubbish summer so far, so let’s hope there are some sunny days ahead to enjoy food outdoors, jugs of Pimms, some cold beers, the sound of Jenga blocks collapsing and general laughter and merriment. Sounds like bliss to me. What’s your standby summer party dish?

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On the passing of a unique hostess: Imogen Skirving of Langar Hall

July 6th, 2016 · Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Foodie Travel

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Langar Hall

 

I was really sorry to hear of the passing of Imogen Skirving last Friday, in an accident whilst she was away in Menorca.

Imogen was one of life’s one offs, unique and wonderful. A night at Langar Hall always left you with a store of stories, and not just about the food and drink. If Imogen was about, and she usually was, then she would walk around the tables and have a good chat.

Or explain there was nothing to worry about, that women cartwheeling down the hallway was quite normal. As she put it, it was fine, they were doctors.

Langar Hall is a wonderful, beautiful, eccentric place and full of happy memories for so many of us in the local area, and beyond. You were as likely to find locals like us there, as people like Paul Smith (I sometimes think he actually lives there, we see him often enough) through to Jools Holland and Sarah Lancashire.

And everyone got the same greeting, the same treatment.

I suppose change is inevitable when someone such as Imogen passes away, when they have been such an integral part of the atmosphere of a very special place. I’d like to remember her for the many funny occasions there have been there, and thank her for those. My thoughts go out to her family, and the staff at Langar Hall.

 

Imogen Skirving a true hostess with the mostess

 

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My favourite things from the USA, for 4 July and beyond

July 4th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

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Happy 4th July to my dear friends in the US, I hope you have a fabulous day. I always fancied 4th July celebrations, from a clam bake to a peach cobbler.

Whilst there are many things (well, honestly, one thing) coming out of the US that are most definitely not on my favourites list (not even my mild dislike list) then there are a great many things in food and drink that I do love. So in tribute, these are the things I’d be celebrating:

 

Pancakes at Clinton St Baking Co

 

Proper fluffy American pancakes at breakfast

Love these, favourite breakfast ever. I would be hard pressed to pick between those at the Clinton St Baking Co and Kitchenette as my absolute favourites, but many places do a reasonable pass at this classic breakfast dish.

 

Martha's American Food - great cookbook gift for a food lover of all things US of A

 

Martha Stewart

Because if I could go to anyone’s clam bake, I’d love it to be Martha’s. I think all I know about American traditions I had my first lessons in from Martha.

 

Time for a Tom Collins?

 

The Tom Collins

I do like my gin, and I like a cocktail. Or two. And I do love a Tom Collins, particularly in the summer. Which was invented in NYC in 1874 apparently. I knew I loved New York.

 

Amazing burgers at Annie's Burger Shack

 

The burger

I don’t mean a McD’s, but I do love a really good burger. But it has to be a good one. If I was heading out locally, then I love Annie’s Burger Shack in Nottingham, and for the full on US aluminium clad diner, then the OK Diner just outside of Stamford is brilliant.

 

Heston's Pulled Pork with Asian Slaw

 

Pulled pork

Sorry to keep with a meat theme, but I love pulled pork, or slow cooked brisket…really any of those really long, slow cooked Texan BBQ style dishes. That said, my favourite recipe is by Heston, and comes with an Asian style slaw, so a bit off the original, but delicious.

 

Alice Waters Art of Simple Food

 

Alice Waters

Because I love her food economy manifesto of “good, clean, fair”. When I’m not eating burgers and pulled pork, I want to cook from Alice’s books. And maybe one day eat at Chez Panisse.

 

I think I might opt for a cheeky Monday night burger, or possibly even pancakes and bacon at dinner time. Still works with a Tom Collins for me.

Are you celebrating 4 July? I’d love to know if so, and what you’re doing.

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Strawberries in every form

July 2nd, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts

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Anyone for tennis? A good fortnight for a food lover

 

Well. it’s People’s Saturday at Wimbledon. It’s not been brilliant so far on the weather front, so if it’s dry then there should be an awful lot of play to see.

Which would rather cut down on the time for drinking Pimms and eating strawberries and cream, so here’s some ideas on a strawberry theme for those who might feel they’re missing out.

 

White Chocolate Strawberries

 

Here’s a good combination: strawberries and chocolate. I thought these were so pretty, they’d make a gorgeous gift. Apparently the shelf life is a whole year. Like anyone has ever had them last that long!

 

Strawberry Daiquiri Lollies

 

In case it gets a bit tense during some matches, then how about some alcoholic lollies to suck on? Sort of like sucking your thumb. But with added Strawberry Daiquiri. Sounds like a win to me.

 

Strawberry Lemonade Tea Vodka Cocktail Kit

 

I really love Bluebird Tea, I’ve written about them several times. I really love their tea cocktail kits, and this strawberry lemonade tea vodka cocktail kit sounds like a great recipe for a perfect summer night’s tipple.

Freeze Dried Strawberry Powder

If you want a really big hit of strawberry, then I really like the freeze-dried strawberry powder from Sous Chef. You can add this to buttercream, to cocktails, to macaron shells…lots of possibilities. It’s definitely a gift for someone who likes to play with flavour in the kitchen.

 

Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin

 

Wouldn’t be a post from me without some gin cropping up, so how about the Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin? I imagine this would taste incredibly summery, and make a nice change to the G&T routine.

Of course there isn’t really anything to beat great British strawberries, so do get out there and seek them out. For me they just need a bit of sugar and some good cream, and that’s the taste of summer right there.

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