The best Advent Calendars for food and drink lovers

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The countdown is on!

 

Advent calendars have come along way since I was a kid, and the excitement of finding you got a picture of a robin, or a snowman. Then we upgraded to chocolate, and that was that for quite some time.

And then all of a sudden there’s every kind of calendar around, and I think they just get more interesting each year. So, here’s my roundup of the ones I love this year:

Christmas Chocolate Lovers CountdownHow about advent and then some? Simply Chocolate’s “Countdown to Christmas” adds some extra chocolate into your advent countdown. I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate a few half days? That could brighten up your lunchtime. Not only that, but you get some interesting chocolate flavours, including Crunchy Coco and Misty Martha. Which is something to do with hazelnuts.

 

Snaffling Pig Pork Scratchings Advent Calendar

 

Who says advent calendars have to be about sweet stuff? Snaffling Pig have created what I think is the first pork scratchings advent calendar. Six different flavours to work through, a mini bag behind each door. If it’s their kind of thing, then this is going to make their December.

 

Bluebird Luxury Tea Advent Calendar

 

The calendar also doesn’t have to generate huge calorie counts before the big Christmas feast. I love Bluebird Tea’s advent calendar, packed full of amazing tea as you’d expect but also some nice surprises (also low calorie) such as mini candles and pin badges. Oh, and some chocolate. But just a little.

 

Ginvent 2016 Advent Calendar

 

There again, could have a daily indulgence, and in my case my favourite option would be gin. The Ginvent Calendar is right up my street, and perfect for any fellow gin lover. The selection includes some more unusual artisanal gins, and gives you enough to work out if you want to splash out on the full bottle or not. Possibly it’s not quite the done thing to sample these ones first thing in the morning though.

 

Charbonnel et Walker Advent Calendar

 

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good chocolate advent calendar, and Charbonnel et Walker have a rather lovely one.  A little more than a chocolate shape each day, you’ll be treated to things like their classic English rose fondant creams, or even some fudge for a change. Beautiful looking too.

 

Craft Beer Advent Calendar

 

Maybe beer is their thing, and maybe just a small indulgence each day is a good thing. Honest Brew has produced a calendar of craft beers, containing a whole range of beer styles including pilsners, porters and stouts, and from a variety of different small brewers. Again, a nice way to sample a variety of different producers.

 

Fortune Cookie Advent Calendar

 

Finally, combining two trends, Cracking Cookies offer something a bit different, in that this is an advent calendar of fortune cookies, and then personalisation, as each cookie contains a message from you. I guess you could build this up into revealing a big surprise, so a series of clues perhaps, or just 24 things about the person eating the cookies. Different, but not cheap at £44.99, so maybe leading up to a surprise is the best thing. I’m thinking a very big, good kind of surprise…though Eastenders could rewrite this as a lead up to a Christmas Day departure in a taxi kind of surprise.

I think these are lovely, but I do slightly struggle with these a bit, in terms of some of them are quite expensive, for something that isn’t actually a gift to give on Christmas Day. It’s one heck of a treat to yourself in the run up to Christmas for sure. Maybe if we do end up back in austerity measures then we’ll all be back on lovely picture calendars by next year. Love to know your thoughts on these.

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How to wrap the most awkward shaped presents for a food lover

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Let’s face it, sometimes you do look at the perfect gift for someone but then just leave it there because of 1 thought: it’ll be a bugger to wrap. So, just so you don’t have to rule anything out, then I’ve raided the web for the best guides for wrapping the most difficult of shapes, and a few just odd ones.

 

1. Wrapping a bottle

wine bottles wrap from Spoon Fork Bacon on Vimeo.

This is a useful skill all year round, and this makes it look simple and pretty. You can adapt this to any size of bottle I guess, and certainly a step up from my usual attempts! It’s also something a bit different to a bottle bag, although they are always my favourite standby, as bottles of all kinds of things make great gifts.

2. Wrapping a mug

 

How to wrap a mug

 

I love this idea, of wrapping a mug in fabric to create a festive pineapple (pinned from the Oh Joy! blog). I think you might be able to do this with a tea towel, so giving two presents in one. I’m really fond of both mugs and tea towels as gifts, given the huge choice which allows you to really personalise the gift.

 

3. Wrapping a book

 

I love to give cookbooks or good food writing, and I always think I’ve got wrapping books down to a fine art, as they are a simple enough shape. So this video will help take your book wrapping up a level or two.

 

4. Wrapping a saucepan

 

Wrapping a frying pan

 

I love this, which dates from 1963. Maybe it’s an era when gifts were more practical, but I think it would be a great way to wrap a frying pan even today.

 

5. Wrapping a hamper

 

 

Helpful if you are making a hamper of your own so it’s a very personalised gift, but doesn’t need to look any less professional.

Other than this, my answe is always get a box, and some tissue paper, and then wrap the easy shape. And maybe don’t stress about it. All that really matters is what’s inside the gift and the thought you put into it. A well thought out gift badly wrapped is worth a thousand times its opposite number!

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Great gifts for the gadget gurus and geeks

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Gadgets galore for the kitchen gadget geek

 

Christmas is a great time to indulge the gadget loving food lover and cook with a new gadget or two. They don’t have to be big gadgets, they can even be just fun gadgets or unusual ones, maybe just things they wouldn’t get for themselves. Here’s a few choice ones, for every kind of gadget lover and budget.

 

Joseph Joseph Nest Steamer

 

Steaming is by no means a new thing, and they may have everything from an electric steamer to a traditional Chinese bamboo version. This neat little set from Joseph Joseph is fun and functional, and certainly would keep them guessing if you just wrapped each section up separately.

 

Peugeot Annecy Cheese Mill

 

Take their grating up a gear, and give them something to show off, with the Peugeot Annecy grinder that works on hard cheese, chocolate and nuts, with different grating plates for each. Sleek design but effectiveat the job it’s designed to do, this looks like a serious piece of kit for some of those jobs that just get a bit tedious with poor equipment.

 

ProQ Cold Smoke Generator

 

If they are the adventurous sort of cook, then maybe consider the ProQ Cold Smoke Generator, as they can have all sorts of fun with this, smoking everything from salmon to your own bacon, even cheese. They don’t need anything fancy to smoke things in, I love that it says you can set this to work in an old filing cabinet. There is a separate smoking cabinet you can buy, but maybe just start off with the basics.

 

Perfect Portions Digital Scale

 

Take their weights and measures up a level, particularly if they are keen on the nutritional value of their cooking, then how about the Perfect Portions Digital Scale? This is really clever and probably where the future might lie for us. Though might just keep an old skool set with weights for if the batteries run out!

 

Eddingtons Pro Sharp 5 in 1 Scissors

 

I think these 5 in 1 Pro Sharp Scissors from Eddingtons are like a Swiss army knife of scissors for the kitchen. In this one piece you get not only great scissors but also a bottle opener, nut cracker, wire stripper and garlic crusher. So as long as you don’t lose them, then you can save a whole lot of space by ditching 4 other gadgets for this one. Which means you’ve got some space for some more.

 

ETI Combo Infrared Probe Thermometer

 

If they are seriously into their cooking and baking, then accuracy is bound to play a big part in the recipes they turn out. Which probably means they need a really good digital thermometer, and whilst not sexy in styling, this combination infra-red and probe digital thermometer from ETI is great for doing the job really well. It’s really geared up to pro kitchens, but is not so inaccessible from a price perspective that it couldn’t find it’s way into any of our kitchens.

There are so many electrical type gadgets that you could get (I’m thinking doughnut maker or candyfloss maker) that might be fun once, but will end up gathering dust, probably. So I would think about the things they love to cook the most and then see what’s new in that area. Or ask me, I love a challenge!

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My fail safe cookbooks to gift to anyone

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I love cookbooks, as many areas of my house would testify. And my favourites are well thumbed, and probably covered in cooking stains, which to me is the badge of a successful book. I’ve also given quite a number of cookbooks to other people over the years, and I know which ones people come back to tell me they’ve used, even if they were reluctant cooks and bakers.

So these may not be the newest, flashiest or cheapest books on the shelves this Christmas, but these cookbooks are ones that I think earn their keep year after year, and every home should have some if not all of them.

 

Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever

 

Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard

I’ve given quite a number of copies of this over the years, because it’s my favourite baking book. It’s also crammed full of incredible recipes, brilliant technique and great photos, written in a way that just makes you want to get into the kitchen straightaway! I love Dan’s writing, and his recipes, and I love to share this book.

 

River Cottage Family Cookbook - great gift for learner cooks

 

The River Cottage Family Cookbook

This is a great book for people with kids who want to cook, as it’s written in a way that’s really accessible for kids to read and follow, but not in a patronising way. It’s also great building blocks of cooking so allowing them to move beyond the basics and produce “proper” meals. It’s also a great book for those who say they don’t know how to cook.

 

The Social Bite Cookbook

 

The Social Bite Cookbook

I give this one because it’s a good cookbook that does good too. I love Social Bite, think it’s the most fantastic busienss, and I am so pleased to see them going from strength to strength, allowing them to do more good work. Look, if George Clooney thinks it’s a good thing, who am I to argue? If your Secret Santa budget is £10, spend it on this.

 

The New English Kitchen

 

The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince

The subtitle to this is how to make your food go further, and I think that the year ahead could be a tough one, and that we might all be tightening our belts just a bit further again. I fell in love with this book whilst on holiday this year, and just think it’s one that you’d end up dipping into time and time again, particularly when trying to work out what to do with leftovers, or stretch a piece of meat to cover more than one meal, or more people. Not short on taste or interesting recipes, I think it’s a keeper.

 

Star Wars Cookbook - for great food in this galaxy and beyond

 

The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookies Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes

Ok, this one is a bit of stuff and nonsense, but it is Christmas after all, and I know that this book is always a winner with anyone with even a passing love of Star Wars. I’ve bought more niche cookbooks over time, but none more loved or laughed over than this one. Love seeing people’s faces when they open this one.

 

So, these are my fail safes, that I think you can gift to just about anyone and be sure of a winner for them, and also for when they start cooking and baking from them. I’d love to know what your go to books to gift to someone else are, and why. And what’s the best one that you’ve ever received and would not now be without?

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Brewing up great gifts for tea lovers

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Time to treat the tea lovers with great gifts

 

Whilst there have been plenty of stats on the decline of tea, I think it’s still fair to say that in the UK we are still a nation of tea drinkers. Personally, I can’t start my day without a cup of tea, it’s a daily gift so here’s some great Christmas gifts for fellow tea lovers.

 

Breville 5 temperature setting kettle

 

Can’t make a good tea without water, but not necessarily boiling. This lovely looking kettle from Breville has 5 temperature settings, making it perfect for the perfect brew for every colour of tea. Great for a tea lover with a wide variety of tea tastes, or just general geekiness for a good gadget.

 

Christmas Tea Bauble Gift Set from Tregothnan - perfect gift for a tea lover

 

I do love the fact that there are quite a number of tea plantations around the UK now, and that some of them are even exporting tea to China. Tregothnan is, I think, the best known of our home grown plantations. For a festive treat from them, I like this Christmas Tea Bauble gift set, and you can choose which two teas to go in there, including their Jasmine, Earl Grey Blue Flower and Classic.

Dazed and Dazzled teapot from T2

Great tea deserves a great tea pot, for those times when you’re not just chucking a tea bag into a mug (I know, but let’s be real about this). I really love T2, one of my favourite finds on my trip to Australia. They have really good ceramics, and I love this teapot, really bright and vibrant to brighten up any morning brew. You’ll find matching mugs as well if you really want to splash out.

 

Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co

 

Fancy yourself as a bit of master tea blender? Well, with this kit from Bluebird Tea Co then you can make your very own blend of black tea to your hearts content. With different types of black tea, and then some additional flavourings, you can have a number of combinations all before the turkey is cooked on Christmas Day.

 

You Complete Me Gin Mug

 

Tea needs a mug in my view. And this one is perfect for me, for MFL and for every other gin lover out there. Enjoy.

 

Green tea with cat tags

This gift hits so many different types of people. Green tea lovers. Those with a love of all things Japanese. Crazy cat ladies who will love the cat shaped tags on these tea bags. People that you have in the office secret Santa and know nothing about. Or just generally because you fancy some cute green tea tea bags.

 

Fika Teapot from Oliver BonasAnd if you’re going to be brewing green tea, then not only do you need a kettle that will get it to the right temperature, but you might like something like this to brew it in. This is the Fika Teapot from Oliver Bonas, and there are matching cups as well.

 

Personalised Tea Tin Gifts from Bluebird

 

Personalised gifts are always a lovely surprise, particularly when they are as good at these ones from Bluebird Tea Co (yes, I’m very fond of them as a tea supplier). You get two lines of message to personalise as you like, and you can choose which blend goes in here, from something festive like Christmas Cake or Snowball to something like the Great British Cuppa. You can even add the perfect tea spoon or a collapsible tea infuser as well. Great idea, great tea.

So, get the kettle on, make yourself a brew and decide what to get the other tea lovers in your life. Christmas needs good tea, not just turkey!

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The Christmas countdown is now well and truly on!

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Magical Christmas days ahead

 

That’s it, Halloween is over and done which means it is most definitely going to be Christmas all over the place from here on in.

It’s been a busy time here at FGH Towers so I’ve not really got underway with Christmas round ups yet, but it’s definitely time to get writing about the best that’s out there.

As always, I’m on the lookout for small producers, making great tasting products presented in interesting ways that will have the recipients beaming on Christmas Day and beyond. I try to bring something a bit different, but equally something you can get hold of easily.

And if you leave it too late then I’ll show you how to stay out the dog house on Christmas Day with great last minute gift ideas. One of the things that has changed since I started the Foodie Gift Hunter is how last minute gifts can be so much more interesting now, rather than a ransacking of just the village shop.

So, hold on tight, the festive season is upon us and fun times and celebrations lie ahead.

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Port & Lemon anyone?

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Fish & Ships Galley Cloth from Port & Lemon

 

No, not a Christmas drinks order in early, but just wanted to flag this new to me design company. Port & Lemon are very inspired by all things nautical and sea shore, and I think these are great for any kitchen, whether you’re by the sea or not.

I’m hoping for fish and chips next week when we’re by the sea, so I like the play on words of Fish and Ships.

 

Any Port In a Storm Galley Cloth

 

There again, Any Port In A Storm might be appropriate given we’re down on the Gower Coast, and it’s October. You can have these on tea towels, or coaster or place mats, and mix and match to suit the humour or taste of the recipient.

 

Port & Lemon Mugs

 

They also have lovely mugs too, so you could definitely pull together a great gift for someone. Wrapping stuff in tea towels makes a good alternative to gift wrap, so gift and wrap in one. Products seems to be focused on UK manufacture as well, so a good local business to support.

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Exploring Irish gin

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I had a few nights in Dublin this week for work, though managed to pack in a good dinner and some good cocktails.

Which is not where I discovered Irish gins. No, that would have been killing time at Dublin airport, for much longer than expected thanks to a delay.

Sadly there were no tasters available, so no idea on where to start on these other than working from the visual appeal. Anyone help me out? Where would you start? I mean, I could go alphabetically but maybe you know different?

 

A shelf full of Irish gin loveliness

I really liked the look of these two in particular:

 

My choices of Irish gins

Now, maybe I’d like the Gunpowder Irish Gin as a starting point, given how much I liked the Yorkshire Gin infused with Yorkshire Tea. But then I’m fonder of Yorkshire Tea than gunpowder tea, but I’m still very fond of gin.

I would pick the Glendalough on looks alone, such a beautiful looking bottle. I also love the story behind the brand, with them having a different gin recipe for each season. This is the summer one, with aromas of green meadows apparently. I’d like the autumn one right now, with a mix of crab apple, blackberry and water mint.

Maybe there’s more to be explored? Given that many places that go onto make whisky start with gin, and the history of whisky in Ireland, then maybe there is a lot more to explore. Just so hard to decide on where to start.

Which would you pick?

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How to liven up lunchtime in the office

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Made In the Office - tasty meals in the office kitchen

 

I really liked the premise of this book, Made in the Office, as there are many days when a sandwich at lunch in the office is really not very inspiring. This is all about how to step it up a gear with just a kettle, a toaster and a microwave, which I think most offices can run to.

Now, the breakfasts are lots of versions of porridge, but most of these sound better than the sachet stuff that goes in the microwaves at our office. The thought of trying eggs florentine at work is interesting, but I might give it a go at home first.

 

Easy eggs florentine in the office

I like the sound of the lunches, although some of them sound like they’d have people tutting in the microwave queue as they take a little while. I mean, 6 minutes for quinoa and then another 1 minute, and there’s going to be a bit of eye rolling going on. And cooking salmon in the microwave in the office is a little unsociable I think, but other than that things like a burrito bowl with chicken, feta and sweetcorn sound amazing.

 

Salmon on Asian Slaw

 

Covering breakfast, light and more substantial lunches as well as some snacks to keep you going, this is a lovely little book. I think it makes a great gift because it’s just a bit different as a theme for a cookbook, but a situation that many of us can relate to. Written by Rachel Maylor and published by Frances Lincoln, this is currently £12.08 on Amazon.

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For the pomegranate lover: the easy way to grow your own

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food-salad-healthy-lunch

 

I love pomegranate, both the look of them and the taste, not to mentio the burst of crunch they add to a dish. I also loved seeing them growing wild when we were in Cyprus, like trees with Christmas decorations on them.

If you know a food lover who loves them too, then I think this new box from the Gluttonous Gardener would be a great gift.

 

Pomegranate Box from Gluttonous Gardenere

 

In this gift you get a young pomegranate plant in a terracotta plant. I imagine it needs somewhere relatively warm and sheltered once it’s big enough to come out of the pot. You’ll also get a bottle of pomegranate ketchup, to give you that burst of sweet sourness until it bears fruit.

Delivered in a lovely looking wooden crate, at £35 this is not a bad gift for something that will hopefully keep on giving for a number of years. That’s what I call a good gift, for a food lover or anyone else.

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