What to buy for those with a sweet tooth this Christmas

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Christmas gift ideas for those with a sweet tooth

 

I’ve admitted many times that I have a sweet tooth, whether cake or chocolate, or pretty much anything in between. I definitely consider this one of my specialist subject areas when it comes to gift recommendations. So whether you’re looking for something for them to eat, make or read, then these are some of the best.

 

Dark chocolate salted caramel honeycomb

 

Like a posh Crunchie

Ok, we have to admit, MFL and I demolished a box of this recently. It was research, honest. But this was amazing tasting, and you have to admit it looks beautiful. There’s a whole range of these beautiful gift boxes from Artisan du Chocolat, and you’ll be hard picked to choose between them. But I’d not turn down another box of this Dark Salted Caramel Honeycomb.

 

Sally's Candy Addiction

 

Inspiration for Making Their Own

Oh my word, where to start with Sally’s Candy Addiction? There wasn’t a page I turned and didn’t want to immediately rush into the kitchen and make. Maybe add some chocolate into their stocking too so they can head straight into the kitchen themselves. It’ll brighten up Christmas Day when the Ferrero Rocher have run out.

 

Vodka Cocktail Pastilles from Smith & Sinclair

 

Sneaky tipple in sweet form?

And no, this is not a box of liqueur chocolates! I love these cocktail pastilles from Smith & Sinclair. Warning, these are not for the kids, they do contain proper alcohol. So, if the boss is reading this, no, these are not what’s on my desk. Honest. But heaven knows, there are some days a sneaky vodka cocktail wouldn’t go amiss!

 

Pale Lemon & Sea Salt Chocolate Skis from Amelia Rope

 

Fun chocolate but with style

I’ve written several times about how much I love Amelia Rope’s chocolate. There isn’t anything on her site that I don’t think someone would be thrilled to receive. Unless good chocolate for them stops at Dairy Milk. For Christmas this year then I love these chocolate skis, which are pale lemon and sea salt chocolate. My kind of skiing!

 

Go full on retro with A Quarter Of

 

Go full on retro in your sweet choice

I love A Quarter Of, they were one of the first people I came across in the whole online retro sweet thing, and I think they do it really well. If Christmas isn’t made for a trip down memory lane, then I don’t know when is. Bring on the Fruit Salads, a Sherbet Fountain and some Love Hearts. Sophistication can be overrated!

 

Safari Animal Chocolate Lollipop Kit

 

In case there’s no selection box from Santa

I love this kit from Chocolate At Home, which you could give to an older child, or a big kid, and it could be a great activity for over the Christmas holidays. There are simpler ones, and more chocolate bar based ones, so really something for everyone.

 

In case you can’t get hold of any of these, then maybe a box of Matchmakers will do. Or you could just get organised now!

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What are the foodie dads getting this Father’s Day?

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Celebrating our food lover dads

 

Nearly time for Father’s Day, which is always one of those events that catches even me by surprise. It needs something else just after it, like the way Mother’s Day works with Easter. And events involving chocolate always have my attention!

So, if I were shopping for a Father’s Day gift for a dad with a strong interest in food and drink, what would I be thinking of? Here’s a few thoughts:

For cheese loving Dads – If there’s not a decent cheese shop nearby, then I would try one of the gift boxes from Pong. The Best Dad in the World gift box includes Oxford Isis, Bath Blue, Swaledale Old Peculiar and Banon, plus great cheese biscuits from Fudges. Neal’s Yard are also offering a great selection, not biased by the inclusion of Colston Bassett Stilton. And for something even more artisanal, then try Sole Bay Cheese, who have about 70 different cheeses on offer at any one time. You can buy a selection, or a voucher to let Dad make his own choice. (UPDATE: sadly Sole Bay Cheese is no longer trading)

For meat loving Dads – how about sending Dad on a course to brush up his knife skills? The School of Artisan Food have a one day course dedicated to making carving the Sunday roast a breeze. And he gets a roast lunch thrown in too! Big Barn gives you access to all kinds of small producers around the UK, like Heritage Prime and Farrowby Farm. I’ve never tried Donald Russell but plenty of people rave about their beef in particular. And if he’s big into steaks for the BBQ, then how about a branding iron?

For bread loving Dads – surely the bread loving dad already has a Panasonic breadmaker? I would send him to a class at The Bertinet Kitchen, because this is fabulous for moving on your breadmaking skills and is also in the beautiful city of Bath. There are versions from one day to five, and would cover everything from regular bread through to French and Italian varieties. Or if it’s out of budget (3 days is £500, plus your other costs) then you could buy him Richard’s books instead, Crust or Dough.

For gadget loving Dads – so much choice. I love Divertimenti and Heals, but you can’t beat John Lewis for a backup. Or Lakeland. Or, if they don’t have to be too serious, then try Firebox. There’s the Garlic Zoom, the AeroPress Coffee Maker and BeepEgg, the singing egg timer, to name just three.

For sweet toothed Dads – so many possibilities again! I love Chocolate Trading Co for variety and bringing great houses within easy reach, many launching stuff with them first. I’m giving serious thought to the Best of the Best Dark Chocolate Bar gift for someone. Melt is very trendy, and I particularly like the Chef’s Chocolates, and have a certain weakness for the Olive Caramel Bonbon. And there would be William Curley’s sea salt caramel bar and pretty much anything from Artisan du Chocolat. But you know I think even the foodiest of Dads would enjoy a nostalgic moment or two with a box from A Quarter Of. Parma violets, sherbet fountains, cherry lips, gobstoppers…everyone deserves at least one day of sugary nostalgia!

So, what kind of foodie dad is yours? Love to know what you’re buying him. I know men have a reputation of being difficult to buy for, but I think food lovers are easy to buy for, as there are so many possibilities. I haven’t even got started on the travel possibilities! But if you want some food for thought, drop him a ticket to Paris and then check out Meeting  the French (read this entry on He Eats to get an idea on what he could get up to).

Photo by Eash Shamih.mv on Flickr.

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Valentine’s Day gifts for the not so serious foodies!

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Foodies come in for a bad rap, about us taking it all too seriously, worrying about provenance. Well, I say it’s worth worrying about, but just occassionally even foodies have lapses into food that is just for a bit of a laugh. And if Valentine’s Day isn’t worth a laugh I’m not sure when is! Here’s a few things to enjoy and have a bit of fun with:

Sparkling vodka

* Sparkling vodka. This will make any Valentine’s Day go with a swing. I got very drunk at a Fashion Week party on cocktails mixed with this, and it’ll be an unusual take on fizz!

* I know they are not exactly cheap, but show me any heart that won’t melt just a little if you send them the L.O.V.E. spells LOVE tin of biscuits from Biscuiteers. And who doesn’t love an iced biscuit?

* I don’t care how big a foodie they are, most will find it hard to resist a big box of nostalgic sweeties. I love A Quarter Of and send their boxes on all kinds of occasions, and their boxes of Sweet Devotion for Valentine’s Day are fantastic. From Love Hearts to Cherry Lips, everyone will find something they really enjoy.

* For the baking foodie, then how about a set of Jumbo Cookie Cutters spelling out I (heart) U. Even better you could make up some cookies with them. Cute.

* I’m sure the cupcake queens have proper cupcake moulds, but for the romantic ones then how about heart shaped ones? John Lewis have a 6 cup silicone mould, for those romantic cake moments.

Have some fun and enjoy some fun foodie moments together this Valentine’s Day, just a momentary slip from your organic, seasonal, local lifestyle!


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The final countdown is upon us…

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Perfect foodie presents, last minute or not

Yes, we’re really at the last minute for good foodie Christmas gifts and presents, but there are still a few of my favourite shopping places taking last minute orders still. If you’ve just woken up to the fact it’s Christmas Day on Friday, here’s a few last minute places to head to. Lets face it, it’s this or heading for the High Street.

So, sitting comfortably? Here you go:

1. A Quarter Of is fabulous for nostalgic sweets and choccies, and is usually a big hit with everyone, young and old. They’re taking orders right up until the 23rd, so you can still be sure of sweet stuff on Christmas Day.

2. Montezuma’s will express deliver fabulous chocolate to you if order before 2pm on Tuesday 22nd. And why wouldn’t you? We bought The Piper hamper to see us through our need for great chocolate. Make sure to select Special Delivery at checkout otherwise the stuff won’t arrive until after Christmas.

3. Not On the High Street is one of my favourite online sources of fabulous gifts for pretty much everyone on my list. And you can still pick out great gifts and get them delivered in time if you pay for express delivery. I wrote about my faves earlier in the year for foodies, you still have time to get some of these.

4. Sometimes you can’t beat a classic.  Thorntons can still whip an Alpini round to your house in time for Christmas if you order by 4pm on the 23rd. Can’t beat a sugar mouse as a stocking filler either.

5. For great experiences, such as Indian cooking masterclasses, Buy A Gift are brilliant. And they will deliver for Christmas if you order by noon on the 23rd, and select “signed for next day guaranteed”. This gives you something to wrap up for the big day, but you can continue to download temporary vouchers right up to the moment you wander downstairs on Christmas Day.

So, five possible ways out of your Christmas present fixes, all from the comfort of your own chair. Happy shopping, but be quick about it.

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Sweets for your sweets

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Retro sweets for your sweeties
Retro sweets for your sweeties

Last week got a bit healthy in places, so it’s back to the sweet stuff! I wish I didn’t have a sweet tooth, but I do. Generally it likes to be fed good quality chocolate, but just occasionally it will wander over the naff side. If you’ve got a sweet-toothed sweetie to buy for, here’s a few ideas for last minute shopping:

1. I’ve sent big boxes of nostalgic sweets from A Quarter Of to two very different groups of people, but to very similar rave reviews. Both a duo of teenagers and an office group fell upon a box filled with retro sweeties and made short work of the contents. With everything from cola bottles to fruit salads, cola cubes to sherbet fountains, there is something in here that was someone’s childhood favourite. The decade boxes are a different spin, and will induce nostalgia as well as a sugar high!

2. Whilst I am a little concerned at seeing the “Made in the EU” labelling on Green & Black’s chocolate, it is still good tasting chocolate. They make a great combo hamper: Beer & Bars. This could solve arguments, just share out the spoils in an appropriate way! These are nice looking hampers, particularly with St Peters Organic beers, which I think are very attractive looking, not to mention tasty!

3. For the true dark chocolate lover, buy them a selection pack they’ll really appreciate. Try one containing 4 of Willie’s Dark Chocolate Bars, and that should keep them in chocolate rapture through till New Year.

4. It takes a very strong will to resist a great cake, and it would probably make a great surprise on Christmas Day. If you want to stick with the chocolate theme, check out the Pralines Cakes by the Original Hat Box Cake Co or, for what looks like the ultimate indulgence in chocolate cake, then I would go for The Ultimate Christmas Cake from Montezuma’s. Chocolate enrobed, one Drambuie layer, one butterscotch layer, total chocolate heaven!

5. For sweets with crunch, then how about biscuits? Of course you can pop to M&S for a tin, but for something with more foodie credentials, then I could go for the Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cantucci on offer at Jamie Oliver. If they were out of stock, then could possibly make do with the Dark Chocolate, Ginger & Chilli instead!

6. Never mind a bumper bar of Dairy Milk, I’d like a bag or slab from Melt. Dark, milk or white, there are some really unusual flavour combinations. The milk chocolate with gold and nutmeg both looks and sounds seasonal, and the dark chocolate with red berries and cocoa nibs also looks the part.

So, count the taste, not the calories this Christmas, and treat your sweetie to some good tastes!

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Christmas gifts for difficult foodies – the “don’t buy me anything” type

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Buy it for someone else who needs it

 

It’s coming round to that time of year, when you’ve ticked all the easy ones of your list, and you’re facing into the fact you’ve only got that one awkward so and so to still shop for. We all have at least one, and every year it’s tough going. My best advice is shop early for these ones, it doesn’t get any easier the later you leave it!

So, what would I suggest for those awkward ones that say “don’t get me anything”? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Don’t. Literally. Don’t buy anything for them, buy something for someone else who is in much greater need. You can even get them with a food theme. With Gift in Action from Action Aid, you could buy cocoa tree saplings, a community garden or a goat breeding programme. Practical Presents offer a fireless cooker, a cool zeer pot or some funky chicks. Someone else gets to cook to survive, they don’t get a blueberry vodka filled stiletto.

2. Buy them something they have forgotten they loved. I think this is where the more unusual nostalgic sweets come into their own, and I love the decade boxes that A Quarter Of have. There are boxes from the 50s onwards, with the 50s having Pontefract Cakes and Peanut Brittle, whilst the 70s (peak sweet eating time for me) has Tooty Frooties, which makes it all worthwhile for me. The other good option for foodies is a much earlier cookbook, to revisit food from your childhood. Nothing for me makes a day better than cooking up cakes from the BeRo cookbook. Check out Alibris for out of print stuff.

3. Buy them something they’ve always wanted to do. I think experiences rather than things are often a better bet, and memories have value for such a long time afterwards. Long after the blueberry vodka has gone. I would think even the least festive feeling person in the world would be happy to find themselves the recipient of a booking on a course at The School of Artisan Food or perhaps bread making with Richard Bertinet in Bath. For something even more niche, how about a sugar decorations masterclass or even a home food smoking course. Smiles guaranteed, both on Christmas Day and on the day of the class.

4. Do something for them. Be the commis chef on Christmas Day, without complaint or tutting. Sort out their cookbooks, or put all the recipes they’ve been collecting into some sort of sensible system for future reference. Get the oven professionally cleaned. Plant salad ready for next year (sorry, can’t remember, sure there are types you could plant now). Just think about the things they always complain they never get round to doing.

5. Go all out and spoil them. Notch up a Michelin starred restaurant or two, or at the nearest top one from the Good Food Guide. Travel overseas and exploit their best food offering, or even just different food offerings to what’s on offer near you.

Don’t leave this till the last minute, as you may need to do more question asking to just get a really good feel for anything except option 1. Failing that, just buy them the Giant Gummi Bear and a jar of Marshmallow Fluff. That’ll teach them.

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First out the Christmas gifts gate at Debenhams

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Yesterday I brought you Selfridges, today it’s Debenhams. I know you’re going to get in quick for some of these! I have to say, it is a mix of the good, bad and ugly. Here’s a quick selection:

A retro favourite for grandmas everywhere!

 

1. Snowball and glass set – a retro favourite, beloved Christmas tipple of my grandma. I think I would buy this for someone as a stocking filler, and at £6.50 that’s not bad.

2. Mrs Bridges- there’s a good collection of different jams, chutneys and mustards from Mrs Bridges, which are the sort of things that tend to make good standby gifts. Some of these look pretty tasty, and useful for the kitchen. For those who like it spicy, there’s the Hot collection, which gives you Chilli Mustard and Chilli Jam. I love ginger, so would perhaps consider the amusingly named Ginger Preserves Mansion. I would think 4 jars of variants of ginger preserves might be enough for one year though!

3. Retro sweets – both Debenhams and Mrs Bridges are offering various retro sweets in jars. Everything from Rhubarb & Custards to candy shrimps and jelly beans. The Debenhams ones come in useful looking Kilner-type jars. The Debenhams ones are £7 for a jar full, and £8 will buy you a gift pack of 2 jars from Mrs B. I have to say, if it’s retro sweets you want, my preferred source is A Quarter Of. I have sent their gift boxes a couple of times, always to rave reviews and grateful thanks (although never heard anything about the dentist bills). Worth a look.

And what’s already on my what not to buy list? Most definitely the Blueberry Cocktail Glass Shoe. As far as I can see there are only two good things about this gift: 1) the contents may make an effective sink cleaner and 2) glass is easily recyclable. I really hope that you are good enough this year not to get one of these! I’m wondering if I can find something worse before the big day? If you spot something, let me know!

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