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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Challenge the Foodie Gift Hunter!

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Holiday's over, Santa, time to get to work!

 

You can’t really deny it. We’ve passed Halloween. It’s November. December comes next.

It’s practically Christmas already.

Holiday’s over, Santa, time to get organised!

Now, I love a good challenge, and particularly at this time of year. What kind of food lover is on your list, and what are you looking for for them? I like to try and find different things to resolve your gift challenges.

They can be tenuous links, as long as there’s some kind of food link. I’ve done gifts for cyclists, and gifts for a thirty something, meat loving, home oven building food lover. But I’m always up for a challenge, and always happy to help.

So let me help you give good gifts for the difficult to buy for. Tell me what you’re looking for!

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Never mind the hare & the bear, some great food gifts at John Lewis

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I’m such a cliché but I do love John Lewis, I can quite happily lose a couple of hours wandering round either of my local stores. I’ve already bought a stunning Christmas tree from them, when I was really only supposed to be looking at what was a good foodie gift from them this Christmas. Good news, it’s not only trees they’re doing well this year. Here’s some of my favourites:

 

Giant Lebkuchen

I love the Christmas Market Collection, and I really love these Giant Lebkuchen. For many years in my day job I used to have a supplier who brought a tin of these across from Germany each Christmas, and it really is a taste of the season. Lovely presentation and at £5 would make a very nice secret Santa gift.

 

Gingerbread village kit

 

I wrote before about some, ahem, difficulties with a gingerbread house, so I cannot imagine the carnage you could do with a whole village. That said it would provide a great activity for Christmas afternoon for little ones, so definitely worth a look. If you think a whole village is beyond you then there is a single house option too!

 

Limoncello

 

There are some very attractive looking tins of Italian liquers, from Amaretto to Limoncello. Not the cheapest at £25 but really attractive, and could round off Christmas Day nicely. Best not to tuck into this before you’ve done the Gingerbread Village.

 

Star Stacker Hamper

 

If you can’t decide, or wanted to send a variety of things, then I like the Star Stacker Hamper. At £35 this is reasonable for a hamper and pretty impressive looking, both first glance and when you look at the contents. Though I have no idea how you would wrap this!

 

Kusmi Tea

 

I love my tea, and love great tasting and looking tea. This Kusmi Tea sampler gift is an incredible selection, absolutely heavenly for a real tea lover. If you don’t want to spend all that, then there is also a smaller sampler gift set.

Of course, these are all edible versions of gifts, and John Lewis is also brilliant if they are gadget mad in the kitchen. There are some great things that I’ve seen through the year on my travels, like the Mastrad Macaroon Making Set or the Molecule-R Gastronomy Set. Although I think I still prefer the cocktail versions of those sets! Or if they are really into precision, then maybe the Heston Blumenthal Digital Precision Scale might be the right thing.

Plenty to go at, I think you could find pretty much something for everyone on your list! Though I’d still like them to find a KitchenAid mixer for my stocking, please!

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Surprise! It’s Christmas tomorrow!

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The Cold Shoulder and how to avoid it on Christmas morning

 

Surely you didn’t? Surely this year you remembered this year that the 25th always comes after the 24th, and in December you’re in big trouble if you don’t have at least one gift wrapped up for all your significant others. So of course you could head onto the High Street today, and millions will. Millions and millions.

Can you imagine?

Should you prefer to sit at home, credit card in hand, then here’s some possibilities for you in order not to be out in the cold come Tuesday morning:

* For foodies everywhere, then this post showed possibilities that meant happy faces, not cold shoulders. If you can “borrow” their smartphone/tablet for a bit, that may be helpful!

* In this electronic age, then gift them books digitally. But maybe go a little more unusual than Jamie, Nigella et al. My choice would be How to Make British Indian Restaurant Style Meals by Dan Toombs for Kindle. Obviously only if they like Indian food, but you get the gist.

* Buy an experience. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, as it’s something to look forward to, something to enjoy on the day, and then something to remember, hopefully fondly. If they get to learn a skill, then it goes on for even longer. I’d be looking at vouchers for somewhere like The School of Artisan Food, or Divertimenti (which definitely offers an e-voucher option).  If you need national coverage or something close to home, then try somewhere like Red Letter Days.

* Buy a big experience. Also known as a trip. You can pick almost anywhere and find great food connections. I’ve written about Dartmouth for food lovers and North Norfolk, about New York City and Hong Kong for food lovers. Depends on your budget, but booking online is easy, you can print stuff out, and again have lots to look forward to.

So, a few clicks and you could save yourself from a lot of bad feeling tomorrow, not to mention a very serious case of the cold shoulder. Which has to be worth it.

 

Photo by juhansonin on Flickr.

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Great growing gifts for Christmas and beyond

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Reading OFM yesterday where someone had put a quince tree on their wishlist reminded me that I hadn’t looked at The Gluttonous Gardener this festive season. I think they have some very clever and lovely gift ideas, for those that not only love their food but want a hand in it too.

 

 

Sure enough, you can buy a lovely quince gift, which contains a tree and some quince and crab apple jelly from Ouse Valley, plus growing instructions and recipes. Given that quince is not necessarily the easiest item to track down, but does make some delicious dishes, then this might just really tick some food lover boxes.

 

 

There’s all kinds of fruit that you could choose from, including blackberries, blueberries and wild strawberries (my favourite). I also like the herb tea crate, which would make an unusual gift for a herbal tea lover. Can’t come much fresher than making it from your own herbs. I can also think of a few people that the Moroccan Mint Tea gift would suit too.

This is a great site to find unusual Christmas gifts for a foodie, that won’t be completely consumed and gone by the end of Boxing Day. Still time to order and get delivered in time for the big day.

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What are people looking for this Christmas?

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Google Analytics. It’s where spreadsheet geekdom and out and out nosiness collide! I find it endlessly fascinating to look at the things that people have been searching for and somehow ended up here. Some I get, some are interesting, some really badly spelt (please, do you know what that does to me?) and some just a bit odd.

* Jamie Oliver’s Beetroot Relish – lots of people looking for this. Heaven knows why they click through here though, as Jamie Oliver’s own site comes out top of the search, and is the obvious place to look to buy this.

* Most beautiful cookbooks – I wrote a blog post with that term pretty much as the title, so guess that’s why people end up at this post. I still think that the Penguin Great Food books are the most beautiful books, and the three I’ve bought so far have been fascinating reading, as well as some great recipes.

 

 

* Gifts for spice lovers – I’ve written about all kinds of spice and heat since I started the blog, and it’s something we’re quite keen on here at Tarver Towers anyway. I wrote a post last year on this theme, covering everything from the hottest of the hot from Chilli Pepper Pete through to the great aromatics from Arabica.

* Lambrini gifts – do you lot never learn? I have nothing nice to say about them.

* Bespoke coffee tampers – be very happy if the person searching for this is buying for you. I think it’s a fabulous gift for a serious coffee lover, and I found one at a great site called Has Bean Coffee.

 

* Christmas tea towels – I love a great tea towel for every occasion. I’m not sure if these were searches for tea towels for Christmas gifts, or Christmassy tea towels. If I need a tea towel, then it has to be To Dry For. If they don’t have what you need, I don’t think you need it.

 

 

* Diamond Jubilee chefs aprons – blimey, some of you are organised! I’m still tieing up this Christmas, let alone getting into next year. I did briefly mention a vintage apron that might work for a street party next year but that’s as close as I’ve got to thinking about it!

 

Full marks to the person looking for a gold star champagne saucer. I’m still loving mine, though mine are less sophisticated as I have a mismatched set including a Babycham one. Good luck with your present hunting, let me know if you are looking for anything interesting, or having trouble finding something.

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Great British food gifts from British Fine Foods

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Christmas ranges are popping up all over the place now, and British Fine Foods is no exception. I love what they do, and their Christmas selections are no exception to that. Here’s what’s caught my eye:

Great gifts from Great British Foods

 

Nice combo here of wild boar salami from The Real Boar Co and a decent red wine. Honestly, this is like dinner in a box. Great tasting salami, perfectly complemented by the Puna Snipe Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere.

 

Lancashire Bomb Kit - great gift for a food lover who likes their cheese

 

I’ve written before about Lancashire Bomb, and this is a great gift set showing off the cheese with some tasty friends. Serve the cheese on the Halen Môn salt and cracked black pepper oatmeal biscuits with a side order of quince and damson fruit cheese. Again, a perfect dish in a box. Just needs a glass of wine and the receiver is all set up for Christmas afternoon!

 

Gentleman's Christmas Collection from British Fine Foods

 

In all the time I’ve been writing about gifts, the most regular complaint is that men are so difficult to buy for. Well, if you’ve got a difficult chap who likes good food, then look no further than the Gentlemen’s Christmas Collection. Wild boar chorizo, Dorset Blue Vinny, decent crackers, chutney, a knife and a decent slate slab to eat off. Give him the remote, and that’s another one settled in for a good afternoon!

 

Artisan Christmas Collection from British Fine Foods

 

Support some great small producers with the Artisan Christmas Collection. Tempt your tastebuds with Godminster Cheddar, Inverawe Smoked Salmon and a side shot of British Cassis, knowing your indulgence is based on the knowledge and expertise of passionate British producers.

To be honest, you could do your Christmas gift and Christmas food shopping from this site in one evening. They’ve even taken the hard work out of making choices, and can send you Christmas Day in a box, as long as you want turkey, and then Boxing Day in a box delivers a ham on the bone and pork pie amongst other things. If you wanted a lazy Christmas but with taste, I’d go for these!

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Heal’s do good food gifts again. And again. And again…

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Groundhog Day. But once a good gift for a food lover, always a good gift!

I’ve written before about great food gifts from Heal’s. In 2010, the most popular gift I wrote about was the paté gift boxes, so no surprise to see those back this year. And they were a winner in 2010, and they’d been there in 2009. As had the hot water bottle and hot chocolate gift set.

Now, I’ve heard about back by popular demand, but it would seem that things are not moving on a lot on some gifts. I know how tempting it is when you have a winner to keep pushing it out, but I would think three years must be a limit! And although I’ve loved some of the Heal’s own brand gifts in other years, I’m beginning to have a very real sense of dejà vu!

I do like the three drinks kit (mulled wine, spiced cider and champagne cocktails) which I don’t think I have seen before, and think they’re a good stocking filler at just £6.50.

What they are good at is gifts for cooks, kit that is really useful and good for a cook. Yes, the Imperia gift set is not cheap, but there really is no point in buying any other kind of pasta machine in my book. Trust me, we tried a cheaper one. It didn’t last! All the brands that most cooks would want are here, so there’s Bodum and KitchenAid, and all the usual suspects. Perfect one stop shop in that respect.

So, across the whole shop there are interesting gifts, and their selections from other brands are interesting, but worth price checking as they are not exclusive lines to Heal’s. And the stuff that is, well, it’ll feel like an old friend coming back for Christmas. Again! Sort of a groundhog day for gifts I guess, just without the regifting!

Groundhog day photo by AlicePopkorn on Flickr.

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Santa’s little helpers for your homemade goodies

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I think we all know, and can feel, it’s been a tough year, and belts are a notch tighter. And now Christmas is just around the corner. So how do we still give great gifts and keep the bank manager on side come January?

DIY.

I know I wrote about this last year as well, but it’s a continuing theme. And each year there are more ways to make whatever you make look even more professional. John Lewis have a lovely range in from Meri Meri, like these character gift boxes:

 

Meri Meri Character Boxes - perfect ways to upgrade your homemade gifts for, or from, food lovers

 

And if you’re the baking kind then I love the cupcake cases and toppers as well.

 

Upping the ante on the cupcake front - great ways to upgrade your homemade goodies

 

I don’t know Meri Meri as a brand, but I like all the things that John Lewis have in stock from them. And if you’re looking for something pretty and vintage, then have a look at the tins from Dot Com Gift Shop. They sent me one of these the other week, and I have to say I love it. Great biscuit tin, perfect gift for co-workers if you fill it with your best homemade cookies.

Lakeland, of course, is still a rich hunting ground for things you might need. I love the 3D Christmas cookie cutter set, but then I think my cookie cutter addiction is well documented. As you’d expect they also have all the cases, moulds and bags you could ever need for any kind of Christmas cookery gifts you want to make, to really give your tasty treats the most professional, festive treatment.

I am working on something for my team, which needs jars, and for me, there is only one source: Jam Jar Shop. Great range of both jars and bottles, as well as preserving kit, labels and covers, so everything you need really. Will post on this once they get their gifts, not wishing to spoil a surprise!

So, this year, more than ever, there’s no need for homemade to look second best. How it tastes, of course, is up to you!

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What does the nation’s favourite department store have in store for us?

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I was on a very rare weekend foray into town last weekend, and made a quick detour through John Lewis to see whether they had got festive yet, as their foodie gifts are often interesting. Whilst not having looked at the offer online in any great detail, these are the things that caught my eye in store.

 

Tea collection at John Lewis - great gift for a food lover who loves their tea

 

Attractive looking tea collection, good shape for wrapping as well. Listed at £12.

 

Hot chocolate collection at John Lewis - great gift for a food lover who loves hot chocolate

A version for those who don’t like tea but love chocolate! Same price as the tea at £12

 

Gift sets from Hugs at John Lewis - great gift for a food lover

 

Can’t really see the detail here, but these are from Hugs, hence the hands. Not a company I know anything about currently, but nice looking packs and tea bag squeezers. Looks like these are £6, but gifts start at £5.

 

Gingerbread at John Lewis - great gift for a food lover who likes it sweet

There was one heck of a lot of gingerbread going on. I love gingerbread, be interested to see how this goes. Also be interesting to see what condition the gingerbread houses arrive at store in, and how they look by December!

So, good start, will do a more comprehensive view as the season gets closer, but just thought the initial signs are interesting.

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