- Food & Drink
If you read my previous post about how making people presents is a grave error and to be avoided at all costs, then you may now be in a quandary. Or maybe not. It depends on how seriously you take my pronouncements on these sorts of things, really.
At any rate, you might have someone in your life who likes cooking/eating more than the average soul and you’re wondering where to go to find the special gift that will show them how much you care. The answer is, of course: The Internet.
Because there’s still time to place a hasty online order, have the postman shove a delivery card through your letterbox and then queue at your local collection centre to pick your parcel up. Let the shopping commence!
Got a globetrotting gourmet in the family? Then hie yourself to Sous Chef, where Japanese ramen bowls, Spanish paella pans, Persian cookbook kits, Mexican hot sauces and French nut oils are waiting to be boxed up and delivered to the more discerning kitchen fanatic.
Full disclosure: I know Nicola Lando, who set up Sous Chef, and she once made me a very nice dinner. But that doesn’t affect my opinion that Sous Chef is a brilliant and inspiring collection of foods, tools and tableware.
The site is well laid out and contains every difficult ingredient and trend setting bit of equipment an adventurous cook could dream of. Whether it’s a banneton for proving your sourdough in or a Polyscience smoking gun for, ah, doing whatever a smoking gun does, Sous Chef has it.
Londoners looking to shop small and shop local but who don’t have time to go to the actual shops will want to take an online wander through Craved. Set up by sustainability nut David Voxlin, Craved is a marketplace for ‘small batch producers’ – independent food and drink manufacturers who actually deserve the artisan label that gets slapped on everything edible these days.
Craved delivers across the UK, but the focus is on London producers. At a brunch Craved hosted in October with Black Isle Bakery to showcase the website’s products and Black Isle’s frankly amazing buns (most of the pictures in this blog post are from that brunch) David enthusiastically reeled off all the types of producers there are in London at the moment and the site is home to an eclectic mix of jam makers, brewers and distillers, confectioners, cheese makers and curers.
Worth looking at are Newton & Pott’s pickles and chutneys, England Preserves’ aromatic jams, Sacred Spirits’ gins, Paul A Young’s chocolates, Cobble Lane Cured’s salamis, Square Root’s soft drinks, and Wildes Cheese and Kappacasein’s cheeses (I can’t pick between cheeses. They’re all too delicious). Or just go to this handy Christmas page and take a gander at the nice things David thinks you’ll want to eat this year.
For lovers of things in jars, Manfood is your gateway to preserved food heaven. They do pickles, chutneys and, quite wonderfully, chip shop curry sauce, but the reason I’m hanging around this website is the cocktail jams. COCKTAIL JAMS! The perfect gift for the responsible lush in your life, who’d like to begin the day with a glass of something strengthening but will settle for strawberry negroni spread all over their toast.
For serious booze hounds, though, head to Masters of Malt. Mostly whisky but not exactly slacking on other spirits, they have a handy gift finder that’ll help you narrow down what sort of alcohol will best please Uncle Geoff or Great Auntie Margaret. They also do sample bottles and tasting sets. Miniature versions of things always taste better than big versions. Just make sure there is enough of them.
If the person you are shopping for is British, then I’m 99% certain they have tea running through their veins instead of blood. This must be topped up regularly throughout the day or their stiff upper lip begins to wobble and they start to display worrying signs of emotion. Knock that on the head by giving them a mixed sack of Joe’s Tea Co teas.
Joe, who I met when I was running Stepney City Farm’s cafe, blends the best English breakfast tea and for a time I was definitely slightly dependent on it. Tea by itself, no matter how lovely, is a rubbish gift though. Make sure you include a humorous mug and some Biscuiteer biscuits.
My last shop is The Foodie Bugle Shop, a beacon to good taste (or possibly a beeswax candle to good taste if beacons are too unrefined). There’s food of the organic and artisanal kind, prettily packaged drinks with slightly twee names, and homewares. Oh, the homewares.
Butcher’s cuts tea towels, sets of enamelware, chestnut toasters (yes, you do need one of those), cookbooks, jolly socks and a vintage section that I would ideally like you to buy nothing from because I have my eye on all of it. Seriously, the moment I am rich, I am having everything on those pages shipped to me and I will spend the rest of my life arranging it all on shelves and being happy at how tasteful I am. Back away from the vintage section.
I said The Food Bugle would be my last shop, but I should probably mention Abel & Cole because I work for them and they do sell nice things. The Christmas section covers every organic Christmas foodstuff you could imagine, and some that you might not have even considered.
This year my family will be sitting down to the Brilliant Beef Feast Box for lunch. It has everything you need for starters, main course and pudding for 6-8 people and the recipes were all developed by me (fancy!). So, if what you wanted for Christmas was not to go to the shops, then this is the Christmas day lunch for you.