It’s the most wonderful time of the year – especially for food lovers! Delicious things to eat for days on end, any excuse to pop the bubbles, and unboxing gifts that fill your foodie heart with glee.
Yes, if you’re a full-grown adult person who loves food, Christmas is like your own personal nirvana. Sometimes I wish everyone else in my family circle were as mad about food as I am because gift giving would be so much easier and fun. But, if you find yourself tasked with selecting the ultimate food lovers’ gift for a special someone but don’t know where to start, take my hand and come with me to a world of foodie-magination…
Blasta Books – Seasons 1 & 2
If you haven’t heard about @BlastaBooks this year, you must have been living under a rock! Scooping awards left right and centre, including a Cookery Book award for the entire first season, (Tacos, Hot Fat, United Nations of Cookies and Wok), at this years Irish Food Writing Awards, and praise from some of the hottest names in the food world, the second season of Blasta Books have been announced.
The four new titles are Soup, Tapas, Wasted and Masarap are the four new titles from the most exciting and creative voices in Irish food today. Founder and editor of Blasta Books, Kristin Jensen, describes these series as small books with big voices. The 60-page small-format mini-books are just €15 each or buy the whole series of four books for €50. Season 1 is full published and will arrive all in one go, while Season 2 will be published from January every four months making it a gift that will keep giving all year long.
Ballymaloe Farm & Gardens Annual Pass
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” said the Roman philosopher, Cicero. If first came the library, now comes the garden – but not just any garden. Across the many acres that encircle Ballymaloe Cookery School are a variety of gardens, a working farm and glasshouses designed to enthral and delight, but also to be productive and a haven for biodiversity.
Throughout the year, the landscapes change as life emerges from its winter depths, blooms in spring, is abundant in summer, and slowly falls back in autumn. The gardens are open all year round and the family pass (€80) provides unlimited access, making it a great way for children to learn about the natural cycles of the year, where and how food is grown, and seasonality. Afterwards, a sustaining snack in the cafe is essential, and time to plan your next visit.
Good Fortune Cookies – Treat and Repeat Cookie Subscription
One of Cork’s best kept secrets, Good Fortune Cookies, is breaking out of the rebel county this Christmas and delivering boxes of joy nationwide with a tantalising ‘Treat & Repeat’ cookie subscription service.
Satisfy all the cookie cravings with three- or six-monthly deliveries of 15 freshly baked cookies in seasonally inspired flavours direct to your door each month. Order now, and the first box will land in before Christmas with a fresh cookie box arriving every month thereafter. 3-month subscription is €90, 6-month subscription €180. The perfect gift for the cookie monster in your life.
ETO Wine Decanter
What if a wine decanter could perfectly preserve your wine while enjoying it and any remaining once the evenings imbibe is done? ETO wine decanters do just that and all within a beautifully designed piece of homeware.
The design creates a seal between the wine and the air, reducing oxidation which, over time and exposure, can alter its flavour. Wine can be stored in the ETO wine decanter for up to two weeks and stored upright in a fridge – making it great for white and rose wines, too. Demand for better quality wines is rising, especially organic, natural and biodynamic wines. So, if investing in a great quality wine, an ETO decanter system makes sense, too. €169.
Braw Festive Chocolate Treats
Founded by chocolatier, Anna Coffey Lynch in 2020, Braw, based in Limerick, are creators of handmade seasonal chocolate bars and confections using sustainable and ethical Luker chocolate. A rockin’ Santa (€5), a friendly bear in a branded mug filled with marshmallows for the ultimate hot chocolate (€15), and hand-decorated Christmas Trees in milk chocolate with white chocolate and berry truffles or dark chocolate with whiskey ganache and almond nib truffles (€25) are all crowd pleasers and raise the bar for chocolate dreams everywhere!
Purchase online with nationwide delivery – be sure to place your order with enough time for Christmas as every piece is handmade, hand decorated and packaged with care.
Teeling Irish Whiskey
It’s the world’s most awarded Irish Whiskey and arguably one of Ireland’s most distinctively creative whiskey brands. Teeling work to create unique spirits with big flavours in small batches from their own distillery in the heart of Dublin. Irish whiskey has evolved, and as consumers our tastes are ever maturing. It’s tricky choosing a bottle as a gift without knowing what someone’s favoured whiskey style is. The Teeling Trinity Pack, (€18.00, available online), is a trio of expressions of award-winning whiskeys. Containing three 50ml mini bottles of Teeling Small Batch, Single Grain and Single Malt whiskeys, this gift makes a perfect stocking filler for any whiskey afficionado.
The French Table by Trish Deseine
One of Ireland’s most successful and prolific food writers, Trish Deseine returned to France to create an idyllic life in the French countryside. Her food styling is a celebration of classic French country chic thanks to her keen eye for seeking out gorgeous vintage homewares – from crockery and cutlery to linens and glassware. Us mere mortals can steal a ride on Deseine’s aesthetic coattails by purchasing these vintage finds from her online shop, The French Table, and have them shipped to your door. Prices vary piece to piece, and watch out for her seasonally themed sales – such as this collection of plates for the sole purpose of serving asparagus when the season is upon us…
Slated Personalised Serving Boards
Tara and Ed Hammond are renowned for making beautiful hand carved and finished slate tableware, sourcing their raw materials from a family-owned slate quarry in Spain that operates to high ethical standards – something worth bearing in mind when considering cheaper, mass-produced imitations.
Anyone of their hand-wrought creations make for a beautiful gift but take your game up a notch by getting a board personalised for your favourite person. Chose a phrase, a message, a date, or initials and Tara and Ed will carefully craft it for you.
Personalised slate boards are priced between €55 – €67; alphabet carved coasters are €15.
Tom Crean Brewery Tours
Located in Kenmare, Co Kerry, the Tom Crean Brewery has a unique story to tell unlike any other. Established by Aileen Crean O’Brien and Bill Shepherd, Aileen is the granddaughter of the famous arctic explorer, Tom Crean. Together, they brew beers with nods to the Crean family connection, such as their Blas na hEireann Gold award-winning 6 Magpies stout.
Aileen and Bill run tours at their modern brewery in Kenmare where they regale visitors with stories of Crean’s arctic adventures – trust me, brewing beer and an interest in arctic adventures are not as mutually exclusive as you may think! Shop their online store for the entire range of 11 brews, merchandise, gift vouchers and Honouring Tom Crean, a book authored by Bill Shepherd based on a centenary expedition undertaken by members of the Crean family.
Burren Smokehouse Hampers
Is it really Christmas unless there’s Irish smoked salmon to delve into? I don’t think so, and it makes for a beautiful choice of hamper to gift for someone who likes a touch of foodie decadence. Just add bubbles, and it’s a feast fit for a King!
The Burren Smokehouse is one of Ireland’s oldest smokehouses beloved by many. Birgitta Curtin knows how to add a glamourous edge to the handcrafted salmon, just take their Irish Whiskey Hamper. The hamper promises to spoil you with, Burren Cold Smoked Irish Organic Salmon with Honey, Whiskey & Fennel and their Hot Smoked Irish Organic Salmon; a bottle of JJ Corey’s “The Banner Blend” Whiskey from County Clare; Skelligs Whiskey Truffles, Beetroot Chutney, Burren Whiskey Marmalade, two Galway Crystal whiskey tumblers and a hip flask, (€165.00 + delivery).
Other great ideas for Christmas include the Burren Breakfast Basket (€50) for the ultimate Christmas morning breakfast experience or send a gift that keeps giving with a Burren Smokehouse Subscription (from €40.50 per month). All available to purchase online with nationwide delivery.
Sligo Oyster Experience
Imagine making someone’s day with a gift box of exquisite fresh Irish oysters. This year, Aisling Kelly Hunter and her husband Glenn, founders of Sligo Oyster Experience on Coney Island, are sending their beautifully plump, fresh, delicious oysters from their farm to grace your table.
Working with other artisans, gift boxes include Wildwood Barrel Aged Balsamic Blackberry Vinegar, Scarlet For Yer Ma’s Hot Sauce, Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Blend, wine or champagne and a recipe book to curate a range of Seafood Gift Boxes with a real wow factor. Three “Fresh From The Sea” gift boxes range from €59 – €100 (+ €8 delivery).
Green Gifting with GIY
Seeds are one of the most generous gifts you can give. They may be small, but they are mighty and given just the smallest amount of care and attention will grow into healthy plants to eat all year round.
GIY love to share the gift of growing your own food, and this year there are more GROWBoxes to choose from than ever before. Boxes start from just €39.99 for the How Food Grows box. It includes 12 seed packets (basil, beetroot, chard, French beans, kale, lettuce, peas, carrots, radish, spinach, oriental greens and wild rocket), and access to the How Food Grows online course guiding beginners in growing from plot to plate with success.
Follow along the growing year with Michael Kelly’s latest book, GIY Diaries, (€26.99), charting a year in the life of his vegetable patch and recipes to cook with what you grow.
Galway Food Tours
Sheena Dignum, founder of Galway Food Tours, makes food tours cool because she has the hippest spots in Galway’s West End and beyond to call into. What started as a simple walking food tour has grown into one of the country’s best loved culinary tours, encompassing food, fashion, biking, beers and more. In 2020, when the country was in lockdown and tours were off the menu, Sheena and her team produced a handy pocket guide to the best eats, drinks and things to see and do around Galway city and included a bunch of vouchers to encourage visitors to keep supporting local businesses.
Anyone of the six tours available can be booked as an experience gift; buy a voucher, a guidebook with an incredible array of vouchers included, or go the whole hog and purchase a GFT Hamper – Daytime Tour voucher, socks and a funky tote, all for €82.
Scoop Magazine Subscription
Scoop launched earlier this year and is Ireland’s first printed food journal dedicated to long-form food writing with articles and features that take a deep dive into Irish food culture. Dee Laffan (editor-in-chief) and Kristin Jensen (founder) are the powerhouse female duo behind this publication. It’s first edition asked the question “What is Irish Food?” and sets the tone for future magazines and topics. It’s Ireland’s version of Cherry Bombe (US) and Noble Rot (UK), and an annual subscription to Scoop, with two editions per year, is a must-gift for the foodie who likes to stay topical and take the long view of serious questions in food writing.
An annual subscription is €40 for two editions per year or buy Scoop Issue 1 for €20.
James Whelan Beef Box
Good quality beef is an everyday luxury. The partnership between the beef farmer and the butcher is essential – flavour, texture and aroma are all markers of a partnership that is thriving to produce outstanding quality beef. This is what James Whelan Butchers have “steaked” (sorry!) their reputation on over the years, and the result is a success story in Irish food.
Innovation is the name of the game at James Whelan Butchers, being one of the first to offer mail-order beef, and beef bonds – owning a share in one of their prized Hereford or Angus Cattle that graze all year round on the hills of Tipperary at their family farm.
A beef bond is priced at €100, choose the preferred maturation time: 14, 18 or 22 weeks from purchase, and receive a range of different butcher’s cuts including steaks, roasts, slow-cook joints, mince, burgers and more.
Drink Like a Viking
If there is one good thing to be said for climate change, it’s that Ireland is home to a small but growing new Irish wine movement, and what better place to find an Irish winemaker than the sunny South-East?
Viking Irish Drinks, based in Wexford, began as cider makers – a process that has more in common with wine making that brewing or distilling. But in the last couple of seasons, their grapevines have matured enough to produce enough great quality grapes to make their own wines too – a red and a white variety. Their first batch wine was released in 2018, and of that only the red “Rondo” is still available, but the good news is that 2022 was a very good harvest so be sure to keep watch for news of that vintage coming online when its ready for bottling.
For now, make a bee line for their Blackcurran Liqueur, Ireland’s very own version of Crème de Cassis and made to and old family recipe. The liqueur blends locally grown Wexford blackcurrant with some of the vineyards own Rondo red wine and honey for six days before pressing and balancing the sweetness with grape spirit. Perfect with cheeseboards or mixed with bubbles for a splendid Kir Royale.
Buy online, Blackcurrant Liqueur €26.95, Rondo Red Wine €40.
Escape to the Country
There’s something special about a weekend escape to a grand old country house. Few of these old houses are still in the hands of the original family; generations that caretake these treasured buildings filled with history, good times and memories. Ballyvolane House, near the river Blackwater in county Cork, does it so well. Current custodians, Justin and Jenny Green, have made old world hospitality an elegant art form.
The house is nestled in acres of gardens and woodlands, and every room has been restored with original features and modern comforts. It’s even hosted royalty; but the real draw for escaping foodies is the gourmet cuisine and on-site gin distillery – for Ballyvolane is the home of multi-award-winning Bertha’s Revenge Gin. Slow Food is the ethos here, and much of the produce is either grown in the walled garden on-site, fished from the Blackwater, or sourced from nearby producers.
Stay and play all year round, visit the distillery and enjoy a Bertha’s and Tonic at the bar in a restored barn. Watch their Instagram for news of pop-up events in the garden, because there’s always something going on at beautiful Ballyvolane.
Bakery 101 with Bread 41
Fancy mastering the art of bread making with Ireland’s most in-demand baker today? Eoin Cluskey, founder of Bread 41 in Dublin, has begun offering classes to small numbers of students at the bakery. Numbers are capped at 12 per class, run for three hours from 6pm to 9pm – great for anyone who struggles for time at weekends and cost €130.
Participants will learn to mix a variety of breads and doughs, shape and bake your own loaf of bread, and how to keep your sourdough starter alive and active. The class includes a bite to eat and something to drink, and you’ll leave with a goody bag of sourdough starter, bread you’ve made yourself and recipes – everything needed to start your own bread making journey at home.
Once the wider population get wind of these classes, they are sure to book out soon, so get ready! Book online at Bread41.ie and follow the Eventbrite link to book on to the next available class.
Condiments, and more… Builín Blasta Hampers
Who doesn’t adore Builín Blasta’s Smoked Onion Mayo? But guess what, that devilishly delicious mayonnaise is not the only thing from those wizarding geniuses – they also make dressings, chutneys and jams designed to be equally as moreish as their big sister.
Now, they have put all their lovely condiments in a hamper, along with a few choice items to compliment them, from wines and cheese to handmade tea towels and aprons. Prices start from €30 – €85 for the Rogha An Tí, or House Specialities, hampers, with many more selections available to suit all kinds of budgets and tastes from sweet to savoury and everything in between!
All hamper selections are available online at www.builinblasta.com with nationwide delivery.
Mourne Food Adventures – Secret Dining Experience
“There’ll be a whole lotta fun, and that’s all we’re gonna tell you – for now!” So says founder of Mourne Food Adventures, Paul Cunningham, the culinary superstar who has returned to his native Mourne to establish a new way of connecting people, food and landscape.
Cunningham’s Secret Dining Experiences are incredible 11-course tasting menu experiences of the very best of seasonal, craft produce and paired with beers, ciders and spirits from the creative collective of brewers and distillers from the region. But it’s more than the sum of its parts, and no two events are ever the same – expect to be delighted.
Tickets are released via Eventbrite, and on booking you’ll receive a meeting point. From there, all diners are whisked away to a secret location (this changes every time so there’s no chance for cheating!), before being served incredible food and drink in a unique and stunning location.
I have been told by Paul that there are two dates planned for 2023: Friday 28th January and 18th February. Tickets as on sale now – be quick as numbers are limited.
WRITTEN BY KATE RYAN @FLAVOUR.IE