A guide to buying presents for foodies
Christmas isa timeto feastand that means it's easyto buy presents for the foodies in your family,writesRobin Lynam
On a spiritual or emotional level, Christmas means different things to different people. On a hedonistic level it means the same to almost everybody - food, and plenty of it.
Even those who adhere to austere diets for much of the year allow themselves a rare lapse into gluttony. Foodies also indulge, but are more particular about what they ingest.
Fortunately, this makes them easy to buy gifts for. Luxury food items and the assorted gastronomic paraphernalia are all very welcome.
Options range from modestly priced stocking fillers to more extravagant presents, for which the lucky recipient can be expected to be lastingly grateful. Here are 10 seasonally appropriate suggestions for shopping for the foodies in your life.
Hampers are a well-established Christmas tradition, particularly in Britain where they are strongly associated with iconic London department stores such as Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. The latter this year has distressed British newspaper the Daily Mail by producing a hamper called The Decadence, intended, fumes the outraged organ, for "City bankers, hedge fund bosses, Russian magnates and Arab potentates" - the last of whom presumably don't celebrate Christmas, but never mind - priced at £20,000 (HK$253,000).
Closer to home, for a more affordable but still wince-inducing HK$7,888, Great Food Hall offers its House of Fine Foods Hamper which includes St James Scottish smoked salmon royal fillets, Calvisius Oscietra sustainable caviar from Italy, Maison Masse duck foie gras, and Pedroni traditional balsamic vinegar (aged 25 years).
Great also offers a range of other hampers, including the Christmas Extraordinaire, containing, it is claimed, "the crème de la crème of gourmet foods". That will set you back HK$5,888.
A brightly coloured stand mixer
Pots and pans are often things of beauty, but the same is not generally true of electrical kitchen appliances.
Among the few exceptions is the colourful range of Artisan series stand mixers by the American KitchenAid company, which also makes an attractive range of blenders.
The KitchenAid artisan series tilt-head stand mixer (HK$6,116, Pan-Handler), available in a range of colours, is both attractive and well engineered. No need to wrap - just put it under the tree with a colour-coordinated ribbon and your foodie can get straight to work.
A good copper pot or pan
Foodies like copper pots and pans, partly because they are aesthetes and the brightly burnished metal looks good in the kitchen, but also because it conducts heat evenly and gets up or down to the required temperature quickly.
To prevent food reacting with the metal, copper pans are usually lined with tin, which wears out relatively quickly, or stainless steel, which doesn't.
Almost any foodie will appreciate a high quality utensil such as the Mauviel M'heritage 20cm stainless steel lined copper sauté pan, equipped with a cast iron handle (HK$2,670, Pan-Handler). As the poet John Keats remarked, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." Cast iron pot or pan Copper is of no use to a foodie who has switched to an induction hob. Those won't work with non-ferrous pans, unless an "interface disc" is put between the hob and the utensil.
But colourful and durable cast iron cookware will work with any heat source. How about the Le Creuset 27cm cast iron oval French oven in new "nutmeg" (grey) or "spinach" (green), on special offer in December at HK$2,321, discounted from HK$3,868, at the Le Creuset shop in Wyndham Street?
A pasta maker
Foodies love to make fresh pasta. A good pasta machine allows the owner to produce pasta in a variety of styles, to the thickness of their liking, and using the flours and liquids of their choosing.
The Imperia pasta factory ($2,045, Pan-Handler) is a stylish, easy to clean machine which will have your foodie rolling out ribbons and sheets to be cooked al dente in no time. For another HK$270 at the same store you could buy them a wooden pasta drying rack from the same manufacturer.
A bread maker
Bread makers are not beautiful objects, but the sense to which they are designed to appeal is smell. What aroma could be more pleasant to wake up to than freshly baked bread?
The Philips Viva Collection bread maker HD9045/30 (HK$1,288, Fortress) offers 14 different programmes for a wide variety of bread types, and features a 13-hour delay timer so your foodie can wake up to or come home to the smell of fresh bread whenever he or she likes.
A good book
If your foodie is a bibliophile, a new tome in tune with their tastes may be the best bet. But if they don't already have a comprehensive gastronomic reference work they can spend hours poring over the 2009 edition of Prosper Montagné's Larousse Gastronomique, first published in 1938, (US$61.20, Amazon) or the 2006 edition of Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion To Food (US$44.32, Amazon).
Christmas is also a good time for splashing out on high-quality chocolates, but you need to shop with discernment. For the chocolate loving foodie, hollow Santa Claus statuettes are contraindicated.
Now that the great foodie preoccupation is provenance, think in terms of "bean to bar" producers such as Valrhona. A chocolate company established in 1922 in the Rhone Valley, Valrhona chocolate is known as a favourite of pastry chefs.
Valrhona takes its inspiration for some of these from the world of wine, and makes "vintage" chocolate from cocoa beans from a single year's harvest on a single plantation.
A good selection of these is available in the form of the Valrhona 6 grands crus collection gift box which contains 66 bite size squares (Great, HK$640) or you could go with the estate-grown chocolates selection box 2013 vintage (Great, HK$980).
Salt of the earth (or sea)
Foodies are at least as serious about their salt as their chocolate, taken separately or together - and combining them is fashionable.
For a modestly priced stocking filler consider an attractive porcelain jar containing 125g of Le Saunier de Camargue fleur de sel (HK$97.90, Great, below left), harvested by hand from the French coastal areas of Brittany and the Camargue and prized for its mineral complexity.
Some serious cheese
Port and Stilton are as essential to Christmas celebration as mince pies. You would endear yourself to any cheese lover by giving them a Neal's Yard Dairy Colston Bassett Stilton (Great, HK$46 per 100g).
Colston Bassett is a small Nottinghamshire cheese maker which makes this cheese to special instructions from London cheese specialist Neal's Yard to give "the cheese a chance to express flavours other than blue; we want the blue to balance rather than overwhelm the cheese". It's just right with a good vintage port.