Christmas Food & Drink: Goodies for foodies

What better excuse to indulge in sumptuous gourmet delicacies than by giving them to your nearest and dearest? Rachael Philipps gives you presents on a plate
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The Independent Culture
BOTTLED BLISS

If you want to splash out and really feel like treating someone, then try this 35-year-old Giaco Bazzi balsamic vinegar at pounds 75 per 100ml. And if you want to drive the economy out of recession singlehandedly, snap up the 100-year-old Leornardi variety, weighing in at pounds 175 per100ml.

Fortnum & Mason order line: 0845 300 1707 Last date for Christmas orders: 8 December

HERBACEOUS ORDERS

Why not give your favourite foodie a little light gardening work for Christmas? The award-winning Jekka's organic herb farm has developed a range of gourmet herb seeds. And you don't need a garden to grow them - a window box or plant pot will do. For the adventurous cook, you can pick up the oriental mix of Japanese parsley, chop-suey green, Japanese green, purple choy-sum and shiso purple. And for the basil fiend, there's a selection of aniseed, cinnamon, Greek, lemon and Neapolitano basils. Other collections include salad herbs, edible flowers and herbal teas. Kits cost pounds 5 each, including package and posting.

Jekka's Herb Farm: 01454 418 878

Last date for Christmas orders: 17 December

MA CHERIE AMOUR

If you fancy a change from Christmas pud, try a generous spoonful of these over good vanilla ice-cream. This 4kg jar (pounds 39.50) makes a stunning gift and is just one of a huge range of sweet and savoury goodies that Carluccio's will deliver.

Carluccio's: 0171 240 5710

Last date for Christmas orders: 16 December

GO ORGANIC

Villandry is offering a stunning box of all-organic goodies for Christmas. Most of the items are exclusive to Villandry and the pounds 40 box includes orange chocolate chip cookies, Italian salami, honey, tea, onion and poppy seed matzo bread, St Paulin cheese and jam. Vegetarian hampers are also available.

Villandry: 0171 631 3131

Last date for Christmas orders: 15 December

ESPRESSO YOURSELF

With at least 60 varieties to choose from, Imperial Teas of Lincoln can fulfil any coffee connoisseur's dreams. Prices peak at pounds 55 for 4oz of Sumatran Kopi Luwak, the rarest coffee on the planet, and head down to Ethiopian Wild Horse at pounds 1.90 per quarter. Imperial Teas also offers a good range of flavoured coffees and will put together a beautiful selection to send as a

tasting kit to the real

aficionado.

For orders or a catalogue: 01522 560 008

Last date for Christmas orders: 21 December

CRUNCH-TASTIC!

After the final dollop of brandy butter has hit your arteries, it's time to make amends. And what better way to do so than by crunching into a selection of seasonal apples from Charlton Orchards? Choose between a mixed 6lb box, which includes such varieties as Cox, Suntan and Ashmead's Kernel, and a single variety. At pounds 11.50 each, these make very reasonably priced, original and tasty gifts.

Charlton Orchards: 01823 412 959

Last date for Christmas orders: 15 December

WELL-OILED

If you're looking for a great olive oil then look no further than Joy, which offers a bijou but brilliant selection. The shop buys its own Greek and Spanish oils straight from the producers and packages them in ceramic bottles which look lovely and protect their delicate contents from the light. Other offerings include the fabulous Ravida, which is so flavoursome that it's best enjoyed pure with some good crusty bread. New pressings will be available by Christmas, so for a really fresh, fruity bottle give Joy a call.

Joy: 0171 435 7711

Last date for Christmas orders: 19 December

THIS YEAR'S HOTTEST PRESENT

These much overlooked essentials should be part of any real gourmet's cupboard. Available in hot and mild packs, these wondrous beasts add flavour, heat and depth to stews, soups and sauces. The Cool Chile Co's Mild Pack (pounds 7.60) offers the subtle, smoky heat of anchos, mulatos and others. While the Hot Pack (pounds 6.60), for more adventurous types, contains chillies that can be added to oils and vinegars to make your own spicy condiments. These are part of the Cool Chile Co's wide range of Mexican ingredients. Once you start making proper Mexican food, you'll never buy the fake stuff again.

The Cool Chile Co: 0870 902 1145

Last date for Christmas orders: 17 December

HEAVEN SCENT

This is a truly delicious, delicate, musky delight that really does taste like the smell of roses. Made from English rose petals, it is the perfect accompaniment to scones warm from the oven, along with large globs of clotted cream. Available from Fortnum & Mason (see details above), it costs pounds 5.75 for 12 oz.

BACK TO BASICS

It's important to get the essentials in life right and these two staples are the very best you can buy. The attractively packaged Martelli pasta (also available in some Sainsbury's stores), which weighs in at pounds 1.49 for 500g, is worth the extra cash because it has a wonderful flavour and stays beautifully al dente and toothsome - just drizzle with some good olive oil and enjoy. Another classic is Carnaroli rice (pounds 2.40 for 1kg), created in the 1940s by crossing an Italian with a Japanese strain, and reputedly the very best risotto rice available. These and other Italian delights are can be bought by mail-order from London's famous Fratelli Camisa stores.

Fratelli Camisa: 0181 207 5919

Last date for Christmas orders: 14 December

CHRISTMAS CHARS

Enjoy a taste of the world's rarest tea - Jun Shan Silver Needles at pounds 90 for 4oz - a delicate Chinese variety picked on only one morning in the year. Or maybe Hubei Jasmine Silvery Strawberry, a bundle of green leaves tied together that spreads out like a beautiful anemone when immersed in hot water. Imperial Teas of Lincoln will organise collections of teas from their huge range, or package tiny amounts of the more expensive varieties. Prices start at pounds 1.30 for 4oz, so there's something for all taste buds and wallets.

Imperial Teas of Lincoln: 01522 560 008

Last date for Christmas orders: 21 December

CREME DE LA CLOTTED CREAM

You'll have to get a move on to get hold of some of this luscious clotted cream from Langage Farm - they need to see your cheque before they can despatch the goods. But for a mere pounds 1.69 for 4oz, or pounds 2.94 for 8oz, you can have this unctuous delight delivered direct to your door in plenty of time to melt onto some early mince pies.

Langage Farm: Plympton, nr Plymouth, PL7 5AW, 01752 337 723

Last date for Christmas orders: 18 December

A FEAST OF FUNGUS

For the fungi fanatic, place an order with Wild Harvest, and wait for your gift basket brimming with fresh wild mushrooms from around the world. The selection includes trompette de la mort, girolle, chanterelle, oyster, shiitake and pied bleu. These will make a wonderful mushroom extravaganza for a vegetarian Christmas lunch, or a fantastic gravy for pheasant and game.

Wild Harvest: 0171 498 5397

Last date for Christmas orders: 22 December

A TASTE

OF SPAIN

Brindisa is currently offering Spain's gourmet delights by post, so why not put together your own Spanish hamper? Particularly delicious are their fine chorizo (pounds 6.55 for 400g), which knocks the supermarket stuff into touch, their much sought-after salt-cod fillets (pounds 7.40 for 400g), their Serrano ham (whole ones from around pounds 70) and their spicy Piquillo peppers in oil (pounds 3.60 for 225g jar).

Neals Yard Dairy: 0171 407 1800, or e-mail on nydmailorder@ nydairy.co.uk

Last date for Christmas orders: 14 December

BOX OF DELIGHTS

If the epicure in your life is a sweet-toothed fiend, then sate those desires with this awe-inspiring box of outstanding chocolate goodies. Green's, which produces a number of hampers, has pulled together a top-notch selection of chocolates and sweet treats, including stunning Melchior truffles, Chocolate Society hot chocolate flakes (made with real Valrhona chocolate) and Charbonnel et Walker Truffle Sauce. The smaller hamper costs pounds 30 and the behemoth costs pounds 90, but don't stint on the essentials: this is a hamper that will change your thighs forever.

Green's Picnics and Hampers: 0171 930 3146, or e-mail on www.greens.org.uk

Last date for Christmas orders: 14 December

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