HO ho ho, Santa stacked the food shelves early this year, with tempting treats in place for nearly a month now. Some are already reaching their sell-by dates, so read labels if buying and hiding away for Christmas Day.
This year I looked for new products to appeal to many ages and levels of spend. It’s not fair to compare disparate products, so we have no scores, but those in our final Top 8 deserve a score of at least eight. We found plenty of delicious oils and vinegars made countrywide and available in speciality food shops. I have mentioned many of these on this page during this year which are a credit to adventurous producers and retailers. Watch out for them.
I’m happy to give or receive a small gift of something tasty such as Ballyhoura Umami powder — a little tub of dried shiitake mushrooms and seaweed €7.60) for sprinkling flavour. I would be delighted to receive a bag of coffee roasted by The Golden Bean, Badger and Dodo, West Cork Roasters and M&S (Guatemalan no 4), or vouchers for those who serve it.
Bakeries have delicious cakes to bring to families, and supporting them, local food stores, markets and local producers and butchers will help them to survive in 2018. The recession was tough, so if you have raised your spend, share it with them.
Watch here for our mince pie survey on Friday, December 15.
Cinnamon Cottage Rocky Road chocolate biscuit pudding €25
This favourite of tasters is made from plain biscuit mixed with marshmallows and a delicious chocolate paste. A trim of Maltesers added to the children’s scores, so it makes an ideal, generous, family gift which will keep for at least a week. Good as an alternative pudding on Christmas Day, it comes gift wrapped in cellophane and bows. From Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown, Cork. Can be ordered ahead.
Marks & Spencer Cocktail Selection €22.50
This cocktail shaker holds delicious surprises of vodka, rum, orange liqueur and coffee flavoured chocolates. Hotly contested by chocolate covered figs (€15), salted caramel pine cones €15) and chocolate covered coffee beans (€6). The most tempting collection ever from this store.
On the Pig’s Back patés and cranberry sauce €12
This selection of two in-house patés and cranberry and port sauce from Abbeyleix-based Helen Gee, in a linen bag, represents a terrific range of products from excellent retailers such as The Real Olive stalls countrywide, Rohu Inishannon, Urru Bandon; Bradleys, O’Driscolls, O’Keeffe’s and Delitaly in Cork. Dublin has Fallon & Byrne amongst others, Waterford has Ardkeen, Bantry has The Stuffed Olive and Manning’s Food Emporium.
Barry’s Tea Master Blend €5.95
This smart tin of limited edition tea bags is available in airports and on line. Their newest collaboration with Blackwater Gin (€39.95) has delicious Barry’s loose leaf tea infusions with vibrant lemon, orange, cinnamon, cardamom and juniper. Combine both tea pack and gin bottle for a family gift for teatotallers and trendy gin lovers. Delicious! At barrysteashop.ie. and retailers including Bradleys North Main Street, Cork.
Big Red Kitchen Preserves €15
Small jars of rhubarb and ginger jam, strawberry, and raspberry and vanilla jams and orange marmalade are packaged by The Roughty Foodie in Cork’s English Market in an attractive corrugated board box tied with gingham ribbon. Typical of what other food shops have, including Lettercollum Clonakilty, who make from their own garden produce, and Farm Gate Midleton who choose top quality products, all supporting local producers.
Gingerbread House €2
This comes as ready-cooked gingerbread shapes of sturdy house parts. Good value, especially as it’s tasty. You need to buy icing sugar and make the icing to cement the pieces. Providing at least an hour’s fun with kids, at times, like other brands, it may prove frustrating trying to balance the walls and roof. From Flying Tiger shops nationwide.
Chocolate Santa and Rudolf €11.95
From a wide range at the Chocolate Shop, English Market, Cork, this hollow Santa and Rudolf has 36% cocoa solids for a toffee/vanilla style of chocolate and makes a delicious family gift which our six-year-old taster wanted to claim. Well presented in a clear box, there is plenty to share.
O’Neills Dry Cure Bacon Breakfast Box €16
While not yet available to be posted overseas, for anyone who has to spend Christmas away from home in Ireland, this pack will be a comfort. Rashers, sausages and black and white puddings are posted in a chill box. The dry cure rashers are particularly good, solid, and with no nasty suds when cooked. Tasters loved the sausages and puddings too. A good Irish product, the individual items can be bought in supermarkets. From oneillsbacon.ie.
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