LONDON — What if you can’t travel to a holiday celebration, but you’d still like to contribute to the party? Or you want to send a tasty, and tasteful, gift?
Here are some suggestions. (Just remember to factor in the expense, and availability, of shipping. It can make a significant difference to the final cost.)
Tea or Coffee?
If you can’t go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house this season, she might still appreciate a red and gold tin of Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas Black Tea, a Chinese black leaf tea flavored with cacao nibs and clementine (15 pounds, or $19.50). Or its Christmas Blend Coffee, a medium-roast mix of beans from India, Ethiopia and Guatemala (£12.95). Or upgrade to the Merrymaker’s Hamper (£60), which includes a wicker basket filled with seven items including loose-leaf teas, jam and a rum- and cognac-infused Christmas pudding.
The Wolseley, the popular cafe-restaurant just a short stroll from Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly headquarters, takes gift hampers up a notch, offering a Vintage Silver Tea Hamper (£325) that includes a restored Edwardian or Art Deco silver-plated teapot; an English Breakfast tea blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenya leaves; and a tea strainer with a drip bowl (the same swivel style used at the restaurant). A similar hamper for coffee lovers (£325) includes a silver-plated coffee pot, a tin of Italian-roasted ground coffee and a copy of the 2008 book “Breakfast at the Wolseley” by A.A. Gill.
For a more modest budget, there is the Wolseley-monogrammed shell-shaped silver-plated tea caddy spoon (£35) for scooping out just the right amount of tea leaves into the pot.
Whether that cheese plate is destined to be served with drinks or before dessert, it can feature artisan and fermier, or farmer, products ordered directly from France through Fromages.com.
The company, based in Tours, in western France, says its cheese is wrapped in food-grade paper, vacuum packed and dispatched in an isothermal wrapping to maintain freshness. Sample cheeseboard packages include Normandy Wedding (61 euros, about $72), featuring four cheeses from the region: Pont l’Évêque, Livarot, Camembert and the heart-shaped Coeur de Neufchâtel, plus a bottle of alcohol-free sparkling apple and pear juice. Its Soirée Cheeseboard Selection with Gingerbread (€89) includes 10 goat, cow and sheep’s cheeses like Bleu d’Auvergne, 18-month-aged Comté and St.-Marcellin, along with a package of sliced gingerbread with mustard seed and bran.
As for accompaniments, the company notes: “Usually, it is better to drink a French wine coming from the same region as the cheese.” Pourquoi pas? (Why not?)
Speaking of drinking, many consider a gin and tonic one of the quintessential drinks for an English garden party, but gin’s juniper scent also adds a fragrant fir-tree note to the holidays.
Add to the mix — and mixers — with one of the botanical gins featured in the gift shops at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, west of London. If your intended recipient doesn’t live within the shipping area of the garden’s online shop, the same gin can be ordered online from the retailer Royal Mile Whiskies, including the Scottish-made Old Curiosity Wild Secret Garden Gin (£35.95). It’s distilled with nine wild botanicals including juniper, bog myrtle, angelica root and winter savory. A portion of the sale price benefits the work in Scotland done by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
An English gin made its debut this year in the shops at The Royal Collection museums, which house artworks owned by British kings and queens: Buckingham Palace gin, a citrusy product using 12 botanicals like verbena and mulberry leaves handpicked from the palace’s 39-acre garden. Its makers say Queen Elizabeth likes to mix hers with a splash of Dubonnet. The £40 bottle can be shipped only within Britain and there often is a waiting list, but it’s worth the delay.
You can still enjoy the veneer of a royal celebration with gifts like the Negroni-appropriate Buckingham Palace glass tumbler (£12.95) finished with 22-karat gold, or a decorative ornament (£19.95) shaped like a Champagne flute and embroidered with a red and gold crown. Spiked eggnog or a Dickensian hot-spiced gin punch would be a treat in a bone china mug (£19.95) decorated with the palace facade, made by hand in Stoke-on-Trent and rimmed in gold.
More holiday cooking will be done at home this year, so why not send a gift for the chef in the form of sweet or savory spices from The Spice House in Chicago, which offers a four-jar specialty salt collection ($38) or a three-jar cinnamon variety set ($24). Penzeys Spices, a Wisconsin-based retailer, has a nine-jar Baker’s Assortment, which includes items like Dutch blue poppy seeds and minced lemon peel ($62.95). Bonus points for a low calorie count.
Vegan, Gluten or Organic
The Goodness Project is a London-based e-commerce platform that rounds up vegan, organic and “free from” goodies to create individual or corporate gift boxes. Its Wonderful Vegan Chocolate & Snack Hamper (£28.95) includes 10 vegan-friendly and artisanal products like a Vego almond and white chocolate bar, Against the Grain chocolate and orange cookies, and Joe & Seph’s apple and cinnamon popcorn. A smaller assortment called the Mini “Christmas Joy” Chocolate Gift Box (£12.95) includes six treats such as Booja Booja organic almond and salted caramel truffles and a Rhythm108 hazelnut praline chocolate bar. The Goodness Project says that its packing is made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable materials and that 1 percent of the net profit goes to charity.
Another British company, Honeybuns, offers shipping to destinations in Europe from its kitchens on an old dairy farm in the Dorset countryside. Its Vegan Brownie Travel Tin (£6.50) is a decorative metal container holding two gluten-free and vegan chocolate brownies. Alternatively, its Tea Party in a Tin (£21) contains a half-dozen vegetarian gluten-free cake slices, two Dorset-brand tea bags and red gingham paper napkins. Chocolate drinkers might like a Vintage Teacup Hot Chocolate Gift Box (£10), which has vegan dark-chocolate buttons, vegan brownies and two teacups selected from Honeybuns’ own collection.
If the gift fairy’s sweet tooth is still not satisfied, there are candy companies with offerings galore. But how about this for a centerpiece that doubles as dessert: a Belgian milk chocolate turkey ($79.99) from Harry & David?
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