Christmas Gift Guide 2016: Food & Drink

28th November 2016

Words: James Hansen
Photographs: Yousef Eldin, Dan Dennison

Artisan teas, biodynamic wines and a sea-dweller that tastes exactly like truffles: our pick of things to eat and drink over the festive season

Sea truffles (£6)
On a recent trip to Iceland, we visited the warehouses of Íslensk Hollusta outside Reykjavik and sampled an array of their foraged seaweeds, wild berries and herbs. What stood out by a mile were the so-called “sea truffles” (Polysiphonia lanosa), spindly black fluffballs that smell and taste uncannily like real (land-based) truffles. They’d pair very nicely with most fish dishes.

Emmeram Gewurztraminer, Gut Oggau (£34)
We were big fans of Gut Oggau’s wine before we visited Eduard and Stephanie at their Burgenland vineyard in May, and even bigger fans after they let us sample their entire range. These are low-intervention wines produced with extraordinary thought, care and attention-to-detail. We’re hard-pressed to pick a favourite bottle, but Emmeram, their 100% Gewurztraminer, is a sure bet. (Gut Oggau put faces on all their wines; Emmeram is the long-haired guy fifth from the right in the photograph below.)


The whole family – in the cellars at Gut Oggau, Burgenland, Austria

Siete Misterios mezcal (from £66.95)
Melanie Symonds is the founder of QuiQuiRiQui, the only UK-based mezcal brand. She also runs the brilliant east London liquor shop Brahms & Liszt. When we went there to interview her for the first in our Adventures series, Melanie laid out a range of bottles for us to taste. This one from Los Siete Misterios was a stand-out. “It’s an ancestral mezcal, so it’s made very traditionally with wooden canoe-shaped tubs instead of stone wheels,” said Melanie. “It’s distilled in clay pots instead of copper pots, and you can taste the clay. It’s a smooth, beautiful mezcal made in a very remote traditional area of Oaxaca.” If the price is off-putting, Melanie’s own mezcal is an excellent starting point.

Cipriani pasta (from €8)
Guiseppe Cipriani was a man of many talents. Harry’s Bar in Venice owes its grand reputation to his vision, which he turned to the craft of pasta-making (no doubt over a Bellini). When we interviewed Margot & Fergus Henderson at their beautiful house in Stockwell, Margot noted Fergus’ love for “that posh pasta – Cipriani.” Nothing more needed from Fergus but this: “It’s very good.”

It’s a smooth, beautiful mezcal made in a very remote traditional area of Oaxaca

Postcard teas (from £2)
When food writer Fuchsia Dunlop travels to China, she tends to bring back cookery books, Sichuan pepper – and tea. Sadly travel can’t cover a year’s worth of tea drinking. “If I’m buying tea in London,” Fuchsia told us, “this would be my choice place.” Their range sprawls from everyday drinking teas to the tiniest of microlots – even individual trees – all guided by provenance and a commitment to what they call “small tea”: farms of less than 15 acres.

Erwin Gegenbauer vinegar (€17)
During the summer, we paid a visit to Erwin Gegenbauer, the “vinegar pope” of Vienna1 and we were dazzled by his wares, which he supplies to some of the world’s top restaurants (the asparagus vinegar and his raspberry-seed oil were particular highlights). One of our other Vienna interviewees, Konstantin Filippou, had a bottle of Gegenbauer’s apple vinegar and used it to great effect in his smoked char, pear and white asparagus salad.


Chef Konstantin Filippou with a bottle of Gegenbauer apple vinegar

Sesti olive oil (£13.50)
Good olive oil is one of our most recommended ingredients: both a vital seasoning and a luxury in its own right. To name a few, Kylee Newton, Matthew Young, and Konstantin Filippou, have all spoken highly of various bottles, so we’re cold-pressed to pick a recommendation. We’re plumping for Jeremy Lee’s bottle of choice, Sesti: “I’ve just about used up my last bottle of Sesti olive oil – a great Tuscan – which I am saving up to replace.” Jeremy informs us that you can find it at Alistair Little’s beautiful Tavola, but we’ve found it online, too.

Yellow Spot 12 Year Old Irish whiskey (£63.75)
When a top New Orleans bartender recommends you an Irish whiskey, it’s worth following their advice. We already knew and loved Green Spot, produced by the Midleton distillery in Cork; Yellow Spot is its premium sibling matured in bourbon, sherry and malaga casks. It’s a rich and satisfying drink, either straight or in a cocktail.

Argan oil (from £15)
Not just for keeping your hair in check, this luxuriant Moroccan oil is a perfect finisher for all manner of dishes. According to Peter Gordon, “It’s very expensive, but worth every penny. Harvested by goats, who spit out the nuts after eating the fleshy part.”

Newton & Pott preserves (from £3.80)
When we headed over to Kylee Newton’s flat this summer, we couldn’t detect the hint of vinegar left over from its days as her production kitchen. (Her mother-in-law, it is said, can still catch it). Instead, we were greeted by an incredible apricot jam cake made with one of Kylee’s own preserves. They range from sophisticated riffs on savoury classics to moreish jam combinations: Strawberry & Pimm’s is a stand-out. If you want to get the full experience, head over to Broadway Market on a Saturday to check out their stall, brimming with delicious wares.

Newton & Pott’s stand on Broadway Market, London

  1. The interview will be up in due course

Posted 28th November 2016

In Journal


Words: James Hansen
Photographs: Yousef Eldin, Dan Dennison

More from the Journal

The Gannet Q&A: Stephen Toman – The chef at Ox in Belfast on "mindblowing" meals in Copenhagen, his grandmother's vegetable broth and the tune that gets things going in the kitchen

In Parts Unknown & Other News – Remembering Anthony Bourdain, the comfort of processed food and the security of lobster rolls in this week's food media round-up

The Gannet Q&A: Korsha Wilson – The food writer and podcast host on her cookbook conversion, Maryland blue crabs for dinner, and a deep-seated hatred of peanut butter

Fine Dining Goes Junk & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best online food media: fine dining meets junk food, Helen Rosner on The David Chang Show, and a quick scoop of gelato