The Skinny Food & Drink Gift Guide 2017
This Christmas, give the gift of tasty coffee, trendy chocolate, or hot sauce so spicy it'll melt a hole in your table
Several thousand years ago, Hippocrates suggested that the balance of four essential humors – black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm – were responsible for our temperament, health and general well-being. It was, of course, total pish. But it did give us an idea for this year's Christmas gift guide.
We've picked out food and drink gifts in the four categories which really make the world go round – if you want to give someone a cabbage as a present, do it on your own time – and thrown in some ludicrous cookware for good measure. If these don't put smiles on faces come Christmas morning, we recommend a course of leeches. It's what ol' Hippo would have wanted.
When finding a gift for a coffee lover, keep it simple. That is to say, get them some coffee. Scotland has some great indie roasteries knocking out fantastic beans, and a host of them have subscription or gift pack options that'll keep your giftee hopped up on caffeine for the considerable future.
Machina offer a collection pack of four of their single origin coffees (£25) which should keep things ticking along nicely, while there are subscription options available from Dear Green in Glasgow (£9 per bag), Steampunk Coffee in North Berwick (£60 for six months) and Artisan Roast (£55 for six months) amongst others. Another gift option from further afield is the sample pack from Berlin roasters The Barn (€19) – they'll receive six taster bags of coffees, plus a stylish tote bag to alert fellow coffee hipsters to their credibility. And if you like your presents to pose a bit of a challenge, the raw green coffee on sale from Kinross's Unorthodox Roasters (£6.50) is ideal. It's one to roast at home, so will make a good test of skill and/or a good way to get rid of people for a few hours on Boxing Day.
If you want something longer lasting, grab a piece of coffee equipment that will prove incredibly useful but won't break the bank or prove a nightmare to wrap and/or hide before the big day. Something like an AeroPress (£30), a highly portable gizmo which makes for a delicious and full-bodied coffee with enough strength to wake you up then knock you back out again. Espresso aficionados can plump for the Wacaco Nanopresso (£80) by Wacaco or the fantastically-named Handpresso Wild Hybrid (£79) – both are hand-powered, both pack a serious amount of pressure, both look like parts from a futuristic space bicycle.
All aboard the train to esoteric design town! Chocolate is an ideal low-cost way to give a gift that looks great. It also serves as an opportunity to spark mild confusion and irritation as the recipient tries to work out whether you've given them a bar of chocolate or some particularly trendy stationery. If you want to keep it simple, get a couple of bars from East London one-man-band Land (£5.50) – expect muted colours, dotted outlines of countries of origin, and lovely fonts.
If you want to turn things up a notch, go for the intriguing flavour combos and colourful wrapping of Coco (from £4.50), with their Hazelnut and Isle of Skye Sea Salt bar packing a Hokusai-esque pattern punch. And to get stranger still, Leith chocolatiers Ocelot (£6 per bar, or five for £25) have you covered, whether it's their standard milk chocolate packed inside a Rorschach test, or the fact that their square bars can quite easily be passed off as a CD or tiny book until the very last second.
If you like your sweets to look good but still be identifiable from the off as, well, food, we recommend a pair of Edinburgh chocolate supremos. Edward & Irwyn serve up fantastic honeycomb and caramel treats that look incredible and taste just as good (from £6), while Mary's Milk Bar have some incredibly lovely chocolate boxes to snap up before the Instagram hordes beat you to it. Go now, and grab an ice cream while you're there.
It may be a season for snuggling up indoors while it pisses it down with sleet outside, but why not set your loved one's mouths on fire to compensate? For the spice lovers out there, we recommend a trip to Lupe Pintos in Edinburgh or Glasgow to fill a basket of hot sauces of varying intensities, although if you need to pick out a few we have some suggestions.
We'd recommend Glasgow Mega Death Hot Sauce (£4) – it's local, it's artisanal (it's made by one guy) and it has a lovely and faintly satanic aesthetic. It will also knock your block off, so be careful. Also worth checking out are the offerings from Bonnie Sauce Co (£3.80), the people behind the Bonnie Burrito takeaway, with their jalapeno and lime particularly tasty.
Finally, you'll want a simple everyday hot sauce to complete your homemade gift pack, so grab the variety of Mexican favourite Yucateco (£3.80) which most closely matches the intended recipient – red for the fiery type, green for the understated yet punchy one, and black for the friend who likes to set things on fire. Seriously, this stuff tastes great but it smells like a burned-down house.
If you want a gift that's local, trendy and imbibable, may we recommend one of Scotland's many delicious craft spirits. We may? Excellent, because we were going to do it anyway. Your options are endless – you can go with some classic minimalist-with-a-flourish design, as seen in Dundee's own Verdant Gin or the Wild Island gin from Colonsay, or grab something more totemic in the form of The Botanist or Isle of Harris.
If you're gifting to someone who loves colour, a bottle of Achroous from Electric Spirit Co or Hills and Harbour will do the trick. Then there are the eccentric gins, like Darnley's Spiced Gin which is loaded to the hilt with seasonal spices, or a pair of madcap offerings from Crossbill – one's a pineapple-loaded gin matured in sherry casks, the other is infused with foraged sumac.
And if they don't like gin, get them a bottle of rum instead. If they're a white rum fan, Sea Wolf from the guys behind Bramble bar in Edinburgh is your choice; if it's dark rum you need, get a bottle of Dark Matter from that noted hotbed of rum production, Banchory.
Three options here – the cheap choice is an indoor Mushroom Garden (£20), created from upcycled coffee grounds and guaranteed to be no more difficult to manage than your average potted plant or hamster. The middle option – the MasterPan (£60) – is a piece of culinary lunacy, and by no means a good idea for a present. However, we have to mention it because of its five discrete cooking surfaces, which allow you to make a full fry-up in one pan at the same time. Why? Who knows! Who is this for? *shrug*!
And the final option is the Anova Precision Cooker (£129), aka 'the sous vide machine'. Plop this bad boy in a pan of water and it'll hold the temperature to allow you to slowly cook meats and veggies like a genuine master chef (or at least a genuine contestant on MasterChef). If your loved one is the kind who 'has everything', offer them this – they'll either be pleased with the esoteric nature of the gift, or they'll panic and start asking you about those nice bottles of gin.