Looking for the best Christmas gift basket ideas? There are foods and drinks that a a food critic tastes by chance, other that finds traveling kilometers by car or on foot through the shelves of the best stores. There are foods and drinks that you try when invited for dinner by friends, other foods you whant to buy at all costs and worth saving some money.
And then there is what you'd truly like to receive a gift: here are my Christmas gift basket ideas, what I would like to find under my Christmas tree.
SALMON AND CHAMPAGNE
A real connoisseur would never buy salmon already sliced: the right way to do it is to procure a side of salmon weighing about one kilo and slice it using the most appropriate knife, which is a long flexible one. Whoever buys Upstream salmon for instance will find the knife included in the packaging together with a dark beech chopping board on which to place the tender pink flesh of the salmon. From the Faroe Islands the salmon arrives in Italy where it is smoked with wood from the Parma Apennines, after being marinated with salt and sugar whose secret doses are jealously guarded by producer Claudio Cerati.
After tasting the fillet as nature made it, try the extreme ends of the salmon side in the form of a tartare seasoned with a drop of peaty whisky, black pepper and a pinch of fresh ginger. What better pairing than a glass of Jacques Selosse Substance, a champagne that is almost impossible to find, produced by Anselme Selosse according to a philosophy that goes well beyond organic, 100% Chardonnay fermented in barrique casks of Vosges wood.
OYSTERS AND OIL
Those who love to amaze guests with a touch of class and the minimum effort could get hold of a dozen Perle d’Impèratrice oysters, the best there is on the market for their power to evoke the taste of rock pools, and just season them with a few grains of Caviaroli: drops of spherified extra virgin olive oil encapsulated in the finest transparent gelatine membrane aromatized with lemon, basil and other flavours. It looks like a colourful caviar, but bursts delightfully in the mouth to create the most pleasing sensation.
You can buy it here.
TRUFFLE AND SALT
To avoid the risk of serving a risotto creamed with butter and parmesan that might appear too banal, sprinkle it when cooked with TRUFFLE noH2O®, the famous dehydrated hypogean fungus which preserves its olfactory properties for an amazing length of time.
No gourmet Christmas hamper would be complete without the spice of life (or as the Italians say, the salt of life), chosen according to the type of food to be enhanced. Persian Blue salt. A rarity with spicy notes that comes from the ancient salt mines of Iran and owes its colour to a mineral called silvinite. It is perfect on seafood or plain flatbread.
You can buy both here.
Culatello di Zibello from Massimo Spigaroli is no ordinary cold cut, it is the king of charcuterie. To be sure of buying the real thing, check that it has matured for at least 24 months in the mist of the river Po, and then smell a slice of it: it should recall the aroma of a rosemary flavoured Sunday roast. For lazier customers, Massimo Spigaroli even sells it stripped of its outer skin, cut in two and vacuum packed. If you don’t eat all of it at once, wrap it up like a newborn babe in a cotton cloth that has been soaked in dry white wine and well wrung out.
You can buy it here.
TRADITIONAL BALSAMIC VINEGAR
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without 100 ml of Malpighi’s Extra-Old Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP which comes in an extremely light blown glass bottle, after having rested in ancient casks of juniper wood for 25 years or more. A precious product to serve sparingly on shavings of parmesan or, better still, as a digestif on an ivory teaspoon to ensure that nothing can contaminate its harmony.
You can buy it here.
The final space filler of my Christmas hamper is a noble gin among the world’s best: Monkey 47. It owes its origin to the Black Forest and the passion of one British Commander Montgomery Collins who managed to create a recipe by mixing English tradition, Indian spices and the uncontaminated forest water. As many as 47 plant essences go into it: cranberry, dried bitter orange peel, six different types of pepper, pine and red coriander.