Food for Thought

hamper_60288883What a splendid tradition: the Christmas hamper. Oh, how they cascade and overflow with luxurious seasonal treats. Traditionally, we think of hampers containing food and wine. But alternative hampers are now in abundance, combining delicious champagne and truffles or beautiful lotions and potions to pamper. Fortnum & Mason, Harrods and Selfridges all offer wonderful hamper selections – alongside quality supermarkets such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

But the choice doesn’t end there thanks to a host of online suppliers specialising in delivering Christmas to homes across the land in bulging baskets and boxes. We recommend Virginia Hayward hampers. This family owned Dorset-based company was established in 1984 and is run by Gin and Geoff Hayward. In addition to supplying hampers directly to the public, they are also the approved hamper supplier for brands such as John Lewis, Waitrose, Selfridges, Laithwaites, Interflora and Booths. They have been awarded Gold Trusted Merchant Status for their Excellence in Customer Service by Feefo, the global feedback engine. Check out their hampers at virginiahayward.com.

Old-fashioned Charm

When it comes to an old-fashioned, charming and always-welcome hamper in a wonderful wicker basket, it is hard to look beyond Fortnum & Mason. There are such standard classics as The Piccadilly Hamper for £75 that includes such treats as Pistachio & Clotted Cream Biscuits, Marc de Champagne Truffles, Burlington Breakfast Marmalade, Strawberry Preserve and the perennial favourite Piccadilly Piccalilli.  For the wine lover, the Vinter Hamper is packed with 12 bottles of red, white and sparkling wines – again in a classic basket. Many such hampers are available all year through, but as Christmas approaches look for the fine selection of seasonal hamper favourites, like this hamper for £175 described thus by the historic store: “Kick-start any winter’s morning with our superb honey-sweet Royal Blend and robust Breakfast Blend teas, best enjoyed beside a roaring fire with our deliciously festive Christmas Spiced Biscuit or something from our Explorer’s Biscuit Tin. Speaking of company, there is a power trio of our Brut Reserve Champagne N.V, our spicy, fruity Côtes du Rhône and gorgeously crisp Vihno Verde. All magical with your Christmas Day feast – just as the pair of condiments in this hamper are including our Mulled Cranberry & Red Onion Marmalade and Piccadilly Piccalilli. More Christmas spirit – of the literal and metaphorical kind – can be found in our St James Christmas Pudding too.” The 2017 hamper selection at fortnumandmason.com is huge. There’s The Christmas Eve Hamper, The Christmas Express Hamper, The St. Nicholas Hamper – and so many more. We continue to believe that to receive one of their baskets, branded with the classic black F&M letters, is a treat any time of year – but especially at Christmas.

Presents

Hedgerow Hamper

Lakeland offers enticing picnic baskets, bags and trugs of hamper goodies, including sweet and savoury treats inspired by the hedgerow and garden, by Cumbria and Italy. Lakeland annually has a good selection of exclusive hampers, like this year’s St. Kew Cornish Tea Cup. Check out lakeland.co.uk.

Organic Options

The website yumbles.com is for food lovers who also like to keep an eye on their health. Yumbles promise that everything offered on its site is free from artificial ingredients. There’s a Gifts & Occasions section, including marshmallow toasting kits and “Taste the World” gift hampers. Our favourite hampers include: the “Coffee Lovers Letter Box Hamper”, with its brown paper wrapping and old-fashioned ink stamps enclosing coffee for use in cafetieres, shortbread and artisan chocolate and “The Moons Green Monster Charcuterie Hamper”, with seven to eight different examples of the best of modern British charcuterie like espresso pancetta, rosemary & garlic saucissons and a dozen beer sticks.

Yumbles website reads: “Our mission is to make healthy eating easy and delicious for everyone. We believe that a healthy lifestyle should always taste great too. That’s why we taste-test food from every maker ourselves and work with the best small-batch, socially-responsible food makers to ensure that everything on Yumbles is not only good for you and the world around us, but delicious too.”

Chocolate Feastfood chocolate close up_110317511

For the chocolate or sweet lovers in your life, Thornton’s always offer an array of scrumptious hampers full of their seasonal and annual favourites – including continental chocolates and special toffee. Pay a little extra for delivery and you can select your chosen and very specific delivery date weeks ahead of time. Many hamper companies do not allow you to select an exact date for delivery in their busiest month of December, however early you purchase their goods. Cadbury’s online shop also serves up a mouth-watering menu of chocolate hamper delights.

DIY Hampers

You may wish to personalise your hamper in which case the starting point is a beautiful basket or container to showcase your gifts. These are available from a Hampers 2624777number of retailers such as Amazon and Virginia Hayward in various sizes and materials. The filling for hampers, usually called hamper straw or wood wool packaging, is available from Amazon through a Lincolnshire-based company called ei-packaging, who sell the required material for around £10.

Websites that allow you to build your own hampers include a delivery that comes with splash of tartan. If this piques your interest or you have Scottish family and friends to buy for, have a look at scottishhampers.co.uk. This Glasgow-based company allows you to choose from a wide range of Scottish products to create your own hamper.

Buon Natale! If Christmas means panettone, amaretti and other Italian treats then look no further than Carluccio’s. Who can resist those festive red boxes – especially when they are filled with colourful Christmas pasta, chocolate-dipped biscotti and jars of nutty truffles? Carluccio’s has shops at the front of its restaurants. Buy online at carluccios.com.

Classic Hampers

The Selfridges food and drink wine_135839081Selection is vast and hugely desirable. From the rich and sticky Christmas pudding to specially selected wines you will find extraordinary festive flavours in each hamper box. Selfridges also have gifts for wine lovers covered with The Sommelier’s Collection in a wooden box for £250, including the finest champagne and wine.   There are alcohol free hampers like the After Dinner Gift Box for £70 and even a bumper hamper to cover all your Christmas bases and then some: the Decadence Hamper for £5,000. And to fit in with Selfridges Christmas theme for 2017, there are city hampers honouring Birmingham, London and Manchester. Booths is also a store rich in history, with hampers to please. You know Christmas is dawning when Booths releases its beautifully glossy festive book of produce for the season in October. Booths is traditionally a northern stronghold but now delivers throughout the UK. Visit booths.co.uk for more inspiration.

Toy With This

Think Hedgehog, think toy hamper. Yes, hedgehogshop.co.uk has the Retro Tin Toy Hamper for £38. This is a bright red box filled with colourful retro tin toys and gifts, including a wind-up musical box, spinning top and rocket-ride carousel, as well as tin soldier chocolates. The carousel requires adult supervision if played with by small children. Check out the site for more splendid throwback gifts for youngsters.