Published on 20 November 2020
Whisky miniatures, knives made in Melbourne, hands-on cooking classes, beautiful kitchenware and baskets of our state’s best produce are just the start. There are also ideas for giving to those in need, making the most of your new freedom with holidays or restaurant bookings, plus we’ve found some novelty tea towels and a long overdue update on blue drinks by a Victorian maker. We’ve earned some silliness this festive season.
Pay it forward this year with a “gift” to charities supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
Putting food on the table can be a struggle for many Victorians year-round, even in an ordinary year. At Christmas, that’s only magnified. Make a difference to someone’s festive season with a cash donation to FareShare; they’ve been creating nutritious (and delicious) meals for those in need for 20 years. Want to go even further? Hold a food drive to keep the FareShare kitchens stocked - read the guidelineshere.
Food Bank acts as a pantry to more than 500 charity organisations across Victoria, helping them to get groceries and meals to those who need them most. That means a donation from you goes a long way, helping everyone from international students without government assistance to the elderly or people who have lost jobs or businesses because of COVID. With estimates that 3 in 10 Australians are now unsure where their next meal is coming from, the work of organisations like Food Bank is vital.
Established by the good folks at hospitality collective Worksmith, Tip Jar encourages you to support hospitality workers who are doing it tough due to the pandemic by offering a “tip”. Everything that goes into the jar is distributed via organisations such as Scarf or Covid-19 EAD, or else it goes directly to those who are in need. With JobKeeper drawing to a close in March, workers will need every bit of help they can get. And did we mention that you go in the draw to win awesome food and drink prizes every time you donate?
A restaurant voucher
Doesn’t it feel great to be back in restaurants? Keep the good times rolling well into 2021 with the best gift of all: a night out where someone else picks up the tab. Choose their favourite restaurant, whether it’s in Melbourne or regional Victoria, and know that you’ll be helping out a hospitality business along the way.
It’s as easy as heading to the website of your loved one’s favourite eateries. Or give them a ring; they’ll be glad to hear from you.
A holiday in Victoria
The road-trip is back. And we’re lucky to live in a place where great country escapes start right on the footsteps of the city and extend to every far corner of the state. Check out East Gippsland’s scenery and incredible produce (and give local business a boost after last year’s bushfires), take a look at the renaissance in Rutherglen and explore other parts of the state’s north-east, or head to the lesser-travelled Grampians - every regional getaway is welcome right now.
Information on Victoria’s regions, accommodation, things to do and more is available from Visit Victoria.
A Tavola! Cooking School
Katrina Pizzini, of Pizzini Wines fame, has been teaching Italian cookery to small groups at her family’s King Valley estate for a decade. A class might cover the finer points of making gnocchi, how to master risotto or the ins and outs of pastry. A new timetable for 2021 is on the way; in the meantime, there are also online classes.
$175-$195, gift vouchers also available. Order online from Pizzini.
A distillery visit
Victoria is home to dozens of distilleries of all stripes. Head to Bass & Flinders, the first distillery on the Mornington Peninsula, to blend your own gin or brandy, or make tracks for the High Country and do a tasting at the highly regarded Reed & Co, makers of dry gin and unique collab bottles. See how taking a green and low-food miles approach to distilling works at Hepburn Distillery (2021 tasting dates are coming soon), or learn how the masters at Animus make their award-winning gins by getting on the tools yourself. Nagambie, just over an hour north of Melbourne, is now home to a brewery and gin distillery - and tours and other experiences are coming soon. And, of course, Four Pillars is open for gin tastings and masterclasses in the Yarra Valley.
Boatshed cheese and breadmaking class
Mornington Peninsula cheesemakers Boatshed have made a name for themselves with crumbly blues, hard goat’s cheeses that are brined in pinot and more. Everything is made using milk from local goats and cows, and the team are more than happy to share a few tricks of the trade. Every Boatshed cheesemaking class is paired with a class on baking, a nod to founder Tamara Newing’s previous life as a baker. The focus might be sourdough, French patisserie or whatever surprises the team have in store for 2021.
$250 per class. Book online at Boatshed.
Made + More carafes and glasses
A little bit retro, a lot of fun and practical to boot, this rippled glassware is bound to hit the bullseye on Christmas morning. From Melbourne homewares store Made + More, the carafe makes for a fun cocktail vessel at your next party, while the glasses are both stackable and dishwasher-safe. Two thumbs up.
$89 for carafe, $50 for two glasses. Order online from Made + More.
13 Knives kitchen assistant
Every knife that’s made in this Collingwood workshop comes with a story. Bud Heyser, 13 Knives’ founder, learnt how to forge knives from his father and grandfather in Kentucky. Today, he puts that knowledge to good use and melds it with his own emphasis on sourcing locally and using upcycled materials. The kitchen assistant is a versatile 130mm-blade made with carbon steel and a Bakelite handle that’s bound to become your go-to. As Heyser says, “It’s kinda all the knives in your knife block rolled into one!”
$480. Christmas pre-orders open now at 13 Knives.
Attica “Never Give Up” tea towel
Cast your mind back to when collecting novelty tea towels on your travels was a thing. Can’t compute? Well, Ben Shewry is bringing back the tradition of your nanna’s era with a little help from his artist friends, creating a series of limited-edition prints that look just as great displayed on the wall as they do slung over your shoulder while cooking. And this Callum Preston creation is a little slice of 2020, thanks to the inclusion of Shewry’s pandemic catch-cry. How’s that for a memento?
$25. Order online from Attica.
Katie-Ann Houghton drinking glass
Cocktails, your morning juice or even a glass of water are all enhanced by this beautiful hand-blown vessel from maker Katie-Ann Houghton. Inspired by Venetian glassware and early 20th-century design, Houghton’s pieces are timeless and have just a hint of decoration, like the silver or gold rim of this glass.
$88. Order online from Craft Victoria.
Hinoki E1 bread knife
Backed by 400 years of experience, Hinoki craft knives of superior quality - and this bread knife is no exception. Suitable for anything that requires a serrated blade, the knives come with sleek obsidian or warm walnut handles, and a choice of brushed chrome or black blade. Stocked exclusively in-store at Morning Market (they can also arrange engraving), this is a gift that will stand the test of time.
From $240. Engraving $10. Available from Morning Market, 59 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, morning.market.
Agri fermented green Sriracha
Inspired by the green chilli salsas used in Mexican cuisine, the Melbourne makers behind Agri have blended long green chillies and green bird’s-eyes, then fermented them for seven days to create this sauce. It’s sour, it’s spicy and it’s everything you want on a taco, with avo on toast or in a cheese sandwich.
$12 for 200ml. Order online from Agri.
One Hour Out regional producers hamper
Of course you’ve got a road trip planned around Victoria for the summer, but what better way to share the love than with a hamper that brings more of the state’s small food businesses to your loved ones? If they’re a fan of smoked peanut butter from Smalt, Olive’s Olives from the Macedon Ranges or Shorthive honey made in the south-west, this hamper ticks all the boxes.
$60-$125. Order online at One Hour Out Markets.
Dukes “Dukebox” coffee subscription
As we all discovered this year, working from home life requires a whole lot of coffee. And those days aren’t over yet. Be in the good books every month when a bag of Dukes’ latest blend or seasonal single-origin arrives on the doorstep, freshly roasted and ground. Plus the gang at WeForest plant a tree for every delivery Dukes make.
From $19 for 250g. Weekly, fortnightly and monthly subscriptions available. Order online from Dukes Coffee.
Look on the Bright Side boxes
It’s easy to give the best of the High Country as a gift, with one of the three Look on the Bright Side boxes. They feature goods made in Porepunkah, Mount Buffalo, Bright and surrounds, whether that’s Sixpenny coffee, bottled cocktails by Reed & Co, Alpine Sauce, ales and lagers from Bright Brewery, and even plum pudding.
$149-$189. Order cut-off is 30 November. Order online from Bright Brewery.
Caterina Borsato’s baccalà mantecato
Caterina Borsato has been at the helm of CBD favourite Caterina’s for 25 years. And now, she’s branching out into rare Italian pantry items. Baccalà mantecato hails from Venice and sees dried and salted cod whipped with olive oil and garlic into a creamy spread that’s often served on grilled bread with aperitivo. But don’t stop there - crudités, crisps and fried polenta are all fair game. Plus Caterina’s baccalà is made right here in Melbourne so you can shop local while eating global.
$22.50 for 130g. Order direct from Caterina’s.
Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Gift Set
Cobram Estate has been bottling all-Victorian olive oil for more than 20 years, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about when it comes to quality. The Ultra Premium set contains three olive oils graded as reserve for their superior quality. Each is pressed from a different variety, which means you get three very different flavour profiles - and a full arsenal to use in your kitchen. Get ready to level up your summer salads, pastas and aperitivo snacks.
$60 for 3 x 500ml bottles. Order online at Cobram Estate.
Mould Cheese subscription
Mould, which also runs an annual cheese festival, was hit hard by the pandemic, cancelling the event in three cities. But its monthly subscription boxes are still going strong, offering small Australian cheesemakers a chance to get their product into the hands of curious eaters. Each month, four cheeses, varied in their regions and styles, are packaged up and dropped at your door. It’s easy to pause or opt out at any time - but it could be a habit that’s hard to break.
$75 per month with shipping included. Order online at Mould.
Hunted + Gathered chocolate spreads
Snack time, dessert and even breakfast just got better, now that Melbourne chocolate makers Hunted + Gathered have released a range of chocolate-nut spreads. Using a base of Dominican Republic chocolate, the crew add hazelnuts, peanuts or Victorian-grown almonds and blend them to a smooth paste that’s welcome on a crêpe, spread on shokupan or a croissant, or even just on the end of a spoon.
$15 for 200g. Order online at Hunted + Gathered.
The 12 Good Spirits of Christmas set
Good Spirits is Australia’s newest online destination for those with a thirst for innovative Australian gin, whisky, liqueurs and more. To help you dip the toe, the team have created an advent-style set of 12 of their favourite (miniature) bottles that will have you mixing your way to cocktail heaven over the summer break. Three gins, two whiskies, rum and vermouth are a solid start, with plenty of fun thrown in and a choose your own cocktail adventure chart so you can map out your favourite drinks. Definitely an improvement on the partridge in the pear tree.
$130. Order online from Good Spirits.
Marionette’s Blue Curaçao
It’s time to break the news to dad (and maybe even nanna): blue drinks are back. Just when we were all getting comfortable with Negronis and Old Fashioneds, the folks at Marionette have thrown a festive curveball, releasing a blue Curaçao that’s sure to get a starring role in every family photo this season. Put the liqueur’s notes of mandarin, Seville navel and blood orange to good use in vodka-powered Blue Lagoons or pair it with gin and pineapple for a Blue Daydream.
$52. Order online from Marionette.
Starward Whisky Christmas gift pack
Melbourne distillery Starward is known for its whisky matured in red wine barrels sourced from the Barossa and beyond. Here, you get to try the Two Fold blend, as well as two single malts: the Nova, a staple that works neat and in bold cocktails, and the Fortis, a heavy-hitter at 50 per cent ABV. And three different whiskies means three times the fun.
$95 for three 200ml bottles. Order online from Starward.
Cibi sake set
This example of junmai sake hails from the part of Japan where Cibi owner Meg Tanaka grew up. Okayama is known for its clean alpine water and high-quality rice, which sake makers Shiragiku put to good use. Paired with a delicate handcrafted glass by Usuhari Daiginjyo, every sip is pure luxury.
$95 for sake and glass. Order online from Cibi.
Marion’s Deadman’s Dozen - Christmas edition
The monthly mixed pack selected by the sommeliers at Andrew McConnell’s Trader House group of restaurants is always great. But in December it gets extra exciting, with a bottle of André Clouet Grande Reserve Champagne slipped into a handful of boxes. And, for one really lucky person, there’s a 2008 Dom Pérignon waiting to be discovered. Who says Christmas can’t hold surprises for grown-ups?
$270 for 12 bottles. Available as a one-off gift or a subscription. Order online from Marion.
Brick Lane Someday Summer pack
If summers past were all about the Spritz, this year it could be sour beer’s time to shine. Sour beer is a style made with a combination of wild yeast and bacteria that give it a refreshingly tart taste. On a hot day, a sour goes down very nicely indeed, something the folks at Brick Lane Brewing know only too well. They’ve packaged up their Blood Orange Sour and the Raspberry and Watermelon, as well as two stemmed glasses, to help keep you cool all summer long
$50 for eight beers and two Plumm glasses. Order online from Brick Lane.
The Everleigh Spritzed Cocktails
The present that won’t survive until Christmas night, these carbonated cocktail sets will add spark wherever you take them: beach, pool, park or boozy brunch. Modelled on Italian soft drink bottles, the glassware is so chic you won’t want to put it down. You just need to decide between a bittersweet Americano or a French 75, the classic way to kickstart any celebration.
$48 for four, $264 for a case. Order online from The Everleigh Bottling Co.
Grainshaker Tasting Pack
If you’re not familiar with Grainshaker, summer holidays are the time to get acquainted. This new vodka is made right here in Melbourne, with grain sourced carefully from across Victoria. This pack gives you a little taste of the current range: Grainshaker corn, ideal for Moscow Mules or anything with grapefruit; wheat, the cleanest on the palate and great in Spritzes; and the rye, a wise addition to your vodka Martinis. Look out.
$90 RRP for 3 x 330ml bottles. Order at Grainshaker.
Saturday Drop Shop
From Fancy Free, the same geniuses who lightened the city’s load by making Pina Coladas to go at Leonardo’s during lockdown, and who also wowed the CBD with their pop-up on Little Collins back in 2019, comes the summer booze bundle you’ve been waiting for. Each month’s pack is different, but if the (sold-out) November offer is any guide, December will be something to look out for: beautifully bottled Wimbledon Milk Punch, Pavlova Cooler and High Tea in the Park cocktails, a fine wine, an “ultra cool” park blanket (it is, in point of fact, very cool) and two Frieslings: Zooper Dooper-style grown-up icypoles.
$140. Order online from saturdaydropshop.com
Vegan with Bite by Shannon Martinez
Shannon Martinez’s rise and rise as the poster girl of plant-based eating continued in 2020 with her third book, Vegan with Bite. A vital companion to anyone who wants to up their vegan cooking game or reduce how much meat they consume, this is a book that puts flavour first and lets you in on the chef’s tricks that have earned Martinez’s food so many fans.
$34.99. Available via Hardie Grant or where all good books are sold.
The Fermentary cookbook and fermenting kit
Put all that DIY energy of 2020 into some new projects next year, with a little help from Victoria’s queen of all all things fermented, Sharon Flynn. Ferment for Good is a treasure trove of Flynn’s knowledge, and in this gift set it’s paired with the tools to put it into practice.
$74.50 for book plus fermenting kit of your choice (sauerkraut, miso or kimchi). Order online from The Fermentary.
Intoxicating by Max Allen
Wine writer (and MFWF Legend) Max Allen’s latest release considers the 10 drinks that he believes have shaped our national palate, from rum in the early days of European settlement to a respected multimillion-dollar wine industry, with a few surprise contenders thrown in. The book goes all the way back to the fermented drinks made by Aboriginal Australians using the sap of eucalyptus trees and the flowers of other plants, through to today when Australian wine is exported worldwide and a new wave of makers is coming full circle, turning to native Australian ingredients to use in gin, vermouth and more. It’s fascinating reading for anyone interested in food, drink or Australia.
$32.99. Available via Thames & Hudson or where all good books are sold.
The Hot Chicken Project by Aaron Turner
A stint in Nashville in 2013 ignited a love affair with the city’s famously spicy fried chicken for Igni chef Aaron Turner. So much so that he opened a restaurant as a love-letter to the regional specialty, and has now followed it up with a book that’s part celebration and part how-to. Stellar photography by collaborator Julian Kingma put this firmly in gift territory.
$48. Available via Hardie Grant or where all good books are sold.
Gather: Seasonal recipes celebrating Mornington Peninsula produce by Fiona Hammond and Adrian Lander
The vegetable patches, apiaries, vineyards and dairies of the Mornington Peninsula are the inspiration for 90 recipes (plus seasonal variations) collected in a new book from two locals who also happen to be veterans of the food publishing world. Fiona Hammond’s dishes include salt-baked lamb shanks in vine leaves, wild mushroom and cheddar toasties, and olive oil and orange ice-cream, paired with beautiful photography of Peninsula produce by Adrian Lander. It’s like a postcard, but better.
$50. Available direct from the Gather website.
In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky
The force of nature that is Alice “In Frames” Zaslavsky leaps from every page of this cookbook devoted to all things plants. Organised by colour, the book zooms in on 50 vegetables, offering recipes and loads of tips from Zaslavsky and some of her favourite chefs, including Dan Barber, Rosio Sanchez, Rick Stein and Karen Martini. It’s the perfect catalyst for a year of delicious veg-forward cooking.
$59.99. Available direct from the In Praise of Veg website.
A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura
Structured by season, the second book by Julia Busuttil Nishimura carries you from Monday to Sunday with simple ideas and all-out feasts. Summer dishes include roast chook marinated in yoghurt, spaghetti with prawns and fennel, Japanese breakfast and coffee granita in brioche buns. The best part is, once summer’s over, you’ve got a whole year’s worth of other delicious recipes to discover.
$39.99. Available via Plum or where all good books are sold.
By Emma Breheny
To get your year off to a great start, we’re offering to pick up the bill when you book a table through New Year Street Feasts. That’s right: one lucky person can win their New Year celebrations on us.