Taking the effort out of trying to choose some of the best food we have to offer, the hamper is a hassle-free way of keeping your gourmand content this festive period. There are numerous options to choose from, with most of our best producers offering a selection of their wares. Co Armagh’s Ballylisk serves up a mixture of its cheeses with other local products, while you can find a raft of others in some of our best delis. Indie Fude, based in Comber and south Belfast, includes selections such as a ‘Season Snacking Hamper’ for just under £60, while Sawyers has a wide range including a ‘Local Artisan Hamper Box’ for £89. If cheese is your focus, Mike’s Fancy Cheese offers boxes from £30, while you’ll find a range of hampers at various prices at Arcadia in Belfast.
A bottle of something nice
Northern Ireland’s beer, gin and whiskey producers have seriously upped their game in the last decade, so there’s now a plethora of options out there for gifting. For something high end, Co Down’s Shortcross — best-known for its gin — has released a five-year-old single malt whiskey, matured in wine casks before being finished in chinquapin oak. If you’re looking for somewhere to pick up a decent bottle of plonk for Christmas Day, or a big Bordeaux for that oenophile in your life, Belfast’s Direct Wine Shipments is a good shout. In Crossgar, JN Wine also has a top end selection of wines, starting at under a tenner but with a wide range of higher-end drops. Meanwhile, our best breweries also offer mixed selections suitable for Christmas, including Warrenpoint’s Morne Mountains Brewery and Bullhouse Brew Co.
Food and drink experiences
While Covid-19 played havoc with in-person food and drink events, many are now seeing a surge in demand post-lockdown. Taste and Tour has established itself as one of the leading guides around Belfast, taking in both food and drink. Most are around the £60 mark and include food, gin, cocktails and beer options. Ballycastle’s Broughgammon, aside from its wide selection of meat and charcuterie, also offer experiences and classes, including butchery courses, while Belfast Cookery School offers a range of classes for around £60 a head. Belfast Wine School is another option for those with a love of the grape, with a wide variety of tastings and classes across different price points.
It should come as little surprise that our restaurants, bars and hotels needed more help from us than most this year, following protracted Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown. And a voucher for your favorite place to eat, or watering hole, remains a strong option if you’re struggling to nail down that important gift. And should the worst case scenario happen, and we see restrictions returning — and likely to hit hospitality first — buying vouchers now and in the run-up to Christmas will play at least some part in helping cashflow.
If you’re intending on treating someone or after something to finish off Christmas Day, Northern Ireland is home to a range of high-end chocolate producers. Newry’s NearyNogs produces a wide range, from chocolate bars to truffles. Belfast’s Co Couture is also the place to visit for a selection of truffles — including an Irish whiskey variety which landed three stars at the Great Taste Awards. If you’re after something more specific, Chocolate Manor produces a wide choice of chocolate slabs and gift boxes which can be personalized to include names and other text.