Seasoned Traveller
A Very Foodie Christmas

50+ Unique Gifts for Foodies

Words by Sofia Levin
Images supplied

From native Australian hot sauces and local ceramics, to a noodle waterslide and avocado toast dog toys, this is your ultimate Christmas gift guide for the foodie who has everything.

In theory, it should be easy to buy a foodie a Christmas gift, right? Wrong. Food lovers are a different breed. We have a to-eat list instead of a to-do list. We’re across the latest cookbooks. We probably have the thing you’re thinking of buying us already. That’s why I’ve put together this list of unique, food-related Christmas presents (admittedly, it’s also a wish list). Bon appetit, shoppers.

Adorable Dumplings

Brace yourself: these crochet dumplings could be the cutest things you’ve ever seen. Sydney-based EMI Creations from Chloe makes them by hand, crocheting baby xiao long bao, shu mai, har gao, jiaozi and wontons with sweet little smiles. If you’re into crocheting, Chloe also sells the patterns so you can DIY.

Kawaii Homewares

Japanese homeware store, Minimaru, is based in Clayton but ships Australia-wide (free with orders over $149). I honestly don’t know where to start. There are stunning ceramics, bento lunch boxes, sake and other glassware, ceramic coffee filters shaped like Mount Fuji and bowls with different dog breeds as chopstick rests. The most unique food gift idea is the somen noodle slider, a waterslide for your noodles that conjures memories of Mouse Trap, for anyone who grew up in the '90s.

Handmade Oyster Plates

If you dined at French Saloon in Melbourne CBD before the restaurant turned into an events space, you might have come across local designer Elise Joseph's oyster plates. You can find them at top restaurants in Melbourne, Sydney and Tasmania, but you can also shop for ERRJ Ceramics online. Handmade in Fitzroy North, the half-dozen plates range from $75 to $80 and the dozen plates are between $120 and $127. Order before December 14.

Meaningful Merch

There are so many ways you can support the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), including buying some of their merch for Christmas. They’ve collaborated with two Melbourne-based artists, Ethiopian-born Olana Jafna and Beci Orpin, across a range of shopping totes, tea towels, tees, hats, scarves and more. All proceeds from the sales help fund the ASRC’s programs that support and empower people seeking asylum. Shop online or at the December pop-up shop at 175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, if you're in Melbourne.

Edible Bouquets

Why send flowers when you can send something edible? Lunch Bunch delivers bouquets of deli meats and cheese from the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills. Edible Bouquets is another local company that arranges fruit and vegetables into beautiful bunches of seasonal produce. It’s the best value compared with similar businesses at $65 for small, $95 for medium and $125 for large.

Food Cast Bowls

Helen Ashley is known for her illustrations, some of which are sold under license to an Aussie homewares company, but her ceramics are truly unique. The rockmelon jug is especially interesting, with each one cast from a real rockmelon and made in porcelain. It’s the same with her lidded pumpkins (available in small, medium or large), and the mangosteen trinket box, with space for something precious under the white fruit when you remove the lid.

Japanese Knives

Every self-appointed cook should have at least one Japanese knife in their toolkit. Kazuki Hanzawa, from Kaz's Knife and Kitchenware, has them categorised by type, steel and gift-appropriateness. For an extra $10, you can also get knives engraved. Kaz was born in Hokkaido and moved to Melbourne in 2010. While working as a chef, he was dissatisfied with the availability and cost of Japanese knives and decided to import them himself. He works directly with Jikko, a Japanese blacksmith that's been operating since 1900. Shop online or make an appointment to go see him.

Keeping Cosy

Know someone who would delight in wrapping themselves in a super soft tortilla blanket and pretending to be a taco? Snugglies has you covered. How about a homebody who would get around in a blanket-hoodie printed with pizza slices or avocados? Try The Oodie. Is there a newborn nearby who might benefit from premium bamboo cotton muslins printed with citrus (and an optional matching headband)? Sweet Carrot and Co has you covered with 20 per cent off your first order when you use the code WELCOME for the first time.

Food-Inspired Ceramics

I'm a long-time fan of Nani Puspasari (aka @designani). She's a visual artist and illustrator but her quirky, colourful ceramic pieces are my favourite. If there's a painter in your life, buy Nani’s avocado or mandarin palette with a removable pit/mandarin that doubles as a paintbrush holder. For something sure to spark a smile at home, there are mandarin incense holders and functional sculptures. You can serve biscuits and snacks on plates shaped like a pizza slice, or decorate your couch with $10 cushion covers printed with watercolours of Nutella and SPAM. Visit the website here.

DIY Mushroom Kits

Whether there’s someone in your life who’s watched Fantastic Fungi on Netflix, is in awe of Future Food System’s mushroom wall or simply gets a kick out of watching things grow, a mushroom kit makes a wonderful gift. Little Acre ships Australia wide, and fast. They have harder-to-find varieties, including lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms in gold, pink, blue, pearl and white. You can get two to three crops out of each kit, too.

Felt Food

There are some gorgeous options for budding foodies who enjoy pretend play. Melbourne-based Biscuit and Leo handcraft felt bowtie pasta, cheese and crackers, cookies, eggs, gyoza and a whole tea set (last orders December 3). FunPlayFood is another option, offering stacks of felt pancakes, everything you need to assemble a felt big brekkie, burgers and fries, tacos, pizza, and my personal favourites, sushi and ramen (cut off ordering dates December 13, or December 8 for WA and NT).

Food Scented Candles

Kakadu Plum Co's Man-Gala candle is named after the summer months in the Yawuru calendar in Western Australia, the time of year when kakadu plums are harvested. The Australian scent contains lemon, pine needle, eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, patchouli and sandalwood. You can buy it solo ($26.95) or as part of the Christmas Gift Box ($85.95), a collaboration with Warlulurlangu Art Centre and designed by Sheree Napurrurla Wayne. Along with the candle, it also features chocolates, hand balm and soap. Sydney-based Hunter Candles is another great option, with scents like “No. 4 Tasmanian Creek” (eucalyptus, bark, grapefruit rind and olive leaf) and “James” (yuzu and smoke).

Fine Food Jewellery

Cleopatra’s Bling has a stunning range of jewellery inspired by founder Olivia Cummings’ overseas stints. I always receive compliments on my Turkish beaded corn necklace ($79). Olivia works with a local jewellery teacher in the Black Sea region to make these pieces. She’s just opened a shop at 74 Johnston Street in Collingwood, too. Another local jeweller, Ada Hodgson, can help immortalise any lockdown baking obsession with her delicate croissant and sourdough loaf necklaces in silver and gold. She also makes pretty little artichokes.

Kitsch Food Jewellery

For something more colourful, Saturday Lollypop makes polymer clay earrings and necklaces shaped like fairy bread, blueberries, avocados, bubble tea and even Bubble O’Bill ice cream sticks. In the name of shameless self-promotion, PinstaPals is my little enamel pin side-hustle featuring breeds of dogs I’ve illustrated holding food people love to eat.

Uniquely Australian Food

Start with Mabu Mabu’s sauces: organic sriracha, organic tomato, green tomato hot sauce, pineapple hot sauce and island marinade. They also sell a native Australian spice trio for $32, along with Indigenous Australian teas, chai and hot chocolate spiked with wattleseed ($15 to $17.50).

Launceston-based Meru Miso specialises in chunky miso pastes that use traditional Japanese methods and all-Australian ingredients (available at independent grocers, health food stores and online). And while we’re talking Japanese essentials, Shima Wasabi grows the fresh plant in optimal Tasmanian conditions, and it’s a world away from the horseradish and mustard substitute you’ve probably been eating. Buy it online as the stem, paste, powder and even the leaves.

For the ultimate splurge, electric blue wild scampi caviar can only be sourced from Western Australia. You can buy it from some fishmongers, like Ash Bros, but it's most affordable at $84 for 25 grams from Melbourne Food Squad in Victoria, and from Fish Me for $98 in Sydney. It's the perfect gift for the food lover who has everything.

Uniquely Australian Drinks

Tequila can only be tequila when made from the blue agave plant in designated areas of Mexico. Cognac is brandy specifically grown in the wine regions of Charente and Charente-Maritime. But Australians have our own dignified drops.

With the brilliant tagline "The World's Oldest New Flavours", Seven Seasons is the Indigenous-owned company behind Green Ant Gin, Bush Apple Gin and Native Yam Vodka. You might have spotted Green Ant Gin on trendy new restaurant menus, but you can jump online and buy a bottle for home.

Autonomy distills sustainable, small-batch spirits made using locally grown ingredients, which results in bottles like Native Australian Amaro, Davo Plum bitters (Davidson plum) and Qandong Gin. Uncio Zelo, the South Australian winery behind Applewood Distillery, also makes Unico Yuzu. The Distillery is known for their native gins such as karkalla, saltbush and lemon aspen. They also have Økar, Aussie liqueurs that are essential for any cocktail cabinet (including Bitter, Mocha and Tropic).

Must-Have Aussie Condiments

Let’s kick this section off with chilli oil, because lord knows there are plenty of ‘em. There’s the constantly sold-out The Chilli Oil (aromatic but not too hot), Bomb Ass Chilli Oil (spicy and textural), Mama Liu's (Xinjiang north-western style), Ronin Chilli (chewy, not too burny and with a subscription option) and Umamipapi (with Thai chillies for heat, Korean greens for colour and Chinese for flavour).

From the hot sauce department, make a beeline for Mat’s Hot Shop in Collingwood (or online). Mat stocks up to 150 hot sauces at any one time, and they’re all available to taste before you commit. They don’t yet stock Chotto Motto’s new yuzu hot sauce though.

Tumami, the "everything spread" from Alice Zaslavsky, is a concentrated umami bomb that’s being restocked from the second week of December. Organic Aussie tomatoes and black garlic help enhance whatever you're cooking, whether stock, pasta, a stir-fry, or simply on bread with fresh tomatoes. Plus she’s launching a new condiment any moment now – all eyes on the website.

From the salt department, I always have Olsson’s Pacific Salt and Tasman Sea Salt on rotation. Olsson’s do a red gum smoked sea salt that's to die for, as well as a collaboration with Four Pillars distillery that uses their spent Rare Dry Gin botanicals. The packaging, complete with a little spoon, makes an ideal gift. Tasman Sea Salt has a boxed trio of their natural, smoked and bright purple pepperberry salts for $29.90, but if you're looking to spend more, add the newest in the range, wakame sea salt ($9.95), or their shell-shaped salt pig ($75).

Curious Cookbooks

You can find lists of new-release cookbooks all over the internet, but if I had to pick the most unique, it would be Take One Fish by Josh Niland. The Sydney-based chef and owner of The Fish Butchery takes 15 fish that differ in size, shape and oiliness and walks readers through how to get the most out of each one. There are 60 recipes in total, as well as beautiful images and skill guides. From scale to tail, you’ll eat new parts of the fish and cook recipes such as tuna mapo tofu.

For something you can read cover-to-cover, try Beggars Belief: Stories from Gerald’s Bar. It’s a series of short vignettes written by Gerald Diffey (with assistance from Max Allen), who owns the eponymous bar in Carlton North. I’m especially fond of the book because it’s my local bar, but it’s a lovely insight into a brain that’s spent the last 40 years analysing and experiencing hospitality. It’s filled with the stories to match and scattered with chatty recipes. Pre-order for December 14.

Food Toys for Furbabies

If you’re looking to spoil your furry best friend this Christmas, there are ways to do so while still representing your love of food. Run out of New South Wales, Gemma & Ollie stock adorable plush dog toys, from soup dumplings in a soft basket to a set that features a dumpling, Chinese takeaway noodle box and a bubble tea. There are also plush croissants, avocados and even a bottle of rose. In Melbourne, Paw Principality stocks squeaky rubber soft serves cones, plush strawberry ice creams with space for hiding treats and plushie picnic sets.

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