After 12 months' hard-core research, herewith is a list of the Good Food team's favourite classes, tours and food-centric gifts.
The gift: The Cosmo Kramer lobster shirt, $US50, teesforall.com
Some fashion statements never die – the Cartier watch, the little black dress, the novelty shirt. And of all the novelty shirts, the lobster shirt is the finest, first making its appearance in the hit '80s television series Seinfeld, on that iconic style inspiration Cosmo Kramer. It has everything you could want from a shirt – short sleeves, easy-iron rayon and polyester, and lobsters. The perfect gift for anyone who loves Seinfeld, shellfish or looking remarkably cool and collected at the Christmas table.
What could be better than giving your best mate a top-shelf Australian craft gin for Christmas? Giving them the chance to make their own top-shelf Australian craft gin, of course. They'll learn from the best in the biz, get a great day out, and walk away with a bottle that neatly distils their own character. Just make it a condition of the gift that you get to taste it, too.
There are very few guarantees in life, but if you've got a good pan and a good knife, you've at least upped the odds when it comes to making something delicious to eat. The Shun Kanso chef's knife is extremely easy to keep sharp and it handles beautifully, balance-wise. The wooden handle fits snugly in your hand and best of all, it's lovely to look at. If there's one cook's knife you need to own, it's this one. Also, the gift that belongs under everyone's Christmas tree, The Good Food Guide 2019, so you know where to eat wherever you are in Australia.
The experience: Spearfishing course, $550, frogdive.com.au/spearfishing
The ultimate present for the survivalist and the adventure-seeker. The most environmentally gentle way to catch your seafood, with the benefit of getting to carry around a giant pointy stick and learning how to hold your breath under water for extended periods. There's nothing more empowering than being the master or mistress of your own dinner destiny. And think what a badass you'll look, emerging from the sea covered in fresh-caught squid.
The gift: Kale mix
Make up a batch of these magic sprinkles and seal in small jars for gift-giving. They're brilliant over fried and scrambled eggs, steamed vegetables, rice, tofu, and barbecued fish and chicken, or with dips and flatbread.
500g curly kale
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp castor sugar
3 tbsp Asian crisp-fried shallots
1 tsp Japanese togarashi sprinkles
Heat the oven to 180C. Strip the kale leaves away from the stalks and tear into small pieces. Massage the olive oil roughly into the kale leaves until well-coated, and spread onto two baking sheets lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes, then start watching them like a hawk. Remove any fully crisp, dry leaves and keep baking the softer ones until they, too, are crisp. Set aside to cool. In a dry frying pan, heat the sesame seeds for one minute until toasty, then cool.
In a food processor, whiz the kale, sesame seeds, sea salt, pepper, sugar, shallots and togarashi until you have light, fine sprinkles. Transfer to clean, dry, airtight jars, label and use within two months. Makes 4 x 50g jars or 8 x 25g.
The experience: Pick Your Own Prosecco at Dal Zotto Wines, March 16, $198 at Dal Zotto Wines, Whitfield, Victoria, melbournefoodandwine.com.au
Who doesn't like prosecco? And who wouldn't love to spend the morning hand-picking prosecco grapes at the beautiful King Valley winery of prosecco pioneers, the Dal Zotto family, learning more about this fruity, celebratory, sparkling wine? It's not all hard labour – there's morning tea in the vineyard, and a suitably celebratory Italian lunch in the vineyard trattoria, with all wines included. Plus, you get to take home a six-pack of the 2019 Col Fondo Prosecco, to keep the good times going.
Putting the Resch's icebox I'm trying to find at auction to one side, beer merchandise is objectively gross, a domain of ill-fitting T-shirts, bucket hats and rust magnet keyrings. Praise be to Barry P then (also known as artist Barry Patenaude) for beer can illustrations that won't make your lager-loving mate's mantelpiece look like the back room of Budgewoi pub. Local and international tins, such as Young Henrys, Yeastie Boys, Cass and Reschs Dinner Ale, shine under Bazza's hand. Cheaper than a limited edition esky, too.
The experience: Stay at Marco Pierre White's house, from $430 a night, rudloearms.com
You'll also need to factor in the cost of getting to Bath, England, but what price to hang out at Marco Pierre White's country manor and riffle through his library? Yes, that's an original David Steen photography book signed by Roger Moore; yes that's a Damien Hirst spot painting in the restaurant where supper is served daily. Twelve guest rooms in the Rudloe Arms main house are furnished with Robert "Mouseman" Thompson antiques, and beautiful bathtubs provide respite after an afternoon exploring the grounds and saying gidday to White's pigs. The legendary chef properly lives here and there's every chance you'll run into the bloke returning from a hunt or holding court in the bar with a bottle of rosé.
The gift: Saint Peter fish weight, $150, fishbutchery.com.au
Could there be a more apposite gift for your seafood-obsessed friend? This here is your secret to perfectly crisp fish skin, a la Josh Niland of Paddington restaurant Saint Peter. Heat some clarified butter in your pan, place the fish skin side down, then place the weight on top as it cooks. Don't forget the fish selfie.
The experience: Spoonsmith voucher, $110, byaxe.bigcartel.com
Pambula spoonsmith Jeff Donne has spent the past two decades mastering the art of spoon carving and hand woodsmithing, and now you can learn, too. Join him for a day – or week – of blissfully unhurried spoon carving, or whittling kitchenalia and household objects from a tree.
Some people just want to watch the world burn. Those people might actually relish a lump of coal as a gift. Give them an eco-warrior kit instead. Sites like Biome and Flora and Fauna have a massive range of stainless steel lunch boxes, tiffins, reusable cups, beeswax wraps that can replace cling wrap in your kitchen, and canvas totes and produce bags to take to the shops. With most things sitting at the $20-$40 mark, they are in the ''random relative" gift zone as an anti-landfill stocking stuffer.
The experience: Lunch on Flinders Island with Unique Charters $2600-$3500, uniquecharters.com.au
Remember five years ago when everyone discovered the hitherto unknown land of Hobart? This year, it's all about Tassie's North. MONA's summer festival MONA Foma is moving to Launceston and from here, or Barnbougle (Bridport) new company Unique Charters is running some wild food and drink tours. Flying you around the frothing rugged coastline of the Furneaux Island group, like the beginning scenes of Jurassic Park, you're dropped on Flinders Island to a lunch spread starring Tassie's cheeses, oysters, lamb and giant crayfish (you can actually fish with a local as part of the deal if you want, or not) with heaps of gin and wine. It's big-sky-dreaming expensive, but who owes you big time?
Food gift: Linen bread bag, $12.95 for three, plus shipping, biome.com.au
The cat's out of the bag, so to speak. I'm making drawstring bread bags using unbleached linen for some of the food lovers in my life. Linen is naturally antibacterial, making it a smarter wrapping for bread than single-use plastic bags, which turn crusty loaves soggy and mouldy. Plus linen bags are machine washable, reusable and endlessly versatile – use a bag to store the remains of the Christmas ham, fresh vegetables in the crisper drawer or to carry home bulk dry goods. If you don't don't fancy running up your own, online retailer Biome has similar bags made from organic cotton.
The experience: A Night at Tali Wiru under the stars dining experience and Field of Light tiyr, $375 a head from March 29 to October 15, 2019, ayersrockresort.com.au
Every Australian needs to visit Uluru at least once. And at Tali Wiru, you get to see the sun set on the sacred monolith and dine under the stars on ochre sand (Tali Wiru means beautiful dune in the local Anangu language). The food, which uses Indigenous ingredients in refined dishes such as wattleseed-rubbed kangaroo carpaccio, is prepared onsite in an outdoor kitchen. The cost includes a pass to see Field of Light, British artist Bruce Munro's breathtaking solar-powered light installation, the following evening.
The gift: Bonnie and Neil Christmas tablecloth, $215, bonnieandneil.com.au
I've craftily busied the kids in finger painting swaths of white fabric as Christmas tablecloths. They have had a messy/rustic appeal. But what I really want is a special cloth to pull out every year: a splendid table-top Christmas tradition. This is the one. Green wreaths encircling lobsters (exceptional matching potential with the Kramer shirt), cherries and crabs on pure linen, which practically screams Aussie yuletide to me.
The experience: UTracks Food Lover's Camino, $6990 (includes tours, wine tastings, Michelin-starred meals), utracks.com
"Everyone does their own Camino," I told my husband as we set out walking 100km of the famous 800km, centuries-old walking trail from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Our Camino meant eating a lot. We spent our days walking through pimiento patches and olive groves and our evenings in tiny Spanish villages devouring local fare. We began in the Navarra region of Spain, famed for its white asparagus, and ended in the Rioja, Spain's key wine region. For four days our lives were no more complicated than getting to the next village and planning what was for dinner. Heaven.
The gift: Antique-collection Everleigh cocktails $249, everleighbottling.com
The Everleigh's pre-mixed single-serve cocktails are often mimicked but – particularly in the case of these premium versions – never matched. The limited-edition Antique Collection is a suave set of single serve cocktails bottled between 1950 and 1980 including a 1950s Martini, 1960s Vesper, 1970s Negroni and a 1980s Bobby Burns. Bonus: the bottles make cute little vases afterwards.
The experience: The Agrarian Experience $385, the theagrariankitchen.com
Give your most wound up – or wonderful – friend a taste of the good life in Tasmania and treat them to The Agrarian Experience. A short skip from Derwent Valley's idyllic hatted eatery, The Agrarian Kitchen, is their equally dreamy cooking school and farm in Lachlan. The most popular class is The Agrarian Experience, a paddock-to-plate immersion for all skill levels that starts in gumboots in the garden and ends with a seasonal feast with nine new friends.
The gift: Roccbox, $900, gozney.com
For all the theories about making the perfect pizza, the key ingredient is heat. A lot of it. To achieve the beautiful, slightly blackened crust, no less than 400C will do. This is hard to achieve in a conventional oven. That's where pizza ovens comes in. Many, however, are large, expensive and require the patience of a saint (wood-fires take hours to come to temperature).
Here's a new kid on the block. The Roccbox is an amazing little oven (41cm x 53cm, weighing 20kg) featuring interchangeable gas and wood burners. It rises to 500C in 20 minutes and the rolling flame provides even heating across the stone. The base legs fold away, which also makes it portable: beach pizza party anyone?
I am now addicted to watching my pizzas go from dough to woah in 90 seconds. I also use it for fish, ribs, baked eggs, salt crusted-anything, cauliflower ... if it fits through the opening, it gets flamed.