Last month on what was one of the hottest days of the summer, a group of journalists and bloggers were invited to St. Christopher’s Place just off London’s Oxford Street to celebrate an early Christmas with snow and Christmas trees! Well not quite, we gathered in Carluccio’s St. Christopher’s Place restaurant to preview and sample their delicious and tempting 2018 Christmas Gifts.
We were greeted not with mulled wine and minced pies to keep the cold at bay, but rather chilled prosecco and some delicious canapés as we walked around the display of beautifully packaged cakes, biscuits, panettone, chocolate and other wonderful confectionery – all ideal as Christmas gifts or stocking fillers.
As those of us who love Italian food, we know that there is no such thing as ‘typical’ Italian food. Each region, town and village and in many cases families, do it their own way. And so it is with Carluccio’s that they try to offer a wide range of hand-picked delicious gifts for Christmas, all carefully sourced from specialist producers from around Italy.
As well as the seasonal favourites, Carluccio’s have managed to find some new gift ideas, such as Pitta ‘Mpigliata, which is a Calabrian cake stuffed full of fruit, nuts and honey. Also new to this year’s list is an assortment of soft almonds and hazelnut torrone sourced from Sicily and some tasty figs soaked in rum and filled with candied cherries and double-coated in dark chocolate! We of course, got the chance to try them.
If you like panettone, then you don’t need to wait long, as all of Carluccio’s panettones are made from September through to December by their specialist producers. 1kg of ‘Panettone Tradizionale’ costs £17.95 and is made with plump sultanas, candied peel, natural yeast and finished with a hazelnut glaze. For you chocoholics fear not as there is a chocolate version, made with milk and dark chocolate pieces, which replace the candied peel and dried fruit in the traditional cake.
If like me you like Limoncello, then you might very well be tempted with a ‘Panettone Al Limoncello’ at £19.95. It has the zesty flavour of Sorrento and is made with candied lemon, piped with limoncello cream and white chocolate. Or if you fancy the prosecco version then the ‘Panettone Alla Prosecco’ is for you. Made in Veneto, this sweet bread is filled with a creamy custard mixed with local prosecco. You will also find a gluten-free version at £12.95, made with natural yeast, candied cedro and sultanas and is unglazed.
There are some delicious regional cakes and biscuits I tried, from a beautifully packaged box of traditional Piemontese biscuits at £9.95 for 300g (Pasticceria Piemontese) to a gold tin full of ‘Biscotti Assortiti’ in apricot, chocolate and pistachio. That one will be on my Christmas list for sure as I just love pistachio!
When it comes to chocolate and confectionery in general, Carluccio’s gifts are made with generous helpings of fruit and nuts, all grown by Italian producers. For example, an Italian Christmas tradition is Sicilian marzipan fruits ‘Cestino Di Frutta’ at £17.95 for 300g, made with clementine, cherries, lemon, figs and apple. And new for 2018 is ‘Torroncini Assortiti’ at £12.95 for 200g, which is an assortment of soft almond and hazelnut torrone, coated in dark, milk or white chocolate with a hint of orange and a real festive treat from Sicily.
As well as the above, Carluccio’s also has a range of Advent Calendars, gift boxes, hampers, stocking fillers and decorations to get you in the festive mood as Christmas approaches.
Carluccio’s Christmas products and gifts will be available from the end of October both in their restaurants and online. So, for more information or to find a store near you please visit www.carluccios.com
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground Travel & Lifestyle, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Simon Burrell