Wandering around Torino Wednesday while I was waiting for my friends to arrive, I enjoyed the festivenes that a big city brings during the holiday season, the lights, the fabulous window displays and the general high spirits that this time of year can bring. There is of course lots olf gloom and doom in the news of economic downturns and so many other depressing things, but there's nothing quite like a good session of window shopping, sparklely lights, Christmas carols by folks dressed up as Santa and his helpers and maybe a Bicherin (espresso, cream and chocolate hazelnut liquer)to put you in the holiday spirit.
One of the traditions of Italy that I really love is the holiday food basket that comes in such a variety of sizes and goodies being offered that I enjoyed just drooling over all the different combinations of tasty treats that are put together in a handsome basket, decorative box or fancy sack of yummy treats to tempt and explore either whilst your guests are with you or at a later date for indulgent consumption. Illy coffee, with a new caffettiera espresso maker, Tajarin pasta with black truffle in the dough, wild boar ready made sauce to go over the pasta, some dark chocolate filled with creamy hazelnut filling tucked into the corners, and a big golden Pandoro cake with sparkling Asti Wine to wash it all down is a basket most could not resist. I found a lovely jar of local acacia honey mixed with ground hazelnuts which is a new combination for me but I know my in laws are going to love it as much as I did when I sampled it the other day and we found a fresh handmade salami from our local butcher to tuck into their basket also, as Dante loves his salami, and I bought some spring bulbs of mini Daffodils and Irises for forcing and then planting out in Egle's various plots of flowers and oddities. I still am looking for a decorative pot for the bulbs to go in and I think I know where to find it. I'll tuck in a few home made cookies too. So if you're stumped to buy a thoughtful gift for your friends or family who have everything and need nothing, a food basket of special treats is always a welcome gift and every body can usually find good use for all those tasty treats. You could always stick a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant in also that you know they might not spring for either. I like to give gift certificates to one of my friends restaurants back in Colorado for some friends and family and it always goes over big as it's a great place to eat and a nice treat you can use just abot any time. That's my top tip for last minute shopping as I know I enjoy receiving that sort of thing and it seems like everyone in Italy does too. So happy hunting for those tasty treats and enjoy the season of simple gift giving.