I really think the best method of discovery is to pay a visit yourself (if it's not already a frequent haunt for you!), as your focus may differ a little from mine (!) but I'll show you some of the things I drooled over.
While hot chocolate on a stick isn't new to me - I've seen quite a few permutations of it lately (including a DIY version to make as Christmas gifts) - these ones look extra special: orange flavoured dark hot chocolate, salted butter caramel flavoured milk hot chocolate, and strawberry white chocolate. The only problem I would have if I had these in my pantry would be figuring out which one to have first!
Lovely wooden boxes of Hazer Baba Turkish delight - extra special gift presentation, and ginger flavour! Yum!
Ballantynes do put together gift hampers if you're strapped for time, but the huge assortment of goodies make putting together your own personalised version a tempting option for a gift - I know Christmas has just been and gone but looking at the exciting-sounding chutneys makes me want to start prepping for Christmas 2011. Is that a bit premature? ;-)
These spice kits are the same as the ones we spied at On Trays in Petone - we made the spiced lamb pot one, and it was really good, so if you're after a really easy way to spice up your dinner these come highly recommended. :-)
Stashed away in a corner with lots of vanilla in every conceivable form were some chocolate transfer sheets (you put melted chocolate on them to set and the pattern, made from cocoa butter, transfers onto the chocolate when set - so you can set truffles on them to make them look extra special, or wrap around a cake for a dressy chocolate shell), sheet gelatine, and gold and silver leaf. Actually, I wish I had got some silver leaf... I might have to go back.
Chocolate is a pretty major feature, and as well as all the wonderous flavours of Lindt, and the Bennetts of Mangawhai stuff I really like they have some very special varieties - these boxes contain Ludomar turróns - essentially bars with extra special fillings. I was particularly tempted by the crema catalana flavour, and would have bought it if I hadn't then been distracted by:
these gorgeous Bovetti tablets. Each tablet shows off the flavour studded through the chocolate - I caved in to a milk chocolate tablet with caramel and fleur de sel, and a violet-studded white chocolate tablet. I'm sorry I don't have a close-up shot but I left my haul in Christchurch to resist temptation and am currently in Kaikoura for a couple of days. The Bovetti website is bound to make you drool, though. ;-)
Last, but most definitely not least, this spectacular Italian nougat cake caught my eye - isn't it gorgeous? I am reliably informed that Bally's is the only place in New Zealand you can get your hands on this - I was terribly tempted but managed to escape with just the chocolate and some lovely spiced biscuits. It's definitely not a place to go when you've hungry but they do have some marvellous treats - definitely worth a visit!
Where's your favourite foodie haunt?
Ballantynes is located on the corner of Colombo and Cashel Streets, Christchurch, ph 03 379 7400, www.ballantynes.com