Fantastic gifts for food lovers

Searching for the perfect Christmas present for the foodie in your life? Look no further – here, in no particular order, are our top 10 gifts for food lovers.

foodie gifts

1. Traditional German Mulled Wine. What would Christmas be without mulled wine? Ein bisschen boring, we think.

2. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. The cream of the crop when it comes to Tennessee whiskey: uniquely smooth and aromatic.

3. Joseph Joseph Hands-On Salad Bowl and Servers. Simple, elegant design for stylish salad-serving.

4. Daylesford Oak Measuring Spoons. A kitchen essential that would hang beautifully in any rustic countryside kitchen. Or a stylish city flat, for that matter.

5. SodaStream Pure Drinks Maker. Style and substance in one: make refreshing tipples of all types with this Earth Friendly, award-winning sparkling drinks maker.

6. Brindisa Paella for two hamper. Bring Spain to the table with all the spices and flavourings needed to rustle up an authentic classic.

7. Bordeaux Châteaux Collection. Not sure what kind of vino they’re keen on? With six varieties to sample, this is a great choice for a wine buff.

8. Booja Booja Hazelnut Crunch Artist’s Collection. These organic dark chocolate hazelnut truffles are sure to be a hit with even the most demanding critics.

9. The East India Company’s Orange with Gold Leaf Marmalade. Made with real gold, this is exotic decadence that’s sure to impress.

10. Ogilvy’s Honey Tasting Collection. Give their sweet tooth a treat with these 100% pure artisan cold-pressed honeys from across the world.

Above and beyond

There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t receive lovely feedback from our customers. That’s why I thought we were well overdue an Ocado Hero. Here’s a fab letter we received this week.

ImageDear Ocado,

I wanted to write to thank you at Ocado and in particular Sarah Gardner in your Customer Care team for helping me out with a slightly unusual situation. To cut a long story short, I was planning to ask my girlfriend to marry me on Friday last week. Everything was set, ring ready, champagne on ice etc. My heart sank when on Wednesday, two days before “D-Day”, my girlfriend sent me an email asking if I could be at home for the Ocado delivery on Friday between 5 – 6pm, the exact time I was planning to ask. Whilst Ocado are brilliant, having a delivery man arrive whilst on one knee was not quite the atmosphere I was trying to create! I rang Ocado, to see if it was possible to change the deliver time even by an hour. Bearing in mind I am not the account holder, I was not confident.

Luckily Sarah answered the call! After a discussion with her manager (apologies whose name I do not know), Sarah came back on the line and told me that they would love to help. Sarah then rang my girlfriend and left a message explaining that there was a “routing issue” and that could the delivery come early? To allow for the “inconvenience” that Ocado had caused her (absolutely no inconvenience because it was her pesky boyfriend causing the trouble!) they had included a complimentary bottle of wine to throw my girlfriend completely off the scent!! This was a wonderful gesture because it meant that my girlfriend had absolutely no idea and totally believed the “routing issue!”

The great news is that the Ocado delivery arrived on schedule and half an hour later not only had all the groceries been unpacked but Catriona, completely shocked and stunned not only because I had managed to unpack the groceries, but also because I had asked her to be my wife! In the ensuing “How did it happen” questions, everybody has commented on how wonderful it was of Ocado to play along and I wanted to thank you for that.

In these austere times, business seems to be getting a terrible bashing, yet when companies behave like Ocado have, it warms the soul and I wanted to write and thank you and single out Sarah for taking the “risk” by believing this strange man and allowing me the perfect setting to propose.

Thank you very much and please do pass on our thanks to Sarah Gardner and everyone at Ocado for their help.

Kind regards,

Henry

Great work, Sarah. It’s going the extra mile like this that really does make shopping easy and enjoyable for our customers.

And here’s the hero herself:

ImageGot any Ocado Hero stories of your own? Please leave them in the comments below; I’d love to read them!

Jason Gissing

Co-founder

NOW EXPIRED Celebrate Thanksgiving with a FREE bottle of Beringer for your next shop

13/11/2013 16.09 UPDATE – THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED – THE REDEMPTION LIMIT OF 300 HAS BEEN REACHED. THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This American tradition centres around families and friends eating a meal together to express gratitude for the blessings of the year (originally it was to give thanks for the harvest).  Anyway, I’m certainly in favour of any excuse to spend time with loved ones over dinner!

The Ocado Thanksgiving event is filled with offers on American treats to help you plan a Thanksgiving celebration, but our friends at Beringer have also kindly offered 300 bottles of their Classic Cabernet Sauvignon to give us all something else to be thankful for.

Beringer Classic Cabernet Sauvignon

Give thanks at Thanksgiving with this week’s freebie. To claim a free bottle of Beringer Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 75cl with your next shop, follow the steps below:

1. Place an order for at least £80

2. Add one bottle of Beringer Classic Cabernet Sauvignon to your order and enter the voucher code VOU7655472 as you check out (cannot be used with any other voucher).

3. We’ll deduct the cost of the product for the first 300 people to enter this code and check out for deliveries between 14/11/2013 and the last available delivery slot on Wednesday 20/11/2013

For full Terms and Conditions visit ocado.com

Bottoms up! Naomi Bullivant, PR and Social Media Executive

On the sofa with… Painted Wolf Wines

What happens when a passionate wine maker goes back to basics in the African bush?

We cosied up with Jeremy Borg, the man behind Painted Wolf Wines and a brilliant storyteller, to hear his tale…

Image of Jeremy and Emma

Ocado: Let’s start at the beginning. Your wines fund wildlife conservation projects in Africa – how did that come about?

Jeremy: After 16 years in the UK and California, I returned to Africa in 1994, aged 34, and accidentally went to work in Botswana for a well-known safari camp.

 O: Accidentally?

 J: I had been visiting my family in South Africa with no intention of returning immediately, and Amanda (my sister), a wildlife filmmaker, volunteered my services. After two incredible years living in a small tent in the middle of the wilderness with elephants, lions, painted wolves (also known as painted dogs or wild dogs) baboons and a host of other wild animals as companions, Emma (my boss at Lloyds!) and I married under a large acacia tree in the bush.

Being back in the bush I had so loved as a child was invigorating after some wild and crazy years in California. The bush has been very good to us, and we made a pledge to make a contribution back.

After 18 months of head scratching we were blessed by the arrival of a magazine picturing a wild dog on its cover, captioned ‘The Natal Painted Wolf Project’ and telling the story of the successful reintroduction of wild dogs to parks in Natal. Wild dogs are our most systemically endangered large mammals – fewer than 400 in the wild in South Africa.

Image of Painted Wolves

As soon as I saw the magazine, I did a trademark search and found that the name was available. Our experiences and knowledge of painted wolves resonated loudly, and we developed a community-based business strategy and plan, based on teamwork and the pack mentality.

O: Things seem to have developed pretty fast since then?

J: As our sales grow – 70% over the past 12 months! – so does the Painted Wolf pack of wine lovers and our pool of conservation funds. We have partnered with a number of highly regarded conservation organisations. In UK, we’re teamed with the Tusk trust. Prince William, a passionate force for African conservation, is the patron of Tusk, and I am so excited to have such an influential ally fighting for the same things we live our lives for.

I also recently started a new venture, Pedals 4 Paws, to raise money by cycling in Africa’s wilderness areas to raise money for wild dogs and other rare carnivores, and to collect resources for poor rural school children – the future custodians of Africa’s remaining wild spaces.

Pedals 4 Paws logo

O: Have you ever seen a painted wolf in its natural habitat?

J: Oh yes, thankfully on quite a few occasions. One of the earliest memories I have of the bush is of a large pack of dogs on the road as my mum and dad rushed to reach the gate at the Kruger Park, late one afternoon in 1968. I was transfixed – it was the first time we had ever seen dogs.

Just a few months ago, during our Pedals 4 Paws ride from Mana Pools in the north of Zimbabwe to Chilo Gorge in the south, we had an opportunity to spend a day with Dr Rosemary Groom at a den in Save conservancy in South Eastern Zimbabwe. It was a wonderful experience spending hours with the dogs.

Image of wolves

O: What’s the most inspiring use of the funds you’ve seen so far?

J: Emma and I have made a decision to work with a number of highly reputed and effective conservation organisations. The main recipients of our funds are Painted Dog and The Lowveld Wild Dog projects in Zimbabwe, The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust and The Wild Dog Project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa.

All of the organisations have active anti-poaching programs, which employ people from the local communities to collect snares. At Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe these are transformed into beautiful snare art.

What was a lot of fun for us was to take books and other education materials to kids in the bush in Zimbabwe during our recent visit, and to see their joy when they were received.

Image of a young artist

O: What’s in the future for your campaigning? Any plans or challenges you see on the horizon?

Our Pedals 4 Paws cycling project – which has till now been funded and organised directly by us – is going to a different level next year. We plan to take 12-20 riders, who will pay for the privilege of riding in some of the wildest places in Southern Africa, and who will need to raise money for conservation.

We have a longer-term goal of building a larger bush cycling event in the south of Zimbabwe to benefit conservation and rural development projects in the Save Valley/Gonarezhou areas. This will need to be done over a number of years, and will only be able to roll out in a significant way once there are some changes in the country. I am patient and like to work slowly and steadily on my projects so we should be ok.

Image of cyclists O: Your pack has a diverse background, but how did you get into wine?

 J: When I passed my A levels I visited Malawi, where the father of a friend of mine (now a major conservationist in Malawi) opened a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1962 to celebrate. Though not the greatest vintage it was still a mesmerising wine. After that I found every possible occasion to enjoy the best wine I could.

It was whilst I was in San Fran that I got my first wine opportunity as the chef at a wine bistro researching and pairing food with a different wine region each fortnight, then selling wine for a wholesaler, and eventually working in the cellar for two years at Rosenblum Cellars, attending viticulture college before taking my safari sabbatical. Kent Rosenblum is an inspirational man from whom I learnt so much.

I spent 1996 in the UK, a 36-year-old wine bum, used the time to apply for jobs in South Africa, and was appointed as assistant wine maker for Fairview. I have to thank Charles Back for teaching me so much about the business and Anthony de Jager, the quiet genius behind their wines, who shared so much of his wine knowledge with me and who still occasionally helps me when confronted by a challenge.

O: Art seems to play a key role in your wineries. How does art inspire your wine?

J: I am a person who enjoys things for the way they feel, and the best things bring joy with warmth, sensual and tactile qualities. I love the intensity and the peach of nature and natural beauty, and I have always been keen on paintings and art (and food and music) – I’ve even been known to paint a bit myself in the past.

Wine plays a big part of my life and it needs to satisfy me on all of these different levels, and it needs to have a personality, or should we say a ‘dogalty’!  Also we have a number of wonderful and talented artist friends in our pack, and our bottles give us an opportunity to showcase their work. Artwork is also a key part of the fundraising work we do.

image of Painted Wolves by Lin Barrie

Ink sketch of a Painted Wolf

O: You’ve talked a lot about teamwork in the past. Why is it so important to you?

J: I believe that strength comes from co-operation and from finding paths that are mutually beneficial to all parties in any arrangement.  My experiences in Berkeley, California, with bright and socially aware entrepreneurs, left a lasting impression on me. I saw people develop and run great businesses with loyal customers by taking a long-term, community-based approach. When Emma and I put Painted Wolf together, that’s what we wanted.

If we had to buy the skills we have from our investors, it would cost much more than our type of business could possibly afford. Over the years we have worked in seven different cellars – denning down as wild dogs do – which has given me access to a number of wonderful wine makers from whom I have learnt a lot.

My grower partners take care of the grapes; pack members help with web design; there are others with financial and business skills; and cycling buffs have been helping with Pedals 4 Paws.

It is better to drive and own a portion of something great than have full control of something modest.

Image of Kids on a Pedals 4 Paws trip

O: Finally, tell us a secret. What’s your favourite wine from your range?

J: Gosh, which of our puppies is my fave? It really depends on the time of year and on the food I am preparing. I do however have a bit of a soft spot for Chenin Blanc, and for more stately occasions our Pinotage. I will probably give you a different answer if you ask again in two weeks! I’m really excited by the Pedals wines we are preparing for Ocado.

O: Thanks Jeremy!

Shop for Painted Wolf Wines

Read on:

On the sofa with… The Collective Dairy

On the sofa with… Natoora

On the sofa with… Organic Burst

Your two-minute guide to Italian wine

Over the past few decades, Italian food has become a much-loved staple in the British kitchen. We all love our balsamic and our extra virgin, but when it comes to marsala and soave, we’re much less familiar.

And that’s why I think Italian wine deserves championing. So to help you know your stuff, here are the key details for each region, north to south:

Trentino-Alto Adige

This Alpine area produces wonderfully aromatic and fresh white wines. Many of the wineries are family-owned, so you can find some interesting grape varieties both native and international, like gewürztraminer for example.

However if you’re looking for a classic Italian pinot grigio, which is fresh with lots of ripe stone fruit flavours, you’re in the right place.

Try a bottle >

Piedmont

This land-locked north-western region produces mainly hearty reds like Barolo and Barbaresco – they’re both made from the nebbiolo grape, and they’re both delicious. But there are some popular whites you should also look out for, such as Gavi di Gavi. They tend to be floral and full-flavoured.

Try a bottle >

Veneto

Humid and relatively flat, this is by no means the largest of Italy’s wine regions but it produces the highest volume in North East Italy.

It’s mostly known for fantastic Valpolicella (a red) which is fragrant, tangy and usually medium-bodied – and also produces a refreshingly dry soave. However Prosecco is the new super star of Veneto, with fresh peach flavours and a fruity off-dry finish proving extremely popular over the last few years.

It’s also interesting to note that the first Italian school for viticulture (growing and harvesting) and oenology (wine-making) opened here in 1885.

Try a bottle >

Tuscany

With fertile soil, hilly terrain and a temperate climate, this mid-western region is so perfect for vine-growing it was covered in wild grapes before viticulture started. A range of soil types means lots of different grapes are grown here.

Chianti wine is probably the most famous Italian wine in the world, and the region stretches from Florence to Siena. The style tends to be fruity with a floral, cinnamon-spiced finish, and you might notice notes of tobacco and leather as it ages.

There are also more full-bodied wines from Brunello di Montalcino, a famous DOCG (like the French appellations, it means ‘controlled designation of origin’) which produces bold and serious styles from the Sangiovese grape variety.

Try a bottle >

Puglia

We’re in the heel of Italy’s boot now, and as you travel from north to south, the terrain becomes less hilly until it’s almost entirely flat.

Negroamaro is the main grape here, which is used to produce robust reds and fragrant rosés – especially in the southern tip.

Try a bottle >

Campania

Moving west, this is the shin of the boot where a harsh, hot landscape creates strong and powerful wines.

Lots of the grapes grown here are relatively unheard of elswhere, but thrive to produce a wide variety of reds, whites and rosés. In terms of heritage, these wines have been produced and enjoyed locally for hundreds of years, and viticulture here goes back to at least the 13th century.

There are some real gems in Campania, and it’s really worth exploring and taking the plunge with some unusual grape varieties. In particular, the fantastic and distinctive Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Fiano. These are refreshing yet full-bodied, with tropical fruit flavours and a long elegant dry finish. They’re unlike any other whites you’ll have tried.

Try a bottle >

Sicily

There are several high quality reds and whites grown in this hot, volcanic region, but the most famous wine is the fortified variety from Marsala.

Similar to port or madeira, it has a deep, rich sweetness. Serve it chilled as an apéritif, or at room temperature as a dessert wine.

Try a bottle >

I really hope that, now you have the basics, you’ll feel confident to explore Italian wine and come to love it as much as I do.

Here’s to your next bottle,

Freyja
Wine Buyer