The first event I attended of the Hermanus FynArts Festival on Monday evening was the Festival Gala Dinner, being a highlight in that I was able to attend it, and in meeting Benguela Cove owner Penny Streeter! The Festival is a jam-packed celebration of art, food, music, and culture, running over a ten day period!
I had tried to book, but was told that the Gala Dinner was one of the first events to have sold out, it having been so good last year. Festival Director Mary Faure waved her magic wand, and found a seat for me, not just at any table, but at the table with her and her husband, writer Christopher Hope, Karina Briers-Louw and her husband, and artist Louis Jansen Van Vuuren (right). Louis and his partner own La Creuzette in France, a luxury chateau, and his partner Hardy Olivier and Chef Thierry Finet cooked the dinner, with the assistance of the students of the Warwick Chefs’ School. The Gala Dinner was held at the Manor House of Benguela Cove. A red carpet was rolled out, adding prestige to the event. Young ladies welcomed us with Domaine Des Dieux Claudia Brut MCC.
Tables were set up for 100 guests, in the foyer of the building, as one comes down the staircase. The Palm Strings duo of Tatia Blake and Michael Hoole provided entertainment throughout the evening. Round tables were set up, with protea flower decorations. A pretty touch was a selection of bread sticks which had been tied together in a ribbon with the French colours by Isabella Niehaus, and delivered to the venue, made by Rosmead Bakery in Yzerfontein, a mix containing apricots, seeds, and olives.
I bumped into Gert Van Rooyen, formerly the Manager of Benguela on Main in Somerset West, one of my two favorite restaurants, and a sister property to Benguela Cove. He came across from the Benguela property in Sedgefield, Lakeside Lodge, to help out on Monday, where he now works. I asked if Benguela Cove owner Penny Streeter was present, having spoken to her telephonically in the past, and being impressed with her success and late night Tweeting. Gert took me to meet her, and I was surprised to see my favorite Chef Jean Delport from Benguela on Main attending the dinner too. Penny is a most charming and fun lady, who has built up a successful business in the UK, for which she received an OBE from the Queen. She has been a big supporter of the Hermanus FynArts Festival over the past four years, Mary Faure told guests.
The Hermanus FynArts Festival has a ‘French Connection‘ theme this year, so it was apt for Chef Thierry and Hardy to design a French menu for the Gala Dinner, with recipes from their book ‘The Story of a House: Fables and Feasts from La Creuzette’, about their beautiful chateau, and containing recipes of the dishes they serve there, beautifully photographed by Hein van Tonder and Francois Pistorius. I was fortunate to attend the book launch in March. Chef Thierry joined La Creuzette ten years ago, after owning two Michelin-star restaurants. Hardy does cooking demonstrations for visiting guests at La Creuzette. Chef Garth Stroebel (right) oversaw the chef students for the Gala Dinner, and I had the pleasure of meeting this highly regarded chef at the dinner. Each dish had a French title, and an English translation.
Our starter was a Morille mushroom flan topped with foam, and served in a small cup with a spicy bread crumble, adding colour to the dish. It was paired with Beaumont Chenin Blanc 2016.
Having learnt about an Opera cake on Koekedoor recently, it was interesting that an ‘Opera‘ of foie gras was served with a Salad Mesclun (a classic Mediterranean salad of green leaves) and a black truffle vinaigrette. It was paired with Creation’s Viognier. Both JC and Carolyn Martin of Creation attended the dinner, and I spent Tuesday lunch with them to try their new Tapas menu.
I have never eaten lamb fillet mignon before, which was our main course, very tender and served with carrots and a citrus jus. La Vierge Anthelia Shiraz 2013 was served with this course, as well as with the cheese course, being Comte style cheese with apple chutney.
Benguela Cove Noble Late Harvest was paired with the Grand Marnier soufflé and a second dessert plate, of a chocolate, mandarin slices, and macarons. Coffee was served at the conclusion of the dinner, accompanied by KWV Brandy.
I ended off the evening by joining Penny’s table, and met her husband Nick Rea. He told me that they are getting a boat, and will ferry guests from the Arabella to Benguela Cove and back. We laughed a lot, Penny having a lovely sense of humor. It was great interacting with talented Chef Jean, seeing him without a Chef’s jacket and not cooking, for the first time.
As the first Hermanus FynArts event I attended, it was a fantastic start to the Festival, which I will attend until the end of this week. My thanks go to Mary Faure once again, for making it possible to attend the Gala Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein