The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at Den Anker last night, and addressed by Matt Allison of ImNoJamieOliver Blog and Nikki Dumas of Swirl! Blog, was characterised by PASSION: not only in terms of the blogger speakers, but also in the fantastic food paired by Den Anker with six excellent Jordan wines.

Prior to the speakers sharing their blogging passion, Robyn Martin, the most charming, organised and passionate representative for Jordan wine estate, took us through the tasting of the first three Jordan wines.  Being the organised person that she is, she had prepared a tasting summary for groups of wines.  The first three wines tasted were white: the Jordan 2009 Riesling, being ‘aromatic and appley’, and a winner of the Old Mutual Trophy, SA Terroir, and the Five Nations awards, was paired with just-seared sesame-coated tuna, one of the highlights prepared by Chef Doekle Vlietman at Den Anker.  On the same plate was the sweetest presentation of truffle-enhanced scrambled egg served in an egg shell on a bed of coarse salt, paired with creamy and toasty Jordan 2009 Chardonnay.  Wrapping up the trio was a beer-poached katifi-wrapped prawn, draped in a saffron beurre blanc, paired with the tropical green notes of Jordan 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. 

Nikki Dumas, another highly organised lady, presented each of the attendees with a sheet of her ‘Twenty-one Commandments’ on how to blog successfully.  She passionately expressed her love for wine, and all things related to it.      Nikki’s suggestions for successful blogging are: 1. write something useful  2. write something unique 3. write something newsworthy  4. write something first   5. write something that makes those who read it smarter  6. write something controversial  7. write something insightful  8. write something that taps into a fear people have  9. write something that helps other people achieve  10. write something that elicits a response  11. write something that gives a sense of belonging  12. write something passionately  13. write something that interprets or translates news for people   14. write something inspirational   15. write something that tells a story   16. write something that solves a problem   17.  write something that gets a laugh   18. write something that saves people time or money   19.  write something opinionated  20.  write something that is a resource  21. write something about something ‘cool’.

Nikki’s passion for her own brand ‘Nikki Dumas’ came to the fore, and she is a confident blogger, who knows exactly where she is going.  She has two blogs – Swirl!  is a blog she uses to document information about the wine industry, coming from PR agencies, for example.  She does not allow comments on this blog.  Winestyle.biz is the blog on which she writes her own blogposts, with about 4000 hits since she started it in April. She allows comments on this blog, even if they are controversial, to create debate.  She emphasised that she is not a writer nor journalist, and that she will only write about something she judged to be good.  Everything she experiences in terms of food and wine she evaluates against her career in restaurant management.   She likes using Google’s Blogger platform, saying it is user-friendly.  Her blogpost attracting the largest number of hits is the anonymous survey she conducted on restaurant listing fees for wines.  She said she is a ‘Mac junkie’, and evaluates her blog performance through all the statistics that Google makes available, including Google Analytics, AdSense, and more.  She knows exactly where her traffic is coming from, and which keywords are used to get to her blog (wine, winestyle, wine journal, Nikki Dumas).  Nikki  was asked to share her background, and she told us that she moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg ten years ago.  She started Moyo in Norwood, and opened Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then moved to Belthazar and Balducci.  Nikki offers restaurant wine training, is a wine consultant in designing winelists for restaurants, assists wine estates in getting better sales in restaurants, and sells branded Wine Journals. Nikki told us that 60 % of wines in supermarkets are by Distell.  She feels that the wine industry should teach the consumer more about wine.

The next stage of the food and wine pairing was a lovely plumy and stylish Jordan Merlot 2008 paired with the most ‘butter-tender’ peppered fillet, and the rich Jordan Prospector 2008 Syrah, which was paired with venison served with sauce bordelaise.  Robyn told us that the power of Social Media was demonstrated when more than 6000 persons protested against the planned mining on the Jordan wine estate.  The threat was withdrawn, and in gratitude Gary Jordan named his new Syrah, launched last year, The Prospector.  With our yummy chocolate ravioli with pomegranate jelly the flagship Bordeaux-style Jordan Cobblers Hill was served. 

Without any notes, Matt Allison spoke from his heart, reflecting his passion and principles.  With careers in the wine trade, as a graphic designer, and first as a musician and then as a music producer, Matt realised that he was spending too much time away from home, not what he wanted with his new baby boy.  He realised he needed a change, and became a rare ‘house-husband’, spending almost all his time with his son at home.  He loves food, and became the cook for the family, and his blog ‘ImNoJamieOliver’ was born a year ago when he decided to cook all 60 recipes of a Jamie Oliver recipe book in 90 days.  He lost twenty days when he had his kitchen redone.   We laughed when he told us that his mother had engendered independence amongst her children, and it was a matter of ‘cook or die’ in their household.   He has since blogged a further 60 recipes from a second Jamie Oliver recipe book.  Matt presented who he is honestly, and described himself as a person with a 30’s nature, a 50’s style, living in 2011.

Matt told us that blogging for him is a means to an end, and he has changed direction in that his interest now is the provenance of food.  He has rented a piece of land from the City of Cape Town, and now grows 40 vegetable and herbs, not counting different varieties.  This has led to seasonal eating, fresh out of his garden.  He does not grow potatoes and corn, as these take too much space.  Matt is critical of Woolworths, for their vegetables sourced from countries such as Kenya.  On a Wednesday afternoon he sells his vegetables he harvested an hour earlier, between 4 – 6 pm at Starlings Café in Claremont.  He told us horror stories about supermarket vegetables being picked unripe weeks earlier, and artificially ripened.   Matt also would not touch fast-food any more, and expressed concern that so many people grab a McDonald’s in-between meetings. There are no TV dinners in his home.  He would like people to question where their food is coming from.  He believes that obesity and diabetes can be fixed via ‘healthy food’.  With his help, Cape Town and Winelands chefs at restaurants such as Societi Bistro, Warwick wine estate, El Burro, and Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz wine estate, are moving to sourcing their herbs and vegetables from small ‘bio-dynamic’ (he does not like the word ‘organic’) producers, or planting their own.   He likes restaurants that serve local, seasonal, and sustainable food, and operate ethically in all respects.  Matt has about 5000 unique readers of his blog per month, and about 1300 Twitter followers, but his readership is of no consequence to him.  He is ruthless in unfollowing and blocking on Twitter.  He recently changed his Twitter name to @MattAllison, to build his own brand.  Given his focus on the provenance of food, he will be launching a new blog “Planting Thoughts” soon.  One of the most exciting experiences for Matt is that he has been selected as one of 250 chefs and urban farmers to attend a symposium in Copenhagen, organised by the chef/owner Rene Redzepi of the world’s number one restaurant Noma, the only South African hand-picked by Redzepi.   The symposium takes place next weekend, and co-incides with the world’s largest food festival, the MAD Food Camp, also organised by Redzepi, with more than 10000 visitors expected!  Matt says we pay too little for our food in South Africa, and told us what it costs to raise a chicken.  He buys his meat from Gogo’s Deli in Newlands, or directly from farmers.  Matt encouraged us to ‘think about your food’, that one should not evaluate a restaurant if one has not been a chef and a waiter, given that most chefs put their heart and soul into their meals.  For him a good restaurant is one in which the chef comes out of the kitchen, offers great service, and has staff who love what they do.   He encouraged one to do one’s own blogging and Tweeting, to reflect one’s personality, and to not outsource social media. 

Dusan Jelic of wine.co.za, who has been a passionate supporter of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club since its inception, was wished well, who will be returning to his home country Serbia in September. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.  Each of the two bloggers talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

      *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and Anetha Homan, Marketing Manager of Steenberg, at Steenberg

      *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. Bookings can be made by e-mailing whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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