Tag Archives: Barack Obama

My Top 21 recommendations for what to see and do in Havana, Cuba!

I arrived in Havana on 3 July 2019, with no preparation of what I wanted to see or do, except that I wanted to learn to dance the Salsa. I was lucky that a slightly out of date ‘Cuba’ Guide by Lonely Planet was lying in the lounge of the San Lazaro BnB I stayed at. I annexed it for the more than three weeks that I stayed there, and found useful background information in it, but perhaps it contains too much information, not just focused on Havana, my only destination in Cuba, therefore making a large part of the book irrelevant to me. Much more useful was the Guidebook ‘300 Things to love about Havana’ by Heidi Hollinger, focused on Havana, divided into the various suburbs of Havana, with an address, a good representative photograph, and largely accurate in its descriptions, even if published in 2018. 

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WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 10 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Decanter included three South African wines in its 2013 top 50 wines, out of a total of 3200 wines evaluated. Alheit Vineyards’ Cartology 2011 was ranked 4th; Vuurberg White 2011 was ranked 36th; and Adoro Red 2006 was ranked 37th.

*   Given that the week of romance is upon us, the top five most romantic beaches of South Africa have been named, Clifton making first place, followed by Umhlanga Rocks, Noetzie in Knysna, Margate, and Noup in the Northern Cape.

*   About 10% of tourists arriving in South Africa come to participate or watch a sports event.  Now a new sport called Bossaball, a combination of soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, and an Afro-Brazilian martial arts form capoeira, is to be introduced to our country by Zinto Sports.

*   The Cape Town Art Fair 2014 will be held at The Pavilion in the V&A Waterfront from 28 February – 2 March.  The entrance fee of R120 also entitles entrance to ‘GUILD’, an exhibition of Design, held at The Lookout, also in the V&A. Both exhibitions form part of Cape Town hosting World Design Capital 2014.

*   Allan Mullins has been appointed as ‘chief wine selector’ by Africa Wine Merchants, Continue reading →

RIP Nelson Mandela: father of our nation, hero of the world!

mandela-house-statue-whale-cottage-portfolio-225x300On Thursday evening South Africa and the world lost in Nelson Mandela one of its most influential citizens ever, who taught us about the nobility of forgiveness, despite what he suffered for 27 years to make South Africa and the world a better place for all.

No doubt like many others, I could not help but feel sad about the passing of someone whom I had never met, but who feels like a father, and the sadness is even greater, this being the second father I have lost this year. Reading the outpouring of love for Mr Mandela on TV, on radio, on Twitter, and Facebook, the timelines were dominated by the expression of each one who uses the media.  Kfm played tributes and ‘nostalgic’ music, not its normal music mix, like Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water‘ and Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’, and many more songs that related to the specialness of Madiba.

The world’s leaders expressed their sadness, and President Barack Obama was one of the first to express his condolences in the early hours of yesterday morning.  He and his wife Michelle have announced that they will travel to South Africa next week, to pay their respects to the  country and the family.   Books of condolence have been opened in South African embassies around the world, for South Africans and Madiba admirers to express their feelings.  A moving tribute was paid to him by his assistant of many years Zelda la Grange.

Many media interviewees said that the day had been inevitable, but no one was prepared for the final passing. A number of false reports announced Madiba’s passing mid-year, and it is clear that the major international and local TV stations had long before prepared documentaries about the man that had such a hold over the world.

Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster (now Drakenstein) prison in 1990, a month after I had moved back home to Cape Town from Pretoria and Johannesburg, and I was one of many millions watching the TV broadcast of the long and slow walk to freedom from the prison.  The broadcast by SABC was a lowlight of Mr Mandela’s release, his release having been delayed, and the SABC reporter had nothing more to say while waiting for at least an hour than to comment on a leaking tap!  As Madiba’s cavalcade was leaving Paarl, I was one of thousands making our way to the City Hall, to hear Madiba address the nation and the world.  We heard his distinctive voice for the first time.  It was the start of a new South Africa, of tolerance and respect for each other, most of the time.  Not only was Madiba respected for his lack of bitterness, but President FW de Klerk was saluted too for his graciousness in motivating his Cabinet to release Madiba, knowing full well that he and his National Party would eventually lose the ruling power.  For their gentlemanliness both leaders jointly received the Nobel Continue reading →

From pap to Abendbrot: Auma Obama book launched at De Grendel Restaurant!

A Wordsworth Books event, to launch Dr Auma Barack’s ‘And Then Life Happens: A Memoir’, was a definite to attend, especially as it was to be held at De Grendel Restaurant, where I had enjoyed an excellent meal just after it opened a few weeks ago. The restaurant handled the more than 100 book lovers admirably, the meal matching the stature of the speaker.

Gorry Bowes Taylor organises the book launch events for Wordsworth Books, and is an entertaining hostess.  She struggled to pronounce the name of Auma (A-Uma), and resorted to calling her Dr Obama to make it easier. She chose not to make a speech about the book, but preferred to be asked questions, having pre-arranged what she was not allowed to be asked, but cheekily Ms Bowes Taylor did attempt to ask them, not with much success in obtaining answers to these!  We were given a fleeting overview of Auma’s life and complex family relationships, and the Barack Obama that she writes about in her book the most is her father Barack Sr.  She calls her half-brother, the President of the United States of America, Barack Jr, saying that he objects to being called Barry, which is what the family used to call him.

Her father had a pre-arranged tribal marriage with her mother Kezia, but they separated (divorce does not exist in their Luo culture in Kenya). He studied at Harvard, and whilst there he met and married Ann, with whom he had Barack Jr.  They divorced, and Barack Sr married Ruth, whom he had also met in the United States, but returned to Kenya with, looking after Auma and her brother, in accordance with the Luo tradition of the father taking responsibility for the children, until they too got divorced after having two sons. The book tells the tale of a once successful father who changed jobs, lost his financial standing to such an extent that he often could not pay Auma’s school and boarding fees, and was emotionally distant to his daughter (‘he was physically there but not emotionally‘), the relationship never being repaired. Auma wanted to study in Germany, having loved learning German at school, as a way of escaping her father, and left Kenya at 19 years, without seeking her father’s consent.  Her father’s death in a car accident, under ‘mysterious circumstances’, however, affected her badly. Auma herself was involved in a number of relationships, with Dieter and Karl in Germany, marrying and divorcing Ian in England, and meeting the American Marvin on a flight, becoming her partner after seven years of keeping in touch.

The book shares a lot of Auma’s heartache, overshadowed by her parents break-up, her father’s emotional distance and financial problems, and ultimately, the colour of her skin, which created problems for her even in liberal Germany and England.  Yet one senses that she felt more at home in Germany for a long time, having lived there for 16 years, obtaining her doctorate after studying at the Universities of Saarbrücken and Heidelberg, and even first writing the book in German (‘Das Leben kommt immer dazwischen’). One of her joys was meeting her half-brother Barack Jr, and she travelled to America a number of times, meeting him for the first time after their father’s death. For both the meeting was an important one, Barack Jr being able to learn more about his absent father, whom he would have wished to  have known better, and for Auma a way of sharing her disappointment in him as a father, having felt let down by him.  She writes about meeting her half-brother: ‘Our encounter was an enormous gift for me’, and that he is a ‘new brother I had gained‘.  They saw each other both in the USA and in Kenya, when he came to meet the family, when they celebrated him becoming a Senator, and ultimately celebrating his inauguration as President of the USA.  One senses that she felt closest to Barack Jr of all her siblings (half and step ones included).  The book ends with the effect that Barack Jr’s presidential status has on their life in Kenya, where she now lives with her daughter Akinyi and Marvin, and cynically she writes how many acquaintances of the past have been looking to make contact with her again, due to her now famous half-brother.  In her book Dr Obama comes across as a complex person, fiercely independent on the one hand, and yet scarred by the relationship with her father and the men in her life.

The only references to food in the book, given the launch at De Grendel Restaurant, were two-fold.  At the age of thirteen, living with her father after he had divorced Ruth, she had to cook supper, being ‘ugali’, a ‘cooked maize flour paste’, or our ‘pap’, and she felt a failure when she could not get it stiff as she had not waited for the water to boil before adding the maize flour.  Her father’s disapproval was evident, as they had to throw away her cooking attempt, and buy another pack to make a new potful, at a time when Barack Sr was down and out financially. She writes about the ‘Abendbrot‘ she experienced in Germany, an unusual (for her) evening meal of breads, cheese and cold meats.

The lunch at De Grendel Restaurant, prepared by Chef Ian Bergh and his team, was a three course one, and I was lucky to sit at the table of De Grendel communications consultant Errieda du Toit (who had her book autographed by Auma) and her husband Ian.  The starter was a beautiful looking Caramelized shallot, confit tomato and chevre tartlet, which was paired with De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc 2011.  For the main course Kingklip was served with basmati rice, shitake mushrooms, prawns, mange tout, baby corn, and tika masala, paired with De Grendel Winifred 2010, their flagship blend of Viognier, Semillon and Chardonnay. For dessert we were served Chocolate Torte with a delicious De Grendel Merlot ice cream.

De Grendel Restaurant, De Grendel wine estate, M14, Plattekloof Road, Plattekloof.  Tel (021) 558-6280. www.degrendel.co.za Twitter:@DeGrendelWines. Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

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

Gorgeous bubbly bar bubbles with gorgeous Graham Beck bubblies, canapés and staff!

Having written about the opening of Gorgeous by Graham Beck, I was invited to visit Steenberg Hotel (also a Graham Beck Wines property) and try out the first brand-specific bubbly bar in Cape Town, a chic transformed space alongside Catharina’s restaurant.  Its staff are bubbly, the canapés well-paired with the Graham Beck MCCs tasted, and the interior is trendy.  The bubbly bar has been named after the late Graham Beck’s favourite descriptive word.

A nice surprise was to discover that Jenna Adams is the manager of Gorgeous by Graham Beck, having impressed with her friendliness at Bistro 1682, also on the Steenberg estate. She bubbles with charm and information about the Graham Beck bubblies, and was willing to search for answers to all my questions.

Guests are encouraged to sit at the counter, with a Carrara marble top, on comfortable leather bar chairs, facing the Gorgeous by Graham Beck branded glass doors.  Against one side of the wall is a constantly changing projection of gorgeous ladies across a broad spectrum, designed by Daniel du Plessis.  The walls have a glitter effect, and the ‘Paper Jewellery’ wallpaper was designed by Vivienne Westwood. The copper pendant lamps are by Tom Dixon. The design of the bubbly bar was by architect Johan Wessels and his wife Erna, who have been involved in the design of most Graham Beck property projects. Couch corners are also available as seating.

Jenna explained the seven Graham Beck MCCs as she poured them into Graham Beck branded frosted glasses, grouped as follows:

*   Non-vintage Collection (R40 per glass, R200 per bottle)

.  Brut, with light and yeasty aromas, and lime on the nose, with 15 – 18 months on the lees. Bubbly used to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and President Barack Obama’s presidential nomination.

.  Rosé, with 50 % Chardonnay and 50 % Pinot Noir, 15 months on the lees, with cherry and berry notes

.  Bliss Demi Sec, a bubbly I had not heard of before, with 49 % Chardonnay and 51 % Pinot Noir, 15 months on the lees, butterscotch, praline, and honeycomb notes, and has more residual sugar

This group was described by Jenna as a ‘palate cleanser’, to the more serious Vintage MCCs.

*   Vintage Collection (R65 per glass, R 325 per bottle)

.  Brut Blanc de Blanc 2008, with 100% Chardonnay, and 36 months on the lees, with crisp and citrus notes.

.  Brut Zero 2005, with 87% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Noir, spent six years on the lees, with fresh green apple, baked brioche, and crispy notes, with only 2,4 gram residual sugar, with no dosage added in its making.  It was my favourite by far, and the driest of the MCCs tasted

.  Rosé 2008, with 80% Pinot Noir and 20 % Chardonnay, spending 36 months on the lees, with strawberry, mousse, and sherbet.

*   Icon (R100 per glass, R500 per bottle)

.  The Cuvée Clive 2005 is the Graham Beck MCC flagship, and is not available for tasting but can be bought by the glass and bottle, made up of 87% Chardonnay and 13 % Pinot Noir, and having spent five years on the lees.  It is only produced in excellent vintages.

One can taste flights of the Graham Beck MCCs, at R60 for a flight of the three Non-Vintage MCCs, R85 for a flight of the three Vintage MCCs, and R60 for a Rosé MCC flight.  Gorgeous to Go allows one to buy the Graham Beck MCCs to take home, at (reduced) prices: Non-Vintage Collection MCCs cost R105, also available in 375 ml and 1,5 litre bottles; Vintage Collection MCCs cost R205; and Cuvée Clive costs R450.

Catharina’s Executive Chef Garth Almazan created a gorgeous tasting platter of four savoury canapés (R95); and of four canapés and a sweet treat berry terrine, served on a modern glass plate (R110).  Each canapé can also be ordered individually: fresh Saldanha Bay oysters cost R18, and are served with lime wedges, Tabasco and crushed black pepper; a tian of cured Franschhoek salmon trout is served with poached quail egg and salmon caviar (R30); a poached tiger prawn is served with an avocado salsa, Japanese mayonnaise, pickled ginger and sesame seed salad (R30); and an asparagus and goats cheese risotto croquette is served with pickled shemeji mushrooms and  white truffle oil (R25).  The Graham Beck Brut berry terrine rests on a Valrhona chocolate foundation (R22).

The opening of Gorgeous by Graham Beck stems from the closure of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm and tasting room in winter, due to the sale of the farm to Johan Rupert.   It is planned to transform a meeting room on Steenberg into a tasting room for the other Graham Beck wines.  Graham Beck Wines Cellarmaster Erica Obermeyer is completing her 2012 white wine harvest at Graham Beck Franschhoek and her red wine harvest at a cellar in Stellenbosch.

Gorgeous by Graham Beck, Steenberg Estate, Tokai. Tel (021) 713-7177 www.gorgeousbygrahambeck.com Twitter: @GorgeousbyGB  Monday – Sunday 12h00 – 22h00

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

Obama and Blatter meeting marketing boost for SA

USA President Barack Obama and FIFA President Sepp Blatter meet in the White House today, and Blatter will be extending his personal invitation for Obama to attend the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 

Obama’s acceptance of the invitation, to which he has hinted at already, will be a huge marketing boost for South Africa, and for the 2010 World Cup.

“I know there are people around the president who are football fans, and that they will make everything possible in his agenda that the president be at the opening of the World Cup or the final,” Blatter said to Associated Press.

Whale Cottage Portfolio www.whalecottage.com

President Obama to attend 2010 World Cup

FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter has announced that President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg on 11 June 2010, reports the Cape Argus.

Being cautious about Obama’s actual attendance, Blatter said:” The President of the United States has been invited to the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.  He has accepted our invitation.  But you know that heads of state are extremely busy and hopefully his schedule will allow him to attend.”

Blatter said that the world had started trusting Africa, including South Africa, in delivering a unique but spectacular World Cup.   “The world will see a fantastic spectacle in Africa in 2010.   South Africa is going to make everyone proud of Africa.  Believe me, I trust Africa and South Africa completely.   I have never for a minute doubted that the 2010 World Cup will be a massive success” Blatter added.

Blatter added: “It is a continent that has given us so much and it’s time to give it something in return.  And look, our economic partners have shown their confidence, and television too.   They will be there in 2010.  It’s only right and I believe that it was a moral obligation of ours to give the World Cup to the Africans”, reports Reuters.

The opening match will attract up to 100 000 soccer fans, in a match at which Italy, as defending world champions, or Bafana Bafana, as hosts, will play.

Nando’s and Dom for Zuma inauguration

The unthinkable combination of Nando’s peri-peri chicken and Dom Perignon was served at President Zuma’s inauguration last month, to criticism from the wine industry for the use of an imported French champagne instead of a local Cap Classique.

Despite flighting a controversial Nando’s ad campaign mocking Julius Malema, head of the ANC Youth League, just prior to the election, Nando’s was awarded the catering contract to serve 32 000 persons at the President’s inaugural lunch on the lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Even Barack Obama celebrated his win as presidential-elect with South Africa’s Graham Beck sparkling wine, it also having been served when Nelson Mandela was elected president.

The criticism by Franschhoek wine-maker Achim von Arnim, a well-known Pierre Jourdan sparkling wine producer at Cabriere in Franschhoek, about the celebratory drink served, is featured on the Wine magazine website in a You Tube video (http://www.winemag.co.za/article/achim-von-arnim-vs-jz-2009-05-15)

Whale of an Obama!

The administration of new US President Barack Obama will signal a far stronger anti-whaling stand at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Rome, which started yesterday, reports AFP.

The Obama administration will oppose whaling, stating that “The United States continues to view the commercial whaling moratorium as a necessary conservation measure, and believes that lethal scientific whaling is unnecessary in modern whaling conservation management.”

Australia too is seeking an end to all commercial whaling by the Japanese in the Antarctic. the battlefield for a whale war between the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Japanese whalers.

Environmentalists argue that it is immoral to hunt whales, and that there are too few whales to justify this.  The Japanese say that whaling is a tradition and that its culture is not respected.

The Whale Commission will try to negotiate a compromise solution, allowing the Japanese to hunt whales closer to its own shores, while reducing its activities in the Antarctic.

Duckhorn for First Lunch

Wines from the Duckhorn Vineyards in St Helena in the Napa Valley will be served with the first two courses at the Inaugural luncheon of Barack Obama in Washington today.   The owner of the estate donated 10 cases of her wines for the special lunch.

The starter is a seafood stew, and will be accompanied by a 2007 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc.   A 2005 Pinot Noir from Goldeneye in the Anderson Valley will complement the main course of pheasant and duck, with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potato.   The dessert of an apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream will be accompanied by a Korbel “champagne”, from the Russian River Valley.

All the wines are from the California wine region, and will be enjoyed by 230 dignitaries.  The lunch forms part of the inaugural programme, with a total budget of $ 1,24 million.