Tag Archives: braai

SŸN Pop-Up Proudly South African in its Heritage Day Lunch Tasting Menu, presents a taste of what is to come when the new restaurant opens on 1 November!

Since my return from a three month trip to escape our winter, my number one newly-opened restaurant on my list to visit in the Cape was SŸN, the pop-up having opened whilst I was away, and headed by Chefs Rikku Ó’Donnchü and Warwick King, formerly of Gåte restaurant at Quoin Rock. The one-day special Heritage Day Menu (at R690) was the perfect opportunity to taste and see what these two creative chefs and their team have come up with since setting up on their own, initially as a Pop-up before they open their new restaurant on 1 November. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 15 September

imageTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The United Nations World Tourism Association (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer reflects that international tourism grew by 4 % in the period January – June 2015. However, tourism in Africa declined by 6% (sub-Saharan Africa declined by 4%). The growth rate of tourism in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Middle East was highest at 5% in the same period.

*.  The National Finalists for the SA Wine Tasting Championships have Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 23 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Chef Roger Jones of Michelin star restaurant The Harrow in Little Bedwyn in the UK,  is set to pop-in and pop-up at a number of dining events in the Cape in January next year.  He will be seen in action at the Vineyard Hotel on 9 January, offering a 6-course dinner with a South African and Australian premium wine pairing.  He will also be at 96 Winery Road with Ken Forrester and other top local winemakers, and is doing a ‘foraging dinner’ with Adi Badenhorst. The chef is known for his wine knowledge as well as cooking skills.

*   Low-cost Condor airline will increase it direct flights between Cape Town and Frankfurt from two to three a week from 6 November.

*   Wesgro and Cape Town NPC, the company organising World Design Capital 2014 for Cape Town, will present Cape Town’s design industry at 2014 Vienna Design Week from 26 September – 5 October.  Local designer Heath Nash will represent Cape Continue reading →

Woolworths under consumer pressure, on the back-foot, in massive Sunday Times supplement?!

Woolworths Good Food News Front page Whale CottageWe wrote recently how Woolworths has been misleading consumers with claims about its Ayrshire milk, deceiving food labelling, and how it tries to create an image of healthy produce via its ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa‘ series on SABC3. The group Grass Consumer Food Action has been persistent in its criticism of Woolworths, and appears to have hit a raw nerve in the Good Business Journey division at Woolworths, the retailer having launched a brand new ‘Good Food News‘ 16-page insert in the Sunday Times yesterday! It looks like a Taste magazine (the Woolworths sponsored magazine published by New Media Publishing) but printed in Tabloid format on recycled paper!

While the Tabloid has ‘headlines’ on page 1, to attract one’s attention to the content, it consists of a mix of ‘advertorials’ of its award-winning wines (since when are wines a food, as per the name of the publication?) in ‘Crowned as the best‘; ‘responsibly sourced‘ fish;  braai suggestions for ‘Ready Steady Braai’; and ‘Flavours of Home‘ (preparedWoolworths Good Food News Responsible Sourcing Whale Cottage foods with strong spices such as curries, and traditional foods such as koeksisters and milk tart); as well as editorial. It is obviously planned as a monthly insert, numbered ‘Issue 01′, and dated September 2014.  The focus of the first issue is ‘lovelocal‘:

*   ‘New on the shelf‘ (page 3) showcases new pack designs for wine boxes, braai tins, braai marinade, braai Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 12 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   A TripAdvisor TripBarometer survey has found that hotel guests expect free wifi, free parking, and free breakfast.  Items which guests are most likely to take home with them are toiletries, tea and coffee, towels, clothes hangers, and TV remote batteries. Guests are interested in learning more about the culture of the inhabitants of the town in which they are visiting, in visiting a unique icon of the town, trying new food but also wanting to eat food from their home country, as well as watching TV and movies in their home language.

*   London hotels have received the lowest ratings of hotels in 30 European destinations on the measure of recommending a hotel to others, according to a survey in the last 24 months on bookings made via Expedia, scoring even more poorly than Paris and Nice. Berlin tops the recommendation rating.

*   Grande Provence in Franschhoek is celebrating its 2014 harvest with a Harvest Festival on 22 February, starting the day with coffee and muffins, followed by a talk by the vine grower, winetasting, and then a country feast.  Cost is R450. (received via e-mail from Grande Provence)

*   It is sad to see how the death of Mr Mandela is being used by his daughter  Dr Maki Mandela and his granddaughter Tukwini Mandela to market their House of Mandela wines, saying that his legacy lives on through their wines! Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 23: Leandri van der Wat praised by Chef Prue Leith, Tiron Eloff sauced out!

MasterChef 2 23 Tea table Whale Cottage PortfolioLast night Leandri van der Wat was the star of episode 23, highly praised by Chef Prue Leith, an icon of South African cooking and a Michelin star and multi-award winning chef in the United Kingdom.

Having returned to the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg after three episodes were based in Ethiopia and one in Johannesburg, the six Finalists were invited to join ‘culinary royalty‘ and ‘living legend’ Prue Leith and the three judges Benny Masekwameng, Pete Goffe-Wood, and Andrew Atkinson to enjoy a South African ‘tee en koek’, which included melktert, koeksisters, and vetkoek with mince.  Chef Prue was introduced as having two cooking academies, one of them being the Prue Leith Academy MasterChef 2 23 Prue Leith Whale Cottage Portfolioin Pretoria; a catering company; a Michelin star restaurant; cooking shows on television; cookbook writer, of which one is a ‘cookery bible‘;  and recipient of the Member and later Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was born and bred in South Africa, but has lived in the UK for over 60 years. She said that she serves on the Board of Safeway, Whitbread, and the Orient Express hotel group (which owns the Mount Continue reading →

Top Australian Chef Neil Perry praises SA cuisine, advocates SA ‘Food Safaris’!

Neil Perry, top Australian chef of flagship restaurant Rockpool in Sydney, visited chefs and restaurants in South Africa earlier this month, and has returned to his home country, encouraging Australians to experience our ‘Food Safaris’, reports Southern African Tourism Update. His trip was widely reported, and the Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Anthony Dennis to accompany Chef Perry on his culinary tour, an unfortunate choice with his emphasis on our apartheid past in his article!  Not only did the visit and resultant publicity reflect our country’s unique cuisine, but it also has tourism marketing benefits, the visit having been sponsored by SA Tourism.

Chef Perry’s journey started off at the elite and exclusive boutique hotel Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, where he did a braai of crayfish tails with his Asian touch, kingklip, and soy-marinated yellowtail.  He was assisted by Ellerman House Head Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert, who told the visiting chef that South Africa’s cuisine extends beyond game eaten next to a fire under a safari-style boma. ‘But in South Africa there’s a group of highly trained, skilled chefs who are creating a strong food culture and identity‘, she said.

Dennis praised our country’s ‘fine wine, great seafood and where the barbeque…is a favoured cooking appliance’. It is a shame then that he digs into our country’s past, writing that ‘apartheid can still cast a shadow, even over the dining table’, singling out MasterChef SA judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng as one of few ‘Black South African chefs’. Chef Benny told the journalist that the eating habits of the ‘majority of black South Africans who live below the poverty line, not much has changed at the dinner table‘, but that the ‘middle class’ in our cities are increasingly exposed to global food trends! The ‘shanty towns’ on the way to the Winelands receive a predicted mention from the journalist too, contrasting them with the modern airport built for the 2010 World Cup.

Chef Perry praised the wine industry: ‘South Africa has got amazing wine credentials. One of the real positives is that it has a lot of old vines in the ground and you’re getting some fantastic maturity there’. He praised Franschhoek’s fine white wines. Calling Franschhoek’s Grande Provence a ‘lodge’, Chef Perry and the journalist enjoyed the creative cuisine of Chef Darren Badenhorst, who prepared a typical South African braai lunch for them, with Karoo lamb chops, free-range Spring chicken, and boerewors, ‘a traditional and delicious type of sausage’. The visiting team stayed over at La Residence in Franschhoek.

Their next stop was Phinda Game Reserve, where they enjoyed the traditional Boma dinner (‘with a dirt floor, stone and reed walls’).  They were treated to springbok, impala, and warthog, and entertained by the staff choir.  Chef Perry was impressed with our game meats, saying ‘it was really quite intense’, not having any Australian game (other than ‘Wallaby‘ on their menus, according to blogger Bruce Palling).   In Cape Town the Australian team had eaten springbok at The Twelve Apostle’s Azure for the first time, served as a ‘Cape fusion main course of springbok fillet with celeriac cream, roasted radish, orange tapioca and sultana-caper paste.  The rare, perfectly cooked meat has the consistencey of beef but with a distinct saltiness and dark chocolate-like richness’.

In Durban the visitors ate traditional Indian food, including bunny chow at the House of Curries, described as ‘classic street food from the apartheid years and is a feature of the national diet across all groups’! One wonders who fed Dennis this nonsense information!  In Johannesburg a Chef’s Table dinner at the San Restaurant at the Sandton Sun Hotel represents ‘the Rainbow Nation’s ethnic groups. Under apartheid, this congenial, multiracial gathering would have been deemed illegal‘. Chef Garth Schrier served the visiting chef more Bunny Chow, as an amuse bouche of a mini loaf of bread with a Cape Malay chicken prawn curry.

One wonders what SA Tourism’s understanding of our country’s cuisine is, and that of the Western Cape in particular.  With 16 of the top 19 Eat Out Restaurant Finalists based in the Cape, it is a surprise that not one of these top chefs, most of the calibre of Chef Perry, were exposed to the visiting chef.  At least up and coming Chef Darren Badenhorst at Grande Provence was included in the programme, even though he has not made the Top 19 list due to not having been in charge of the kitchen for a full year.  This is even more evident from the SA Tourism website’s Top 10 Wine estates (gastronomic) list, of which the compiler is not identified:

1.   Buitenverwachting

2.   Rust en Vrede

3.   La Colombe

4.   Pierneef à La Motte

5.   Terroir

6.   Bread and Wine

7.   Overture

8.   The Goatshed

9.   Fyndraai

10.  Tokara

Odd inclusions on the list are Bread and Wine, Fyndraai, and Fairview’s The Goatshed, while surprise exclusions are Delaire Graff’s two restaurants, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, the Restaurant at Waterkloof, and Grande Provence.  The ranking of Tokara in 10th’s position is an insult to the cuisine creativity of Chef Richard Carstens!

While all publicity for South Africa is fantastic, and in Australia’s leading newspaper even more so, it is a shame that a journalist should have turned a South Africa Food Safari story into an apartheid story, which is not the topic of his story at all.  One wonders what gives an Australian the right to point fingers at our country’s past, given their own Aborigine history!  It wouldn’t be a surprise if one were to find that Dennis has South African roots!  At least Chef Perry enjoyed his trip: ‘My food philosophy is all about local, high quality produce and fresh ingredients so I was thrilled to meet with like-minded chefs in South Africa’. He encouraged travellers to our country to ‘add a South African food safari to their bucket list’, advising that they visit the Winelands, shebeens, experience a Braai, and enjoy a seafood buffet on the beach.

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

South African wines the stars in top quality wine week!

Two magnificent events took place in what could be called Wine Week last week, CapeWine 2012 and the Nederburg Wine Auction running back to back, bringing the world’s leading wine writers, buyers, sommeliers and wine lovers to Cape Town and the Winelands. For an industry prone to criticism and politics, there was all-round applause and recognition for the hard work that Wines of South Africa (WOSA) put into organising CapeWine 2012, in making this what some called the best wine show ever held in the world!

Even the ever WOSA-critical Neil Pendock, who had begged to be invited to the opening CapeWine 2012 Green Tie Event when he was understandably left off the invitation list initially, was meek and mild in his reporting during the week, and no salvos have been fired at WOSA this past week, which is a tremendous achievement in itself, the reason for his boring repetitive attacks on WOSA not being understood by most.

German wine writer Mario Scheuermann is known as a critical writer, and wrote about the German media group’s disastrous SAA journey to CapeWine 2012, but he has waxed lyrical about his week-long visit to Cape Town and the Winelands, which included dinner at The Round House; lunch at Waterkloof; taking a leaf out of Mike Veseth’s Nederburg Wine Auction keynote address emphasising the importance of Braais in marketing South African wines, a braai was prepared by Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist George Jardine at Jordan, which he described as ‘the best Braai I ever had in my life’; a show at another Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist Bertus Basson’s AmaZink; wine tasting at Glenelly; visits to sustainable organic and biodynamic wine estates Backsberg, Avondale, and Reyneke; visits to Babylonstoren and to Leopard’s Leap; lunch at Pierneef à La Motte; and a meal at new Green Point located Café Dijon.  He highlighted the following wines/wine estates on his Facebook page: David, Paradisum, De Toren Fusion V, Philippi, Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Allee Bleue Isabeau, Springfield’s Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon and their Wild Yeast Chardonnay, and Rickety Bridge’s The Foundation Stone. Scheuermann Tweeted about the power of Social Media as follows:“Cape Wine 2012 is the first big wine fair in the world driven and powered by social media”. The cherry of praise for our country’s wine industry was the following Tweet: ‘After this 3 days of Cape Wine 2012 we must clearly say: South Africa is today the most interesting wine country in the world’!

Scheuermann’s German writing colleagues Michael Pleitgen and Angelika Deutsch have been equally complimentary, while Eckhard Supp complained about the long queues for food at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the meagre snacks served at a function on 25 September, consisting of a few pieces of sushi and dim sum, not enough to soak up all the wines tasted, he wrote.  The complaint about the Convention Centre food was echoed by a number of attendees at CapeWine 2012, and was the only criticism of the event.

Locally, Melvyn Minnaar described CapeWine 2012 on Grape as a ‘jolly good wine show’, which left him feeling ‘pretty upbeat about the local wine industry’.  He praised the ‘experience, talent and adventurous dynamic out there in the winelands’.  Even greater praise went to WOSA: if they ‘can organise such a fine event, we can clearly trust the team to take the business into the world’. And the final accolade: ‘Feedback from visiting journalists and agents – many who know the business pretty well – confirmed my own impression that this was a jolly smart event. Viva SA wine’!

British freelance and award-winning wine writer Rebecca Gibb praised the quality of the wines she tasted during CapeWine 2012, writing ‘I’ve been really impressed with the quality across the board’, and she highlighted our country’s Cabernet Sauvignons, and the Oldenburg 2009 in particular. She also praised the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, and Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011 in particular. The Swartland also received praise, and The Sadie Family Palladius 2010 in particular. Other wines on her ‘top 10 wines of Cape Wine 2012‘ list are Cartology 2011, The Sadie Family Pofadder Cinsaut 2011, Glenelly Lady May 2009, Mullineux Syrah 2010, Vergelegen GVB 2005, Miko Chardonnay 2009, and Porseleinberg Shiraz 2010.  She did criticise the reaction to her question about the future of Pinotage in a seminar, which waxed lyrical about Pinotage’s past rather than address its image problem and export decline.

Swedish wine writer Erica Landin described South Africa as ‘flippin’ heaven on earth’ on her blog and asked why so much of South African wine sold in Sweden is bulk wine going into ‘Bag-in-Box’. She enjoyed the Shiraz and oaked Chenin Blancs in particular. British Master of Wine writer, broadcaster and judge Sarah Jane Evans described CapeWine 2012 as ‘Best ever!‘, and Tweeted a photograph of Cartology, referring to it as ‘a wine that got everyone talking’. Swedish blogger Anders Öhman Tweeted ‘The WOSA organisation at #capewine2012 is amazing. So many guests, bags, places, buses, tours and parties. Running flawless’. Dutch wine dealer and writer Lars Daniëls Tweeted: ‘Grote complimenten aan WOSA en in bijzonder Sara Chanell voor geweldige beurs en programma!’. Award-winning UK wine blogger Jamie Goode attended the Chenin Blanc Association’s Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar and lunch at Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town the day before CapeWine 2012 started.  He posted a number of blogposts during his stay, and no doubt there will be more. He is a great supporter of our wine industry: Cape Wine 2012 has been brilliant. I have discovered some very exciting new wines, caught up with some cool people (and made new friends)”. He braved the crowds to attend the Hermanus Whale Festival over the weekend.

Tyler Colman, an award-winning American blogger writing as Dr Vino, praised the Western Cape, as a ‘stunningly gorgeous region that has exciting local vintners as well as an international flair’. He raved about the calibre of wine VIP’s he had bumped into in Stellenbosch prior to CapeWine 2012, including Charles Banks, Bruno Prats, and Hubert de Bouard.

WOSA’s media release praised itself in hosting its ‘best ever’ international trade exhibition, the sixth in its history, quoting its Chairman Johann Krige. The number of producers attending had increased by 15% since the last CapeWine 2008, and had the highest number of delegates ever, and especially from Asia, Eastern Europe, and other countries in Africa.  This makes CapeWine the ‘most successful international wine business show in the Southern Hemisphere’. This praise was echoed by Amorim Cork CEO Antonio Amorim of Portugal, who described the event as ‘one of the finest wine industry events in the world‘.  The South African quality wines, and its leadership in eco-sustainability and energy efficiency, has been recognised internationally, added Krige.  Kuseni Dlamini opened the CapeWine Business Seminar, and focused on South Africa’s poor infrastructure in getting to African countries, some only reachable via Europe. If there was more investment in innovation and product quality, South Africa could become the world’s top wine producing country in the world, he said.  The provincial Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gerrit van Rensburg, said that 3600 wine farms have 100000 hectares of vines in the Western Cape, reported the Cape Argus.

The CapeWine 2012 website provides a break down of the show’s 3000 visitors: 588 South African trade, 464 international trade, 317 importers, 140 South African media, 106 wine educators, 80 international media, 32 MW, 31 international sommeliers/chefs, 12 hosted press buyers, and 12 press media.  The balance of attendees was ‘unclassified’.

The Nederburg Wine Auction held this past weekend was attended by some of the international CapeWine 2012 guests, but was mainly a local affair.  It raised close to R 4,7 million, down by 30% relative to 2011. Forty percent of wine sales went to international buyers, and wine buyers from African countries and Mauritius represented 22% of sales.  One third of the sales went to local supermarket groups, led by Tops at Spar.  Buyers played it safe, by buying ‘mainstream varieties’ such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and avoiding lesser-known cultivars. The star of the Auction was the case of Chateau Libertas, with 12 vintages ranging between 1959 – 1970 selling for R16000, in the year which celebrates the brand’s 80th anniversary.

There can be no doubt that CapeWine 2012 rejuvenated the local wine industry, created new challenges, identified new upcoming wine and winemaker stars, created new connections, and attracted heaps of praise for WOSA’s flawless organisation of showcasing our country’s prime wines! Vindaba, held at the same time as CapeWine 2012 in an open space opposite the wine exhibition venue, was an unfortunate failure, in what was an excellent wine week.

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: Mario Scheuermann has documented his impressions of CapeWine 2012, on his blog The Drink Tank.

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

SA wine marketing: Braais the new cultural marketing weapon!

On Monday evening I rubbed shoulders with Mike Veseth, a wine economist from the USA he said, and keynote speaker at the Nederburg Auction yesterday.  We were sharing a table at the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Green Tie Event to celebrate the opening of CapeWine 2012.  His address to the elite of the wine industry at the Nederburg Wine Auction must have made WOSA proud of its ‘Cape Wine Braai Masters‘ book, regularly slated by Neil Pendock, in recommending to the South African wine industry to ‘make every day National Braai Day – they will toast your success with your own wonderful wine’, and so win the ‘Wine Wars‘ in the USA.

Veseth based his talk on the book he published last year, entitled ‘Wine Wars’, and reflected on how to apply its principles to the marketing of South African wines in the USA.  ‘Terroirism’, according to Veseth, or ‘somewhereness’, creating a link to time and place, is the key to a successful wine industry, and selling wine in the USA.

Veseth showered praise on South African wines, yet said that the ‘Wine War’ for our local wines will not be an easy one in the USA, calling for strategy and tactics, and some luck, as one goes into the marketing battle, given that the USA market is ‘crowded, intensely competitive, and structurally difficult to penetrate’, in part due to globalisation.

To market South African wine successfully in the USA the wine brands need to connect personally with wine influencers.  Marketing the wines as ‘South African‘ will not be successful. Each varietal must be marketed against others in the category.  Wine labels should be the arsenal of the wine marketer, and not country of origin.  Pushing a ‘signature varietal‘ like Pinotage or Chenin Blanc for the country is like a ‘one note samba’, Veseth said.

New well-to-do wine American drinkers, which Veseth calls ‘Millennials’,  have an open book on South African wines, and ‘are not just buying a wine, they are building an identity’.  Their brand purchases are lifestyle related.  To reach them, a marketing communication mix of story-telling, social media, and ‘first person wine experiences’ by the wine farms and their American distributors, with WOSA ‘shaping perceptions’, is recommended.  It is in this context that Veseth recommended the Braai as a cultural marketing weapon, reflecting our country’s culture, and helping to create the connectedness to the consumer.  The Braai is part of South Africa’s food culture, but also is a reflection of South African’s ‘generosity and hospitality’, a braai invitation ‘opening your heart and your hearth to them’.  An ‘Afrocentric winelands braai’, says Veseth, ‘can be a gateway to a fuller appreciation of South African culture and lifestyle and to the diverse wines that have evolved along with it’!

Making every day National Braai Day is the way to win the Wine Wars in the USA, Veseth concluded!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: At the recent Chenin Blanc Association ‘Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar, Ken Forrester asked Allan Mullins of Woolworths why the retailer’s 8-page Heritage Day Sunday Times ‘Everyday is Braai Day at Woolies’ insert did not contain a single bottle of wine.  Mr Mullins was very diplomatic in his reply, saying that he would have a word with his Marketing department.  He did not appear to be happy with this state of affairs.

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

Toffie Food Festival: No toffees, über-design, über-promise, under-delivery!

When writing our blogpost about the Toffie Food Festival, we wrote about a number of aspects about the organisation of the Toffie Food Festival and Conference that left much to be desired, the organisers making a number of promises which they did not deliver on.  I expressed my scepticism in the blogpost, but it was the talk by ex-blogger Julie Powell, theme of the movie ‘Julie & Julia’, that made me book, despite the high price tag.  Despite enjoying the morning sessions on Saturday, it was the organisers reneging on the confirmed booked secret dinner venue for Saturday evening that was the final straw, and therefore I decided to leave, with my money refunded, when the organisers failed to fix their acknowledged booking error.

The Toffie (no explanation was given by the organisers for this odd name, and there was no toffee, except at the SA Breweries food and beer pairing) Food Festival was not explained, and probably referred to the City Hall room with a number of stalls, creating a mini market, including stands for Woolworth’s coffee, the Queen of Tarts, Oded’s Kitchen, and a few more.  Another room had a number of beer brands for sale.  A further room sold pies from Jason’s, and here mini-croissants were available, being the over-promised ‘breakfast’!   A further room had a colourful Mexican Piñatas design (the organisers seemed to get their countries mixed up, as a link to Argentina was intended, with a speaker from this country).  The problem with all the extra features was that nothing was explained on arrival, or at the start of the Conference.   The registration desk staff, acknowledging our booking, said nothing about the bookings for the workshops running alongside the Festival, nor about the Secret Dinners, which took place in the homes of a number of hosts on Saturday evening.  One had to find out everything oneself.

The Toffie Food Conference was a one and a half day presentation of a random collection of speakers, some having nothing to do with food at all (these were last minute replacements for initially advertised international speakers, the programme having been amended as late as two weeks before its start, Wolfgang Koedel of Paulaner  Brauhaus and perfumer Tammy Fraser being added). The only common element some speakers had was that they had published books, but there was no theme commonality for the Conference overall.  The venue was a tacky dark room in the City Hall, on a noisy corner with taxi-hooting disturbance from outside, and not in the downstairs main City Hall auditorium, as one had expected.  We sat on uncomfortable cheap plastic chairs which had been wrapped in brown paper (this was the ‘creative’ decoration used throughout), which meant that there was a lot of rustling in the venue when one moved on one’s chair. The organisers clearly struggled to fill the venue, it not being full, and ‘gave away’ tickets on Groupon(unfair to those who paid for the weekend in full), as well as offered seats as give-aways on M-Net.   Even on late Saturday afternoon, free Secret Dinner seats were offered via Twitter!

The organisers of the Toffie Food Festival and Conference were artist Peet Pienaar (a grumpy looking ex-rugby player with a Paul Kruger look, and who has a bizarre CV on Wikipedia, which I should have read before booking) and Hannerie Visser (ex-publisher of VISI and TASTE at New Media Publishing), both of never-heard-of-before The President design agency, with what must be the sparsest website ever seen, with design work done for Babylonstoren, BOS, TriBeCa, Navigator Films, and Bruce Lee magazines!  Neither have any food experience, nor have they organised a Conference before.  Copied from Argentina, they organise secret CHOP dinners in their offices, with Pienaar cooking bizarre meals (e.g. veal brain ravioli, the dinner and drinks costing R350) on a weekly basis.   This concept was built into the Toffie Food Festival, each delegate being allocated to a host, at whose home one would have dinner. Hosts were mainly from the decor design field.  While it was meant to be a random match of delegates with host venues, I liked the sound of GreyLamp, being a pop-up restaurant, and therefore I wrote to Visser, requesting this as my dinner venue.  She agreed by e-mail a few days before the event.  When I found the desk dealing with the dinners, I was given details of a completely different host, an editor of an art magazine, who had nothing to do with food at all!  There was no explanation for the error, and one of The President staff promised to sort it out, promising to find me to confirm the correction.  As I had experienced during the booking process, this promise was not met, and I had to return to the desk again. Lying on the table was a (brown paper wrapped) ‘present’ for me, with the news that I could not attend the GreyLamp dinner, as it was fully booked!  I went looking for Visser, but saw Pienaar first, and he rudely told me that it was tough that they had made an error in promising the venue.  This was echoed by Visser, when I finally found her.  It was the way in which she spoke to me, in that it was her right to take a promise away by making a mistake, that annoyed me.  When she offered to refund the money I had paid in full, I accepted it, as their error was a major let-down.  So while I missed out on Julie Powell’s talk after all of that, I was happy to leave this badly organised space, and was able to follow her speech on Twitter.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw a number of disparaging Tweets about the poor Braai that closed off the Festival yesterday, the promised Argentinian Asado barbeque having fallen away, and the R150 Braai package (for those that brought partners) consisted of only a chop, a sausage and a roll, once again a false over-promise.

The speakers at the Toffie Conference tried their best to make up for the poor organisation and behind-the-scenes dramas happening outside the presentation venue:

*  Kobus van der Merwe, of the cutest Paternoster eatery Oep ve Eet, which I discovered a year ago, spoke about his love for foraging for West Coast foods in the preparation of his meals, including soutslaai, dune spinach, veldkool, seevygies, waterblommetjies, wild sage, and wild rosemary.    He grows some of his own vegetables and herbs, and has access to free-range farm eggs, Khoisan salt, bokkoms, cow’s milk, and flour close by.  Not only do Kobus’ dishes look beautiful from the colourful wild plants he adds, but he is also inspired by shapes from nature, having developed a breadstick in the shape of a branch, and uses streussel to create the look of soil.  Bobotie made with calamari, meat or vegetables are a staple at his restaurant, as are gemsbok sosaties, he said.  The books by Louis Leipoldt and Renata Coetzee are his food inspiration. Kobus calls his focus at Oep ve Eet ‘Earth-to-plate’, or ‘Terroir food’ His food ideas and creativity in its presentation are well worth a book, but can already be seen on his blog Sardine Toast.

*   Eloise Alemany is a small-print-run publisher of her own books, written in Spanish, and which she described as combination food journal, cultural diary, story book and cook book.  She has French parents, grew up in Japan, ran ID magazine in the USA for a while, before moving to Buenos Aires.  Her passion is photography and publishing, she said.  The choice as speaker was unusual, as many a local cook book writer and publisher could have probably been more useful to food writers wishing to have guidelines about how to get their work published.  Ms Alemany’s books were available for sale, but are not available in English.  The covers of the books ‘Libro de Cocino’ and ‘Cuaderno Dulce’ are beautiful, but have no food in them.  She launched secret dinners in unique venues, such as an art gallery and a shoe shop, each with a theme, first for friends, and then expanded these when the unusual dinners received coverage in the Buenos Aires media.  Ms Alemany described herself as an ‘accumalator’ of beautiful things, which come in useful for the styling for shoots.  Buenos Aires experienced a ‘restaurant food revolution’ after the country’s financial crisis five years ago, and it led to interesting small neighbourhood restaurants opening. She encouraged delegates to stick to their vision, and to take risks in doing so.  Food styling must tempt the reader, it must inspire the reader in giving ideas of how to serve a dish, and it must be a memorable composition, she advised.  She varies her styling, some being busy, and others neutral.  She publishes a print run of 1000 books, distributing her books via small design shops in the main.  She concluded with the advice that one should do what one enjoys, and not that which one is good at.

*   Anna Trapido was a lively and informative speaker about the foods that have shaped Nelson Mandela’s life, being the author of ‘Hunger for Freedom’, and was the theme for the unusual lunch we were served on Saturday.  We received so much information that I have written a separate blogpost about it, to be published later this week.

*   I was very surprised when I saw a Taiwanese Barista featured on the programme, and even more so when I heard him speak his language, having an interpreter with him on the stage.  Once again, I wondered why an international speaker had to be brought in for this talk, when Cape Town has some excellent coffee specialists.  From Twitter, highlights of this talk by World Barista champion Tung-Yuan Lin were his development of Latte Art, going beyond the usual heart and leaf designs. He opened his first coffee shop GaBee six years ago, serving 100 different types of drinks.  After winning the barista competition, he pushed himself to develop new ideas, by using local Taiwanese ingredients such as sweet potato and melon; coffee, soda water and ginger; coffee and grapes to create a ‘red wine’; sweet corn soup coffee; creating ‘drinkable desserts’.  He advised delegates to push themselves to try unique combinations of ingredients to create as drinks.

*   Tammy Frazer’s talk on ‘Gourmand fragrances’ seemed completely out of place at a Food Conference.  Her talk generated few Tweets.

*  Wolfgang Koedel of Paulaner Brauhaus talked about beer, describing it as ‘liquid bread’.  Draught beer is ‘cool and trendy’ again, he said. During the World Cup 72000 pints of Paulaner were drunk.

*   Renata Coetzee wrote ‘Koekemakranka: Khoi-Khoin Kultuurgoed en Kom-kuier-Kos’, a Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner.  Her interest in food culture goes back 60 years, incorporating etiquette and folklore too.  She was particularly interested in African food culture, which had not been written about previously. Early civilisations would have eaten a lot of shellfish, bulbs and wild animals, she said.  The Khoi prepared food in claypots, and through mixing foods, stews were born.  Fat from sheeps’ tails was the most common ingredient of Khoi dishes.  Ms Coetzee has reworked the traditional Khoi recipes to make them palatable for Westerners.

Julie Powell’s success as a blogger, and subsequent author, in documenting her cooking of Julia Child’s recipe book in one year, and leading to the making of the movie ‘Julie & Julia’, cost her her marriage, which became the theme of her second book, called ‘Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession’. With her marriage on the rocks, Ms Powell decided to do a butcher’s course, a good escape for her, and she enjoyed ‘hacking up meat’.  It is very ‘hip’ to be a butcher these days, she said. She is concerned about the origin of her meat, and it must be organic, sustainable, and hormone-free.   For her, food has good, joyous, generous and loving memories, as well as nasty and divise memories.  She turns to food in times of crisis. She said that she was judged for being a blogger, and stopped blogging when her first book was published.  She does not follow blogs now, she told Elle Decor.  She watches a lot of TV, but does not watch food programmes, finding them boring. In New York pop-up restaurants and food trucks are a new trend.  ‘Technology and blogging have woven us together and made the food conversation more cacophonous than ever before’, she said.  An increasing number of people want to know where their food comes from ethically and environmentally.  Ms Powell is working on her third book, not specifically about food.

It was interesting that Cape Town Tourism did not sponsor the Toffie Food Festival and Conference, as it did the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event a week ago, and they only wrote two Tweets about this event.  One would have thought that the tourism body would offer equal attention to all events taking place in Cape Town, and that it would have wanted to demonstrate its tourism leadership by having a visible presence at the event, given its stated focus on Food tourism.  One wonders what the policy is of Cape Town Tourism in its sponsorship of events, and how it decides which events will receive monetary support.

The Toffie Food Festival and Conference was poorly organised, and their over-promised benefits and poor communication are unprofessional.  They have a lot to learn before they attempt to host another such event next year.

POSTSCRIPT 5/9: Sonia Cabano has written in support of our observation about the lack of value for money of the event, as follows:  “Yes, so ToffieFood was expensive and underdelivered. We all know that, and we are all discussing it”.

POSTSCRIPT 6/9: We copied the above sentence by Sonia Cabano from a comment she wrote to this blogpost.  As the rest of the comment was untruthful, disparaging and defamatory, we deleted it, and posted one sentence from it in the blogpost.  She Tweeted a number of times that she felt that the cost of the Toffie Food Festival was too high, but appears to have subsequently deleted these Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 7/9: Sonia Cobana has Tweeted her Comment that she sent to this blogpost, which we have not allowed.  She is blatantly dishonest in claiming that she was with me when I talked to the organisers Hannerie Visser and Peet Pienaar.   She walked past us while I spoke to Peet Pienaar, gave him her new recipe book ‘Relish’ launched earlier that day, and walked off.  She was not party to any of the discussions I had with the organisers.  I left the event with a staff member of The President (organisers of the Toffie Food Festival), and not a security person, so that he could collect the delegate badge from me, walking me to my car in an area that is not particularly safe.   It appears that she is Tweeting this disparagement in retaliation to our blogposts about Cape Town Tourism, having hounded me on Friday evening, calling seven times to beg me to not write about Ms Grove anymore, being her friend.  I explained that nothing is written about Ms Grove or Mrs Helmbold in their personal capacity, but in that of their work for Cape Town Tourism.

POSTSCRIPT 10/9:  One of the Surprise Dinner hosts told me today that they had been very disappointed with the organisation, only having 13 of the 30 booked Toffie Food Festival delegates arrive, and many of these were ‘freebies’, who had received the dinner place for free, in a last minute desperate attempt by the organisers on Twitter. Hosts were given a budget of R150 per head for a three course meal, and were paid in Woolworths vouchers by the organisers.  Spier sponsored the wine. One wonders why Woolworths backed an unknown ad agency in putting on a first-time food festival and conference that clearly is not their field of expertise, was not well-organised, and was controversial, sullying their own brand.

POSTSCRIPT 11/9:  In her (libelous) report on the Toffie Food Festival, which she did not attend in full, given that the launch of her new book ‘Relish’ co-incided with Saturday morning of the Festival, for the BY supplement to Beeld, Die Burger, and other News24 titles, Sonia Cabano confirmed the complaints about the expense of attendance.  She gets the Festival cost wrong at R1800 (it was R1710), and writes about the near give-away of tickets on Groupon to fill the Festival.  She also mentions that no speakers of colour were included in the Festival programme, and the disappointing food market, which offered nothing new, most of the stallholders selling their wares at weekly markets too.  She also writes about the complaints about the poor Sunday lunch braai, and that Julie Powell, the keynote speaker, was a disappointment, being ‘babelaas’ from the Secret Dinner the night before (‘…dat haar aanbieding die dag daarna belemmer is deur haar selferkende hewige babelaas’) !  Her report confirms that I made the right decision to leave the Toffie Food Festival on Saturday afternoon, after the Secret Dinner booking mismanagement, which was admitted to by the organisers, and therefore they refunded my fee.

POSTSCRIPT 14/9:  Today we received an e-mail from the Toffie Food Festival organisers, advertising their Toffie Food Festival food tour to Buenos Aires from 23 – 30 October, in conjunction with TASTE magazine, at a cost of R 28426 for a single and R23327 for a double, inclusive of the flight, accommodation and meals.

POSTSCRIPT 20/9:  Dax Villanueva, of Relax with Dax Blog, is also rather critical of his experience of the Toffie Food Festival.

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