Tag Archives: Chef Chris Erasmus

Patrón Perfectionists 2019 SA cocktail competition finals has highest number of female finalists, but won by Cause & Effect mixologist David van Zyl!

On Thursday evening I attended the 2019 Finals of the Patrón Perfectionists tequila cocktail competition at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar in the Waterfront, after a first part of the event had been held at Foliage in Franschhoek earlier in the day. Despite the largest number of female finalists over the past three years of the South African participation in the competition, the 2019 SA finals was won by David van Zyl, mixologist at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen! Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 20: Predict who will be chopped, and win with Pierneef à La Motte!

Masterchef-sa-all-finalists-300x169MasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another four weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 20 on 14 August, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine.

Pierneef à La Motte opened almost three years ago, and has made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist two years running.  It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef Continue reading →

Franschhoek Bastille Festival une bonne fête, more than just wine tasting!

Bastille 2013 Hein KoegelenbergThe Bastille Festival was a festive weekend of tasting Franschhoek wines, connecting with friends, and trying some of the village food treats.  By all accounts it was a great success, and DnA Events must be congratulated in attracting such large numbers of visitors to Franschhoek, irrespective of the winter weather!  Almost every accommodation establishment was fully booked on Saturday evening, and the restaurants and shops did a roaring trade.  Franschhoek looked festive, almost every business being decorated in the French tricolore, and many of the locals and visitors wearing a beret and French colours.  For our French-speaking intern from Reunion, it was a surprise to experience all the Frenchness of Franschhoek this weekend.

It seemed more crowded on Saturday compared with previous years, yet there seemed to be less on offer outside of the Festival marquee than in the past.  We saw the queue outside the marquee just after the midday opening time, and it stretched a few blocks down Dirkie Uys Street.  We heard from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests that many tried to get tickets to get into the marquee on Saturday but were unable to do so, not even in the closing hour. Those that did have tickets could barely move inside the marquee as it was so full, despite a limit on the numbers, mainly caused by the afternoon rain, which meant that the ticket holders sitting outside moved into the marquee.  For many it was too crowded, and they left the marquee after visiting one stand, taking a bottle of wine outside to enjoy it in less crowded conditions.  Col’Cacchio had a band performing, and appeared to be one of the most popular meeting places after the marquee closed at 17h00, there being no cover charge.  Last minute rooms were sold to visitors who had heard about breathalyser tests on Helshoogte Pass.  The traffic on the main road was unbelievable, at times backed up to the Huguenot Monument.

Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 12: Predict who will be chopped and win with Pierneef à La Motte!

masterchef-sa-all-finalists1MasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another 7 weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 12 on  17 July, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine. Continue reading →

Plaisirs de France: Franschhoek Food goes French, celebrates Huguenot Heritage!

Franschhoek is about to become a whole lot more French, when the Plaisirs de France (Pleasures of France) Celebrations kick off in the village on 15 October, demonstrating its food and culinary delights, and its French Huguenot heritage, a month-long Bastille Festival judging from the programme.  A mix of Le Pique Niques, cooking demonstrations by local Franschhoek and French chefs, a weekly Country Village Market, French cheese tastings, pop-up kitchens with French-inspired lunches at art galleries, and some top class dinners form the foundation of the Festival.  The Plaisirs de France Festival is part of a larger Seasons of France cultural exchange program between South Africa and France.

The French Huguenots arrived in 1688, and were allocated land in what was originally called Oliphantshoek in 1694. The farm names La Dauphiné, Bourgogne, La Bri, Champagne, La Motte, Cabrière, La Cotte, La Terra de Luc, and La Provence still exist, and were named after the settlers’ places of birth in France.

The highlight of the month-long French celebration will be a French-inspired six-course dinner at Pierneef à La Motte, costing R690 for the dinner paired with wines, which Chef Florent Boivin of the Paul Bocuse Institute in France will cook with Chef Chris Erasmus on 12 October. Chef Florent has cooked at a number of Michelin-star restaurants, including Maison Troisgros, Le Jardin des Sens, and Maison Decoret. He has also opened new restaurants at D’Sens in Bangkok, Raffles Hotel Restaurant in Singapore, and Héritage Hotel Restaurant in Mauritius.  Chef Chris Erasmus has just returned from a three week stage at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant, based in Copenhagen.  The dinner will combine the fresh herbs and vegetables grown on La Motte, South African produce such as springbok, and French gourmet delights such as foie gras.

Other special meals on offer are the following:

*   3-course lunches at The Bistro at Allee Bleue, R195, 15 October – 15 November. Tel (021) 874-1021

*   6-course Tasting Menu dinner at Vrede & Lust’s Cotage Fromage, paired with Vrede & Lust wines, R299. Wednesdays from 17 October – 14 November.  Tel (021) 874-3991

*   Cooking French Pastries at Le Quartier Français, 20 October, 10h00 – 13h00, R795.

*   6-courses paired with wines, Le Quartier Français Dinner, 25 October, 19h00, R950.

*   6-courses dinner paired with wines at La Motte Owner’s Cottage, 18 – 20 October, R950. Tel (021) 876-8000.

*   French Tarts at Bread & Wine, 17, 24 and 31 October and 14 November, 10h00, R395. Tel (021) 876-4004.

*   French Canapés at Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa stand at the Village Market 20 and 27 October, 3 and 10 November, 9h00 – 13h00.

*   Macaroons, Meringues and Charcuterie at Bread & Wine stand at Village Market, 20 and 27 October, and 3 and 10 November,  9h00 – 13h00.

*   Le Pique Nique at Rickety Bridge: R148 per person, 24 hour booking ahead.

It appears that very few of the Franschhoek restaurants are participating in the Plaisir de France promotion!

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (21) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com Twitter: @PierneefLaMotte

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

Col’Cacchio Celebrity Chef Series salutes local chefs and celebrates children!

The fourth annual Col’Cacchio Celebrity Chef Series 2012 was celebrated on Tuesday at the first pizza outlet branch opened by Kinga Baranowska and Michael Terespolsky on Hans Strijdom Avenue in the Cape Town city centre 20 years ago, with special chefs in attendance, and special pizzas tasted. All attending the event were left with the feel-good evidence that the Col’Cacchio’s Celebrity Chef Series is making a difference in its contribution to funding new developments at and upgrades of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

The media event was an opportunity to introduce Pierneef à La Motte Chef Chris Erasmus and his July Col’Cacchio Celebrity Chef Series pizza, being the ‘Liplekker Ribbetjie’, which he demonstrated the making of at the event. Asking him about the first Afrikaans-named Col’Cacchio pizza, Chef Chris said that it was the dish that he had prepared when Pierneef à La Motte opened almost two years ago, and comes from theCape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook, of which he was a collaborator, now served on a pizza.  The pizza consists of a bechamel base infused with roasted garlic and rosemary, topped with mozzarella, smoked and braised lamb soutribbetjie, caramelised onion, pears poached in port, fresh rocket, and a sprinkling of rosemary salt. Chef Chris radiated passion when he shared that he had decided to get involved due to its good work in benefiting the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, having a young 3 year old son himself.  He warmed to little 7 year old Mia, who attended the function with her parents, having undergone a liver transplant at the hospital three years ago. The young star stole the show, especially when Chef Chris picked her up and the cameras flashed.

R5 of every Celebrity Chef Series Signature Pizza Collection pizza costing R85 goes to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust, which raises monies for upgrades of existing facilities at one of the best paediatric hospitals in Africa, and the purchase of new equipment.  We were told that more than R500000 has been donated to the Trust in the past three years, and that close to R86000 has already been raised from the Celebrity Chef Series pizza sales in May and June this year, higher than in previous years of the promotion.  In May Chef Jackie Cameron’s ‘Cape Funghi Pizza Delight‘ was the Celebrity Chef Series pizza, and in June it was Chef’s Coco Reinarhz’s ‘Bujumbura’ pizza, made with mozzarella, oven roasted brinjals, North African chicken tangine, green olives, preserved lemons, fresh coriander, drizzled with a coriander-infused yoghurt.

In the past the Col’Cacchio Celebrity Pizza Series has been run over the four winter months, a well-known chef lending his or her name to a pizza design each month.  This year the pizza design for August was thrown open to a consumer Pizza Challenge competition, the designer of the best pizza winning the honour of having her pizza on the Celebrity Chef Series menu for all of August, and a year’s supply of free pizza. Chef Chris and MasterChef SA Judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng were the judges in choosing the winner out of the top three pizza finalists. As we have got to know Chef Benny from MasterChef SA, ever the gentleman, he said that all three the finalist pizzas were good enough to be served in restaurants like Col’Cacchio:

*  Jessica Comninos’ ‘Liu Loren‘ pizza was designed as a ‘sexy‘ mix of Italian and Asian ingredients (tomato base, mozzarella, Asian marinated chicken, oven-caramelised apricots, fresh thyme, spring onion, fresh coriander, and drizzled with honey soy and orange reduction). The name of her pizza comes from two actress icons from these two regions: Sophia Loren and Lily Liu of Charlie’s Angels, Jessica explained.  The judges said that it was ‘addictive’, and one of the best ever eaten, perfect to be eaten while watching a movie.

*   ‘Salmon Dragon‘ was the entry by Keren Swanson, her pizza covered with mozzarella, braised rocket, smoked salmon, pickled ginger, spring onion, wasabi infused sour cream, and finished off with red salmon roe and balsamic glaze. Chef Chris described it as ‘sushi in a pizza‘, and ideal for summer next to a pool.

*   Stephanie Burtenshaw designed the ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ pizza, which consists of a tomato base, mozzarella, feta, lamb stew, fresh garlic slivers, rosemary, finished off with honey pumpkin seed praline, and fresh basil leaves.  The pizza is ideal for winter, the judges said.

Chef Chris said that at least 40 chefs had submitted their nominations in the Pizza Challenge, and therefore praised the three finalists for making it so far. The creative pizza names could be a lesson for pizza restaurants, in creating intrigue and interest. It was Jessica’s ‘Liu Loren’ pizza that was chosen as the winner.  She said of her creation: I grew up under the culinary expertise of my dad, who loves to experiment with different Thai flavours. His signature dish is a Thai-inspired Peking duck 5 course meal which includes the fragrant flavours of garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and coriander. These Thai staples made every meal my favourite and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my favourite flavours than on a pizza!”

Sandi Sher of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust said the funds raised this year will go to funding an upgrade of the B2 General Medical ward of the hospital, dealing with infectious diseases and general medical cases. The hospital was built 56 years ago,  and treats children with chronic illnesses from South Africa and other countries in Africa. The Trust was launched eighteen years ago, as a fund raising body, and none of the monies are used to fund administrative costs, emphasised Sandi.

Co-owner Michael Terespolsky emphasised that they are a ‘slow food’ pizza franchise, with 20 outlets currently, the ribbetjie for Chef Chris’ pizza taking seven hours of slow cooking, for example. ‘That is why chefs like working with Col’Cacchio’ on the Celebrity Chef Series promotion, he said.

Seeing the enjoyment of little Mia in cutting shapes out of the pizza dough it seemed that it would be good idea if Col’Cacchio could make pizzas for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, pizzas being loved by children, and they could become the ‘chicken soup’ for sick little people!

Disclosure: All guests attending received a slab of Lindt chocolate and a pizza slicer.

Col’Cocchia Celebrity Chef Series 2012. www.colcacchio.co.za.  Twitter: @ColCacchio

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

Marketing of Franschhoek wines in China has tourism benefit too!

China is the ‘promised land’ of future tourism to our country, once the English of Chinese tourists improves, and they start becoming self-drive tourists.  The work that the South African wine industry is doing in general, and at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap specifically,  will have a tourism benefit, as they cannot sell the products without communicating its heritage and values, says Hein Koegelenberg, CEO of both wine companies.

Hein started the companies’ focus on China four years ago, having withdrawn from the USA due to an agency problem in that country.  This freed up time and money to invest in Asia, Hein working with agencies due to the difficulty in communicating the brand message in this region, especially as our country is not yet well-known to the Chinese. Having developed a distribution network for marketing La Motte and Leopard’s Leap wines locally and in Europe, Hein used this ‘intellectual property’, as he calls it, to develop a distribution network in China. Creating a link to the end consumer is important, he said.   James and Michelle Tan, who have previously marketed Rooibos tea and Northern Cape minerals to China, were brought on board to guide Hein in selling into China.  One of the first projects was to set up a selection of wines in golf clubs, one of the places in which Chinese drink wine outside of their homes (they do not drink it at home), leading to a type of vinotheque, which stores each golf club member’s wine collection at the club.  Ernie Els, La Motte, and Leopard’s Leap wines and more were offered as a package of good wine brands to the golf club members.  A substantial target has been set for sales of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte by the Tans.  Agencies were appointed to sell the wines into China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Laos, the emphasis being on marketing specific brand varieties into specific regions.

Within China, Hein is using three distribution systems for his wines:

*   Aussino Wines China,  the company’s CEO Robert Shen being named by Decanter as the 16th most influential person in the international wine world, and with a network of 120 wine shops.  His company sells 150000 bottles of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte, being the only South African brands stocked, by agreement.

*   A joint venture with Yangzhou Perfect, the second largest direct sales company selling only organic products, and has a turnover of R12 billion.   It has 5000 outlets in the Yangzhou region, and 500000 – 1 million agents buy the products of the company, add an agreed mark-up, and then sell them door to door, much like Tupperware sells its products.   Given the tax of 50 % of wine imported into China, efforts are underway with Wesgro, WOSA (WInes of South Africa) and the Department of Trade and Industry to get the tax reduced (New Zealand only pays 30%), the saving in tax being earmarked for the marketing of South Africa in China. Perfect created a wine brand to test sales via its distribution network, and sells 1,5 million bottles. In marketing wines in China, Hein emphasised that Biodiversity is an important foundation, in that it reflects family values and heritage, as well as caring for the environment and for people.  Selling product only leads to it being price-based, which does not create loyalty.  Chinese wine drinkers are trusting imported brands increasingly, having been exposed to fake Chinese wines.  Hein said that 25 % of all Chinese wine sales are of imported wines. Imported wines are predominantly from France (35), from Chile (8%), Australia (8%), with South Africa at 3%.  Half of the South African sales to China are for Hein’s brands.  Wine imports to China are expected to double to 50% of total wine sales in the next five years.  China is the sixth largest wine producing country in the world, ahead of South Africa at eighth position.

Hein has formed Perfect Wines of South Africa, 51% owned by Yangzhou Perfect and 49 % by Leopard’s Leap. For this new venture they have created a new wine brand called L’Huguenot, with more sugar (5% compared to 4 % locally), and choosing wines that pair well with the more spicy Chinese food, being a 50%/50% Shiraz/Pinotage blend, a Chenin Blanc, and a La Motte-style Shiraz.  This new L’Huguenot brand sold 400000 bottles in the first ten days of its launch in China, about 30% of its initial sales target, which will grow to 2,5 million bottles.  The marketing of L’Huguenot, a brand name chosen specifically to link the brand to Franschhoek and its heritage, will also focus on the marketing of Franschhoek, and the Franschhoek Wine Valley association is working on how to do this in Chinese, probably starting off with a Chinese website page, as WOSA will be doing shortly.  Hein’s next challenge is to create a visible consumer interface for L’Huguenot, as he has just completed for Leopard’s Leap. His challenge is what to ‘pair’ with this new wine brand.

*   Hein has also created his own direct sales channel via a company he created, called Prestige Wines. He seeks corporate networks to link in to. The first network is with the Tsinghua University of Beijing, the largest business university of the city, with 3000 CEO members in its alumni club.  An agreement will bring four groups of 50 alumni each to Franschhoek a year, to grow to four groups of 100 over time, giving these influential alumni the opportunity to experience Franschhoek.  A group visited Franschhoek ten days ago, and they played golf, ate at Pierneef à La Motte, and were addressed by former President FW de Klerk, who pleaded to the businesspersons to bring investments to South Africa.  Hein told me at the Leopard’s Leap launch last Friday that they had signed up R1,5 million in wine sales from this lunch alone. They were shown the L’Ormarins Motor Museum, and had a hands-on experience with the harvesting of the vines and tasting of the wines.  A Golf Day which Hein had organised raised R1 million for the alumni bursary fund. Another project Hein is working on is providing a bottle of wine with every Mercedes Benz sold in China, this being the best selling car brand in the country.  A good working relationship has been developed with the 5-star Shangri-La hotel group, and a brand co-operation agreement will no doubt be put in place with them too.  Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte is to travel to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore later this year, Hein told me.

Leopard’s Leap sells its wines in 41 countries, with 20 % each sold locally, in the UK, and in Belgium/Holland. Sales to China are at 9%, and Hein is excited about the potential to double this.  The brand was started as a second label, taking up the left-over grapes of the three Rupert Franschhoek wine farms L’Omarins, Rupert & Rothschild, and La Motte, represented by the three leopards on the label.  The brand was created 12 years ago, and was initially only bottled and sold in the UK, with the assistance of Simon Halliday. Local sales started five years ago.

Hein believes in focus and excellence, and China will be his focus for this year, he said.  There are no new projects this year, with his focus on detail to achieve the goals. While Hein says that he has not had the time to learn Mandarin, he does have Chinese characters for his name and title on his business card.  He told me that his Chinese name is Gu Hai Ning, the last name meaning ‘calm ocean’, a description that he was given to describe his face.  Hein is the first to admit that the work and success is not his alone, and he praised his team of Wanda Vlok handling Marketing, Marius Kotze handling Sales, Leopard’s Leap winemaker Eugene van Zyl, and Kareen Neethling handling Logistics and Planning.  Grapes for the production of Leopard’s Leap wines are mainly sourced from Wellington, Ashton, and Perdeberg.

With the focus of La Motte, L’Huguenot, and Leopard’s Leap on the Chinese market, Franschhoek tourism players will need to start learning Mandarin, given the marketing benefit that the village is likely to experience in future.

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

La Motte ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook a winning recipe!

The launch of the new cookbook ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ at La Motte wine estate yesterday was characterised by the professionalism and excellence that this Franschhoek wine estate has become known for, and demonstrated the leadership of La Motte in proudly promoting the cuisine heritage of the Cape Winelands.

From the time that the restaurant Pierneef à La Motte opened over a year ago, Cape Winelands cuisine has formed the foundation of its menu, its Culinary Manager Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche having researched a collection of recipes that originated from the Dutch, German, French, Flemish, and British settlers that came to the Cape more than 300 years ago, and a selection presented in the restaurant, with a modern twist.  The collection of recipes has been captured in the new book, which La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg describes as follows: “What really makes this book so special is that it is the first time in the history of South Africa that such a complete and detailed traditional recipe book with historical, scientifically based recipes is published”. The book ‘unlocks the history of food in South Africa and serves as a valuable guide to treasured food knowledge that was almost lost by our generation’, said the La Motte media release.

The 288-page book, with photography by Micky Hoyle, contains more than a hundred recipes.  A limited number of copies of the book was flown in from overseas for the launch function, so we were not able to page through the book.  The book should be widely available from November.  An unusual launch approach was used, by having a panel discussion with Hein and Hanlie Koegelenberg, Chef Chris Erasmus, and Hetta about the book, led by Rooi Rose food journalist and cookbook writer Mariette Crafford, asking interesting and challenging questions about the book, the history of Cape Winelands cuisine, and the cuisine policy of Pierneef à La Motte.  Chef Chris said his ‘roots are here‘ (in the Winelands), and highlighted that it is important to go back to celebrating South African food. There is a move away from deconstruction, to go back to serving food that reflects the season and the region.  People want food like they had at home, like mother used to make, which was like a ‘liefdesbrief’, often the favourite dish of each family member being made for Sunday lunches.  So the book contains something for everyone, it was said. Pairing the flavours in wines with those in foods makes the eating and drinking experience special, said Hein.  La Motte has started planting trees with traditional fruits, to harvest from in future, including guavas, figs and quinces, and they have started planting herbs and vegetables, for use in the restaurant kitchen. All chefs seek to be self-sustaining as far as supplies go, but there are some limitations, such as the local supply of venison and ‘heirloom vegetables’, Chef Chris mentioned.  Hein emphasised that La Motte is a family business, with family values.

The most impressive part of the launch function, over and above the lovely lunch at which we tasted some of the recipes contained in the book, was the recognition that all restaurants in the area should stand for and support Cape Winelands Cuisine, an unselfish promotion of the cuisine wealth of the region. A number of chefs were invited, including Margot Janse from The Tasting Room, Ryan Shell from Haute Cabriere, Topsi Venter, Neil Jewell from Bread & Wine, Christophe De Hosse from Joostenberg Deli, Neethling du Toit from La Petite Ferme, Marianna Esterhuizen from Marianna’s, Abie Conradie from Noop, Leana Schoeman from the Salmon Bar, and Simone Rossouw from Babel at Babylonstoren. Suppliers of Pierneef à La Motte were invited too, a nice touch, as were a number of bloggers and print media food journalists.  Restaurants and wineries from the area were encouraged to help market the book.

The lunch menu detailed the background to the items we were served, which has become characteristic of the menu at Pierneef à La Motte.  Each table was served a selection of starter dishes on a wooden board, to be shared, reflecting the ‘family’ feel one gets when one visits the restaurant.   The selection consisted of the signature Cape Bokkom salad (predicted by the restaurant to become a classic such as the Waldorf salad, Caeser salad, and Salad Niçoise), pickled fish with capers (its origin being Arabia), offal brawn (introduced by the French Huguenots), Rolpens (stuffed stomach, introduced by the Dutch), and pickled tongue, served with wholewheat farm bread from the La Motte Farm Kitchen.  This was paired with La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2011.  For the main course, the menu listed sweet and sour pumpkin and lamb stew, and pan-fried Franschhoek trout on a sweetcorn fritter with red wine sauce and turnip dauphinoise.  Interestingly, we were not asked our preference, and every alternate guest was served one of the two main courses.  Again, as a ‘family’ of guests Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler and I shared our main courses.  I had the trout, and the menu stated that serving fish with a red wine sauce will have originated from the Dutch, but had been found in historic German and French cookbooks too.  It was paired with the La Motte Chardonnay 2009.  The stew recipe, paired with La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2008, has its origin in Arabia, and was written about by a Cape traveller venturing into the African interior.

The dessert was a refreshing summer sweet soup with fresh berries, and a ball of fruit sorbet delicately balanced on two biscuit sticks over the bowl.  Sweet soups came from Holland, but probably have their origin in Italy.  A lovely pairing with this dish was the La Motte Méthode Cap Classique 2008.  More treats were served with the coffee, a collection of biscuits, Cape fruit tartlets, macaroons (not a modern dish, but one that was originally called ‘makrolletjies’, made then with desiccated coconut, or almonds), apple marmalade, ‘kwartiertertjies’ (‘samoosa’ triangles, with an origin in Persia), ‘oblietjies’ (waffles) with cream, and cheese-tart with preserves.

The interesting and unusual launch of the book via the panel discussion in the historic wine cellar, the lovely lunch at Pierneef à La Motte paired with excellent La Motte wines, the friendly ‘family’ collection of guests, and the professional packaging of media information, with recipe postcards presented in a wax-sealed envelope with the La Motte emblem, is a recipe for success for the new cookery book, and for Pierneef à La Motte, which has been nominated as an Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, and is certain to make the Top 10 list on 20 November.

‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, Human & Rousseau, R450. Available at bookshops from November, and at the La Motte Farm Shop already.  Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com

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

The Franschhoek Restaurant Route: highlights in the Gourmet Capital

Franschhoek still officially carries the Gourmet Capital crown, even though it faces strong competition from Stellenbosch, which is seeing the opening of an increasing number of excellent restaurants, so much so that we recently suggested that the town establish the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

Franschhoek probably has sat back on its gourmet laurels for a while, but must be delighted about the opening of two new excellent restaurants, Ryan’s Kitchen and Pierneef à La Motte, which add new interest to Franschhoek as a culinary destination.  In fairness to Franschhoek, I have suggested a Franschhoek Restaurant Route:

*   Pierneef à La Motte is culinary art, and has upped the quality of Franschhoek’s restaurant choice.  Its focus is Winelands Boerekos with a contemporary twist.  Chef Chris Erasmus is a breath of fresh air, working with historic recipes and transforming them into works of art,  reflecting Pierneef’s standards.  Tel (021) 876-8000

*   Grande Provence  is quietly delivering quality cuisine, with chef Darren Roberts doing the most beautiful presentation of his food.   The restaurant is not afraid to charge  a price that reflects his standards of cooking.   Outstanding decor, and surrounded by artwork from its Gallery.  Perfection is visible from the time one drives into the wine estate.  Top 10 restaurant for the past two years. Tel (021) 876-8600.

*   The Tasting Room is loved by some, but not by all.  It is expensive.  It seems to have good nights and bad nights.  Joint 10th with Overture on Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List last year.  Tel (021) 876-2151

*   Ryan’s Kitchen has only been open for three months, set in a guest house,  with a high-tech kitchen, and quality cuisine by chef Ryan Smith.  “Contemporary South African cuisine” is the restaurant positioning, and a stronger African feel will be introduced in October, with a “Taste of Africa” menu.   Tel (021) 876-4598

*   Reuben’s has been the darling of Franschhoek, and a recent Tweet stated that it is the restaurant that tourists visit, while those that know go to Le Bon Vivant.   Opened 6 years ago, the restaurant’s service standards have dropped as Reuben’s has expanded to Robertson, and chef Reuben Riffel has taken on more projects.  Recently lost the sommelier to Bosman’s, but may not be a bad thing for the restaurant, as she was not very customer-friendly.  The biggest compliment to Reuben and his team, but also the largest challenge, in opening Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town  (A first meal at the new Reuben’s was a-maze-ing).   Tel (021) 876-3772

*   Allee Bleue has been very low key restaurant-wise, and it is uncertain exactly where the management wants to go with its dining options.  The Bistro at the entrance to the wine estate has always been friendly, and serves Bistro-style food at reasonable prices.  The departure of Chef Dane Newton is a shame, but with his replacement currently working at the Michelin-starred Schwarzer Adler, interesting things could be coming out of this kitchen soon. Tel (021) 874-1021

*   Cafe Bon Bon is one of the most relaxed and friendly breakfast and lunch-time stops in Franschhoek, on a most beautifully developed small-holding.  Tel (021) 876-3936

*   Haute Cabriere is owned by Franschhoek restaurant mogul Matthew Gordon.  While many find the ‘cave’-like interior a shame given the beautiful view outside, it remains popular, also as a wedding venue, and has a good relationship with Cabriere wines. Tel (021) 876-3688

*   La Petite Ferme is one of the best known restaurants with consistent quality and does not amend its menu much.  Visitors return, not only for the quality food but also for the wonderful view over Franschhoek, and for the relaxed atmosphere.  Tel (021) 876-3016

*   Dieu Donné also has an excellent view from its glass ‘walls’.   Its food quality was better when it first opened about two years ago. Tel (021) 876-2493

*   Le Bon Vivant is tucked away, off the main road, and is a ‘loner’, doing its own thing.  Beautiful presentation of food by chef Pierre. Tel (021) 876-2717

*   Rickety Bridge has a restaurant right at the vineyards, and offers picnics in summer.  Tel (021) 876-2129

*   French Connection is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and is a pedestrian favourite of locals and tourists.  Good main road location.  Serving breakfast as well now.  Tel (021) 876-4056

*   Dutch East was struggling when we visited it in June.  It seemed to be trying too hard.   There is no particular style of food served.   Tel (021) 876-3547

*   Chez d’Or was previously Cafe Rouge, and has expanded its size, and brought the restaurant closer to the main road.   Sandwiches and pedestrian Bistro food.   Tel 082 372 7645

*   Allora is a good quality Italian restaurant.  Despite sister-restaurants in Johannesburg, the welcome is personal and one does not get a chain-feel at all. Good value family eating.  Tel (021) 876-4375.

*   Col’Cacchio is one of a chain by the same name, and one can predict what is on offer.  Not the best service, but very popular for outside sitting.   Tel (021) 876-4222

*  Boschendal– other than going there for historical reasons, or to eat their long-standing buffet lunch, there is little to attract one to an estate that does not yet embrace excellence, a shame given its heritage.  Its Le Piqniques are well-known and very popular in summer.   Tel (021) 870-4272

*   Fyndraai at Solms-Delta wine estate is a pleasant surprise, with interesting Kaapse kos.  On good weather days, sitting on the terrace is a treat.  Tel (021) 874-3937

*   Cotage Fromage is a joint venture between Matthew Gordon, Duncan Doherty and Pierre Smith, serving breakfasts and lunches, and doing the catering for wedding and other events at Vrede & Lust.   The menu does not reflect the capabilities of the three chefs.   Tel (021) 874-3991

*   The Grillroom is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and fills a niche for patrons wanting mainly steak.  Unique restaurant in that one can buy good quality meat to take home too, as well as Franschhoek wines.   Tel (021) 876-2548

*   Cafe des Arts has taken over from Topsi’s, a Franschhoek institution.  Topsi still appears to be there regularly. (Tel (021) 876-2952

*   Salmon Bar is undergoing a renovation in part of the old Bouillabaisse building, which will enhance its visibility when it re-opens in November. Tel (021) 876- 4591

*   Bread & Wine is linked to Le Quartier Français, and only serves lunches.  Previously included in Eat Out Top 10 list, to the surprise of many. Good bread and charcuterie.  Tel (021) 876-3692.

*   Mon Plaisir is on the Chamonix estate, and is owned by a French couple offering French fare.  Little ambiance inside the restaurant.  Tel (021) 876-2393

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

Restaurant Review: Pierneef à La Motte is a work of art!

After spending four hours at the La Motte wine estate, during the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival on Sunday, I had to pinch myself to check that the wonderful time I had experienced there had been real.  The pinnacle of the La Motte experience is the new Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, which opened on Saturday.  It is sure to make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in 2011/12, and gives Franschhoek a new jewel in its Gourmet Capital crown.   It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef, and to the historical roots of South African cuisine, presented with a contemporary twist.

I had booked a few days earlier, and found that one of the weaknesses of the new restaurant was the automated switchboard, which put me through to the selected option for the restaurant, but no one answered.  Eventually I got through to the main La Motte switchboard, and a most helpful lady took my booking, first requesting that it be done in writing.  This resulted in my booking having been made for a table indoors.  I asked Hetta van Deventer, the culinary consultant, if I could sit outside.  She did relent eventually, and I couldn’t have wished for a better table, on a wooden deck opening onto a lawn area shaded by mature oak trees, budding with the freshest green leaves.   The restaurant is green in many respects, and I was impressed with how theming was carried through into many different aspects of the restaurant.  The furniture outside almost looks custom-made, with a green woven-effect, giving it a nature-look.  The placemat was in the shape of a vine leaf.  The silver container had a green glass candle holder (as well as beautiful hand-blown glass bottles for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and little silver salt and pepper grinders).

The Pierneef name and theme comes from the priceless collection of 44 oils and other works by JH Pierneef (1886 – 1957), which La Motte bought from Pierneef’s 82-year old daughter Marita, who now lives in the United Kingdom.  The work is displayed in a special new building, housing the Rupert Museum, a general art gallery, and the Pierneef art gallery.   Given that Pierneef is synonymous with the pinnacle of South African art, La Motte honoured the artist by naming the restaurant after him, to demonstrate that they wish to follow his high standards.

The Pierneef name and art has also been carried over into a new range of La Motte wines, called the Pierneef Collection. Some of the collection of 1957 Pierneef lino cuts, which Hanli Rupert had received from her father Dr Anton Rupert years ago, have been used for the back labels for these wines.

The restaurant manager Simon Chennells, a charming young man, brought the menu and the winelist to the table.   They are obviously brand new, and look pristine, with bound covers, as if they are books.   Inside the menu is a photograph of Pierneef and his daughter from 1929, and the same photograph has been printed on the back of the high-back chairs standing at the kitchen counter.   The restaurant is large, divided into the kitchen section, which opens onto the outside seating deck, allowing one to see Chef Chris Erasmus (previously with Le Quartier Francais and Ginja) and his team hard at work in the super shiny stainless steel kitchen.   Pierneef’s work has been printed onto the lampshades hanging over the kitchen counter.  The interior restaurant section is separated from the kitchen, and is dominated by three chandeliers from which dangle crockery from the Dutch East India Company, which had brought Jan van Riebeeck to Cape Town.  The chandeliers are in blue and white, orange and white, and black, white and gold.  La Motte had bought the valuable crockery collection from a museum, and had the chandeliers custom-made for the restaurant.   Christo Barnard is the creative interior consultant who did the decor.

I had the incredible luck that Hein Koegelenberg, the CEO of La Motte, came to chat with me, despite it  being a busy restaurant day.  Other than having invited Hein to our next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting on 22 September, and seeing him in July at Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine,  I had not spoken to him for more than 5 minutes before.  I do not think he knew who I was, and he therefore impressed me even more by sharing his passion for the ‘new’ La Motte so extensively, and even introduced me to his wife Hanli.  No documentation is available yet for the ‘new’ La Motte, which is a pity, and the gems of information I received from Hein were therefore doubly precious.   Hein impressed upon me that it was early days for the restaurant, and requested that I give him feedback about the menu and winelist.   He will read it in this review for the first time.  Hein was such a gracious restaurant owner, that he came to check on me regularly, repeating his request for feedback.   One is impressed with Hein’s warmth and passion, and even more so that he did not mention the cost of the project at all.  This is not about the income that will be generated for La Motte – this is a project that brings pride in South African cuisine art, the return of the Pierneef collection to South Africa being the foundation of the restaurant, with the related buildings housing the Farm Shop, art galleries and museum, as well as the Tasting Centre, and creating what Hein calls a ‘tourism destination’.

The restaurant being new, word had spread about it, and eating there led to a reunion of the most wonderful people during my lunch there.  First, I saw Cyrillia of Bizerca Bistro, who hugged me as if I was a long lost friend.  Then I saw Bernard and Petro Immelman, an old PR client, who own Clouds wine and wedding estate next to Delaire Graff in the Helshoogte Pass.  Then, the biggest surprise of all, was when John Fourie approached my table, and asked if I was “Christine”, a name I was called many moons ago before I shortened it.  I recognised John’s voice, and he reminded me that he had been a Marketing student of mine at Damelin twenty years ago!   He was there with a group of Harley friends, and invited me to join their table.  The whole table tasted bits of my food (they were having sandwiches and wine), especially loving my dessert.

I never had a chance to try the Portuguese rolls and ciabatta, served with farm-style butter, which got left behind on the original table I sat at.  The menu opens onto a welcome page: “Welcome to Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.  We have pleasure in hosting you and sharing with you our restaurant’s association with one of South Africa’s greatest masters.”  Homage is paid to both Pierneef, and to his daughter Marita, who has become a friend of the Koegelenbergs. “Pierneef’s creativity in portraying the beauty of the South African landscape and architecture has served as a model for this restaurant’s creativity in offering cuisine inspired by centuries of variations on cooking – a unique presentation known as Cape Wine-lands Cuisine”.  After extensive research into the origin of South Africa’s cuisine, or “boerekos”, from Dutch, Flemish, German and Huguenot settlers about 350 years ago, and British settlers 150 years later, about 200 recipes were developed for use in the restaurant over time. The cuisine style really is meant to be “Boland Boerekos”, and the input from Professor Hetta Claassens, author of “History of South African Food”, was sought to select the recipes. Hein says international chefs will be invited to translate these recipes into a contemporary context.  TV cooking will be introduced at the kitchen counter.

The menu is short and sweet, with a choice of 5 starters, 6 mains and 6 desserts. It is signed by Hein and Hanneli, reflecting their personal involvement. Starters are reasonably priced, Koningsbrood soup costing R35, served with braised veal knuckle ‘karmenaadjie’, roasted bone marrow and pot brood; up to R57 for the Trio of boerbok terrine served with roasted swede puree, apple and sultana chutney, and saffron yoghurt balls.  Other options are a Cape Bokkom Caesar salad, Russian fish pie, and Pumpkin, ginger and walnut cheesecake, two of these being vegetarian-friendly.  The mains peak at R 120 for a Fragrant fish curry, and other options include a roasted endive and goat’s cheese tart, Pumpkin seed and almond crusted Franschhoek salmon trout, Pomegranate glazed smoked pork belly, and Impala neck and stewed prune skilpadjie.  I had the Laquered smoked soutribbetjie, served with an interesting combination of pickled tongue, dried pear kluitjies, verjuice poached pear, wilted boerboon shoots and parsnips, and crispy lamb’s liver biltong.  I was fascinated by the biltong, and could not see it on my plate when served.  When asking the manager, he took the plate to the chef, and returned it with more of it – it was finely chopped and sprinkled over the dish, and gave it a distinctive taste, even when chopped to pieces smaller than peppercorns.  The soutribbetjie had a strong smoky braai taste, and overall it was a most unusual combination of tastes.   The menu does not describe the very South African terms, and this could be a weakness.  I also am surprised about the menu’s spelling of “Wine-lands”.  I would think that the information provided by Hein could be added to the menu, to help one appreciate the effort that he and his team have made in bringing cuisine history back to La Motte.

The dessert I chose was called “Breakfast”, a surprise dessert costing R65.  I cheated by asking a waiter to let me into the secret, so that I could choose whether I should have a starter or a dessert.  It was a most wonderful wacky selection of breakfast foods served in a dessert style – miniature banana muffin, ‘Cornflake’ brittle, yoghurt pannacotta, citrus sorbet balls, berry yoghurt sorbet and ice cream, freshly made “Fruit Loops”, all beautifully presented on muesli crumble.  Desserts seem expensive, but an incredible amount of work has gone into the creation of these.  Other dessert options are Brandy chocolate pudding, Engelen kos, Apple and cinnamon tart, as well as two cheese selections, one of them being goat’s cheese only.   My only criticism is that the ‘Breakfast’ dessert seemed very modern and did not fit the historic foundation of the menu.

Children are catered for as well, with chicken fritters and chips, and fish nuggets and chips, at R30.  One is not obliged to eat off the menu, a blackboard offering chicken and lamb sandwiches, at R35 and R45, respectively, using the lovely breads baked and sold in the new Farm Shop.

Hein told me that they grow grapes for their wines in Bot River, Elim, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Macasser, Darling, and in Franschhoek.  In making their wines, they decide which flavours they want each of their wines to have, and therefore use grapes from the terroirs of their different farms in the making of the wine.  For example, the La Motte Shiraz is made to give white pepper, blackberry and red berry flavours.  For the opening of this wonderful facility, the La Motte Hanli R was launched – a 2005 Shiraz that Hein says is in the league of the best Shirazes in the world.  Only 3000 bottles were produced, of which about a third were given away as gifts to the VIP guests who had attended dinners earlier that week, a priceless gift, given that the wine retails at $100!

The winelist runs to 13 pages, and includes the full range of The La Motte Collection and The Pierneef Collection wines, as well as the La Motte MCC Brut (at R235) and the Hanli R, at R845.  Two pages of “La Motte Vinoteque Wines” follow, and do not explain which wines these are, and only vintages and detailed flavour descriptions, for Shiraz, Millennium, and Cabernet Sauvignon, are provided.  Champagnes range from R600 for Pommery, to R965 for Billecart-Salmon Rosé.   Ten Franschhoek MCC bubblies are listed, almost all under R200.   The rest of the winelist features Meridian Wine brands (Hein founded this international distribution company, with leading wine brands such as Meerlust).  Other Rupert family brands (Rupert & Rothschild, and Anthonij Rupert) are also featured, as is the Leopard’s Leap wine range, a mass market brand that was developed by Hein, selling 600000 cases a year.   A small selection of wines from New Zealand, Argentina, Germany and France is also available. Hein is aware of some typing errors in the winelist.  In the Tasting Centre one can choose an unusual Food & Wine Pairing, with a choice of five out of eight La Motte wines, with a specific dish paired per wine, at R195.  The dishes for the pairing also carry the Winelands Cuisine theme.

The wonderful afternoon had to come to an end.  Not only had I received the greatest gift of all – the time Hein Koegelenberg devoted in chatting to me, with Chef Chris joining him later – but I was also given a bottle of the new La Motte Hanli R, something I will keep for a very special occasion.  The La Motte team is to be congratulated for their vision in bringing history back to La Motte and for making it come alive. I’ll be back!

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, outside Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000. www.lamotte.co.za.  (The website needs a page just for the restaurant, as well as an Image Gallery of its beautiful food and facilities – it does not do justice to this amazing project).   Twitter @pierneeflamotte.  The restaurant is open for Breakfast on Friday – Sunday; for lunch on Monday – Sunday; and for dinner on Thursday – Saturday.  The Tasting Center is closed on Sundays.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9:  We enjoyed another wonderful meal at Pierneef à La Motte, this time a dinner and inside the restaurant.   I had not paid enough attention on the restaurant interior on my last visit, and was in awe of the Dutch East India Company crockery chandeliers, with a modern interpretation.  Each of them has downlighters built into it, and the way in which the crockery is hung in the chandeliers makes them chime when the airconditioning is on, a most soothing ‘music’ in conjunction with the soft classical background music.    There is a large fireplace, and a lounge seating area, at which one can have coffee.   I saw the Chef’s Table, a separate room close to the kitchen, seating 8, for which Chef Chris will cook his choice menu, at R1000 per head.   In addition to the “Boerekos” menu (which now has definitions of the traditional “Boerekos” items), there were three specials – sweetbreads, an excellent steak served with mushrooms and shiraz chips, and wonderful chicken with sorrel sauce.

POSTSCRIPT 6/3: I met Dutch friends for lunch, and was blown away by a chilled butternut soup, which I had as a starter, both in its presentation, and also by its refreshing antidote to the hot Franschhoek day.   I was however disappointed that I could not taste the advertised crayfish.  Hein Koegelenberg was at the restaurant too, and came to greet my guests.  They were very impressed with his friendliness.   For the main course we all had the pork, a dish which did not blow me away.

POSTSCRIPT 8/3: I took a colleague to La Motte, to show her around, and we had a sandwich as we arrived just on 15h00.  I remember the lamb sandwich prices being R 25 when the restaurant opened about 6 months ago, so was rather shocked when the sirloin and mozzarella sandwich cost R 75, and the salmon and avocado paste one cost R70, served with a small green and parmesan shaving salad.   It did not match what the restaurant stands for in its presentation or its content.  I also was rudely dealt with by the security person Inge when we signed in at the boom – rudeness is not something I associate with La Motte at all.   I was disappointed about the reaction to the feedback I gave Chef Chris about the lack of the crayfish taste in the butternut soup, and he gave me an unsatisfactory reply, saying that European palates are more sensitive to an over-strong fish taste, and therefore he had to tone down the crayfish content!

POSTSCRIPT 26/1/12:  Our dinner tonight was disappointing – tiny table for two, waitress who did not know her desserts, and she sounded a little like a tape recorder.  Grateful to Manager Anne for organising a table, even though they were full.  I am disappointed that the Cape Winelands Cuisine recipe basis of the menu appears to have almost all gone, with only the Bokkom salad and trio of Cape desserts reflecting the origin of the Cape Winelands cuisine.  Enjoyed the steak (a taste of my son’s) and wild mushroom ragout. Very disappointed with ‘Sweetie Pie’ dessert, with hard sugar crystallised crust around soft meringue, on summer fruit and guava cream, the sugar crust being very hard to eat.

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