Tag Archives: Daniel Kruger

Original Rickety Bridge owner’s spirit lives on at Paulina’s restaurant!

Paulina de Villiers was the first woman farm owner in the Winelands, now called Rickety Bridge, having received the farm in 1797.  The wine estate has named its premium wines and its new Bistro restaurant after this feisty lady, whose spirit is said to still be felt in her vineyards!

We experienced the Paulina’s Reserve wines on Saturday, visiting Rickety Bridge on the new Franschhoek Wine Tram, and having been brought to their wine tasting centre with their Dodge converted into a vehicle with seating to transport the Wine Tram visitors from the train track.  We were invited by Sales Manager and Restaurant Director Jacqui Rabe for lunch on Sunday, to experience the new Paulina’s restaurant.

We sat on the terrace, under Rickety Bridge branded umbrellas, and the area filled up quickly, showing how popular the restaurant has become since it opened officially three weeks ago. Even winemaker Wynand Grobler, also a Director of the restaurant, came for lunch with a group of his friends.  The slatted tables and chairs are wooden, with no table cloth or place mat. Each table has a wooden salt and pepper grinder, with paper serviettes.  We met the new Manager Joanna Hurlston, and the new Chef Melissa Bruyns, who has previously worked at The Westin hotel, and Haute Cabriere.  Chef Melissa sources produce locally, and has a vegetable garden on the farm, from which she harvests carrots, herbs, and baby marrow, and will be speaking to Daniel Kruger about sourcing some of his herbs and vegetables from La Motte’s herb and vegetable garden too.

The menu is printed on strong A3 recycled board, and has the winelist on the reverse side.  A blackboard announces the weekly special, which was delicious marinated char-grilled artichoke hearts on Sunday.  In the starter section, each item comes as a half and full portion, in a tpas style, and are meant to be shared for the table. The main courses and desserts are offered in one size only.  Each item on the menu has a suggested pairing with one of the Rickety Bridge wines.  The menu will change regularly, to tie in with seasonal produce changes.

Jackie ordered the artichoke special; a variety of tempura vegetables served with three dipping sauces (R38/75), the pairing suggestion being Paulina’s Reserve Semillon; and Seafood Risotto served with braised fennel and topped with Café de Paris butter and pecorino (R45/R88), best paired with the Paulina’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.  Guy shared a taste of his delicious Crayfish Bisque deglazed with Rickety Bridge Chenin Blanc (R50).  Other starter options, available in half and full portions, are Caeser salad (R36/R72), cute-looking Franschhoek salmon trout fish cake burgers served on a beetroot roll and topped with lemon aioli (R43/R85), Saldanha mussels (R50/R95), and a leek and asparagus flan drizzled with chive oil and greens (R40/R83). We shared our main courses too, being the crispy pork belly with fried greens, wasabi mash, and sweet chilli and ginger sauce (R112), which was paired with Rickety Bridge The Foundation Stone; the most tender Karoo lamb chops with creamed potato, wilted baby spinach and Rickety Bridge Merlot jus (R135), paired with Rickety Bridge Merlot; and Grilled Baby Calamari served with chourizo, rocket, roasted cherry tomatoes, and coriander dressing (R87), paired with Paulina’s Reserve Chenin Blanc.  Other main courses include 250g grilled Chalmar rib eye steak (R125), Grilled line fish (R108), and linguini (R75).  Sauces cost R30, and side orders R15 – R25.  Guy and I shared the Tasting trio of chocolate desserts, consisting of a dark chocolate brownie, milk chocolate tart, white chocolate mousse, served with chocolate ice cream (R40), accompanied by a LavAzza cappuccino.  Other dessert options are a trio of baked puddings, a trio of tarts, and a seasonal fruit platter, all costing R40.

The winelist offers Rickety Bridge and Paulina’s wines, with a R20 mark-up only relative to the cellar door pricing.  In 1996 Rickety Bridge launched its Paulina Reserve range, and it is 30% wooded, we were told.   Most wines are available by the glass and bottle.   The Rickety Bridge Brut Rosé costs R38/R135, the Rosé R20/59, and the Sauvignin Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and range from just over R20 per glass to R70 – R80.  The Rickety Bridge Semillon, and Paulina’s Reserve  Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon range in price from R75 – R110 per bottle. Rickety Bridge Merlot, Shiraz, PInotage, and Foundation Stone range from R30 to R145. The Bridge costs R395, and Paulina’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon R 200.

It was a lovely afternoon lunch, allowing me to get Jackie and the wine estate better, and seeing staff who had previously worked at other restaurants before again.  The service was good, and the prices at Paulina’s are very reasonable, and the portions generous, making it a definite to return to.

POSTSCRIPT 5/12: The restaurant has provided details of its dinners starting tomorrow.  The 4-course Tasting Dinner Menu costs R 280/R360, the 6-course R 380/R500 (the second price includes wines).

Paulina’s, Rickety Bridge, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2129  www.ricketybridge.co.za Twitter: @PaulinasRB  Monday – Sunday lunch.  Dinners will be served on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6 December.

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

South Africa and Australia have most exciting cuisine, says visiting Dutch Chef Michiel den Hartogh!

Dutch Chef Michiel den Hartogh is assisting at Pierneef à La Motte for the next six weeks, and shared some views on the cuisine in the different countries in which he has travelled and worked.  He praised Australian and South African cuisine for its use of fresh ingredients, and the wide selection and quality of fish in Australia, and game and other meat in South Africa.

Five years ago Chef Michiel came to the Cape, and worked at both Lanzerac and The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français.  He did not learn anything at Lanzerac, and shared his knowledge with the staff there, he felt, rather than the other way around, but he enjoyed the latter restaurant, where he met Chef Chris Erasmus, now Executive Chef at Pierneef à La Motte.  The friendship continued, and last year Chef Chris cooked at Specktafel in Haarlem, in conjunction with a South African festival.  Having left Specktafel as Head Chef earlier this year, after ten years with the restaurant, Chef Michiel did a summer stint at Ajuma in Zandvoort, before coming to join Chef Chris at Pierneef à La Motte ten days ago.  Specktafel does not serve bacon, but is based in Spekstraat in Haarlem, and is ‘speck’-tacular, he said!  The restaurant specialises in ‘world cuisine’, and the menu covers Canadian, Moroccan, Italian, Japanese, Scandinavian, South American, Chinese, and South African dishes.  He has been a representative for Luiten-food, doing demonstrations for them of kangaroo, emu and crocodile, New Zealand venison, and our local meats of ostrich, wildebeest, springbok, kudu, and more.

He has done short ‘internships’ in restaurants around the world, including at Nobu in London, and also in France, the USA, Spain, Madeira, Asia, Australia, and Italy.  In Australia he was impressed with the range of seafood available, not only from the Sydney fish market, but also that he could go spearfishing to harvest some of it himself.  He raved about the blue swimmer crabs, oysters, kangaroo, and crocodile, from which interesting dishes can be prepared.  Springbok and our other game, as well as excellent quality grass-fed beef and poultry impresses him about South Africa, a luxury in Holland.  Compared to five years ago, our restaurant cuisine has developed, and is not as ‘primitive’ as it was then, largely due to the experience our chiefs are gaining from working with international chefs locally and overseas, such as Chef Chris’ one month stage at Noma in Copenhagen. The international experience benefits not only the head chef, but that of the whole team too.

Chef Michiel is very impressed with the herb and vegetable garden at La Motte, and he himself is a keen gardener, having planted some favourite herbs and vegetables on his parents’ farm, and he has begun to forage mushrooms, wild herbs, and wild flowers.  He has brought some seeds from Holland, and Daniel Kruger will prepare a vegetable garden just for him at La Motte, which will be his legacy to Chef Chris and his colleagues, when he leaves to continue his world travels.  He has brought seeds for ‘boerekool’, and ‘endejvie’, which he said is not an endive but a lettuce/cabbage, purple carrots, and more.

Asked about the plans for the future, Chef Michiel said he is working on a ten year plan, and it is still a ‘secret’.  He intimated that he may stay on beyond 31 December at Pierneef à La Motte, and I got the feeling that his vegetable garden in Holland may be the clue to the possible opening of his own restaurant. Should he open his own restaurant, it would serve ‘pure cuisine’, he said, being seasonal produce, and that which is grown in close proximity.  He wants to educate diners about vegetables, meats, and herbs, and take them beyond their restricted knowledge gained from TV and supermarkets. ‘Pure cuisine’ also means presenting fewer elements on a plate, and utilising known ingredients in an unusual form.

We talked about the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards, and he will be attending the Eat Out Conference next Saturday.  There does not appear to be restaurant award of a similar nature in Holland, and I got the feeling that winning a restaurant award is not a big deal in that country.

Chef Michiel is looking forward to developing his vegetable garden at La Motte, and in working with Chef Chris to develop new dishes, and in preparing dishes for the new Pierneef à La Motte summer menu, which was launched yesterday.

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com Twitter: @Pierneeflamotte  @Mich_ha13

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

Holden Manz’s Franschhoek Kitchen Chef Maryna Frederiksen to focus on sustainability!

New Chef Maryna Frederiksen is focusing on her vegetable and herb garden and fruit orchard at Holden Manz, to offer her Franschhoek Kitchen clients the freshest possible fare, a dream come true for chefs seeking to be sustainable as far as possible.  She has brought the herbs and vegetables grown at Holden Manz into her new menu, and is planning to expand what she has planted and what she can source in Franschhoek.

She is so passionate about using the freshest ingredients in her ‘farm to fork food‘ cooking that she has already met with Daniel Kruger from La Motte, who created and manages their herb and vegetable garden, and sells produce to the leading restaurants in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Daniel has advised Holden Manz about which herbs and wild edible flowers such as stinging nettles and wild sorrel to plant, and has provided seedlings.  La Motte supplies vegetables with greater quantity requirements, being root vegetables in the main, but also runner beans, Chinese long beans, golden beets, purple carrots, and more.  Chef Maryna is challenging Daniel to source vegetables which she got to know in America, including burdock root, for which she was able to source seeds from Germany.  While she would love to cook with tropical vegetables, Franschhoek is not suited to them.  Chef Maryna loves to infuse her dishes with herbs such as thyme, mint, lemon verbena, and geranium.

Maryna grew up in Sasolburg, and qualified at Potchefstroom College at the age of 20, thereafter setting off to see the world by becoming an apprentice chef on cruise ships.  She was encouraged to continue in this field, her bosses saying that she showed talent, and she went to Switzerland for French culinary studies. She moved to San Francisco, working at a seafood restaurant, and a six month planned stay became a 23 year love affair with America, including nine years in Seattle, and five years at the Herb Farm restaurant in Woodinville Washington.  She knew she would return to South Africa some time, and did so because she was missing her family in Pretoria, taking on the running of the restaurant Lucit.  She had spent some time in the wine country in California and Washington, and had a dream to work in our wine region, jumping at the opportunity to join Holden Manz, food and wine being her passion: ‘you can’t have the one without the other’, she said.

Chef Maryna has evaluated what was on the Franschhoek Kitchen menu with GM Wayne Buckley, and some Holden Manz favourites have been retained but redesigned by Chef Maryna, for example the ‘Franschhoek Kitchen Trio’ (R150), which consists of the linefish piccata, chilli jam squid, and grape vine smoked pork belly.  Chef Maryna said that she is a ‘Slow Food cooker’, and proudly shared that she cooks her sauces over two days to get the reduction.

The menu is printed on recycled A3 board, with an imprint of the Holden Manz elephant trunk logo.  Starters include a soup of the day (hot pea and mint, and cold Gazpacho) at R45; a beautifully plated Ceviche de Veracruz which Gideon enjoyed, yellowfish having been marinated in a lime, coriander, tomato and jalapeno salsa (R65); Portuguese spiced squid with a most unusual lychee and rocket salad, a sweet chilli jam, and green garlic aioli (R65), a Caprese salad (R60), sardines (R60), a five spice duck salad served with pickled shimeji mushrooms, local berries, and a garden fresh herb salad (R100); a crispy prawn salad enjoyed by Wayne, with sugar snap peas, strawberries, ginger and coriander (R100); and a steamed garden vegetable platter with lemon butter sauce (R45).

The Franschhoek Kitchen Trio is one of the most popular main courses on the menu.  I ordered the Duck Duo, being a duck breast scaloppini and a citrus-stuffed duck braciale confit with a Holden Manz Good Sport sauce, and parsnip purée (R155);  a pan-seared fillet mignon with crispy duck fat fried new potatoes, king oyster mushroom, and Bordelaise or Jack Daniels sauce (R155); linefish of the day costs R120, served with a saffron mussel sauce; Pasta caprese (R80); and Sicilian prawn marsala, with fennel, carrots, capers, tomatoes, and currants topped with marsala sauce (R120).

I loved the unusual ‘Coffee and Doughnuts‘ dessert, being an espresso semifredo served with mini cinnamon doughnuts.  One can also order a Pavlova, served with meringue, rose geranium cream, fresh berries, and Holden Manz Port gastrique; coconut panna cotta with passion fruit gelée; chocolate mousse cake with brandy and a berry couli, all desserts costing R45.  The cappuccino was made with Terbodore coffee, a special Holden Manz blend roasted in Franschhoek.

After only a month at Holden Manz, Chef Maryna is already showing her passion for fresh and seasonal produce, and this can only develop as her own vegetable and herb garden grows at Holden Manz, and she sources more unusual vegetables from Daniel Kruger at La Motte.

Disclosure: Holden Manz GM Wayne Buckley refused to accept my payment for the dinner.

Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Tel (021) 876-2729. www.holdenmanz.com Twitter: @Holden Manz  @MarynaChef   Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

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

SA’s Top Chefs focus on ethics, seasonality, local ingredients, smoking, pickling, and more!

The focus of the Eat Out Top 19 Finalist Restaurants is in line with international trends, and our chefs are experimenting in creating new dishes, and are sharpening their ethics, in cooking what is in season, and in limiting their sourcing to a limited geographic distance from their kitchens, reported Eat Out in evaluating ‘trends’ in our top restaurant kitchens.  Imported gourmet delicacies are taking a back seat.

Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff is known for his ethical focus, sourcing what he can from Spier’s Farmer Angus.  He builds his menus around the honestly-produced ingredients that are seasonally available.  Chef Rudi Liebenberg from Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson hotel is also sourcing his produce from Spier, and having guinea fowl and turkey specially bred for his restaurant.

Vegetables and fruit gardens are all the trend, and none can beat the beauty and abundance of Babylonstoren.  In terms of unique vegetables and herbs, La Motte’s new vegetable and herb garden developed by Daniel Kruger is leading the pack, with vegetables in unusual sizes, colours, and shapes.  A new form of admirable chef collegiality has come to the fore amongst what in reality are competitors, with La Motte also supplying Grande Provence, Reuben’s, Le Franschhoek Hotel, The Tasting Room, Haute Cabriere, and some Stellenbosch restaurants, with specific produce, usually kept secret by Kruger from the other chefs.  Smaller vegetable and herb gardens have been developed at Delaire Graff, The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel for The Greenhouse, and at Majeka House for its Makaron restaurant.

‘Local is lekker’, not only in terms of produce sourced from close by, but also in going back to traditional South African recipes, is another trend.  At the forefront is Pierneef à La Motte, which has published ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, a collection of recipes from our Dutch, British, French Huguenot, and German foremothers, giving them a modern twist.  At the House of Mosaic Chef Chantel Dartnall is digging into her gran’s cookery books. Hartford House too is discovering unique ingredients from its region in KwaZulu-Natal.   Springbok and other game is popular amongst tourists, and is served at The Greenhouse and Planet Restaurant, amongst others.  The Tasting Room is using local as well as quirky ingredients too.

Chef Eric Bulpitt of The Roundhouse and Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte have both worked stages at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, coming back with a foraging trend, and focusing on ‘lacto-fermentation’, or pickling, a Nordic preservation technique to allow restaurants in Scandinavia to have a food supply in their winter months.  Chef George Jardine is pickling too, especially flowers.  Chef Bertus Basson is smoking produce in his new smoker at Overture.

Chef Richard Carstens of Tokara has been experimenting for years, studying the techniques of the world’s best ‘cooking masters’, and is experimenting with Komaboko, a Japanese cured processed beautifully-shaped fish dish.  Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen has created his own laboratory close to his restaurants, very much in trend with the world’s top restaurant (Noma, ex-El Bulli).  La Colombe has created a 5-course tasting menu with elements of earth, wind, water, love, and fire.

Exposure to top international restaurants, as well as visits by international chefs to Cape Town and the Winelands, is upping the local gourmet bar, meaning an exciting summer lying ahead for restaurant diners, as well as a possibly different-looking Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants list this year, given the focus on ethical, local, and seasonal sourcing in particular by the finalist restaurants not previously on the Top 10 list!

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

Franschhoek chefs up their gourmet game, learn Nordic cuisine at world’s No 1 Restaurant Noma!

Franschhoek is upping its gourmet game, with two local chefs having spent some weeks at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and bearing a 2-Michelin star rating since 2008, in the past three months. Both Chef Shaun Schoeman from Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms-Delta and Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte returned inspired and have fine-tuned their menus and cooking to incorporate Nordic cuisine into their local gourmet offering.

The restaurant’s philosophy is on the homepage of its website:

“In an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture,
hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future

Chef Chris Erasmus, Pierneef à La Motte

Yesterday I met with Chef Chris Erasmus, a week after his return from Noma, at which he had spent close to a month.  I asked him why he had taken the time to leave his post as Executive Chef, and start from scratch at Noma. Chef Chris said he wanted to study how Chef René Redzepi had taken a restaurant which had been laughed at initially for focusing on Nordic cooking, initially not very exciting and then synonymous with ‘whale blubber and fish eyes’ (like Bobotie would be for South African cuisine, he said), and taking it to the number one restaurant in the world, and having kept it there for three years running.  What Chef Chris does at Pierneef à La Motte, in foraging from nature, and in cooking what one has, is reflected at Noma too. Chef Chris has Daniel Kruger growing a range of unusual herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers for him at La Motte,  with only one of 13 items in the salad farm grown, and the balance foraged,  while Noma is supplied by specialist producers.

Chef Chris was impressed by the systems of the restaurants, each person working for the restaurant knowing what is going on.  A meeting is called by the Restaurant Manager prior to service, in which they discuss any specific dietary requirements of guests, so that the chefs are prepared for this upfront, and not told about them when the guests arrive.  The Restaurant Manager, from Australia, is in the running for a Restaurant Manager of the Year Award in Denmark. Chris said that his knowledge is amazing, having spent so much time with the chefs to get to know the dishes that he can cook them himself. There are 45 kitchen chefs, with another 25 volunteers unpaid and just there to learn more from this leading restaurant.  Only two of the chefs are Danish, the others coming from the USA, Australia, Germany, and Mexico in the main.  The rules are strict, and one is expected to follow them 100%.  A mistake made a second time will lead one to be told to leave. Staff are treated politely, even though Chef René can lose his cool on occasion. No dishes are allowed to be photographed or distributed via Social Media by staff or volunteers.

There are three kitchen sections that the volunteers go through, starting with the Preparation Kitchen, foraging produce, and getting them ready. Chef Chris spent less than a week here.  The second level was the Hot Kitchen, dealing with the restaurant service, and here Chef Chris gave more than expected, already coming to work at 5h00 in the morning (instead of 9h00), and usually getting home to the hostel he was staying at at 2h00 instead of the usual 23h00.  This allowed him to work with the other chefs and learn from them, and to show them how eager he was to learn, so that he could move through the three kitchens.  The third kitchen is the experimental Test Kitchen, which has two scientists and a chef, creating new dishes. Lactic acid fermentation is the foundation of many of the new dishes, a natural process bringing out the Umami in food, eradicating the need to add salt or sugar to food.  There is no salt on the restaurant tables, nor is it added to food.  The maximum sugar content of any dish is 12%. They make their own Miso paste too, taking a few months, ant purée, fermented crickets, and more. Chef Chris shared that he tasted bee larva, having a very rich creamy wax taste.

Chef René greets each guest as they arrive at his restaurant. He works seven days a week, even though the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Chef Chris came to work on Mondays, again to learn as much as possible.  Noma has an excellent Head Chef and Sous Chefs, on whom Chef René can rely while he is busy with the guests, and spends time in the Test Kitchen. The chefs serve the guests.  Waiters cannot work at Noma if they have not studied to be a waiter for three years at a local college.  The role of the waiters is to explain the dishes to the guests. Guests are served 16 ‘snacks’ as a start to the Tasting Menu in rapid succession over 12 minutes, literally a mouthful each. This is followed by four courses, the size of our starters, being a vegetable dish, a meat dish, a fish dish, and a dessert, at a cost of about R2250. The restaurant is flexible in what they serve, to allow for dietary requirements. The Test Kitchen’s role is to add new dishes to the menu, and Chef Chris saw five new dishes being developed in the time that he was there. One of the dishes developed while Chef Chris was in the Test Kitchen was ‘Lacto Plum and Forever Beets’, served with lemon verbena and fennel soup, the beetroot being roasted for three hours, and its leathery skin then peeled off, the inside tasting like liquorice.

To learn from each other, especially the visiting chefs, they have Saturday night ‘Projects’ after service, in the early Sunday morning hours, presenting their own dishes, which are evaluated by the fellow chefs and the scientists.  Chef Chris missed the opportunity to present a dish.

Chef Chris has been inspired by his experience at Noma, and changes are already being made to his current menu.  He has added Lacto-fermented Porcini broth to his menu, inspired by Noma, made by adding salt to the mushrooms and vacuum-packing them, until they ferment at ambient room temperature. This creates enzymes which break down the bad bacteria, bringing out the natural savoury flavour.  The summer menu will be much lighter, with far more foraged herbs and flowers, and some unique vegetables grown for him by Daniel.  Artichokes, peas, and broadbeans are at their best right now, and Chef Chris showed me the some of his vegetables and herbs, which had been picked for him at 10h00 yesterday morning.  They are only using Raspberry Vinegar now, instead of vinaigrettes.  He will focus on only using vegetables and herbs from the La Motte garden.

Chef Chris has invited Chef René to visit (he was in Cape Town for what seemed literally a flying visit in February when he addressed the ‘Design Indaba’).  He was inspired by his experience, and it is visible in his big smile, and new passion for his craft. While others may not have had such a good time, he said that ‘you get out what you put in’. He lost 15 kg in the time, just working and sleeping for a short while.  He can’t wait to go back in a winter time, to see how they use all the preserved foods they prepare in the summer months, such as pickled rosebuds, and fermented plums. Having had to start at the bottom at Noma, he has a better understanding of his staff, yet expects ‘150%’ of them, Chef Chris said.  One of his American co-volunteers at Noma started at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town this week.

Chef Chris’ Noma experience, coupled with the fantastic vegetable and herb garden on the farm, are sure to earn Pierneef à La Motte an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Award in November!

Chef Shaun Schoeman, Fyndraai, Solms-Delta

In June, Chef Shaun Schoeman of Solms-Delta’s Fyndraai Restaurant spent two weeks working in one of the kitchens at Noma.  Chef Shaun’s feedback was that the simplicity of Noma’s menu, which lists items like ‘pike perch and cabbage’‘cooked fava beans and beach herbs’ and ‘the hen and the egg,’ belies its sophisticated appeal, as evidenced by the backlog of keen diners waiting for bookings. Noma is known for its contemporary reinterpretation of Nordic cuisine. This includes a return to the traditional methods of pickling, curing, smoking, and fermenting as well as the integration of many indigenous herbs and plants. Redzepi himself has worked with the world’s best, having spent time at both El Bulli in Spain (when it was the world’s number one restaurant), and the French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley.

“There are many similarities between the kinds of indigenous elements we use here at Fyndraai and what chef Redzepi has become known for in his cuisine,” said Shaun, who felt that he could only benefit from doing a stint at the world-famous Noma. After his acceptance as a stagier, he packed his bags and flew to Copenhagen, where he joined a production kitchen staffed by over 50 chefs from around the world, all there to learn the philosophy and techniques of this influential chef. “Everyone who works at Noma, no matter what their experience, starts in the production kitchen,” explained Shaun, where the standards for preparation and hygiene are exacting and the hours extremely long, with shifts of up to 14 hours. Only after three months will Chef Redzepi consider moving a stagier into the main service kitchen.  Every morning, a group of the production kitchen chefs go out to the nearby seaside to forage for fresh wild herbs and leaves, like nettles, wild rocket, sea coral, and wild garlic. Upon their return, they set to work on their pickings, cutting leaves into uniform sizes, all done on a tray kept over ice. “Temperature is extremely important as the herbs must be kept cold, but never below the temperature of the fridge.”

For a Franschhoek-born and bred native, it was an amazing experience for Shaun. He was overwhelmed by the incredible fresh fish and seafood that came through the production kitchen daily, including live crabs and luscious sea scallops still in their shells. All vegetables were organic and specially grown for the restaurant. A great example of Noma’s high standards was the daily sorting of fresh green peas into varying sizes!  But aside from the differences in product and handling, when it came to the indigenous plants themselves, Shaun found that they were not dramatically different from the plants he relies on at Fyndraai, which are grown in the estate’s Dik Delta Garden. “We have many versions of the same plants, the major difference being that the Scandinavian herbs have more subtlety. South African indigenous herbs are sharper, which means that you really need the knowledge and training to harness their flavour without overpowering dishes.” Shaun returned from Copenhagen infused with energy and appreciation for the wide variety of herbs he has at his discretion, which collectively he refers to as “my baby.” He uses only indigenous herbs grown on site, so management of ingredients is crucial. That said, he feels he has a great deal of flexibility – one of the perks of a kitchen garden – and is always able to find a pleasing substitute if one herb is temporarily depleted.  The ingredient he’s most crazy about is citrus buchu, which he says is the most fantastic herb he’s ever worked with. “It’s got a sexy, citrus flavour that really lifts everything it touches. It works equally well with savoury dishes or desserts, and can be used in anything from infusions to a flavouring in bread rolls.”

He’s also extremely partial to spekboom, a small-leaved succulent also known as ‘elephant bush’, which is very versatile. At Fyndraai, it receives various treatments, from a quick stir-fry to lightly-dressed salad greens, and from pickling to its use as an ingredient in a cold cucumber soup. In its pickled form, it’s one in a range of signature Dik Delta products Shaun has recently started producing and selling on the farm. Some of the others are lemon and wild rosemary chutney, lemon and gemoedsrus (fortified Shiraz) marmalade, and wild herb rubs. Customers love taking these products, which they cannot find elsewhere, home to their own kitchens to experiment with.  “The indigenous herbs play sometimes starring, and more often supporting roles in the food we create at Fyndraai, depending on the nature and flavour of the plants themselves,” Shaun said.  The key is quantity, and knowing how much to add to a dish, and when to add it. Sometimes they are added directly to dishes, at other times infused into sauces, used to create syrups which provide complementary flavours to a dish and even as flavourings in ice cream!  The plants are propagated at Dik Delta, the large ‘kitchen garden’ on the wine estate. The two-hectare veld garden is overseen by a team of trained Solms-Delta residents. It yields crops of dynamic herbs, many of which were on the verge of extinction before the birth of this valuable culinary-bio project.

Today, the garden is the restaurant’s source for everything from wild asparagus to spekboom to makatan, an indigenous melon which Shaun cooks into one of the Dik Delta preserves. The garden is in full spring flower, with sunny yellow patches of honeybush, which flowers will be picked and dried for honeybush tea, and the dark mauve flowers of the Bobbejaantjies (little baboons) or Babiana. While this striking flower is most often used as an ornamental plant, it has a highly nutritious bulb or corm that can be eaten raw or cooked; it tastes a little like a potato and can be used as a vegetable in stews or in salads. Since Fyndraai opened four years ago, cooking with these plants has been an ongoing learning process for Shaun as well as his staff, all of whom were initially kitchen novices. This had many advantages, because they had no preconceived notions or bad habits to break. He is extremely proud of his kitchen crew, who handle the complex menu and its preparations with confidence and expertise.

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000.  www.la-motte.com Twitter: @Pierneeflamotte

Fyndraai, Solms-Delta, Delta Road, off R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-3937.  www.solms-delta.co.za Twitter: @Solms_Delta

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

Cape Restaurant Week: new restaurant specials, new reservation system!

An Amsterdam restaurant concept has been introduced to South Africa, kicking off in Cape Town and the Winelands, offering a real-time reservation system, and introducing the first Dining City Restaurant Week of specials from 22 – 29 September, whereby locals will be able to enjoy two and three course lunches and dinners at reasonable prices, and experience the real-time booking system of new restaurant website www.diningcity.com.  In the Netherlands the most recent Restaurant Week generated 200000 bookings from more than 1000 restaurants.

DiningCity Restaurant Week is the concept of ​​the world’s leading online restaurant guide www.DiningCity.com. The company was founded in 1998 in Amsterdam, and is currently active in Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Spain, and outside Europe in cities like New York, Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai, and Beijing. On the South African website one can select restaurants on price, cuisine, location and atmosphere. Information about the restaurants is presented by means of photos, menus and videos.

The principle of the system is that for Restaurant Week restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands offer a certain number of their seats to Restaurant Week, with a 3 course lunch costing R125 and a 3-course dinner costing R200.  Some restaurants will charge a supplement of R50, indicated with a star on the Dining City website (and in the list below). The condition is that all restaurant reservations must be made via the website, which automated system will confirm the booking, send reminders on the date of the booking, and will request feedback about the meal experience the following day. This will eliminate the taking of bookings telephonically or by e-mail, and should reduce no-shows, a problem which Cape Town restaurants experience regularly.  Initially the restaurants will not be charged to join Restaurant Week (in Amsterdam restaurants pay € 200 per year to be part of the system, said Dining City CEO Tertius van Oosthuyzen), but they will pay R10 per seat booked.  I caught Tertius just before his flight back to Amsterdam, and he was delighted that he had managed to get 20000 seats on board in the first few days of launching Restaurant Week almost a month ago. He is hoping to get 40 restaurants on board by the time that Restaurant Week starts.

The 38 restaurants which have signed up for Restaurant Week already are: Planet Restaurant*, The Roundhouse*, The Duchess of Wisbeach*, Pigalle*, 5 Rooms*, Ashton’s at Greenways, Baia, Balducci’s, Belthazar, Blakes*, Blues Beach House, Buitenverwachting*, Bukhara*, Café Chic, Café Dijon, Catharina’s*, Chandani, Five Flies*, Gold Restaurant*, Haiku*, Il Cappero, Jackal & Hide, L’Apero*, La Mouette*, Marimba, Myoga*, Paranga*, Pepenero*, Pure, Reserve, Roberto’s, Savoy Cabbage, Signal Restaurant, The Bungalow,* The George @ Romney Park Hotel, The Grand Café and Beach, Top of the Ritz, and Westin Executive Club*.

Few Winelands restaurants have been signed up to date:  Roca* at Dieu Donné, Haute Cabriere*, Dish at Le Franschhoek (photograph), Mange Tout*, Monneaux*, and Waterkloof*.

Tertius was at pains to explain that they are not taking on beleaguered Eat Out, the largest restaurant database in South Africa, and he was happy to see that they have posted a write-up about Restaurant Week on their site.

Restaurant Week will form part of Cape Town’s promotion of tourism in September. “We are keen to encourage locals to come out of hibernation, with an offer that will not be equalled in terms of quality and value, until the next DiningCity Restaurant Week,” said Tertius.  Next year Dining City SA will focus on Johannesburg, for the second Restaurant Week they will organise, in April.  It is planned to host two such restaurant special promotions every year.

POSTSCRIPT 22/9: The Restaurant Week started today, and I tried to make a booking at Dish Restaurant at Le Franschhoek via the Dining City website, but it has no link to the Restaurant Week website, on which one has to make the restaurant bookings for the Restaurant Week.  When I got to the right website, I could not make the booking, as it had already eliminated today’s date, and only offered dates from tomorrow onwards. Earlier in the day I was asked to provide feedback about the booking process by Dining City via Twitter, which I did, and I received a number of defensive and aggressive Tweets as well as DM’s (Direct Messages), basically questioning my intelligence about not understanding their websites and booking system.  The Tweeter was Tertius van Oosthuyzen, the Dining City CEO! Not a good introduction of this Dutch businessman to our local restaurant industry!

Despite the bad Tweet start with Dining City, I had a lovely evening at Dish Restaurant, and Chef Oliver Cattermole and his team were firing on all cylinders. Three courses at R200 is exceptional value. His amuse bouche was the highlight this evening, a cranberry-coated chicken liver ‘popsicle’.  The starter was a mushroom soup which I have tasted previously.  The main course was beef fillet with Chef Oliver’s famous ‘vegetable garden’ plating, using vegetables grown for him especially at La Motte by Daniel Kruger.  The dessert was a chocolate fondant made from 100% smoked chocolate, served with a cognac ice cream, and a hazelnut chocolate paste smear.  Chef Oliver sent a taste of Le Franschhoek’s new Lemoncello, which he made from the hotel’s own produce, to the table.

Dining City Restaurant Week, 22 – 29 September. www.DiningCity.co.za Twitter: @DiningCitySA

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

La Motte Herbs & Vegetables: supplying organic specialist produce to restaurants!

I first heard about La Motte’s Herbs & Vegetables organic vegetable and herb supply from enthusiastic client Chef Oliver Cattermole at Dish restaurant at Le Franschhoek,  who shared that La Motte’s Daniel Kruger supplies him with specialist vegetables in colours and sizes he requests for his beautiful dishes.  It is a fantastic example of collegiality, in that La Motte is sharing its organic produce with its restaurant colleagues.

Meeting with Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte last week, he connected me with Daniel Kruger, who is in charge of the specialist vegetable and herb farm, and the La Motte farm manager Pietie le Roux.  I met both at Leopard’s Leap, where Daniel shared that the new business was started at the beginning of the year, and that it has grown to not only supply Pierneef á La Motte, but also other top restaurants in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

Daniel told me that he has been involved in large scale vegetable farming in the Free State, and has only more recently operated in the Cape, in the capacity as a consultant in the past.   The emphasis is very definitely on the organic production of the vegetables and herbs, and this means not using pesticides nor herbicides.  Daniel said they do nothing chemical to counter any problems, and there are few threats, having no snails, and few aphids or worms. Guinea fowl are the biggest threat, loving to eat the fresh leaves of the small cabbage plants, and therefore Daniel has created a clever ‘boer maak ‘n plan’ system of wires to keep them out of his vegetable beds. Many of the weeds have pretty flowers, and these are used by the chefs to decorate their plates.  Compost is made from wood chips and winery offall, and can reduce the growing of weeds when the beds are covered with the compost.  Using compost also means that the vegetable growth is slower, but the taste is better, Daniel explained.

Daniel has got to know his chef customers well, and each has his or her own requirements in terms of the types of vegetables and herbs they want, as well as the sizes and colours they want them in. He explained that his seed suppliers are able to provide him with the colour requirements of his chef customers, and he can control the size of the vegetables according to the chefs’ requirements – the photograph shows the baby aubergines in yellow and green, which are Chef Oliver’s special choice.  Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef á La Motte has first choice of all Daniel’s planting, and then the other chefs are served.  If Daniel has an oversupply of an item, he will contact the chefs, and offer it to them.   Carrots, beetroot, lettuce, spring onions, radishes and turnips are some of the vegetables which Daniel can supply in more than one (traditional) colour.  The main photograph contains a medley of these, including bulls blood baby beetroot, radicchio, golden beetroot, mange tout, sugar snaps, kale, and purple spring onion.

Daniel is testing which plants are most suitable to the area, peas and mint for example being very sensitive to the southeaster in Franschhoek, despite the netting which he uses to prevent wind damage.

Vegetables and herbs grown by Daniel and his team of eight include peas, bold fennel, beetroot, radicchio (bitter salad), spinach, English spinach, chives, spring onions, lemon thyme, silver thyme, normal thyme, lettuce, rosemary, sorrel, basil, sage, rhubarb, nasturtiums, French tarragon, Bayleaf trees, mint, artichoke, wild rocket, specialised heirloom tomatoes, black and red potatoes, kohlrabi, black and pink turnips, and granadilla.  Edible flowers are supplied too, including radish, pak choi, rocket, fennel and spring onion flowers.  Even some of the weeds, including ramnas (wild mustard), Kaapse misbredie, and varkslaai are used, as they have a good taste and texture. Daniel is very excited about how well his test strawberries are growing, ready to bear fruit in three weeks, and he will plant more next season.

We spoke about the availability of fresh herbs all year round, and Daniel said that it wasn’t a problem for most herbs.  However, coriander is impossible to supply fresh in summer, it being too hot to grow, and would have to be flown in at up to R250 per kg.  A herb such as rosemary tastes different when it flowers, its branches being harder in this time.

Daniel said that they have the capacity to supply more local restaurants, but emphasised that it takes up to three months to grow specific vegetable and herb requirements.  He supplies daily, and he went back to pick produce for his chef clients after we had finished our tour at 17h30, saying that ‘the fresher, the better’.

The day after the farm visit I popped in at Pierneef à La Motte, and asked Chef Chris Erasmus which dish he could recommend to encapsulate the produce from the farm the best. He prepared a most beautiful and special Spring Salad with the produce which Daniel had brought to him, picked at 7h00 that morning. The salad contained a nasturtium flower, pea flowers, sorrel flowers, nasturtium leaves, watercress leaves (the first harvested ever on that day), baby carrots, baby beetroot, peas, mange tout, sugar snaps, baby onions, and rocket leaves, with praline nuts, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds, and a nasturtium dressing.  Chef Chris said that Daniel brings him what he has supply of, and they work around the produce to create dishes for the day.  Chef Chris emphasised that there is a relationship of trust, Daniel providing special vegetables and herbs for each chef, but never sharing that information with others.

The ‘marriage’ between the farm and kitchen at La Motte is true foraging, and is testimony to this wine estate’s slogan of ‘A Culture of Excellence’.  It is ahead of most other restaurants in the country in this respect, and one can hardly eat fresher vegetables and herbs than at Pierneef à La Motte!  It makes Pierneef à La Motte a strong Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant contender.

La Motte Herbs & Vegetables, Tel 071 438 1760 (Daniel)

Pierneef à La Motte, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8800. www.la-motte.com Twitter: @PierneefLaMotte Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Thursday – Saturday dinner.

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

What a dish Dish Restaurant has become at Le Franschhoek hotel!

I became a fan of Chef Oliver Cattermole when he was at Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria hotel last year.  The opportunity to try some of the dishes on his new menu at Dish restaurant at the Le Franschhoek hotel reflected the creative cuisine skills of the Michelin two-star La Gavroche trained chef.

Seeking clarification on a winter menu special, I Tweeted Chef Oliver, and he invited me to try his new winter menu last month, the first menu containing only his dishes since he started at the hotel nine months ago. I had not been impressed with the restaurant on previous visits, but a number of changes, including the menu, made the meal one of my highlights in Franschhoek this year.

When I arrived, I saw a special table with new high back chairs and a tall silver candelabra prepared for me. I was happy to see that the Eetrite cutlery had been set out for a number of courses, eliminating the problem of stretching.  On the table was a vase with the most beautiful Blushing Brides, and coarse Atlantic sea salt and pepper grinders.  The beautiful table setting alone made me feel like a queen. The table was closest to the pass, which is open to the restaurant, so I could chat to Chef Oliver and ask him questions about his delicious dishes.  I was delighted to see that the piano had been moved to the side of the dining room, and was not played, as I have experienced before. Despite it being a freezing cold evening, it was cosy and warm inside, with a modern mobile gas heater in the centre of the room.

Chef Oliver started his career on a part-time basis whilst still at school, cutting his teeth with Chef George Jardine, then at the Cellars Hohenhort hotel. After school he started at Haute Cabriere, working for Chef Matthew Gordon, before leaving for London, where he worked in Chef Michel Roux Jnr’s La Gavroche kitchen in London for a year, describing ‘him as generally a nice guy’. The kitchen had a staff complement of about 20, all French speaking. He learnt the discipline of cooking at La Gavroche.  Chef Michel Jnr did a Masterclass on MasterChef SA, and impressed with his way of dealing with the Finalists, firm but friendly. Chef Oliver also did a two day stage in Alain Ducasse’s kitchen at the Dorchester Hotel, just for the opportunity to learn from this esteemed chef. He also worked at top London restaurants The Ivy and Cannizaro House, before missing sunny South Africa, and returning to Cape Town.

Phillip is a Zimbabwean Hospitality Management intern from the International Hotel School, doing his training at the Le Franschhoek hotel, and he was very proactive in looking after me in serving the food as well as pouring the wine.  He told me that he is studying in South Africa, due to the better quality hospitality training offered locally, and the excellent wine estates in the Cape, having visited almost all of those in Franschhoek already. The dishes were served paired with wines especially selected by Chef Oliver from the special wine collection of the hotel.

The first dish was a Forest mushroom soup served with a semi-dried tomato and mushroom soil, which came to the table with home-made brown bread, and was paired with Hoopenburg Pinot Noir 2008.  It was one of the highlights of the meal, being thick and creamy, and a perfect antidote to the cold outside. The mushrooms are foraged by a supplier in Stellenbosch.  On the starter menu the dish costs R 65.

One of the most beautiful Autumn-inspired dishes was the vegetarian ‘A Taste and Textures from the garden’, costing R100 on the main course section of the menu, and consists of a purée of beetroot, parsnip, sheets of beetroot, dried red onion, cavioli (cauliflower), baby marrow, a beetroot crisp, butternut purée, spinach purée, baby turnips, served with beetroot soil, and red and green caviar drops. This dish was paired with a Mont Rochelle Unwooded Chardonnay 2010.  Chef Oliver told me that he sources his vegetables and herbs from Daniel Kruger, who grows special produce to chefs’ specification outside Franschhoek. He brings seeds for unusual sized and coloured vegetables (e.g. purple potatoes, black radishes, yellow and green-striped aubergines the size of golf balls) from the USA and Holland.

The Duck Bon-Bon starter with parsley root pureé and hot pickled vegetables costs R65, and was paired with a Terra del Capo Sangiovese 2008 from Antonij Rupert Wines in Franschhoek.  The duck is shredded, parsley is added, and rolled in Japanese breadcrumbs, served with spinach purée, and a piccalilli relish made from courgette, cauliflower, peppers, onions and vinegar.  The parsley root comes from the hotel’s own garden. The fourth course was a starter of pan-seared scallops served with a celeriac triangle and Ras El Hanout (honey-infused Moroccan spice mix, which has 21 spices such as hibiscus, rose petals, cardamom, cumin, fennel, ginger, chilli peppers, nutmeg, tumeric, pepper, cinnamon, pollen, curry powder, and coriander), as well as a golden cauliflower, coloured with tea and saffron, at R75.  This dish was served with a French wine, which Oliver had found in the hotel cellar, a Louis Satour Ardèche 2008 Chardonnay.  Chef Oliver sources the scallops from French importer Socomaf.

Compressed pork was served with a medley of apple pureé, toffee apple, and apple caviar, a fruit mustard, as well as a haricot bean purée, a dish which is also on their starter menu, and costs R60.  This dish was paired with Thelema Rhine Riesling 2008.  Other starters on the Dish menu are oak-smoked salmon (R75), and roasted beetroot with whipped goats’ cheese (R60).

The Roast rump of Karoo lamb with minted mash and young white and orange and red carrots was a filling main course, with three slices of lamb served, at R160.  This course was paired with Haut Espoir Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Other main courses include Chicken Bourguignon, line fish of the day, dry-aged beef fillet, and thyme-roasted venison, ranging in price from R125 – R160.

To complete the more than generous dinner Chef Oliver served Carrot Cake as a dessert, with a medley of carrot pureé, mousse, jelly, and paper, to which he had added walnut candy and raisin pureé, costing R60.  Other desserts have a similar cost, and include apple and sultana crumble, goats’ milk pannacotta, barrel-smoked chocolate fondant, and brioche treacle tart pain.

Every one of Chef Oliver’s dishes is a work of art, created by his team of thirteen, who not only prepare these lovely dinner dishes, but also look after the breakfast requirements of the hotel guests, prepare lunch and dinners at their Le Verger restaurant in the glass ‘hothouse’, and banqueting requirements for conferences, weddings, and other events. Chef Oliver is in the right place in Franschhoek, in the village which positions itself as the gourmet centre of the country, to present his creative cuisine.

Dish Restaurant, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Franschhoek.  Tel ()21) 876-8900.  www.lefranschhoek.co.za Monday – Sunday dinner, Sunday buffet.  Twitter @Le_Franschhoek

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