Entries tagged with “El BUlli”.


A lunch at Coco Safar, followed by a dinner three days later, were two chalk and cheese experiences, the former excellent and the latter hugely disappointing, especially as it was a birthday dinner treat for a special friend! I had last been to Coco Safar for breakfast early this year, after it opened in Sea Point, having moved from Cavendish Square.  (more…)

Chef’s Table is one of the most highly regarded cooking series on television, Netflix having set the highest bar in two series to date, each featuring six world class chefs, as well as one focused on top chefs in France, with outstanding filming. Now it has released a Pastry series of four episodes, deliciously mouthwatering!  (more…)

imageWhen I think of a Michelin star restaurant, I think of a restaurant at an elevated level of food, service, and decor. Never would I have imagined that two Michelin star Atera in TriBeCa in New York would serve its dinner to heavy loud rock music! (more…)

Bertus Basson at SR Interior doilies Whale CottageWinter is on the way, and the rate of new restaurant openings has slowed down dramatically, as has the move of chefs between restaurants, which was dramatic in 2014.  This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*   Bertus Basson at Spice Route has opened as a ‘modern South African restaurant‘ at Spice Route, the kitchen run by Chef Alistair Lawrence, previously from Roots and Overture (photograph).

*   Bacon on Bree has opened at 217 Bree Street, a bacon-inspired restaurant by charcuterier Richard Bosman and (more…)

Ferran Adria Culinary Conclave Ryan KingLooking at the past 20 year’s of our country’s democracy yesterday, I chose an article written about a recent ‘Culinary Conclave’ (or Indaba or Kosberaad, as we would call it) held by one of the world’s greatest chefs, Ferran Adrià of the former El Bulli, for inspiration for today’s blogpost.

Adrià and fellow chef Andoni Luis Aduriz invited 15 ‘gastronomic journalists‘ from around the world (none from our country) for a two day discussion about the past 20 years of gastronomy.  Each attendee was requested to present the gastronomic trends over the past two decades in their country, the impact of gastronomyFerran Adria Culinary Conclave group Ryan King original_ferran-conclave-group on society and culture, how the media has changed and influenced gastronomy, and how the definitions of ‘great cuisine‘ and ‘dining experience‘ have changed.

These were some of the gastronomic trends identified: (more…)

Springfontein Eats interior 2 Whale Cottage PortfolioIt was restaurant reviewer and now Platter’s  South African Wines 2014 publisher JP Rossouw who told me about Springfontein Eats outside Stanford, asking me at the launch of the wine guide whether I had already eaten there.  Having spent the past weekend in Hermanus, I drove to the restaurant on Saturday, finding a culinary oasis, with former 1 star Michelin Chef Jürgen Schneider preparing a lunch feast justSpringfontein Eats Chef Juergen Schneider Whale Cottage Portfolio for me!

I had booked for lunch and was the only patron in the restaurant, despite it being a long weekend.  The restaurant opened two months ago. Springfontein was bought by Jürgen and Susanne Schneider as well as by Johst and Jen Weber in 1994, then a cattle farm. The farm had belonged to David Trafford’s father in law, and it was suggested to them that the abundance of water, the terroir, the limestone soil, the nearby ocean location, the difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures, and the slope on the farm, would be ideal for wine production, which advice they followed and they started planting vines eleven years ago.   They were laughed at initially, being ridiculed for the ‘vinegar’ that they would be producing, but they have proven their critics wrong!   Springfontein is the oldest wine farm in Stanford.  They sold their grapes to Hamilton Russell and to Rupert & Rothschild initially, until they started making their own wines 7 – 8 years ago.

The road to Springfontein is not the easiest to find in Stanford, one driving down Stanford’s main road, and then turning left into Moore Road, and carrying on straight, the road becoming a gravel one and taking one to Springfontein 5 km along.  The road signs are tiny, not brown tourism ones, as I had expected.  Gravel roads are not my favourite, due to a childhood experience of a car accident on such a road, but the condition of the road was reasonable.

Three cottages on the farm have been transformed into guest accommodation, and the Springfontein Winery wine cellar was built.  The old homestead was transformed into Springfontein Eats restaurant, the most recent of the facilities on the wine estate to open.  I asked Chef Jürgen why he would leave a lucrative and successful Michelin star graded restaurant Strahlenberger Hof in Schriesheim they have run for 18 years,  (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   South Africa has 38 organic and 10 biodynamic wine producers.

*  The Beautiful South’ tasting of South African, Chilean, and Argentinian wines was so successful with over 1000 visitors earlier this month, that it will be held in London again on 10 and 11 September 2014.  The three countries’ wines will also be featured at Prowein 2014.

*   A municipal strike is due to start in Cape Town from tomorrow (Monday 23 September).

*   Snow fell on the Helderberg Mountain in Somerset West twice in the past month, the latest snow falling on Thursday evening.  The last snowfall was recorded in 1978!

*   The world’s first Avozilla has been grown by Westfalia Fruit Estate in Limpopo, a maxi avocado being five times larger than a standard avocado and weighing about 1,3 kg, (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 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

Yesterday Rougié, the world’s largest producer of foie gras, introduced a number of us to their method of foie gras production, dispelled all myths of the ‘cruelty’ of this production, and spoilt us with a wonderful Chef’s Table lunch at the Mount Nelson Hotel.

Guy de Saint-Laurent, Directeur: Commercial Export of Rougié Sarlat, flew in from France to explain to Chef Rudi Liebenberg from the Mount Nelson’s Planet Restaurant, Chef Dylan Laity of Aubergine, and Chef Darren Badenhorst from Grande Provence how duck foie gras is produced.  The company specialises in foie gras supply to the restaurant industry, and calls itself the ‘Chef’s Foie Gras’.  We were told that foie gras is one of the oldest food products, having been developed in Egypt 5000 years ago, the Pharaohs already force fattening wild birds at that time.  For their long journeys to other parts of the world in winter, the birds naturally overfeed to create a natural layer of fat around their liver, for their long flights, doubling their weight. The first foie gras recipes emanate from Rome, and were based on geese livers. Now 80% of the world’s production comes from France, with another 15 % being produced in Spain, Belgium, Japan, and the USA.  With the introduction of corn from America to France, the production of foie gras was revolutionised, in being used to force feed the ducks and geese.  Foie gras is produced from Moulard ducks, a cross between Muscovy and Pekin ducks.  Up to 98% of all foie gras is made from duck, taking 12 weeks to breed and 10 days to be fattened, while geese need 14 weeks breeding time and 21 days of fattening.  Duck foie gras is more affordable therefore, and tastes better, Guy said.  Its preparation has been mainly pan-fried or seared in the past, but Rougié is working on guiding chefs to find more uses for it. The company has recently set up the L’Ecole Du Foie Gras, teaching chefs the art of foie gras usage.

We were shown a video of how duck are fed a boiled corn ‘mash’ with a tube which goes into their crop, the process called ‘gavage‘.  This process takes 3 minutes, and is done once a day over the last 12 days of the duck’s life.  Vets visit the foie gras farms, and confirmed that ducks are ‘anatomically pre-disposed to be force fed’,  having a long neck, and that there is ‘no indication of stress’ to the ducks, a study showed.  The quality of the treatment of the ducks is reflected in the quality of the foie gras that is produced.  Rougié exports foie gras to 120 countries around the world, either raw, in cans, or flash frozen, the latter having a taste and texture ‘as good as fresh’. The company is a co-operative of about 700 duck farmers, foie gras being one of the products they make.

Foie gras has nutritional benefits, containing Vitamins B, C, and E.  A slice of foie gras has 260 Kcal, compared to a hamburger having 275 Kcal, and a pizza 600 Kcal.  It has good fat similar to that in olive oil, and protects the heart.  It is a food that can be adapted to the food traditions of the world, going well with the sweet, sour, and acidity in ingredients.  The Japanese are even making foie gras sushi, and the Chinese are making foie gras dumplings for Dim Sum.

While we were listening to the presentation, Chef Rudi’s team was busy preparing a foie gras feast for us, a nine-course lunch of small portions, to demonstrate the diversity of foie gras.    Chef Rudi’s brief to his team was to do him and the foie gras proud in the dishes that they created for this unique lunch. Three foie gras canapés were served with Villiera Tradition Brut NV, a terrine with beetroot, a macaroon, and a whipped foie gras torchon.   We discussed the reaction to foie gras, and that the state of California has banned its use in restaurants, despite foie gras being USDA approved.  Restaurants in the state wish to reverse the ban through legal action.  Guy said that the negative reaction comes from foie gras being seen to be for the well-to-do, making it elitist, the gavache method of feeding, and the love for comic characters such as Daffy and Donald Duck.

We started with frozen shaved foie gras, which was served with pine nuts and litchi, a  fresh surprise combination of ingredients, which Assistant Sommelier Farai Magwada paired with Bellingham’s The Bernard Series Chenin Blanc 2011.  Guy told us that he has chefs which visit restaurants around the world, especially to those far away from France, to educate and excite chefs about the preparation of foie gras. Last week Guy and Sagra Foods, the importers of the Rougié foie gras, had hosted similar lunches at The Westcliff with Chef Klaus Beckmann, and at The Saxon with Chef David Higgs, of whom Guy said that his work was two star Michelin quality, having been more classic in his foie gras usage.  Foie gras served with fresh apple, apple chutney, on an oats streusel, was paired with Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2007.

I asked Guy about cookbooks about foie gras, and he told me that three have been written to date, one produced for Rougié, another done by Chef Nobu of the restaurant group by the same name, and the third by Beijing restaurant Da Dong. Given that Rougié was not prescriptive about how the foie gras should be served at its South African lunches, it seemed a good idea to develop a compilation of the dishes served, perhaps even including those lying ahead for Guy in Mauritius and Reunion.  An indian touch came through with foie gras and curried banana being sandwiched between two poppadom crisps, served with a fresh Solms-Delta Koloni 2010. A fun dish was pairing foie gras with popcorn and chicken breast, which was paired with Jordan Chameleon 1995.  As if we had not eaten enough already, we had a small palate cleanser, being duck confit with artichoke and mash.

We moved to fish, for which we were served fish knives, for hake cured with lemon and lemon grass, served with foie gras spuma and grilled melon, and paired with Cederberg Bukettraube 2011.    Guy explained that sous vide was invented for foie gras, and has since been adapted for use for other foods.  He also told me that French chefs predominantly used foie gras in terrines, but since Rougié has started marketing their products, and running their chefs’ courses, they are seeing it put to a greater number of creative uses. The beef, marinated mushrooms, and foie gras emulsion was paired with L’Omarins Optima 2006.  We talked about Chef Rudi’s support of Farmer Angus at Spier, buying his free-range meats, and having guinea fowl and turkey bred for his restaurant.

The Mount Nelson’s creative pastry chef Vicky Gurovich has just returned from a stage at Chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in Great Milton, and visited Valrhona in Paris.  Her dessert creation of a foie gras, Valrhona chocolate and toffee terrine served with hazelnuts was the pièce de résistance. It was paired with Nederburg Eminence Noble Late Harvest 2009.

Sagra Foods was established in 1994, and operates from Cape Town, but distributes a range of exclusive foods and wines nationally, and even into Southern Africa, planning to make this country a hub of distribution of its fine foods into Africa, Darryn Lazarus said.  They commenced with Italian products, but decided to focus and specialise on premium products such as truffle oils, truffle butters, and many more, to make these products more affordable for local chefs.  Darryn said they are the ‘pioneers in specialty ingredients’, using wholesalers like Wild Peacock to offer chefs a single source of supply.  They import products ‘that make a difference’ from France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and the USA. So, for example, they sell El Bulli’s Texturas range, being the technical elements which once world best Chef Ferran Adria uses in his molecular gastronomy; De Cecco pasta from Italy; Vilux French mustards and vinegars; Borde dried mushrooms; Belberry jams, sauces, syrups, and vinegars; pastry cases with an 8 month shelf life; Australian Massel beef, chicken and vegetable stocks which are kosher, halaal, and gluten-free; and Tea Forte, the original designers of the tea pyramid, with such award-winning tea flavours as Blueberry Merlot and Lemon Sorbet.

The Mount Nelson was praised by Guy for its playful and less classic interpretation of the foie gras challenge, and he liked how the structure and taste of the foie gras was brought to the fore with the ingredients used by Chef Rudi’s chefs.  It was a most informative, once-in-a-lifetime lunch highlight, with excellent food, paired with a amazing range of wines, good company, and hosted in a special venue inside the sixty year old Mount Nelson kitchen.  Merci beaucoup!

Sagra Food & Wine Merchants, 10 Flamingo Crescent, Lansdowne, Cape Town. Tel (021) 761-3360. www.sagrafoods.com.  Twitter: @SagraFoodsZA

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