Tag Archives: environmentally friendly

Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock takes SA restauranting to a new level, experiential and interactive dining and wining at its finest!

The new words on serious diners lips are ‘Gåte’ and ‘Quoin Rock’, both not having been heard of by most, but already associated with superlative dining, on a wine estate tucked away outside Stellenbosch where no expense had been spared to create eating and drinking experiences to take one’s breath away! This is what we experienced when invited to eat at Chef Rikku O’Donnchü’s Gåte restaurant on Friday evening. I was still pinching myself over the weekend as to whether this was real, or just a dream. I invited my friend Stuart Bailey to share this experience with me. Continue reading →

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

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Sasol customers will be able to fill up on Burger King burgers from the end of this year, when the fast food outlet opens up at Sasol petrol stations.

*   Club Mykonos Langebaan is working on a number of environmentally-friendly initiatives, including encouraging guests to use resources wisely, promoting biodiversity in its Fynbos-rich surrounds,  replacing shower heads with new eco-friendly ones, putting timers on sprinklers, encouraging guests to hang up towels if they do not require them to be cleaned, using energy saving bulbs, heating the indoor swimming pool with solar power, encouraging guests to conserve electricity by switching off electrical appliances, switching off geysers that Continue reading →

Recession brings the future of food back to the past!

I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week!   Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date.  She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.

Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years.  She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned.  They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.

It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties.  She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town.  Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this.   Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens.   When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically.  She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.

She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden.  To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:

*   ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers.  She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language.  The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.

*   ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!

Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September.  It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home.  It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.

Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants.  She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant.   She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.

She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”!   She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource.   Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for.  Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores.   She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”.  She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past.  She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas.  She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.

Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:  The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down!  Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food.  It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them.  Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.

Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. www.soniacabano.co.za Twitter: @SoniaCabano1

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

Allora! WineStyle goes Italian and cheesy for Autumn!

I have the highest regard for the new WineStyle magazine, which was launched late last year as a wonderfully impressive coffee-table quality food and wine magazine.  The latest issue has just been sent to subscribers, and once again impressed with its fantastic quality photography and print production.

The theme of the Autumn edition is Italy, and the magazine introduces the theme with a trip to “Under the Tuscan Sun”, a lovely travel report by Karen Wright, with a clarification of the Chianti wines from this region.  I did this journey a few years ago, after I had read the book with the same title by Frances Mayes, travelling to Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano, Montalcino, and Montepulciano, and following in Mayes’ footsteps in Cortona.  Then follows a tasting of affordable Italian wines, none costing more than R100, and included Lamberti Santepeitre Valpolicella Ripasso, Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Teresa Rizzi Prosecco Brut, and Medici Sangiovese Rubicone.

The magazine focus then returns back ‘home’, and award-winning wine writer Joanne Gibson focuses on the allowable levels of lead, mercury and even arsenic in South African wine!   She asks why sulphur dioxide must be declared on local wine labels but not the fourteen other ‘restricted substances’ listed in the Liquor Products Act 60 of 1989.   The article describes the effect of sulphites on those with an allergy to it, and Gibson writes that often it is not the allergy to sulphites but rather to wine generally.  She lists low-sulphite wines as including Anura Brut, Krone Borealis Brut, Reyneke Reserve White, Stellar Organic Winery, Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay, Waverley Hills, and Woolworths Brut Natural and their Chenin Blanc.

The article on cheese and wines, by Diane Heierli, with photography by Christoph Heierli, is good enough to eat.  The photographer impressed in the first edition already.   The article highlights that our local cheeses are excellent, and that we do not have to import them to enjoy good quality cheese.  In fact, a next article highlights six ’boutique cheeseries’, being Dalewood Fromage, Goat Peter Cheesery, Belnori Boutique Cheesery, Foxenburg Estate Cheesery, Hijke Cheese, and Buffalo Ridge. Each of the cheesemakers recommend a suitable wine to pair with one of their cheeses.

From cheese and wine, the magazine moves to mushrooms, the article produced by the Heierlis as well, and providing recipes such as “Moreish mixed mushroom risotto”, “Super simple creamy mushroom sauce”, “Mushroom and pecorino pizza”, a beautiful looking “Spicy Asian enoki broth”, and “Balsamic glazed brown mushroom and steak”.

What seems out of place, relative to the theme, is the last article on the Route 62, although ‘cheese-lovers paradise’ Gay’s Guernsey Dairy in Prince Albert is mentioned.  The cover photograph of the magazine, linked to this article, does not reflect wine or food at all, and I would question if it was the best photograph to use, given the many lovely photographs in the magazine.   Right at the end, the magazine goes back to its Italian beginning, with a recipe for ‘La Limoncello’.

Every week WineStyle  sends a newsletter to its subscribers, to bridge the three month gap between issues.  In this way the brand interest is kept alive, and the editor can provide ongoing food and wine news.  The new newsletter design is perfect, in now creating synergy between the magazine design, and that of the newsletter.   Once again, the concept of WineStyle  being environmentally friendly, in being print-on-demand, and only posted to its subscribers at no charge, is saluted.  It is not commercially available. 

WineStyle has set an incredibly high benchmark in food and wine publishing, with editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright at the helm.  The advertisers are demonstrating their support already, being Glen Carlou, Pongracz, Hermanuspietersfontein, Constantia Glen, Highlands Road Estate, Kleine Zalze, Klein Constantia, Bouchard Finlayson, Fleur du Cap, and Paul Cluver, and that is just mentioning the wine advertisers.

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

Green Point Park a Biodiversity delight, no longer Common!

The Green Point Park, which opened about two weeks ago, and which will receive its official blessing from the Mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato today, has transformed the area previously known as the Green Point Common into one of the most charming parks in Cape Town, making it a treasure not only for the citizens of Cape Town, but also to its visitors, and to future generations.

The Green Point Common was previously a home for the homeless, and this brought down the tone of Mouille Point and also was a danger to locals walking in the area.  In conjunction with the construction of the new Cape Town Stadium, and the redevelopment of the Metropolitan golf course, the City of Cape Town redeveloped the 12,5 ha area at a reported cost of close to R600 million, renaming it the Green Point Park.   The conditions of the development of the Park were that it be safe, that the golf course and the Park appear integrated and almost seamless, that the Park be accessible to physically challenged citizens, and that sufficient parking be made available.  All of these conditions have been admirably met, so much so that one can feel proudly-Capetonian in how well our rates and taxes have been spent in developing a park with a heritage, that will be of benefit to future generations too.

The major focus, which makes it so interesting, and having an educational angle too, is the Biodiversity showcase, the gardens having been developed along ecological principles and includes indigenous landscaping.  Recycling is part of the showcase, and bins for waste, plastic, metal and glass are available at each of the Park entrances.   To focus on best environmental practices, water from the historic Oranjezicht springs on the slopes of Table Mountain has been redirected to water the gardens, and is sufficient to cater for the irrigation needs of the Park all year round, explains the Cape Town Stadium website www.stadiumcapetown.co.za

The Green Point Park has bricked pathways on which Capetonians and their children can cycle, walk with or without their dogs, run, do exercises, read a book, use their skateboards, and meet friends safely, with security staff visible.   One can also bring a picnic basket and enjoy the beautiful views onto Signal Hill, Cape Town Stadium, Mouille Point, and the golf course.  It is planned that one can host functions at the park (a marquee is already in place for the opening function today), and that outdoor events such as markets and concerts will be held in this beautiful, largely wind-protected space.   A biodiversity nursery, a tea garden, fresh produce markets, flower sellers and bicycle rental are said to be on the cards.

But the educational side of the Park is an excellent benefit for teaching children as well as their parents about Biodiversity, and how one can develop a garden that is environmentally friendly, and does not threaten biodiversity.  Biodiversity is defined as “amazing variety of life on earth”, and is threatened by agricultural development, fire, urban development and invasive plants. The Park has a food garden, one for medicinal plants, and a demonstration garden.  Fauna is represented by buck, rabbits, and more animals, in metalwork in-between the plants.  The Park teems with bird life.  Information boards explain how the Khoikhoi sought berries in the veld, used claypots to make their variation of “potjiekos” in those days already, roasted and baked their food, and made tea from bushes.  

But the history of Cape Town is also explained in an interesting manner, with huts built by the Khoikhoi, and their food types and herbal remedies explained.   Medicinal plants such as wildeals, blousake, kooigoed, Devil’s Claw and more were used to treat aches and pains, colds and other ailments. 

 It would be wonderful if a handout with information about the Green Point Park would be made available, and a website be developed for it.  I initially struggled to find the entrance to Green Point Park.  There are five entrances: the West entrance is close to CafeNeo, the East entrance is off one of the parking areas of the Cape Town Stadium, the Southern entrance is near the Virgin Active, an entrance is off Bay Road, and another is behind the Sea Point police station.   The Green Point Park is open from 7h00 – 19h00 Mondays – Sundays, and entrance is free.  

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

Winelands gets Style-ish new magazines!

The Winelands is clearly seen to be a geographic area with money, if the launch of two lifestyle publications is anything to go by.  Last month the Spring 2010 edition of Franschhoek Style was launched, while winestyle was introduced to bloggers and to potential advertisers earlier this month, its launch Summer 2011 issue expected in December.  Both publications are published quarterly and are offered free of charge.

Franschhoek Style is the brainchild of the publishers Schäfer Media, owners of the Franschhoek Tatler, being Barry Phillips and Siegfried Schaefer, and is described by them as “a magazine reflecting the good life in Franschhoek”.   The publication is a glossy, coffee-table type, which one can leave in a guest house lounge as well as look forward to reading, in being informative about Franschhoek.  The editor is Helen Naude, who manages the Franschhoek community radio station.  The first issue contains an impressive number of ads, given the state of the economy, from tour operator &Beyond, Akademie Street Guest Houses, Oyster (wood-based designs), Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa, TAGHeuer, Solms Delta, Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek Cellars, Peacock Blue, Ebony decor shop, The Sofa Studio, The Diamond Works, Viglietti Motors, Franschhoek Manor, Ashbourne House, Indian Summer, Le Bon Vivant, Paarlberg BMW , Rusthof, Auberge La Dauphine, Seeff, Graham Beck and Investec.   What is missing from the list is Le Quartier Francais, a surprise as it is usually the first to hijack prominence in a Franschhoek publication.  The design by Virtual Da Vinci Creative Room is clean, and the thick paper and glossy finish make this publication top quality, reflective of what Franschhoek stands for.

Editorial offers shopping advice for wines and decor items to be found in Franschhoek; a ‘Spring Diary’ listing events; a review of Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms Delta; a Franschhoek Uncorked overview of the wines of the wine estates that participated in the festival; a write-up of the prestigious and best accommodation in Franschhoek, being La Residence (at which Elton John stays when in the Cape); an article about the effect of fires on fynbos;  a write-up of Rickety Bridge; Franschhoek wine profiles; “Three perfect days in Franschhoek”;  a profile of entrepreneur Mike Bosman; a feature on the art galleries in Franschhoek; an article on the La Motte Mountain Meander, on which one can spot baboons and blushing brides; a write-up on the BMW 5 series; a write-up of Le Jardinet;  a profile of Minnie Pietersen, who heads up the Youth Empowerment Action project for street children in Franschhoek; a book review page; and a write-up of Sante’s Wellness Centre.  What is commendable is that a digital version of the magazine is available, and is quick to download and easy to page through and read, unlike Crush!, the digital food and wine magazine, that is still struggling with technical problems, including its first page, which does not open. 

As I typed this blog post, I had the sinking feeling that most of the publication’s editorial in fact was advertorial, with either being an exchange for advertising placed, or straight paid-for advertorials.   Readers today are smart, in identifying such advertorial, which is not disclosed nor marked as such, and lowers the credibility of the publication, no matter how well designed and glossy it is, and could therefore make it unattractive for guest houses to stock.   Franschhoek Style: www.franschhoekstyle.co.za

winestyle is a publication of the Manta Media group, publishers of a collection of seemingly unrelated magazines, being winestyle, surfing and diving.  Jenny Ratcliffe is the editor of the magazine, a most suitable person given her family’s Warwick ownership.   Not surprisingly, the launch of the magazine was held at Warwick.   What is refreshing about the publishing of magazines by Manta Media is that it is so environmentally friendly.  Instead of publishing x number of copies every quarter, it is printed on demand, after one registers for free.  The magazine is then posted to the readers, which means that the publishers are efficient about the number of copies they print, and there is no wastage.   This results from the niche publishing company asking itself: “how  should magazines be published in the digital age?”   By registering its readers in a database, the publishers of winestyle will send regular news updates to its reader database by e-mail, keeping them informed weekly about wine news.  For advertisers the benefit of this publishing approach is of immense benefit in that the readers are winelovers who request to subscribe by registering, giving quality readership.  winestyle will not be available for sale in retail outlets, to maintain its reader focus.   An online shop will sell the products of the magazine’s advertisers.   The most expensive advertisement, a 3-page inside front cover gatefold, costs R 11700 exclusive of VAT.   winestyle: www.mantamedia.co.za

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

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club: ‘pairing’ Simon Back from Backsberg Blog with Tom Robbins of eatcapetown Blog

The sixth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place on Wednesday 20 October, from 6 – 8 pm, at the Rainbow Room at Mandela Rhodes Place, and will pair Tom Robbins from eatcapetown Blog, a restaurant review blog, and Simon Back, from Backsberg Blog

Tom Robbins  was born on a dairy farm in Karkloof in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.  Tom hot-footed to live in cities as soon as he was old enough, though has never lost his rural roots.  He has spent most of his career working as a journalist with one disastrous exception when he opened a café-bar in Pietermaritzburg in 1999.  Tom’s career in journalism has spanned most beats from politics and the courts to travel and engineering.  Most recently he worked as a financial journalist, covering the retail and consumer goods sectors for Business Report.  A year ago Tom established the restaurant review website eatcapetown and continues to do odd jobs as a financial journalist.  He has no formal training in cooking: he is a writer who enjoys cooking rather than a cook who enjoys cooking.  Tom’s current addiction is roasting (both pot roasting and open roasting).  What he knows about wine is dangerous, he says!   Tom will be talking about restaurant reviewing, often a contentious topic, and will discuss review writing styles.   He will also address the difference between PR and journalism in respect of blogging, and how this affects disclosure of gifts/freebies received. 

Simon Back  has a Business Science degree, majoring in Economics, from UCT.  He joined Backsberg, the family farm, in 2008.  He is responsible for all aspects of marketing, and sales to North America.  Backsberg is well-known for its environmentally-friendly approach to wine farming, being very focused on its carbon footprint, and how to neutralise it.  The wine estate recently launched the first South African wines in plastic bottles, under the Tread Lightly sub-brand.  Simon is particularly interested in the role of Social Media in the Marketing Mix. He was invited to represent South Africa in Germany earlier this year, as part of a panel at Prowein 2010 on ‘Social Media and other Marketing Innovations’.  Simon will be talking about the future of blogging and social media.  He will challenge bloggers in asking them to consider how blog readers will change over time, and how their blogs need to evolve to reflect these changes. He is looking to stimulate debate on the future of blogging and social media.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Simon Back will introduce the Backsberg wines served.  Snacks will be served.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Venue: Rainbow Room, Mandela Rhodes Place (next to Taj Hotel), Wale Street.

Other bloggers that will be talking at future Bloggers’ Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog, at the Grand Daddy Hotel, 6 – 8 pm.

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

Bloggers should not blog about themselves, bloggers told!

The fifth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting was a lively one, held at the Salt Vodka Bar, with a most entertaining Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax blog, and a most informative Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, writing the Hein on Wine blog, sharing their views on the importance of social media marketing.   In talking about blog content, Hein advised bloggers to not write about themselves, but to focus on their blog topics instead. 

Hein introduced the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz Viognier from the Pierneef Collection, and his role at La Motte over the past eleven years.  In winemaking, he said distribution and the intellectual property of the brand are key.  The goal of La Motte is to focus on making excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines, and wants the brand to be one of the Top 10 South African wine brands.   The estate created a vision to meet this goal, called La Motte Redefined, which consisted of a number of elements, all working in unison to create a WOW La Motte experience: a new Tasting Room, which has a combination of wood, brickwork and glass to make it more welcoming and less intimidating; a restaurant striving to be of a top 50 international restaurant standard, focusing on traditional South African food, with a demonstration kitchen and TV cooking; to offer a “plaaswinkel”, which sells items no other farm shop does, including five styles of breads, one of them even including 2 % shiraz;  to establish a gallery to present the collection of 44 Pierneef artworks which they bought from Pierneef’s daughter and brought back to South Africa from the UK; a museum in honour of Dr Anton Rupert; and to honour his wife Hanli’s musical career in a second gallery. 

Hein recognises that social media marketing is the new marketing platform, and he started blogging just over a year ago.  He realised that the world faces information overload, with no one having the time to go beyond the first page of Google when doing a search.  This is why one must use blogs and Twitter to package one’s information in a way that meets the target market’s need.  In the past the wine industry was at the mercy of the evaluation by Parker and Platter – now winemakers can talk to their market, explain the making of the wines and proactively provide information which empowers wine drinkers to drink their wines with greater knowledge about the brand and the particular variety.  Hein says that we are still not using blogging to its fullest extent, and over time many blogs will fall away, and new ones will commence.   He sees the decline of You Tube and videos, due to the time it takes to download them, and the increase in the use of Twitter.  La Motte publishes a new blog post every 2 -3 days, and tweets 2 -3 times per day.  Hein says that if one sets a frequency of communication, one must stick to this, as one’s readers expect it as one does a newspaper, because it becomes a habit for the reader.   This was mentioned by Dax too.   The Cape Winelands Cuisine, which is the focus of Pierneef Ã  La Motte, will be brought into the blog in future.  

Hein follows the late Dr Rupert’s communication mantra: simple, sincere and repetitive.   This applies to social media too.   Hein recognises the power of the Chinese market, and La Motte has made R 8 million in sales in its first year.  Hein is now learning Mandarin, commendable for a very busy wine businessperson.   La Motte wines sold 2800 cases 11 years ago – this has grown to 100 000 cases sold in 40 countries, whilst the economy brand Leopard’s Leap sells 600 000 cases annually.   The distribution company Meridian Wines, founded by Hein too, delivers wines from 28 cellars to restaurants in temperature-controlled vehicles.    The fellow Twitterers smiled in understanding when Hein said that he ends his day and starts the next with his iPhone, to read what has happened in the world.  It is the most time-efficient way for him to stay in touch, he said.

Hein’s talk was followed by a presentation and tasting of the first South African vodka, called Primitiv, made in Wellington by Jorgensen’s Distillery.    It is handcrafted, using artisanal methods, from barley and spelt, giving the vodka its unusual taste of peppery spice, floral and anise touches over a creamy grain base, with a masculine finish.

Dax impressed with his natural talent of speaking about a topic that is clearly close to his heart, and included tap dancing and being really funny, a side to him that he does not often reveal.  Dax said that the frequency of blogging will influence the quality of one’s posts, and therefore the traffic to one’s blog.   He advised that one’s blogging frequency should stay the same, to meet the readers’ need for consistency.   In terms of content, he advised that one pace oneself, and not write all one’s content on one day, to ensure that one’s audience comes back.  Writing comments on other bloggers’ blogs is important, he said, as it shows collegiality, and helps build traffic.  The timing of one’s Tweets is important too, and should be when one’s followers are on Twitter.  Little reading of Tweets is done at night, so tweeting then is wasteful.  Hootsuite, and similar scheduling tools, allows Dax to pre-schedule 4 – 5 Tweets per day, at intervals of one hour.  He advises Tweeting between 9h00 – 15h00.  

Dax writes about food and wine, events in Cape Town, green issues, artisanal beers and the Cape Town lifestyle.  He has been blogging for 7 years already, one of the pioneers.  His blog evolved from a newsletter he created, sharing with others what wonderful things he had discovered in Cape Town, after moving here from PE, via Durban.   Helping provide advice to others about where to celebrate a special event makes Dax feel good, he says.   The 2010 SA Blog Awards, and its poor organisation this year compared to 2009, was discussed.  In the main the comments, also from the bloggers present, were disparaging, and Dax concluded that the SA Blog Awards has devalued blogging due to the controversy associated with it, even though it was meant to achieve the opposite.  

The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 20 October , from 6 – 8 pm, at the Rainbow Room in Mandela Rhodes Place.  Simon Back from Backsberg will introduce his wines and the use of social media in making his family wine estate one of the most environmentally-friendly in the country, and Tom Robbins from Eat Cape Town will talk about Restaurant Reviewing and Blogger Ethics.  Contact Chris at info@whalecottage.com to book.

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

Restaurant News: St Elmo’s Pizzas go green!

It is commendable when South African businesses operate with an environmentally-friendly policy, and even more so when food businesses do so, as it is harder for them to do so.

A company that is pushing “Going Green” to the limit is the St Elmo’s pizza chain, which is proudly environmentally friendly, and tells its customers about it in its fliers:

1.   St Elmo’s says it uses “alien water-thirsty” Port Jackson and Black Wattle wood to burn in its woodfired pizza ovens.   This prevents indigenous trees from being chopped down unnecessarily, and helps to save water.

2.   The menus are printed on eco-friendly paper – Sappi’s Triple Green paper is made from “sustainable sources”, its flier says. 

3.   Food suppliers are selected on the basis of their concern for the environment, e.g. Parmalat

4.   The mozarella cheese used in the St Elmo’s pizzas is of superior quality, and does not contain antibiotics, nor are rBST-hormones fed to supplier cows to make them produce more milk.

5.   The business partners of St Elmos “are as passionate about caring for the environment as we are.   In fact, they are implementing some innovative “greening” initiatives”, but they are not specified on the flier – on the website they are listed as Mondi, Coca Cola, and Sappi.

6.   St Elmo’s claims to improve its carbon footprint by using less energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they do not specify how they do this on the flier.   On the website extensive detail is provided and hints given how the company, but also consumers, can become more green, e.g. using energy-saving bulbs, watering plants with water used to boil eggs, separating garbage, turning off the oven 10 minutes before the food is due to be cooked, and switching off electric appliances, even computers, overnight.    

7.   The pizza boxes and serviettes are recyclable, and the pizza boxes are printed with non-toxic inks, making them safe and suitable for recycling.

On its website, St Elmo’s goes into far more details about how green it is, and refers to its tree-planting projects at the Marconi Beam Primary School, and in the Milnerton area, in accordance to its Green slogan: “Money does not grow on trees, but it can help us plant them”.  Each St Elmo’s store has donation boxes for the change to go towards buying more trees, to be distributed via Food & Trees for Africa. 

For further details, see www.stelmos.co.za

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