Pastry Chef André Steyn joined La Colombe just over a week ago, having worked at Delaire Graff for over three years. He attracted my attention with his creative desserts as well as forest Amuse Bouche presented in a glass bowl whilst he worked at Delaire. The Chef once had a dream to become an architect, and it is our restaurant industry’s luck that his life path led him to cheffing. Continue reading →
* The Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau has won the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) Award for Best Convention Bureau in Southern Africa for the second year running. The Bureau is part of Wesgro, and its Award was based on a vote by SAACI members.
I was sorry to miss the vertical tasting of ten vintages of Saronsberg Shiraz at Auslese last week, not being able to attend earlier in the day due to a work commitment. I was however able to taste two of the vintages with the lunch prepared by Aubergine Chef Harald Bresselschmidt.
Saronsberg has been very low-key in the past ten years in terms of its media coverage, and only recently commenced with a PR campaign via Waterford Communications. Its Shiraz has been regarded as one of this country’s best, and has won a 5 star Platter rating for its 2010 and 2011 vintages. Other awards which the Shiraz has won include double gold at the Veritas Awards, Gold at Michelangelo International Wine Awards, Gold at Syrah du Monde, the Red Wine Trophy at the Winemakers’ Choice awards, Gold and trophies at the Decanter Asia awards, and the South African Shiraz Trophy at the International Wine Challenge. Winemaker Dewaldt Heyns has been building the Saronsberg wine brand since owner Nick van Huyssteen bought the farm in Tulbagh in 2012, the year in which he joined Saronsberg. Half of the farm is planted with Shiraz, due to the good quality red wines made in the region. Dewaldt’s expertise in making the Saronsberg wines led to him being invited to become a member of the Cape Winemakers’ Guild, an association of top winemakers for which membership is by invitation only. Just a few days ago wine writer Tim James included Dewaldt in a list of 12 top winemakers of our country! Continue reading →
Last night I attended the first Tracy van Maaren Wines Trade Tasting, representing a handful of select fine boutique wine estates, held at Auslese. Each of the wine estate’s wines offered for tasting was personally paired with a canapé designed by Chef Harald Bresselschmidt of Aubergine.
Tracy started her wine career by working as PA to Dana Buys at Vrede en Lust. She then moved into the clothing industry, but regretted this move. She returned to the wine industry, working at Jordan. Almost nine years ago she started her company, her first wine clients being Vriesenhof, Raats, and Catherine Marshall. She represents her clients’ wines in the ‘mid to top restaurants’ and independent retailers (e.g. Caroline’s, Wine Concepts, and Vino Pronto) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, with Paarl and Franschhoek.
Auslese is a renovated house, available to rent for functions, about two blocks from Aubergine. It has a smallish kitchen, and the space was cleverly used to set up tasting tables for nine brands, with Pol Roger (Churchill’s favourite champagne) represented in the entrance hall by Great Domaines’ Derek Kilpin and their brand new French import Morgan Delacloche.
Arriving at about 18h30, there was no crush, and one could get to easily taste the wines and food pairings, chat to the wine representatives, and to the invited guests, which included John Maytham of Cape Talk, Mark Bland of Expresso, Mandi Jarman of Aquila, Chef Vanessa Marx and her colleague Rumby of Dear Me, Catharina’s Manager Ronel Smidt, sommelier and consultant Jörg Pfützner, John and Lynne Ford, and Mike Duggan of Wine Concepts. Continue reading →
* Auslese Summer Sessions will pair tapas dishes created by Aubergine owner Chef Harald Bresselschmidt, fine wines, and good jazz every second Thursday evening, from 21 November onwards. (received from Auslese via e-mail)
* The 325th anniversary of the arrival of the French Huguenots was celebrated with a special concert, ranging from classical music to cabaret, last night at the Endler Hall. (received from the University of Stellenbosch via e-mail)
* Tour operator ‘Great Safaris’ has launched a ‘South African Culinary Treasures Journey’ 7 day tour of the Winelands and Cape Town, which includes learning about wine blending, food and wine pairing, bread baking, and a cooking class ‘in Cape Malay‘!
* The South African Pinotage restaurant is opening in Beijing.
* Scandinavia, Russia and the United Kingdom could become the main vine growing regions in Europe by 2050.
* ‘Franschhoek Uncorked’, the annual event in which the Continue reading →
It’s that time of the year again, and this week Eat Out will announce its shortlisted Top 20 Restaurants for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014. The judges have been furiously eating their way around the country, and top restaurants are licking their lips in the hope of cracking the Top 20 list, from which the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced at the gala dinner in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November.
Given the turmoil in the judging of our country’s Top 10 restaurants in the past two years, Eat Out publisher New Media Publishing communicated with the industry, and invited past Top 20 chefs and some restaurant owners to chat about what they want in restaurant awards. The overwhelming majority of respondents requested a panel of South African judges (British blogger ‘judge’ Bruce Palling used last Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to the 14 top chefs, with their sommeliers and restaurant right hands, who made the ‘Chefs who Share’ gala dinner such a fantastic success last Thursday evening, preparing a top class dinner for 250 guests in pairs of two chefs in a temporary tented kitchen set up between the City Hall and the Woolworths head office. We salute Chef Rudi Liebenberg (Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson) who worked with a leg in plaster, as well as Chefs Margot Janse (The Tasting Room), David Higgs (five hundred), Christiaan Campbell (Delaire Graff), Bertus Basson Overture), Harald Bresselschmidt (Aubergine), Chantel Dartnall (Mosaic at The Orient), George Jardine (Jordan Restaurant), Jackie Cameron (Hartford House), Marthinus Ferreira (DW 11-13), Darren Badenhorst (Grande Provence), Chris Erasmus (Pierneef à La Motte), Peter Tempelhoff (The Greenhouse), and Reuben Riffel (Riffel Restaurants). A number of chefs traveled from afar, and all Continue reading →
An unusual recipe of 14 top South African chefs working together in pairs of two in less than ideal temporary kitchen conditions set up outside the City Hall, supported by a sommelier and restaurant serving staff per chef pair, and serving 36 guests a unique four-course menu each, dreamt up by Opulent Living publisher Barbara Lenhard, saw R1195000 raised for charity on Thursday evening, alongside which the brand new Mercedes-Benz S Class was launched.
The A list event, which was covered by Top Billing and was MCd by Top Billing presenter Bonang Matheba and previous Top Billing and The Dr Mol Show presenter Dr Michael Mol, was first announced in May, and even though the tickets cost R3000, they were snapped up within a very short period of time, leaving many food lovers disappointed that they were Continue reading →
I had heard of @FarmerAngus McIntosh, as he calls himself on Twitter, for the first time at Caffé Milano a year ago, when I asked them about the origin of their incredibly yellow eggs. Vanessa Quellec, Pastry chef at the time, gave me a bound booklet about Spier’s Biodynamic Farm, describing the pasture-reared production of beef, chicken, lamb and eggs. Yesterday I spent an interesting afternoon with South Africa’s ‘Al Gore’ and ‘Michael Pollan’!
Angus McIntosh fell into farming whilst building his large home on the Spier farm, renting from his father-in-law Dick Enthoven. He had been a management accountant and worked in London at Goldman Sachs. It was reading Michael Pollan’s ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma‘ that turned his career and life around, and now he is this country’s only pasture-fed meat and egg supplier to most of the top restaurants in the Cape, and soon to expand to Johannesburg too. “I wanted to produce food that I could eat with a clean conscience“, he said. Angus is young, walks barefoot, speaks fluent Zulu, and looks very relaxed for being the meat supplier to a collection of the top restaurants. I was surprised that his phone did not ring all the time. He has ordering and delivery organised, with a once a week delivery to Cape Town and the Winelands. Orders are placed by chefs on Tuesday, but Farmer Angus can assist in case of need. One can hear that he has become friends with many leading chefs in the past two years of operating his business, and he reflected how tough business was for restaurants in May, June and July, which he could see in terms of their orders decreasing sharply. In this period Farmer Angus learnt ‘Expectation Management’, in planning his production to supply chefs consistently. Since the beginning of this month business has boomed, he said. Restaurants that serve Farmer Angus’ produce, which is cut to their specification (Harald Bresselschmidt of Aubergine is an exception, taking a whole carcass which he cuts up himself) include Delaire Graff, Buitenverwachting, Pierneef à La Motte, The Tasting Room, The Mount Nelson (for which Farmer Angus is rearing guinea fowl with his chickens especially, he told me), Rust en Vrede, Terroir, The Round House, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, 96 Winery Road, Bread and Wine, and Eight at Spier.
Farmer Angus’ wife was in London for business yesterday, and is only involved in the running of the Spier empire in planting indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs on the farm, these not only acting as a wind break, but also adding nutrients to the soil and attracting insects, which helps bring balance back to nature on the farm. They also have a vegetable and herb garden, delivering only to Eight at Spier, but elderflowers are supplied to Aubergine, Le Quartier Français, The Round House, and Rust en Vrede.
When he explained about the inhumane ‘production’ of chicken, Farmer Angus’ real passion comes to the fore. He said that 98 % of our supermarket chickens are battery hens, whose beaks are cut to prevent them from ‘cannabilising’ each other in the small space in which they grow. At Spier no de-beaking takes place, Farmer Angus saying that this is ‘unethical and inhumane’. His produce is ‘honestly priced’, he says, not adding any brine to his chicken feed, and his chicken rearing does not cause any environmental damage – in fact, it is adding to nature. The growing of feed for cattle production is what is causing the environmental damage, and he said that if only 10 % of the world’s cows were reared his way, then all carbon problems would be eliminated, and the carbon would be stored in the soil. He explained about the mass production happening at the country’s two major beef suppliers Chalmar and Karan, these brand names are often specified on menus (i.e. at Reuben’s), but their production methods do not meet Farmer Angus’ approval, the latter farm only having 10 square meter per animal, they spray the animals per aeroplane, and inject the cattle. Farmer Angus highlighted Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff as the biggest champion of Spier’s grass-fed meat production. Spier has a mix of cattle, including Nguni, Hereford and Beefmasters, as well as Dormer lambs.
We drove around the 600 hectare farm, on which the grapes are grown for the award-winning Spier wines, and Farmer Angus uses 54 hectare for his meat and egg production. He showed me the chicken production in its various stages. I thought the chicks listening to beautiful classical music was very cute, giving them a harmonious start to life. They are moved into different sections based on age, and ultimately are placed outside in the ‘pastured poultry houses’ he calls Eggmobiles, which are mobile nesting vehicles for 80 chickens each, 12 square meters in size, in which the eggs are laid, and which are moved daily. I saw the difference in height of the pasture from the previous day compared to the section for the next day, and the chicken manure goes back into the soil, helping to regrow the grass, a natural cycle. His chicken are slaughtered by hand, ‘as humanely as possible’. Farmer Angus contrasted this to the 25000 chickens a day slaughtered by County Fair, with their questionable claim of ‘home of quality chicken’, their feed containing chicken parts too. Farmer Angus mixes and matches the pastures for his animals, and has to safeguard his lamb section electronically at night, to prevent theft. Grass-fed meat is healthier, with omega 3 to 6 fatty acids in balance, reducing cholesterol, and is healthier to eat for diabetics.
Farmer Angus is so passionate about what he does, that he encourages chefs and their kitchen teams and restaurant staff to visit the farm. Mother City Slow Food visited the farm earlier this year, and while I was unable to attend, I participated in a buying share of parts of a carcass with other members. Farmer Angus has just introduced home delivery to private homes too, but then one must take half or a whole lamb, at R91,20 per kg. Eggs cost R33 per dozen, and chicken R45,60 per kg. Delivery for orders over R500 is free. Melissa’s, Giovanni’s, Tokara DeliCatessen, Wellness Warehouse, Continental Butchery in Kloof Street, and the Somerset West Spar are some of the outlets selling Farmer Angus’ produce.
Diclosure: Farmer Angus gave me a packet of mince, a jar of chicken stock, and a dozen eggs to take home to try.
Spier Biodynamic Farm, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch. Tel 082 680 8978. No website. Twitter: @FarmerAngus.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Neil Pendock, writing on his blog yesterday, knocked bloggers and food writers by applauding their absence at the inaugural Fleur du Cap 100 Places to Eat Cape Town 2011: “What made the awards cocktail party unusual was that the usual cast of thousands – journos, hacks, bloggers, twits and hangers on – was conspicuous by its absence..” Yet the ‘Awards’ were organised by ‘little Irish devil‘ (his words) blogger Clare (‘Mack’) McKeon-McLoughlin! How embarassing for sponsor Fleur du Cap, wishing to gain support from the media and bloggers for its brands, given that Pendock no doubt had an organising hand in the ‘Awards’!
Neil Pendock can be a really nice guy, as I experienced at the Compass Box Whisky Co tasting and blending afternoon a week ago. But he has a nasty side too, as poor Su Birch of WOSA well knows, being the target of regular attacks in his Pendock Uncorked Sunday Times blog. We can attest to his fierce loyalty to McKeon-McLoughlin, as he has blocked us on Twitter, due to our criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s involvement in his and McKeon-McLoughlin’s organisation of the frivolous ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ in August.
Now poor Abigail Donnelly is the next target, being the sole judge and editor of the Eat Out DStv Food Network Top 10 Restaurant Awards for the first time. This year the judging committee of Pete Goffe-Wood, Anna Trapido and Arnold Tanzer, who received a substantial remuneration, it is said, fell away, and whilst there has been some muttering about this, I have not heard any chef denigrate Mrs Donnelly because of the organisational change. The Top 20 Eat Out finalist list has been announced, and the only rumblings about it is that Rust en Vrede is not on the list, having been the winning restaurant on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list last year, but its Chef David Higgs left mid-year, and that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar has not been at Azure Restaurant of the Twelve Apostles Hotel for a full twelve months, which is what the Eat Out rules dictate.
On Sunday McKeon-McLoughlin had invited some of the Fleur du Cap ‘Top 100’ restaurants and announced the following (alphabetically listed) restaurants to be the Top 10 Restaurants in Cape Town, out of an initial list of 100:
95 Keerom – Giorgio Nava.
Aubergine – Harald Bresselschmidt
Bizerca – Laurent Deslandes
Dear Me – Vanessa Marx
The Foodbarn – Franck Dangereux
The Greenhouse – Peter Templehoff
Hemelhuijs – Jacques Erasmus
Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson – Rudi Liebenberg
Societi Bistro – Stefan Marais
The Test Kitchen – Luke Dale Roberts
If one compares the list to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Top 20 Finalist list, Azure at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, The Round House, and Nobu at the One&Only Cape Town are obvious exclusions, while The Test Kitchen, The Greenhouse, and Planet Restaurant also feature on the Eat Out Top 20 list. What makes the list above lose all credibility is the inclusion of Societi Bistro – whilst very popular amongst bloggers, who are regularly invited for lunch or dinner, and appears to be the McKeon-McLoughlin’s permanent dining room, it certainly does not feature on anyone’s top restaurant list for Cape Town! Amusing is that Aubergine fell off the Eat Out Top 20 Finalist list, whilst having been an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant last year, and appears on the above list! A number of restaurant lovers queried its Eat Out inclusion last year. Hemelhuijs and Dear Me Foodworld are great lunch venues, but only open in the evening once a week, and therefore are not in the same league as the other restaurants on the list, which serve lunch and dinner.
Ironic too is that Cape Town has lost its reputation as a top restaurant city, this accolade now having moved to the Winelands, Stellenbosch in particular, and therefore a list focusing on Cape Town only is like only handing out a second prize! Pendock writes about the judges Bianca Coleman, Jos Baker and Anna Trapido that they are the ‘biggest culinary cannons’, an extreme exaggeration! Trapido lives in Johannesburg, and hardly would have been able to judge all 100 Cape Town restaurants, especially given the short time between conceptualisation and execution of the Fleur du Cap Restaurant list.
A request sent to Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly for a list of the finalists in the new categories of the Eat Out Awards has surprisingly been declined, even though some restaurants on the list are ‘bragging’ about their inclusion. All eyes will be on Eat Out and Abigail Donnelly on 20 November, when the country’s Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced, in ranked order!
POSTSCRIPT 8/11: Interestingly, the Fleur du Cap website has no reference to the Top 100 Cape Town Restaurants list, nor to the Top 10 Cape Town Restaurants. The media release issued by the Fleur du Cap PR consultancy GC Communications oddly does not provide any quotes by nor contact details for the Fleur du Cap Brand Manager Danelle Kietzmann!
POSTSCRIPT 8/11: This evening I chatted to Jos Baker, one of the four judges of the Fleur du Cap Top 100 and Top 10 Places to Eat Cape Town 2011, at the Platter’s launch. I asked what the criteria for inclusion were, and she said it was to find restaurants that would ‘not be intimidating‘, ranging from the top-end to the ‘hole-in-the-wall’, to give a good spread! She told me that most of the judges’ deliberations were done via e-mail. When I asked her about Eat Out having one judge only, she said ‘no comment’. When I asked her if further regional lists would be published, she gave me a look that confirmed this, without answering directly.
POSTSCRIPT 9/11: One would have thought that the Mount Nelson Hotel’s marketing department would have known better than to have described their inclusion in the Fleur du Cap Top 10 Places to eat list as ‘a most sought after achievement’ in their November newsletter today!
POSTSCRIPT 10/11: Food24 has included a link to this blogpost in its newsletter today.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage