Betty Blue Bistro had been on the top of my Hermanus restaurant list, and I arranged to meet my UK friend Lisa Harlow there for lunch, seven months after my last visit to the famous whale-watching town. There is little blue (only on the exterior of the building), a fresh buttercup yellow dominating the decor! Continue reading →
Last week TV producer Anne Myers and I drove all the way out to the Durbanville Wine Route to try out Chef Nic van Wyk’s Diemersdal Farm Eatery, which I had seen in preparation, prior to its opening, at the Season of Sauvignon Festival in October. Chef Nic’s menu is a good ‘pairing’ with his role as one of the two judges in the new Afrikaans reality cooking programme Kokkedoor on KykNET, which is focused on nostalgia food.
Diemersdal is one of the oldest wine estates in Cape Town, established in 1698, and six generations of the Louw family have lived on the farm since 1885. Their wines are highly rated. What is commendable is that the wine prices in the restaurant are the same as the cellar door prices charged in the Tasting Room across the ‘werf’. Tienie Louw is still in charge, but has handed over the winemaking to his son Thys.
Getting to Diemersdal is easy, but I was unsure of the route, having only been there once before. Getting through on the phone line, which is shared for the restaurant and the tasting room, was difficult as the phone line was engaged regularly. Once I got through, a very friendly assistant in the Tasting Room gave clear directions, which the restaurant may consider sharing on the website.
The menu changes daily, and has a Tapas option, as well as a two/three course option, which changes daily, Chef Nic said, influenced by what is in the fridge, in the vegetable garden, and what his team feel like preparing. The menu is only posted a day or so ahead, so one must check if one likes what is on the menu for that day, as no options are offered. Luckily for us we were happy with the menu, Anne choosing the Tapas platter with six savoury dishes for R120, and I had the three course lunch for R150, both of us sharing each other’s dishes. Of Anne’s Tapas dishes, I especially enjoyed the pulled lamb shoulder served with a white bean sauce (front middle). She also had a prawn and tomato consommé, roasted pork belly and carrot purée (a reduced version of my main course), braised pearl onion and bacon ragout, veal meatballs in a smoked tomato and tarragon sauce, and a most unusual creamed parsnip and fynbos honey soup! My starter was a crumbed chicken ballotine, with an exceptional crispy outer band, served with carrot purée, and smoked beetroot. My main course was a very tender pork belly served with a prawn and chickpea fricassée. We were talking so much that I forgot to ask Chef Nic to replace the chickpeas with something else, not being to my liking.
My dessert was a vanilla roasted guava cheesecake served with guava mousse, the strong guava fragrance reminding me of how much I love this winter fruit. The dry cappuccino was perfectly prepared. Anne’s dessert as part of her Tapas platter was a delicious Champagne mousse served with cranberry sauce and hazelnut biscuits. Chef Nic recently did an ‘Onthoukos’ evening with Hetta, and both cooked courses for the dinner. He will be cooking with Dinner Diva winner and Eat Out Blogger of the Year Anel Potgieter on 13 June, each preparing three courses.
Anne has seen a number of the Kokkedoor episodes, and having produced a number of food-related reality food shows for SABC 2, Dinner Divas having been the most recent one, she shared her feedback with Chef Nic, feeling strongly that he and his co-judge Pierneef à La Motte Director of Cuisine and food historian, Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche, do not receive enough exposure in the Kokkedoor episodes. The programme series was conceptualised by Errieda du Toit, whose PR company also handles the Social Media for Kokkedoor, was filmed in Prince Albert, and is produced by Homebrew Films for KykNet. Chef Nic said that it was a new experience for him, and that he learnt a lot through it, the production being run by ‘pros‘, he said. Many of the contestant profiles were shot at Diemersdal, and that has been good for business, he said. KykNet is happy with the success of the programme, and a season 2 is very likely. We questioned the involvement of MasterChef SA Finalist Sarel Loots in Kokkedoor, which gave him a huge awareness advantage over all the other participants, but he and his team mate have already been eliminated. Anne felt that radio and TV presenter Mariëtta Kruger’s involvement as the presenter may have been a mistake, as she is not so well-known any more, and that she was a little stiff. She also felt that not enough food is shown in Kokkedoor, which is what viewers of food reality TV programmes want to see. She advised that there was no viewer ‘take away‘, in that there is no summation about why certain contestants’ dishes are the best, and why those that did not do well failed in their food preparation. Anne added that daytime viewership on weekends is more successful for food reality programmes than weekday evenings.
Chef Nic uses a vegetable garden on Diemersdal, which belongs to the Louw family, and there are pigs and chickens too. His menu focuses on ‘fresh and seasonal’ foods, expressing disappointment on how few chefs follow this policy. His menu always has fresh vegetables from the garden on it. He and his kitchen team ‘play‘ with food ideas, to come up with new dishes, and leftovers are worked into new dishes. Nic has been a chef for 13 years, having studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch, and starting with Chef Franck Dangereux at La Colombe, before he and Chef Michael Broughton opened Eat Out Top 10 restaurant Terroir at Kleine Zalze. He opened Diemersdal Farm Eatery earlier this year, and had to spend five weeks in Prince Albert for the filming of Kokkedoor, leaving his new restaurant in the capable hands of his sous chef Martin de Kock. Nic calls his food ‘Kontreikos’, translated as regional food.
The decor was done by Juanita Louw, wife of Tienie, and the character of the long narrow horse stable building dating back to 1929 has been retained, with raw brickwork, and a high ceiling, yet with modern touches for the ceiling lighting to which has been added interesting lamps on one side. A reception desk at the entrance door breaks the room into two parts, allowing lots of space between tables. Wooden tables with rustic chairs fill the room, and each table had an unusual candle holder, being an upturned crystal glass on top of another. Chef Nic says that Juanita has decorated the restaurant as she would her own home.
Only Diemersdal wines are offered at the Eatery, the exception being the MCCs, which Diemersdal does not make. They offer Krone at R140 and De Grendel at R165. White wines start at an unbelievable R20 per glass for the Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Chardonnay Unwooded 2013. The MM Louw Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 tops the price list at R165. Red wine by the glass is even more affordable, starting at R15 for Matys Red 2011, with Pinotage 2012 costing R25 and Private Collection 2011 R40 per glass.
Chef Nic took lots of trouble in chatting to us, and requested feedback after each course, saying that if he is not told things, he cannot fix them. Anne and I felt that Chef Nic’s food is ‘honest food’, putting who he is on a plate, which is done with love, without trying to impress others, as so many chefs tend to do. We loved our experience at Diemersdal, its good food, and the very special service by perfectly bilingual Guenola, speaking Afrikaans to Anne and English to me. The music was too ‘rock’ and loud for us, and did not match the country setting of the restaurant. Cleaning the tables around us with a strong detergent was one of few negatives. The menu is not updated regularly, it being out of date in still showing last week’s menus on the website. The Diemersdal Farm Eatery is well worth a visit, being good well-priced honest food prepared with love.
Diemersdal Farm Eatery, Diemersdal, M58 (Koeberg Road), Durbanville. Tel (021) 976-1810 www.diemersdal.co.za Twitter: @DiemersdalEat Monday – Sunday lunch. Open on Friday evenings (only serving steak).
Kokkedoor, KykNET, Thursdays 20h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
On Friday I attended the Summer Soiree gourmet evening as a guest of Raymond Noppe, Oldenburg Vineyards Regional Sales Manager: Sub-Sahara, as part of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival program. The gourmet delights were prepared by three talented graduates (in March) of the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA), which is based just down the road in the Banhoek valley. Guests attending paid R450 per head.
The tables were beautifully set, with glass bowls of proteas, which are grown in the valley, and dry ice, which came to effect when we sat down for the dinner, creating steam when the hostesses from the Alheit Academy poured water over it. Oldenburg Wines does not have a restaurant, so the dinner was even more special as it was a one of a kind. On arrival we were offered a glass of Simonsig MCC, sparkling wines not forming part of the Oldenburg repertoire yet.
The menu leaflets provided background to the two pairing partners. Oldenburg Vineyards is a premium boutique winery which produces small quantities of wines, its vineyards being managed to the full potential of their terroir.
The ICA was established eighteen years ago by Letitia Prinsloo, and has trained many of our country’s top chefs, including Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet, and Simone Rossouw of Babel. It is deemed to be one of the best restaurant and chef training schools in the country. The course covers Advanced Cooking & Pâtisserie, business development, food theatre, research and marketing, product development, media communication, artistry, food science, and wine. Third year students have to prepare a business plan for a new or relaunched fine-dining restaurant. The focus of the chef training is the ‘global trend of molecular gastronomy’. Food science is an important subject to help the students understand the growing international gourmet trend to modernist cuisine. The dishes we were served were some of the dishes prepared for the final practicals by three ICA graduates, the students’ practical work being evaluated by the likes of Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff, The Tasting Room chef Margot Janse, as well as food journalists.
The ICA works closely with the Alheit Academy, a relationship of four years seeing the ICA training front of house service staff about cooking, wines, front of house, and more, the students receiving a City & Guilds certificate after three years of study.
I missed the first canapé of ‘Olive T(h)ree’, which was served as thin layers of olive oil biscuit topped with olive tapenade, and olive oil sugar bells on olive soil, which was paired with my favourite Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009. All three the canapés were prepared by Inne-Marie Rabie, who started working at Rooi Rose after graduating at the ICA at the end of last year, working with Food Editor Vickie de Beer in doing research for a new book, I was told by Laetitia. Inne-Marie’s dill and garlic Beef Tartare was served en croute, finished off with a deep fried quail egg, and a garlic and caper foam, which was paired with the Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Raymond told us that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the estate, and is a ‘powerful wine’ matured for 12 months in 300 litre barrels, to reduce the oak influence. It is a big wine, with a higher alcohol content of 14,5%, which they are increasing to 15%. The wine has notes of cedar wood, pencil shavings, black currant, and cassis. The third canapé was Vanilla poached pork belly, which was served with a pear purée, and finished off with a rosewater praline, paired with Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. The Chardonnay grapes will be the first to be picked at Oldenburg, the harvest commencing this week, and the wine is matured for 11 months. The wine was described as having ‘wooden butteriness‘, creamy vanilla, white pear and peach notes, as well as citrus aromas. It was scored by Robert Parker at 93.
The amuse bouche was a jasmine poached Scented Salmon served with pickled cucumber, crackling crumble, and pancetta shard, finished off with a cucumber foam and granadilla sauce. This dish was prepared by Monché Muller, who already has a column in Taste magazine, and now works at The Test Kitchen.
Inne-Marie prepared the Exotic Mushrooms dish, tagliatelle served on a mushroom cream and sautéed wild mushrooms, with potato soil and garlic roasted walnuts. The dish was also paired with the Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. Monché returned to present her ‘Homebrew Kudu Loin’, which had been marinated in coffee mud, and was served with cauliflower risotto, roasted lemon chutney, kale pesto, and marinated baby brinjals, which she finished off with a pine nut crust and a stout sauce. This dish was paired with the very smooth Oldenburg Syrah 2009, which was matured in oak for 15 months, and has coffee and mocha tones. Raymond described it as being ‘plush‘, having soft tannins, and offering good drinkability. We laughed when he said that it has won no awards yet it is their largest seller.
The Oldenburg Vineyards pricing policy is to charge at two price points only: R118 for their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and R 182 for their Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Later this year Oldenburg is introducing Rhodium, which Raymond summarised as follows: “Rhodium is a chemical element that is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. It has the chemical symbol Rh and atomic number 45, and is one of the “noble metals. Our first release will be the 2010 vintage, and will consist of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The blend proportions and varietals used for the 2011 vintage was substantially different, although Cabernet Franc will always be the backbone and biggest contributor. We plan to release it within the next 2 months, and it should sell for around R330/bottle. Each bottle will be individually wrapped and packed in its own specially printed box. We are hoping that this new premium offering will live up to its name of being noble in all respects and help to establish us further as one of the top premium producers in South Africa.”
Dorothy, the maternal grandmother of Oldenburg Vineyards’ owner Adrian van der Spuy came to South Africa in the ‘Fifties, and met Helmut Hohmann, the owner of the Ivy Knowe farm, over the neighbouring fence, so to speak. He bought the neighbouring Rondekop farm on auction in 1955, consolidated it with his existing farm, and changed the name of the two farms to Oldenburg, after his hometown in Germany. They planted deciduous fruit originally in the ‘Sixties, and then added grapes, with were sold to SFW and to the KWV initially. The farm was placed in a trust by Van der Spuy’s grandmother when Hohmann died, which Van der Spuy bought out of the trust in 2003. Simon Thompson is the viticulturist at Oldenburg, and also its winemaker. The first wines were made in 2007. The Oldenburg wines are made at Glenelly presently, but an Oldenburg cellar is on the cards in the next five years. (Van der Spuy’s paternal grandmother is the late Una van der Spuy, who was a well-known landscaper, and lived at Old Nectar in Stellenbosch).
The highlight dish of the evening was Nico Meyer’s Southern Reef, a marine-inspired dessert, with a coral made from ginger and chocolate, which was served in an oyster shaped chocolate shell in which a chai tea sphere was placed, for one to sip off the shell as one would an oyster, releasing a burst of flavour once in one’s mouth. The dessert creation was placed on flavoured soil, with foam, to complete the marine theme. Each guest had the choice of pairing the dessert with Oldenburg’s Chenin Blanc 2011 or Merlot 2010. The Merlot 2010 maiden vintage has just been launched by Oldenburg. Nico now works at Apprentice, the ICA restaurant in Stellenbosch, and is their head chef. The dessert was followed by friandise of chocolate fondant, baklava, and melon coated in mint jelly, served with coffee.
All three the ICA graduates were very creative, and had taken a lot of trouble to create the perfect dishes to bring out the best in the Oldenburg wines. One certainly will get to hear more about these fledgeling chefs as they develop in their careers. Oldenburg Vineyards and the ICA demonstrated true neighbourliness in their food and wine pairing Summer Soiree gourmet evening.
Oldenburg Vineyards, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter: @OldenburgWines Monday – Friday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage