On the eve of the Plaisirs de France festival, which kicks off in Franschhoek today, Pierneef à La Motte joined forces with the Institut Paul Bocuse, in serving a 6-course dinner conceptualised by its Chef Florent Boivin on Friday. When I saw the Pierneef à La Motte dinner on the Plaisirs de France programme, it jumped out as the highlight of the month-long French-inspired food and wine festival in Franschhoek, and I booked immediately. The dinner combined the fresh herbs and vegetables grown on La Motte, South African produce such as springbok, and French gourmet delights such as foie gras, well paired with La Motte wines.
The six-course dinner, costing R690 for the dinner paired with a La Motte wine for each course, was prepared by Chef Florent with Pierneef à La Motte Chef Chris Erasmus. Chef Florent has cooked at a number of Michelin-star restaurants, including Maison Troisgros, Le Jardin des Sens, and Maison Decoret. He has also opened new restaurants at D’Sens in Bangkok, Raffles Hotel Restaurant in Singapore, and Héritage Hotel Restaurant in Mauritius. Chef Chris has just returned from a three week stage at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant, based in Copenhagen. Students from The Culinary Academy, located at Backsberg, assisted the La Motte restaurant team for the evening, and were excited by the chance in a lifetime to rub shoulders with a Michelin-star chef.
We received a taste of what was to come when we enjoyed a glass of the La Motte MCC outside under the oak trees, after entering the restaurant area on a VIP red carpet, when Chef Florent sent out sweet potato croquettes containing black truffle and white truffle oil, coated in charcoal crumbs, canapés not tasting of charcoal at all! I sat with the delightful Jan Laubscher and Anel Grobler of Spit or Swallow, and we had a fun evening, sharing the latest blogger and industry news. Hein Koegelenberg welcomed the French Consul, and the Institut Paul Bocuse representative Eleanor Visl, and explained that ‘Plaisirs de France’ forms part of ‘Seasons of France’, a co-operation programme between France and South Africa, for the two countries to get to know each other better, which runs in our country until November. From May – November next year South Africa will receive exposure in France. Hein reminded the guests of the French Huguenot roots of Franschhoek, La Motte itself having been created at the time of arrival of the settlers. He said that the Plaisirs de France festival is well-suited to La Motte, as wine and cuisine are their passion. Hein intends visiting the Institut Paul Bocuse branch in Shanghai shortly, and wants to bring all twelve the Institut Paul Bocuse branch chefs to Franschhoek. Hein impressed as the perfect host, regularly visiting our table, to check on us and our wellbeing, and requesting feedback.
A bread platter was sent to our table, with a variety of breads, served within an edible bread basket. This was accompanied by a very colourful amuse bouche of smoked salmon trout, which had been lightly steamed with beetroot jelly and sherry vinegar, and was paired with the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2012. The Entrée was an amazing foie gras flan, served with grapefruit segments, a most unusual combination, as well as fava beans, and a duck consommé. This was the highlight for most diners, especially as the dish looked like a soup, but we were not served a soup spoon. This course was paired with the La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2012, an organic wine.
Our Poisson dish was a Confit of Cob in olive oil, with which a baby vegetable skewer was served. This dish was my favourite, for its outstanding saffron and Sauvignon Blanc nage (an aromatic broth in which crustaceans are cooked). This dish was paired with La Motte Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2010. Canon of Springbok was served for our Viande (meat) dish, Springbok fillet being wrapped in caul fat (thin membrane of fat from the intestines of a pig, cow or sheep). It was served with celeriac ravioli, a strong-tasting Wasabi-like square of spinach and mustard butter, and an unusually textured quenelle of carrot, which is described as a dumpling usually made from meat, and the word originates from the German ‘Knödel’, but tasted from its texture as if it contained couscous. It was paired with La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.
In French style, we had a Fromage course before dessert, and they were three French cheeses: Brie de Meaux, a goat’s milk cheese Buchette de Sainte-Maure; and a sheep’s milk Ossav Iraty, which were served with a more-ish strawberry and tomato jam. The wine pairing was La Motte Shiraz 2009. This was followed by the Dessert of delicate and fresh petit pineapple and mint canneloni served with strawberries, and paired with La Motte Noble Late Harvest 1989. Coffee was served with a macaroon.
A lovely evening came to an end far too quickly. Sous Chef Michelle Theron told me that it had been a most exciting experience, working with Chef Florent, who was most generous in sharing his knowledge, calling the Pierneef à La Motte kitchen team together whenever he did something, true to his role as lecturer at the Institut Paul Bocuse. It was noticeable that Chef Florent’s cuisine creativity lay less in the plating (no flowers as is vogue at the moment) and more in the complex dishes he created, yet which (deceivingly) came across as simplicity! His food is light, focused on a combination of flavours. Two dishes had sauces poured by a chef at the table, something one no longer sees locally. Chef Florent will be involved at some of the other Plaisirs de France events, but this is not specified on the Franschhoek Wine Valley website. It was lovely getting to know La Motte Marketing Manager Wanda Vlok-Keuler better, who had very generously comped the dinner I had booked for, when I asked for the bill.
Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com Twitter: @PierneefLaMotte
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
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