Entries tagged with “Kitchen Cowboys”.


Pete Goffe-Wood 'A Life Digested'Chef Pete Goffe-Wood launched his latest book ‘a life digested’ at his Kitchen Cowboys studio in Woodstock in December.  The book celebrates his 50th birthday year, and his 30th anniversary of a chef.

Published by Quivertree Publications, a publisher which is known for its quality books, the book consists of ten articles which Chef Pete wrote for GQ in the past 10 years, each article paired with dishes, and recipes provided. The photographer was Craig Fraser, with styling by Hemelhuijs’ Jacques Erasmus. The foreword is written by Michelin star restaurant Chef Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche in London, who calls himself a friend, praising Chef Pete as a ‘true gent’, but also as a ‘very gifted chef’.

Chef Pete admits that he had no family inspiration to become a chef.  In his digs in Cape Town he offered to do the cooking as he hated washing dishes. He had worked as a waiter at the Balalaika Hotel on weekends as a teenager, but (more…)

Feast Pete Goffe-Wood

On Thursday evening Chef Pete Goffe-Wood was the first MasterChef SA judge to have an episode in the new M-Net mini-series ‘Feast’ dedicated to him and his cooking, the highlight being the Christmas meal he prepared for his family and friends. (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Committee has kept the repo rate unchanged at 5,75%, the new Governor Lesetja Kganyago has announced. The rate did not change due to the reducing inflation rate, the lower international oil prices being an inflation benefit, and the weak economy.

*   The Vancouver Sun writes about ‘Sensational South Africa‘, highlighting its ‘Big Five must-see list’.  It includes Cape Town (‘the country’s prettiest city‘, Bo-Kaap, the City Bowl market – certainly not the best Cape Town has to offer – Table Mountain and its ‘tram ride‘, the Mount Nelson Hotel, and Robben Island), the Winelands (Franschhoek and its Wine Tram), Himeville and the Drakensberg,  Durban, and Safaris.

*  The City of Cape Town has announced its extensive plans for the safety of the city and its visitors over the Festive (more…)

Today an exciting new reality TV series starts airing on SABC2 at 8h30, which will do for food blogging locally what the release of the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ did internationally three years ago. ‘Dinner Divas’ is a 13-part series with 12 contestant Food Bloggers, vying for the title of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012, with prizes to the value of close to R100000.  It is the first food blogger TV series cook-off in the world.

2 Blonds and a Redhead Filming Producer Anne Myers is a Diva in her own right, having produced many programmes and Advertising Funded Programmes (AFPs) for SABC2 and SABC3 over the past 27 years, the latter being televised credible advertorials for sponsor brands.   Myers had watched MasterChef SA, and found that it had many deficiencies, given her production experience, and therefore devised the unique ‘Dinner Divas’ concept, signing up sponsors, contracted with SABC2, invited food personalities as judges, and used Social Media to find 12 suitable food bloggers, the majority being from Cape Town. The shoot took place at Kitchen Cowboys, which belongs to MasterChef SA Judge Pete Goffe-Wood.

The twelve Food Bloggers are Anel Potgieter (‘Life is a Zoo Biscuit‘ Blog), Barry Gerber (‘What’s Cooking’ Blog), Candice Le Noury (‘Gorgeous Gourmet’ Blog), Janice Tripepi (‘janicetripepi‘ Blog), Kate Liquorish ‘undomestiKATEd’ Blog), Kristy Snell (‘FoodMonger‘ Blog), Nina Timm (‘My Easy Cooking’ Blog), Sue Green (‘Sous Chef’ Blog), Tami Magnin (‘Rumtumtiggs’ Blog), Thuli Gogela (‘Mzansi Style Cuisine’ Blog), Usha Singh (‘Healthy Vegetarian Foods’ Blog), and Zirkie Schroeder (‘PinkPolkaDotFood’ Blog).  Both Anel and Candice entered MasterChef SA, and did not make the Nederburg kitchen. Anel shared that not making it on MasterChef SA had triggered off a depression, which she tried to get out of by eating Zoo biscuits, and led to her creating her Blog as a type of therapy. Initially she and Candice (photograph left) were hesitant about participating on ‘Dinner Divas’, given the stress they experienced at MasterChef SA, which had taken the fun out of food making, but they loved the fun of ‘Divine Divas’. Janice shared that participating in ‘Dinner Divas’ had led her to relook her Blog, and to ‘make it even more perfect’. She raised the question many Bloggers ask: ‘Who is reading my Blog?’. Candice said that ‘Divine Divas’ had re-inspired her to become a better cook and blogger. Anel blogs once a week on average, and said that it takes up to ten hours to write a Blogpost, having to research a story, buy the ingredients, prepare the dish, and photograph it (good light is best when she gets up early in the morning) before work, or over weekends.  Barry shared that his Afrikaans Blog ‘Wat Eet Ons?’ became more English, to attract more readers.  MasterChef SA Finalist Lungi Nhanhla was present at the launch, in her capacity of new deputy Food Editor of Drum, and she shared that things were much more controlled on MasterChef SA, given that it is a franchised programme series.

In introducing the programme at the media launch on Thursday, Producer Michelle Coleman said that ‘Dinner Divas’ recognises the best Food Blogger and not necessarily the best cook amongst the twelve finalists.

The Food Bloggers were evaluated by five judges (chairman of the judging panel Aubrey Ngcungama is the ambassador of the One & Only Cape Town, was on ‘Come Dine with Me’, and is an absolute hoot from the first episode we were shown at the launch, more than a Diva himself!) over the series,  but only three per show.  The judges of the first episode are Aubrey, Leila Padayachi (pastry chef), and Caro de Waal, editor of Food24, and they evaluate the meals of the Divas without knowing who prepared the recipes and cooked the food.  The other judges used for the series are Chef Fernando Roman of the Five Rooms restaurant at The Alphen, and Andrew Lieber of ‘Gourmet Guys’ Blog.

The sponsors are Mr Price Home; Rhodes Foods (who make cheeses – such as the award-winning Portobello – under their own brand name and some for Woolworths, as well as canned jams, and tomato, fruit and vegetable products); Nulaid eggs, Sasko Flour; and Whirlpool kitchen appliances. Prizes for the winner of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012 title includes exposure for the winner’s Food Blog, as well as R50000 cash, a cookbook deal, vouchers of sponsors’ products, and R25000 worth of Whirlpool appliances.

In preparation of their appearance in the TV programme, each Food Blogger had to create a menu for a family weekend meal, with the recipes, and blog it in 100 words.  On set the Food Bloggers had to cook their meal within 90 minutes, set the table for the judges, and style and present their dishes. The judges evaluated the dishes ‘anonymously’, on authenticity, originality, balance and nutritional value of the menu, seasonality of the produce, the reasonable cost of the menu, the creativity in blog writing, the styling of their food and the table setting, and the food preparation skills.

The first episode we saw showed only two of the twelve Food Bloggers competing against each other. Nina Timm prepared a most colourful Mexican family dish, which included meat balls, refried beans, guacamole, and healthy tacos, a meal which she described as a ‘maaltyd om te eet’, and as ‘fingerfood’; while Kristy Snell made fillet steak and her mom’s Peach and Almond baked pudding.  Aubrey will be remembered as the most direct and honest judge, who does not put across his opinions diplomatically at all, making for fun TV. He was critical of Nina’s dish being too salty, while Kristy was not spared, Aubrey describing her salad as ‘a bit tired’, the sauces being confusing, and her dish being an ‘unexciting concoction‘. Yet both Nina and Kristy went through into the Semi-Finals.

Filmed in Cape Town, the first episode we saw had beautiful shots of Cape Town, which will benefit tourism to our city too, with the TV series’ national viewership.  Seeing the first episode, the comparison to MasterChef SA was immediate.  Only focusing on two contestants per episode, means that one can get to know each Food Blogger better, and the pace was much slower, allowing one to understand how the dish was made, and pick up some cooking tips, proving to be far more educational than MasterChef SA.

Dinner Divas’ plays an important role in enhancing the contribution of South African Food Blogs, which will have a stronger voice via the new TV series, and which are already characterised by their passion and inspiration. Food Bloggers’ success already is evident by the increasing number of cookbooks being launched by them. It was emphasised that the days of print media are numbered, and that Food Bloggers are taking over. Season 2 has already been committed too by the SABC, it was announced at the launch, being a winning recipe for the programme sponsors, SABC2 viewers, and Food Bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 20/10: Episode 2 surprised this morning, in two respects: Judge Fernando Roman, Executive Chef from The Aphen hotel, offended bloggers when he said outright that he does ‘not fancy bloggers at all’, ironic as ‘Dinner Divas’ is a TV programme about bloggers cooking their recipes!  Not surprisingly, this caused a flurry of Tweets from critical bloggers, sure to avoid the hotel’s Five Rooms and La Belle restaurants!  In addition, contestant Sue Green cooked a pork dish, but judge Leila Padayachi does not eat pork!  However, Sue still made it into the semi-finals. Tami Magnin’s KFC-style chicken dish was dished by judge Aubrey, describing it as ‘boring to look at’ and as ‘inedible’!

POSTSCRIPT 5/1: Anel Potgieter has won season 1 of Dinner Divas.

Dinner Divas, SABC2, Saturdays, 8h30, from 13 October, for 13 weeks. www.ilovecooking.co.za Twitter @DinnerDivas1

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

I am not a cooking program type at all, and have never watched any MasterChef programme.  Last night I watched the first episode of MasterChef SA, and loved every minute of it.  While there were some irritations, the tension that built up over the hour-long reality programme, the pithy comments from the judges, and the heartfelt emotions with tears and joy reminded me of a mix of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ and ‘Idols’.

Interesting at the outset was the PG13 warning about strong language for the programme, which was not evident in the first episode.  From 4000 hopefuls starting off in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, fifty out of 120 aspirant amateur chefs received a MasterChef SA apron, to attend the MasterChef SA ‘boot camp’. The judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Bennie Masekwameng and Andrew Atkinson have a combined culinary history of more than 50 years, they said proudly, and individually have cooked for royalty, for Johannesburg’s rich and famous, and have judged and participated in local and international competitions. The difference between a good and a great chef is the burning desire to be the best, the participants were told.  ‘Just being good is not going to cut it’, the judges added. Judges are searching for culinary perfection, and told the participants to go if that is not what they will deliver. Participants were told that the judges would be evaluating them on passion, skill, and the perfect flavour.  It was nice to see the multi-cultural and multi-gender mix of participants, even if the judges were all male, one of the first criticisms of the judges’ selection!  The judges appeared stiff initially, almost relying on the judgement of one of the others to be brave enough to say a dish was excellent or really bad, but they grew in confidence throughout the programme, being more bold to go against the majority view of the other judges.   The show was said on Twitter yesterday to have been R500000 over budget in its production.

Time-keeping was tough, each participant having thirty minutes to prepare their dish off-screen, and five minutes to plate it in front of the judges.  Initially the contestant names were seen on the screen, with the name of the dish, but towards the end of the first episode, fewer names were mentioned or depicted.  One could guess that if a profile of the aspirant chef was screened before he or she faced the judges, that the contestant would receive the MasterChef SA apron to get into the ‘bootcamp’.

Successful top 50 amateur chefs included Khayakazi Silingile, who prepared scallops and smoked salmon with an unusual rhubarb tart and orange juice, a colourful presentation.  The judges praised her ‘magical combination’ of ingredients and described her dish as ‘clever’.  Jade was a bundle of charm, energy, and confidence, and her chocolate tartlet with fresh berries and somewhat heat-melted cardamon ice cream won the judges’ approval, in that they said that she knows what she is talking about, that her dish was ‘magnificent’, and not ‘jaded’!  Callie-Anne was lucky to achieve two Yes votes for her fillet of beef with a mushroom and zucchini ragout, and started crying when she realised that the judges were not all ecstatic about her creation.  Sanjeev appeared over-confident, even singing for the judges, and his ‘lamb party’ curry dish was voted for by two of the judges.  Bongumusa received an apron, as did Sarel Loots. Ilse Fourie received a very strong vote of confidence from all the judges for her tagliatelle and salmon steak with a citrus dressing, for its taste as well as presentation, the judges showering her with accolades: ‘presentation is superb’, ‘tasted absolutely awesome’, ‘brilliant’, ‘you can cook with passion’, and ‘I was mesmerised by it’.  Lwazi’s crusted kingklip and Lungile’s duck burger and apple and plum sauce met the judges’ approval.  Chef Pete loved Deena Naidoo’s butter chicken so much that he took the plate back to his seat to finish off the dish, describing it as ‘moreish’ and ‘creamy’. An unnamed contestant made a sour cherry frangipane tartlet and served it with his home-made ice cream.  The judges could not stop eating it!  An unnamed contestant made ‘pap en vleis’, and was praised for her South African dish of a lamb chop. Luxolo received a sympathy vote from Chef Bennie, rewarding the scullery worker with a Yes vote for the passion in preparing his ‘Fish House’ dish of fish, mussels, and prawns.  He went down on his knees in tears when he received the vote to join the ‘bootcamp’. The judges appeared to drift away from their stated judging criteria in their evaluation of the dishes, not really providing any depth feedback about the dishes in culinary terms. Some of the recipes of the ‘bootcamp’ finalists are on the MasterChef SA website.

Wayde The Fudge Man from Johannesburg was less lucky, his pasta not having been cooked well enough, and was described by the judges as a ‘lump of goo’. A soup was described as a ‘bowl of emptiness’ by Chef Pete. The editors of the first episode were kind in showing very few of the dishes that did not make the grade, with the associated negative judges’ comments.   Interesting is that a contestant posted a complaint on ‘Hello Peter’ about the auditions at Montecasino on 3 December, for his dish being evaluated by one judge only, and no feedback having been given to him at all for it not making the grade. Chef Pete said about himself with a laugh: “It turns out that I’m less empathetic than I thought I was”.

Ads for sponsors Woolworths, Robertsons, Nederburg, Southern Sun, and Hyundai ran throughout the program, the advertising breaks being used to build up the tension about whether a contestant would stay or go. Lacking credibility in its running in the programme was Chef Reuben Riffel’s endorsement of Robertsons Paste, many viewers feeling that he would or should not be using Robertson’s herbs and spices in his restaurants!  Interesting is the pay-off line which Robertson’s was using in its ads during the programme, of ‘Masterclass’, nonsensical in that no contestant was seen to add any Robertson’s products during the show. The word means teaching a group of students, and is mainly used in a music context, and this is not what the programme is about, and therefore does not match the definition of the word. Interesting is that Robertson’s has appointed erstwhile chef Sonia Cabano as its ‘Social Media Manager’, she announced on Twitter a few days ago, and seems technically ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the position, asking for advice on running multi-accounts on Twitter, for example, and who has a reputation for causing trouble with other Tweeters.  She is outspoken about herself (writing about her ‘drunk tweeting’ last week, for example) and others.  One sensed the restraint with which she Tweeted when some Robertson’s Tweets were criticised!

Having visited a Woolworths branch in Sea Point yesterday afternoon, one would have thought that the retail outlet would have prominently advertised its participation in the programme and encouraged viewership via posters or flyers, but there was nothing at all to alert one to the programme or to Woolworths’ sponsorship of it.  The company commissioned Platypus Productions to direct twenty TV commercials to highlight its role as the food sponsor of the show.  Nederburg ran a few ads in the programme, but the setting of its transformed 1000 square meter Johan Graue Auction Hall venue was not visible to viewers.  The wine estate has launched new wines in conjunction with Woolworths, to coincide with MasterChef SA, and has also just announced that it is starting a series of online Winemaster’s Classes, which will be broadcast on www.nederburg.co.za, and viewers can win Le Creuset cookery sets. Interesting is that Spar advertising was allowed in the programme – Chef Pete Tweeted last week that his column in Pick ‘n Pay’s Good Living magazine has been cancelled after many years, due to Woolworths’ involvement in MasterChef SA.  Loreal was a non-food advertiser.

On Twitter the judges were criticised for not looking professional enough, in not wearing chef’s outfits, and looking rather formal with a tie (Chef Andrew), and jacket (Chef Pete).  The judges seemed inconsistent in their evaluation on occasion, either raving about a contestant, or destroying them in their cruel feedback at times. Kenneth Goldstone’s pan-fried kingklip and tarragon and mushroom sauce was highly praised by Chef Andrew, rejected by Chef Bennie, and even though Chef Pete did not seem enthusiastic about the dish, he gave it a Yes.  Not only the contestants were under pressure, but the judges too.  They started shooting on 4 January, and it was a tough 10 week schedule, 12 hours a day, six days a week, necessitating that they move to Paarl for the duration of the shoot, Chef Pete told Eat Out.  Interesting is the fuss that the publication made of Chef Pete yesterday,with an in-depth interview in a special newsletter to co-incide with the start of the MasterChef SA series.  Last year the publication fired Chef Pete as one of its Top 10 Restaurant judges. Chef Pete said that the judges were ‘blown away by the calibre of the contestants’, given that all were amateurs.  He predicted that the top five contestants will enter the culinary industry.   Chef Pete expressed his hope that MasterChef SA will be followed up by a second series.

POSTSCRIPT 21/3: A Kfm 94,5 presenter poorly read an ‘advertorial’ style ad about Chef and Judge Pete Goffe-Wood this afternoon on behalf of M-Net for MasterChef SA, with very out-of-date CV information – e.g. that he is the ‘author’ of the ‘newly launched book ‘Blues – Essence of Cape Town’ (the Blues staff say the book was launched about 5 – 7 years ago), that he is ‘currently involved in developing 95 Keerom Street for Rhodes House’ (the latter building was pulled down years ago, and the restaurant opened years ago), and that he owns Wildwoods (he closed down the Hout Bay restaurant almost a year ago)!  On his Kitchen Cowboys website he advertises his next Kitchen Cowboys course as starting on 23 August 2011!  The radio announcer called him ‘Pete Goffe’, all in all a very poor reflection on M-Net and MasterChef SA, and its judge Pete Goffe-Wood for his very out of date CV information!

POSTSCRIPT 21/3: One wonders why the M-Net publicity department is depicting the three MasterChef SA judges in silly photographs, as the one in this blogpost, as well as the ones in the Sunday Times last weekend, based on the Three Monkeys, using pumpkins to cover their ears, eyes, and mouth, and Chef Pete wearing a pumpkin as a hat! MasterChef SA is a very serious program for its contestants, and one would hope that the chef judges thought so too.  The pohotographs do not do the judges nor the program justice!

POSTSCRIPT 23/3: Sarel Loots Tweeted today that he did make the top 50 ‘bootcamp’ – our apologies for misinterpreting the judges’ sentiments, and we have made the correction.

POSTSCRIPT 23/3: It was just a matter of time before we (unintentionally) irritated Robertsons’ Social Media Manager Sonia Cabano enough with our questions relating to Robertsons’ ‘Masterclass’ advertising positioning in its MasterChef SA TV commercials that she blocked our Twitter account today, unprofessional behaviour on behalf of a client.  One wonders what she is signalling through this action, in wanting to hide something about her client! Being in defensive mode, she has Tweeted in particularly poor English today, using literal translations of Afrikaans words in the wrong context.

MasterChef SA, M-Net, Tuesdays, 19h30 – 20h30.  www.masterchefsa.dstv.com Twitter: @MasterChefSA

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

Instead of being delighted to have been selected as the judges for Masterchef SA in Johannesburg earlier this week, they looked utterly miserable in the photograph which M-Net posted on Facebook for the 18-programme series, which starts on M-Net on 20 March at 19h30, leading to immediate criticism.

Not only were the judges criticised for looking so glum, and for M-Net choosing such an inappropriate photograph, but the Facebook page also highlighted that all three judges are male, clearly not to their liking! I would like to add the criticism that only Chef Pete Goffe-Wood is from Cape Town, the gourmet centre of South Africa,  while Chefs Andrew Atkinson and Benny Masekwameng are from Johannesburg.  Good news is that Sam Linsell, a Cape Town (female) food stylist and blogger, has been appointed as food stylist for Masterchef SA, according to her Tweets, but her appointment has not been publicly announced by M-Net.

Masterchef is an international reality cooking competition for amateurs, and has been run in 33 countries. More than 10000 entries were received locally, and in December auditions were held in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, using judges from the SA Chefs’ Association.  Later this month a shortlist of amateur cooks will appear before the judges, and the finalists will be selected. Cape Town’s reputation as ‘foodie capital’ was evident in the very high quality of dishes which the contestants prepared and in their impressive knowledge about food. Durban contestants were said to have been the most creative.   The stakes are incredibly high, with prizes to the value of R8 million being the highest payout of any reality television program in this country.  Robertson’s is offering R250000 in cash; the winner will receive a Hyundai Elantra;  a 7-day culinary experience in Italy is sponsored by Woolworths; Nederburg will offer a food and wine pairing course, cellarmaster Razvan Macici will do a one-on-one master class with the winner, and the winner receives a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemasters Reserve wine; and the crowning chef’s hat will be the running of MondoVino restaurant for a year, taking over Chef Bennie’s job.

Chef Pete Goffe-Wood is a colourful outspoken character, who was an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge for a number of years, until the judging panel was thrown out by Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly last year.  He is a judge of the San Pellegrino World ‘s 50 Best Restaurants, still judges the Eat In Produce Awards, is the owner of the Kitchen Cowboys Cookery School for men, has owned Wildwoods restaurant in Hout Bay and the restaurant at Nitida, and has been a consultant chef to SALT restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel and to Blues. He has been a food editor of GQ.  Bennie Masekwameng is the Executive Chef of MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino, while Andrew Atkinson is the Chef at Piccolo Mondo, and is a Director of the South African Chefs’ Association. Andrew has owned a catering company, cooking for VIP’s, and presented a series of 32 cooking programs on SABC 2 during the World Cup last year.  The Facebook writer for Masterchef SA has written that the judges were concentrating on their briefing, to explain their stern look in the photograph!

The judges have said that they are looking for passion, planning, personality, and experimentation, in selecting South Africa’s top amateur Master Chef.  There is no doubt that Masterchef SA will become the most talked about TV programme on Social Media from March onwards, if the reaction last year to Masterchef Australia is anything to go by.  Masterchef USA starts airing on M-Net on 16 January at 6 pm, with judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot.

POSTSCRIPT 8/1:  It would appear that top local chefs will be invited to judge individual sessions.  As soon as their names have been confirmed, we will add them to this blogpost.

POSTSCRIPT 8/1: Interestingly, the link to this blogpost, which we added to the Masterchef SA Facebook page this morning, has been removed.

POSTSCRIPT 30/1: The Cape Town leg of Masterchef South Africa commenced at Nederburg today.  The venue has not been officially announced by M-Net, but was mentioned by Nederburg Tasting Room staff a week ago. From Tweets this morning, judge Pete Goffe-Wood and stylist Sam Linsell will be spending the following six weeks at their Masterchef South Africa shoot location.

POSTSCRIPT 6/2:  An official media release received from Nederburg’s media agency today has confirmed that the Masterchefs SA series is being shot at the wine estate, being its wine sponsor too.  “This could well be the loveliest venue ever chosen for a MasterChef series anywhere in the world’, says Anne Davis, M-Net’s senior commissioning editor of the series.  “We wanted to shoot in the Winelands because Cape vineyards are immediately recognisable to local and international viewers as distinctly South African.  The Western Cape is also the culinary capital of South Africa and has great access to fresh produce”.  Nederburg revamped its 1000 square meter Johan Graue Auction Hall to become a 20-station MasterChef kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances and utensils, in which the 18-series programmes will be filmed.

POSTSCRIPT 7/2: Sam Linsell, stylist for MasterChef SA, although never formally announced as such by M-Net, parted ways after a week of shooting, announcing her departure as follows on Twitter on 5 February: “It was love at first sight, a whirlwind relationship but with little in common, Masterchef and I have parted ways. Disappointed & relieved”.

POSTSCRIPT 14/3: Chef Vannie Padayachee, now living in Franschhoek again, was involved with MasterChef SA for the past 5 weeks, testing the recipes of the participants, she told me today.  She has signed a confidentiality contract with M-Net, and will share her MasterChef SA experience with us once the programme series starts airing.

POSTSCRIPT 14/3: On Twitter today we saw that a new MasterChef SA recipe book will be published by Human & Rosseau in October.

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

Has blogging lost its charm and appeal, three years after taking off in a big way?  It would appear so, if the blogging habits of some of the longer-standing food and wine bloggers are analysed.  I have observed, for example:

*   Dax Villanueva, of Relax-with-Dax Blog, recently Tweeted about taking a blogging break.  Some food bloggers identified with the sentiment of the ‘blogging holiday’, but Dax does not appear to have reduced his frequency of blogging.

*   Spill Blog has reduced from one blogpost a day at its start last year, to infrequent blogging on weekdays, and does not blog on weekends.  Their infrequent Tweeting (@MackSpill) has rendered them almost invisible.  One wonders how advertisers view the reduced Blogging activity.

*   David Cope’s The Foodie Blog now sees one blogpost a month, compared to many more when he first started blogging.  He almost exclusively Tweets.

*   The Jamie Who? Blog is interesting, as blogger Andy Fenner closed down his blog by this name last year, and incorporated it into a joint lifestyle blog called Aficionado, with two other bloggers.  Its clean and neat design, and top level brand endorsements, did not attract enough advertising revenue for the three partners to live from, Fenner blogged honestly, and therefore it was closed down last week.  Now Fenner will have to start from scratch in building readership, an expensive price to pay.  Even Fenner’s blogging frequency on Aficionado dropped significantly, only blogging once in the past month.  Fenner may have lost interest in blogging generally, announcing that he is opening Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants in the next month.

*   Matt Allison of I’m No Jamie Oliver Blog has not Blogged since the beginning of this month, and will be moving to a new blog he will call ‘Planting Thoughts’, reflecting his new passion for urban farming.

It would appear that Blogging Burn-out may be occurring amongst more established bloggers.  Either they are making good money out of their blogs (or not), or they are making money from other sources.  Those bloggers who do not accept advertising on their blogs, blogging for the love of it, appear to be more frequent bloggers.  Serious bloggers spend a good two hours in writing a post, and it is the posting of the photographs that is time-consuming, especially those taken with a better quality camera.  Attending the function that one blogs about, driving there, and then writing about it, can take almost a full day, a luxury for bloggers who have a ‘day job’.

Recently a ranked list of lifestyle blogs and websites, some incorporating food and/or wine, and almost all accepting advertising, was published by Wyncc (linked to Spit or Swallow and Winetimes), based on daily page views (on 17/10):

  1. food24.com126 592
  2. 2oceansvibe.com104 158
  3. winetimes.co.za47 539
  4. watkykjy.co.za – 25 105
  5. capetownmagazine.com19 763
  6. imod.co.za16 558
  7. wine.co.za14 956
  8. bangersandnash.com14 422
  9. lifeissavage.com8 546
  10. jhblive.com6 944
  11. missmoss.co.za – 6410
  12. cooksister.com5 341
  13. capetowngirl.co.za4 807
  14. winemag.co.za – 3 739
  15. aficionado.co.za3 205
  16. relax-with-dax.co.za – 2 671
  17. whalecottage.com2 671
  18. kimgray.co.za2 671
  19. whatsforsupper-juno.blogspot.com 1 068
  20. spill.co.za1 068

Using The South African Food & Wine Blogger Directory as a guideline, I checked the Blogging frequency of a number of blogs.  Pendock Uncorked and Sommelier Miguel Chan Wine Journal Blogs post daily or even more frequent blogposts in general, while Cook Sister, Just Food Now, Food & the Fabulous, Hein on Wine, Batonage, Cape Town by Mouth, Betty Bake, and Scrumptious South Africa blogposts appear more than once a week, on average. It is a shame that Sardines on Toast blogger Kobus van der Merwe last blogged in August, and that Pete Goffe-Wood, with a sharp wit, only blogs once in six months on the Kitchen Cowboys Blog.

The annual S A Blog Awards entries closed at midnight, and appears to be a non-event this year, if the low-key Tweeting about it, and the large number of Bloggers who could not be bothered to enter, is an indicator.  Every year the SA Blog Awards attracts criticism, and this year is no exception.  The biggest surprise is that only ten Blog categories will be contested, compared to 24 categories last year, benefiting more focused Bloggers, and not those writing more generally about a diversity of topics:

  • Best Business / Political Blog
  • Best Entertainment / Lifetstyle (sic) Blog
  • Best Environmental Blog
  • Best Fashion Blog
  • Best Food & Wine Blog
  • Best Music Blog
  • Best Photographic Blog
  • Best Science and Technology Blog
  • Best Sport Blog
  • Best Travel Blog

There is very little consistency and comparability with the SA Blog Awards of 2010. Noticeable by their absence this year are the Most Controversial Blog, Best New Blog, and Micro-Blogging (Tweet) categories. The rules have changed too, and for the first time the Blog entries are limited to Bloggers residing in South Africa, automatically excluding regular past-winner in the Food & Wine category, London-based Cook Sister Blog, and the Indieberries Blog winner of last year. Only two categories may be entered per Blogger.  Voting will be limited to one vote per Blog, and closes on 9 November.  Judges will only evaluate the top three publicly-voted Blogs per category.  Judges will choose the Blog ranking in each category.  The judges vote will decide the overall winner of the SA Blog Awards.  Radio sport presenter JP Naude will be running the organisation, not being a blogger himself, with support of last year’s Award’s organiser Chris Rawlinson.

It will be interesting to see how Blogging evolves over time, and whether the rate of new Blog start-ups will reach saturation.   Loyal Blog readership remains at a high level, readers being more active supporters of Blogs than their writers, it would appear.

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

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Toffie Food Festival, held at the City Hall last month and sponsored by South African Breweries, was the Food and Beer Pairing workshop, presented by SAB’s Trade Brewer Denis da Silva and Kitchen Cowboys Chef Pete Goffe-Wood.  It demonstrated that many of our perceptions about beer drinking in general, and about specific brands of beers, are shaped by societal norms and packaging, and that beer pairs perfectly with food.

In notes that we were given, it was stated that one needs to know how a beer is made when deciding on a food pairing, in that a beer’s flavour comes from the ‘cooking process’ during the malting phase, when barley converts to malt. The flavours this creates is similar to the flavours created by cooking food.  We were given the following Food and Beer pairing tips:

*   Beer and food flavours should be compatible, and have some elements in common. The herby bitterness of hops is well matched to lightly spiced food

*   Beer strength should be matched with food strength.  As with wines, light foods should be paired with lighter beers, while full-bodied beers should be matched with more strongly flavoured foods

*   In wine terms, a lager is white wine and an ale a red wine.  Hoppy beers can play the role of an acidic wine in pairing consideration.

*   In deciding on the food pairing, beers’ sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat, and richness should be considered

*   The more hop bitterness the beer has, the more the food needs to be lively and hearty to hold its own

*  The food and beer combination does not only have to be complimentary – contrasting flavours work well too

*   More fully flavoured foods can be paired with beers with a higher alcohol content.

We were given suggestions for some food and beer pairings, to embody these pairing principles: green salad and vinaigrette with hoppy Brown Ale, roast beef and gravy with Scottish ale, Chicken Kiev and Pilsner Urquell, oysters and Castle Milk Stout, tuna and olives with Peroni Nastro Azzuro, black tiger prawns and scallops with Grolsch, and an interesting sounding pairing of chocolate and Castle Milk Stout.

The difference between beer types was explained, lagers made by fermenting yeast which is subjected to cold maturation. Taking longer to ferment than ales, lagers are cleaner, less sweet, more rounded, have a less complex flavour, less fruit aroma, and usually have grass on the nose.   They are clear and light in colour. Ales are fermented at a warm temperature, with a short maturation period. They have complex flavours, and a more pronounced fruity aroma and palate.  They are served at room temperature, and have a lower carbon dioxide content.  Pilsners, originating from Pilsen in the Czech Republic, are gold in colour and clear, and have a bitter taste and hop aroma.  Stouts are almost black in colour, with a roasted taste, coming from roasting the malt, making them flavourful and given them a strong hop character.  SAB makes its beers from water, yeast, hops, malted barley, and maize, making them nutritional too, in containing vitamins, potassium, soluble fibre, with little sodium, reducing cholesterol, and slowing down digestion.  Beer has no additives, unlike wines.

In taking us through the beer and food pairing, Denis said that a beer should be evaluated as one does a wine, but with additional aspects, looking at its colour, clarity, foam, sound of the bubbles, aroma on the nose, and taste.  We tasted a ceviche of line fish with fennel, chilli and avocado, prepared by Chef Pete, paired with Castle Lite.  Containing only 4 – 5 % alcohol, it allows one to drink more beer than wine when one eats.   A spiced black urid lentil bunny chow was paired with Carling Black Label, a lager containing 5,5 % alcohol, and with a banana nose, slightly sweeter, not so hoppy, and often chosen as a favourite in blind tastings by women, Denis said, despite its masculine marketing focus.

Toulouse sausage and bacon, served with lentils and a mustard sauce, was paired with Pilsner Urquell.  Denis told us that Urquell was the first clear beer made, being more golden in colour, and being quieter on the ear in containing less carbon dioxide, and undergoing ‘triple decoction’, the name for the caramelisation process.  It has toffee, honey, citrus and spicy aromas.  They use the very aromatic saaz hop.  It is a serious beer, good to pair with goulash and steak tartare.  The Czechs are the largest beer drinking nation, Denis said. I enjoyed the pairing of Chef Pete’s delicious sticky toffee pudding (the only toffee we had at the Toffie Food Festival!) with Castle Milk Stout, called that due to its addition of lactose.  This beer has caramel, milk, molasses, and butterscotch on the nose, with a hoppy, malty and burnt taste.

The health benefits alone would be a good justification to drink a lot more beer, and the workshop proved how well different beers can be paired with a variety of foods.

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

The Toffie Food Festival and Conference, to be held at the City Hall on 3 and 4 September, attracted my attention due to its low-key marketing, odd as it is run by an (unknown) communication agency The President, and as its organisers have had no prior visibility as bloggers or ‘foodies’.  Information about the event has been scant, yet I booked immediately when I saw that Julie Powell, of the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ , is the key speaker. 

The movie ‘Julie and Julia’ ran in Cape Town in my early days of blogging, and I loved it, for its humour in presenting the trials and tribulations of blogging. Julie Powell’s blog ‘Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen’ was published as a book in 2005, and that led to the movie being made, and released in 2009.  Ms Powell has written a second book ‘Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession’, which was published two years ago.

I asked Hannerie Visser of The President why they were organising the Toffie Festival, with no credentials in the food industry.  This was her reply: Toffie is a series of conference festivals and because food is so linked to cultural heritage it allowed for an interesting conference that everyone can relate to”. Other speakers are:

*   Kobus van der Merwe, chef/owner of Oep ve Eet in Paternoster, and previous web editor of Food24 and Eat Out.

*   Eloise Alemany, ex-editor of ID magazine and now cookbook specialist, from Argentina (leading a Toffie food tour of Buenos Aires in October).

*   Dr Anna Trapido, editor of ‘Hunger for Freedom’, the book that documented Nelson Mandela’s food likes and dislikes in the different phases of his life, is organising a lunch inspired by the book, in association with Woolworths’ TASTE magazine.

*   Lin Tung-Yuan of Café GABEE, ‘multi-award winner of the Taiwan Barista Championship, who is renowned for the delicacy and finesse of his coffee and coffee-inspired dishes’

*   Renata Coetzee, winner of a 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for her book  ‘Koekemakranka: Khoi-Khoin Kultuurgoed en Kom-kuier-Kos’

*   Tammy Frazer, a perfumist (an odd link to a food conference!)

*   Wolfgang Koedel of Paulaner (a last minute addition, only announced on Twitter yesterday)

Running alongside the Conference are a number of events (oddly this programme has only just been finalised, a week before the Festival), which are free of charge, unless otherwise indicated below:

*   Spier vertical tasting

*  a SAB beer and food pairing led by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood of Kitchen Cowboys and Denis da Silva

*   a workshop by Eloise Alemany (R250)

*  a perfume workshop by Tammy Frazer (R350)

*   Tung-Yuan Lin barista workshop

The Toffie Festival, with a price tag of R 1710, also includes a Braai lunch, as well as a ‘secret home dinner’, breakfast and two Woolworths coffee vouchers.  The home dinners will be held on 3 September, and one will be allocated to dinner at the home of one of the following:

*   Cameron Munro from Superette

*   Gerhard Greyvenstein and Herman Lampen of Grey Lamp, a ‘pop-up’ supper club

*   Sumien Brink, editor of Woolworths’ TASTE magazine, and Cara Brink

*   Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy of Cakebread boutique bakery

*   Alma Viviers, managing editor of VISI magazine and Kobus van der Merwe, chef/owner of Oep ve Koep in Paternoster

*   Tina Bester of Queen of Tarts

*   Cleon and Kate Romano of Maria’s Greek Café/Restaurant

*   Philip and Lisa Key of African Relish

*   Laureen Rossouw, editor of ELLE Decoration

*   Will Hobson of fieldoffice, a sandwich-maker

*   Aletta Lintveld, food editor of Weg magazine

*   Fabio and Luan Lauro of House of Pasta

*   Brendon and Suzette Bell-Roberts of art south africa magazine.

Toffie Food Festival and Conference delegates receive a copy of Cape Town ‘MENU’, an interesting book of restaurants and recipes, and is a listing of the Toffie Festival’s ‘guide of the best meals in Cape Town’. Included, for example, is:

*   Greek and African food: recommending Maria’s, and Bebe Rose

*   Portuguese and Italian food: recommending The Villa Tavern, Giovanni’s, Pizzeria Napoletana, House of Pasta, Hildebrand Restaurant, Chop, Fork Tapa, Meloncino, and Il Cappero.

*   Asian food: recommending Hesheng Chinese Takeaway, Chef Pon’s, Yindee’s, Mr Chan Chinese Restaurant, and Takumi

*   Cakes and desserts, recommending C’est La Vie, Keenwä, Arno Arpin, Biesmiellah, Queen of Tarts, Cassis Paris, Bird’s Boutique Café (may no longer be relevant with new chef opening with new menu on 1 September), Cakebread, Giovanni’s, Willoughby’s, fieldoffice, Lindt Chocolate Studio, San Julian, and Il Cappero.

Worrying is the low key marketing of the event, which is not yet sold out, and that speakers are still being added to the programme.  The printed programme delivered on Friday looks different to the one on the website, and some international speakers seem to have fallen off the programme. There appears to be no theme to the Conference, and it looks like a randomly thrown together collection of speakers.  Surprising is that no local foodies are on the programme, be they food bloggers or journalists.

POSTCRIPT: The Toffie Food Festival was all about over-promise and under-delivery.  Read our report.

Toffie Food Festival and Conference, City Hall, 3 – 4 September. www.toffie.co.za

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

I was not sure what to expect from Dear Me restaurant, which opened about three weeks ago in the city centre, from its name.  When it got a thumbs up from Michael McKenzie, whose judgement I value, we decided to have lunch there last week. 

From outside on Longmarket Street one cannot appreciate what creativity is inside the three storey building, having a demure canopy with the Dear Me branding on the outside, and that is it.  One enters a spacious open plan restaurant, which leads to a small deli space as well as the counter on which the coffees are made by barista Nash.  The overall colour scheme is green, with green plastic moulded chairs, and a fun green flower pattern running from the bottom of the wall, even painted over mirror tiles.  Magazine and newspaper holders have been erected onto the columns, a clever use of space.   Even more interesting are the herb holders attached to the ceiling, each holder with a different herb, which can be pulled down, and watered every 10 days or so, the holders being cleverly designed in that they have their own irrigation system.  Similarly chef Vanessa Marx can cut some herbs for her dishes from these holders.  This clearly is a ‘green’ restaurant in more ways than one.  The wall alongside the staircase is a rough brick one, the unplastered effect adding an unusual dimension to the restaurant.

Dear Me and its upstairs bar Tjing Tjing belong to ex-accountant Ilze Koekemoer, very humble about her ownership of this beautifully restored 181 year-old building, which is predominantly painted in grey.  Ilse utilised South Africa’s übermaster interior decorator Francois du Plessis (he does all Newmark Hotel properties, for example, the Queen Victoria Hotel being his latest project).  Ilze says she always wanted to have a restaurant.  She said that she can cook, but that Vanessa does it better.   On the second floor is a little seating area with couches, as well as a boardroom table, with chairs as well as a couch around it for seating, over which a collection of plates has been hung. A large function room in white, including the flooring, the curtaining and walls, leads off the landing.  It is used for Thursday evening dinners, and for events such as wine tastings and art exhibitions.  I loved the crispness of the green chairs, the same as in the restaurant, in contrast to the white.  On this level is a most impressive large painting by Matthew Hindley, which one sees as one comes up the staircase.  Hindley is a graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, and spends time in Berlin regularly.  He has been a disciple of ‘Gesamtkunst’, combining painting, sculpture and drawing, writes Wikipedia.   I was particularly impressed by a smaller painting by the same artist, which was hung in an alcove which was unpainted and looked unfinished, but so by design, and brought out the best of the painting.  On the third level is the Chinese-inspired Tjing Tjing bar, which opens at 16h00, and at which tapas dishes are served when the roller doors of Dear Me have closed after the lunch service.  Clients access the bar from the restaurant entrance, by going upstairs.  The Tokyo wall in this room attracts attention, filled with photographs of a recent visit to Tokyo by Ilze and her husband, and over a part of which the designer has placed a logo.  This loft room is open plan, and has an interesting wood ceiling.  It opens to an outside balcony, with pizza oven, and here one can sit on warm evenings.  The name Tjing Tjing is a ‘South Africanised’ version of the words one uses to toast one’s friends when having a drink, Ilse explained.

There is a strong presence of ex-staff from Caveau in Newlands: Chef Vanessa’s ex-link to this restaurant is a surprise, given the poor image Caveau has, and her wonderful creativity at Dear Me.  She worked for Pete Goffe-Wood previously at his PGW Eat and Kitchen Cowboys, and then worked in Europe as well as in London.  Returning to Cape Town, she worked at Cassia on Nitida wine estate, before joining Caveau.  What is interesting is that Vanessa is a diabetic too, and is working closely with the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital just up the road in the setting up of a Diabetes Unit.  What was impressive is that the menu offers Dear Me guests vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free and starch-free options, and diabetics can be catered for as well, if Vanessa is informed.   The very efficient waitress Rumby, and the very knowledgeable wine hostess Ronel, are from Caveau Newlands too.  The waitress wore a grey overall with yellow piping and pockets, a refreshing break from the black and white waitress dress one normally sees.  I liked Ilze’s pants, fitting into the decor theme both in terms of design and colour.

The menu feels crisp and new, and this is because the menu is changed daily, with the date identified.  It has a full page introduction of its ethos: “Our aim is to provide you with high quality food reflecting our core values of integrity, respect and diversity in an informal and accessible environment”.  Recognising that not all patrons have the same requirements in what they eat, Dear Me states that “our menu is designed to be flexible enough to always provide options for individual dietary requirements and our kitchen has a can-do flexible attitude”, which we experienced on our visit.  Only fresh and seasonal produce is used, and they follow “artisanal principles and will prepare all our food naturally to ensure maximum benefit to our customers”, preserving nutrients and ensuring goodness of the food that is served.   Dear Me has chosen smaller suppliers who share the commitment of Ilse and Vanessa to ‘sustainable and ethical food production practices’.  The sustainability extends to another ‘green’ side of the restaurant, and it is conscious of its carbon footprint and impact it may have on the environment, and “wherever and whenever we can, we reduce, reuse and recycle our waste”.

The last sentence in the introduction explains the origin of the unusual name of the restaurant: “You should be able to eat with us every day and never feel guilty about compromising your personal food value and beliefs – the ideal was the inspiration for our name, Dear Me”.

The wooden tables have no table cloths, but quality material serviettes.  The cutlery is by Pintino from Italy.  I loved the presentation of the wholewheat and sourdough bread, wrapped in a napkin and held together with an old-fashioned wooden peg, presented on a beautiful green lotus-shaped plate. Nine main courses were offered, and six of these could be ordered as starter portions too.  Each item on the menu, bar the soup, had a wine suggestion, with a bottle and wine-by-the-glass price. Six of the dishes were indicated as having a health alternative.  Michael ordered the roast sweet potato, caramelised onion and goats chevre tart (R45) as a starter portion, very creamy, and the salad served with it had a good dressing, while I had organic Elgin tomato soup, basil and pecerino croute (R35) to start, perfect for a rainy day. 

For his main course Michael had grilled spatchcock quail (R110), and proclaimed it to be delicious, to be full of flavour, and none of the flavours jarred, he said.  I had slow roasted free-range pork loin served with butternut fritters, wilted greens, crispy sage and cooked apples (R98), the pork being somewhat chewy.  It was served with a very serious looking knife.   Other menu options were organic baby fig and shaved bresoula salad (R58/R78); home-cured trout gravadlax (R65/R85); grilled aubergine, curried split pea vinaigrette and feta salad (R46/R66); seared Lourensford trout (R105); and Chalmar beef sirloin (R125).

I could not resist trying the desserts, even though they are relatively expensive compared to the good value starter/main course prices.  I managed to encourage Michael to share a quince and apple crumble topped with shaved almonds, with almond milk ice cream and walnut praline (R50).  We were surprised to be generously served a dessert each, but to be charged for one only, mine coming with diabetes-friendly ice cream, proactively organised by Chef Vanessa, without us having asked for it.  I found the crumble to be a little dry, but liked the quince and apple combination to which raisins had been added, and the ice cream tasted as good as that which Michael would have been served.  Other dessert options were a chocolate torte (R60), lemon posset (R45), rhubarb soft-serve (R35), a selection of local cheeses (R65), and chocolate truffles can be ordered at R10 each.  Nash came to our table once I received my cappuccino (R16), and he spontaneously talked to us about the coffee, which comes from the Espresso Lab at the Old Biscuit Mill, where he did his barista training.  My cappuccino was made from a blend of organic coffee beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Panama.   He said that the blend makes a full-bodied, distinctive tasting coffee, as the beans are not over-roasted, comparing it to food that should not be overcooked.  There are no additives or pesticides used in the production of the coffee beans, Nash assured us.

The two-page Breakfast menu looks wonderful, and is presented on a pay-for-what-you-choose basis, which is innovative and rarely offered.  Different muesli options, including the wonderful Bircher muesli, cost R 30, and one can add fruit (R18), and/or lactose-free or low lactose yoghurts at R8 each.  A fruit plate costs R35.  Porridge costs R18, to which can be added seeds or nuts (R8), or fruit (R18). French Toast comes in three options, ranging from R35 – R50. Boiled eggs and soldiers cost R22, to which can be added bacon and vegetables, costing R18 each.  Poached eggs cost R45, to which can be added hollandaise sauce (R8). Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and truffled scrambled eggs are also available, the latter costing R70.  Plain scrambled/boiled/poached/fried eggs cost R10 only, while a basic omelette costs R15, to which one can add bacon, charcuterie, smoked trout, anchovies, mushrooms, spinach, capers, avocado and more, the cost of each specified.

Dear Me offers its patrons free filtered tap water.  I liked the wine storage area underneath the staircase, and the attractive impactful storage containers. The wine prices range from R20/R77 for Cape Atlantic Sauvignon Blanc 2010, to R68/R270 for Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2009 on the menu.  The winelist is bound in a leather holder, and looks impressive.  Each page has the Dear Me logo on it.  There are eight MCC’s, ranging from R43/R170 for Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel to R455 for the Cederberg Blanc de Blanc.  Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R49/R195) and Colmant Brut Reserve (R65/R260) are also served by the glass. There are five Shiraz choices, Rickety Bridge costing R42/R165 and Migliarina R300.  Tamboerskloof Shiraz is also available by the glass, at R49/R195.

Dear Me is one of a number of new exciting restaurants to open, where the focus is strongly on the interior, making a strong visual impression, and allowing one to escape from a busy and stressful outside world.   There was nothing to fault at Dear Me at all, and one could not believe that the restaurant had only been open for two weeks when we ate there.  While it is the type of brasserie at which one would want to pop in regularly, parking (or lack of) during the week is a deterrent, but one is advised to park in the Netcare hospital parking garage on Loop Street.  Dear Me is refreshingly different, admirably green, admirably health-conscious, good value for money, and very friendly and welcoming.

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: I returned to Dear Me today, to finalise the winelist and Breakfast write-up, which I had missed last week, probably in talking too much!   I have added it above.  I had Chef Vanessa’s refreshing Caprese Salad starter portion, with Buffalo Mozzarella and fresh basil (R55).

POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I returned for Thursday dinner, with my colleague Marianna, so that she can recommend it to our guests.  Interior designer Francois du Plessis was having dinenr there, and came for a chat. He told me that Gregor Jenkins made the dining table upstairs, and he also crafted the tables at Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel.  One pays R 240 for three courses, which is excellent value, as an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser are brought to the table as well, making it a five-course meal in fact.  If wine is added per course, it costs R 350.  Five courses cost R 350, and R 480 paired with wine.  Ronel looked after us most of the time, the first time that I had met her. Four choices of starter and main course are offered, and three desserts.  For her starter Marianna had the Tataki of yellow-fin tuna with pickled cucumber and ginger, oshi toshi and soy, while I chose the Wild mushroom risotto with parmesan and truffle oil, both outstanding.  The palate cleanser was a thick and creamy ginger and fig sorbet.  Marianna’s main course was Asian broth, kob, shitake mushrooms, noodles, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, a colourful and tasty dish.  I was most impressed with my Chalmar beef fillet, tender to cut, loved the crisp green beans and sand-less spinach with the most unusual glühwein-poached pears.  I didn’t like the gorgonzola cream on the steak, finding it too overpowering and rich.  Marianna had Buttermilk panna cotta with roasted rhubarb compote for dessert, while I chose the cheese platter, which I was less happy with, mainly due to the very dry and hard Melba toast.  I enjoyed a glass of Rickety Bridge’s Shiraz 2008 for R42, and had a small taste of port with the cheese, with the compliments of the restaurant.   The service was attentive and informative. A surprise was the noisiness of the downstairs restaurant, which Francois said he is working on to contain.

POSTSCRIPT 16/2: I have received an e-mail, announcing a new Pantry addition to Dear Me, with home-made breads, also available in wheat-free and gluten free variations, diabetic-friendly treats, relishes, cookies, buttermilk rusks, muffins, almond torte, and macaroons

Dear Me restaurant, 165 Longmarket Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021)  422- 4920. www.dearme.co.za (The website reflects the green interior design theme, and contains the most current menu.  There is no Image Gallery to reflect Chef Vanessa’s lovely food.  The winelist is not on the website.  There is no information about the Tjing Tjing Bar).   Twitter: @DearMeFoodWorld.  Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h00, dinner on Thursday evenings.  Tjing Tjing opens at 16h00, until late.

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