At the Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2017 this evening, held at GrandWest, some shock results stunned the restaurant industry. Eat Out continues its love affair with Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, with three of his four restaurants making the Top 10 Restaurant List, a spectacular achievement! The biggest shock was the spectacular slide of La Colombe, the restaurant which had all the opportunity to make the number one slot, but only making the seventh rank, a karmic reaction to the restaurant losing focus, opening too many restaurants, and getting involved in restaurant politics! Continue reading →
One cannot get more notorious than being featured in Noseweek (July 2015 issue), and to have a Facebook group created about one’s business. Such an ‘honour’ has been bestowed upon Daniel Waldis, owner of Le Chocolatier, who has operated in Franschhoek, now in Stellenbosch, and with a factory in Paarl!
The eagerly awaited 12th The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards was held last night at The Guildhall in London, and the Top 50 Restaurants were announced. Restaurants ranked 51st – 100th were listed on the Awards website, which crashed just after the Awards ceremony!
The initiative of Restaurant magazine in the UK, and using 900 judges from around the world, a total of 6552 votes were cast to vote for the world’s best restaurants. The world was divided into 26 regions, chaired by an expert for that region. Tamsin Snyman heads the Africa panel of 36 members, who had to eat at 4 local as well as at 3 international restaurants to cast their vote. No score is required – the vote is purely for the best restaurants they ate at, and must be presented in ranked order. Every year 10 panelists step down per region, to be replaced by new ones. For the first time in seven years Snyman did not attend, for family reasons.
The biggest surprise was that Noma in Copenhagen went back to its number one Continue reading →
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
Interesting news arrived in the media release received yesterday, announcing that Eat Out Editor Abigail Donnelly has appointed Bruce Palling, London-based food blogger, and food writer for Wall Street Journal Europe, to ‘assist in judging South Africa’s top restaurants‘ for the 2012 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards.
Last year Eat Out’s decision to fire its panel of judges (MasterChef SA judge Pete Goffe-Wood, MasterChef SA Culinary Director Arnold Tanzer, and Anna Trapido, author of a biography about Nelson Mandela’s life through food), and the announcement that its editor would be the sole judge, was met with surprise and shock, especially when controversial decisions were made, for example, Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen was appointed Chef of the Year, and is featured in almost every issue of Taste, of which Ms Donnelly is the Food Editor, while The Greenhouse was announced the number one Top 10 restaurant; the most controversial award was that of the newly introduced Boschendal Style Award, which Ms Donnelly awarded to Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House, her (undisclosed) consulting client!; the exclusion of Tokara, with its top chef Richard Carstens, from the Top 10 restaurant list; and the award of Best Country Style Restaurant going to The Table at De Meye, which few had heard of, had only been open for a few months, and is owned by a photographer which Mrs Donnelly uses for some of her Taste shoots.
Mr Palling writes a weekly column for the European edition of the Wall Street Journal, and amended versions of his newspaper columns are featured on his blog Gastroenophile. Interesting is that a Google search found no results for anything written about Mr Palling, one just finding links to his blog posts. For the past six years he has been a judge for the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. Mr Palling is Australian born, was a reporter for the BBC World Service in the former Indochina. He was a reporter for a number of publications in South-East Asia, Zimbabwe, and the USA. He then moved to travel writing for Tatler, and created a Travel Guide for them. Thereafter he created a travel company called Western & Oriental, of which he is the Chairman. He is described as having a passion for ‘fine wine and interesting food’, but also writes about travel.
Mrs Donnelly praised the new judge for being ‘an exceptional food writer’, for bringing ‘extensive international experience and knowledge to Eat Out and our awards – something that we’ve always aspired to‘. Mr Palling will assist Mrs Donnelly in selecting the ‘finalists for the Top 10 restaurants across the country‘. In yesterday’s weekly Eat Out newsletter Mrs Donnelly wrote that Mr Palling will also help to select ‘the winners of the other accolades’, including Chef of the Year, and the Service Excellence Award.
Mr Palling has never been to South Africa, and is quoted in the Eat Out media release as saying: ‘I know from my experience as a judge for the San Pellegrino Awards that South Africa is well represented among the top international contenders and I look forward to experiencing for myself what the local restaurant industry has to offer’. The Eat Out media release describes Mr Palling as an ‘internationally acclaimed gastronome’. Odd then that there is no information to be found written about him.
What dates Mr Palling severely is his reference in his profile to Zimbabwe as ‘White Rhodesia’, and his use of Blogger as his blogging platform (used by newbie amateur bloggers)!
In one of Mr Palling’s articles (‘What’ll it be? Wallaby’) he wrote about a visit to Australia three months ago, and local chefs may pick up some tips about what he looks for from it. He wrote that he was ‘disappointed by the lack of much distinctively Australian-ingredient-led cuisine, except for the occasional piece of well-cooked wallaby. There must be more native produce out there waiting to be used. Increasingly, what excites me is bold cuisine that belongs to a specific location, thanks to its unique ingredients. This is why the best New Nordic places in Scandinavia deserve all the hype. There is something fulfilling about consuming produce that relates to your region. That’s also why I adore fine wine from around the globe because it speaks of its origins and is nuanced on an annual basis by the weather. For this reason, I also think it is slightly depressing that the most famous Australian wine, Penfolds Grange, is a blend of grapes from dispersed locations rather than reflecting a specific vineyard’. In the same article he refers to his ‘passion for foraged cuisine’.
It will be interesting to see how the country’s top restaurants react to the news about the appointment of the new Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge!
POSTSCRIPT 29/7: Doing some further research on the new Eat Out Top 10 RestaurantBruce Palling, we have discovered:
* Last year Bruce Palling was one of 837 judges around the world evaluating the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. He has no specific senior position in this capacity. South Africa’s judges last year were Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, MasterChef SA Culinary Producer Arnold Tanzer, Mont Rochelle Hotel Managing Director Erwin Schnitzler, retired market researcher Henry Barenblatt, food writer and previous Eat Out editor Sam Woulidge, ex-Cafe Max owner and now Londolozi Chef Anna Ridgewell, occasional food blogger David Cope, Grand Provence GM Karl Lambour, Chef’s Warehouse & Cookery School owner and Liam Tomlin Food co-owner Liam Tomlin, Principal of Institute of Culinary Arts Letitia Prinsloo, Platter restaurant writer Jos Baker, GOLD restaurant owner Cindy Muller, winemaker and 96 Winery Road owner Ken Forrester, The Test Kitchen and Pot Luck Club Chef and owner Luke Dale-Roberts, Graham Beck winemaker Pieter Ferreira, and Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants co-owner Andy Fenner. The Academy Chairman for Southern Africa is Tamsin Snyman.
* Local restaurateurs with UK connections have never heard of writer Bruce Palling
* Bruce Palling does not appear to have won any awards for his writing, yet is praised by Mrs Donnelly as ‘an exceptional food writer’, not substantiating this accolade.
* The Wall Street Journal‘s Europe edition has a circulation of only 74800 (in 2011), and is on a decline. Mr Palling is one of a number of food and restaurant writers for the newspaper.
* In the quote attributed to Mr Palling in the Eat Out media release, he flatteringly wrote that he was aware that our country was ‘well represented among the international contenders’ – ironically, in the 2012 awards South Africa slipped badly, no local restaurant making the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the first time in a number of years. The Tasting Room made 57th position (down from 36th the year before) and The Test Kitchen 74th position, reflecting how ill-informed Mr Palling is!
POSTSCRIPT 30/7: Mr Palling has a-palling-ly retaliated on Twitter to this blogpost, calling me a ‘noisy blogger’, and disparaging our Whale Cottages, hardly a gentlemanly response! He must be really mad, as he has continued this afternoon with more attacking Tweets, calling me a ‘pig ignorant peasant’! He is welcome to write a response to this blogpost. Let the Games begin!
POSTSCRIPT 20/9: As we predicted, Bruce Palling’s involvement in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards has been a-palling to date, and he left Cape Town under a cloud of controversy on Monday, after 2 weeks of judging the Top 20 candidate restaurants. Despite his involvement, to help improve Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly’s image due to the controversy last year, a new bomb has burst about the initial inclusion of The Pot Luck Club on the Top 20 list when it has not been open for the 12 months required in the rules of the Award.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage