This past weekend the Highcliffe Food and Arts Festival was held, the emphasis being on the Food, with Beverages, and gins in particular, of the New Forest area. Highcliffe is a small town down the road from Chewton Glen, the hotel at which my son works in the New Forest in southern England, an area well-known for its heathland, forest trails, and native ponies. And it surprised me at the variety of craft beverages and craft foods that were on offer to buy, in full size or as a tasting portion. Continue reading →
The October Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, hosted by the Haas Collective in their gallery across the road from Haas Coffee, reflected the passion and spirit of Jorgensen Distillery and Honest Chocolates, both artisanal producers.
Dawn introduced Jorgensen Distillery, and has been a loyal attendee of the Food & Bloggers’ Club meetings. Last year she and Roger introduced Primitiv Vodka to the Bloggers’ Club. Dawn told us that from being a winemaker, Roger moved into distilling, being one of three to start distilling spirits locally. It’s a family business, and the website address www.jd7.co.za, reflects the seven members in the Jorgensen family, all involved in the business. The family handles all aspects of the business, being absolutely hands-on. Dawn saw the power of Social Media, and took a one-day course. She registered the Twitter address @PrimitivVodka, which she uses for the whole product range, which has grown to eight, and does not think that she should have a separate account for each brand. She praised Twitter and Blogging, saying that through Social Media they have made friends and built relationships. Roger is the ‘alchemist’, handling the production, and Dawn the Marketing, which she focuses on Social Media, and participation at smaller shows, locally and in Johannesburg. Interested bloggers and journalists have come to see the Jorgensen Distillery in Wellington. Dawn was almost apologetic about her Twitter Follower and Facebook Friends numbers of around 600, but has realised that it is not the number of persons, but the quality of the interaction that is important. Dawn has found Facebook to be very visual, with Friends posting photographs, whilst Twitter helps to spread the word about one’s brand if the users are happy with it. Happy customers become Social Media friends, word of mouth being their most important marketing approach. They value the relationships that they develop at each meeting. Dawn says she only Tweets positively. She likes to promote like-minded people and their brands on Twitter.
Roger has a South African mother and Norwegian father, and grew up in a home in which spirits were drunk regularly and neat, always enjoyed with food. He was one of three producers to help change legislation relating to potstill brandy production, co-founded the Wellington Wine Route, and founded the Brandy Route in Wellington. He said that if one does ‘not make honest, holistically produced material you are just another brand’. Roger said that spirits are drunk neat in the north, and with mixers in hot climate countries, including South Africa. He suggested that they be drunk cold and neat, and not with local mixers, which are far too sweet. We tasted the Primitiv Vodka first, which is made from spelt, the origin of grain, which Roger sources from the Cederberg, being the only region in South Africa where it is grown. Roger distills the spelt with the husks, its oil giving the vodka its special flavour. He could make it at an alcohol level of 96%, but has chosen to reduce it to 90%, to allow the flavour of the essential oils to come to the fore. He was critical of other commercially produced vodka, some of it made from grain not fit for human consumption. Primitiv has a creamy and oily mouth feel, with floral, pepper and aniseed notes. It is well-suited to eat with cheese, and seafood, including oysters. Premium white spirits are difficult to make, Roger said. Lemoncello is a drink they learnt to love on a holiday in Tuscany, there being about thirty kinds in Italy. Roger uses organic Cape lemons, having the perfect aroma in the skin. The top layer of the skin soaks in strong wine spirit for two weeks, and it absorbs the flavour and oils from the lemons. Roger would like to see restaurants serving a complimentary glass of Lemoncello as a thank you to their customers. Limes from the neighbours are used to make Naked Lime liqueur, and bartered for product. Roger loves experimenting, and has made liqueurs from bay leaves and naartjies. The Jorgensen Distillery products can be delivered by courier when ordered off their website, or from www.ebooze.co.za, or found at Wines at the Mill. A range of miniatures is supplied to guest houses and hotels. The Absinthe is the product that is most in demand, and their most expensive product. New products Roger is working on are a South African ‘Tequila’, a local rum, and liqueurs made from indigenous aromatic plants. The Jorgensen’s gin is an African take on this product, Roger said, and again he emphasised that it should be drunk neat. This is the product that is hardest to make, in ensuring consistency, and therefore Roger holds back one third of every batch, to blend with the next batch. A unique mix of herbs is used by Roger to make his gin, including ‘grains of paradise’, ‘Natal wild ginger spice’, and Ohandua spice from Namibia. South Africa’s legislation, driven by the South African Liquor Brand Association, on which the major producers sit, demands that spirits have 43% alcohol, whereas the international norm is 40%. Imported products therefore need to be adapted to increase the alcohol content, and their packaging needs to be amended for imported brands to be sold locally. The Jorgensen’s Savignac potstill brandy was the highlight of the tasting for me, not being a brandy drinker at all. It is made in the style of French cognac, matured for 14 years in French oak barrels. No sugar or caramel is added to the brandy, and the Honest Chocolates we tasted with it was an amazing marriage.
Honest Chocolates’ Anthony Gird told us that he ‘stumbled’ into chocolate-making, not having any culinary background. Using raw cocoa powder he had found in health shops, he experimented with it to make chocolates that his friends loved. Michael de Klerk was living in London at the time, specialising in website design, and he too was experimenting with chocolate-making, having been inspired by a friend in New York to do so. The team call themselves ‘imperfectionists’, learning as they go along. They have started with making moulded and dipped truffles, and sold their first handcrafted chocolates at the Old Biscuit Mill. Their chocolates do not contain dairy or emulsifiers, and they only use natural fructose. The raw organic cocoa beans are sourced from Super Foods, who in turn source them from a co-operative in Ecuador, which is also known to make one of the top chocolates in the world. Their cocoa beans are not roasted, unlike other cocoa producers. The beans have a great aroma, have anti-ageing properties, and are good for the heart. They use agave nectar instead of sugar, which is low GI, and is therefore diabetic-friendly. In addition to truffles, they make small slabs, each new product wrapper designed by a different designer: a rabbit on the 72 % bar, and an illustration of the Kalahari desert on the Salt bar. They also make a chocolate spread.
Honest Chocolate has a website, a Facebook page, and more recently got into Twitter. They have a blog on their website. Two months ago they opened their first outlet on Wale Street, from which they both make and sell the chocolate. They say it is hard to make chocolate and Tweet/Blog. Currently they have about 600 Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Facebook is like an on-line store for Honest Chocolate, with others recommending their products, while Twitter is a tool to network with partners. They have had write-ups on blogs and in magazines, giving them free coverage, and this helps them to build relationships. Every time someone Re-Tweets their Tweet, or Tweets about them, they get more followers, they have found. For them the number of Followers is not as important as the quality of the Tweets and Followers. They say that the personality reflected in Social Media becomes that of your business.
The Haas Collective consists of the coffee shop and restaurant, the Gallery, a decor and design section, and an advertising agency partnered with Draft FCB. Partnerships form the business model for Haas, and so Strictly Coffee from Robertson is the coffee partner. The business is evolving, and their first ‘Underground Supper’ will be held in the Gallery on 29 October.
It was an amazing evening, reflecting with honesty the start-up of both Honest Chocolate and Jorgensen’s Distillery. The passion for their businesses and brands was palpable, inspiring those present to change their spirit and chocolate brands. Both companies have in common that they have stories behind them, making products that people fall in love with when they meet the people making them, and therefore the price of their artisanal products is less important. Their products offer value in a recessionary economy, being anti-capitalist, ‘non-tourism bus’ type products, offering value and purity, taking one back to the days of the ‘tuisnywerheid’, it was said. They are products one can trust, as they are not mass-produced. Both businesses will grow organically, and Social Media plays a role in achieving a slow and steady growth.
Haas Collective: 67 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-4413. www.haascollective.com @HaasCollective @HaasCoffee
Jorgensen’s Distillery: Versailles, Wellington. Tel (021) 864-1777. www.jd7.co.za @PrimitivVodka
Honest Chocolate: 66 Wale Street, Cape Town. Tel 082 829 3877/082 736 3889. www.honestchocolate.co.za @HonestChoc
Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club: Tel (021) 433-2100. email@example.com Facebook @FoodWineBlogClu
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
The KWV is one of the oldest wine tasting venues, having done cellar tours for a good fifty years. It has shaken off its old-fashioned image in its tasting venue called the KWV Wine Emporium, selling an extensive range of wines, liqueurs, ports, and related products such as chocolates, Platter wine guides, the food and wine pairing guide by Katinka van Niekerk, and much more. Impressive is its creativity in a number of options for food and KWV wine pairings.
I read about the tastings in the Bolander freesheet, and it sounded interesting enough to add to an outing to Paarl yesterday. I got lost trying to find the building, turning down alongside the KWV Head Office on Main Road, and one should get exact instructions and not use the head office building as a guideline to find the Emporium building, as it is on the other side of the railway line, near the back entrance of Paarl Mall. A call guided me to the right street. The exterior of the building shows its history, but one steps inside a buzzing and busy windowless large tasting and KWV product display room. At the entrance the prices of the different tasting options are specified, but a printed version of this list was not immediately available, and was not up to date, the new winter-only Port and Cake tasting not listed on it. The staff was very helpful in setting up the Port and Cake tasting for a photograph, as I intended to do one tasting only, after having already had a glass of dessert wine with lunch at Bosman’s.
The tasting options at the KWV Wine Emporium of KWV wines, brandies, ports, liqueurs, and more are the following:
* Cellar Tour, including an audio-visual of the company and its brands, tour of the barrel maturation cellar, the ‘world-renowned’ Cathedral Cellar, the Big Five Vats, and a tasting of six KWV wines. Tours are done at 10h00, 10h30 and 14h15 in English and at 10h15 in German on Monday – Saturday, and at 11h00 in English on Sunday. One can pre-book tours in French, Spanish and Swedish. Duration is 90 minutes and costs R30.
* Winetasting of five KWV products costs R15
* Wine growing tour, includes the Cellar Tour, but also the tour of the modern fermentation cellar, the crushing facility, a talk with a winemaker, and a tasting of eight KWV products. Tour done by reservation only, and a ‘very good knowledge of wine is recommended’. Duration 2 hours. Cost R50
* Introduction to Food and Wine Pairing, tasting five wines and ‘selected food bits representing the five taste sensataions’. In hindsight, I wished I had reserved this tasting. Reservation required. R35.
* Biltong, Nuts and Wine Experience, a tasting of five KWV wines (Sparkling Cuvée Brut, Sparkling Semi-Sweet, Chardonnay 2010, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Cape Full Cream) with biltong, droë wors, and cashew nuts, no reservation required, R 35.
* KWV Mentors Tasting, tasting five wines in the ‘ultra premium’ KWV The Mentors range (Semillon 2009, Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend 2009, Grenache Blanc 2010, Chardonnay 2010, Chenin Blanc 2008, and Viognier 2009), no reservation required, R 30.
* Chocolate and Brandy Tasting, tasting four KWV brandies (5 and 10 year old, as well as 15 and 20 year old potstill) and four Huguenot Fine Chocolate chocolates (hazelnut praline, milk chocolate, 70 % cocoa chocolate and white chocolate), no reservation required, R 35.
* Liqueur and Chocolate Tasting, tasting four KWV liqueurs and four Lindt chocolates. The tasting of the liqueurs is done first, and then the pairing and tasting with the chocolates is done. An espresso is served, to clear the palate. The first liqueur tasted was a 2005 White Muscadel, and it has a soft, smooth, honey, citrus taste. The Van der Hum is an old classic, and is made by putting mandarin skins in brandy spirit for three months. Then eight herbs and spices, including cloves and cinnamon, are added to neutral spirit, and added to the mandarin-flavoured brandy spirit, becoming a refreshing liqueur. Suzanne recommended the Van Der Hum for baking and cooking, and especially for the sauce for Duck L’Orange. Van der Hum Cream Liqueur has cream added with butterscotch notes, and the Wild Africa has flavours of caramel, fresh cream, toffee and coconut, and is the most ‘commercial’ looking product in terms of its pack design, making it popular among tourists, with a taste similarity to Baileys. The two non-cream sweeter liqueurs were paired with the bitter 70% and 85% mini-slabs of Lindt chocolate. Whilst the Lindt Orange Intense was meant to be paired with the Van der Hum Cream Liqueur, it was even better paired with the Van der Hum Liqueur. The Lindt Mint Intense pairing with the Wild Africa made it taste of After Eight. No reservation required, R35.
* Port and Cake Tasting, during winter only, pairing four KWV ports with four home-made cakes (fruit cake, orange and almond cake, Saint-Nicholas cake – with dates, walnuts, rum, and almonds – and a Coffee, hazelnut and chocolate cake, for which I was given a recipe sheet!), no reservation required, R 35.
* Cellar Tour with Chocolate and Brandy Tasting/Biltong, Nut and Wine Tasting/Liqueur and Chocolate Tasting, must be pre-booked, costs R50, and is a combination of tours.
Suzanne did the tasting with me, being flexible in slowing down when I was taking notes. Brigitte came to say hello, and we connected via our German roots, and our parents knowing each other from the local Lutheran Church. Maya is Swiss, and in total there are seven staff. Brigitte says that staff brainstorms led to the selection of tasting options, and that they are constantly looking at new pairing options. The Chocolate and Brandy and Liqueur and Chocolate Tastings are the most popular.
KWV Wine Emporium, Kohler Street, Paarl. Tel (021) 807-3007. www.kwvwineemporium.co.za . Monday – Saturday 9h00 – 16h30, Sunday 11h00 – 16h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Having seen two World Cup matches at Paulaner Braeuhaus in the Waterfront, I was looking for a new venue to see the match between Germany and Ghana in the past week. I had heard good things of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor Hotel, and its German chef and GM Alex Mueller, so chose this as the venue. I had not been there in years, not since Rick and Collette Taylor owned the hotel.
What a mistake I made to choose the venue, as far as World Cup “gees” goes, as I was the only person in the hotel watching the match on the massive screen filling the whole wall of the lounge. Only one couple was dining in Pure restaurant.
On arriving outside the Hotel, a security guard followed me into the hotel, and appeared quite unwelcoming and confrontational, asking me what I wanted at the hotel! She disappeared, so I settled down in the lounge. I had seen the photographs on the hotel’s website, and was told that the decor had been done by Block & Chisel. It is hard to describe, other than that the lounge decor is very busy, with a dominant African design feel to it. For me, the oranges and pinks in the upholstery clashed with the red and white curtains, and while I liked the African dress hanging on one wall, I thought a lot of it was very forced. The African decor flows through all the way to the bar counter and reception, but the decor tone changes completely in Pure restaurant, which is very earthy (screen made from ‘interwoven’ branches, marine touches added on the tables, hanging crystal stands, again feels overdone).
Generously sized couches and armchairs in the lounge, where the TV was set up, had an English feel. The coffee table was very low, making it uncomfortable to eat and to make notes at. I struggled to get comfortable in the armchair throughout my two-hour visit, even adding a scatter cushion, but nothing helped. The “pub” part of the hotel is nothing more than some bar stools at the bar counter in an open-plan room coming out of the reception, on the way to the restaurant.
The waiter brought three white leather bound documents, but did not explain the difference between them. One was Pure restaurant’s a la carte menu, not an option due to the uncomfortable table. The full winelist was brought as well. The bar menu was difficult to fold open, due to the way it is bound, making it difficult to read the prices. It had a very small selection of ten food choices, reminding me of a room service menu. One can order two portion sizes (quantity not specified) of tartar of tuna and spring rolls for R 70 or R 90, a herb salad with mozarella for what sounds like an expensive R 95, croque monsieur costs R 60, and focaccia with a choice of salmon, chicken or parma ham costs R 75. The Hout Bay Manor sandwich, which includes roast beef and bacon, costs R 75, while the Hout Bay Manor Burger can be ordered for R 75 – it also can be ordered with foie gras, at double the price. From the menus I could see the ‘Pure’ and ‘Hout Bay Manor’ brands fighting each other, the former young and modern, and the latter old fashioned and steeped in history.
I chose the croque monsieur, which was just the right snack after a long day, and the presentation of the food on a large white dish was creative, with chips stacked neatly – they were hot but not crisp. What was a cute touch, but may have just been my imagination, was a decorative touch of aubergine, red pepper and yellow pepper, creating the German flag colours! Unfortunately they were over-salted, but the idea behind it was much appreciated. The cutlery looked brand new, and was elegant, and a good quality material serviette was offered. I was a little annoyed when the waiter seemed very anxious to remove my plate and glass so quickly, but this may have been intended as good service.
The bar list offers two Methode Cap Classiques sparkling wines by the glass, from Ambeloui, which I did not know but discovered to be from Hout Bay, according to a Google search. Olga costs R 50, and her ‘sister’ Roseanne R56. Amstel costs R20, Castle R18, Heineken R 20, Savanna R22, and Windhoek R18. An extensive list of 43 spirits and liqueurs is on offer, and includes Wilderers Grappa, Bols, Cointreau, Butlers, and a further list of cocktails. The cappuccino I ordered was a lovely foamy one, served with a meringue on the side.
This review would have been very different had it not been for the wonderful sommelier Tatiana Marcetteau, previously from Delaire Graff. She recognised me from past visits there, and the level of service rose dramatically, with her checking regularly on my well-being, reminding me very much of Aleks’ care and service at Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar the week before. Unasked, Tatiana offered to show me a guest bedroom in the half-time, as well as the Pure restaurant. She also proudly showed me her wine cellar. The receptionist offered me a copy of the hotel’s book, including a book sticker that one can write one’s name into, and detailing the history of the hotel (built in 1871), yet reflecting the colourful decor of the interior. A photo album feel is created by a swatch of curtaining material, and photographs look as if they have just been glued into the book. Each of the 21 bedrooms is different, and one can choose the Zulu, the Xhosa or even the Sangoma room! The book ends off with two pages of photographs, presented as if they are postage stamps. This is one of the most creative hotel promotional documents I have ever seen.
I would not watch another World Cup match at the hotel again, despite the lovely service from Tatiana, given the lack of guests to watch the soccer with, and the lack of ‘gees’. But the visit has definitely whet my appetite to visit Pure restaurant, and to try Chef Alex Mueller’s cuisine after the World Cup. The prices are not cheap, but the restaurant is running a winter special at the moment. My croque monsieur was better value than a horrid pizza I had eaten at Foresters Arms earlier in the day (review to follow).
Pure at Hout Bay Manor, Baviaanskloof, off Main Road, Hout Bay. Tel 021 790 0116. www.houtbaymanor.co.za (The website design does not reflect the design of the beautiful hotel book, and appears hard sell in having an accommodation booking window open on every page, even if unrelated to accommodation. The Home page looks cluttered, and the Blog, Facebook and Twitter links are made very prominent – only problem is that the last post on the blog is dated 12 May, and the hotel tweets about once a month, making its social media marketing tool symbols look like window-dressing!). Open Tuesdays- Saturdays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com