Entries tagged with “Matt Allison”.

We had been eagerly awaiting the opening of The Millhouse Kitchen by Chef Bjorn Dingemans at Lourensford Estate, having been impressed with his country fresh cuisine at The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz. The menu has some old-time favourites, the portions are huge, and the prices are very reasonable, making it excellent value for money.

As my parents live in Somerset West, it was a good opportunity to pay them a visit and invite them to eat at The Millhouse Kitchen, as we had not been to Lourensford in years.   Signage on the estate to the restaurant is not good, so one should follow that to the tasting centre, as it is located close to the restaurant. The restaurant was previously The River Garden, and prior to that the home of the mill master, the estate having had a flour and a saw mill.  Walking from the parking to the restaurant, the neat landscaped garden and water feature, with garden sculptures as is so popular, was evident.  The restaurant building has been cleverly divided into sections, with an outside front deck, two inside separated sections, and an outside back deck, each section with different tables and chairs, and difference in style, Chef Bjorn explained.  The front wooden deck has smart white tables and white moulded chairs, branded umbrellas, is surrounded by old oak trees, the beautiful garden, and some peacocks wandering by.  Inside the two sections have wood top tables and silver Bistro chairs, with glass windows to show off the garden, and sporting lots of wood, all support beams clad with wood from branded Lourensford and Lanzerac fruit crates (Lanzerac is a previous sister property, having belonged to Christo Wiese too until earlier this year), a design theme carried through to the kitchen counter too.  The back outside terrace opens onto another garden, with play equipment for the children, a perfect and safe family section, where guests mainly order the pizzas prepared in Chef Bjorn’s new wood-fired oven, in which he is also preparing many of his meat dishes. In total about 120 guests can be accommodated, and we were surprised (and impressed) to see a Fully Booked sign as we entered, beautifully styled with vegetables, even though many tables inside were still available. Our charming waitress Gercia said that Chef Bjorn controls the number of guests he allows, relative to the pressure on his kitchen, so that service is not compromised, a commendable policy one would welcome at other restaurants too. The variable weather is another factor, so that all outside guests could move inside, if required.

Chef Bjorn is not only the chef but also operates the restaurant, with the assistance of his partner Rachel Davis.  Chef Bjorn was unable to leave his station, cooking in his open plan kitchen for a busy restaurant, and we missed him coming to chat at the table, as he did at the previous restaurant.  The staff wear white shirts and black pants, with black aprons, and the black tie makes the uniform look smart and professional.

There are no tablecloths for lunch, but they are used for dinner.  Material serviettes, still-shiny Wilkinson cutlery, and already-ground pink salt and black pepper are on the table.  The ciabatta is brought to the table on a branded wooden board, the butter being served in an espresso cup, but Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table too.  The water with slices of strawberry and mint leaves was an unusual mix, and very refreshing.  The menu is a double-sided laminated A4 sheet, with twelve starters, eight main courses, and five desserts. Each item on the menu has a suggestion for a Lourensford wine with tasting notes, all served by the glass and all reasonably priced.  Chef Bjorn is very focused on reducing the carbon footprint, and almost all produce is sourced less than 50 km from Lourensford.  Chef Bjorn is blessed to have a bountiful supply of plums, peaches, trout, honey, chickens, eggs, pears, grapes, and more on the estate. Urban farmer Matt Allison is consulting to the restaurant, to build a vegetable and herb garden.

The Chicken Liver Parfait starter was topped with rock salt and is served with pear chutney (R52), Chef Bjorn’s parfait has a new sophistication, served with Melba Toast.  The pairing suggestion is Winemakers Selection Viognier 2010 (R40/R120). My father loves calf’s liver, so had his ‘fix’ as a starter, topped with a strawberry salsa and drizzled with aged balsamic (R52), paired with Lourensford Selection Merlot 2010 (R47/R140).  My mother enjoyed three oysters (R60), the recommended pairing being the Lourensford Cap Classique 2008 (R44/R225).  Other starters are grilled squid; mussels served with cider and cream; a Caprese salad;  sardines served with an unusual combination of breadcrumbs, pinenuts, raisins, chilli and lemon; a delicious sounding mushroom risotto with black truffle, slow roasted tomatoes, and rocket; and grilled green asparagus.  None of the starters cost more than R60.

Three salads are available, a chicken, beetroot and goats’ cheese, and a Lourensford trout salad, costing between R60 – R68.  Pizzas are available with a wheat and gluten free base, at an additional R12.  Prices start at R55 for a Mozzarella, basil and tomato pizza; with wild mushroom, proscuitto, and salami, avocado, and chilli all costing R75.  Even though the main course portions are huge, one can order additional sides of Bearnaise or pepper sauce, vegetables, Parmesan sweet potato chips, a salad, or plain chips.  My dad loves duck, so he ordered the seared duck breast, potato rosti, grapefruit, blueberries, and sweet potato ribbons (R120), for which no wine pairing was suggested. My mother and I both had the pork belly, a huge delicious portion served with buttered mash, braised red cabbage, and an unusual apple and bacon sauce (R90), the pairing suggestion being Lourensford Estate Shiraz 2010 (R47/R140).  Other main courses include a Seafood platter at R360, which includes grilled prawns, crayfish, squid, mussels, fish, lemon butter, and aioli; lamb burger; rolled lamb shoulder; the Millhouse prawn risotto; and fillet and sirloin steak.

Chef Bjorn is a mean cheesecake maker, and his vanilla cheesecake with a kumquat preserve topping was no exception (R45), the pairing suggestion being Lourensford Noble Late Harvest 2009 (R27/R188).  I enjoyed the superb Summer berry stack, which was layers of crispy biscuit, vanilla mascarpone, and berry mousse (R42), the pairing suggestion being the Lourensford MCC 2008 (R44/R225). Other desserts are Crème Brulee, and Naked Chocolate Torte. The Millhouse Kitchen has just switched to Terbodore Coffee, and Chef Bjorn has created his own blend.

Breakfast is served from 8h30 – 11h00, the Full House of eggs, bacon, pork sausage, grilled field mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and toast costing R55, and a more simple Mini House costing R35. One can also order Omelettes, French Toast, Muesli, filled croissants, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Eggs Royale, and muffins and scones.

Corkage is charged at R35 for wines, and at R50 for MCC and sparkling wines.  The winelist is an A4 page, unlaminated, providing a short description of the 312 year old wine estate.  Its MCC costs R44/R225, and the three wine brands of the estate The River Garden, The Lourensford Estate Selection, and The Winemakers Selection range from R20 – R40 for Sauvignon Blanc, for example.

Chef Bjorn is onto a very good thing at The Millhouse Kitchen, and he proudly shared that he has already cooked for 21000 visitors since opening two months ago.  He has the right mix of decor, service, menu, Lourensford wines, and excellent fresh and locally sourced foods to make it one of the best in Somerset West, a town which has a shortage of good restaurants. He explained that the restaurant is a juxtaposition, a unique mix of rustic and fine dining.  When asking our waitress for the bill, she said that Chef Bjorn did not want me to pay, a most generous gesture.

The Millhouse Kitchen, Lourensford Estate, Somerset West. Tel (021)   www.lourensford.co.za Twitter:@TheMillhouseSA Tuesday – Saturday 8h30 – late, Sunday 8h30 – afternoon.

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

Two-star Michelin noma restaurant in Copenhagen has been named the top in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards for two years running. Its founder and chef René Redzepi paid a literal flying visit to Cape Town last week, addressing the Design Indaba conference. It appears that he spent little time in Cape Town and did not connect with local chefs. Delegates that were lucky enough to hear his address were impressed with his passion for food design. ‘Design and food go hand in hand’, he said.

Chef René believes that the food should be served by the chefs who created it, making this the focus of noma, and the interior design is of lesser importance, being simple, reflecting the ‘essential simplicity’ and ‘purity’ of the ‘Nordic gourmet cuisine’ which they serve. His 20-course Tasting Menu costs R2000 a head, and one can expect to eat celeriac and unripe sloe berry, white currant and douglas-fir; dried scallops and beech nuts, biodynamic grains and watercress; pickled vegetables and bone marrow; wild duck and beets, beech and malt; and pike perch and cabbages with gooseberry juice.

Chefs are not as important as the farmers who supply the ‘freshly foraged ingredients’, allowing the kitchen team to create original dishes, he said. His stage prop for the talk was a dead duck, and he asked what ‘was the last image flying through its head’. A chef’s challenge is to create food for now, ‘projecting time on a plate‘. His challenge is to create new flavours, a team effort incorporating the food growers, those that cook the food, and those that present it on the plate.

Last year Chef René organised a MAD Food Camp, and the only South African to attend was Cape Town blogger and urban farmer Matt Allison.  He shared his experience with the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. Through the Food Camp, noma demonstrated its international leadership in food usage in restaurants, and highlighted to the chefs attending that the more one understands about the history of food and its culture, as well as of the latest food science, the better one will cook.  These views were not only shared with the 250 food lovers selected by Chef René to attend the Food Camp, but with his 25000 Twitter followers too.  Chef René is an active Tweeter, sharing many photographs of his beautifully presented dishes.  He did not Tweet about Cape Town or its restaurants and chefs, only writing about his presentation: “I spoke to a crowd of 3000+ people for the first time today. Thank you South Africans for taking my virginity gently”.

The noma website confirms that this restaurant has left behind foie gras, olive oil, black olives, and sundried tomatoes, focusing instead on the ‘revival of Nordic cuisine’, representing fine produce and the food heritage of the Scandinavian countries, with seasonal and regional foods. So, for example, they have sourced skyr curd and halibut from Iceland; as well as musk ox, berries and water from Greenland.  Not only expensive ingredients are sourced, but also ‘disregarded, modest ingredients such as grains and pulses’, served in unusual form.  Chef René and his team use the base of their culinary heritage to create something brand new.  They experiment with interesting uses of milk and cream, and forage herbs and berries that others wouldn’t bother with, and which are not commercially available.  They salt, smoke, pickle, dry, and grill all their own foods, make their own vinegars, and even an Eaux de Vie, a brandy made from fermented fruit juice.  State-of-the-art kitchen appliances and techniques are used. Instead of cooking with wine, noma uses beers and ales, fruit juices, and fruit vinegars to create freshness and flavour in its dishes. ‘Greens take up more room on the plate than is common at gourmet restaurants’.   Interesting is that noma’s 40-page wine list is classic in predominantly featuring wines from France, Germany and Italy. No South African or New World wines are listed.

Chef René said in an interview that it would be time for him to get out of the restaurant if he could not ‘reboot’, or see things with a new light, or with a breathe of fresh air. He is filled with inspiration, and focused in developing ‘the flavour’. His life ambition is not to make profit, but to keep searching, learning, and teaching.

Ferran Adriá, the owner of the previous top World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards El Bulli, which closed down in July last year, addressed the Design Indaba conference in 2009, at the height of his Modernist Cuisine culinary reign.

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

It was via Twitter that I first read about Starlings Café, which had opened more than four years ago, but only became well-known when they started Tweeting about six months ago, co-inciding with their new farmer-style market they host in their garden section on Wednesdays at 16h00 – 18h00.

Focusing on home-grown produce in the preparation of its food for the small menu, owner Trish Krutz offered her suppliers a small homely space in which they could display their organic and home-grown produce to the Starlings Café clients, a win-win situation for both the Café in attracting more business, and for the product suppliers, who are part of a market growing in popularity.  Trish said she likes to stay below the radar, ‘behind the hedge’, she said.  The Café prepares all its food, only buying croissants from Cassis.

One sees the Origin coffee branded umbrellas of Starlings Café only once one steps off the pavement on Belvedere Road, and the interior feels homely, consisting of two interleading rooms and an open-plan kitchen, and then leads onto the terrace outside, which is protected against the weather.  Tables and chairs are mix and match, and each table has a different colour and pattern tablecloth.  Walls are covered with sketches, paintings, and prints, giving it a very homely feeling, as if one is visiting a friend’s parents’ house, with vases of roses and rosemary on each table.  The Willow Creek ceramic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers suit the country-style restaurant, even if it is in the city, with unbranded salt and pepper grinders.  Paper serviettes have a starling printed onto them.  The menu is simply printed on white board, with a starling on it too. Its introduction states: “We love supporting local suppliers and using the best quality home grown produce we can find”. This is visible as Trish was connecting with her suppliers after the worst market buying rush was over. I tried the mozzarella fior di latte (using Puglia’s mozzarella), tomato and basil pesto salad stack (R45), with amazing wholewheat bread baked by the Café.  It was a delicious combination, not needing butter or any of the condiments.  One can also order a tart of the day; Thai chicken curry; Portabellini mushrooms, roasted tomato and artichoke risotto; or a hamburger; ranging from R45 – R65. A choice of salads is offered, including chicken caesar, and roasted vegetables (R55 – R69).   Sandwiches with roast vegetable, feta and pesto; bacon, Dalewood brie and homemade tomato chilli jam; and chicken on rye with harissa and date dressing cost R50 – R59.   Trish was extremely friendly, but her staff less so.

On a lower level to the terrace are the tables set up for the market, with nine stands, protected against the heat by trees and more Origin umbrellas.  Matt Allison is a friend from the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, and his colourful table had vegetables on it that he had picked two hours previously.  He was selling parsley, butter lettuce, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, green peppers, green beans, and more. Interesting was the Boutique Garden Honey stand, at which honey from hives set up in Cape Town gardens is sold.  I was fascinated to see the difference in the colour of the honey coming from Newlands (dark brown, a sign of fynbos, I was told) compared to that from Claremont (being far more golden) gardens.  The garden honey costs R45, while their spingflower honey from the veld costs R25.  They also sell interesting sounding honey-flavoured soaps, e.g. Rose geranium, Marigold and lemon, Myrrh and frankencense.  Pets can be treated with wheat free low fat organic treats, for sale at the market.  Simply Wholesome supplies restaurants and homes with organic and free range produce on order, with delivery, and evolved from a greater focus by the owners on eating healthily.  One can buy salted and unsalted farm butter, eggs, ‘free run’ chicken and eggs, as well as Seville orange marmalade, fig preserve, sundried tomato mustard, and strawberry jam.  The House of Pasta has a restaurant and take-away service at the bottom end of Long Street, and the owner is Italian.  His charming wife explained all the pasta types to me, including gluten-free lasagne sheets and fusille, as well as tagliarini, and spinach and butternut pasta.  The Creamery was selling delicious strawberry and lemon curd ice cream flavours.  Richard Bosman’s charcuterie products were for sale, with a new smoked bacon.  Julie Carter from Ocean Jewels Fresh Fish had a table.    Afrikara Co-op is from Wolseley, and sells organic biodynamic natural yoghurt, cream, and feta cheese (labneh too usually, but not yesterday), as well as aubergines, and whatever fruit and vegetables they produce.

Attending the market yesterday allowed me to meet Karen Welter for the first time, who does the Tweeting for Starlings Café, and her late parents-in-law were friends of my parents many years ago. Karen is busy with a dissertation on ‘Sustainable Restaurants’ at the Sustainability Institute, which is part of the University of Stellenbosch.  She is focusing on key issues for restaurants in terms of how they can operate their businesses in a more sustainable manner in terms of their energy usage, communication, sourcing products, best practice, and collaboration with others.

It was a very special experience at Starling’s Café, with friendly collaboration amongst the market stallholders evident, and friends clearly meeting there regularly.  It felt like a mini-bazaar, for a special set of persons lucky to live close by to Starlings Café to allow them to visit regularly.   It has none of the crowdedness that one experiences at the Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas or at the Old Biscuit Mill.

Starlings Café, 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont.  Tel (021) 671-6875.  Facebook Twitter:@StarlingsCafe.  Monday – Friday 7h30 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 12h00.  Market on Wednesday 16h00 – 18h00

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

If it had not been for Cape Town urban farmer, eco-activist and food blogger Matt Allison addressing us at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings in August and September, I would not have known about the MAD (means ‘food’ in Danish) Foodcamp ‘Planting Thoughts’ symposium, which he attended in August, as the only South African in an elite group of 250 hand-picked chefs, food scientists, foragers, microbiologists, and policy-makers.  The workshop resulted in an important appeal to chefs to change the world, by going back to the roots of food growing and sourcing.

The MAD Foodcamp was held in Copenhagen, and was organised by Chefs Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer, co-founders of Noma (food photographs below from this restaurant), the top S. Pellegrino World 50 Best restaurant for two years running.  Concerned about the projected shortage of food, showing that food production must increase by 70 %, to feed an estimated population of 9 billion by 2050, Redzepi invited applications for attendees at his MAD Foodcamp. Fellow 50 Best Restaurant chefs who presented included Michel Bras from France, David Chang from momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, Alex Atala from D.O.M. in São Paulo, Daniel Patterson from Coi in San Fransisco, Yoshihiro Narisawa from Les Creations de Narisawa in Tokyo, Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain, Gaston Acurio from Café del Museo in Lima in Peru, and Ben Shewry from Attica in Melbourne, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

The following key recommendations resulted from the MAD Foodcamp:

*   Sourcing food locally is paramount, and it is available to chefs from their purveyors, and can be grown by themselves too. The impact of rising petrol prices on food prices will ensure that chefs seek more local food supply.  But local food is not always desirable, and nations should become proud of their culinary heritage again.

*   There will be a move away from meat, as it was in past generations.  Meat production impacts on the soil, energy usage, water supply, and carbon output, and therefore a new balance between proteins, cereals and vegetables needs to be found.  Chef Michel Bras said that vegetables should be made to be as important and as desirable as meat in restaurants.

*   Soil plays a role too, and Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa serves a soup made from organic soil.  Ideally, food planted should not have to be irrigated and spayed with chemicals.  Monocultures are destructive to the soil. Rice, wheat, corn and potatoes supply 60% of calories, and chefs are challenged to make something new with them, but should instead look at finding bygone varieties.

*   Food foraging is all the trend, and edible plants could help make up the shortage of food.   Ethnobotanist François Couplan has identified 80000 varieties of edible plants, documented in 65 books he has written. Many of these have greater health benefits than the foods that we know.  Author of ‘The Forager Handbook’, Miles Irving said that wild foods are the ultimate in being seasonal, local and sustainable, and that ‘there is treasure in the woods and fields’. Chefs who forage need to know which plants and other foods are plentiful, and which are scarce and endangered.

*   Urban gardens are an answer to food shortages too, and we have seen Matt becoming a local urban farmer, renting unused land from the City of Cape Town to grow vegetables.  It is estimated that New York could produce 3 million tonnes of food per year on city rooftops, in parks and in private yards.  City beekeeping is being encouraged, and this honey is cleaner and healthier than that from the countryside, less contaminated with pesticides.

*   Insects are a valuable source of protein, and can also be used to address food shortages.  Chef Alex Atala encouraged delegates to eat Amazon ants, tasting of lemongrass and ginger. Other edible insects include ant eggs, grasshoppers, and termites.

*   Farmers should return to the old-fashioned way of hands-on farming.  Chefs are encouraged to connect with farmers, and to buy directly from them, rather than via agents or suppliers.

*   The focus should be on children and to re-introduce them to non-processed food, to teach them ‘what real food tastes like’, said Chef Daniel Patterson.

Matt Allison was interviewed about the MAD Foodcamp by Katie Parla for the New York Times as well as for her Blog.

MAD Foodcamp: www.madfoodcamp.dk

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

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at Den Anker last night, and addressed by Matt Allison of ImNoJamieOliver Blog and Nikki Dumas of Swirl! Blog, was characterised by PASSION: not only in terms of the blogger speakers, but also in the fantastic food paired by Den Anker with six excellent Jordan wines.

Prior to the speakers sharing their blogging passion, Robyn Martin, the most charming, organised and passionate representative for Jordan wine estate, took us through the tasting of the first three Jordan wines.  Being the organised person that she is, she had prepared a tasting summary for groups of wines.  The first three wines tasted were white: the Jordan 2009 Riesling, being ‘aromatic and appley’, and a winner of the Old Mutual Trophy, SA Terroir, and the Five Nations awards, was paired with just-seared sesame-coated tuna, one of the highlights prepared by Chef Doekle Vlietman at Den Anker.  On the same plate was the sweetest presentation of truffle-enhanced scrambled egg served in an egg shell on a bed of coarse salt, paired with creamy and toasty Jordan 2009 Chardonnay.  Wrapping up the trio was a beer-poached katifi-wrapped prawn, draped in a saffron beurre blanc, paired with the tropical green notes of Jordan 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. 

Nikki Dumas, another highly organised lady, presented each of the attendees with a sheet of her ‘Twenty-one Commandments’ on how to blog successfully.  She passionately expressed her love for wine, and all things related to it.      Nikki’s suggestions for successful blogging are: 1. write something useful  2. write something unique 3. write something newsworthy  4. write something first   5. write something that makes those who read it smarter  6. write something controversial  7. write something insightful  8. write something that taps into a fear people have  9. write something that helps other people achieve  10. write something that elicits a response  11. write something that gives a sense of belonging  12. write something passionately  13. write something that interprets or translates news for people   14. write something inspirational   15. write something that tells a story   16. write something that solves a problem   17.  write something that gets a laugh   18. write something that saves people time or money   19.  write something opinionated  20.  write something that is a resource  21. write something about something ‘cool’.

Nikki’s passion for her own brand ‘Nikki Dumas’ came to the fore, and she is a confident blogger, who knows exactly where she is going.  She has two blogs – Swirl!  is a blog she uses to document information about the wine industry, coming from PR agencies, for example.  She does not allow comments on this blog.  Winestyle.biz is the blog on which she writes her own blogposts, with about 4000 hits since she started it in April. She allows comments on this blog, even if they are controversial, to create debate.  She emphasised that she is not a writer nor journalist, and that she will only write about something she judged to be good.  Everything she experiences in terms of food and wine she evaluates against her career in restaurant management.   She likes using Google’s Blogger platform, saying it is user-friendly.  Her blogpost attracting the largest number of hits is the anonymous survey she conducted on restaurant listing fees for wines.  She said she is a ‘Mac junkie’, and evaluates her blog performance through all the statistics that Google makes available, including Google Analytics, AdSense, and more.  She knows exactly where her traffic is coming from, and which keywords are used to get to her blog (wine, winestyle, wine journal, Nikki Dumas).  Nikki  was asked to share her background, and she told us that she moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg ten years ago.  She started Moyo in Norwood, and opened Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then moved to Belthazar and Balducci.  Nikki offers restaurant wine training, is a wine consultant in designing winelists for restaurants, assists wine estates in getting better sales in restaurants, and sells branded Wine Journals. Nikki told us that 60 % of wines in supermarkets are by Distell.  She feels that the wine industry should teach the consumer more about wine.

The next stage of the food and wine pairing was a lovely plumy and stylish Jordan Merlot 2008 paired with the most ‘butter-tender’ peppered fillet, and the rich Jordan Prospector 2008 Syrah, which was paired with venison served with sauce bordelaise.  Robyn told us that the power of Social Media was demonstrated when more than 6000 persons protested against the planned mining on the Jordan wine estate.  The threat was withdrawn, and in gratitude Gary Jordan named his new Syrah, launched last year, The Prospector.  With our yummy chocolate ravioli with pomegranate jelly the flagship Bordeaux-style Jordan Cobblers Hill was served. 

Without any notes, Matt Allison spoke from his heart, reflecting his passion and principles.  With careers in the wine trade, as a graphic designer, and first as a musician and then as a music producer, Matt realised that he was spending too much time away from home, not what he wanted with his new baby boy.  He realised he needed a change, and became a rare ‘house-husband’, spending almost all his time with his son at home.  He loves food, and became the cook for the family, and his blog ‘ImNoJamieOliver’ was born a year ago when he decided to cook all 60 recipes of a Jamie Oliver recipe book in 90 days.  He lost twenty days when he had his kitchen redone.   We laughed when he told us that his mother had engendered independence amongst her children, and it was a matter of ‘cook or die’ in their household.   He has since blogged a further 60 recipes from a second Jamie Oliver recipe book.  Matt presented who he is honestly, and described himself as a person with a 30’s nature, a 50’s style, living in 2011.

Matt told us that blogging for him is a means to an end, and he has changed direction in that his interest now is the provenance of food.  He has rented a piece of land from the City of Cape Town, and now grows 40 vegetable and herbs, not counting different varieties.  This has led to seasonal eating, fresh out of his garden.  He does not grow potatoes and corn, as these take too much space.  Matt is critical of Woolworths, for their vegetables sourced from countries such as Kenya.  On a Wednesday afternoon he sells his vegetables he harvested an hour earlier, between 4 – 6 pm at Starlings Café in Claremont.  He told us horror stories about supermarket vegetables being picked unripe weeks earlier, and artificially ripened.   Matt also would not touch fast-food any more, and expressed concern that so many people grab a McDonald’s in-between meetings. There are no TV dinners in his home.  He would like people to question where their food is coming from.  He believes that obesity and diabetes can be fixed via ‘healthy food’.  With his help, Cape Town and Winelands chefs at restaurants such as Societi Bistro, Warwick wine estate, El Burro, and Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz wine estate, are moving to sourcing their herbs and vegetables from small ‘bio-dynamic’ (he does not like the word ‘organic’) producers, or planting their own.   He likes restaurants that serve local, seasonal, and sustainable food, and operate ethically in all respects.  Matt has about 5000 unique readers of his blog per month, and about 1300 Twitter followers, but his readership is of no consequence to him.  He is ruthless in unfollowing and blocking on Twitter.  He recently changed his Twitter name to @MattAllison, to build his own brand.  Given his focus on the provenance of food, he will be launching a new blog “Planting Thoughts” soon.  One of the most exciting experiences for Matt is that he has been selected as one of 250 chefs and urban farmers to attend a symposium in Copenhagen, organised by the chef/owner Rene Redzepi of the world’s number one restaurant Noma, the only South African hand-picked by Redzepi.   The symposium takes place next weekend, and co-incides with the world’s largest food festival, the MAD Food Camp, also organised by Redzepi, with more than 10000 visitors expected!  Matt says we pay too little for our food in South Africa, and told us what it costs to raise a chicken.  He buys his meat from Gogo’s Deli in Newlands, or directly from farmers.  Matt encouraged us to ‘think about your food’, that one should not evaluate a restaurant if one has not been a chef and a waiter, given that most chefs put their heart and soul into their meals.  For him a good restaurant is one in which the chef comes out of the kitchen, offers great service, and has staff who love what they do.   He encouraged one to do one’s own blogging and Tweeting, to reflect one’s personality, and to not outsource social media. 

Dusan Jelic of wine.co.za, who has been a passionate supporter of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club since its inception, was wished well, who will be returning to his home country Serbia in September. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.  Each of the two bloggers talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

      *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and Anetha Homan, Marketing Manager of Steenberg, at Steenberg

      *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. Bookings can be made by e-mailing whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

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

The August Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will ‘pair’ Food blogger Matt Allison of I’mnoJamieOliver Blog and Wine blogger Nikki Dumas of Swirl blog,  and will be held at Den Anker in the V&A Waterfront  on Wednesday 17 August, from 6 – 8 pm.

Matt Allison, author of www.imnojamieoliver.com blog, is a “husband, stay at home father, urban farmer, eco advocate, closet designer, photographer & designated household cook”, he writes about himself. His blog originally started when he committed to cooking his way through Jamie Oliver’s ’20 minute meals’ for the iPhone, completing all 60 recipes in under 90 days. It has since grown into a platform to explore the origins of food, rethinking it one meal at a time.

Nikki Dumas has always been in the leisure industry, as Training Manager at Greyhound Citiliner, having obtained her training background at South African Airways.  She has managed restaurants in Johannesburg, including the first store set-up and operations of Moyo on Grant Avenue in Norwood.   She moved to Cape Town in 2000, managing a number of restaurants: Villamoura in Camps Bay, Belthazar in the Waterfront, and Balducci’s in the Waterfront.  Two years ago she started her own consultancy, called Winestyle.biz, and  it specialises in wine list design, wine training, and wine accessories for several wine estates and restaurants.  The company has received the highest accolades, both locally and internationally, for its wine list design and compilation from Diners’ Club International and Wine Spectator.  With its restaurant on-site tutoring program, the company guarantees an increase in turnover in wine sales.  Nikki has produced and manufactured a wine tasting journal, to record one’s tasting experiences.  Nikki writes Swirl Blog.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

      *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Jordan Wines from Stellenbosch will lead bloggers through a tasting of their wines.  Snacks will be served by Den Anker. 

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 17 August, 6 – 8 pm:  Den Anker, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

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

The July Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will ‘pair’ Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee, both writing Batonage blog about wines and foods that they have experienced, and will be held at What’s On Eatery on Watson Street on Wednesday 20 July, from 6 – 8 pm.

Batonage is made up of two very passionate foodies and wine lovers, says its Blog introduction:  “Together we decided to create a record of our adventures in food and wine, something we indulge in almost daily.  We are avid wine hunters, always on the lookout for something new and unique to talk, write and spread the word about.  When it comes to food we consider ourselves adventurous eaters, scavenging the latest food and wine pairing at the best eateries, but equally happy to indulge in uncomplicated fare at our local bistro.  The focus will be on visiting wine farms and restaurants, both old and new, and telling you dear reader, of our experiences there.   Every attempt will be made to make the information relevant and we might even make you smile once in a while”.

What makes Hennie and Maggie interesting and unique is that their day job is far removed from their food and wine blogging, and that they write about both wine and food on the same Blog.  Hennie comes from the Free State, and developed a love for wine whilst studying at Stellenbosch University, moving from financial management to wine salesperson, and ultimately, as sommelier at Singita, a leader in the accommodation industry. While he learnt a lot about excellence in food, wine and service, the hospitality hours were not for him, so he has returned to the financial industry.  Maggie comes from Pretoria, and studied Accounting at the University of Stellenbosch, worked as a waitress in Stellenbosch and did her articles, before setting up her own practice.  Her past experience as a waitress and her accountant’s perspective gives her a unique evaluation of her eating and drinking experiences.

Batonage is a wine term, and is the wine making operation of mixing up the lees (dead yeast cells from fermentation) in the barrel with the wine to release the mannoproteins, improving the flavour, mouthfeel, and stability of the wine.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

   *   17 August:  Nikki Dumas of Swirl Blog, and Matt Allison of I’m no Jamie Oliver Blog, Den Anker venue, Jordan wines

   *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery and Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Terence from Siris Vintners will lead bloggers through a sparkling wine tasting.  Snacks will be served by What’s On Eatery 

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 20 July, 6 – 8 pm:  What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.

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