Tag Archives: MCC’s

Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique & Champagne Festival to sparkle this weekend!

MCC Champagne FestivalOne of Franschhoek’s most popular festivals take place this weekend , on Saturday and Sunday 29 and 30 November, ending off a year of festivals which Franschhoek is so good at organising.  The MasterCard Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique Champagne Festival is a mouthful of a title, but the 22 Méthode Cap Classiques (MCCs) and champagnes make the pilgrimage to Franschhoek worth while.

Taking place in a marquee close to the Huguenot Monument, top South African MCCs and imported champagnes are available to taste.  Bubbly brands available to taste are Pierre Jourdan, Morena, Môreson, La Motte, Boschendal, Leopard’s Leap, Noble Hill, Plaisir de Merle, Anthonij Rupert Wines, JC le Roux, Krone, Pongracz, Steenberg, Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 31 May/1 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Going on safari is an increasing trend, which is good for tourism in Africa, popular not only amongst European and American tourists, but also amongst BRICS travelers from Brazil, India, Russia, and China.

*   SA Tourism has appointed Gaining Edge to help increase our country’s profile as a Business Events destination in India and China, for the South Africa National Convention Bureau.  South Africa is ranked highest as a business events destination in Africa, and 34th in the world.

*   Topless Tours have a new meaning, and do not refer to Cape Town’s Hop On Hop Off buses.  It’s a new trend started in the UK, whereby ladies take photographs of themselves topless at top tourist spots, Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 27 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Cape Town has been named the winning city (ahead of Vancouver and Venice) in the Telegraph Travel Awards 2013. Describing all three cities as water-based, Cape Town’s point of difference is its ‘Michelin-starred restaurants’ (sic), staying in traditional as well as modern accommodation, climbing mountains, surfing the Atlantic Ocean, and relaxing at the beach. The city’s status as World Design Capital 2014 is also highlighted. ‘This really is a city that everyone who visits it loves: an English-speaking destination that offers sun, sea and culture in one place – and all just 11 hours’ flight away, with no jetlag’.

*   The inaugural World Travel Market Africa, to be held in Cape Town from 2 – 3 May, is planning to sign up 700 exhibitors.

*   Alan Wong, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay are the world’s richest chefs! 

*   Stellenbosch Street Soirees will be held again to demonstrate the town’s Continue reading →

Franschhoek celebrates ‘Magic of Bubbles’ at Cap Classique and Champagne Festival!

Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne FestivalOne of Franschhoek’s most popular annual events is the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, which will be held this coming Saturday and Sunday.  Close to 50 top Champagnes and MCCs (Méthode Cap Classique) will be available to taste, as is food supplied by Franschhoek restaurants.

The theme is ‘Black and White‘, with an emphasis on spots and stripes, and bubbly fans will be enjoying ‘The Magic of Bubbles‘ on what is forecast to be a perfect weather weekend. Not only will MCCs from Franschhoek be on show, but top sparkling wines from other regions  and Champagnes will be too.

Veuve Clicquot winemaker Pierre Casenave will be at the brand’s stand between 12h00 – 13h00 on both days. Other Champagne brands available for tasting are Billecart- Salmon, Champagne Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon, Piper Heidsieck, Thierry Lesne, and Tribaut.

The 40 well-known MCC producers pouring their bubblies are Pierre Jourdan, Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Emily’s lost without Chef Peter Veldsman, has sold its soul to Coca Cola!

Emily's Interior 2 Whale Cottage Portfolio (2)Emily’s restaurant is 21 years old, and has recently opened at its third home on Kloof Street, having spent ten years each in Woodstock and in the V&A Waterfront.  The restaurant has lost all of its previous charm, and its main attraction (Chef Peter Veldsman) is nowhere to be seen.  It has sold its soul to Coca Cola, its branding seen throughout the restaurant, not befitting an establishment of the stature of Chef Peter and his partner Chef Johan Odendaal.

Chef Peter once was the most high profile food editor of Sarie magazine, and was known and loved by all, the doyen of food writers in his heyday. He has written eleven cookery books, and has contributed to many others too. He has won numerous food awards. He started the Culinary Arts Institute of Africa Restaurant School at the same time as opening Emily’s restaurant in Woodstock in 1994, long before the suburb became trendy, and it was extremely popular for a decade.  I remember its quirky decor, inside an attractive building, and being particularly popular amongst Afrikaans Capetonians, it being their first real Afrikaans restaurant.  Chef Johan ran the cookery school, and his students were the servers.

Surprisingly Emily’s moved to the V&A Waterfront, badly Continue reading →

MCC Franschhoek is a bubbly new showcase of MCCs of Franschhoek!

One of the cleverest ideas for a new restaurant and champagne bar is MCC Franschhoek, and it is appropriate that its opening co-incided with the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival this weekend.  MCC Franschhoek is a showcase of 34 Franschhoek sparkling wines of 14 Franschhoek producers.

The brainchild of Philip and Christy Harrison, previously managing De Huguenot Estate, MCC Franschhoek allowed the couple to work with a beverage they love best. Christy told me that Philip loves cooking,  having started to do so in Majorca, after studying accountancy. Both Philip and Christie owned a Weatherspoons outlet in Heathrow, but moved back to Cape Town thirteen years ago, Philip managing The Galley in Fish Hoek. They moved to the design of wedding stationery, and it is Christy who designed the stylish logo for MCC Franschhoek.  Due to the closure of the De Huguenot restaurant and Harry Q Bar at De Huguenot Estate (to be run as a wedding and event venue only in future), Philip and Christie took part of their share of the venture in kind, and therefore they have the stylish silver-upholstered chairs, black bar chairs and tables, and couches from De Huguenot restaurant, which are spread out in the courtyard of the Village Square. Each table has the MCC range and price list, and a perspex salt and pepper grinder stand.  Quality material serviettes and Fortis cutlery are stylish.

Alleé Bleue (Brut Rosé), Boschendal (MCC Le Grande Pavillion Brut Rosé, MCC Grande Cuvée Brut), Cape Chamonix (MCC Blanc de Blancs), Colmant (Brut Reserve, Brut Rosé, Brut Chardonnay), Dieu Donné (Maingard Brut, Rose MCC), Franschhoek Pass Winery (Morena Brut, Brut Rosé, Cuvée Catherine, Malabar Shiraz), Graham Beck (Brut, Brut Rosé NV and 2008, Bliss Demi Sec, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Zero), GM & Ahrens (Cap Classique), Hauté Cabriere (Pierre Jourdan Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Sauvage, Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée Reserve), La Motte, Môreson (Miss Molly, Solitaire, Gala, Pink, One), My Wyn, Stony Brook (The Lyle), and Topiary (Blanc de Blancs Brut) sparkling wines are sold by the bottle, while a select number of bubbly brands can be bought by the glass, advertised on a blackboard.  Prices start at R110 for Miss Molly, peaking at R650 for the GM & Ahrens.  Surprisingly (given its name), a number of wines are offered too, and many are non-Franschhoek. Protea Sauvignon Blanc, Glenwood Sauvignon Blanc, Haute Cabrière Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, Beyerskloof Pinotage Rosé, Glenwood Shiraz Merlot blend, Graham Beck Game Reserve, and Guardian Peak Shiraz are all available by the glass, reasonably priced in a range from R20 – R35.

MCC Franschhoek opens from 8h00, and serves well-priced breakfasts, one paying per item (e.g. 2 eggs, bacon and toast costs R47); muesli, yoghurt and berry coulis, and a croissant with cheese and preserves cost R20 each.   There is no breakfast cut-off time.  The ‘Bites’ menu has a mix of salads (R45 – R65), sundowner platters (R50 – R75, and includes oysters, cheese, cold meats, and biltong), main courses, and desserts (R35 – R45), which can be ordered throughout the day.   I ordered a perfectly prepared Franschhoek salmon trout served with boiled potatoes, and a crispy fresh asparagus salad (R75).  Other main course options are sirloin steak and prawns in a beer batter, also costing R75.  One can also order beef lasagne, mussels, an open chicken Satay burger, and two tarts.  The menu will be updated and amended regularly.

I was impressed with the scale of the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival in showcasing the leading bubbly brands for sale in this country.  It is held at the Huguenot Monument, which attracted 2000 bubbly-lovers yesterday, and more are expected today between 12h00 – 17h00.  Eight champagne brands (Billecart Salmon, Champagne Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon Brut Tradition, Piper Heidsieck, Thierry Lesne, Tribaut Brut Tradition, and Veuve Clicquot) presented their precious bubbles, as did 37 local sparkling wine producers. Staff representing the local brands Allée Bleue, Avondale, Bon Courage (in beautiful Carrol Boyes coolers), Boschendal, Bramon, Chabivin, Colmant, De Wetshof, Dieu Donné, Domaine Des Dieux, Francois la Garde, Genevieve MCC, The House of GM & Ahrens, Graham Beck, Groote Post, JC le Roux, Krone, Laborie, La Motte, Nicolas Feuillate Champagne for Woolworths, Morena, Môreson, My Wyn, Namaqua Wines (Guinevere very deep pink, with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, all 3000 bottles exported), Pierre Jourdan, Pongracz, Quoin Rock, Rickety Bridge (new 2010 release, 50% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with only 3500 numbered bottles produced from Franschhoek grapes), Ross Gower, Saltare, Silverthorn, Simonsig, Steenberg, Sterhuis, Villiera, Weltevrede and Woolworths Wines all looked chic in their black and white outfits, the dress code of the Festival, which most attendees honoured too.  There were surprisingly few Franschhoek restaurants represented (Le Quartier Français, Mont Rochelle Country Kitchen, Haute Cabrière, Roca Restaurant, and the Salmon Bar), and the food was generally of a disappointing quality, given the theme of the Festival.  An exception was the sushi, salmon and other canapé platters made by new Le Franschhoek Hotel chef Oliver Cattermole.

MCC Franschhoek, 3 Village Square, 53 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel 083 772 9449/083 391 3869. No website.  Twitter: @MCCFranschhoek  Wednesday – Monday, 8h00 – until late, weather dependent.

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

Catharina’s Restaurant: Marriage of Graham Beck and Steenberg wines, and Steenberg chefs too!

I haven’t been to Catharina’s restaurant on Steenberg estate for a number of years, and an e-mail notification of a food and wine evening at the restaurant, pairing a 5-course meal with three Graham Beck and two Steenberg wines, and presenting a meal prepared by the two chefs of the Steenberg estate, attracted my attention.  It was an interesting evening, and reflected a number of marriages.

In speaking to Steenberg winemaker JD Pretorius on arrival, he shared a number of interesting changes with me.  The most significant is that the two wine-producing wine estates Graham Beck Wines and Steenberg Vineyards, both of which were owned by the late Mr Graham Beck, merged on 1 July, to become Graham Beck Enterprises (Pty) Limited, with its hospitality portfolio of the Steenberg Hotel, the two restaurants Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina’s, two stud farms in Robertson, and two wine farms in Stellenbosch, all incorporated into the new company.  JD also told me that Gary Baumgarten, who had headed up the overall wine production of both estates, will be leaving at the end of October, and that John Loubser will be taking over the leadership. Graham Beck winemaker Erika Obermeyer, based at the Franschhoek estate currently, will move to Steenberg Vineyards, where she will be making Graham Beck wines, given the sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck property to neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wines, which becomes effective mid-2012.  Even more exciting is that Graham Beck will create the ‘Gorgeous’ Bubbly Bar at what is currently a separate function room just outside the main restaurant at Catharina’s, with its own menu, along similar lines to the Raw Bar of Bistro Sixteen82, and paired with a flight of the five Graham Beck MCC’s, Steenberg Hospitality GM Gabi Gramm told me from the table next door.  The Gorgeous Bubbly Bar is expected to open in December.

To get back to the food and wine pairing evening at Catharina’s:  I asked consultant sommelier Higgo Jacobs why the Top 100 SA Wines 2100 logo was so prominent on the menu.  He explained that all five the wines selected for the evening had appeared on the prestigious list of 100 finest South African wines, a competition that wine estates with better wines had voluntary chosen to enter.   Higgo is involved in the organisation of the competition, having previously been the full-time sommelier at Catharina’s.  He is now involved as a Sommelier consultant to the restaurant, assisting with the compilation of the winelist, and the training of its staff. He also serves on the Board of the recently formed Sommelier Association of South Africa.  He trained as a sommelier in the United Kingdom, having left South Africa to broaden his experience, having worked in wine retail, as well as in wine sales and marketing, and having made his own wine .  Higgo introduced the evening, and requested each of the two wine estates’ winemakers to introduce each individual wine per course, talking to the pairing with the food as well.   JD has worked at Steenberg for three years, while Erika has been at Graham Beck Wines for six years.

Catharina’s is a large T-shaped restaurant, that can be closed off into smaller sections with thick wooden doors.  Wood is the decor theme, with wooden tables, logs stacked on each side of the large fireplace playing a decorative as well as a functional role, and a wooden lino cut by Cecil Skotness fitting in with this theme. The historic origin of the building comes through in the windows, but glass doors leading outside are modern.  The marriage of old and new is visible on the table too, with a wooden holder on which a glass candle holder, a vase with beautiful red roses, and two small beautifully designed modern stainless steel salt holders, one each containing Himalayan rock salt and the other Maldon organic salt.  The tables have overlays in a grey colour, which match the colour of the comfortable upholstered chairs.  The ceramic Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers did not match the table décor.  Good quality serviettes are folded whenever one leaves the table, and cutlery is attractive German WMF Hotel.  The very modern bathroom, with lost of stainless steel too, has mirror frames made from oval-shaped vats, adding the same decor marriage.  The ceiling has reeds, with discreet downlighters.  Music was a lot of Michael Bublé.  Staff wear black pants, white shirts, and grey aprons.

It was interesting to hear that the two chefs on the estate had never collaborated or worked in the same kitchen before, and after the dinner they said that they had enjoyed the experience.  Chef Brad Ball has been at Bistro Sixteen82 since it opened two years ago, while Chef Garth Almazan of Catharina’s has worked at the hotel for the past twelve years, clearly loving his job.  The first course was prepared by Chef Brad, being a Leek velouté served with a Franschhoek trout brandade (a purée of salt cod, olive oil, and milk) and a tomato crisp.

To this starter JD had paired his Steenberg Vineyards HMS Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which was made with grapes from Darling, Durbanville and Steenberg, and named in honour of the ship used in the Battle of Muizenberg in False Bay close by. Chef Gareth prepared an Asparagus and goat’s feta risotto served with ciabatta crumbs and shemeji mushrooms. Erika had paired the Graham Beck ‘Pheasants Run’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010 with the second starter, and it was interesting how different the two Sauvignon Blancs were.  The grapes come from the Durbanville Fisantekraal wine estate as well as from Darling, picking up the closeness to the ocean, and hence the name given to the wine.

Chef Brad prepared the Roast Cape Whiting, served with a crab beignet, sweetcorn purèe, pommes Duchesse, and harisssa (made from chillies, garlic and coriander) oil, and I was impressed that this dish came with a fish knife, not being common in restaurants serving fish.  To this dish JD had paired his Steenberg Vineyards Semillon 2010, and he explained how this grape variety had been the most prominent variety planted originally, but that it only makes up a small proportion of grapes in South Africa.  Herman Hanekom, ex-GM of Steenberg VIneyards, had ‘smuggled’ some Semillon from Bordeaux into the country, and it was planted at Steenberg, Boschendal and Vergelegen, all initially properties that were owned by Rhodes Fruit Farms.   It is a niche wine for Steenberg, and is also used in the making of its Sauvignon Blanc. The Semillon is matured for nine months, and is a good wine to pair with food.

I was impressed that all food came out of the kitchen on piping-hot plates, the photography and Tweeting time not cooling down the food greatly. Chef Garth prepared an excellent rare Chalmar Beef fillet on cauliflower purée, served with crumbed veal sweetbread, pomme Maxim, and a red wine jus, which came with an excellent steak knife.

Erika paired the steak with Graham Beck ‘The Ridge’ Syrah 2006, and asked Mr Baumgarten to talk about the challenge he set himself to make an excellent Syrah wine from Robertson grapes, when sceptics said it could not be done.  Mr Baumgarten and Graham Beck cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira visited Australia, to study their red wine-making. They have not made The Ridge every year since the first bottling in 2006, having skipped 2009 and 2010, due to climatic conditions.

It was interesting to change back to a white wine for dessert, being the Graham Beck ‘Bowed Head’ Chenin Blanc 2009, made from a block of 45 year old vines, that can withstand the heat well.  It comes from Agter-Paarl, the grapes having had a little botrytis, is matured in barrel for nine months, and has honeysuckle and citrus notes.  The Spring Berry and Mascarpone Soufflé, served with a chenin and berry jelly, was the highlight of the evening, Chef Garth not making it easy for himself in his choice of dessert in baking sixty soufflés.  The LavAzza cappuccino, which I ordered with the dessert, was a surprise charge of R15, and was not mentioned by the waiter when ordered, something one would have expected to be part of the R390 price tag.

I will certainly be back to try Gorgeous when it opens in December.  The Steenberg Estate is beautiful, an interesting marriage of history and modernity, and decorated with excellent local art.  The marriage of Graham Beck Wines and Steenberg Vineyards is one of two outstanding wine brands.

Catharina’s, Steenberg Hotel, Constantia.  Tel (021) 713-2222. www.steenberghotel.com.  Monday – Sunday, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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