Entries tagged with “mozzarella”.


Piazza Italia Long Table Whale CottagePiazza Italia appeared on our latest list of Restaurant Openings, and it was a Facebook message from Davide Ostuni, Puglia Cheese mozzarella producer by day and Chef at Piazza Italia by night, that encouraged me to try it out last night.  The restaurant has two Italians in the kitchen, a genuine Italian menu (without pizza), and Italian patrons eating there, a vote of confidence in a restaurant which has only been open for a month.

The restaurant belongs to Theresa Pearman, who comes from the jewellery industry, and fashion designer Pietro Giannuzzi, who had a dream to open a restaurant in which they could welcome and entertain their friends, bringing their dining room to the restaurant.  Neither of them have prior restaurant experience, giving them a refreshing approach to owning the business, and not having any preconceived ideas about restauranting.  Pietro only recently met Davide, and Theresa described the two men as being ‘soul brothers’, having a ‘bromance‘ about  Italian food.  I have only met Davide briefly at Burrata some time ago, and have been to see the Puglia Cheese factory, shown around by Davide’s wife Ursula. I had forgotten that Davide and Ursula owned five Italian restaurants in London, before moving to Cape Town, (more…)

This year the Good Food and Wine Show has new owners, Fiera Milano Exhibitions Africa, and in some respects little has changed, yet it felt as if most of the show consisted of theatre demonstrations, most of which has to be paid for in addition to the R110 entrance fee. Controversial Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay certainly is the main attraction of the Show.

At the entrance to the Show, where one buys the tickets, Ramsay’s poster attracts attention, the only visual that indicates that the Cape’s main food show is inside the doors of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, running until Sunday.  As one walks through the hall, one quickly gets to the ticket office selling tickets for Ramsay’s demos, as well as his books.  Thereafter one sees the queue, waiting patiently to get into his demo.  I asked a Capetonian how much she had paid and why she wanted to see Ramsay.  She said that she had paid R250 for the ‘cheap’ show (and not R950 for the VIP version, she said with derision) and that her son wanted to see Ramsay, costing her R720 for the tickets and entrance alone.  Where we walked, we saw stands set up for demonstrations, some larger, some smaller.  The Checkers Celebrity Chefs Theatre was curtained off, one hearing the cheering when Ramsay arrived to put on his show, and for many it was more of a comedy club than a serious cooking demonstration. Ramsay hosts the 11h00, 13h30, and 18h00 slots today, and 11h00, 13h30 and 16h30 slots on Sunday.  Other Celebrity Chefs on stage this weekend are Australian restaurateur Bill Granger, master pâtissier Eric Lanlard, and twins Isabella and Sofia Bliss of Junior MasterChef Australia.  ‘Giggling Gourmet’ Jenny Morris and Rooi Rose Food Editor Vickie de Beer will do presentations on ‘Decadent Desserts’ at the Häagen-Dasz and Pillsbury stand. Chef Eric Lanlard and a number of other local baking specialists will be on show at the Golden Cloud interactive theatre.  Spar has a Wine & Canapés Theatre, while Spekko sponsors a ‘Tafelpraatjies‘ Theatre with talks by leading Afrikaans food presenters.

Woolworths had set up a massive ‘Real Food Theatre’, stylishly decorated, attracting attention with its branding.  It was one of few stands that did not charge for attendance, accepting attendance on a first come first served basis.  At the time we came across the Theatre, Chef Christiaan Campbell from Delaire Graff was setting up to do his demo, and 12 volunteers from the audience were requested to prepare his menu of a starter of Cured eye of pasture-reared silverside with parmesan and radishes, and a main course of potato gnocchi and mushroom sauce.  Chef Christiaan described his menu as being terroir-driven, the silverside having come from grass fed pasture beef from Greenfields in KwaZulu-Natal, and the baby radishes from Farmer Angus at Spier, having grown in their compost heap, Chef Christiaan explained.  Lorraine Bourgogne, our intern from Reunion, volunteered to cook at one of six stations, and Chef Christiaan had his hands full to teach his new ‘students’ how to make his dishes, viewed by the audience. They were lucky to take their creations home with them. Chef Peter Tempelhoff of The Greenhouse, Bill Granger, Tamsin Snyman, award-winning food bloggers Anel Potgieter and Nina Timm, and Rebecca Hurst will do demos this weekend at the Woolworths stand.  The Woolworths Little Chefs Kitchen has hands-on workshops for children by Chefs Peter Tempelhoff, Christiaan Campbell, and Isabella and Sofia Bliss this weekend.

For the rest there were some interesting small stands, the Las Paletas artisan lollies stand attracting attention with its attractive stand design, despite its small size.  Jason Sandell’s wife Diana Chavarro is from Colombia (they met in London), and the name of their business is the Spanish for …’ice lolly’.  Diana has a marketing background, and it shows in the attractive design of the stand, and its marketing material.  The ‘business card’ is a lolly stick, which contains their contact details!  They are usually to be seen at the City Bowl Market on Saturday mornings.  What makes their lollies so special is the unusual taste combinations, e.g. strawberries and cream, guava and cheesecake,  pomegranate lemonade, strawberry sorbet, coconut lemonade, kiwi sorbet, raspberry, yogurt and kiwi, spiced mango, peanut butter and jam, roast banana, granadilla gelato, and brownie cheesecake.  An unusual design feature, and reflecting the green trend, was Moyo’s lettuce lattice screen, separating the food preparation and serving areas! Chocolates by Tomes is offering excellent Show prices, one of the best chocolate-makers in Cape Town.  Denise’s Delights sells delicious cupcakes at only R10.  The super friendly mother and daughter team of Erica and Ursula at the Puglia stand very kindly handed me a stracciatella mozzarella tub, knowing my weakness for their product.  The Lebkuchen stand connected with my German roots!  Paging through the Show booklet afterwards, we were surprised about how many stands we did not see, yet we felt we had walked up and down every aisle!

The alcoholic beverage section of the show is disappointing, and seems an unexciting side of the exhibition, tucked away at the far end, and not blending in nor ‘pairing’ with the food in the rest of the hall.  Graham Beck partnered its MCC with Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Bistro, the only such food and wine pairing we saw.

What was extremely odd was seeing a number of stands that had no relationship to food or wine: DStv could be understood to be there, as a sponsor of the Checkers Celebrity Chef’s Theatre, but looked like a massive decoder sales showroom. Even weirder was the rather large Ariel stand, marketing the washing powder! But oddest of all was ‘Café la Domestos’, an Eastern-style table setting low on a tile floor, to represent that Domestos is such a safe and good cleaner that one can literally eat off the floor!  Hence their taste treats (one could choose between salmon or labneh) were served on white tiles, a bizarre mental leap!

The Woolworths demo stand was the highlight of our visit, and is centrally located in the exhibition hall, allowing one to make a stop here to attend one of the demonstrations, or even better, to participate in one, without charge.  One should bring along enough cash to give into the temptations throughout the Good Food & Wine Show!

Good Food & Wine Show, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town.  Today and tomorrow. www.goodfoodandwineshow.co.za Twitter: @GoodfoodSA  R110 entrance fee (includes a goodie bag with a pack of sugar sticks and a 400ml bottle of OMO Auto Liquid Detergent valued at about R30).

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

I have been interested in the debate about which mozzarella is better – that which is made from buffalo milk, as is made by Wayne Rademeyer at Buffalo Ridge in Wellington, or that which is made from cow’s milk by Puglia Cheese in Cape Town.  My search for Stracciatella mozzarella, the most delicious spreadable mozzarella I first tasted at the Eat In Night Market a few months ago, led me on Friday to buy it directly at Puglia Cheese in Montague Gardens, and to meet the charming co-owner Ursula Ostuni.

Puglia Cheese was started as a joint venture by Davide Ostuni and Fabio Fatelli, both originally from the Puglia region in Italy, a year ago.  In a short time they have made their mark, in having won first place in the SA Dairy Championships Mozzarella category for their Burrata, and a second place for their Bocconcini, as well as a quality award for their whole Mozzarella range. One of Puglia Cheese’s biggest champions is restaurateur Giorgio Nava, who uses their mozzarella at 95 Keerom Street, Mozzarella Bar, and at Caffé Milano.  Initially he went to all his Italian restaurant colleagues in Cape Town, showing them the Puglia Cheese products, and now the company has clients such as Aubergine, Spar, Primi Piatti, Meloncino, Il Cappero, the One&Only Cape Town, the Mount Nelson Hotel, Giovanni’s, Nonna Lina, The Power & Glory, Wild Peacock Food Emporium, and all Melissa’s deli branches, just to mention some of the local outlets.  They distribute to the Garden Route as well.  Distribution via key Spar, Checkers, and Pick ‘n Pay branches is on the cards, which means that the company will move to bigger premises soon.

The star Mozzarella maker is Cosimo, who comes from Bari in Puglia, and does not speak English.  Ursula said he is the ‘key man’ at Puglia Cheese, being dedicated in almost single-handedly, and by hand, producing 300kg of cheese per day with only an assistant.  Hygiene is important, and I had to don a hair net, special shoe covers and a white jacket to go into the production room.  Production starts at 7h00, and finishes by lunchtime, and in the afternoon the products are packed and labelled, ready for delivery of the precious perishable products.  A machine is used to boil the cows’ milk, which comes from a Cape Town and a Stellenbosch farm, to which rennet, a curdling agent, is added, creating the foundation of all Mozzarella cheese.   Then Cosimo puts the curdled milk into 90°C boiling water, and with a wooden batten he shapes the cheese into ‘dough’, making it more and more pliable, out of which he makes ‘knots’, or the unique Nodino mozzarella not made by anyone else in South Africa, and is a typical Puglian mozzarella.  The same mozzarella dough is used to create a pocket into which straciatella mozzarella is added and then closed, to make Burrata.  A machine is used to make Fior de Latte and Bocconcini, but still needs Cosimo’s interaction with it in the production process.  Ursula told me that it took fourteen years for Cosima to learn the art of mozzarella making.

Davide grew up in Italy, and came to Cape Town on holiday, meeting Ursula at a party. She joined Davide in Italy, and said that it took some time for his mama to accept that Ursula would not be going away.  They went to London, where a friend of Davide’s worked, and he started as a waiter, worked at the Ritz Hotel, was a model, and started to learn to cook, but did not become a chef.  Ursula and Davide were in the United Kingdom for about thirteen years, and had five Italian restaurants in this period.  The last one they owned was located in St Albans and was called Carpe Diem, using only genuine Italian products, mostly imported and some home-made.  Once their first child was born, Davide moved into food-broking.  Having children, Ursula wanted to return home to South Africa, and they chose to live in Cape Town.  Both missed genuine mozzarella, only finding tough ‘tennis ball’ type local mozzarella here.  This led Davide to start making mozzarella, and establishing Puglia Cheese with his friend.  A future collaboration with Giorgio Nava, in creating more Mozzarella Bars, is on the cards. Ursula praises Nava, for his ability to use mozzarella in traditional recipes, but to adapt them by serving them with flair and elegance.

Mozzarella is made with buffalo milk in southern Italy, around Naples, and in central Italy, but the east coast and the rest of Italy makes mozzarella with cow’s milk, given that the milk is freely available, and that the mozzarella produced from it has a longer shelf life, resulting in about 80 % of Italian mozzarella being made with cow’s milk. Mozzarella made from buffalo milk is rich and creamy when fresh, but goes hard and sour after two days.  Its ‘dough’ is not soft and pliable, and therefore one cannot make mozzarella knots and balls from it.  Local mozzarella currently sold in supermarkets is likely to contain preservatives, to have a longer shelf-life.

Ursula emphasised that mozzarella should be taken out of the fridge an hour before eating it, to enjoy it at room temperature.  Different mozzarella cheeses have different expiry dates:  Fior di Latte (Bocconcini and balls) 18 days (in water), Burrata (in water) 9 days, Stracciatella 9 days, Nodini (in water) 9 days, and Treccia (in water) 9 days.  Should it be older than the expiry dates, it can be used for pizza, which is what Italian mamas would do.   Most food lovers associate mozzarella with Caprese salad, and therefore sales are high in summer.  Puglia Cheese is happy that food bloggers and writers are providing creative recipes for the use of Mozzarella in winter dishes too.   Ricotta cheese is also made at Puglia Cheese, and they are experimenting with the addition of peppercorns, chilli peppers, and walnuts for new products in future.

Disclosure: I was given a ball each of Burrata and Bocconcini to try at home, when I bought the Stracciatella mozzarella.

Puglia Cheese, Unit 5, The Gables, Prime Park, Printer’s Way, Montague Gardens.  Tel (021) 551-8538.  www.pugliacheese.co.za.   Facebook. Monday – Friday.

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

I have had my moments with Giorgio Nava, but must salute his bravery in zealously opening restaurants in Cape Town, in addition to the two established restaurants 95 Keerom Street and Carne.   Last month he opened Down South on Long Street and the Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street, and on Saturday Café Milano opened, higher up on Kloof Street.  The Mozzarella Bar is run by charming Italians, and all its dishes, except the bakery items and desserts, contain a soft creamy mozzarella, offering good value for money.

Co-owner and interior designer, and friend of Nava, Matteo Amatruda, explained that Nava is trying to educate Capetonians about true Italian cuisine, and each of his restaurants, with the exception of Down South, focuses on a specific Italian aspect.  Café Milano, for example, will focus on baking, and bakes the bread and makes the croissants for the Mozzarella Bar. Nava runs between all his properties, we were told, and we saw this, as he popped in as we were about to leave, having been there earlier in the morning already.

The manager Simone explained that special equipment was brought out from Italy (more…)

Sotano by Caveau Mediterranean restaurant opened officially today in the newly renovated funky La Splendida Hotel on Beach Road in Mouille Point, near the lighthouse.  Its name has caused confusion on Twitter, as it has been referred to both as Sotano (meaning ‘cellar’ in Spanish) and Sontano (the till slip spells it this way).  Given that the name is to link to Caveau (‘cellar’ in French), the spelling must be the former.  However, there is no cellar visible or accessible to patrons at Sotano!

The restaurant is operated by Caveau, a Wine Bar and Deli in Heritage Square on Bree Street, and At the Mill in Newlands.   The owners are the trio of Jean-Yves Muller, Brendon Crew and Marc Langlois.   It is a surprise that Newmark Hotels, who operate the new hotel, has chosen to contract out the running of the restaurant to Caveau, when it has restaurant interests in OYO (in its V&A Hotel) and Salt Restaurant (in its Ambassador Hotel).   Talk on the street is that Caveau has lost its charm and attraction, and lots of its good staff.  

General Manager of the restaurant is Bruce Philemon, who has worked at Buitenverwachting as Restaurant Manager, at Steenberg as Food & Beverage Manager, and as sommelier on cruise ships, he told me.  Chef Philip Myburgh was previously at Caveau, and before that at 48 on Hout Street, which no longer exists.  He was enthusiastic about his focus on ‘authentic Mediteranean’ food that will be served at Sotano, with an emphasis on seafood and shellfish.  

The wooden deck leading to the pavement, covered to protect patrons from the sun and wind (the south-easter can pump in that corner of Cape Town), with wooden chairs and tables locally made from “French wine barrels”, the imprint on each says, is clearly the most popular space on a good summer’s day.  The problem with the outside seating is that non-smokers have to endure the smoking habits of others.  The beauty of the interior design could be lost to those patrons sitting outside, Inhouse Interiors having constructed a fascinating bar in white with coloured bar stools.  The restaurant section caters for a substantial number of patrons inside, on rainy and windy days.   For ambiance, the restaurant could have done with music.

The restaurant opens at 7h00 every morning and will be serving breakfast until 11h00 every morning.  There are eleven breakfast options, and they seem expensive, but the prices can only be judged on portion sizes.   A health breakfast of muesli, yoghurt and honey costs R50; a charcuterie and cheese platter sounds an interesting breakfast option, at R 55; a salmon bagel with chive cream cheese and smoked salmon costs R60; French toast with fruit and mascarpone (R 55); full English breakfast costs R65; Eggs Benedict R60; and omelettes range from R58 – R70.   After 11h00 the blackboards offer snacking, as well as lunch and dinner options, until 23h00 every day of the week.  The staff are neatly dressed in white branded golf shirts and in grey aprons, with either Anthonij Rupert or Paul Cluver branding.

The Mediterranean menu is written onto two blackboards, and the writing is not easy to read for all menu items.   My eye caught the expensive Caprese salad at R 82 immediately, and in general the prices seem on the high side.  Chef Philip explained that the mozzarella has been sourced from an Italian in Cape Town, who makes the mozzarella from cow’s milk, and the full 100g ball is served in the salad.   Greek salad costs R58.  Oysters cost R 18 each.  Vitello tomato costs (R65), Beef carpaccio (R60), Tomato salad (R60), Fish soup (R70) and Gazpacho (R40).   The Gazpacho was spicy, and consisted of raw tomatoes, baguette slices, red and yellow pepper, as well as herbs, red wine vinegar and lemon juice blended together to make a thick refreshing summer’s day soup, a little on the oily side.   Mains range between R98 (chicken supreme) and R125 (for grilled salmon and poached egg), seafood paella and crumbed veal being the only other options.  One can order flat bread at R20, with hummus (R10) or Tzatziki (R8).   An avocado and feta pizza costs R70.   For dessert one can order fresh watermelon, a summertime treat one rarely sees on a menu (R25), as well as nougat glaze (R28) or lemon tart (R30).

Teething problems were the Cappuccino machine not working yesterday (although the hotel has a 70 % occupancy, and has been open since last week, and invitations on Twitter encouraged one to try the restaurant ahead of its official opening), and the toilet paper running out without any spare supplies.  Waiter training was happening in front of patrons.  A group of four next to me wanted to order a bottle of Pierre Jourdan Brut Rosé (R232), but the waiter offered to bring it by the glass, and the manager had to be called for assistance.   The winelist is not yet ready, but information on the winelist will be added to this review after it is finalised tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT 16/11:  I went back to Sotano by Caveau this evening, to finalise the winelist information for this blogpost.  When I looked for a table on the deck, I was blocked by Caveau/Sotano by Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, who told me that the three owners of Caveau have decided that I am not allowed to eat at Sotano by Caveau, nor at Caveau, ever again because of the review I wrote about Sotano by Caveau.  To add insult to injury, co-owner Brendon Crew Tweeted about this incident, referred to me as a “bitch” in a Tweet, and continued in disparaging and defamatory vein in subsequent Tweets.  Not a good start to a restaurant that has only officially been open for less than 24 hours!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  I have managed to obtain details of the Sotano by Caveau winelist.  Seperated into “Bubbles, Whites, Rose, Reds, Desserts”, it details vintages but not region of origin.   Two sparkling wines (Graham Beck Brut – R49/R195 and Pierre Jourdan Brut – R 38/R150) are offered by the glass.  No champagnes are served.   About ten options per variety are offered, and each variety offers wines-by-the-glass.  Sauvignon Blancs range from R28/R110 for Haut Espoir to R51/R205 for the Warwick Professor Black.  I was interested to see the name of a wine (Parlotones Push me to the Floor), a white blend sold at R116, I had not heard of before, and its red blend ‘sister’ Parlotones Giant Mistake.   Shiraz options range from R25/R110 to R620 for De Trafford CWG 1999.  Magnums are available for Vriesenhof Grenache 2007 (R650), Jordan Cobblers Hill 2000 (R1000) and Meerlust Rubicon 2001 (R1250).

POSTSCRIPT 2/12:  Neil Markovitz, the owner of the La Splendida Hotel in which Sotana by Caveau is located, was most apologetic about the Sotano/Brendon Crew incident when I saw him at the Newmark Hotels function two days ago.  

POSTSCRIPT 4/12: Today we went to have breakfast at Caveau, to try out the restaurant, given the many negative comments it attracted to this blog post.  We were served by the charming Lilly, who brought the breakfast board to the table, and took our order of scrambled eggs (R19) and cappuccino.  The prices were most reasonable, and the coffee was served in Origin-branded cups I have not seen anywhere else.   We were shocked at how run-down the place looked on the outside, with paint peeling off the walls, the chairs wobbly, the tables and chairs not having been varnished for ages, and the Vin d’Orrance umbrellas dirty.  It generally smacked of neglect.   Before we could be served our egg orders, we were asked to leave by the Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, but not before we paid for our coffees!      

Sotano by Caveau, 121 Beach Road, Mouille Point, Cape Town.  Tel 0711962660    www.sotanobycaveau.co.za (website under construction)  Monday – Sunday.   7h00 – 23h00

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