Tag Archives: Olyfberg

Restaurant Review: Helena’s Restaurant at Coopmanshuijs nowhere near 5-star!

imageI had read good thing about Helena’s Restaurant at Coopmanshuijs, and was left with an impression that it was a must-try restaurant. It was a severe disappointment when I had dinner there last night, especially in terms of service and ambiance.  It does not match the level of the 5-star hotel in which it is located.

I had booked earlier in the day, when I walked past, surprised to find the 16-bedroom five-star hotel on popular Church Street in Stellenbosch. When I arrived just after the World Cup Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 28/29 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Mosaic Team South Africa participating in the World Blind Challenge on 18 October in Champagne against 22 other teams will consist of the winners of the South African Wine Tasting Championship 2014: wine writer Samarie Smith, Chris Groenewald, Lizé Oosthuizen, Ralph Reynolds, and Gavin Whittaker. (received via e-mail from Jean Vincent Ridon)

*   Nominations for the 34th Diners Club Winemaker of the Year (dry white blends) and 14th Young Winemaker of the Year (30 years or younger, producers of red blend) are now open, the winners receiving a flight to the USA for two as well as prize monies of R50000 and R25000, respectively. The winners will be announced in November. (received via media release from African Sky Media)

*   Guinness is targeting its (black) beer at Africa, via a multimedia campaign using artists and performers from Africa, which positions the brand as #madeofblack.

*   The 17 gold medal winners of the SA Olive Awards have been announced in three categories:  in the Delicate Continue reading →

First Guide to Extra Virgin Olive Oil in South Africa launched!

Olive Oil Guide Whale Cottage PortfolioAn unique ‘The Guide to Extra Virgin Olive Oil in South Africa‘ has been published, the first of its kind, providing an overview of olive oil production in our country, and providing details of the top quality olive oil producers.

Olives were first brought to South Africa from California by Piet Cillie in 1893.    A mere 14 years later Jan Minnaar from De Hoop farm in Paarl won  the prize for the best olive oil produced in the British Empire at the 1907 London Show!   Reni Hildenbrand now owns the farm in Wellington on which Piet Cillie farmed, and she has written a book ‘Olives and Olive Oils in South Africa‘.  Ferdinando Costa arrived from Genoa in Italy a few years later, and brought in Italian plants, grafting them on the local Olienhout rootstock.  He planted large numbers of olive trees in Paarl in 1925, and pressed his first olive oil in 1935.   The Costa name is synonymous with olives and olive oil, and his relative Linda runs SA Olive, a quality standards body for the industry.   Italian Baron Andreis began planting olive trees in the ‘Fifties, using Carlo Castiglione to make olive oil from 1972, under the Vesuvio brand.  Its Extra Virgin Olive Oil won four awards in Italy for the first time, and regularly wins international awards.  Italian Guilio Bertrand bought Morgenster next door to Vergelegen just over twenty years ago, and saw the potential to produce quality wines and olive oils.  He now runs an olive oil nursery, and won the SA Olive Lifetime Achievement Award last year.

The quality of olive oil quality is influenced by the terroir, cultivar, climate, and the oil maker, similar to wines.  The biggest threat to good quality local Extra Virgin Olive Oils is inferior olive oils which are  imported, and bought by consumers in the belief that the imported products should be of a better quality. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extracted from the olives at a temperature below 30° C, Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Sacred Ground Artisan Bakers and Deli welcome addition to Franschhoek gourmet offering!

The opening of Sacred Ground Artisan Bakers just over two weeks ago created big excitement in Franschhoek, it being the first artisanal bakery in the village that has been called the Gourmet Capital of South Africa. Sacred Ground is not just a bakery, but also is a deli, a coffee shop, a wine shop, and gourmet sandwichery.

What makes Sacred Ground special is the spacious selection of Deli treats and the very friendly hands-on owners and staff.  Michelle Hewitt from next-door Surrey Homes and Sannette Koopman are partners in the venture and have both been in the shop when I have visited on two occasions, as has Sannette’s husband Heinrich.  Michelle is used to doing home interiors, so it was a natural that she guided the design of Sacred Ground, wooden counters, wood top tables, and wooden chairs with green seating having been used to give the shop an earthy and warm feel. One places one’s order with the super-nice Michelle van Sittert, who is also Sacred Ground’s Tweeter.  Thomas is the head baker, and joined the Sacred Ground team from Zimbali.  He was the Pastry Chef of the Year in 2008.  The staff wear black, with a branded hessian apron.

There is so much to take in when one arrives at Sacred Ground, but the bread selection probably catches one’s attention first, displayed on shelves, and the names and prices are marked.  So, for example, there is olive ciabatta (R22,50), Panini (R7), Sacred Baguette (R10), Ciabatta (R17), French Baguette (R15), Stumpy (R10), Crusty Sourdough (R25), 10% Rye (R25), and Cheesy Baguette (R18).  Cakes and cupcakes are still bought in, but will be baked on the premises in future.  A slice of cake costs R35, and one can choose from Chocolate orange, Cheesecake, Carrot cake, and Red velvet cake.  The cupcake selection comes in different colours, at R15 each. Macaroons cost R8.  There is fudge, biscotti, nougat, panforte made in Betty’s Bay, and slabs of Honest Chocolate.

The shop has a couch seating section for coffees, wines or a beer and a chat, a counter at which one pays and which displays the cake selection, and a large charcuterie fridge.  Fresh food fridges are placed along the walls, alongside the bread selection, and the rest of the space is filled with tables and chairs.  The colourful red and yellow BOS umbrellas attract attention from the main road, and the owners have planted red and yellow plants outside their door to match these colours.

Bread is the foundation of Sacred Ground and the Deli selection, and the food offered on the menu all relate to it.  Surrounding the bread selection is a fine selection of Truckles, Anura, and Dalewood cheeses,  as well as Bocconcini and Fior de Latte. There is a big range of Allée Bleue’s herbs; unbranded unsalted and salted butter; chicken liver paté; duck eggs; Froggit thyme-infused balsamic vinegar; Kloovenberg and Olyfberg olives; Prince Albert and Olyfberg olive oil; Oryx salt and pepper; Bean There coffee;  Dilmah teas; honeys; a selection of craft beers from &Union, including Steph Weiss and Berne; Whalehaven Idiom, as well as Mon Rêve boutique wines, of which the Merlot 2010 has already won a ‘Michael Angelo’ (sic) Double Gold in its first year of launch; and wooden boards, which are also used to bring the food to the tables.  The Charcuterie counter allows one to choose specific cuts of cold meats supplied by a variety of suppliers, including Raith and Gastro Foods, and includes various salamis, black forest ham, coppa ham, parma ham, as well as speciality cheeses, to take home.

The menu is short and sweet, and a blackboard advertises the Daily Specials.  All food is served on paper placed on wooden boards.  Commendable is that Breakfast is served all day.  I ordered The Artisan Egg Mayo (R35) on my first visit, sounding better on the menu than its execution, promising ‘free range egg, mayo and chives on bread of your choice’. The scrambled egg was cold and was drizzled with Froggit balsamic vinegar, which I was not warned about nor wanted.  An alternative ‘Breaking the Fast’ option is ‘Oeufs Bicyclette’, or Eggs on Wheels (R59), ciabatta layered with parma ham, two eggs and mozzarella, topped with hollandaise sauce.  One may choose the bread on which the eggs are served.  One can also order sandwiches throughout the day, with salami or mozzarella (R49), salmon or chicken (R59), or a ‘Sacred Dog’ with a Frankfurter or a Bratwurst (R40).  The Platters look super, a choice of two cold meats and two cheeses costing R 85, and three of each costing R120.

The cappuccino (R14) is made in the flat white style with Bean There beans, but a second order and careful explanation of a dry cappuccino resulted in a perfect cup. The Fair Trade description of the coffee, in its own outlets too, is misleading, as it is not Fairtrade endorsed.  Sacred Ground is licensed, and it is a surprise to see that no Franschhoek wines are stocked.  Hermanus-sourced La Vierge Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sangiovese style are offered by the glass (R25 – R45) or bottle (R85 – R150) with Whalehaven Idiom (Bordeaux blend) at R280, as well as Paarl-based Mon Rêve wines, at R25 – R45 per glass, and R75 – R250 per bottle for the Merlot.   Pongracz is available by the glass (R45 – R55) or bottle R150 – R180. Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Belle Rose costs R190,  and Krone Borealis Cuvee Brut 2009 is available at R150.

Sacred Ground is a friendly village meeting place, with good service, reasonable prices, a good selection of deli items and excellent breads, as well as cakes and cupcakes, which have been in short supply in the village.  It has added life to The Square, which has not had much traffic since it opened about 18 months ago.

Sacred Ground Artisan Bakers, The Square, Huguenot Street, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3948.  www.sacredground.co.za Twitter: @SG_Bakery Monday – Sunday 7h00 – 19h00.

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

Restaurant Review: Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet is a ‘Boere Bistro’!

Café Dijon has operated in Stellenbosch for about three years, and its operation there did not impress me.  On hearing the praise heaped upon the Stellenbosch restaurant by Michael McKenzie as well as restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, I decided to try the recently opened Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, on a wine estate at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass.  The co-owner of Café Dijon called it a ‘Boere Bistro’, given its local touch to a French-style bistro, with a seasonal country kitchen.

I had never been to Zorgvliet before, only having read about it in Noseweek in two respects – the neighbours being up in arms about the loud music when they host weddings on the wine estate, and that Nedbank forced the previous owner into an auction, which was to his financial disadvantage.   One drives past the function rooms when one arrives, and then down a romantic tree-lined lane, with a lovely fresh country smell that reminded me of mushroom picking on Paarl Mountain as a child.  One passes the winery, and the coffee shop and picnic building, around which there are lovely lawns.  A little further along is a Cape Dutch building, previously the manor house which housed the Herenhuis restaurant, but now is the Zorgvliet tasting room.   Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has opened in the building that was previously the tasting room, its owners having found the manor house too stiff for the more casual and relaxed atmosphere they wish to create. 

The owners of Café Dijon are not French at all, as I thought, but locals.  Johan (‘Dup’) du Plessis grew up on a neighbouring farm and his wife Sarah comes from Somerset West.  Sarah trained at Silwood Kitchen and then worked in Monaco for Sir David Brown of Aston Martin fame.  Dup grew up in a household in ‘which real men don’t cook’, but he did learn to, and they met at Deltacrest outside Franschhoek.   When it burnt down, they decided to open a ‘Thirties style bistro in Stellenbosch, opposite the Town Hall, offering classic French dishes and comfort food, which Sarah said suits the design of the venue perfectly. 

The restaurant interior is very large, and looks like a tasting room, with barrels on the walls and still having the tasting counter.   It was much nicer sitting outside on a lovely pre-winter Saturday afternoon,  and here seating is very casual at long green benches and tables, and a few small café-style tables and chairs.  Cheap striped placemats are on the table, with Eetrite cutlery.  There are no table cloths. French music plays inside, and when I heard Françoise Hardy singing it brought back nostalgic memories of seeing her concert in Cape Town about forty years ago.  She is one of Dup’s favourites.

Almost all the waiters were previously employed by the Zorgvliet restaurant, and Wilma was friendly and efficient.  It was odd to see a manager hiding inside the restaurant, when all the patrons were sitting outside.  She only checked on one’s satisfaction after each course was served, but did not stay outside to check on things generally.  Wilma had to ask Sarah some of my questions, so she came to chat, sitting down at the table, and I found her to be very charming, down to earth and passionate about what she is developing at Zorgvliet.  She showed me a patch that is to become their vegetable garden, visible from the outside seating.  She wore a House & Garden apron, and both she and Dup cook, meaning that one is assured of the best.

There is no printed menu, but a blackboard lists the menu items, which means that what is offered can be changed regularly, depending on what the chefs have in stock.   The menu has mainly starter type items, and I chose two of these – a generous serving of duck liver paté (R50), served with redcurrant jelly and toasted baguette, which unfortunately was burnt, so I asked for more of the crispy untoasted baguette, which had been brought to the table with Olyfberg olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This was followed by Norwegian salmon on which was placed a tian of fennel avocado, cucumber and prawn (R60), a lovely fresh summer treat.  Other starters include fior de latte caprese, venison springrolls, three-cheese-tartlet with salad, parma ham and melon, and chicken and mango salad, ranging in price from R50 – R65.  Sirloin and fillet cost R115, Karoo lamb R130, pork belly R100, braised veal short ribs R110, butternut ravioli and gnocchi bolognaisse (R80), and vongole linguini R90.  Desserts cost R30 – R35, and include chocolate mousse, creme brûleé, and home-made ice cream (flavours on Saturday were coffee, condensed milk and Frangelico with walnuts).

The winelist is in a brown plastic cover, and only Zorgvliet wines are available, under the Zorgvliet (R145 for whites and R150 for the reds) and Silver Myn (R110 for whites, R125 for reds) brand names, the latter wines being offered by the glass too, at R25 for the whites and R28 for the red wines.  One can order Zorgvliet White, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Richelle 2005, which costs R500.  The Silver Myn is available in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.  The vintages are listed on the winelist.

The opening of the new Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has created confusion, with some readers of the restaurant write-up in The Month thinking that the Stellenbosch branch has closed down, Sarah said.  They have a good team there, and Sarah and Dup will be mainly based at Zorgvliet, being closer to their home. The menu is similar but not identical at the two Café Dijons. 

I was impressed with the food served at Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, but found the venue too large for the few guests.  It was lovely sitting outside, and I am not sure how the large venue will work with inside seating on winter days.  Chatting to Sarah made all the difference to my enjoyment of being there, and she is a valuable asset that should be connecting to her guests, as she is a good people’s person, and as her manager is not fulfilling this role.

Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, Banhoek Valley, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-2580.  www.cafedijon.co.za  (The new Café Dijon @Zorgvliet is not yet on the website).  Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.

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

Restaurant Review: Café Paradiso re-awakened in its perfect setting!

Café Paradiso re-opened three weeks ago under the new hand of Richard Griffin, the fourth restaurant in his Cape Town collection, which now also incorporates the Bombay Bicycle Club, The Sidewalk Café, and Café Mozart.   We wrote recently about Griffin’s talent in turning around existing restaurants, and giving them his restaurant magic.

Café Paradiso has no apparent Griffin decor quirks to make it appear different or improved – it has the most beautiful landscape of all in its dramatic view onto Table Mountain from the outside terrace area, fully occupied last night with more patrons queuing for tables.   We were extremely grateful to Peta, the manager of Café Mozart, who happened to arrive at the same time as we did, and who helped to wave her magic wand to organise a table for us with Myra, the Spanish hostess.   And what a table it was outside.   The infamous Cape Town Southeaster was an angel, and stayed away, making it a magical evening.  Griffin has turned the previous smoking-area of the restaurant into the new kitchen, while the old kitchen at the back is a Madame Zingara test kitchen, bakery, an home-made pasta section, of which Angus is in charge, as well as a section in which butter is made.  Whilst I was wandering through inside the restaurant, the Executive Chef Heinrich came up to me to say hello (this is how friendly the staff are), and told me that he was the chef at the original Café Paradiso ten years ago.  He looked very happy to be back “home”.   So what has changed?  Not much, other than the kitchen changes – there seem to be more tables outside than I can recall.   The pin oaks in the courtyard have grown, offering excellent shade.  The lighting inside was far darker than I recall it.   Surprisingly, there was no music, a missing finishing touch, in my opinion.   I was bowled over when the hostess Myra welcomed me by name, remembering me from the Madame Zingara restaurant in Loop Street more than five years ago!

Our waiter John brought the jug of water, which looked extra refreshing with orange and lemon slices and ice, as well as the creamish A4 paper menu and winelist printed on reverse sides of the sheet.  The table cloth is a material one, and therefore the paper serviettes were a disappointment.  Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are from Olyfberg.  The restricted menu and winelist choice makes it easier to choose what to order.   The menu starts with “Beautiful Day” and ends with “Beautiful Night”, and states that “This store lovingly created by The Royal Countess Madame Zingara”, clearly a ‘promotion’ for the Madame!   John brought two beautiful slices of home-baked wholewheat seed-topped bread, and I was lucky enough to get the end crust.   The menu starts with the breakfast collection (served until a respectable midday), and as at Café Mozart, there are some quirky sounding items on the breakfast list, including scrambled egg with rosti, feta, avocado and tomato;  and French toast with grilled haloumi, basil pesto and tomato, both R45.   I’ll be back for the poached eggs with spinach, hollandaise sauce and smokehouse salmon (R55).  There is a choice of four sandwiches, and the young ones are not neglected, with chicken nuggets and lasagne, and “fish fingers royale”.  

Antipasti can be ordered, at R60 for one, or shared at R90 for two, either a meat/cheese one (proscuitto, coppa, salami felino, pecorino, bocconcini, with olives, caperberries and rocket) or a vegetarian one.  Starters include mussels, squid, haloumi, and black risotto with chorizo, none costing more than R50.  Salads (R45 – R60) sound unusual and interesting, the Greek salad being the only standard.   Eight pasta dishes are offered, in a range of R 50 – R65, even with a ‘Ravioli del giorno’, which was filled with wild mushrooms last night, sprinkled with olives, pinenuts, rocket, and parmesan shavings, and served with a tasty white wine sauce. There are only five main course choices: rack of veal stuffed with four cheeses at R145; an ‘organic sirloin’ at R135; “feathered steak” (as I understood it, parma ham is beaten onto the surface of the steak to make it as flat as a feather and then flash fried) at R90; linefish at R89; and a most generous charred lemon and rosemary chicken-half, served with a colourful collection of root vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and turnips (R85).   A range of familiar sweet treats, cakes, scones, muffins, ice creams, and desserts are offered, costing R25 – 45.  I couldn’t get John to get a frothy cappuccino from the kitchen, but it did come with a biscuit on the side, and the word ‘smile’ on the foam. The cappuccino seemed somewhat more expensive than the going rate, but this is a small price to pay for the excellent value for money of the rest of the meal.  

We were bad news for the sommelier Eron, in not ordering any wines, both being on medication.  He was not switched off, and treated us as long-term customers, and gave us some of his background.   I asked him to consider stating vintages of the wines on offer and the region from which they originate, as well as offering more wines-by-the-glass (there are only two white and two red, and one bubbly by the glass).  The housewine is called Paradise on the menu, costing R22/R85 for the red and the white, but when Eron brought a bottle to the table, it was a label-less bottle, with a neck label stating the name “Unbelievable”, the wines made especially for Café Paradiso by Mount Vernon in Klapmuts.   Fifteen red and white wines each are on offer, a mix of varieties, peaking in price at R175 for Jordan Chardonnay and R210 for Hartenberg “Cabernet”.   Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel costs R30/R155, Graham Beck Brut R185, and Moét & Chandon R650. 

Café Paradiso is a new affordable friendly ‘home from home’ at any time of the day and evening when one is in town, especially on a gorgeous wind-free Cape Town day.   I’ll be back.

Café Paradiso, 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 423-8653.  www.cafeparadiso.co.za  (website goes to www.madamezingara.comsite, listing all the Griffin ventures, each with their own page – not containing much information, and with few photographs, but the menu and winelist are featured).   Monday – Saturday 8h00 – 22h00, Sunday 8h00 – 14h30.

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

Local olive oil industry is golden and growing!

South Africa has more than 100 olive oil producers, and its production has increased almost four-fold to 7000 tons in the last nine years.  The best olive oil brands were acknowledged by the S A Olive association, and Waterfall River in Franschhoek, Kleinood and Rio Largo were the top three brands to win double gold awards at the recent 2010 awards ceremony, reports Bolander.  

South Africa now produces one-third of the world’s top virgin olive oils.   At the awards function, the audience was reminded that our country’s extra virgin olive oils are superior in their quality, and that “sub-standard” imported olive oils should not be supported.  “South Africa’s olive oil industry may be relatively young but we’ve had ample time to study the industries of other countries to avoid the pitfalls and ensure that the right cultivars are planted on the right soils”, said Andries Rabe, Chairman of SA Olive.

Linda Costa of SA Olive was awarded Olive Achiever of the Year, for her focus on promoting the olive industry as well as its quality.  Her grandfather Ferdinando Costa was the first to start the olive oil industry in Paarl.   Pikkie Lourens of Olyfberg also received an Achiever Award, for her passion for the industry.

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

Olive oil liquid gold!

South Africa’s olive oil is top quality, and the Cape winelands are proving to not only be good for red and white wine production, but they deliver the finest olive oils as well. 

In the annual competition organised by S A Olive, Annalene du Toit of Kloovenburg  estate in the Riebeeck Valley won the 2009 ABSA Olive Achiever of the Year Award, for her “passion and contribution to the growth of the industry”, says a report in Bolander.   She also recently won the Sanlam/Landbouweekblad Woman Entrepreneur in Agriculture for 2008/9.   She offers 40 different olive-based products, including a cosmetics range which is exported.

In the commercial olive oil class, the top achievers winning gold medals were Kloovenburg, Olyfberg, Morgenster and Rio Largo.  In the boutique class, Diepsak Farm, The Greenleaf Olive Co., The Olive Lady, Muiskraal, Olyven Houdt, and Waterfall River won gold awards.  All entries for the annual awards were tasted blind.

For a full list of gold, silver and bronze winners in the Commercial and Boutique classes click here

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

Franschhoek terroir achieves liquid gold

Terroir is equally important in producing award-winning olive oils as it is in making good quality wines.  

The 2008 S A Olive Oil award winner Burgundy Bourgogne in Franschhoek attributes its gold medal to the terroir of the Winelands Valley, offering a unique combination of the region’s soil, climate, slope and wind.    The olive oil variety harvested, and the timing of the olive harvest can also influence the quality of olive oil.

Burgundy Bourgogne’s award-winning olive oil was described as :”A fresh rich rounded aroma, full of nuances of fresh salad and nuts.   The nuttiness is carried through to the palate with a rich mouth feel.  The gentle bitterness and piquancy linger on, leaving a very pleasant after-taste.”

The S A Olive award for best table olives went to Karoo Olives from Renosterkop outside Beaufort West, winning silver for their black, flavoured and dried olives.   Reni Hildenbrand from Wellington was recognised for her passion and contribution to the development of the industry, winning the ABSA Achiever of the Year Award.

Rio Largo won the gold medal in the Delicate Extra Virgin  Olive Oil category, with Tokara: The Olive Shed and Willow Creek winning silver medals.   In the Medium Intensity category Burgundy Bourgogne, Foxenburg Estate and Olyfberg won gold, and Southern Right and Waterfall River winning silver.   In the Intensely Fruity category, gold winners were Olyven Houdt and Vesuvio, while Cascade Manor, Morgenster and Groote Vallei won silver.

The wetter weather this season has led to a softer character for the local olive oils, the judges said.