I was grateful to be able to interview Chef Brad Ball at La Parada Bree Street last week, in preparation for the announcement of his appointment as the new Harbour House Group Executive Chef, given my (then) forthcoming trip overseas. Continue reading →
Word has spread about newly opened Chardonnay Deli in Constantia, and my expectations were high when Manley Communications sent the media release about it in December. The expectations created via the media release were not met unfortunately, and we found a Farm Stall with below-average and poorly presented food in its Eatery!
I had arranged to meet my lunch host Tony Ward at the Farm Stall, not knowing exactly where it was, and hard to see in a bend, and to turn right into to park, given the traffic load on Constantia Main Road. The branding on the roof of the building is smallish, not helping one to find it. There was barely any parking in front of or near the Farm Stall, it Continue reading →
MasterChef SA Finalist Samantha Nolan showed her leadership skills in the team competition in episode 5 of MasterChef South Africa last week, with her Red team winning the Harvest Celebration lunch challenge. Her selection of mainly Cape Town Finalists to her team reflected her loyalty to Cape Town and to the team members that she had got to know in the earlier rounds of the reality TV show competition, and who had become friends. She appears to be a strong contender for the title, not having been faulted by the judges in the episodes to date.
Samantha agreed to an interview immediately when I called her, subject to the approval from M-Net’s Senior Publicist Ingrid Engelbrecht, as we had to obtain for our interview with Finalist Guy Clark. I asked Sam to choose a suitable venue, and even offered to drive out to Table View, but she selected Andiamo in the old Cape Quarter.
Samantha brought along her husband Paul, and he comes across as the most wonderful supportive husband one could wish for, the two making a good team. They ‘met’ telephonically fifteen years ago, both working for ESKOM, and he called her in the Medical Aid department with a query. On his next visit to Johannesburg, where she was based, they met, and the rest is history. Both had two children from their previous marriages, and now the family of six lives in Cape Town. Paul left his job at ESKOM, and has become an electronic contractor, with contracts in Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Liberia, the family joining him for the first two contracts. Disaster struck when Samantha had a heart attack last year, while Paul was in Liberia, and a rare genetic defect, being a shortage of chemicals which had never been evident before, was diagnosed. She takes medication for the condition now. She said that the stress of MasterChef has not affected her at all. It did mean however that she could not join Paul in Liberia, because of the poor medical conditions in that country. Paul works six weeks away, and then comes home for two weeks. He finishes the contract next month, and then wants to start a facilities management consultancy, helping companies like ours with all maintenance requirements.
I asked Samantha where the MasterChef interest had come from, and she said that she saw the first Australian programme three years ago, and just knew that she wanted to be part of it when it came to South Africa. She has been Googling it over this period. She dreamt about being a contestant, and having become a Finalist is her dream come true. She is proud to have made Top 15 to date, out of an initial field of 9500 applicants. For her cold audition at the Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town, when they were reduced down from 4000 to 120 contestants, she prepared hot cross bun ice cream with clotted cream (a challenge to find the unpasteurised milk), making it all herself, which she served with three berry sorbets and a white chocolate ganache. She loves experimenting with and making ice creams, something she developed when they lived in Kenya, as ice cream is very expensive there. For the Hot audition in Johannesburg she prepared ceviche, seeing in the last minute that it had to be a literally hot and cooked dish, having interpreted it figuratively initially. She quickly had to rewrite her recipe, creating a dish called ‘Fish cake journey‘, which represented three types of cultures in South Africa, and it put her into the final 120 finalists, and earned her the MasterChef SA apron:
* the European influence was represented by salmon with dill sour cream
* the South African influence, being smoked snoek with curry and a sweet chilli sauce
* the Asian influence, being a prawn fish cake with a ponzu dressing
Taking part in MasterChef SA was something she absolutely wanted to do, and despite Paul being in Liberia, and the Finalists having to be at Nederburg for up to two months without contact with her family, the family made a plan to make Samantha’s dream come true. Her 14 year old son Ryan seems to be following in his mom’s shoes, and had the cooking duty for his siblings, her daughter Caitlin did the shopping, each child having specific chores. A friend down the road kept an eye on the children, and took them to school. The children Skyped Paul daily, and so any problems were sorted out with Paul, even if he was far away from home, so that Samantha could be focused on what she was doing at MasterChef. The children enjoyed the experience too, learning to be responsible, and independent. Her family organisational skills, with Paul away so often, seem to have benefited Samantha, from what we have seen in MasterChef so far, not easily getting rattled. It appears that the judges did not manage to bring her to tears in the series.
Samantha looked soft and gentle in the interview, with her long blond hair loose, something I hadn’t seen in the show as it always tied back, but it is clear that Samantha is organised, determined, and focused. She is honest and direct, reflecting her European background, with her father being Dutch, and her mother half Dutch and half Austrian. Her dad didn’t cook, being better at woodwork, but her mom cooked European dishes, such as pea soup and ham, ‘kroketten’, ‘potjiepot’ (similar to our potjiekos), poffertjies, and she baked cakes, rusks, and spekulaas with her mom. She described herself as ‘a dutiful daughter’, in helping her mother, who lives in Johannesburg, and owns a B&B there. There is a lovely relationship between Paul and Samantha, and sometimes she looked to him for answers, or he would prompt her about something she had cooked. He proudly said: “I get anything I want culinary-wise”. But Paul did admit that he is a fussy eater, and he has exact requirements for his fried eggs! I got the feeling that Samantha can be independent, but that Team Nolan always comes first.
Samantha has a curious interest in food, and told me how she tried to make mozzarella herself. She found it very difficult to find unpasteurised milk, and said that she won’t be trying this again. She taught herself to make artisanal bread when they bought some from Olympia Café in Kalk Bay at a market out their way. She developed her own recipes, and she bakes a selection of breads, including olive ciabatta, epi breads, baguettes, seed loafs, and paninis, for friends, using Eureka flour. She says she has a standard domestic oven. She describes herself as a ‘home cook’, and says she really got cooking when they used to eat out, and they were rarely happy with what they were served. She would head home and recreate the dish, making it better than they had experienced. She told me how she spoilt the children and their friends in Kenya one day, when she made them self-made ‘McDonalds’ breakfast burgers, with a patty, cheese, and egg on a muffin, which she wrapped in wax paper, and then ‘branded’ with the McDonalds logo. The children loved them, and she still receives ‘orders’ for them! So too she has made them the KFC ‘Famous Bowl’.
I asked her what favourite dish she likes to prepare most, and Paul said it is her spit braai lamb. What makes it so special is her marinade, for which she uses garlic, olive oil, lots of lemon juice and rosemary, pepper, whisking this in her Bamix. Both like to braai, but their techniques differ, Samantha keeping her grid closer to the coals, and therefore cooking her meat more quickly. She is good at making sauces, and makes her own Hollandaise, mayonnaise, and other sauces.
She told me how moving it was to do the braai challenge at the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, a beautiful, humbling and amazing experience, made all the more special that no one else had ever prepared food in this sacred space before, or probably would not do so in future. In Paarl the group of 18 finalists was divided into three groups, and they took turns to cook for each other at night at the guest house at which they stayed. She says that when they first started, they made fancy dishes for each other, but over the two month period they got to know each other better, and relaxed the level of cuisine over time. Samantha shared a room with Sue-Ann Allen, also from Cape Town. She said that the MasterChef kitchen at Nederburg was ‘amazing’. MasterChef SA was tough, she said, a true test of character. She did reveal that the sending back of her Red team’s pork shoulder in episode 5 by Chef Andrew Atkinson was ‘just TV’, as it had been cooked perfectly! I asked her what the worst part of the show was, and she said there was nothing. The best part was ‘everything’, she said, loving it, ‘a surreal experience’, and a ‘dream come true’. Her end goal in participating is to win the title, but just having been part of it is a huge honour. I asked her about the restaurant prize which goes to the winner, given her four children and husband, and she answered immediately that it is no problem at all, and that she would relocate to Johannesburg to take up the prize as Chef at MondoVino, if she were to win. Her mother is in Johannesburg, and it is a place that she knows, having grown up there. She praised the judges, saying how nice they were, ‘all great guys’. The tears on the show were real, and are important for such a reality show, wanting emotion. She said that it was easy to break the Finalists’ resistance, giving the long days they had on set, so the tears came easily.
I asked Samantha how she decides what to cook for the family, and she told me that she loves reading cookbooks and magazines. She rarely repeats what she has made before. She will wake up, and decide that it is a ‘duck day’, or a ‘lamb day’, for example, and then look for a recipe that will be interesting to make. She loves making an orange chocolate mousse, Paul said. She couldn’t tell me what her personal favourite dish is, but finally said that it is pizza, the family having three favourites at different times of the day : For breakfast it’s the BBB, topped with bacon, banana and chilli; for lunch it’s topped with salmon and avocado after; and for dinner it’s the PPP (peri peri and prawns).
I asked Samantha if she is treated like a ‘celebratory’, and she laughed and said ‘unfortunately not yet’. Her children are very proud of her, and want to boast about their mom, and are a little surprised that she is not recognised everywhere she goes, wanting her to tell others that she is MasterChef Sam. She has just been profiled in the Tygerburger, and more people in their area are recognising her. Samantha couldn’t answer what her favourite restaurant is, first saying Thai Café, which is near Andiamo, where they enjoyed the crispy duck, but she admitted that her home is her favourite! M-Net encouraged the Finalists to sign up on Twitter, and Samantha (@SamanthaLNolan) says she is getting used to it. She is more active on Facebook, where she has a fan page onto which she posts recipes.
Samantha and Paul Nolan are a lovely couple, make a great team, and Paul clearly is proud of his talented wife. He watches the MasterChef SA episodes from Liberia via live streaming. Their dream is to start a pizza restaurant together, but they were not very specific about where they would set it up or when. Hearing how determined Samantha was to get into MasterChef SA, and having made her dream come true, it can just be a matter of time before the Nolan Pizzeria opens.
POSTSCRIPT 24/4: Samantha sent a photograph of her MasterChef logo steak and Guinness pie she baked with her son Ryan just before the start of the MasterChef SA episode tonight.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I had read about Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg wine estate in Constantia on Twitter, and about its Beef Tataki in particular, one of Chef Brad Ball’s signature dishes. My first visit last week was one of wow – amazement at the wonderful setting, the amazing decor, the friendliness of the staff, the wonderful food, as well as the value for money, a perfect recipe for success. I felt that the “Bistro” name, which Wikipedia defines as “a small bar serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting” is completely inappropriate for this wonderful restaurant, the restaurant underselling itself, and thereby overdelivering.
Bistro Sixteen82 opened just less than a year ago, in a new building built on the historic Graham Beck Foundation-owned wine estate, which was given to Catharina, “the widow Ras” as she was known, by Simon van der Stel in exchange for (undefined) “favours”, I was told by the charming Lida van Heerden, the Cellar Door Manager. Catharina must have been quite a lady, having had five husbands, and was the inspiration for the name of Catharina’s, the other Steenberg restaurant. With the historical heritage of Steenberg, the modern building housing the tasting room as well as the Bistro is a surprise, but fits into the environment well, probably because the building is quite a distance away from the historic Steenberg Hotel buildings. There is ample parking, and the building opens onto a well-kept lawn, which seems to melt into the vineyards on the mountain slope above. There is a lovely water feature, making it very tranquil to sit outside.
When one steps into the tasting room, which one has to walk through to get to the restaurant, one notices the dominant chandelier, made from 2700 green and red resin oval shapes, depicting grapes, with pips and all! The light was made by Carole Carr-Harris from Divali Lighting in Hermanus, and weighs a ton, needing a reinforced ceiling to hold the weight. The tasting section is a round island in a generously sized room, from which leads a lounge, at which one can taste wines too, or just enjoy sitting at the fireplace on a wintry day. The architect and interior decorator is Richard Perfect, and he certainly did a perfect job in creating an architecturally unique building inside and out.
The restaurant is a large space, with tables seating 70 patrons close together, especially against the two end walls, which have a fixed seat against the wall. The close proximity of the tables, and the fully booked restaurant, gave it a wonderful buzz and energy. It was nice to see Jenna, the hostess, who has attended one of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings. Chef Brad was off-duty, but kept an eye on things with his staff as soon as he had read via Twitter that I was at the restaurant, and also provided the exact details of the sauce served with the asparagus starter on Twitter, even though he had the day off! A large structure made from branches is a decorative feature on the ceiling, and bunches of pin-cushion proteas presented in large glass vases give a flash of orange in an otherwise white-dominant restaurant interior, the same protea-filled vases being seen at the entrance to the building, from which can also see the steel vats of the winery. The comfortable chairs have a natural wood look, with what looks like a modern-day ‘riempie’ for the seat, matching the ceiling wood structure. The vats are also visible behind the Raw Bar, and the estate’s white and red wines are cleverly displayed on two of the walls, creating a design feature. A Raw Bar refrigerated display counter contains salamis and hams, capers as well as cheeses, with an Oyster Tank next to it. Staff look smart and professional, with white shirts, a smart slim silver tie, with a tie clip, and black slacks and black aprons.
The tables have white table cloths and impressive serviettes with the name of the restaurant embroidered on them. Cutlery and glassware is of good quality. The menu and winelist is made from black leather, and is a simple insert. The number of choices of dishes and wines is reasonable, yet very varied, making it easy to choose. The reasonable cost of the dishes impressed, Front of House Manager Jürgen Welp telling me that from the outset Chef Brad Ball wanted the Bistro to stand for value for money, both in terms of its food as well as the wines (the mark-up is no more than 25 % for the Steenberg wines, unlike some of its Constantia neighbours charging threefold for their estate wines, even if the tasting room is only a few steps away). With a corkage fee of R40, it would be more expensive for a customer to do a BYO with corkage added, compared to ordering from the winelist.
Chef Brad Ball was previously at River Cafe, Olympia Café and Pastis, while Jürgen had worked at Buitenverwachting for seven years. Both set up Bistro Sixteen82 a year ago.
Our waitress Natalie brought the bread basket to the table, consisting of a bread stick, slices of focaccia and ciabatta, with a small platter of olives and sundried tomatoes, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar served in tiny milk jugs. The Summer menu is divided into four sections, labeled as “Stimulate” for the starters, including smoked pork paté, pea and pancetta risotto and snails, costing R46 each, and mussels, slightly more expensive; “Rejuvenate” contains two dishes : Beetroot tarte tine served with smoked trout mousse (R68) and the house salad (R45/R64). “Inspire” contains the main courses, ranging from R78 for Broccoli feuillette (gorgonzola fondue) to R 120 for Franschhoek Trout and Steak au Poivre. Other mains include a pork belly ragout, line fish, a charcuterie selection and sticky pork belly. The “Indulge” selection contained five desserts, costing between R44 – R50, all interesting sounding, and a cheese platter at R48.
I ordered the Asparagus starter (R50), served with a truffle mousseline with parmesan, and decorated with tiny snippets of tomato, a lovely melody in green, yellow and red. The sauce was delicious, and overshadowed the steamed crispy asparagus, it was so special. My son had the Beef Tataki, which is seared beef fillet and then thinly sliced in carpaccio style, served with soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, chilli, sesame oil, radish, spring onions, and lime juice. It is a unique combination of ingredients causing a taste explosion, costing R49 as a starter and R 105 as a main. My (student) son could not finish the main course portion, it was so filling. I ordered the entrecote steak, simply served as two thick slices, with mash (a bit stodgy, I felt, but it was my choice – normally the steak is served with potatoes and peppercorn sauce) and steamed carrots and beans. An excellent small but effective steak knife was provided.
The Raw Bar board shows prices to be R18 for an oyster, and Gravadlax at R44. Other options are Pink Tartar, being Norwegian salmon with chilli and lime, costing R60/R105 as starter/main course, and the Red Tartar, being a tartar of Chalmar beef served with capers and a quail egg (R56/R98). The cappuccino was served with two pieces of home-made Turkish Delight.
We were offered a complimentary glass of the Steenberg Brut, made from 100 % Chardonnay, the first tasting of this bubbly, crisp and dry, and a good marriage with the asparagus. The Steenberg wine range consists of 1682 Chardonnay MCC, Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Sphynx Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, 1682 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Nebbiolo, Catharina, Magna Carta, and Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Bordeaux Blend. The Steenberg wines understandably dominate the winelist, with almost all their wines being available by the glass. The Klein Steenberg Bordeaux Red costs R24 for a 250 ml carafe and R70 for a bottle, and the most expensive is Steenberg Catharina 2007 at R77/R230. It also lists a few other Constantia wine brands, keeping it proudly-Constantia. Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve costs R 585 and the Rosé R750.
I don’t always make a point of visiting the cloakroom, and here I saw the only aspect of the decor that came across as kitsch – the cloakroom and the toilets are covered with a wall paper that is a close-up of a vineyard, making one claustrophobic. It is such a contrast to the good taste of the decor in the rest of the building.
I loved my first visit at Bistro Sixteen82, and will be back again to try some of the other dishes on the Summer menu. I felt it to be excellent value for money, and a happy and relaxed space, with very friendly staff and happy customers who did not seem to want to go home. I am very surprised that Bistro Sixteen82 did not make the Top 20 Eat Out Restaurants shortlist, but should be sure to do so in 2011. The Breakfasts, and the Eggs Benedict in particular, are legendary at Bistro Sixteen82 too.
POSTSCRIPT 22/2: A visit to my accountant in Constantia was a good opportunity to make a return visit to Bistro Sixteen82. I had an early lunch, and was served by Manager Jürgen, and was offered a glass of Steenberg Brut – I accepted a half glass. I tried two new starters on Chef Brad Ball’s menu, and absolutely loved the presentation as well as the taste of the Duck liver parfait and duck prosciutto, creating a beautiful dark/light effect underneath the mousse, and served with a small wine-poached pear. Then I had the Capellini and truffle créme, topped with chopped tomato and a poached egg, a more simple but filling and tasty dish, beautifully paired with the Steenberg Semillon.
Bistro Sixteen82, Steenberg wine estate, Constantia. Tel (021) 713-2211. www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za Twitter :@Bistro1682. Mondays – Sundays, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, 9h00 – 20h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The best restaurant sommelier list includes The Atlantic Grill, Azure, Catharina’s, Delaire Graff (interesting that the restaurant is included, only being 6 months old), Hartford House, Jardine, Ritrovo, Roots, Rust en Vrede and Signal.
The 10 best cheese platters are to be found, amongst others, at Caveau, Cotage Fromage, Hartford House, Mosaic, The Saxony and Zacharay’s.
The 10 best bathroom list includes Catharina’s, Grand Provence, maze, and Roots. Missing from this list, it is believed, is the bathrooms of Delaire Graff, the cleanest and best smelling cloakrooms ever experienced.
Best value for money restaurants include Bellini’s, Sinn’s, Societi Bistro, and Pronto.
Some of the best bread boards are to be found at Cape Atlantic at the Table Bay Hotel, The Food Barn, Ile de Pain, Jardine, Manna, maze, Reuben’s, and The Saxon.
The top desserts are the Grand Marnier souffle at The Green House, the ginger and pistachio cake at La Petite Ferme, the chocolate mousse at Overture, and the strawberry vacherin at Terroir.
The best service comes from Rust en Vrede, Auberge Michel, Aubergine, Grande Provence, Cape Colony, Fyndraai, Mosaic, and Roots, amongst others.
The best tea and cake are served at the Mount Nelson, Cape Grace, Myatt, The Cellars Hohenhort, The Saxon, The Westcliff, The Twelve Apostles and the Vista Bar.
The restaurants with the best view include Buitenverwachting, Delaire Graff, Dieu Donne, Harbour House, La Vierge, Overture, Salt, and Tokara.
The best coffees are served at Doppio Zero, Miss K, and Ritrovo. The best winelists and cellars include the following restaurants: Buitenverwachting, The Greenhouse, Linger Longer, maze, Mosaic, Ritrovo, Roots, Sands at The Plettenberg, and Zachary’s.
The “restaurants that buzz” include Caveau, Olympia Cafe’ and Pronto.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com