Despite a hugely challenging year for the wine industry due to the drought, CapeWine 2018 is an impressive showcase of optimism, friendliness, and proudly South Africaness, running at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until tomorrow. I attended yesterday, with my Parisian friend Aurelié Jullien, and we were both impressed with the magnitude and professionalism of the exhibition, held every three years, and attended by the local and international wine trade. Continue reading →
A three-week writing focus at Apricale in Italy saw me complete the writing of a book within the time period I had allocated to this first-ever writing challenge. As the catalyst for The Book was Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, in that I met a special man at his book launch in March last year, and that The Book tells the story of the transformational effect of the meeting, there was no better restaurant to eat at on Saturday, to celebrate the completion of The Book, than at JAN Restaurant in Nice! It felt like Christmas, it being exciting to experience JAN Restaurant again, my third visit in two years! Continue reading →
Yesterday the 2017 Winemag.co.za Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report awards were presented at the colorful The Stack, a well attended function, and offering good lighting for photography. Winemag goes to great lengths to find interesting venues to host its awards. It is the sixth Cabernet Sauvignon Report presented by Winemag.
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For the first time in the history of MasterChef SA a contestant was flown to another country alone, for winning best dish. Roxi Wardman made the best Proudly South African Mystery Box dish in episode 3, her butternut and peanut butter tart winning her the trip of a lifetime to eat at 2 Michelin star restaurant Thornton’s in Dublin. Phila Vilakazi was the first MasterChef SA Season 3 contestant to be sent home. For the first time a MasterChef SA episode contained an off-putting hard-sell punt for its main sponsor Robertsons!
Roxi arrived in a chilly Dublin, at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, where Chef Kevin Thornton spoilt her with an exclusive lunch at Thornton’s, one of the Top 25 restaurants in the world, and one of the top 10 for special occasions. Chef Kevin’s philosophy is that ‘food is about life. There are so many people starving in the world and then we have all this stuff to play with, so it’s very important that you have a huge amount of respect for it’, he told Roxi. He added: ‘If I was to describe our food, I would say it’s a natural energy based food so it’s all about natural energy’. Roxi was impressed with Chef Kevin’s introduction to his dish, a ‘circle of life‘ story and bringing a pigeon in a nest with pigeon eggs, before he served it in three parts. He explained that they use Eireyu beef, reared on mother’s milk for the first six months, and then on grass and two pints of Guinness, for a month, with massages too. Thornton’s website reflects the food journey of Chef Kevin: ‘His cooking, while Continue reading →
I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week! Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date. She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.
Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years. She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned. They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.
It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties. She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town. Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this. Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens. When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically. She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.
She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden. To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:
* ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers. She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language. The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.
* ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!
Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September. It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home. It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.
Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants. She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant. She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.
She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”! She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource. Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for. Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores. She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”. She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past. She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas. She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.
Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!
POSTSCRIPT 23/5: The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down! Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food. It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them. Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.
Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. www.soniacabano.co.za Twitter: @SoniaCabano1
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I rarely go to the Tableview and Blouberg area. When I received an invitation from Nikki Dumas to join her at Blowfish Restaurant for an early dinner, prior to seeing a preview of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, it seemed an appropriate ‘starter’ to a must-see movie.
Nikki is a wine consultant to Blowfish, and has won a coveted Diamond Award from Diner’s Club International for the winelist she has created for Blowfish for the past two years, as well as a Wine Spectator Award. She is a passionate wine lover, and uses the word ‘swirl’ a lot. She came to Cape Town to open Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then joined the Slick restaurant group when Vilamoura closed down. She worked at both Balducci and Belthazar, on the wine side, and became Deputy General Manager. She has been a wine consultant for over a year now, her Winestyle consultancy offering waiter training, winetastings, and she compiles winelists.
Blowfish belongs to the Singer Group, which has a number of hospitality interests. I recognised Oliver Wing, the Operations Manager, when I arrived. He used to be a manager at Haiku and Bukhara, and was sent to London to open Haiku there. The restaurant is located in the Dolphin Beach Hotel in Blouberg, and is a large space, seating about 180 guests. The restaurant has a view onto the Atlantic Ocean, over the roofs of hotel rooms below. It is a large open-plan room, with a sushi bar with conveyor belt, a bar, and upstairs there is a TV/smoking room, as well as the wine cellar, in which functions are hosted, including workshops on how to make sushi. The chairs are Greek-style, all in white, and white is the dominant colour in terms of furniture and fittings, except for beige plastic table cloths.
Blowfish uses a cute illustration of a blowfish on every page of its menu and on the winelist, creating good synergy between the two documents. The pay-off line is ‘Seafood Sushi Sunset’, it being rare for a restaurant to have one.
There is a fish counter (as per Codfather in Camps Bay), from which one can order a selection of fish and shellfish, in the size of one’s choice, which is then weighed and charged. The fish types on offer at Blowfish are angelfish, bluefish, butterfish, calamari, Cape salmon, Dorado, kingklip, monkfish, Norwegian Salmon, cob, sole, swordfish, tuna (yellowfin), yellowtail, sardines, Cape rock lobster, king prawns, langoustines, Tiger medium prawns, Tiger giant prawns and oysters. I was impressed that the cost per gram was shown per fish type. Soon a similar meat counter will be introduced.
What impressed me tremendously was the depiction on the menu of each of the ‘green’ fishes on the SASSI list, which are those that are in good supply. A whole page of the menu is dedicated to the restaurant’s “Green Values”, the first time I have seen this on a menu. It states that the restaurant is a “SASSI Aware” participant, to “promote and offer you sustainable seafood choices from legal sources in an effort to help improve the conservation status of over-exploited seafood species.” Contact details of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative are provided. Near the fish counter a SASSI poster has been put up, showing the different green, orange and red fish and shellfish types. I would have loved to see them show the orange symbols on the other fish dishes (e.g. prawns and kingklip) on the menu, to be absolutely correct, allowing their customers to choose whether they want to order ‘orange’ fish. By implication, the non-marked fish dishes on the menu would be orange.
The Blowfish menu is very extensive in offering sushi, salads, soup, platters, combinations of meat and fish, and the fish ordered from the counter. Starters range in price from R40 – R55, and include a bacon and seafood skewer, bushveld sushi made with crocodile, trio of salmon, Thai-style fishcakes, king calamari, Wok beef, and mussels. The sushi choice is vast, covering two pages of the menu, including Fresh rolls, Cooked rolls, Traditional Maki rolls, Inside Out rolls, platters (ranging from a 12-piece Nigiri at R125 to a 60-piece Chef’s Speciality platter at R550), sushi salads and hot sushi. The cost for smaller portions of sushi depends on its ingredients, roughly ranging from R25 for three to R45 for four pieces. The Chef’s Recommendation section has a selection of dishes, ranging from R 95 for the kingklip to SQ for the crayfish curry. One can also order duck, Fillet Mignon, lamb rack, and the Chef’s signature dish, being Seafood Espetada. Platters cost as little as R99, for the Blouberg platter (kingklip, calamari, and prawn skewer), up to R 220 for the Kite-Boarders platter (mussels, calamari, linefish and rock lobster). A selection of stir-fry dishes is also available, from R65 upwards.
I love a prawn and avo handroll, and that at Blowfish was the best I’ve had, being more moist than recent ones I have tasted, with mayonnaise added, very reasonably priced at R40. It was hard to choose what to order from the menu, and therefore I chose a piece of kingklip, some calamari and a tiger prawn from the fish counter, to be grilled and served with Basmati rice. The selected fish and shellfish is prepared with the “fishmonger’s” seasoned ‘signature Blowfish spices’, and one has a choice of four sauces: lemon butter, garlic butter, sweet and sour, and peri peri.
As the movie started at 8 pm, and I had to drive to the Waterfront to see it, I had to eat quickly when the main course arrived, to make it back to the city in time. I could not finish all of the food, as it was far too large a serving. It was excellent, the massive prawn being a highlight. I missed out on the desserts, but could have ordered a Lindt chocolate brownie, Croque en Bouche, baked cheesecake, chocolate banana spring rolls and more, at a most reasonable cost of R25 – R 35. A cheese platter is also available at R75.
Nikki has created two winelists for Blowfish, one just focused on imported wines, and the other on local wines. She is very proudly South African when it comes to her wine recommendations, and she has included about 140 local wines on the winelist. She describes each variety, indicating the colour one should expect, and the flavours they should have. The region of origin of each wine is indicated, and the wines are listed from lowest to highest price per variety, the perfect winelist! The Sauvignon Blanc section is the largest, with 24 options, and the prices of all the brands are very reasonable, ranging from R 90 for Hazendal to R240 for Neil Ellis. MCC’s start at R90 for Pieter Cruythoff Brut, which Nikki says comes from the Swartland, to R428 for Constantia Uitsig. White wines sell better than red wines at Blowfish, but Nikki has a good selection of red wines too. Ten Shiraz wines are offered, the Landskroon and Porcupine Ridge being most reasonably priced at R105, to R 260 for Grande Provence. Corkage is the lowest I have seen, at R20 for the first two bottles, and increases to R50 per bottle thereafter. The winelist also proudly records the awards it has won.
While Blowfish is too far for me to travel to from the Atlantic Seaboard, I know where to eat when I next go to that area. I could see how popular the restaurant is amongst locals – from being the first to arrive at 18h00, the restaurant was close to full with locals, bringing their children and babies in prams, when I left two hours later.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Never in the history of World Cup soccer has a “player” made world TV and newspaper headlines as has Paul the psychic octopus. We nominate him for the Golden Ball Award for being the most on-the-ball player of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having correctly predicted Germany’s four wins and two losses.
Paul lives in an aquarium in Oberhausen in Germany, but is British-born. He started duty in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but made an error when he predicted that Germany would win against Spain. He was a little known player then, especially due to his incorrect prediction. But since the start of the 2010 World Cup he has been spot-on with the results of each match, predicting Germany’s wins over Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina, and its losses against Serbia and Spain.
All eyes will be on Paul as he predicts Germany to take 3rd place against Uruguay in Port Elizabeth today. He has also bravely stepped out of his league in predicting the winner of the World Cup Final to be Spain, in its match against Netherlands tomorrow.
Poor Paul is being heavily taxed, in that he is now being asked to predict all sorts of other things, such as whether German coach Joachim Loew will renew his contract.
Paul has become such a talked-about VIP that he has his own Twitter page now (@PPsychicOctopus), and boy can he Tweet non-stop, usually putting some “biped” down when he/she make comments he does not like, and just in general, when he feels like it. He is a cheeky opinionated chap! He attracted 422 followers in just 2 days, and is hoping for 1000 by tomorrow. He picks up almost every mention about himself on Twitter, and then replies to it. He has been featured on CNN, ZDF, BBC and SkyNews, and made the front page of the Cape Times and Germany’s Bild, and no doubt many more international and local newspapers.
While I am having fun, I am awarding some other unofficial 2010 World Cup awards:
Goldie Locks Award: goes to Diego Forlan of Uruguay, who has beautiful blond hair kept in place with a blue aliceband, and has the most beautiful blue eyes, for sure the most beautiful soccer player in the World Cup (on the other hand, Wayne Rooney has already been selected by the media as the ‘ugliest’ player of the soccer tournament)
Golden Trend Award: Cristiano Ronaldo receives this award, for his black nailpolished toes, as seen on German TV station ZDF yesterday
Golden Coach Award: superstitious German coach Joachim Loew wearing his beautiful blue jersey at every match in which Germany played, and refusing to wash it to not break the luck of his team, that is until it lost against Spain this week. He was by far the best looking coach of all teams.
Golden Moneybags Award without a doubt goes to FIFA and its President Sepp Blatter, for taking all its money out of South Africa, untaxed as per its contract with the South African government, especially all the MATCH booking monies. Ticket sales will have largely been received by credit card in Switzerland anyway.
Golden Service Award goes to the 25 000 or so volunteers at 10 stadiums and at the Fan Parks in Host Cities, as well as at airports and FIFA-designated hotels, who worked for a pittance of R 100 per day, irrespective of how long their working hours were. Volunteers were specifically forced to sign away their rights to protection under South Africa’s labour legislation, such is the power of FIFA! Volunteers were not even allowed to receive a copy of their 4-page contract. Volunteers were the machine that made the running of the World Cup smooth and largely incident-free, in offering Spectator Services, Language Support, Transportation, Accreditation, Hospitality, IT and Telecommunications, and many more services to make the World Cup happen. The ridiculously low “stipend” has to be taxed, at least 30 % being deducted, even for the meal allowance when it was first paid into the bank, while FIFA patted itself on the back for its 25 % increase in its media and marketing income for this World Cup, and announcing that millions of dollars will be paid to Football Associations and its executive.
Golden Aches Award goes to the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), for forcing its 25 000 volunteers around the country to spend half of their R 120 daily meal allowance at a McDonald’s close by, for the past 40 days. The Green Point branch, which is right at the Stadium, made a fortune from the Cape Town LOC for daily vouchers to the value of R 60 – it could easily be R2 million – out of a blind loyalty to the fast food company’s sponsorship of the World Cup.
Golden Handcuff Award goes to the S A Police Services for safeguarding South Africa and the soccer fans, and for taking over the security services when Stallion Security staff striked in Cape Town and in Durban at the start of the World Cup. They were patient, dedicated and worked in the pouring rain in Cape Town at three of the matches, and in cold winter conditions for the other five matches, as well as on non-match days, checking bags and other belongings, keeping everyone inside the Stadium safe.
Golden Key Award goes to FIFA and the LOC, for forbidding its volunteers to criticise the two bodies whilst they were on duty, as per the volunteer contract. What they did not understand was the power of word-of-mouth, aggrieved volunteers talking to each other and posting comments on the Cape Town Volunteers blog www.ctvolunteers2010.wordpress.com. E-mails were sent to other volunteers, and one even approached the Weekend Argus about the McDonald’s forced-diet, that uniforms were not supplied to all volunteers in the 5 weeks of them doing duty, prejudicing some in not working inside the stadiums and therefore not seeing all the matches, and that transport problems meant that volunteers stood in the rain and cold waiting for transportation to take them home after matches.
Golden “Gees” Award goes to all South Africans, who become ‘Proudly South African’ in the past month, becoming soccer fans (who was it that said that ‘White’ South Africans do not support soccer and do not watch local matches?) in addition to loving rugby; who went to watch the Stormers and the Blue Bulls play at Orlando Stadium in Soweto (I mean, have you ever?!) and loved the “gees” there just a short while prior to the start of the World Cup; for walking the Fan Walk (153 000 in Cape Town last Saturday alone) and calling for the Fan Walk to become a permanent feature, locals requesting Capetonians to walk it once a month; for the loyal support for Bafana Bafana, a team we scorned and mocked prior to the World Cup, but who did us proud; and made us proud Africans, supporting BaGhana BaGhana when this was the last African team left in the tournament.
Golden Liquid Award goes to the beer producers and all the staff at pubs and restaurants around the country who made sure that soccer fans remained liquid, either to celebrate or commiserate their teams’ performance! Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop sold 10 000 beer cans in the 4 hours prior to the England versus Algeria match in Cape Town, he says.
Golden Balls-Up Award goes to ACSA Durban for damaging the image of the country when flights bringing German and Spain fans to Durban on Tuesday after the match had finished, due to a congestion of aeroplanes at the new King Shaka airport in the city, reportedly due to private jets clogging up the parking bays and refusing to move their planes, the FIFA one being one of them! Not surprisingly FIFA and the LOC have distanced themselves from any responsibility for this mess-up.
Golden Fans Award goes to all the wonderful soccer fans, both local and international, that became infected with the “gees” of the World Cup, who got to endure the vuvuzelas and even bought their own, for dressing up in wigs, painting their faces, and proudly wearing their country’s flags – I can see a whole new fashion trend in proudly-South African colours. They brought their dollars, pounds and Euros, and bought beers, ate at restaurants (manly pizzas, burgers and steaks), stayed at good value guest houses and did some sightseeing locally. They showed up FIFA’s MATCH by making their own accommodation bookings (at non-MATCH guest houses) and by buying their own match tickets, instead of falling for MATCH packages.
Golden Rip-Off Award goes to MATCH, the hospitality and ticketing agency of FIFA, which conned the accommodation industry for a second World Cup, promising good accommodation returns, forcing establishments to give 80 % of their rooms, promising not to cancel rooms as it did in Germany four years before, and for adding an unjustified 30 % commission to accommodation rates, giving South Africa an unfortunate image of “rip-off pricing” in the European and English media, thereby keeping soccer fans away from the country. As if this was not bad enough, the unfortunate accommodation establishments that signed with MATCH received the majority of their rooms back, just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup.
Golden City Award goes to Cape Town, which to date has had the highest number of goals scored (22) of all stadiums, and has achieved the highest occupancy of stadium seats, said Cape Town Stadium Venue Manager Terral Cullen at a Volunteer Farewell Lunch earlier this week. The Stadium was moved a few meters and a new one built, for the benefit of the view from it onto Table Mountain. Ironically it was not the mountain that became the focus of the world media, but it was the Stadium itself that formed the backdrop for report after report about our beautiful city and the matches that were taking place. Even the sport commentators would refer to the beauty of the city during their match commentary. President Zuma claimed it as the best World Cup city, and FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said the Cape Town Stadium had the best pitch and was the most perfect stadium, so much so that the Olympic Committee has requested Cape Town to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. What an accolade! Sepp Blatter has taken IOC President Rogge around Cape Town, and personally has recommended the city. We know that what President Blatter wants, he gets!
Golden Card Award goes to the World Cup referees who loved the red and yellow ones, waving them at players at great regularity, and influencing outcomes of matches as a result – Klose and Mueller’s red and yellow cards were examples for the German team.
Golden Flop Award goes to all soccer players who collapsed every time another player bumped into them – from a distance many of them looked like primadonnas, hoping for a free kick whenever they flopped onto the grass
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com