Tag Archives: Provence

KONG Bar & Grill has unique decor, excellent chef team, friendly service, and dancing too!

I ate at KONG Bar & Grill in De Waterkant last Thursday for the first time, at the invitation of its PR Consultant Marina Nestel, and then watched the World Cup Rugby Semi-Final there on Sunday. Not expecting much from the ‘Grill’ part of the name, I was surprised to meet Chef Coenraad Spauner, who heads up the kitchen and who worked at a Michelin Plate restaurant in France last year. Continue reading →

Rosé Rocks 2015 Top10 winners announced, ‘fantastic future’ for Rosé!


The winners of the inaugural Rosé Rocks competition have been announced, with Tamboerskloof Katharien Syrah Rosé 2015 named the overall winner.

The 160 Rosé and MCC Rosé wines were evaluated by a panel of judges, which was chaired by Woolworths’ Allan Mullins. Wines were tasted blind, without information provided about the vintage, wine estate, and technical analysis. The results were audited by Grant Thornton South Africa. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 14 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine new headlines

*   KWV has launched Earth’s Essence Pinotage, with the claim that it is the ‘healthiest wine in the world, made with Rooibos bark.  No sulphur dioxide has been added in making the wine, and wooden staves made from the bark of rooibos and honeybush plants, having natural anti-oxidant properties, are used.  KWV chose to use the staves in the production of Pinotage, both Rooibos and the wine varietal having an iconic South African heritage.  The wine should do particularly well in the Scandinavian countries, where organic, sulphur-free or Faitrade wines are high in demand.

*   The massive ‘Perceiving Freedom‘ sunglass frame artwork on the Sea Point Promenade has received heavy criticism as being opportunistic and nothing but commercial exploitation for Ray-Ban, sponsors of the installation.   It is also criticised for its cost of R170000, paid for by City of Cape Town ratepayers!   The City says that its Outdoor Signage by-law is not contravened, as the work carries no branding.  The artwork is dedicated to the memory of the late Nelson Mandela, and faces Robben Island. It is a World Design Capital 2014 approved project.

*   Sales of Prosecco are popping through the roof in the UK, almost tripling in the super-premium category, and increasing Continue reading →

Franschhoek Literary Festival: ‘What’s Cooking’ highlights what’s bubbling under!

The fifth Franschhoek Literary Festival kicked off yesterday with a panel discussion on ‘What’s Cooking’, with writers of three cookbooks Reuben Riffel, Marita van der Vyver, and sisters Annalie Nel and Zuretha Roos, chaired by TASTE food editor Abigail Donnelly.  For food lovers considering publishing their own cookbooks, the message was loud and clear – one has to choose one’s publisher carefully, and be flexible to take directives, often conflicting with one’s own ideas.  Food trends evolve, and cookbooks document this.

Reuben Riffel is a Franschhoeker, who opened his first Reuben’s restaurant eight years ago in Franschhoek, and now owns two more, in Robertson, and at the One & Only Cape Town.  It is primarily his endorsement of the Robertsons spice range that has made him a household name and TV chef, but may have cost him his credibility as a chef.   His second cookbook ‘Reuben cooks local’ (R394) is the most recently published of the three books which were discussed.  Reuben talked about how big a step it was for him to open his own restaurant, having been taught by masters such as Richard Carstens. He reads a lot of books by Australian chefs, following their trends.  His grandfather was planting vegetables for their family eating, ahead of their time. Reuben was approached by publisher duo photographer Craig Fraser and Libby Doyle to do a cookbook, and he liked the idea, always having wanted to have a cookbook which he could keep on his own bookshelf!  Reuben liked working with this team, having had other approaches which had been more prescriptive, which he did not like.  The latest cookbook is about foods he likes to eat and the flavours he enjoys.  While it was hard work, it has been a great sense of achievement. Unusual in the book is the list of suppliers that Reuben uses, something he used to feature on his menus too. His cookbook is dedicated to his late father, and Jos Baker wrote the foreword.  He writes that he likes to combine seasonal ingredients and fresh flavours. Reuben spoke about his love for fresh ingredients, and that broadbeans and asparagus are the best thing about Spring. Reuben said he would never throw away a flop dish, always looking to add to it to improve it.  We asked him how he could reconcile the trend by top chefs to use fresh herbs with his endorsement of Robertsons’ bottled spices, and he replied that not everyone can afford to eat at his restaurant, or to buy or grow fresh herbs, nor are all herbs available all year round. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are needed all year round. Reuben’s favourite ingredients are Karoo lamb, snoek, naartjies, springbok, waterblommetjies, West Coast mussels, guinea fowl, guavas, and mielies. Reuben changes his menu every day, based on the fresh produce he receives on a particular day. The foods he grew up on include waterblommetjiebredie, ‘stamp en stoot’ (a mix of beans, white corn, meaty bones and marrow), and Karoo lamb chops, he writes.  His book contains 77 recipes of foods sourced from the ocean (Cape Malay mussel dish above), the field, the orchard, the earth, the wild, and the vine.  Few herbs and spices are contained in his recipes, and Robertsons spices and herbs are not recommended in the book.

Marita van der Vyver was the best known writer, better known for her novels (‘Griet skryf ‘n Sprokie’ was her first book, and has been translated into more than ten languages).  She married Frenchman Alain Claisse, lives an idyllic life in Provence, and her husband seems to do a lot of the cooking for the patchwork family of his, her, and their children.  She admitted that 25 years ago she was barely able to cook an egg, nor bake. Publisher Kerneels Breytenbach came to visit, and they decided to prepare their everyday food for him, which her husband calls ‘French peasant food’.  He was so excited about what he ate with them that he invited them to publish a cookbook about Provence. Marita wanted it to be more of a storybook, but the publishers insisted that the recipes of the dishes written about were included, which cramped the style of both her and her husband.  Marita wanted the freedom to write her book ‘Summer in Provence‘ (R264) as she wanted to, and Alain is a creative cook who takes a pinch of this and one of that in preparing his dishes, never replicating any, and always experimenting and adding new dimensions to it.  Lien Botha came to France to do the Provence photography, and the dishes were recreated locally and photographed.  She told us that all food in France is seasonal, even the cheese!  All the recipes in her book specify ingredients which one can buy in South Africa. Marita says she misses waterblommetjies in France. They have not had a vegetable garden up to now, due to the good availability of fresh produce at the local markets, but having moved house recently, they now have space to start one. They have always grown herbs on their windowsill, and she would never cook with dried herbs, she said.  They cannot do without thyme, as it symbolises Provence. Marita’s policy on ingredients is “Beste Beskikbare Bekostigbare” (best affordable available).  The book covers recipes and photographs of the dishes and life in Provence, for asparagus, pumpkin, chicken, spanspek, trout, tarts, stews, cheese, risotto, fruit, polenta, couscous, berries, spinach, figs (photograph of her baked fig and nuts), chocolate, and more.  Marita has just had a new novel published, called ‘Just Dessert, Dear‘, not about cooking at all, but the main character is a food writer.  She said about the theme of her newest book: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”!

Zuretha Roos and Annalie Nel grew up in the Hex River valley.  Both were teachers, with a passion for food, and were approached by a publisher to write ‘Roast Duck on Sundays’ (R254).Their mother was a ‘splendid’ passionate cook, and served Muscovy duck weighing up to 7 kg on Sundays, her ‘piéces de résistance’, and now very hard to source.  Annalie had a catering business, and now experiments with recipes.  Zuretha used to be the cookery editor of the now defunct Darling magazine, and has written a number of other cookbooks. They had to use ‘ordinary’ duck for their cover photograph, they said.  The pages of the book have an interesting brown weathered look about them, and the photographs look like they come out of an old family photo album.  The book contains more than the Sunday roast duck – it also covers recipes for soups, breads, pastries, dressings, sauces, fish, shortcrust pastry, venison, cakes, and puddings.

No cookbook is prescriptive, and recipes should be amended to reflect one’s taste and the availability of ingredients. The altitude at which one cooks, one’s stove, the appliances, the quality of the ingredients, and a number of other factors can influence whether a recipe will be successful or not. There was quite a discussion about duck, and how difficult it is to source it with the right fat/meat ratio.  The audience laughed when Reuben said that duck fat is healthy!  Zuretha and Annalie said ‘that it makes the most beautiful roast potatoes’.  Increased usage of star anise and white pepper are two new spice trends, said Abigail.  Old-fashioned recipes are making a come-back too. Marita said that research has shown that a cookbook owner only uses 3 – 4 recipes out of a cookbook.  The great joy of writing a cookbook is that one can source one’s book all the time, to make one’s favourite recipes.  The reliable sourcing of fish is becoming more difficult, Reuben said. Guineafowl can be sourced from Wild Peacock, Reuben said when asked in question time. Kalahari truffles can be sourced from Melissas.  Abigail confirmed that ‘foodie’ is a term which is no longer acceptable to define foodlovers and writers.

What’s Cooking‘ was an interesting start to the Franschhoek Literary Festival 2012 yesterday, and in a way Abigail Donnelly, the panel chairman, probably would have been a better source of information on many of the questions she asked the panel.  She was well prepared, having read all three cookbooks, and Reuben and Marita were talkative, which made her task easier.  The two sisters Zuretha and Annelie were less communicative, yet charming in their honesty when they spoke.  All three cookbooks are likely to do well, all three being very different.

POSTSCRIPT 12/5: One wonders what Robertsons, the One & Only Cape Town, the Robertson Small Hotel, Quivertree Publishing, and other business partners would say about Reuben Riffel’s abusive reaction on his Facebook page to our Robertsons’ endorsement question at the Franschhoek Literary Festival yesterday (see the Comments to this blogpost).

POSTSCRIPT 13/5: Reuben Riffel has closed down his Facebook account!

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: Chef Reuben has reinstated his Facebook page, and has apologised for his disparaging comment on it, which we accept.

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

Restaurant Review: Societi Bistro cycles through France

I love seeing innovation in a restaurant, and was excited when I saw the first menu of Societi Bistro’s nine-cycle “Tour of France”, which started at the beginning of this month.  Three French speciality dishes representing a particular region are presented at R150, and the menu changes every Wednesday over the nine week period.  A suitable wine is recommended week on week, and the prices charged are most reasonable.  One does not have to order all three courses, and there is no choice per course.  One is able to order from both the a la carte and the French menu.

I am a slow convert to Societi Bistro, not having been overwhelmed by it in the past.   I enjoy their tongue starter, and two enjoyable dinners there with Clare and Eamon McLoughlin from Spill Blog have improved my opinion.  I invited Jacqui from Charly’s Bakery to join me, but we did not realise that the Onion Soup and the Pot au Feu would contain pork, so Jacqui ate from the a la carte menu.  What impressed me was the passion for the French tour by Chef Stef Marais, who came to the table regularly to explain the French menu to us and to check on our satisfaction with it, and let his staff bring a media release to the table – it is not often that restaurants are good at marketing themselves, and have such documentation available.  Stef is third generation South African, and is proud of his French heritage.

Chef Stef explained the background to the “Tour of France” coming from the Bistro style of the restaurant, and this is an annual “thanksgiving” to the regions that they represent in their menu.  Stef had worked with French chefs in London, and has travelled in France.   He comes from Nelspruit, did his apprenticeship at the Table Bay Hotel, went to work in London, before returning to the Mount Nelson Hotel, and from there he came to Societi Bistro, just as it moved from the V&A Waterfront to its Orange Street location.  Chef Stef spontaneously invited us to visit the kitchen and we did so when it was all cleaned up after the dinner service.  He told us that he had a paying guest, journalist Richard Holmes, on his “Kitchen UnConfidential” programme, working alongside him in the kitchen all day.

Societi Bistro has a bistro feel, with chanson music, dimmed lighting, candles, a fireplace in almost every room, almost making it too hot for the unseasonally warm August evening.  There are blankets over some of the chairs, if it is really cold, and they add touches of colour.  Subtle paint effects are on most walls, with an unplastered brick wall in one room.  Material table cloths cover the tables, and the chairs are Bistro style.  A ‘chef’s table’ close to the kitchen is cosy, and right at the action, with its own special menu.  A very cosy bar/lounge The Snug is popular for smokers, in winter especially, and it is here that Jacqui and I retreated to after our dinner, chatting to Chef Stef again, and bumping into Mervyn Gers, the founder of Radio Kontrei, which became Kfm. Our waitress Julie was exemplary in her ability to make one want to order every menu item she described, and in looking after us and checking on us regularly.  

The a la carte menu offers an interesting mix of very local dishes and Bistro ones .  The starters offered are “skilpadjie” (lambs liver) with “krummelpap” – cooked mealie meal (R32), Beetroot carpaccio (R38) and ox tongue (R49).   The pasta dishes have two prices, ranging from R36 – R65 for half portions, and R53 – R96 for a full portion of Limone Fettucine and Mushroom Risotto, respectively.   Specials on offer were a stuffed and deboned harder, and a winter salad of ricotta, beetroot and orange.  Jacqui loved her roasted bone marrow (R40) and her Sirloin Bearnaise (R98), being a Bearnaise sauce addict, she said.  One can also order the steak with a Cafe de  Paris sauce.  Other main course choices include prawns, lamb shank, venison bourguignon, an ostrich and oat burger, coq au vin, and Vietnamese pork belly.  Dessert choices are disappointing in only being cakes (baked cheesecake, lemon tart, chocolate nemesis), creme brulee and ice cream, costing between R40 – R46.  We both did not like our coffee, my cappuccino being too milky and the coffee just not of a good quality, and we were not charged for it.   We were impressed with the nice packaging for Jacqui’s doggy bag.

The wine list does not specify vintages, and a good number of wines-by-the-glass is available, but some seem expensive in that the costing for the Shiraz brands is based on three glasses per bottle, while the norm is four.   Three Shiraz brands are stocked, for example, a Hoopenberg (R35/105), Joubert Tradouw (R55/165), and Saronsberg (R90/R269) .  For the Sauvignon Blancs, however, the glass of wine is based on 1:5, and the prices are very low (Joubert Tradouw Unplugged R13/R75, Warwick Professor Black R26/R155).

Paris was the first region to be represented by Societi Bistro, and its three courses were Gratinee de (sic) Halles – French Onion soup – (R30), Pot au Feu of braised pork belly (R90) – described as a “porkbelly potjie” – and Paris Brest dessert (R30).  The onion soup was brown and rich, made with bacon, sherry and chicken stock, served with gruyere cheese croutons, a lovely way to start the meal, with a glass of Thelema Mountain Manor good value at R 32.  However, the bacon in the soup is not a conventional ingredient, according to ‘Larousse Gastronomique’.  The Pot-au-Feu is usually made from beef or chicken, says my French guide, and I felt that Chef Stef had taken some creative licence in its preparation, with potato, leek, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and carrot cooked with the pork, and served with the broth as well as a gherkin and Dijon mustard relish.   The 200 gram pork slice was tough to cut, until I discovered that it had been rolled and was held together with string, which one could not see.  The highlight of the menu is the Paris Brest dessert, which represents the story of a cycle race between Paris and Brest in 1891, and a local patissier creating a dessert in its honour in the shape of  a bicycle wheel.  It is made from choux pastry, a little dry Jacqui and I thought, making it too crispy and hard and unlike eclairs, but filled with the most amazing creme patisserie, and sprinkled with caramelised slivered almonds, making it creamy and crunchy.

Currently (until tomorrow) the ‘Massif Centrale’ is the featured region, and its menu is ‘Tourain Blanchi a l’Ail’ (garlic soup), Cassoulet, and Creme Caramel.  The rest of the ‘Tour of France’ at Societi Bistro is as follows:

*   From 18 August the focus is the ‘Pays de la Loire’ – the Gardens of France (Oysters a la Poitou-Charentes, Pork Noisettes with prunes and ‘Crepe Angevines’- served with apple marinated in Cointreau, and Chantilly cream).  There is no French menu from 24 – 31 August. 

*   From 1 September the featured region is ‘Normandie and Bretagne’ (Moules au Cidre – mussels cooked in cider, Baked Gurnard with fennel, leaks and capers, and Apple Tarte Tatin).   

*   From 8 September the focus is Alsace and Lorraine (Quiche Lorraine, La Potee Lorraine – smoked bacon, white beans and pork shoulder – and Tarte Alsacienne – an apple tart). 

*   Week 6 (from 15 September) focuses on the ‘French Alpes’ (Salade Lyonnaise, Fricassee de poulet a la creme – chicken in a white sauce – and Profiteroles with warm dark chocolate sauce). 

*   There is a break, and the next French region focus is on Burgundy from 6 October (Pork rillettes, Beouf Bourguignon and Pain d’epice et poires au vin – a Honey Cake with pears in wine). 

*   The South West of France is the focus from 13 October (Garbure – “rustic country soup” with confit duck and vegetable broth – Beouf a la Bordelaise, and Labnah cheese served with brandy prunes.  

*   The focus on the Cote d’Azure starts on 20 October, and the menu consists of Bouillabaisse, La Daube Nicoise – braised beef with black olives, celery and carrots – and Gratin de (sic) fruits rouges.

We had a lovely and long evening, and enjoyed the attention from the excellent waitress and from Chef Stef, the homeliness and friendliness, and the care taken in compiling this interesting menu (except for some of the typing errors).  The disappointment was the poor coffee, and the bathroom I used was shocking – dirty floor, old-fashioned, so bad that I had to run out.  Jacqui had used another one, and was equally put off by it.   Chef Stef is really trying hard, but I got the feeling that they are not quite there yet in terms of food quality.

Societi Bistro, 50 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town.  tel (021) 42 42 100. www.societi.co.za (The website has the Tour of France menu details, but has a technical problem in that text is written over other text on most pages.  The website is short on food pics, with three only, and has no Image Gallery. Innovative is the You Tube video on the site).  A newsletter is sent out weekly, creating top of mind awareness and appetite appeal.   Twitter @SocietiBistro

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

Cafe’ Delicieux c’est tres delicieux!

A little French haven in the northern suburbs is Cafe’ Delicieux (a francophile would miss the accent on the first e of Delicieux), a daytime restaurant which is open seven days a week.   Whilst it encapsulates a French feel, its menu has little French food in it.

It is decorated beautifully, in a French blue, with beautiful Manna-style chandeliers from which dangle not just crystals but cups as well.   The owner clearly has interior decor talent, creating an aesthetically pleasing interior – with large black and white floor tiles, a large table at the entrance displaying all the baked treats in large glass belldomes, decorated with ribbons, a Dutch Tord and Boontjie papercut curtain, French background music, and a display of gifts of crockery, preserves, teapots etc for sale.  Beautiful photographs of cutlery decorate the wall.

Attention to detail is immediately noticeable – the chairs outside all have blankets on them, not only for warmth but also to add a touch of colour on the white chairs.    The crockery used is beautiful and precious, and one wonders how it stays whole without being chipped!   A ‘jammerlappie’ (moist cloth) accompanies the meal, presented on a beautiful plate.

Owner Serita Landman was out of town, but her Assistant Manager Lee Robertson was a most delightful and passionate representative, in supplying information, and even e-mailing a photograph whilst the writer was still in the restaurant.   The restaurant opened a year ago, but has only recently begun to make itself known.   Mrs Landman is a passionate French food lover, says Lee, and loves cooking a la francais.

The menu has some French dishes, such as coq au vin, but this dish has already been discontinued, as it has not sold well.  Instead it is the salads and burgers that are the most popular amongst the clients who are mainly from the Welgemoed neighbourhood, says a waitress.   Unfortunately the blackboard with the specials, referred to on the website, was not offered.

Breakfast can be eaten all day long, and the menu includes salads, pasta dishes, and light dishes such as moussaka, boerewors, and herb-fried calamari with remoulade sauce, at around R 60.  The menu has very feminine feel, created by the typeface, and the soft pink and blue used on its two sides.  Desserts are the cupcakes, and cakes, and include Chocolate tiramisu, Pecan Nut cheesecake, New York cheesecake, Carrot cake, and a Lemon Meringue, as well as a Granadilla Meringue. The menu reflects the positioning of the restaurant: “We like simple food, prepared with thought, love and care”.   This is not something one often sees communicated, and accurately summmarises what the restaurant is about.

All cakes and cupcakes are baked at the restaurant, and increasingly the services of the restaurant are being called upon for functions in the restaurant, and for outside-catering.

Lee talked about the “motherly” role that Mrs Landman plays towards her staff, and how happy she is to work at Cafe’ Delicieux, as are her colleagues.  Staff turnover is low.   All the staff smile, and look really happy, Lee being the prime example of a dedicated and loyal staff member, saying that she is at her most happy here, of all the restaurants she has worked at, feeling part of “the family”.   She adds that their patrons enjoy the warmth, welcome and comfortable ambiance of the restaurant.

The salad accompanying the moussaka was tasty, with a special dressing.  Tomatoes had been cut in half, and cooked for a while, an unusual salad ingredient.   The onions in the salad were a hindrance, not to everyone’s taste.

At all times the staff came by regularly, to check that all was in order.   Take-away boxes are beautifully decorated with ribbons, making one feel that one is taking home a special gift.

On 6 October Marlene van der Westhuizen, who lives in Cape Town and in the Provence, from where she offers cookery classes, will be featured at an evening function.  On 7 November Danielle Pascal will perform at Cafe’ Delicieux.   The restaurant is open from 7h15 on Mondays – Fridays, and closes at 18h00 on these days.  On Saturdays it opens at 8h30, and closes at 15h00, and on Sundays it opens at 9h00 and closes at 14h00.

Cafe’ Delicieux is located next to Woolworths, Shop 6, in the The Forum shopping centre below the Engen petrol station, on the corner of Jip de Jager and Kommissaris Streets in Welgemoed.   Tel 021 913 0153.  www.cafedelicieux.co.za.

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