Entries tagged with “Puglia”.


The Bootlegger Coffee Company has grown by leaps and bounds, opening branches not only locally but internationally too. It was a surprise therefore to read that the company had partnered with serious fine-dining Chef Eric Bulpitt of Faber at Avondale in creating Bootlegger Café and Grill in High Constantia, the home of the former very popular Greens. (more…)

Last Thursday I was one of a number of writers who was invited to attend the Summer Dinner launch at Giulio’s Café, the restaurant opening for dinner trade for the first time, on Thursday and Sunday evenings.  (more…)

I was looking for a brand new restaurant in De Waterkant, and landed at Stepbrothers Ristorante, it being a new Italian restaurant, bar, and deli, in error. I decided to lunch there, to get a feel for the restaurant, which opened six months ago.  (more…)

imageOpenWine ‘Taste Pair Shop’ opened on Wale Street in a chic less-is-more venue a month ago. Yesterday Seth Shezi and I visited OpenWine, and found two very friendly Italians who are passionate about promoting and drinking South African wine.

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Cheni BA Summer Outside table Whale CottageThe Chenin Blanc Association hosts a tasting of its top members’ wines twice a year, to match the summer or winter season.  Last week a tasting of 25 top Chenin  Blancs was followed by a summery Italian-inspired lunch with a view onto Table Mountain at Meloncino in the V & A Waterfront.

The tasting of the 25 Chenin Blancs was divided into five groups of five wines, and was led by Jeff Grier of Villiera, a gentle good off-the-cuff speaker, being so good with his notes that he often knew more about the wines Chenin BA Summer Jeff Grier Whale Cottage than was shared by the winemakers. Jeff stood in for Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, who spends a lot of his time marketing his wines in the USA.  What makes these events great is that writers can meet a number of the winemakers at the table, getting to know them a little better, the Simonsig (Hannes Meyer), Ayama (Liezel Delport), and Rijk’s (Pieter Waal) representatives sitting (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was via Twitter that I first read about Starlings Café, which had opened more than four years ago, but only became well-known when they started Tweeting about six months ago, co-inciding with their new farmer-style market they host in their garden section on Wednesdays at 16h00 – 18h00.

Focusing on home-grown produce in the preparation of its food for the small menu, owner Trish Krutz offered her suppliers a small homely space in which they could display their organic and home-grown produce to the Starlings Café clients, a win-win situation for both the Café in attracting more business, and for the product suppliers, who are part of a market growing in popularity.  Trish said she likes to stay below the radar, ‘behind the hedge’, she said.  The Café prepares all its food, only buying croissants from Cassis.

One sees the Origin coffee branded umbrellas of Starlings Café only once one steps off the pavement on Belvedere Road, and the interior feels homely, consisting of two interleading rooms and an open-plan kitchen, and then leads onto the terrace outside, which is protected against the weather.  Tables and chairs are mix and match, and each table has a different colour and pattern tablecloth.  Walls are covered with sketches, paintings, and prints, giving it a very homely feeling, as if one is visiting a friend’s parents’ house, with vases of roses and rosemary on each table.  The Willow Creek ceramic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers suit the country-style restaurant, even if it is in the city, with unbranded salt and pepper grinders.  Paper serviettes have a starling printed onto them.  The menu is simply printed on white board, with a starling on it too. Its introduction states: “We love supporting local suppliers and using the best quality home grown produce we can find”. This is visible as Trish was connecting with her suppliers after the worst market buying rush was over. I tried the mozzarella fior di latte (using Puglia’s mozzarella), tomato and basil pesto salad stack (R45), with amazing wholewheat bread baked by the Café.  It was a delicious combination, not needing butter or any of the condiments.  One can also order a tart of the day; Thai chicken curry; Portabellini mushrooms, roasted tomato and artichoke risotto; or a hamburger; ranging from R45 – R65. A choice of salads is offered, including chicken caesar, and roasted vegetables (R55 – R69).   Sandwiches with roast vegetable, feta and pesto; bacon, Dalewood brie and homemade tomato chilli jam; and chicken on rye with harissa and date dressing cost R50 – R59.   Trish was extremely friendly, but her staff less so.

On a lower level to the terrace are the tables set up for the market, with nine stands, protected against the heat by trees and more Origin umbrellas.  Matt Allison is a friend from the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, and his colourful table had vegetables on it that he had picked two hours previously.  He was selling parsley, butter lettuce, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, green peppers, green beans, and more. Interesting was the Boutique Garden Honey stand, at which honey from hives set up in Cape Town gardens is sold.  I was fascinated to see the difference in the colour of the honey coming from Newlands (dark brown, a sign of fynbos, I was told) compared to that from Claremont (being far more golden) gardens.  The garden honey costs R45, while their spingflower honey from the veld costs R25.  They also sell interesting sounding honey-flavoured soaps, e.g. Rose geranium, Marigold and lemon, Myrrh and frankencense.  Pets can be treated with wheat free low fat organic treats, for sale at the market.  Simply Wholesome supplies restaurants and homes with organic and free range produce on order, with delivery, and evolved from a greater focus by the owners on eating healthily.  One can buy salted and unsalted farm butter, eggs, ‘free run’ chicken and eggs, as well as Seville orange marmalade, fig preserve, sundried tomato mustard, and strawberry jam.  The House of Pasta has a restaurant and take-away service at the bottom end of Long Street, and the owner is Italian.  His charming wife explained all the pasta types to me, including gluten-free lasagne sheets and fusille, as well as tagliarini, and spinach and butternut pasta.  The Creamery was selling delicious strawberry and lemon curd ice cream flavours.  Richard Bosman’s charcuterie products were for sale, with a new smoked bacon.  Julie Carter from Ocean Jewels Fresh Fish had a table.    Afrikara Co-op is from Wolseley, and sells organic biodynamic natural yoghurt, cream, and feta cheese (labneh too usually, but not yesterday), as well as aubergines, and whatever fruit and vegetables they produce.

Attending the market yesterday allowed me to meet Karen Welter for the first time, who does the Tweeting for Starlings Café, and her late parents-in-law were friends of my parents many years ago. Karen is busy with a dissertation on ‘Sustainable Restaurants’ at the Sustainability Institute, which is part of the University of Stellenbosch.  She is focusing on key issues for restaurants in terms of how they can operate their businesses in a more sustainable manner in terms of their energy usage, communication, sourcing products, best practice, and collaboration with others.

It was a very special experience at Starling’s Café, with friendly collaboration amongst the market stallholders evident, and friends clearly meeting there regularly.  It felt like a mini-bazaar, for a special set of persons lucky to live close by to Starlings Café to allow them to visit regularly.   It has none of the crowdedness that one experiences at the Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas or at the Old Biscuit Mill.

Starlings Café, 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont.  Tel (021) 671-6875.  Facebook Twitter:@StarlingsCafe.  Monday – Friday 7h30 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 12h00.  Market on Wednesday 16h00 – 18h00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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