Chef James Martin is a top UK celebrity chef, and has been connected with Chewton Glen over many years, having worked at the UK’s leading hotel as a pastry chef twenty years ago, and is now set to open the James Martin Cooking School, Bakery, and Relaxed Dining on 1 December. Continue reading →
Last night the inaugural Wine Label Design Awards, sponsored by Rotolabel, were hosted by Winemag.co.za at Beau Constantia, a relatively unknown wine estate very close to Constantia Nek, with a most beautiful view over the Constantia Valley.
We were served a welcome drink of Villiera Tradition Brut MCC, and welcome water, it being a very hot day. I sat outside, to catch some of the cool breeze, and chatted to Wendy Appelbaum of DeMorgenzon, and Adam Mason of Marvelous. Attendees were mainly related to award winning wine labels, with some wine writers in attendance too.
John Pace from At Pace Design & Advertising acted as MC, and said that through the Continue reading →
Since Orphanage Cocktail Emporium opened on fashionable foodie Bree Street in Cape Town almost three years ago, it has established itself as a classy establishment with award-winning bartenders and unusual bespoke cocktails. More recently it has added a restaurant on the lower level, accessible via the Bree Street entrance, or its own dedicated entrance on Orphan Street. It has decided to give back to the industry by allowing ‘orphan chefs‘ to use their space for a year to set up a restaurant, which the chefs would not have been able to afford to do on their own, and to overcome the barriers to entry.
Chef Johann Breedt is the first ‘orphan chef’ to have been ‘adopted’ by Orphanage, and took over the kitchen in December. He was a finalist in the first season of Kokkedoor. I first met him when he was working at the Executive Club at The Westin Cape Town, where we were invited to a Graham Beck MCC tasting and lunch, and I remember the lunch as being excellent. Chef Johann moved to Shimmy Beach Club, then joined Taj, before moving to Orphanage. He trained at Chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and The Ritz Hotel in the UK. He also previously worked at The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa and The Lanzerac. Continue reading →
Yesterday Rougié, the world’s largest producer of foie gras, introduced a number of us to their method of foie gras production, dispelled all myths of the ‘cruelty’ of this production, and spoilt us with a wonderful Chef’s Table lunch at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
Guy de Saint-Laurent, Directeur: Commercial Export of Rougié Sarlat, flew in from France to explain to Chef Rudi Liebenberg from the Mount Nelson’s Planet Restaurant, Chef Dylan Laity of Aubergine, and Chef Darren Badenhorst from Grande Provence how duck foie gras is produced. The company specialises in foie gras supply to the restaurant industry, and calls itself the ‘Chef’s Foie Gras’. We were told that foie gras is one of the oldest food products, having been developed in Egypt 5000 years ago, the Pharaohs already force fattening wild birds at that time. For their long journeys to other parts of the world in winter, the birds naturally overfeed to create a natural layer of fat around their liver, for their long flights, doubling their weight. The first foie gras recipes emanate from Rome, and were based on geese livers. Now 80% of the world’s production comes from France, with another 15 % being produced in Spain, Belgium, Japan, and the USA. With the introduction of corn from America to France, the production of foie gras was revolutionised, in being used to force feed the ducks and geese. Foie gras is produced from Moulard ducks, a cross between Muscovy and Pekin ducks. Up to 98% of all foie gras is made from duck, taking 12 weeks to breed and 10 days to be fattened, while geese need 14 weeks breeding time and 21 days of fattening. Duck foie gras is more affordable therefore, and tastes better, Guy said. Its preparation has been mainly pan-fried or seared in the past, but Rougié is working on guiding chefs to find more uses for it. The company has recently set up the L’Ecole Du Foie Gras, teaching chefs the art of foie gras usage.
We were shown a video of how duck are fed a boiled corn ‘mash’ with a tube which goes into their crop, the process called ‘gavage‘. This process takes 3 minutes, and is done once a day over the last 12 days of the duck’s life. Vets visit the foie gras farms, and confirmed that ducks are ‘anatomically pre-disposed to be force fed’, having a long neck, and that there is ‘no indication of stress’ to the ducks, a study showed. The quality of the treatment of the ducks is reflected in the quality of the foie gras that is produced. Rougié exports foie gras to 120 countries around the world, either raw, in cans, or flash frozen, the latter having a taste and texture ‘as good as fresh’. The company is a co-operative of about 700 duck farmers, foie gras being one of the products they make.
Foie gras has nutritional benefits, containing Vitamins B, C, and E. A slice of foie gras has 260 Kcal, compared to a hamburger having 275 Kcal, and a pizza 600 Kcal. It has good fat similar to that in olive oil, and protects the heart. It is a food that can be adapted to the food traditions of the world, going well with the sweet, sour, and acidity in ingredients. The Japanese are even making foie gras sushi, and the Chinese are making foie gras dumplings for Dim Sum.
While we were listening to the presentation, Chef Rudi’s team was busy preparing a foie gras feast for us, a nine-course lunch of small portions, to demonstrate the diversity of foie gras. Chef Rudi’s brief to his team was to do him and the foie gras proud in the dishes that they created for this unique lunch. Three foie gras canapés were served with Villiera Tradition Brut NV, a terrine with beetroot, a macaroon, and a whipped foie gras torchon. We discussed the reaction to foie gras, and that the state of California has banned its use in restaurants, despite foie gras being USDA approved. Restaurants in the state wish to reverse the ban through legal action. Guy said that the negative reaction comes from foie gras being seen to be for the well-to-do, making it elitist, the gavache method of feeding, and the love for comic characters such as Daffy and Donald Duck.
We started with frozen shaved foie gras, which was served with pine nuts and litchi, a fresh surprise combination of ingredients, which Assistant Sommelier Farai Magwada paired with Bellingham’s The Bernard Series Chenin Blanc 2011. Guy told us that he has chefs which visit restaurants around the world, especially to those far away from France, to educate and excite chefs about the preparation of foie gras. Last week Guy and Sagra Foods, the importers of the Rougié foie gras, had hosted similar lunches at The Westcliff with Chef Klaus Beckmann, and at The Saxon with Chef David Higgs, of whom Guy said that his work was two star Michelin quality, having been more classic in his foie gras usage. Foie gras served with fresh apple, apple chutney, on an oats streusel, was paired with Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2007.
I asked Guy about cookbooks about foie gras, and he told me that three have been written to date, one produced for Rougié, another done by Chef Nobu of the restaurant group by the same name, and the third by Beijing restaurant Da Dong. Given that Rougié was not prescriptive about how the foie gras should be served at its South African lunches, it seemed a good idea to develop a compilation of the dishes served, perhaps even including those lying ahead for Guy in Mauritius and Reunion. An indian touch came through with foie gras and curried banana being sandwiched between two poppadom crisps, served with a fresh Solms-Delta Koloni 2010. A fun dish was pairing foie gras with popcorn and chicken breast, which was paired with Jordan Chameleon 1995. As if we had not eaten enough already, we had a small palate cleanser, being duck confit with artichoke and mash.
We moved to fish, for which we were served fish knives, for hake cured with lemon and lemon grass, served with foie gras spuma and grilled melon, and paired with Cederberg Bukettraube 2011. Guy explained that sous vide was invented for foie gras, and has since been adapted for use for other foods. He also told me that French chefs predominantly used foie gras in terrines, but since Rougié has started marketing their products, and running their chefs’ courses, they are seeing it put to a greater number of creative uses. The beef, marinated mushrooms, and foie gras emulsion was paired with L’Omarins Optima 2006. We talked about Chef Rudi’s support of Farmer Angus at Spier, buying his free-range meats, and having guinea fowl and turkey bred for his restaurant.
The Mount Nelson’s creative pastry chef Vicky Gurovich has just returned from a stage at Chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in Great Milton, and visited Valrhona in Paris. Her dessert creation of a foie gras, Valrhona chocolate and toffee terrine served with hazelnuts was the pièce de résistance. It was paired with Nederburg Eminence Noble Late Harvest 2009.
Sagra Foods was established in 1994, and operates from Cape Town, but distributes a range of exclusive foods and wines nationally, and even into Southern Africa, planning to make this country a hub of distribution of its fine foods into Africa, Darryn Lazarus said. They commenced with Italian products, but decided to focus and specialise on premium products such as truffle oils, truffle butters, and many more, to make these products more affordable for local chefs. Darryn said they are the ‘pioneers in specialty ingredients’, using wholesalers like Wild Peacock to offer chefs a single source of supply. They import products ‘that make a difference’ from France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and the USA. So, for example, they sell El Bulli’s Texturas range, being the technical elements which once world best Chef Ferran Adria uses in his molecular gastronomy; De Cecco pasta from Italy; Vilux French mustards and vinegars; Borde dried mushrooms; Belberry jams, sauces, syrups, and vinegars; pastry cases with an 8 month shelf life; Australian Massel beef, chicken and vegetable stocks which are kosher, halaal, and gluten-free; and Tea Forte, the original designers of the tea pyramid, with such award-winning tea flavours as Blueberry Merlot and Lemon Sorbet.
The Mount Nelson was praised by Guy for its playful and less classic interpretation of the foie gras challenge, and he liked how the structure and taste of the foie gras was brought to the fore with the ingredients used by Chef Rudi’s chefs. It was a most informative, once-in-a-lifetime lunch highlight, with excellent food, paired with a amazing range of wines, good company, and hosted in a special venue inside the sixty year old Mount Nelson kitchen. Merci beaucoup!
Sagra Food & Wine Merchants, 10 Flamingo Crescent, Lansdowne, Cape Town. Tel (021) 761-3360. www.sagrafoods.com. Twitter: @SagraFoodsZA
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I have only recently become aware of the (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and its good work in trying to retain and enhance endangered fish and shellfish species, through a consumer awareness campaign which helps fish shoppers and restaurant patrons to identify which of the fishes they eat are green, orange or red, depending on their degree of endangeredness. Last week I spent a most interesting day with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international organisation that encourages seafood sustainability by conducting audits of seafood products, from the catch until it appears in the supermarket or on the restaurant table. Each of these steps is audited, which results in being awarded the MSC’s ecolabel, guaranteeing fishlovers that the fish they are eating is sustainable in its availability, as well as its fishing method, its processing, and transport to and use in restaurants as well as sales in supermarkets.
The Mission statement of the MSC is as follows:”to use our ecolabel and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood and working with our partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis”.
The South African branch of the MSC, with the pay-off line “The best environmental choice in seafood”, hosted the workshop, which was held at Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris’ Cooks’ Playground in De Waterkant last week. The MSC “is a global non-profit organisation promoting solutions to the problem of overfishing”. Its blue ecolabel is an environmental standard reflecting “the world’s leading sustainability certification for wild-caught fish”. Consumers are encouraged to choose MSC ecolabel fish products when shopping, to help in reversing the decline in fish stocks. In South Africa brands such as I&J and Sea Harvest carry the MSC ecolabel.
Restaurants have been slow in coming on board the sustainability boat, and we are only aware of WildWoods in Hout Bay and Blowfish in Blouberg that actively promote SASSI on their menus, particularly the latter. Those restaurants buying their fish from MSC certified fish suppliers are encouraged to display the MSC ecolabel on their menus. This will require an annual audit by independent auditors. At the workshop the Shoreline CafÃ© at the Two Oceans Aquarium won a free MSC sustainable seafood audit. The work of the MSC internationally has already changed the habits of a leading chef such as Jamie Oliver, who only selects sustainable fish from the MSC website for his dishes now. Raymond Blanc, Chef Patron at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in the UK, says about MSC: “I passionately believe that it is up to each of us, be it consumer or chef, to make a responsible choice. By supporting MSC, I am ensuring that as a chef, I am helping to ensure fish stocks will be replenished for generations to come. I also hope that many more chefs will join this worthy cause”.
Internationally, the following companies have become involved in the MSC seafood sustainability programme: Walmart and Asda (pledged to be 100% certified for fresh and frozen fish by next year); Carrefour; the Dutch Retail Association, representing 99% of retailers in Holland, has committed to 99% of wild seafood sold will be MSC certified by next year; Sainsbury’s; Marks and Spencer; Aldi; Dansk; Compass; Sodexo UK; Iglo; Bird’s Eye, John West; KLM; and many more.
Internationally 5500 product lines from 1100 companies carry the MSC ecolabel, in 66 countries, at an estimated retail value of $1,5 billion. In July 92 fisheries around the world were MSC-standard certified, representing 4 million metric tons of fish, with another 120 fisheries undergoing assessment, representing a further 3 million metric tons.
The MSC certification programme has helped SASSI in its work, according to Dr Samantha Petersen of SASSI: “The MSC certification provided a platform and an incentive for us to work together. Prior to that, the industry was more suspicious of us. Once MSC status was on the cards, it gave us a common goal and opened up a dialogue that was not there before.”
After some demonstrations by Jenny, the workshop participants grouped into teams, and I was lucky to be paired with Ingrid Gold from Caxton Magazines and Eat Out reviewer Greg Landman. Greg is clearly a creative cook, especially when I saw him add honey to the hake he prepared for our team! It was delicious, and it was a good way to get involvement by the participants. Jenny’s team had prepared the most amazing seafood and salad buffet, with salmon and mussels, and we were spoilt with the wonderful looking display and tasty food. I loved Jenny’s paper thin crispy fried butternut slices. Then followed the most delicious seared tuna, as well as a dessert.
What made the lunch really special was the mix of persons at our table. Martin Purves, the Southern Africa Programme Manager for the MSC; Odette Herbert, a photographer and blogger; chefs from Bodega at Dornier wine estate, the Arabella at Kleinmond and the Shoreline CafÃ© at the Two Oceans Aquarium; and Ingrid and Greg.
Marine Stewardship Council. www.msc.org Tel (021) 551-0620. The MSC also has offices in the UK (its head office), as well as in Japan, Australia, and the USA.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage