Entries tagged with “Russel Wasserfall”.


Chef's Warehouse Street Food logo Whale Cottage PortfolioCape Town is seeing an amazing number of restaurant openings in mid-winter, a time during which one expects the opposite, it being usual to see restaurant closures.  Although a concern to some, we are seeing a rise in restaurant entrepreneurs, opening more than one restaurant in Cape Town, including Neil Grant with business partner Barry Engelbrecht (opening on Bree Street, as well as at the former River Café; Michael Townsend of the Harbour House Group, who must be the fastest restaurant-opener at the moment, also bringing star Chef Andres Conde from Michelin star restaurants in Spain to Cape Town; and grumpy Giorgio Nava, who is opening two Carne restaurants shortly! This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen has opened Street Food below the neighbouring hotel, offering Deluxe coffee, pastries, and Asian-inspired lunch take-outs. Operates from 7h00 – 15h00.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   Lucky Fish & Chips has opened on Bree Street, on Regent Road in Sea Point, on Long Street, in Kalk Bay, and in Muizenberg, belonging to Harbour House group.  

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill is opening next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Ragafellows has opened on Main Road in Hout Bay.

*   The Dogfather has opened in Sea Point.

*   The Restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards has opened, with Chef Clayton Bell of the former Constantia Uitsig (more…)

Chef's Warehouse Street Food logo Whale Cottage PortfolioCape Town is seeing an amazing number of restaurant openings in mid-winter, a time during which one expects the opposite, it being usual to see restaurant closures.  Although a concern to some, we are seeing a rise in restaurant entrepreneurs, opening more than one restaurant in Cape Town, including Neil Grant with business partner Barry Engelbrecht (opening on Bree Street, as well as at the former River Café; Michael Townsend of the Harbour House Group, who must be the fastest restaurant-opener at the moment, also bringing star Chef Andres Conde from Michelin star restaurants in Spain to Cape Town; and grumpy Giorgio Nava, who is opening two Carne restaurants shortly!   This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen has opened Street Food below the neighbouring hotel, offering Deluxe coffee, pastries, and Asian-inspired lunch take-outs. Operates from 7h00 – 15h00.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   Lucky Fish & Chips has opened on Bree Street, on Regent Road in Sea Point, on Long Street, in Kalk Bay, and in Muizenberg, belonging to Harbour House group.  

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill is opening next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Ragafellows has opened on Main Road in Hout Bay.

*   The Dogfather has opened in Sea Point.

*   The Restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards has opened, with Chef Clayton Bell of the former Constantia Uitsig at (more…)

Umi Interior Pink blossoms Whale Cottage PortfolioMany restaurants are opening and have opened this summer, with only three months of the summer season left in which they can create awareness and make an impact before the dreaded winter arrives after the Easter weekend.  New restaurants are far more casual, with informal dining.

This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Umi Asian restaurant  opened in December with The Marly hotel in the Camps Bay Promenade, owned by The Cove (Kovensky) Group  (photograph above).

*   Equus restaurant on the Cavalli stud and wine farm on the R44 has opened. Carl Habel left the Mount Nelson Hotel as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier to join the restaurant, but left before it opened. Chef Henrico Grobbelaar from the Twelve Apostles heads up the kitchen.

*   Shake your Honey is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street this year, according to an iolTravel report.  The ‘vibrant spirit of India’ is to be reflected in the 5-storey building, with a theatre, markets, restaurants, and shops.

*   A new restaurant and micro brewery is to open next door to The Bromwell in Woodstock (name not yet known).

*   TriBakery has opened on Bree Street.

*   Vida e Caffe is opening coffee shops at Shell petrol stations, 40 initially and 300in total.  It has also opened in Garden’s Centre, and in St John’s Piazza in Sea Point.

*   The Black Sheep Restaurant has opened on Kloof Street. (more…)

Wordsworth Cheese Book 2The Wordsworth launch lunch of Agri-Expo Dairy Manager Kobus Mulder’s book ‘Cheeses of South Africa’ at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town yesterday was most enjoyable, with great company, good food and wine, a charming hotel ambassador, and entertaining author/speaker.

Gorry Bowes-Taylor has been organising book launch lunches for Wordsworth for years, and will be a comedian in a next life, not being the most diplomatic lunch hostess, but is loved for making her guests laugh, and for finding new venues at which to hold the book launches.   As I have written before, the lunches have a cult following by some of her regulars, who are not really interested in the subject of the book or the author, but who find value in the R225 three course launch lunch, excellent quality wines, the chance of making new friends at the table, the chance of winning a prize in the lucky draw, and for being entertained by Gorry and the author/speaker. She did not disappoint with her lunch organisation yesterday. Wordsworth sets up a table to sell the discounted launch book at such a function. (more…)

The first time that many food and wine lovers heard of De Meye Wines was at the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards in November, when its restaurant The Table at De Meye was announced as the Best Country-Style Restaurant.

The only thing that one heard at the Awards evening was that the restaurant is owned by a photographer who has done work with Eat Out Editor and Taste Food Editor Abigail Donnelly, and on Russel Wasserfall’s photography website he highly praises the styling talents of Mrs Donnelly for a shoot they did for Taste magazine.  The restaurant had only opened two or three months before winning the award. Given the Makaron Eat Out Best Style Award debacle, there were whispers that The Table at De Meye may also have fared well due to Mrs Donnelly’s working relationship with Russel.

I made a booking for a table at The Table at De Meye two weeks ago, and had the initial unpleasant experience of my booking having been accepted and subsequently cancelled, both because I had planned to come on my own (they only serve food in platters for two or more), and because of what we had written about Mrs Donnelly and the Makaron Eat Out Best Style Award on this blog.  I suspect that it also had to do with our criticism of the digital magazine Crush!, about which we have written a number of times, and for which Russel has done some amazing photography, which we acknowledged in our Crush blogposts.  At his demand, I had to send Russel an e-mail, promising that I would not write a review about my meal (he mentioned that they did not want to get into an Eat Out story about Abigail Donnelly, something I could have written without eating there – ultimately one must wonder what Russel has to hide), and that I would bring a friend, both of which I did.  The former directive is contrary to the freedom of speech, and occurred in the same week as the Beluga blogger ban.  I decided that I would see how the experience went, and to turn this blogpost into a story about De Meye Wines, with a comment about The Table restaurant, without calling it a Restaurant Review as such, so that I could keep my promise!

De Meye has been in the hands of the Myburgh family for close to 150 years, and is named after the Dutch river and town that the family originates from.   About 60% of the 100 hectare farm is planted to vine, according to the Platter wine guide, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.  Philip Myburgh is the owner of the farm now, with his mother Isabelle in the tasting room. The winemaker is Marcus Milner, who has been on the farm for 12 years, having previously worked at Warwick, almost around the corner.  I had not noticed the De Meye signage off the R45, opposite Kanonkop, which is the road that leads to Elsenberg and Muldersvlei, and as soon as one turns on to it, one gets a strong country smell from the horses on the first farm on this road.  I had never travelled on this road, and drove through the tiny hamlet of Elsenberg, in which the wine college is located.

The Platter evaluator Greg de Bryn wrote about De Meye: “The long-standing team at this quaint assemblage of recycled farm buildings has focused on a distinctive house style for their wines, and change is now more evolutionary.  Environmental considerations have always been a priority, and every step of the production process takes note of the carbon footprint it leaves”. The tasting room is in an old barn, and has an interesting collection of furniture, being the touch of The Table at De Meye Chef Camilla Comins, Isabelle told me, looking more like a family lounge.  Shelving displays the De Meye wines (the flagship Trutina 2009 blend, Shiraz 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Merlot 2009, Shiraz Rosé 2011, Unwooded Chardonnay 2011, and Chenin Blanc 2011, as well as their Little River Shiraz 2010 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2010). The cellar door prices range from R42 to R110. For sale too is stewed fruit, marmalade, and relishes, all made by Camilla, and olive oil from Porterville. Some vegetables are grown on the farm, to feed the restaurant.

A friendship between Russel and a Myburgh family member brought Russel and his wife Camilla to the De Meye farm, and the family encouraged the couple to open up a restaurant in a disused barn, with exposed wooden beams, some with barbed wire, opening onto the kitchen. Overture chef Bertus Basson gave his blessing to the new venture. Tables are set inside and outside, with beautiful old English crockery, and the Hepp Exclusiv cutlery matches the style.  Fresh flowers are on the table, with coarse salt and an unusual-looking pepper grinder.  Material serviettes are provided. Russel is the host while Camilla prepares the delicious food.  No menu is presented – the website tells one to check the menu of the weekend ahead, and there is no choice offered.  One may indicate that one requires a vegetarian option however.  The menu changes week after week.  The price is R250 per person, an increase of 11 % since an article was written about the restaurant in the Sunday Times food supplement in December. The De Meye wine prices are not indicated when sitting outside, but are very reasonable – the Shiraz Rosé (R20 per glass) has a beautiful blush colouring, and was a most refreshing ‘antidote’ to the 36°C heat of the day.  Russel and Camilla live in Paarl, where she works at Roses Handmade confectionery company in the week, making fudge, nougat, toffees, and Turkish delight for Woolworths.  Russel does photography for a Norwegian contract and one local unnamed retainer client (probably Crush!, as its logo is on his photography website), with other projects in-between.

Russel was a most engaging host, informative, explaining each dish and its origin, and leaving my friend and I lots of time to catch-up after a thirty year absence.  We did not feel rushed to eat, and Russel checked regularly that the glasses were filled. The starter was a salad of free-range hormone-free chicken livers, with Steve the Magic Man’s organic baby leaves, topped with fried beetroot, the livers having a slightly tangy after-taste from a little chilli.  With the starter came lovely bread topped with poppy seed.  The butter is made in a historic churner, Russel said.  The main course was an oven-roasted Karoo lamb, served with the most beautiful vegetable platter I have ever seen, containing a Moroccan-style carrot salad, hasselback potatoes, and fried cherry tomatoes.  One feels sorry to not finish the generous helpings that are served, hoping that Chef Camilla will not be offended if the plates are not returned licked clean!  The dessert was a famous ‘Ouefs a la nege’ (sic), (‘oeufs a la neige’ being ‘eggs in snow’), a soft meringue in créme anglaise and served with summer berries, a perfect end to a perfect meal.

We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon, well looked after by Camilla and Russel in terms of food, wine and personal service, and the Eat Out Best Country-Style Restaurant accolade is well deserved.  It is a shame that they should have caused such a fuss about the booking and blogging conditions prior to our arrival.

POSTSCRIPT 24/8: I have seen correspondence between Russel and a supplier of communication services, and his interaction is filled with arrogance.  He disparagingly refers to this review, yet quotes the positive parts from it!  One hopes that Chief Eat Out Judge Abigail Donnelly will see this side of her award-winners too, and consider carefully awarding the Best Country Restaurant to The Table at De Meye again.  It appears that Russel has had a paragliding accident, and will only back at the restaurant in September.

POSTSCRIPT 27/7/13: Russel Wasserfall and his wife let go of the restaurant a few months ago, and it is now run by Luke and Jessie Grant, previously of Nook in Stellenbosch.

De Meye Wines, Muldersvlei Road, off R45, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 884-4131.   www.demeye.co.za Mondays – Fridays.

The Table at De Meye, Stellenbosch. Tel 083 252 9588.  www.thetablerestaurant.co.za Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch.

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

We have written about six issues of Crush! since it was launched a year ago, and the initial excitement of opening a new copy of the digital food and wine magazine edited by Michael Olivier has faded, to such an extent that three issues of Crush! were sitting unopened in the Inbox.  The magazine appears to have developed a rythym, and regular features can be expected in each magazine, with few new surprises in it.  After reading Crush! 7, Crush! 8, and Crush! 9, and looking back at the pevious Crush! issues, our evaluation is that Crush! has settled down, that it knows where it is going, and that it has mastered most of its technical and design problems highlighted initially.  But its quality remains inconsistent:

1.   The design flashes have been largely removed, having been irritating in initial issues. Yet they remain in the focus on a personality (Squashed Tomato’s Linda Harding in Crush! 7; I’m no Jamie Oliver’s Matt Allisson – nice that the five point overview is about his lifestyle of food writer, stay-at-home father, and avid vegetable gardener – in Crush! 8; and Norman McFarlane in Crush! 9), distracting one in reading the content.

2.  The covers don’t need to sell a magazine as the print equivalent have to, but it was disappointing to note how the cover photograph choice in the last three issues was far more unattractive than those of some earlier issues.  The cover pic is usually one of four recipes developed by Sophia Lindop and beautifully photographed by Russel Wasserfall.  The problem lies in the choice of photograph for the cover, and the placement of text on the pics, often making the text unreadable.  Most front-cover flashes have been removed.  The Crush! design and publishing team has no print magazine experience, and it still shows!

3.  It is easier to navigate the magazine now, with clearer instructions of how to continue reading a story, but one does make the odd mistake in jumping to a next page, and not finishing a story.

4.    A problem that continues is that pack shots in the ‘Essentials’, ‘High Five’ and ‘Quaff Now’ features are too small to allow pack recognition, bad news for the marketers of these products, no doubt paying a placement fee. It was odd to see a sunhat in an ‘Essentials for the kitchen’ collection, in Crush! 9!

5.  Advertising support remains poor, and the state of the economy must be making itself felt at Crush! too, with the last two issues reduced to 42 pages, and carrying very few advertisements – only Old Mutual and Fairview having been regular advertisers.  Insurer 1st for Women started advertising, and Le Creuset and Tokara olive oils have had once-off ads.

6.  The contribution by ‘The Foodie’ blogger David Cope has changed dramatically – from initally having messy looking red-and-white check pages reflecting his blog design, the design linkage has been dropped in the past two issues.  This has been replaced by far smarter looking features, but they have no credibility, as the pot and the knife features have the Chef’s Warehouse branding on them, almost hidden in a corner, and Cope does not declare that he does the Public Relations for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School!   The photography however is excellent, probably the best ever seen in any issue of Crush!

7.   The main features vary in their quality, and there has never been consistency in their design and quality – the Hermanuspietersfontein feature looks fantastic, with many beautiful photographs.  The Glen Carlou and Hidden Valley features look less attractive due to black and white photographs on the first page of the features.  It seems as if Oliver has run out of material to write about, in featuring Hidden Valley, and Overture’s Bertus Basson, twice in the first year.

8.   Re-opened Massimo’s Pizza Club in Hout Bay is featured in Crush! 9, but does not have enough pizza photographs to create appetite appeal.  The oddest restaurant feature, a six page story by David Cope on Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room, does not contain a single photograph, and it takes Cope three pages to start writing about the Tasting Room, via a profile on Spanish chef Ferran Adria!  Cope did not make notes of his nine-course meal, and therefore he is quite vague about what he ate there!

9.  Recipe features do not interest me generally, but the most stunning feature ever is that of soups paired with Monis products in Crush! 9, including the lesser known Monis Muscadel and Port.  The photographs are outstanding, and one wonders why all the photography used for and design of Crush! cannot be of this quality. 

10.  The features on winemakers Morné Vrey of Delaire Graff and Russell Retief of Van Loveren, on charcuterier Richard Bosman, and on the Steenberg Hotel are ineffective, in being broken down into blocks, some profiles having as many as 27 blocks to click, a guarantee that one would lose interest to read it all.  Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff, the Foodbarn, as well as the Vineyard Hotel are also featured.  However, none of the three issues contain a restaurant review anymore.

11.  The ‘Fine Print’ book page and ‘Crushifieds’ remain too busy, although the latter has improved greatly – ‘less is more’ should guide design in these features.

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

I have written about Crush! 1, Crush! 2, Crush! 3 and Crush! 4 and 5, the food and wine digital magazine, and had not yet got around to reading  Crush! 6, when a follow-up e-mail arrived last week, requesting me to read it.  The publishers must be able to track who has read the latest issue, and who has not, in sending out reminder e-mails.  I was pleasantly surprised that great improvements have been made to the presentation of the content.  Overall, it is evident that the Crush! designers are starting to understand that ‘less is more’ design is more attractive and efficient in getting one to read what is presented.

The cover page is the best of the six issues, with a beautiful salmon dish photograph, and because the Crush! designers have finally learnt that one cannot place text on top of visuals, a fundamental design rule in making copy readable.  The salmon colour has inspired a strong orange masthead, making it striking and attractive, and making one want to read the content. 

Advertising support has shrunk to Old Mutual, with two ads, and Fairview, with a ‘talking’ ad.   Pack recognition on the ‘Essentials’ page is far improved, the brand names being far easier to read, with typed names alongside, and this also applies to the ‘Quaff Now’ page.  Yet it fails on the ‘High Five’ page, on which the labels are barely legible.  The child-like banner for the ‘Tomato and Veg pasta’ recipe below the ‘Essentials’ feature attracts attention away from the featured products on the same page, a ‘conflict of interest’.   The Fairview feature is introduced through an illustration, which appears to look similar to the design of its ad, but uses two light blue banners that are barely legible, and one of these is obscured by a goat.   It is not immediately clear that one must click onto each of the flags/banners, to get a full overview of Fairview.

I loved the page by Meeta K. Wolff, whose name I have seen on Twitter, but about whom there is no introduction.   The photograph of her ‘Carrot and Red Soup with a hint of cumin’ makes one want to eat the page!  I am happy that editor Michael Olivier has accepted our suggestion to use a selection of talented food bloggers locally and even from overseas (Wolff lives in Germany).   The Creative Pot blogger Marisa Hendriks also has a double page, previously that of Andy Fenner/JamieWhoSA?, the same irritating shaking flashes containing the links to her five stories on Vanilla Rose ‘Pana Cotta’, ChilliJammer, Mushroom and White Rock Flatbread, 5 Ways with Beets, and the Wild Peacock Food Emporium.

The ‘Breakfast with Brad at Bistro 1682’ is very stylish-looking, the most stylish article I have seen of all in the Crush! issues, and the restaurant deserves it.   The photography of the egg dishes is excellent.   Following this is the rather pedestrian and boring looking ‘Quick and Delicious’ Monday – Sunday recipe suggestions, a complete contrast to the style and quality of the two pages that had preceded this section.   The ‘Four ways with Salmon’, with food preparation and styling by Sophia Lindop, and photography by Russel Wasserfall, is excellent, the salmon colour used to its best photography advantage.  Luisa Farello is a clever food stylist too, and this is the third Crush! issue for which she has worked.  Her Formal Dinner page, with Weltevrede MCC, looks beautiful and good enough to eat.  Pick ‘n Pay has a ‘Green Zone’ page for the first time, and is intended to reflect its environmental conscience, including the SASSI code fish that they sell.

Five unknown food bloggers are ranked in a ‘Rate Your Recipe’ feature, and these differ per issue.  It is unfortunate that the writers are not introduced.   An oddly designed feature on the Robertson Small Hotel uses the block number system, and one has to click on a series of these to get a good overview of the featured product, many readers probably opting out before opening each block.  An interview with Boets Nel of De Krans also uses the block method, and I doubt if readers will open all 16 of these blocks.

The messiest and poorest page in the issue is that by David Cope, The Foodie blogger, whose rambling on about a Bachelor Party is boring and not easy to read on a dirty-looking red-and-white check background, with black and white photographs, an absolute no-no when writing about wine or food.  His story on the Coffee Revolution is far better in presentation, but again is so superficial in only featuring Truth and Origin, when there are so many exciting new coffee suppliers opening, including the Haas Coffee Collective, and is therefore not comprehensive.  Another messy page is the ‘Fine Print’ book review page – eight books fight for attention, and one does not comprehend any of them, as the page is too busy. The classified ‘Crushifieds’ page is much simpler and more readable.

Rudi Liebenberg, Executive Chef at the Mount Nelson Hotel, is featured, also in a classy design, but there is almost no photography of his food at Planet Restaurant, and too many black and white photographs of Rudi and his chefs.   The feature does not inspire one to eat at the Planet.  

‘Less is more’ is a good design principle, and fewer, rather than more, design bells and whistles will make Crush! close to perfect.  I am happy to see how the ‘bells and whistles’ have been reduced drastically over the six issues.   Now all Crush! needs is greater design consistency throughout the whole magazine – one could think that each feature has been designed by a different designer, not what the magazine needs!   

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

We have written about Crush!1, Crush!2 and Crush!3, Michael Olivier’s digital food and wine magazine, which he launched last year.   As other publications are being launched which embrace food and wine, both digitally and in print, I chose to evaluate Crush!4 against its competitors, putting myself in the shoes of a food and/or wine marketer, deciding where to spend a marketing budget, and as a food and wine lover, deciding where to spend my time reading.   I evaluated Winestyle, TASTE, and Crush!4, all three magazines focusing on food and wine, with a Postscript on Crush!5.

Winestyle

The first (Summer) issue of Winestyle was sent to subscribers (note one does not pay to receive the magazine) in December, and its concept is a most creative and environmentally-friendly “print on demand” one.  This saves the publishers from over-printing, saving paper and costs, and ultimately the environment.  It is published quarterly.  What makes it unique is that a weekly newsletter is sent by e-mail to each subscriber, updating them on food and wine news.  While the brand carry-over is not strong in terms of the banner design of the newsletter (initially I thought the newsletters were from wine consultant Nikki Dumas, who has a similar company name).   This builds brand awareness weekly, and bridges the quarterly print publishing period.

The 88-page magazine is larger than the standard A4 size, and has an attractive cover, although it is not photographed in a vineyard.  The paper quality is outstanding, as is the photography.  Editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is from Warwick wine estate originally, where her mother Norma and brother Mike make excellent wines, and this makes Jenny well-connected to the wine industry.  In her editorial Jenny writes: “It is our intention to help everyone make full use of every wine-drinking day …. it’s your passport to all things enjoyable, to in-the-know wines, delicious and simple-to-prepare food and accessible travel – all in a large, sexy, glossy, collectible magazine”.   The theme of the Summer edition is celebration, and therefore champagnes and sparkling wines are predominantly featured.

Advertising support is impressive for a first edition, and reflects the confidence of the advertisers in the publication, and wine estates Graham Beck,  Glen Carlou, Clos Malverne, Kleine Zalze,  Nederburg, Highlands Road Estate, OBiKWA, Creation, Eikendal, Adoro Wines, Muratie, and Morgenhof have taken full-page ads.  Jenny anticipates having 2500 subscribers by the time the next issue is launched in March.

The editorial content includes a focus on sparkling wine producers in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, including JC le Roux, Simonsig, Villiera, Morgenhof, Cabrière, Graham Beck, Anura, and Sterhuis, and recommends accommodation and restaurants in the area.  A profile on a very casual looking Jean-Philippe Colmant, making excellent bubbly in Franschhoek and importing champagnes, is written by Cape Talk’s John Maytham.  A travel feature focuses on the Champagne region, which is informative and has beautiful photographs.  A food feature focuses on Tapas, with short recipes, and amazing photography by Christoph Heierli.  A Restaurant feature recommends places offering ‘alfresco dining’ in Johannesburg, Durban, the Winelands and Cape Town.   A feature on cocktails has some that call for sparkling wine. The results of a wine-tasting, a panel comparing South African sparkling wines Silverthorn, Colmant Brut, Villiera, Jacques Bruére, and Simonsig, with champagnes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Tribaut Brut Tradition, are featured.  Joint first winners were Silverthorn the Green Man Brut and Tribaut Brut Tradition.  A tasting panel evaluation of the 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc of Groote Post, David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Neil Joubert, Arabella, Sophie Terblance, Delaire, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, De Grendel and Du Toitskloof ranks them in this order.  An article on cigars concludes what must be the most excellent food and wine publication available locally now.

I cannot wait for the Autumn edition.  I do recommend that there be more synergy between the magazine and the newsletter as well as its website in terms of branding and design.  Of the three magazines reviewed in this blogpost, Winestyle is the best by far, and we congratulate editor Jenny on this achievement for her maiden issue.

TASTE

Woolworths’ in-house magazine is written and published by New Media Publishing, and they have regularly won ADMag and Pica Awards for Customer Magazine of the Year for it, most recently in 2009.   It costs R20,95, is published monthly, and is sold in outlets other than Woolworths too.   It is A4 in size, with 134 pages, and does not have a statement to describe what it stands for, but its cover photograph represents food.  Wines appear to be a secondary focus.  The editor is highly regarded Sumien Brink, with Abigail Donnelly ably at her side.

Advertisers are a mixed bunch, including car retailers, liquor brands (Darling Cellars, Krone, Bombay Sapphire, Veuve Cliquot, Brand House), watch brands, kitchen suppliers, decor brands, food brands (Lancewood, Lindt), investment companies, a restaurant (Cape Town Fish Market), and accommodation, most of the brands not sold by Woolworths at all.

The editorial content of the December issue includes a Trends feature, and food related trends are featured with beautiful large photographs by Lee Malan and Jan Ras.  Where recipes are featured, they are short and sweet, and do not dominate the look of any page (something competitors House and Leisure Food can learn from).  A Foodstuff feature focuses on products that are sold at Woolworths, but most are non-branded items, and the Woolworths link is very low key. It even has an interview with and one done by Andy Fenner, who writes the JamieWho? blog, a contributor to Crush! issues 2, 3 and 4, but he has withdrawn his support, probably due to his new (not yet clearly defined) involvement with Woolworths, and not wanting to be associated with his friend David Cope’s disparaging Twitter campaign against ourselves, in retaliation to our review of Crush!3.   A chicken feature by man-of-the-moment Justin Bonello, a fish focus by Sam Woulidge, a canapé feature by Mariana Esterhuizen of Mariana’s, a feature on Dewetshof by Woolworths wine consultant Allan Mullins, and a feature on Oded Schwartz of Oded’s Kitchen and his relishes, chutneys and preserves, follow.  Christmas recipes are featured, but are few in number.  Restaurants featured are the fabulous Babel on Babylonstoren (next door to Backsberg), and the heavenly Hemelhuijs.  Blueberries are featured, with recipes, as are Summer lunch recipes.  An exclusive extract from Australian Bill Granger’s receipe book “Bill’s Basics” is featured.  A travel feature by Judy van der Walt focuses on the Dordogne region, and the magazine ends off with a month’s worth of recipes for snacks, lunches, tea time, and suppers.

I hadn’t bought a TASTE magazine for a while, and remembered it to be more attractive and impactful.  The focus may be too much on recipes, and too little on wines.   The features are written by good quality journalists, and could possibly be expanded.   I liked the way Woolworths as a brand is not ‘in your face’ when reading the magazine – in fact I wouldn’t have minded more direct brand-linkage, to know what to look for when next I shop.  There are so many organic and other quality suppliers to Woolworths of fruit and vegetables and other foods, as well as of wines, which could all be the subject of features, not necessarily linked to recipes only.  A “new Woolworths products” feature would be welcome.  For a marketer, TASTE would be an important advertising medium to consider, given its association with Woolworths, and the profile of the Woolworths shopper, with a reasonable disposable income.    There is little carry-over between the magazine and its website.

Crush!4

The digital food and wine magazine Crush! has no print partner, and is haphazard in its publishing frequency. On Twitter the editorial team hint at how busy they are in doing work for the publication, but on average it appears to take them two months or longer to publish a new issue.  The arrival of the new magazine is announced on Twitter and by e-mail, as one has to subscribe to receive a link to it, and is free of charge.

Crush!4  has 44 pages and was published early in December.  It appears to have lost its restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, and Olivier has taken over writing the restaurant reviews, something we suggested in one of our earlier Crush! reviews.   We are delighted with another of our recommendations that Olivier adopted, which was to let (lady) bloggers participate in his magazine, and he has done so by giving highly regarded blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious blog a recipe feature, and he has introduced a recipe competition, in which the recipes of bloggers Colleen Grove, Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Meeta Khurana-Wolff and Nina Timm can be evaluated by readers.

The navigation of the pages, and more particularly the content on each page, remains tedious. The front cover looks better, the copy on top of the photograph being easier to read, but it is not yet perfect, especially when one compares the ‘less is more’ covers of the two other magazines above.  Most flashing gimmicks have been removed from the front cover, and have largely been discontinued.   Advertising support is poor, and appears reduced relative to previous issues, and compared to the two other publications above, with only Hidden Valley, Pongracz, Laborie, Old Mutual and Ultra Liquors advertising.

The content consists of a wine page written by Olivier, and features premium brandy cocktails, a vineyard dog, wine finds, a wine myth and an overview of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Essentials page, as before, has products with poor brand recognition, but the names are typed alongside each product.  A Plaisir de Merle feature is a good promotion for the wine estate.  The recipe pages by Jane-Anne Hobbs have fantastic photography done by herself (perhaps she should become the Crush!photographer!), but I could only get to see three recipes (soup, dessert, gammon) – I am sure there were more, judging by the six bottles alongside the opening recipe, and Olivier recommends a wine per recipe.   The names of the wines are not typed alongside the bottles.   The JamieWho? page by Andy Fenner is blocked by a Laborie promotion box, still has silly moving balloon captions, and focuses on Absinthe, Champagne, Hangover Cures, Jardine’s Christmas cake,  and Christmas cocktails.  In two of his mini-stories the copy ends mid-sentence.  The review of Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren is blocked by a competition box, and one does not know how to close it.  Restaurant names at the bottom of the Babel article are harder to read on the right hand side, especially ‘Cafeen’.

A seven-day recipe card feature by Carey Boucher-Erasmus (a food consultant to the Pick ‘n Pay Cookery School, according to Google) is easy to follow and read, but no information is supplied about who Carey is.  There is no consistency in the colours used for the names of white and red wines alongside the bottles, the white wine names typed in blue (High Five) or in green (Quaff Now).   Sophia Lindop does great food features, but has used herbs in the last two issues (rocket in the current issue and rosemary last time), making it hard to see dishes prepared with these, and thus to have attractive photographs, even if they are photographed by star photographer Russel Wasserfall.   David Cope outs himself as a guest house reviewer, of South Hills, presented on a messy red and white check background which is similar to that which he uses on his ‘The Foodie’ blog.  A summer picnic spead looks good enough to eat off the screen, and is prepared by Luisa Farelo, but there is no indication as to who she is (I could not find any information about her on Google).  The focus on Parlotones wines, named after the group, is fun in having their music videos, but I did struggle to get one to play properly.  I also struggled to find the way to open the Prince Albert feature by Russel Wasserfall, eventually finding it at the bottom right, in the smallest possible type size.  A feature on trendy Artisan Breads tells the Knead story, with colour photographs, and mentions the names of only five other artisanal bakeries around the country – there are that many others in Cape Town alone!  Helen Untiedt’s organic vegetable garden, and a Book Review page conclude Crush!4.

My overwhelming frustration with Crush! is the difficulty of reading it, and the struggle to move forward or to close what one has opened.  The promotional boxes blocking copy remains a problem, which cheapens the magazine and is irritating to have to close.  Perhaps Olivier and the design team can look at Opulent Living’s e-magazine, only 8 pages long but published regularly – it is easy to read, has no promotions, with beautiful photographs – a top class digital magazine!   I was interested to see the Crush! blogger recipe rating, and the low participation is a surprise (the highest vote is by only 100 readers after two months), given Olivier’s claim that the magazine would go to more than 1 million readers!     If I were a marketer, I would not advertise in Crush!, as a digital magazine cannot present a food or wine brand with the appetite appeal that a print magazine can, especially given the poor pack presentation.  I would therefore love to see a print version of Crush!, as it contains lots of good information, and could make for beautiful pages of copy and photography, something one would want to keep.

POSTSCRIPT 8/2

Crush!5 was launched today.  JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) has been replaced by Neil Stemmet, a talented interior designer, and he adds an Afrikaans dimension to Crush!, with all five his recipes in Afrikaans on his “Soutenpeper” page (this is causing a problem for English readers!).  David Cope has lost his name, and is only referred to as “The Foodie”, with no red and white check background to his contributions anymore, and both his article on Paternoster, and on FoodWineDesign in Johannesburg (held in November!!), are long-winded and boring, with few attractive photographs.   Jane-Anne Hobbs (unfortunately) has been replaced by Clare Bock (owner of Appetite catering company, I learnt from Google) in a food/wine matching feature – by chance I worked out how this feature works – if you click on a wine bottle, an appropriate recipe pops up, rather than finding an appropriate wine to match the recipe!   The five food bloggers in the recipe rating section are complete unknowns.  Luisa Farelo (with an introduction in this issue – she is a chef and food stylist) does another feature, this time on Sunday lunches, and the styling is good enough to eat again.  A food and wine events calendar is a good new addition, while a classifieds section probably is not, the ads being so small that one cannot read them.  A feature on The Test Kitchen, and owner and chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is good with great food photographs, as is the one on Jordan Winery, but the labels underneath the bottles are so tiny that one may not see them.  The interview with Bertus Basson of Overture (Michael is a stickler for spelling, but misspells the restaurant name in his introduction) is weird, and probably does not do him a favour.  Advertisers are Fairview, Pongracz, Old Mutual, and Avocado magazine.

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

On Friday I received the second edition of Crush!, “South Africa’s finest digital food & wine magazine”, says the e-mail providing the link.  To make sure one knows how good it is, it promises “yet more brilliance for you in this issue” – that is if you thought that the first issue was brilliant!   I did not think it was, and wrote a blog post about Crush1, which respected food and wine guru and Crush! editor Michael Olivier was not happy about, but I am happy to see that he has taken note of some of the feedback (we did invite Michael to comment, but he declined).   Crush!2 is much improved, but it is not there yet.  Let me tell you why:

1.   The cover design of Crush!2 is much better, with barely any distracting design features on it – it reflects the best story of the issue, a wonderful chocolate spread, with the most beautiful photography.

2.   On the “editorial page” Michael’s face is covered by the play button of the video again.  The video was shot in Sophie Lindop’s kitchen while she was preparing the Chocolate article, he says in the video, and one can hear the ‘kitchen clanging’ in the background.   I could only get the video to run halfway, and then it broke off abruptly.  I re-tried it numerous times.

3.  Michael has addressed the feedback about providing details of his editorial team (the button for it being very subtle), and a block can be opened to read this detail – Petaldesign is the design company, with Matthew Ibbotson the Art Director, and Graham van de Ruit responsible for Flash animation.   The Crush! team is thin, it being mainly Michael and his wife on the editorial side, with guest input from JP Rossouw, David Cope and Andy Fenner.   The block is so small that one struggles to read all the names.

4.   A “How to Use this digital magazine” block is welcome, but contains numerous symbols that one must remember to be able to read the digital magazine more effectively.

5.   The magazine has grown to 36 pages, and the multi-page Lindt Chocolate feature is wonderful, proving that the content does not have to be crammed onto one page, which happens on the “Michael Says” page.  On this page, there are 3 book reviews, a focus on a Vineyard dog, “Michael’s Wine Finds”, a focus on Lynne and John Ford of Main Ingredient, and a “Wine Myth”, despite there being numerous other wine pages on which the wine stories could have been featured.

6.   Advertiser support by Old Mutual, Pick ‘n Pay, Pongracz, Arabella Wines, and the Paranga/Zenzero/Kove/Pepenero group has been retained, with new ads for Welgemoed, Arumdale and an advertorial for Spier.  Michael has assured me that Pick ‘n Pay is not the owner of the magazine.

7.   On the “Essentials” page one cannot read the labels on the Dalla Cia Grappa, NoMu and Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil packs, making pack recognition difficult.   If you click onto the packs, they are a little bigger.  A green i-sign provides more information.  When one has clicked on a section to blow up the size, it does not guide one as to how to reduce the size again, so one has to click to a previous page to get back on the page one was on, making this repeat process tedious over time.

8.   The Spier double-page advertorial is weak, in being an illustration of the Spier estate.  One assumes that if one clicks onto each of the “noticeboards”, that one can obtain information.  If, however, one has opened one such information block, and not closed it, one cannot open the next block.    The worst problem about this page is the dominant Uwe Koetter competition announcement, which clashes with the Spier promotion.

9.   The brand names of the wines presented with the recipe for Vegetable Cauliflower Cream Soup are unreadable, with the exception of Glen Carlou.  When one clicks onto the “Rollover” flash, it enlarges the packs a little, but does not make the labels more readable.   Once again, when one has enlarged the labels to such an extent that one can read them, one cannot get back to the full page, and has to go ‘backwards’ to get back to where one was.  A different recipe is matched to each brand of wine when one moves the mouse over it.  However, the Glen Carlou recipe rollover provides no details about serving numbers, difficulty of preparation, and prep and cook times.

10.   The “JamieWho?” page is really odd, in that Michael is clearly trying to add a younger and more hip touch to Crush!.  Blogger Andy Fenner, who recently “outed” himself as being “JamieWho?”, when he relaunched his blogsite, has almost two pages to himself, with his branding in the centre.  As an ueber-brand and marketing conscious person, I am sure he must be shocked at the presentation of his page, with the funny petal-shaped buttons, inviting readers to read his La Mouette review, his muesli recipe, his visits to L’Avenir and Delaire Graff (very disappointing short one-paragraph summaries), and a lovely feature on Roxanne Floquet, the “Queen of Cakes”.  I am not sure if the thousands of readers Michael claims his magazines go to will know who “JamieWho?”/Andy Fenner is, and will be impressed by his involvement.

11.  The “High Five” wine page has the same problem with label readability, as described above.

12.  The “Eating Out” page is interesting in that it is prominently branded with JP Rossouw’s name over two pages, but has a flash in the top right corner saying “The Foodie Fast Eats”, which is a short write-up by “The Foodie” (see below) of the Sunrise Chip ‘n Ranch (I did not pick up that there were mini write-ups about Jardine’s Bakery and Cookshop too, until alerted to these).  However, “The Foodie” has his own pages in the magazine elsewhere.   A review of Johannesburg-based DW Eleven-13 by Rossouw is of no interest to Cape Town readers, probably making up a large proportion of the magazine subscribers.   A competition block blocks the readability of the restaurant review.   At the bottom of the page it mentions four restaurants under the heading “Crush also liked”, listing Blue Water Cafe, Wild Woods, Casa Labia and Foodbarn (the name of this restaurant is barely visible), with only a telephone number and address, but no review, or summary about what these restaurants stand for.  One is not sure if they are recommended by JP or by Michael.

13.  The “Quaff Now” and “Cellar for Later” wine pages have the same problems with pack recognition and branding, but a neat label at each bottle helps one to identify each brand name.  One wonders why this approach is not used throughout the magazine to assist one in reading the pack names, rather than using so many different design styles.  An Old Mutual information block seems out of place on this page, other than to communicate that Old Mutual encourages one to drink a lot, with an inevitable outcome, requiring insurance cover!

14.   The “Quick & Delicious” page has recipes for a week ahead, nicely presented as ‘recipe cards’.   But the content is blocked in part by a block asking if one has subscribed.

15.   As stated above, the “4 Ways with Chocolate” feature is fantastic, with mouth-watering photography by Russel Wasserfall.  One wonders why Russel does not do all the photography for Crush!

16.  By contrast to the “JamieWho?” pages, “The Foodie”‘s pages are a disappointment – “The Foodie” does not receive the same branding and identity treatment compared to that of his friend Andy Fenner, and his pages look more messy and unfocused.  What is a huge surprise is that “The Foodie” is outed as being David Cope, an identity which David has been at great pains to protect.  David’s blog “The Foodie” does not even identify his surname!   David works at a PR agency, and writes for such clients as the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School.   He, like Andy Fenner, likes to hang out at &Union, and one wonders if Michael’s readers have heard of “The Foodie”.   He writes about a Houseboat stay at Langebaan and has a recipe for making “Perfect Guacomole”.  I wonder why Michael has chosen two “man’s men” bloggers to contribute to Crush! when there are many talented (lady) food bloggers who may have far greater credibility and be of greater interest to the readers of Crush!

17.  Crush!2 was sent out early on Friday, a bad day of the week for distributing newsletters, and getting them read.   This is evident by the few comments made about it on Twitter (many Twitter users read their Tweets on their phones, and Blackberry and iPhone do not support Adobe Flash required to open the magazine on their phones).  Also, Crush! does not appear to have editorial deadlines – Crush!1 was a month late in being launched, and this edition was published 7 weeks thereafter, not at the beginning of a month, if it is meant to be monthly or bi-monthly.

My overall impression: the “style over substance” approach to this digital magazine will not win it loyal readers – if only the style were good – and that has huge potential to improve.  Its “journalism” is light-weight,  and as someone said to me: “this is not an online magazine  – it is a picturebook”!  Harsh words, but perhaps he is right.  Crush!2 says it is “Food & Wine with Passion” – the passion is there, but the execution is not yet!

Once again, I invite Michael to comment, which I am more than happy to post.  Read Crush!2

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