Tag Archives: Starlings Cafe

New Restaurant openings in Cape Town and Winelands continue!

Tiger's Milk Main Table and lights Whale CottageEven though we are halfway through the summer season,  new restaurants continue to open, and more are planned before summer ends.  This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Michael Townsend (who owns the Harbour House emporium, with La Parada, Lucky Fish, and Harbour House restaurants) has opened Tiger’s Milk in Muizenberg (photograph).  The Lucky Fish on Long Street will be transformed into Tiger’s Milk.

*    Kokkedoor judge and Chef Nic van Wyk and Roxy Laker have opened bistro 13 at Stellenbosch Vineyards (Welmoed)

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill has opened next to Sotano in Mouille Point. Continue reading →

Cape Town and Winelands restaurant and chef changes continue!

Borage Bistro Interior 2 Whale CottageAn unusually high number of new restaurants has opened or will do so in the next month or two.  There have never been so many chefs leaving their employers to start their own restaurants, or to join other employers!  This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Borage Bistro has opened in Portside, with Chef Frank Marks, previously of The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, La Colombe, The Test Kitchen, and The Pot Luck Club

*   Chef Chris Erasmus has opened his own restaurant Foliage in Franschhoek, having previously been at Pierneef à La Motte.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill has opened next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Michael Townsend (La Parada, Lucky Fish, Harbour House emporium) is opening a steak restaurant in Muizenberg in November.

*   Neil Grant and his business partner Barry Engelbrecht (of Burrata) are opening a new restaurant Bocca on the corner of Bree Continue reading →

High Chef turnover in Cape and Winelands restaurants, new restaurant openings continue!

Foliage Chef Chris Erasmus at table Whale CottageFor the first time in many years Cape Town has seen barely any restaurant closures this winter. There have never been so many chefs leaving their employers to start their own restaurants, or to join other employers! An unusually high number of new restaurants have opened or will do so in the next month or two.

This list of restaurant openings and closings, restaurant staff movements, and winter holiday closures, is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*     Chef Chris Erasmus has opened his own restaurant Foliage in Franschhoek, having previously been at Pierneef à La Motte.

*    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 Monday – Friday.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

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

*   Michael Townsend (La Parada, Lucky Fish, Harbour House emporium) is Continue reading →

Starlings Café champion of home-grown and organic produce!

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

The Creamery: creaming it with their ice creams!

I first had a taste of the ice creams of The Creamery at a recent food market at The Baxter, meeting owner Kate Schrire and her manager Marianne Visser, both passionate advocates for their products.  Yesterday I went to visit them at their offices and kitchen in Mowbray, to get to know more about how they operate and to taste their lovely creamy ice creams. Given their business principles and ethics, they are sure to cream it as they grow.

Kate started The Creamery two months ago, being an ice cream lover, and having made her own ice cream at home, which her friends raved about when they tasted it.  Born in the UK, she has lived in this country for twenty years, and trained at the SA Chef’s Academy with Garth Stroebel. She spent four years in the USA, and worked for Alice Waters, a food activist, who created events to educate the public about how food works.  In Cape Town she joined Slow Food Cape Town and the Mother City branches, and serves on the committee of the latter.  She was a freelance journalist for Mail & Guardian and The Weekender, writing about indigenous foods, but felt that she would rather like to be hands on with food, and joined the Sustainability Institute outside Stellenbosch, connecting people to food suppliers.  Marianne worked for a film production company, and loves baking and cooking.  She said her new job ‘doesn’t feel like work’.

Kate wants to feel ‘ethically comfortable’ with what she eats and produces, and therefore decided to source her products from small family businesses in the Western Cape, for her high quality hand-made ice cream. The milk comes from the Kotze family’s Langrietvlei farm near Hopefield, previously supplying Parmalat, but they are one of many farmers who had their contracts cut by this milk product producer.  Reuben Kotze has started marketing his own maas, milk, and drinking yoghurt on the West Coast, and brings these products to The Creamery.  His mother is a honey producer, having supplied Pick ‘n Pay for 28 years already. Eggs come from Homegrown Eggs; chocolate from Cocoa Fair and coffee from Rosetta Roastery, both at the Old Biscuit Mill; Nowo Organics supplies unsprayed strawberries, melons, and chocolate mint; and Kleinjongenskraal supplies citrus, stone fruit and blackberries.  One of their new creations is a beer ice cream, using Darling Brew.  Mixing cream, milk, sugar and eggs they make a custard, to which they add a pinch of salt, infusing it with their flavour or ingredient, and then churn it for 8 minutes.  Kitchen waste is collected for composting, and they avoid using non-recyclable products, to minimise landfill waste.

In the short time of the business’ life they have sold only at markets, and are active on Twitter.  Today they start with a stand at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Biscuit Mill for the first time, and recently started a pop-up shop on Wednesday afternoons at Starlings Café in Claremont.  From 12 January they will be at the Earth Fair Market on St George’s Mall. They now have a Web Shop, and one can order and pay for the products via the website, and choose a collection point, being the offices in Mowbray, or at any of the markets at which they are at.

Flavours which one can order are chocolate, vanilla, ginger, peanut butter, strawberry, and lemon.  I tried the lemon (made me think of my mom’s special lemon chiffon, and very refreshing), blackberries (beautiful rich purple colour, making it good for plating, but also very good taste), chocolate (very thick and rich, excellent), fresh ginger (I am not really a ginger fan, but a very unusual ice cream flavour, and probably excellent served with a tart), barley malt (the sweetest of the six I tasted, and a very pronounced flavour reminiscent of Horlicks), and Black Mist Stout (made from the Darling Brew beer, popular amongst the ladies too).  They are constantly looking for new ice cream flavours, and look to the USA for new ideas.  Having come from Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants to the Freeworld Design Centre Christmas Market, I had fun brainstorming meat ice creams with Kate, which the new meat retailer is interested in stocking.  They have also experimented with coriander seed, cardamon, and star anise spices for ice creams, but are still working on getting the flavour balances right.  Recently I tried their more unusual apricot kernel ice cream, and they told me about their honey, rosemary and peach ice cream.  New ice cream products are in the pipeline, including ice cream sandwiches and cakes.

The Creamery ice creams are sold in scoops at markets, and in 500 ml tubs via web orders, at R45. They are looking at doing a 200ml cup, for sale at specialist theatres such as The Fugard Theatre and Labia.  An Ice Cream Club is to be launched next month, a three month membership offering three tubs in seasonal flavours, with invitations to try new flavours and products. Kate said that they will keep it local and seasonal, making small batches, working with ‘little guys just like us’.

The Creamery, 22A Waverley Business Park, Weymouth Road, Mowbray.  Tel 0722522225.  www.thecreamery.co.za Twitter: @TheCreamerySA

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

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club pairs food and wine blogging at Steenberg Vineyards

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was treated to a wonderful feast of Bistro Sixteen82 tapas with five excellent Steenberg Vineyards wines, and informed about their Social Media activities last week.

First to speak was Sales and Marketing Manager Anetha Homan, who has been at Steenberg Vineyards for almost five years, and at Constantia Uitsig for eight years before that.  Graham de Vries was recently appointed to manage Social Media for Steenberg Vineyards, and the ‘Totally Stoned’ Blog focuses on the wine side of the estate, but does incorporate information about Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina restaurants.  Social Media was first introduced at Steenberg in 2007, and Tweeting and Blogging is done corporately.  Initially Anetha was so enthusiastic about Social Media, that she wanted her GM and the winemaker to blog too.  In 2009 Steenberg Vineyards did its first Twitter Tasting, and it was a creative way for the wine estate to attract attention.  This was repeated on a larger scale a few months ago. Research findings on Twitter trends in 2010 of South Africans (most Tweeters live in Cape Town, most Tweeting is done on Tuesdays, and from 7 – 8 pm) has been implemented in the Social Media strategy of Steenberg Vineyards. Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging has given Steenberg Vineyards a consumer communication channel, to pass on communication in a fun and informal manner, but even more importantly, to receive it back from their consumers.  The GM, winemaker and restaurant receive welcome messages of support. New friends have been made via Social Media dialogue, and these have become Followers and, even better, Brand Ambassadors.  Anetha cited the example of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club member Andre Pentz, who met Graham at the previous meeting, and has since interacted regularly with Steenberg Vineyards.  The immediacy of sharing information is a major advantage. Anetha shared with bloggers her rules of Social Media engagement:

1.  No one is interested in how you feel

2.  Dare to be controversial, but do not insult. Tweeters prefer to read feel-good Tweets.  It is a shame that wine writers are tearing other writers apart, she said.

3.  Respond when written to.  Tweeters want dialogue.

4.  Show personality and passion, and don’t be too ‘sterile’ or ‘corporate’ in writing.  Customers want to be talked to as individuals.

5.   Don’t hard-sell.  Provide information

6.   Don’t do ambush marketing

7.   Add value in sending out information

8.   Re-Tweets are an important means of distributing information, and for adding Followers.

9.  Visuals have become more important, and less copy is read.

The ‘Totally Stoned’ website name was chosen as a tongue in cheek reference to the ‘stone mountain’ of Steenberg, from which the wine estate takes its name.  Graham did a fun blogpost about Planking, showing various Steenberg staff ‘planked’ on the wine estate. It was a fun colourful communication which created visual impact for the estate, and doubled traffic to the blog.  It also demonstrated the human side of the business, showing the company as a team of human beings.

Bloggers were offered a glass of Steenberg Brut 1682 MCC Chardonnay 2010 (R120) on arrival, first made by Steenberg Vineyards in 2000.  Initially it contained Pinot Noir as well, but is now 100% made from Chardonnay, with 12 – 18 months on the lees. In 2007 the first Steenberg Brut 1682 Pinot Noir MCC was made, and was launched earlier this month, having spent three years on the lees.  It costs R275.  The Sauvignon Blanc Reserve is what put Steenberg Vineyards on the map, and vintages sell out very quickly. Semillon is one of the oldest grape varieties in South Africa, haviung been planted 200 years ago, and used to make up 96% of planting.  It has reduced down to only 2%, and is often used in making Sauvignon Blanc to give it more body.  It is an excellent pairing with food.  The Steenberg Semillon 2010 comes from a 16 year block, and now spends a longer time in new French oak.  It has a buchu and fynbos character, from the plants growing around it.  Steenberg Nebellio refers to the mist they often experience on the wine estate, and the first plantings were brought in from Italy by the previous GM of Steenberg Vineyards. It has a very earthy character, and also is an excellent wine paired with foods.   Catharina Red is named after the characterful first owner of the wine estate, who had five husbands, and five grape varities have gone into the making of this blend, a more complex wine with a strong mint character coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Brad Ball has been the chef at Bistro Sixteen82 for two years, having opened it at Steenberg Vineyards.  They have appointed Linda Harding as the Social Media consultant for the restaurants and hotel on the estate. Thoughts and experiences of customers are shared, and they look for interaction with guests.  They like the flexibility of being able to promote a particular dish immediately, and not wait for three months or more until they receive coverage in a magazine. ‘Our blog is our press’, Brad said, referring to it as a cost-effective communication medium.   Chef Brad has recently opened his own personal Twitter account (@BradBallBrand), to allow him to Tweet more personally, but he does realise that he still has limitations as to what he says, as he is linked to Steenberg and the Bistro.  He advised that consistency in content is important for the reader of blogs.  He says that one ‘eats with one eyes’, and that is why they post photographs of their dishes on the blog as well as on Twitter, Tweets being carefully scheduled.  The power of Social Media was demonstrated to the Bistro after they re-opened after a three week break at the beginning of the month, to a fully booked first day, and it has been full every day thereafter.  A year ago it took ten days for business to pick up again after their break.  The Bistro did not stop Tweeting while they were closed, and competitions were run, with a count-down to opening day.  The Social Media program for Bistro Sixteen82 positions it as fun, vibey and enticing restaurant to eat at.   Linda did a one-week internship with Chef Brad, and that has helped her with her understanding of the business.  Chef Brad welcomes kitchen help, to share with interested persons how a restaurant kitchen works.   Bistro Sixteen82 has four seasonal menu changes, and Chef Brad sources local produce.  The pork belly and beef tataki are absolute favourites, and cannot be taken off the menu. Produce is sourced from the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden.  Worm composting is used for the large amount of vegetable waste the restaurants generate.  Chef Brad talked about the collegiality that exists between chefs and that they meet regularly.  He would interact with dialogue about other chefs and their restaurants on Twitter, he said.  It is a reciprocal endorsement, and gives credibility.  We commend Chef Brad for being the only restaurant chef to have attended meetings of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, demonstrating his dedication to and understanding of the benefits of Social Media.

To close the meeting, Matt Allison, one of the speakers at our August meeting, shared his experience of being the only South African to attend the Mad Food Camp organised by the world’s top restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, organised by its owner Rene Redzepi last month. It was a huge honour for Matt to have been selected as one of 250 urban gardeners and chefs from around the world.  The Food Camp was the largest Northern European food festival, and alongside it ran the workshop, focusing on the relationship between restaurants and purveyors of fruit and vegetables.  Chefs are encouraged to grow their own produce, if feasible.  He was wowed by what he saw and heard, for example Amazonian ants preserved in gelatine by the chef of South American  restaurant Dom.  Matt is passionate about honouring the value of food.  He has become such an authority on urban farming, working with local Cape Town restaurants and farming his own vegetables and herbs, which he sells on Wednesdays at Starlings Café, that he was featured in the Sunday Times yesterday, and an article in the New York Times is to appear too.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

*   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street.

*   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com. The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

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

Passionate plea by Swirl! and ImNoJamieOliver bloggers to be oneself in blogging!

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at Den Anker last night, and addressed by Matt Allison of ImNoJamieOliver Blog and Nikki Dumas of Swirl! Blog, was characterised by PASSION: not only in terms of the blogger speakers, but also in the fantastic food paired by Den Anker with six excellent Jordan wines.

Prior to the speakers sharing their blogging passion, Robyn Martin, the most charming, organised and passionate representative for Jordan wine estate, took us through the tasting of the first three Jordan wines.  Being the organised person that she is, she had prepared a tasting summary for groups of wines.  The first three wines tasted were white: the Jordan 2009 Riesling, being ‘aromatic and appley’, and a winner of the Old Mutual Trophy, SA Terroir, and the Five Nations awards, was paired with just-seared sesame-coated tuna, one of the highlights prepared by Chef Doekle Vlietman at Den Anker.  On the same plate was the sweetest presentation of truffle-enhanced scrambled egg served in an egg shell on a bed of coarse salt, paired with creamy and toasty Jordan 2009 Chardonnay.  Wrapping up the trio was a beer-poached katifi-wrapped prawn, draped in a saffron beurre blanc, paired with the tropical green notes of Jordan 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. 

Nikki Dumas, another highly organised lady, presented each of the attendees with a sheet of her ‘Twenty-one Commandments’ on how to blog successfully.  She passionately expressed her love for wine, and all things related to it.      Nikki’s suggestions for successful blogging are: 1. write something useful  2. write something unique 3. write something newsworthy  4. write something first   5. write something that makes those who read it smarter  6. write something controversial  7. write something insightful  8. write something that taps into a fear people have  9. write something that helps other people achieve  10. write something that elicits a response  11. write something that gives a sense of belonging  12. write something passionately  13. write something that interprets or translates news for people   14. write something inspirational   15. write something that tells a story   16. write something that solves a problem   17.  write something that gets a laugh   18. write something that saves people time or money   19.  write something opinionated  20.  write something that is a resource  21. write something about something ‘cool’.

Nikki’s passion for her own brand ‘Nikki Dumas’ came to the fore, and she is a confident blogger, who knows exactly where she is going.  She has two blogs – Swirl!  is a blog she uses to document information about the wine industry, coming from PR agencies, for example.  She does not allow comments on this blog.  Winestyle.biz is the blog on which she writes her own blogposts, with about 4000 hits since she started it in April. She allows comments on this blog, even if they are controversial, to create debate.  She emphasised that she is not a writer nor journalist, and that she will only write about something she judged to be good.  Everything she experiences in terms of food and wine she evaluates against her career in restaurant management.   She likes using Google’s Blogger platform, saying it is user-friendly.  Her blogpost attracting the largest number of hits is the anonymous survey she conducted on restaurant listing fees for wines.  She said she is a ‘Mac junkie’, and evaluates her blog performance through all the statistics that Google makes available, including Google Analytics, AdSense, and more.  She knows exactly where her traffic is coming from, and which keywords are used to get to her blog (wine, winestyle, wine journal, Nikki Dumas).  Nikki  was asked to share her background, and she told us that she moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg ten years ago.  She started Moyo in Norwood, and opened Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then moved to Belthazar and Balducci.  Nikki offers restaurant wine training, is a wine consultant in designing winelists for restaurants, assists wine estates in getting better sales in restaurants, and sells branded Wine Journals. Nikki told us that 60 % of wines in supermarkets are by Distell.  She feels that the wine industry should teach the consumer more about wine.

The next stage of the food and wine pairing was a lovely plumy and stylish Jordan Merlot 2008 paired with the most ‘butter-tender’ peppered fillet, and the rich Jordan Prospector 2008 Syrah, which was paired with venison served with sauce bordelaise.  Robyn told us that the power of Social Media was demonstrated when more than 6000 persons protested against the planned mining on the Jordan wine estate.  The threat was withdrawn, and in gratitude Gary Jordan named his new Syrah, launched last year, The Prospector.  With our yummy chocolate ravioli with pomegranate jelly the flagship Bordeaux-style Jordan Cobblers Hill was served. 

Without any notes, Matt Allison spoke from his heart, reflecting his passion and principles.  With careers in the wine trade, as a graphic designer, and first as a musician and then as a music producer, Matt realised that he was spending too much time away from home, not what he wanted with his new baby boy.  He realised he needed a change, and became a rare ‘house-husband’, spending almost all his time with his son at home.  He loves food, and became the cook for the family, and his blog ‘ImNoJamieOliver’ was born a year ago when he decided to cook all 60 recipes of a Jamie Oliver recipe book in 90 days.  He lost twenty days when he had his kitchen redone.   We laughed when he told us that his mother had engendered independence amongst her children, and it was a matter of ‘cook or die’ in their household.   He has since blogged a further 60 recipes from a second Jamie Oliver recipe book.  Matt presented who he is honestly, and described himself as a person with a 30’s nature, a 50’s style, living in 2011.

Matt told us that blogging for him is a means to an end, and he has changed direction in that his interest now is the provenance of food.  He has rented a piece of land from the City of Cape Town, and now grows 40 vegetable and herbs, not counting different varieties.  This has led to seasonal eating, fresh out of his garden.  He does not grow potatoes and corn, as these take too much space.  Matt is critical of Woolworths, for their vegetables sourced from countries such as Kenya.  On a Wednesday afternoon he sells his vegetables he harvested an hour earlier, between 4 – 6 pm at Starlings Café in Claremont.  He told us horror stories about supermarket vegetables being picked unripe weeks earlier, and artificially ripened.   Matt also would not touch fast-food any more, and expressed concern that so many people grab a McDonald’s in-between meetings. There are no TV dinners in his home.  He would like people to question where their food is coming from.  He believes that obesity and diabetes can be fixed via ‘healthy food’.  With his help, Cape Town and Winelands chefs at restaurants such as Societi Bistro, Warwick wine estate, El Burro, and Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz wine estate, are moving to sourcing their herbs and vegetables from small ‘bio-dynamic’ (he does not like the word ‘organic’) producers, or planting their own.   He likes restaurants that serve local, seasonal, and sustainable food, and operate ethically in all respects.  Matt has about 5000 unique readers of his blog per month, and about 1300 Twitter followers, but his readership is of no consequence to him.  He is ruthless in unfollowing and blocking on Twitter.  He recently changed his Twitter name to @MattAllison, to build his own brand.  Given his focus on the provenance of food, he will be launching a new blog “Planting Thoughts” soon.  One of the most exciting experiences for Matt is that he has been selected as one of 250 chefs and urban farmers to attend a symposium in Copenhagen, organised by the chef/owner Rene Redzepi of the world’s number one restaurant Noma, the only South African hand-picked by Redzepi.   The symposium takes place next weekend, and co-incides with the world’s largest food festival, the MAD Food Camp, also organised by Redzepi, with more than 10000 visitors expected!  Matt says we pay too little for our food in South Africa, and told us what it costs to raise a chicken.  He buys his meat from Gogo’s Deli in Newlands, or directly from farmers.  Matt encouraged us to ‘think about your food’, that one should not evaluate a restaurant if one has not been a chef and a waiter, given that most chefs put their heart and soul into their meals.  For him a good restaurant is one in which the chef comes out of the kitchen, offers great service, and has staff who love what they do.   He encouraged one to do one’s own blogging and Tweeting, to reflect one’s personality, and to not outsource social media. 

Dusan Jelic of wine.co.za, who has been a passionate supporter of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club since its inception, was wished well, who will be returning to his home country Serbia in September. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.  Each of the two bloggers talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

      *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and Anetha Homan, Marketing Manager of Steenberg, at Steenberg

      *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. Bookings can be made by e-mailing whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

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