A lunch at Coco Safar, followed by a dinner three days later, were two chalk and cheese experiences, the former excellent and the latter hugely disappointing, especially as it was a birthday dinner treat for a special friend! I had last been to Coco Safar for breakfast early this year, after it opened in Sea Point, having moved from Cavendish Square. Continue reading →
Winter has set in, and the rate of new restaurant openings has almost ground to a halt, as has the move of chefs between restaurants. This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:
* Michael Townsend of the Harbour House Group is planning to open two new restaurants on the Muizenberg beachfront: a 160-seater Live Bait, and Howlin’ Wolf, a burger and beer quick service restaurant. Continue reading →
Our WhaleTales Blog and Whale Cottage Portfolio website received a make-over this year (i.e. 2014) by 406Media, and despite an error severely hampering Google’s ability to find our blogposts (since repaired), we achieved more than 300000 unique pageviews in the past twelve months, or around 30000 unique pageviews per month. We are grateful to our loyal readers for visiting our Blog so regularly.
Our Top 10 Blogpost list, based on Google Analytic numbers of unique pageviews in the past 12 months, is as follows: Continue reading →
As a member of Slow Food Mother City I received an invitation to attend the Green Renaissance workshop on ‘Be Inspired… to forage in your city’ last Thursday in an unusual venue: Heaven Coffee Shop inside the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square. It was a most inspiring workshop, and impressed in that other than paying for the hot chocolate, marshmallows and other snacks as well as the talks by the four speakers were all free of charge. It was hosted by Green Renaissance to encourage Capetonians to forage foods on their doorstep, having noticed that foreigners are much more likely to forage in our city.
One would have wished every restaurant chef in the city to have been present, and Chef PJ Vadas of Camphors at Vergelegen expressed regret on Twitter that he had not known about it.
Green Renaissance is a ‘little production company that wants to be inspired by nature’ , its co-owner Michael Raimondo said when he introduced the ‘Be Inspired’ workshop series, its second in two months, and wanting its attendees to leave the workshops inspired to implement what they have learnt, in connecting with nature. A lot of material was covered, and many botanical names were used, without notes provided, so its was speed writing to take notes. In between each speaker’s talk, Green Renaissance played a short video it had produced to tie in with a theme, e.g. mussel hunting and cooking, waterblommetjie collecting and stew preparation, mushroom collecting and cooking, the preparation of nettle soup (which is rich in proteins, calcium, and iron, and helps to detoxify the body), and chestnut gathering and preparation. Each one of the videos was short and to the point, using titles only, beautifully shot, each ending with the pay-off line ‘Go Gather’!
(Bruno) Julian Mori, a winemaker, told us that there are so many edible species of sea food on our 2500 km coastline but that little use is made of it. He warned that one should be careful, never turning one’s back to the sea, one should identify what one eats, and one should be careful about red tide, the mussel growers in Saldanha being the most qualified to provide information on this toxic effect on sealife, which is only safe to eat three weeks or longer after the end of red tide. Any seafood with a smell should be left in the sea, one should not take risks, and one should harvest at low tide, below the water mark. All food removed from the sea requires a ‘bait’ licence, bought at a Post Office. He raved about sea lettuce, periwinkle, whelks, ‘alikreukel’, limpets, brown, white and black mussels, sea urchins (which are high in zinc), and clams. He said that Cape Point and the West Coast are the best places to forage sea food. Contact: email@example.com
Loubie Rusch (right) was a passionate (and fast) speaker, referring to a host of bushes and trees in Cape Town (focusing on the Claremont, Newlands, and Kenilworth area where she appears to live), showing photographs of Wild Plum, Water Berry, Num Num (Natal Plum), and Eugenia, all of which she uses to make jellies and cordials under the KOS brand. She also gathers ‘spekboom‘ for salads, ‘surings’ for stews (have a fresh sourness), ‘veldkool’ (for soup and stews), wild rosemary, wild sage, ‘suurvye‘, wild fig, geranium flowers, nasturtium (‘kappertjie’) leaves and flowers, nettles, dandelions, many of these ingredients going into pestos or salads. Making KOS, cell 082 314 7200.
Gary Goldman is known as ‘The Mushroom Hunter’, who has been foraging for eight years, supplying Italian restaurants (Il Leone, Constantia Uitsig) in the main. When he sees chestnuts fall, he knows it is time to forage mushrooms, to be found in a 50km radius around Cape Town. He spoke about poisonous mushrooms, saying that those with a sponge (porcini in the main) are safe while those with gills are poisonous. He explained that one should twist the mushroom out of the ground, and push back the soil to close the hole, to allow new mushrooms to grow. One should not cut the stem with a knife. Gary was not very complimentary about South African mushroom guides, saying that the original ones with drawings were more reliable than the later ones with photographs. Porcinis can only be found under oak trees, and sometimes under chestnuts, conifers, and beech trees. Not all species of oak trees look like oak trees, but they all have acorns, which helps one to identify mushroom growing areas. He advised that one can air-dry mushrooms, and then place them in the deep freeze, where they can be kept for up to 30 years, maintaining their flavour. One can keep mushrooms in a brown box in the fridge at 4°C for a few days, but one must not remove the soil until one uses them. Truffles are problematic, in that it takes 40 years to grow the oak trees that are inoculated with truffle seeds. Our soil also does not freeze over in winter, which truffles need. He added that plants surrounding truffles die off. Contact Gary: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridget Kitley specialises in medicinal herbs, having a nursery outside Stellenbosch from which one can buy a number of plants (she spoke quickly and mentioned mostly botanical names), including sage (which stimulates memory and therefore is good for Alzheimer patients, is used for hot flushes, can whiten one’s teeth, is good for hormonal problems, and heals sore throats). Wilde Els is also used for Alzheimer patients, and can be drunk like a buchu tea, helping to reduce temperatures, and to treat coughs and flu. Wormwood is good for stomach pain, and helps prevent or heal malaria. Comfrey heals cuts, chilblains, arthritis, bruises, and prevents migraines. Pennywort helps with ADD, lack of concentration, and stimulates the growth of collagen of the skin. Potager Gardens, Cell 079 499 2209. www.herb-nursery.co.za
Slow Food Mother City has circulated details of two forthcoming foraging events:
* Olive picking at Francolin Farm, Alphen Drive, Constantia, tomorrow at 14h30. Cost is R13 per kg. Book: email@example.com
* Delheim Wild Mushroom Forage on 17 and 18 June at 10h30, at R250 per person inclusive of lunch, led by Gary Goldman. Book: firstname.lastname@example.org
The speakers at the Green Renaissance workshop enthused the audience to do their own foraging of free and healthy foods, which are abundantly available in Cape Town and the Winelands!
Green Renaissance, 73 Rose Street, Cape Town. Cell 082 290 0197. www.greenrenaissance.co.za Twitter: @GreenRenaissanc
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Last night’s episode 16 was the most sophisticated MasterChef SA one we have seen to date, and reached a high with Chef Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche, a two Michelin star restaurant in London, giving a Masterclass. It felt that we as viewers as well as the final five Finalists had reached culinary heaven, the closest that most of us will get to getting a taste of a Michelin star restaurant! It will have taught the MasterChef SA judges how gracious one can be with one’s feedback, no matter how negative the message is.
The episode started with a quick reminder of the big prizes at stake for the winner of MasterChef SA: R250000 in cash from Robertsons, a year’s supply of Nederburg as well as tuition from the SA Sommeliers Association, a trip to Tuscany sponsored by Woolworths, a Hyundai, and a year of being in charge of Tsogo Sun’s MondoVino Restaurant at Montecasino. Sue-Ann Allen was the first to put up her hand when the finalists were asked who wants to become the winner of MasterChef SA.
Chef Michel Roux Jnr was introduced to the Finalists, Deena Naidoo saying that it was a treat to meet this ‘culinary royalty‘. La Gavroche opened in 1993, and Chef Michel is a judge on MasterChef UK. Lungi Nhlanhla cried tears of happiness in experiencing this famous chef. Chef Michel said of himself that he comes from a ‘family dynasty of butter and cream loving chefs’, whose clients ‘leave content with a full tummy’. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that his meal at La Gavroche was ‘one of the most memorable’ he has experienced. Chef Michel shared with the finalists that if they ‘cook from the heart and believe in what you put on the plate’, they would be a champion. He prepared his La Gavroche signature dish, sounding even better with its French name, being artichoke stuffed with chicken liver, topped with truffle slices, and served with a Madeira sauce. All the Finalists as well as the viewers were taken through a step by step explanation of how to make the precious dish. Turning the artichokes was difficult but important to reveal the beautiful shape of the heart. Chef Michel said that he seasons at the beginning, and then adds more, if needed. Keeping the chicken mousse on ice is important. Deena said he ‘captured every motion‘ of Chef Michel, who said one must take the ‘choke out of the artichoke’, yet retain its shape. Truffles must be treated with respect, being so expensive, he emphasised. Guests expect to pay more for dishes with truffles, but they expect the chef to be generous with them too, he said. Sue-Ann said that Chef Michel’s work once again showed the ‘simple beauty of food‘. When she tasted his dish, she said that she experienced a ‘texture and taste explosion‘. Sarel praised its ‘earthiness’, saying it was ‘just beautiful’, and Deena said it was a ‘heavenly dish cooked by a genius‘.
The task to the Finalists was to replicate the artichoke dish of Chef Michel Jnr, and to make a chicken ballotine, which can be prepared by braising or roasting it. The expectation of the Finalists was ‘perfection‘, he said. The ‘carrot’ offered was a bell, which the Finalist preparing the best dish would receive, for use in episode 17, to obtain advice from one of the Chef Judges.
Sue-Ann chose to make a cream cheese, sage, rosemary and parma ham stuffed chicken ballotine with beetroot rings and green pea mash. She was said to cook with ‘heart’. The judges were sceptical about her cream cheese stuffing, describing it as an ‘interesting combination’, and questioned how it would hold together, to which she answered that she would use egg white. Chef Michel said her presentation was nice, and its taste was the closest to his. However, her ballotine was not so successful, the cream cheese not binding. Sue-Ann said that who ‘comes out strong today, will have a serious chance to win‘.
Lungi was praised for her concept of echoing the artichoke stuffing in her ballotine, ‘a very clever idea’ according to Chef Michel. Yet he expressed his concern about her cauliflower pureé, cutting it fine if she wanted it to set and cook. Chef Benny Masekwameng praised her artichoke dish, cut open to show the chicken liver inside. Chef Michel said that her concept was right, but not its execution. Her cauliflower mousse did not hold, and went ‘blop’, she said. While the judges were evaluating her dish, she started to cry, and gentleman Chef Benny got up and gave her a hanky to dry her tears. Chef Michel said her plate was too full, and she should have used a bigger plate to make her dish look better and neater. He told her that ‘we must learn through our mistakes‘. Chef Andrew told her that ‘to be adventurous with food, you need boundaries as well’.
Deena used minced pork with roasted pistachio nuts. He said that he was worried about being judged by Chef Michel, but told himself to keep focus, and show respect to Chef Michel. His biggest challenge was to turn the artichoke, he said. His dish was described as being ‘visually bold and simple’, but his use of two plates was questioned by the judges. Deena said he wanted to highlight the accompaniment on a separate plate, in honour of Chef Michel. Chef Pete very quickly said that it was the wrong thing to do. Chef Andrew Atkinson gave an approving wink. Chef Pete liked the ballotine sausage, saying it was clever, with his use of pistachio and the crisp ham on the outside. Chef Michel said that it was the only ‘true ballotine‘ prepared of the five he evaluated, especially as Deena had toasted the pistachio nuts.
Sarel Loots stuffed his ballotine with peppadew (spicy capsicum, it was explained to Chef Michel, not having heard of it or tasted it before). When he was questioned about the peppadew overpowering the truffle, he said that it would give his dish colour, and that he was ‘experimental’, wanting to ‘push the envelope’! Chef Michel said that the truffle should be the star, and not the peppadew. The presentation was praised, but he was told his dish came in two separate parts: the artichoke mousse, which was a little heavy and dense, and the ballotine, which had a good balance of flavour, but the two did not match each other, as the peppadew overpowered the truffle. Sarel had taken a huge risk, he was told. During the broadcast, Sarel Tweeted sweetly: ‘We were so honoured to be in this episode – going home will be no problem‘.
Manisha Naidu looked worried when preparing her dish, and Chef Michel advised her to ‘stay calm, stay focused, and believe in yourself‘. She said it was hard work to pass the chicken through the sieve to make the mousse. Manisha was told that she could have added more colour to her dish, and that her stuffing was not visible (she said her mushrooms had shrunk). But her artichoke was well turned, and was very close to his. Her ballotine was dull and over-cooked, said Chef Pete.
Chef Michel presented the bell for the best dish to Deena, saying that he ‘might one day become a professional chef‘, in presenting the ‘only true ballotine today‘, amazing praise! Lungi was sent home, and Chef Benny said that she had cooked some of his favourite dishes on the show, reflecting her creativity and passion for food. Chef Pete encouraged her to keep on cooking, and that ‘we look forward to seeing more of you’. Lungi said she was now recognised as a cook, having ‘become a mature young woman who had travelled an amazing road of self-discovery’ through MasterChef SA. The highest compliment came from Chef Michel, with his invitation for Lungi to visit him at his restaurant when she comes to London. Chef Peter Tempelhoff of Eat Out Top 10 top restaurant The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort will give a Masterclass in episode 17.
It was interesting to note that only one of the three or four Robertons TV commercials in MasterChef SA last night featured Chef Reuben Riffel!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage