I have not attended a #TweetandEat event for a long time, and when the invitation came from FIVE STAR PR to attend one at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa presented by their sister property Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat last week, it was a yes immediately, not having experienced the contemporary Cape cuisine of Executive Chef Floris Smith before.
Bushmans Kloof GM James Basson came to welcome me immediately, and it is clear to see why he was named the Best GM in the Red Carnation Group earlier this year. He is bubbly, friendly, and vivacious, and one feels that one has known him for years. I asked him what he does to have won the award, and he immediately said that it his team that makes a difference. His staff stay for long, and many couples work there, given that they are in the middle of nowhere outside Clanwilliam. I was impressed to hear that he welcomes every arriving guest personally, if he is on the property.
I also met Chris Albrecht, the assistant winemaker to Peter Finlayson at Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, a property owned by Red Carnation too. Chris has worked there for five years, having been at Topiary Wines in Franschhoek previously. He is quieter, and he introduced all the Bouchard Finlayson wines which he paired with Chef Floris’ dishes on his 5-course menu. Bouchard Finlayson first planted vines on its 125 ha farm in 1989.
Chef Floris is also the Deputy GM at Bushmans Kloof, and we were told that he harvests herbs and vegetables from his own organic garden, planted in boxes. They have twelve already, and another twenty are to be added. They are adding growing tunnels too. Every morning he and his staff pick fresh herbs and vegetables, keeping the menu seasonal. He mentioned that being located near Clanwilliam, they are in Rooibos county, and that is reflected in their menu too, as it was at our lunch on Wednesday, giving us a taste of the Cederberg.
It was nice to see Twelve Apostles Executive Director Horst Frehse, who was in Austria the week before, and GM Michael Nel, who is very good at coming to greet visitors to the hotel, even if they are not attending a function for their hotel or restaurants.
It was a stormy and rainy day, and a long table had been set up in the Café for our function, beautiful proteas decorating our table. Serviettes were stylishly opened and placed on our laps for us. Our welcome drink was Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2014. Its name reflects the proximity of their vineyards to the ocean, and its suitability to be paired to seafood. It is a blend of 70% Weisser Riesling, 25% Viognier, and a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Chris said that Viognier is difficult to grow. They have sourced it from Elgin up to now, but are switching to Villiersdorp in future.
Bread baskets were brought to our table, with poppy seed rolls, seeded bread, and ciabatta, accompanied by butter and a more-ish biltong paté. Our first course was smoked ricotta quenelles (dumplings) served with roasted baby beets, toasted hazelnuts, and a citrus and beurre blanc sauce. The beetroot complemented the ricotta. The vegetables and herbs which Chef Floris used for his dishes for our special lunch were brought along from Bushmans Kloof. Chris had paired this vegetarian starter with the Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012, a wine made in limited quantities, and only in exceptional years. He said it is at a good drinking age now.
The second course was named ‘Three Times Prawns’, which offered Rooibos-smoked prawns, a prawn sausage (without a casing, and containing coriander, ginger, garlic, and smoked paprika), and prawn sushi (deep-fried, and drizzled with lemon and parsley oil, and a soy reduction), the latter two being unusual usages of prawns, finished off with a tomato sauce. Chris paired the dish with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2013, having a ‘broad style with shoulders‘, giving white fruit, and quince in particular, a bold wine, of which 30% is aged for 6 months in new wood.
For Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat/Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay 2014 the grapes are sourced from the Elandskloof in the Overberg, a mountain vineyard from which they have sourced the grapes for 22 years, 100 km away from Bouchard Finlayson. Chris told us that 2014 was a challenging vintage, most of the year’s rain falling in the grape growing time. The name comes from the surname of the first Dutch settler Kwaaiman, who was given the land. The locals could not pronounce his name, and so they called him and the farm Kaaiman, despite there being no crocodiles! ‘Pork Fantasy’ was the dish paired with the wine, being pork belly, pork steak, and tortellini in a pork broth, served with a pear crumble, apple mousse, and broccoli.
Our fourth course was called ‘The Best of Lamb’, consisting of loin of lamb, and home-style lamb shank Bobotie, which were served with spinach and field mushrooms. The meat is sourced from a butcher in Clanwilliam, who in turn sources it from special farms in the Karoo. This course was paired with Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2013, a wine made to age, and their biggest vintage. It is named after the Galpin Peak mountain close by. Forty percent of the wine is matured for 10 months in new French oak barrels. It has red fruit, earthiness, and an oak spice.
To end off the sumptuous lunch, we were served a beautifully plated dessert of Rooibos and passion fruit cheesecake, granadilla sorbet, and a soufflé served in the shell of a granadilla, a clever presentation. This was served with Cederberg MCC, as well as Rooibos Cappuccinos.
Gerda de Wet, Communication Manager of Rooibos Limited, told us more about the company and popular product, the company having been established in 1954. They process 8000 tons of Rooibos tea per year, delivering half of it to the large Rooibos tea brand marketers. The other half is exported, to the UK, Holland, Germany, Asian countries (especially China), and Dubai. German importers blend the Rooibos with other ingredients, and re-export the teas. The company is supplied by 200 farmers, and they export the Rooibos on their behalf. The Rooibos logo is loved, especially in Asia. They have a product development department, and assist companies in creating new products. They employ 250 staff, and sport sponsorships are an important community focus by the company. They received 7000 visitors at their factory shop last year, it having become a tourist attraction. A recipe book has been developed with 14 top chefs, shot in the kitchen of each chef, including that of Bushmans Kloof. They work with chefs, and do promotions with them.
The Bushmans Kloof #TweetandEat was a warm and cosy lunch, reflecting the friendliness of the estate’s award-winning service, the excellent Bouchard Finlayson wines, and the contemporary Cape cuisine presented by Chef Floris.
Disclosure: After the fabulous lunch we were laden with gifts in our media pack: a book on Bouchard Finlayson, a note book, and a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2010. From Rooibos Limited we received a pack of organic Rooibos Green caffeine-free tea bags, Instant Rooibos soluble extract, Rooibos spread with ginger, Sweet Rooibos & Soya Sauce, Balsamic Drizzle, and a decorative tin with Rooibos tea bags.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Clanwilliam. Tel (027) 482-8200. www.bushmanskloof.co.za Twitter: @Bushmanskloof
Bouchard Finlayson, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 312-3515 www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za Twitter: @BouchFinlayson
Rooibos Limited, Clanwilliam. Tel (027) 482-2155. www.rooibosltd.co.za Not on Twitter.