Cape Town has just been ranked third Best Food City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards 2014. Taste of Cape Town 2015, running at the Green Point Cricket Club until the end of today, gives locals and visitors a taste of what makes our city so special as a food destination.
Hosted for the eighth year in Cape Town, and run by food editor and stylist Justin Drake, Taste of Cape Town has settled in at the cricket club venue after venue changes in early years. Taste of Cape Town is a festive and fun way to eat and drink one’s way around one venue, showcasing not only restaurants and wine estates in Cape Town, but also those in the Winelands.
I was invited by Errieda du Toit PR to attend the Taste of Cape Town, and was joined by Whitney Wentzel. We received a media pass which entitled us to eat one dish at each of four pre-determined restaurants, so we shared each of the dishes, giving us 8 half-tastes each. A number of beverages were also complimentary, including Lanique (interesting was their Amarula Lanique drink, and their cocktail served with Red Bull), San Pellegrino, Beerhouse, Puro Fairtrade coffee, Perdeberg Wines, Wild Bean Café, Villiera Wines, Thelema, Signal Gun, and more, far too many to even try.
The main interest for visitors is the restaurants, giving visitors a taste at an affordable price of the dishes one can enjoy at the restaurants. Dishes are charged in crowns (1 crown = R5), and the most expensive dish was 12 crowns for a mixed Asado plate for two at Don Armando ‘Argentinian’ restaurant. Most dishes cost 4 – 8 crowns. Present at the food festival are:
* Azure restaurant at the Twelve Apostle Hotel & Spa: commendable was that Chef Christo Pretorius and Food & Beverage Manager Gavin Ferreira were hands-on in the taking of orders. Their menu consisted of a starter of Fizanta Kraal Trout Tequila-cured, baked avocado, and corn succotash; Char Sui Oxtail, slow-braised and compressed, with barbeque miso glaze, mushroom ragout, potato espuma, and gremolata; and a dessert of lemongrass and black sesame, lemongrass curd, marshmallow, black sesame cake, and coconut crumble.
* Beluga: spicy peanut calamari; Asian-style sticky deboned beef ribs; and salmon roses and rainbow rolls.
* Don Armando: ‘Chef-Patron’ Daniel Toledo was present on the stand, but more in a ‘PR’ capacity. He is also the Chef/Owner of Il Leone. Focused on an ‘Argentinian’ theme (in that they serve grilled meats), they served the Asado platter of meat for two, including lamb chops, steak, sausage, and chicken with chimichurri and salsa as the main course, but the plating was uninspired!; the starter was beef and vegetable empanadas; and the dessert was typically Argentinian (but not on offer at the restaurant) in being pancake and dulce con leche ice cream. Confusing was another stand near the entrance called Argies, serving ‘truly Argentinian style Asado‘, with different meats, salads, and Argentinian wines, but not related to Don Armando, it would seem. Argentinian Salsa and Tango dancing is also on show at Argies at intervals.
* Camissa at the Table Bay Hotel was the best dressed stand by far, having taken a double stand, and set up a regular restaurant with tables and chairs. I met Chef Jocelyn Myers-Adams and her family, and Whitney and I shared their table, enjoying the restaurant’s dessert. The starter is smoked and cured ostrich carpaccio, hibiscus vinegar reductions, and Healey’s cheddar crisps. The main course is dukkah-spiced springbok short-rib with sultana and brandy jus, pickled agave shoots, baby carrots, and sweet potato purée; and the dessert is a deconstructed peppermint crisp, with white chocolate and salted caramel cheesecake, peppermint creameaux, Oreo soil (which received a thumbs down from a private chef when posted on Facebook), and butterscotch sauce. Chef Jocelyn told us that they planned to serve 1200 portions at the Festival over the weekend.
* Mexican Cosecha Restaurant at Noble Hill on the outskirts of Franschhoek decorated its stand wall with terracotta pots with cactus plants. Mother and son owners Kathleen and Kristopher Tillery were hands-on in taking orders. The starter was San Diego-style fish, a taco with beer-battered fish, chipotle slaw, orange-onion salsa, and a corn tortilla; the main is Lamb Barbacoa, being slow-cooked pulled lamb, green rice, goats’ cheese, and jalapeño mint salsita; and chicken enchilada with shredded chicken, tomatillo salsa, feta, red onion, corn tortilla, and crema fresca.
* One had high expectations of Hemelhuijs, but the main course of roasted duck and beetroot rolled in pickled cucumber with home-made plum sauce was disappointing, the duck being dry and the pickled cucumber taste being unpleasant, but the presentation was above average; the starter is gnocchi with aubergine, pear pesto, and truffle cream; and Sichuan fried calamari, shaved daikon, and miso dressing is also served. The restaurant in town is so amazing in its decor, but disappointed with its stand decor. Chef Jacques Erasmus’ name was listed in the brochure, but one doubts that he was in the stand kitchen, apparently spending most of his time in Mauritius these days.
* Jewel of India from the Strand serves Paneer Makhani, with homemade cottage cheese in a tomato-based sauce and pulao rice; chicken tikka, being Tandoori-grilled mildly-spiced chicken with naan bread; butter chicken and pulao rice; and lamb curry and rice with a Poppadom chip.
* Kitima at the Kronendal: smoked mozzarella prawn ball on avocado mouse; duo of yellow fin tuna; and Kitima crispy duck pancakes.
* Longridge Restaurant from Stellenbosch made a good impression with its beautiful vases of tulips in different colours with asparagus, lettuce leaves and radishes in their bases. I had a quick chat with Chef Bruce von Pressentin, the son of family friends, and he was hands-on too. They served crisp pork belly with gingered sweet potato, sautéed spinach, and spicy tomato chutney, the best dish of all at the Festival, being ‘less is more’ in its presentation and plating, with wonderful crispy pork belly!; fennel and rooibos hot smoked salmon, wasabi mayo, and cucumber spaghetti; and Kahlúa and almond chocolate terrine with salted caramel, berry coulis, and crunchy meringue – we did not order the dessert, but a Festival-goer eating at our ‘table’ literally licked her plate, not wanting to waste any of the delightful elements on her plate, she said!
* One pop-up restaurant is present on each of the Festival days, having been The Bakery at Jordan on Friday, 96 Winery Road yesterday, and Ernie Els Winery restaurant today. 96 Winery Road served its signature Duck and cherry pie (photograph); potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms, fresh herbs, butter, and Parmesan; and its triple chocolate signature dessert.
Other food presence at the Taste of Cape Town, not visible in the program but found as we walked, were The Green Egg, at which Chef Arnold Tanzer, Production Director of MasterChef SA, was in charge, and we were fed a tortilla and offered a glass of Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Rosé by him – good news is that MasterChef SA Season 4 is on the menu, but that is all that he would reveal! The Green Egg cooking method is endorsed by Chefs Reuben Riffel, Bertus Basson, and Margot Janse. We also found the Core stand, which supplies glassware, crockery, and cutlery to the hospitality trade, and inside their stand Raith Gourmet had a stand, at which one could buy Black Forest and Gypsy hams, viennas and other sausages, and skewers with melon, black forest ham and Parmesan. On the stand too was Fabbri with Kurt Schlechter, a cocktail specialist from Johannesburg whom I had met at the Brandy Festival last year. He represents Amarena cherries which he uses in his cocktails. Kurt offered us a taste of Prosecco with the juice of the cherries, a little sweet but very refreshing. We saw a large stand of Café Caprice too.
For home-cooks one can attend Robertsons’ burger-making classes, Thai cooking demonstrations, and snack preparation with Butcher’s Block and Two Ocean Wines. Classes on craft cocktail-making are also offered in the Bacardi marquee, and one can learn about pairing Castle Milk Stout with foods.
The number of restaurants participating in the Taste of Cape Town this year feels to be reduced, and the only (former) Top 20 Eat Out restaurant present this year is the Twelve Apostle’s Azure. The standard of the dishes seemed improved, most restaurants taking great trouble in preparing gourmet dishes under trying ‘kitchen’ conditions at the Festival. The weather was perfect, and will be so today as well.
Taste of Cape Town 2015, Green Point Cricket Club, Fritz Sonnenberg/Vlei Roads, Green Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-4516. Today 12h00 – 17h00. www.tasteofcapetown.com www.itickets.co.za Entrance: R80 via online booking, R100 at gate, inclusive of a tasting glass. Twitter: @TasteofCT