The new words on serious diners lips are ‘Gåte’ and ‘Quoin Rock’, both not having been heard of by most, but already associated with superlative dining, on a wine estate tucked away outside Stellenbosch where no expense had been spared to create eating and drinking experiences to take one’s breath away! This is what we experienced when invited to eat at Chef Rikku O’Donnchü’s Gåte restaurant on Friday evening. I was still pinching myself over the weekend as to whether this was real, or just a dream. I invited my friend Stuart Bailey to share this experience with me. Continue reading →
* Sasol customers will be able to fill up on Burger King burgers from the end of this year, when the fast food outlet opens up at Sasol petrol stations.
* Club Mykonos Langebaan is working on a number of environmentally-friendly initiatives, including encouraging guests to use resources wisely, promoting biodiversity in its Fynbos-rich surrounds, replacing shower heads with new eco-friendly ones, putting timers on sprinklers, encouraging guests to hang up towels if they do not require them to be cleaned, using energy saving bulbs, heating the indoor swimming pool with solar power, encouraging guests to conserve electricity by switching off electrical appliances, switching off geysers that Continue reading →
I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week! Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date. She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.
Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years. She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned. They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.
It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties. She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town. Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this. Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens. When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically. She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.
She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden. To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:
* ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers. She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language. The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.
* ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!
Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September. It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home. It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.
Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants. She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant. She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.
She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”! She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource. Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for. Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores. She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”. She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past. She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas. She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.
Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!
POSTSCRIPT 23/5: The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down! Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food. It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them. Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.
Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. www.soniacabano.co.za Twitter: @SoniaCabano1
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I have the highest regard for the new WineStyle magazine, which was launched late last year as a wonderfully impressive coffee-table quality food and wine magazine. The latest issue has just been sent to subscribers, and once again impressed with its fantastic quality photography and print production.
The theme of the Autumn edition is Italy, and the magazine introduces the theme with a trip to “Under the Tuscan Sun”, a lovely travel report by Karen Wright, with a clarification of the Chianti wines from this region. I did this journey a few years ago, after I had read the book with the same title by Frances Mayes, travelling to Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano, Montalcino, and Montepulciano, and following in Mayes’ footsteps in Cortona. Then follows a tasting of affordable Italian wines, none costing more than R100, and included Lamberti Santepeitre Valpolicella Ripasso, Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Teresa Rizzi Prosecco Brut, and Medici Sangiovese Rubicone.
The magazine focus then returns back ‘home’, and award-winning wine writer Joanne Gibson focuses on the allowable levels of lead, mercury and even arsenic in South African wine! She asks why sulphur dioxide must be declared on local wine labels but not the fourteen other ‘restricted substances’ listed in the Liquor Products Act 60 of 1989. The article describes the effect of sulphites on those with an allergy to it, and Gibson writes that often it is not the allergy to sulphites but rather to wine generally. She lists low-sulphite wines as including Anura Brut, Krone Borealis Brut, Reyneke Reserve White, Stellar Organic Winery, Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay, Waverley Hills, and Woolworths Brut Natural and their Chenin Blanc.
The article on cheese and wines, by Diane Heierli, with photography by Christoph Heierli, is good enough to eat. The photographer impressed in the first edition already. The article highlights that our local cheeses are excellent, and that we do not have to import them to enjoy good quality cheese. In fact, a next article highlights six ’boutique cheeseries’, being Dalewood Fromage, Goat Peter Cheesery, Belnori Boutique Cheesery, Foxenburg Estate Cheesery, Hijke Cheese, and Buffalo Ridge. Each of the cheesemakers recommend a suitable wine to pair with one of their cheeses.
From cheese and wine, the magazine moves to mushrooms, the article produced by the Heierlis as well, and providing recipes such as “Moreish mixed mushroom risotto”, “Super simple creamy mushroom sauce”, “Mushroom and pecorino pizza”, a beautiful looking “Spicy Asian enoki broth”, and “Balsamic glazed brown mushroom and steak”.
What seems out of place, relative to the theme, is the last article on the Route 62, although ‘cheese-lovers paradise’ Gay’s Guernsey Dairy in Prince Albert is mentioned. The cover photograph of the magazine, linked to this article, does not reflect wine or food at all, and I would question if it was the best photograph to use, given the many lovely photographs in the magazine. Right at the end, the magazine goes back to its Italian beginning, with a recipe for ‘La Limoncello’.
Every week WineStyle sends a newsletter to its subscribers, to bridge the three month gap between issues. In this way the brand interest is kept alive, and the editor can provide ongoing food and wine news. The new newsletter design is perfect, in now creating synergy between the magazine design, and that of the newsletter. Once again, the concept of WineStyle being environmentally friendly, in being print-on-demand, and only posted to its subscribers at no charge, is saluted. It is not commercially available.
WineStyle has set an incredibly high benchmark in food and wine publishing, with editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright at the helm. The advertisers are demonstrating their support already, being Glen Carlou, Pongracz, Hermanuspietersfontein, Constantia Glen, Highlands Road Estate, Kleine Zalze, Klein Constantia, Bouchard Finlayson, Fleur du Cap, and Paul Cluver, and that is just mentioning the wine advertisers.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage