To say that my weekend ended up being rather over-indulgent, is an understatement I think! It kicked off with Margarita’s and spicy deep-fried Mexican on Friday…followed by imbibing 12-year old bottles of Duval-Leroy (amongst others!) on Saturday at the Big Bottle Festival, after which a little Long Street jaunt ensued.
Sunday had me perched at a table at Jardine sipping on yet more wine and ingesting the gastronomic masterpieces that made their way out of George’s kitchen. I was with my friend, Greg, who used to work for George when he still had Jardine in Bree Street, so it was nice for him to check out his new spot in Stellenbosch!
Is this not picture perfect?!!
I just love love love the mountains in and around Stellenbosch. The sun was shining and the weather was warm so all the doors of the restaurant were open leading onto the stone patio that spilled out onto the lawn and dam below. If ever there was a perfect day of food and wine, then this was it.
We arrived a little late but it didn’t appear to be a problem. We were made to feel more than welcome by the maître de. George saw us from the pass so Greg got to chat to him a bit and catch up. (I believe it’s been a while since they’ve seen one another). I’m not going to go into too much detail about the food other than to say it was utterly fabulous.
My starter of Gruyere tart with caramelised onion and pickled baby beetroot was so tasty and it’s at a place like Jardine that one will pick up on small little details that just elevate the dish to another level. In my starter’s case it was definitely the rich but delicate puff pastry that was used; Flaky and crisp, giving the dish just the right texture to contrast the creamy goodness of the Gruyere filling. There was a garnish of apple puree which was just as sublime and added the acidity needed to cut through the richness. Everything was just so well balanced.
Mains were also brilliant but the piece de résistance was, for me, the chocolate dessert. (I knew from the moment I sat down and saw the menu that it would have to pass my lips. Like, Have to!!). Holy Yum! It was a Valrhona guanaja chocolate terrine with hazelnut ice-cream, and has to be by far the best chocolate dessert I’ve had (ok besides for the chocolate brownie at Cafe Roux but that has a firm place in my heart and always will!). What gave the dessert that extra “wow” factor, was the tiny sprinkling of cacao nibs that lightly blanketed the terrine. It was incredible (Big shout-out to my friend Ross who supplies them with the chocolate!)
The others at the table took “a trip to the cheese room” and returned with delicious-looking local cheeses and preserves. Glad I stuck to my chocolate though!! Greg opted for the honey and poppy-seed soufflé which came with a touch of crème anglaise and ice-cream, served devant vous (at the table) There is nothing more visually appealing than observing a freshly baked soufflé coming out of the kitchen. Even if you’ve made them countless times before (with and without success!), there is that small part of you inside that will always smile and go ‘aaaaaaahhh’ !
I could easily have stayed at Jordan the entire afternoon. Oh wait, I did!
After a round of coffees, and witnessing the sun quietly dip behind the trees, we felt it was probably time we gave the front-of-house staff their Sunday evening. I know only too well what it’s like having to deal with so-called “late stayers”.
So, it was with a satisfied and happy sigh that we made our way to the car. I wonder what next Sunday will bring, after all- I’ll be dining at The Foodbarn. I hope Franck has a chocolate dessert… over-indulgent? Spoiled brat snob? *meekly raises hand*… yip, that’s me.
I don’t know if it’s the ‘done’ thing- but surely event organisers should sort of get together at the beginning of the year and map out their calendars ensuring that some major events don’t clash with others? Like the Waterfront wine affair and Taste of Cape Town. Both on this weekend and both attract the same audience…I highly doubt many people will have the stamina to attend both. Maybe that’s just me though because I seem to be a lightweight these days.
Anyway, forget about me, let’s get to the foooooooood!
I found myself in front of the entrance to Taste of Cape Town last night at around 6.40pm. Gates opened at 6.30 apparently. Parking was a breeze- although perhaps that was because there was a R20 parking fee.
There was a slight nip in the air as the sun had already gone down (Yes, sad to say that it’s starting to get dark THAT early now in Cape Town!) the ladies at the gate all looked a bit flustered. I’m not sure why as there wasn’t really even a queue yet. I walked through brandishing my ticket and then searching for the swag bag station. I was rather disappointed at this stage. All the entire bag contained was a handful of useless pamphlets, some Specko rice, and an issue of Food&Home Entertaining. Humph!
It only took a moment for me to get over this, after which I began “The walk” –basically sussing out each and every stand, exhibitor, demonstration kitchen area and media tent WITHOUT tasting anything or talking to anyone…just merely making mental notes and constructing a viable plan of action as to what I was going to eat, from which restaurant, and in what order.. you see this is all enormously important at an event such as Taste of Cape Town…or Johannesburg, or Sydney, or London for that matter- as the choices are vast and each dish is essentially a highlight off the chefs’ own menu.
It must be noted that I have still yet to eat at many of the restaurants that were represented and so I was not too aux fair with any of their ‘signatures’. I worked for Harold Bresselschmidt at the very first Taste of Cape Town at Camps bay High School (was such a great venue overlooking the Atlantic) and knowing his food, I was excited to see what three dishes he was going to showcase. To my disappointment, it seemed that Aubergine was absent from the line-up this year. Oh well… our loss!
I did manage to enjoy the snoek fishcake from Fyndraai (Solms-Delta) that was served in a Cape snoek veloute’ and came with a cute tub of bokkom mayonnaise, some potato and onion crisps. Although there didn’t seem to be much of a contrast in flavours and the dish was altogether a bit salty, I was so hungry – probably because I hadn’t anticipated how tough it would be and how long it would take me to decide on what I wanted to eat. Decisions like this can be hard!
Once I had lined my stomach, it was onto the next restaurant, or was it the next wine? I don’t remember. But I do remember enjoying a glass of Steenberg Merlot. I’m not much of a Merlot drinker to be honest but wow- can you say eucalyptus!! Its funny how what one’s palate enjoys, can be different from day to day.
Last night I definitely loved the herbal, medicinal notes in the wine but I know that if you gave the same wine to me next week I would probably turn my nose up at it. Strange huh? I Think it’s all got to do with where you are, who you’re with, what your mood is, what the weather is like etc.
I was lucky enough to be spending the evening with two of my good friends, Dee and Dirk- both of whom have completed the Stellenbosch wine evaluation course- and therefore also love their wine. I enjoyed the fact that Dirk basically led Dee and my indecisive self from one wine stand to the next. (Always helps having someone ‘in charge’ at things like these!) we ended up tasting some lovely wines.
Another goodie was the Idiom Rhone blend (Viognier, Grenache and Mouverde). It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed anything ‘Rhone-ish’ and I will say it was a most pleasant welcome to my palate.
Ok, back to the food! My next course (after yet more mental games of ‘eeni meeni miney mo’!) was the lamb pilau from Bombay Brasserie (Taj hotel). Warm and comforting with a dose of Indian spices, served alongside a dollop of raitta- a superb compliment. My belly was now on its way to becoming full and I sensed my sweet tooth would be nagging me in a few moments. Surprisingly, this didn’t happen. I wanted more ‘savouriness’.
This posed more decision-making and consequently more wine drinking. Here are a few estates that featured in my glass (not all at once!) : Thelema, Oak Valley, Rickety Bridge, Solms Delta, Peter Falke and a couple of others. I was still hungry though for some more food.
By this stage of the evening, most of the restaurants were starting to close their stalls so it felt like a mad dash trying to get another dish. I settled on trying the beef fillet from Planet restaurant but as luck would have it, when we arrived breathless at the stall to place our order, it appeared that one of the components of the dish was finished- the tortellini. Rudi (Liebenberg) insisted that it was worth waiting an extra ten minutes until the newly-made pasta arrived, so that one could enjoy the dish to its fullest. I was not going to argue with the man but there were other things I wanted to try before the clock hit 10.30pm!
We ended up at Gold restaurant where I quickly ordered some kind of ‘duo of stew’ (that’s the best I can describe it I’m afraid!) It comprised two small pastry shells filled with meat, one a chicken stew and the other a red meat version. It wasn’t very tasty… or warm for that matter but really, all I needed was just some food to absorb some of the wine that had been imbibed.
By now the wind had begun to pick up heavily – a sign that the evening was nearing a close. It was then that my sweet tooth started hollering. I decided to satisfy it with a scoop of dark chocolate, chilli and cinnamon frozen yoghurt. Quite a plethora of flavour combo’s and I don’t think I would choose it next time… but then again- maybe it was because the weather was cold, I was tired and had just finished a consecutive tasting of Vodka, Absinthe and organic Brandy at the Jorgenson’s Distillery stand.
All I know is- I had a great night!
Dinner on Wednesday evening took place at La Mouette with my darling friend Vanessa (who is also a chef and heads up the kitchen at newly opened Dear Me Food World– stay tuned for a post on that soon!)
Neither of us had eaten there before and I was very intrigued to try their famed and highly celebrated cheese and truffle croquettes! Seeing that the April special was still going (6 courses for two people, R240) we decided without hesitation to go ahead with it and have the wine pairings too. Very ambitious for a school night! Vanessa has been extremely busy at Dear Me for the last few weeks and so I was grateful to be awarded some of her very precious time!!
I’m not going to go through the entire menu and pick each dish apart BUT I will say that my favourite was the croquette course. It was served on a long rectangular dish, 4 individual croquettes per portion served atop a Basil cream sauce. I would have enjoyed a bit more sauce than was served, and perhaps a touch more seasoning in the croquettes.
The highlight though, which took the dish to a whole new level, was the paired wine- Graham Beck Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009. I found the wine had very subtle acidity (something I am rather sensitive to) and although there was lot of creamy richness in the food, the lack of acid didn’t diminish the pairing’s success.
The wine offered flavours of fresh tropical fruit with hints of lime and lemongrass and a weightiness that balanced perfectly with the crispy croquettes. Definitely a style that I enjoy when it comes to white wine. (Need to remember to obtain a case or two for when summer rolls around!)
This is Vanessa’s direct description of the wine : “It just goes KAPOW! in your mouth!” — (in a good way, obviously!)
Besides for the food and wine, which were both fabulous- I was mightily impressed with the service- slick and professional but also laid back, warm and friendly. The decor is just gorgeous and the fireplace upstairs is a great draw card during these frosty winter months.
I have to say though, that the company made the evening. I could have eaten at KFC and still had a great night. Time spent with special friends, to me, is priceless no matter where you are.