You heard it first

On the weekend, which saw the Beaumont Wines Open Days take place in conditions that were ideal for swimming in the dam but challenging for enjoying red wines (the chenin was much appreciated however), I heard a very interesting bit of food news…

Chef Richard Carstens, our local “molecular gastronomy” whizz, is leaving Lynton Hall in KwaZulu-Natal where he has been cooking for the last five years – and is coming to Cape Town to cook at Manolo on Kloof Street.

Last I heard, Phil Alcock (of Manolo) is moving to the showroom to cook with Bruce Robertson, a move that should see the showroom able to be more “showy” with Robertson able to be more of a proprietor.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Carstens should shake the scene up considerably, because he is known to be quite a firebrand and not short of confidence or desire to be top of the heap.

New India

Tired of samoosas, curry and rice, dhal? Tired of gold and royal reds and a very worn carpet? It’s actually quite difficult to tire of Indian food in my opinion, but it is still refreshing to come across a new take on it (or any cuisine for that matter) and this is what you will find at Masala Dosa at 167 Long Street. Looks like a box office for an upmarket Indian movie house, posters advertise the menu and while the clean white isn’t too alluring for a sit down dinner, it works for a street-side lunch. Then there’s the food, specialising in “dosas” or crispy rice pancakes, filled. They’re pretty tasty, and as I say, pretty novel this part of the world.

For those with a hangover

Consider this story, and your own exploits at the bar will need some relative sizing. I know we are living in an age where legendary drinking is frowned upon, but something in me still admires this guy.

The pinnacle

It should have been the opposite, with some moderation to precede the Christmas excess, but my week leading up to the day was probably the most calorific of any of the last year. The eating was a happy overlap of two briefs – the restaurant guide and a story I am writing for the April issue of the American Express magazine, Food & Wine. The result was a blitz on the better restaurants of the winelands.

The start was inauspicious, a late breakfast at Fairview’s Goatshed where the home-baked breads are great and the cheeses are even better. Plus they make some of the Cape’s best wines, with the Caldera 2004 one of my personal “best of” picks of 2006. Then an unexpected lunch at De Leuwen Jagt, at Seidelberg estate, which was average – just clean and simple food (a fenugreek veg curry) in plain surroundings (but with a setting that has great views).

Our first round for dinner was at Bouillabaisse in Franschhoek. Continue reading “The pinnacle”

Timeous advice for the season…

Check this out if you are thinking about toxins and how to manage them…

A doc I visited a few years ago explained the same to me, that the body as more intelligence than the latest cereal packet’s banner claims. It’s in the gut and in the occasional waddle of the legs…

Salt

Just a quick pinch. Popped in today, quite impromptu and it was a delightful result. The rather charming but completely dated Ambassador (famous for its views and Irish coffees) has been revamped with panache and great vigour – now its a chic, modern space, still with the same views, but now you can also look inwards… big glass panes, brown and white tones, a slightly baroque lounge area, it’s all restful and sophisticated.

Friendly service (except for the exit, when our extravagant leave-taking merited no good-bye), a great winelist (all wines by the glass and an intelligent list) and a modern menu with a leaning to light meals and mix and match plates. Crayfish club sandwich for the show-offs, otherwise a good tempura calamari, competent but not stellar gnocchi, great pork belly. Classics like rib-eye steak bearnaise will get me back, as will the superb look and feel of the place

Substance to style – gotta love it. And the prices are fair.

Cray and rosé

Diving for crayfish this Saturday and Sunday, under the canopy of kelp forests. Into pot and then the question of what to drink Рsauvignon blanc certainly, but I also had a desire to pair the dense, sweet meat with a bubbly, and thought a ros̩ bubbly would be ideal.

Twee Jongegezellen out in Tulbagh have made bubbly for many years under the Krone Borealis name. Recently they added a well-lees rested rosé to the brut and it was this 2000 wine that we opened… to find it was corked.

Unfortunately, the incidence of corked bubblies is greater than with still wines, the CO2 seems to activate or interact with the TCA and that nasty wet cardboard smell pretty much ruined the Krone Rosé, so it was back to some Newton Johnson Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (still quiet and restrained, but creamy).

Another Caveau

Last night I held a final “wine and food” show at Caveau for the year – it was a corporate gig and the room had a real mix of people who know wine and people who probably hardly drink it. “Drink More Wine” was of course my primary message, and inevitably the conversation turned to where the best value lies. It’s interesting that at this time of industry crunch, with the bulk prices of wine coming down fast, the public don’t necessarily feel that wine is cheaper. This may be because most commentators (and I am also guilty) continually write and talk about the glamour wines, those with status (and attendant prices).

But the prices have come down on the shelf: witness Chateau Libertas’ lower sticker price. You can’t really expect the prices of the prestige names to drop – what good such a brand if it rapidly discounts? The most you can expect for here is a stable price.

Missing in action

Been a torrid time, but with some good results, the best being a wonderful launch of Flagstone’s La Bascula wines at Pete Goffe-Wood’s place at the Waterfront. La Bascula is a joint venture: some South Africans going to Spain to make wine. The results are good and well priced for the quality (around R80-R100) so look out for them.

Pete’s food on the night was the highlight though, he cooked up a fiesta of Spanish flavours, including a wicked paella and churros con chocolate. The ingredients were the real thing and he also had some fine Spanish salts on the table, smoked and infused with spice. The evening rounded out with a tasting of some specialist vinegars, including a Cava vinegar that was easily sippable and a Pedro Ximinez of monstrous proportions.

It’s a shame this guy does not cook in his own restaurant (he consults) but he has just (and still is I think) involved in the new restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel. I’m heading over soon.

The Blue Book

This week sees the publication of edition four of Rossouw’s Restaurants, the 2007 guide. This is the Cape’s best restaurant guide if you care for real info and honest opinion on places to eat – not marketing drivel. Look out for it at Exclusive Books, or order it from the site.

Old style

Paging through some old recipe books of my grandmothers, hand-written exercise books, and struck by the almost unwavering notation of desserts and little else. Tarts, cakes, sweets and biscuits, many of them variations on the same theme.

The recipes date from the late 1940s and into the 50s, and looking at the few main course recipes and their plain style (roast meat and plain cooked vegetables) I speculate that these were invariably cooked from memory or in the most straight-forward manner; while the desserts, with their measurements and weights, were the ones to notate.

Or was she simply a sweet-toothed granny?

More wine & food repairing

Apropos of my piece on sauvignon blanc and food pairings, where I debated the merits of making SB work so hard, I participated in a menu paired solely to bubblies last Wednesday night. Since I had also helped with the wine and food matches, I was now partly responsible for the results. The wines were the bubblies of Graham Beck with the food from the Showroom kitchen. And though the evening was again a success, it should be seen in the “experimental” category as regards its certain propriety. Continue reading “More wine & food repairing”

Strange relationships

Like a ship in the night, like a Marie Celeste on the seas of Bree Street, Mishcuisine floats bright lit and glowing an ethereal green. And after a number of attempts, all thwarted by very wordly disincentives (closed now for lunch, no power in the building, the credit card machine doesn’t work) we entered the realm last night.

A group of four, or number down from six even before we walked through the inconspicuous door, we sat – the only table in the restaurant, both down and upstairs. Neatly laid tables all around, all set and lit. Upstairs bold art and more welcoming tables. And no people.
Continue reading “Strange relationships”