The way to a man’s heart, they say, is through his stomach. Mine too, and through my eyes. I love the winelands as the seasons change from Autumn to Winter, the leaves start falling and my winter appetite arrives. I want to eat, paint, write and…and return.
A midweek escape with fellow food lovers and writers to multiple award-winning Kleine Zalze Wine Estate was worth the effort. Congratulations are in order – they have been named the Best New World Producer – for the second year. In good company we enjoyed a sneak peak of their good-value Winter special. Chef Michael Broughton is a master of simplicity, creating comforting dishes that are robust in flavour, yet served with finesse. His sauces are sublime. I took it easy on his delicious breads (baked twice daily with ‘Sandy’, a sour-dough starter that originated 14 years ago) whilst sipping the Kleine Zalze MCC Rosé, knowing I had to leave space for what would be a superb lunch. The fennel-cured and smoked trout with horseradish and Vichyssoise (which I could have devoured all on its lonesome) was paired with the Kleine Zalze barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc. A generous portion of braised shoulder and grilled rack of Karoo lamb au jus with fregula, pickled mustard seeds, peas and bagna cauda, was hearty and comforting – a perfect companion for their Syrah. Having really relaxed and ignored the time, I quickly tasted three desserts, all served with ice cream, before I leapt up to head home. The pistachio soufflé and the poached pineapple were as decadent as the crunchy hazelnut-centred cutie pie.
Their Winter special – two courses with two glasses of wine at R295 or three courses and two glasses (cellar or vineyard selection) at R395 are enough to get you out of your slippers and into Stellenbosch.
RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX
Being asked to present a talk on ‘What the world wants’ at the Relais & Châteaux chef and sommelier indaba for their teams from Africa and the Indian Ocean properties was an honour indeed. We congregated at Cellars Hohenhort, then wound our way to Delaire Graff for an interactive session of sharing delicious journeys. I was enthralled when Ellerman House sommelier Manuel Cabello stated that, “wine is the sauce for the food”. Sunshine did the occasion justice as we sat on the terrace to enjoy a wine tasting against the breathtaking backdrop. We finished our morning of shared learning appreciating the talents and cuisine of Virgil Kahn at two-plated Indochine restaurant. He impressed the discerning audience with his Afro-Asian flavour combinations and inimitable flair, every bite-sized morsel creating unforgettable impact. It was my pleasure to give all delegates a copy of the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide (as we have no stock of the current guide, yay!). At Ellerman House we cemented friendships, sipped Champagne and enjoyed canapé as day gave way to night.
Winter is the time for trying all those restaurants you have been reading about. Chef Michael Deg has refined his flavours to perfection on this equestrian estate. One-plated Cavalli restaurant is the perfect backdrop for a chef of this calibre, and the garden on the estate constantly inspires him. His love affair with a simple ingredient is made evident, with style and sophistication, on the plate. Nature’s relationship between the soil of Stellenbosch and the seasons are in obvious harmony. Some dishes are simply presented, like the barley and mushroom risotto with a delicate Parmesan custard. Others are infinitely styled with precision, like the seven-hour slow-cooked octopus with fermented black garlic aioli, squid ink crisps and radish, topped with a fynbos dressing. The main course of confit duck leg with orange, fennel marmalade, mustard pommes mousseline and black kale, will keep even large local’s hunger at bay. Michael excels at creating vegan and vegetarian dishes that the strictest carnivore will swop sides for. A last stop to the winery to buy wine that we had enjoyed with our cuisine was a must. I will return…perhaps it will be in the same mode of transport as the guests next to us – in a helicopter! R350 for the 4-course menu, R425 with Cavalli wine pairing and the four-course vegetarian menu at R300 or R375 paired with Cavalli wines.