Rust en Vrede

I’m not sure that waking up, in eager anticipation of dinner that night, is normal? Chef Fabio Daniel at Rust en Vrede made every moment of my day worthwhile. Over a glass of Champagne we chatted about his menu and inspiration. The amuse bouche of Italian sausage served hamburger-style, alongside a carrot macaron was enjoyed whilst he shared some insights into how his style has evolved. Having taken over from the lauded chefs he had worked under, he has defined his craft into his own unique cuisine with a French foundation, elevated by his heritage from Italy and Brazil, using South African ingredients. This he has done with aplomb and a sense of playfulness, perfectly. Fabio grew up in the citrus region of Sao Paulo, his wife is from Citrusdal. “We are united by the orange,” he laughs, so do not be surprised to see a touch of citrus. He loves to cook what he eats, and the philosophy of the farm is to share what they love eating and drinking. Be assured that your main course will be paired with one of the superlative (red) wines from Rust en Vrede.

My smoked tuna with miso, asparagus and peanut brittle was as well appreciated as my man’s cured venison with avocado, Rooibos and mushroom. I savoured the scallop with pork belly, cauliflower and lemon pepper pearls whilst enduring just a touch of order envy for the pan-seared langoustine with pickled turnip and fennel. The lamb loin with tamarind, white beans and tomato chutney was a robust dish served with restraint, as was the picanha with pineapple and black bean farofa. The pre-dessert of Doce De Queijo which exquisitely combines Fabio’s Italian and Brazilian roots – cheese and butterscotch – a tribute to a memory of the cheese and coffee shared in his grandmother’s house. It was sublime in its simplicity.

I indulged in the chocolate dessert with pistachio, citrus and brandy, plus managed to sneak in a taste of the Dulcey cheesecake with apple sorbet, marshmallow and ginger. Both heavenly. It was an evening to remember, each interaction impressive, from the warm welcome to the last bites of chocolate served in a beautiful wooden box.

Congratulations and thank you to Rust en Vrede for being a StreetSmart supporter for a decade.

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Showcasing Mother Nature at her best

At Avondale in Paarl there is sincere synchronicity between what is happening in the seasons, in the soil, and on the plate at Faber restaurant. Simplicity is the order of the day for chef Dale Stevens, who, when asked about his cuisine, says he is, “Showcasing Mother Nature”. He is, beautifully. Ingredients are sourced mainly on the farm, which is a challenge. “Today we have mushrooms, tomorrow we may not. The squirrels eat what we are about to harvest, so supply in inconsistent. I forage daily, and have taught the chefs to do the same,” says Dale. Hard when your aim is ultimately to achieve consistency.

I was delighted to come in from the cold to be greeted with a roaring fire, joined by a fellow food-loving, writing globe-trotting colleague who was equally entranced by the setting and ethos of the estate. Having recently launched their Quevri wines, there was much fuel for lively conversation, and we were delighted to taste both these wines, the Chenin Blanc, and a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

A board of large porcini mushrooms foraged that morning by chef Dale was converted into a light pasta dish, enjoyed after a delicious celeriac tagliatelle served with a 64°C egg and pickled garlic. Interesting to note that 90 eggs are harvested daily. The free-range duck breast was cooked to perfection with preserved quince, wilted Swiss chard and Jerusalem artichokes. The dessert provided a fitting grande finale, prepared and served by pastry chef Amone Jacobs. A thin slice of roasted apple with pear puree, toasted pecan nut and yoghurt ice cream. Yum.

Head there for a delightful Winter experience with warm and engaging service in the most authentic, biodynamic setting.

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Sandwiched between the covers…

This week we celebrated the start of Winter and the downpours that are filling our dams in the Cape. We also patted some winners on the back and rejoiced at the launch of our Secret Season online Gourmet Guide magazine. Whilst we sip hot drinks and stay warm, I always think of those who do not share the same comforts. I applaud people who do something to make a change.

Talking of change, we will be slowly but surely moving our blog onto our website www.gourmetguide.co.za. We don’t want to lose you, join and journey with us.

STREETSMART

Loud applause from the Gourmet Guide team for Melanie Burke, chairman and original member of StreetSmart, for putting her feet ‘where her mouth is’! She is walking 120 km of the Camino in Spain in June to raise funds and awareness. Join her. StreetSmart SA is a registered Public Benefit and non-profit organisation. It funds education, skills training and programmes that reunite families. It is predominantly restaurants all over South Africa that contribute to the funds by putting a voluntary donation of R5 onto the bill. Please donate to this cause. A donation pledge form is available online on our website: http://www.streetsmartsa.org.za/donation-form

SHORTMARKET CLUB

It was a treat to dine at one-plated Shortmarket Club, where chef Wes Randles gives discerning diners exactly what they desire. The décor is dramatic yet not detracting from the classical cuisine served in simple, contemporary style. The New York, clubby feel with waiters in white jackets, some executing tableside service, is what has cemented this restaurant in the hearts of locals and visitors alike, with his cuisine. As a chef Wes has walked a classical French path, and his menu is a current take on classical food. He is celebrating his history as a chef by cooking old recipes with imagination. Sleek, stylish, uncontrived – like the setting.

The tuna tartare competed with the roasted quail for my delight-of-the-night award, but my man sang the praises of the duck liver and foie gras parfait. Plating is simple, predominantly on black plates, but the flavours and techniques are not. If it is more Asian-style and casual that you are seeking, then slip next door to The Commissary.

Having recently returned from an eye-opening trip to Japan, Wes is as enthusiastic as ever, and shared his enlighted perspective on running a business, “In Japan they have less staff, with more skills, which means that there are fewer hands on the food. We are, after all, in the people business.” It is this level of wisdom that will stand Wes in good stead in his new role, that of dad to baby Jack, who arrived just hours after our meal. Thank you Jack for ensuring that it did not disturb a delightful dinner, and welcome to our wonderful world! Watch out for their amazing Prix Fixe lunch Winter special, three courses for R320. We hope that sons and daughters all over SA will be looking at the Gourmet Guide magazine (www.gourmetguide.co.za/gourmetguide/) for winter specials. Unsure of how to treat Dad? Buy him one of the last issues of the printed guide in Woolworths, or simply spoil him with the link to the online magazine.

GREENHOUSE

Another Green Season special to take advantage of is at Greenhouse restaurant at Cellars Hohenhort, a beautiful Relais & Châteaux property that nestles in green, leafy Constantia. Here chef Farrel Hirsch has settled into the big footprints and legacy of Peter Tempelhoff, admirably. The reminders are the butcher bird serving of canapés, and the respect of terroir. South African flavours abound, and service is sterling from start to finish – warm, friendly and very informative. Fellow writers (and some impressive wines) were good company as we sped our way through an efficiently, yet not rushed, service of some superlative dishes. A touch of theatre added to the fun, but even without it, each dish was memorable. Prawns were cooked on a hot rock under a glass dome. Each dish made its mark, but the one that gave such a sense of place was the beetroot dessert – appearing to be so fresh that they are still ‘growing’ in a terracotta pot.

Congrats to the winners who will be receiving the fabulous prizes that were featured in our Autumn issue from Deep South Distillery, Karen Dudley (Jacana Media) and wines from Great Domaines. Ailene de Villiers, Tania van Zyl, Jamie de Wet, Di Paterson, Jurie Venter, Anne Hoffman and David Starley.

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to write I go. Whilst you are taking advantage of dining out in all the top restaurants, I will be writing about them, safely ensconced on an island where there are no distractions other than blazing sunshine. I will have plenty to share upon my return. Meanwhile, stay warm, and eat up a storm.

The gourmet journey from town to country, nutrition to sustainability

COUNTRY LIFE features fine country chefs in each issue, what a treat to meet up with two chefs who will be highlighted in future editions. Mynhardt Joubert’s kitchen in Paarl is a warm, eclectic, intimate environment in which he entertains between 10 and 30 guests with enviable bon viveur. The shoot was a visual explosion of colourful splendour at which photographer Francois Pistorius seamlessly and creatively captured each nuance of the setting, the delicious dishes and Mynhardt’s generous and warm personality. The next day it was off to one-plated Chef’s Warehouse at Maison to shoot talented chef and co-owner David Schneider, to capture the clucking chickens and friendly pig – before an array of beautiful, innovative dishes came out of the kitchen with skill and dexterity. Perfectly sourced, seasoned and presented, each one worthy of oohs and aahs. I managed the treat of reviewing the restaurant last week, and the tasty snapshots will remain etched in my memory until the mag hits the street. The ultimate treat for me is always to reflect and write about the experiences and the people who make them stand-outs.

Chefs Warehouse Maison

Sustainability is one of the many criteria carefully considered when evaluating restaurants for plate ratings and awards in the JHP Gourmet Guide. Iconic chef Luke Dale Roberts of three-plated restaurant The Test Kitchen and winner of the 2019 SWISS Culinary Innovation Award joined the ‘Chefs for Change’ initiative in Kenya this week. Their aim? To protect the planet and its people by transforming lives through the provision of sustainable sources of protein and providing local fish farmers with access to high-value markets to increase their incomes. We applaud Luke for joining other respected chefs in highlighting the need for ethical sourcing and responsible practices.

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At a farm much closer to home, boasting acres of beauty, is Stanford Valley Guest Farm. Chef Marc Robert is teaming up with Giant Periwinkle wine maker, Pierre-Jacques Rabie, to bring you the ultimate seven-course tasting menu experience. Head to the valley on Saturday 8 June to experience true tranquillity before enjoying an evening of superb country food, wine and art, at R695 per person.

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Nourish at Santé Wellness Retreat and Spa has launched a five-course lunch inspired by the seasons. Using fresh ingredients sourced from their estate, the menu offers a guilt-free eating-experience that is nutritional and preservative free. Stay healthy. Book for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, at a cost of R395.

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Be sure to relax this weekend before Monday…when you can devour our Winter issue of the Gourmet Guide online magazine, free for you to read, download, print and share.

Stellenbosch steals a little of my heart…

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.

TERRIOR

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.

CAVALLI

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.

Salsify for a special occasion

History is visible in visual splendour at Salsify at the Roundhouse, so let me first share a little of my personal history before we celebrate theirs.

My introduction to my mother-in-law was at the age of 13 years, and she has been an enduring inspiration in my culinary journey. We share recipes, recipe books (and of course, love the same man!) In early days, she would expose me to ingredients that I had never heard of, and in her quest to perfect a dish, like a flan, was known to make a few dozen and top them with outlandish combinations. Combinations which now are the norm. While her family groaned, I was intrigued. Her avocado ice cream was new and novel in the 70s, ice cold it was heavenly and different, but as it melted it was hideous, so yes, I too suffered along the way. I am grateful that she raised a son who has the love of food and wine flowing in his veins. For her birthdays we take her somewhere special for lunch where her taste buds will be teased with inventive flavour and texture combinations. This year? Salsify.

The current seven-course tasting menu offers a broad spectrum of ingredients and dishes that showcase the season well. We opted for the lighter four-course option (excellent value at R395) starting with a 63-degree hen’s egg with chestnut, and a sherry and red onion cream – delightful in its texture contrast. For starters, the older, yet more adventurous Mrs Handley, opted for the sashimi with tamarind and yuzu dressing, nettle and ginger. She is still talking about it…before she devoured the miso-grilled octopus with fennel and white grape, cured tofu and jellied aubergine – equally delicious. The lamb rib and loin with toasted garlic dauphinoise, burnt and braised leek, boasted pungent flavour, contrasting with gentle presentation. The delicate portions of both desserts, the satsuma ice with tonka bean panna cotta, granadilla curd and lemongrass sorbet and the quince caramel tart with rhubarb, hibiscus and brown-butter ice cream, were superb.  Humble, yet accomplished chef Ryan Cole needed to be lured out of the kitchen to accept our lavish compliments. It was as he was getting used to the limelight in the openness of The Test Kitchen that he and Luke Dale Roberts opened this gem.

After enjoying sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean during our meal, despite cloud cover, we took a moment to absorb and appreciate the innovative style in the former hunting lodge of Sir Charles Somerset. Take time to explore the inventive decor, conceptualized and crafted by Sandalene Dale Roberts, like bold graffiti that exposes more about the infamous Dr James Barry, who posed as a man. Whilst admiring the sculpture in reception by Otto du Plessis, the very attentive staff shared the vision behind this masterpiece.

Allow me to leave you with a taste of intrigue so you put Salsify on your secret-season must-dine-at list.

THE COMMISSARY POP-UP

If you are Jo’burg-based and have heard all the ooh’s and ahhh’s about Cape Town’s street-food king, The Commissary, you are in for a pleasant awakening. Popping up in Rosebank at Publik Wine Bar for just five days, chef Wes Randles and Simon Widdison will shake the Jo’burg food scene. Keeping their globally-influenced concept of transformative and delicious street food (NO FRILLS) they’ll be showcasing their talents from Tuesday 28 May to Saturday 1 June from 18h00. There are no bookings, the demand will be high, so get there early to avoid missing the pop.

SEASONS TO CELEBRATE…COMING UP…

It was in good company that I discovered more about The Four Seasons properties in Seychelles and at The Westcliff in Jozi. A group of inquisitive journalists met the dynamic management team of this prestigious group over dinner at The Stack in Cape Town, whilst sipping superb Cavalli wines. Over dinner they shared their passion for these unique, drawcard destinations. My love affair with the beautiful island has been re-awakened as our Gourmet Guide online magazine team starts preparing for a future island-style edition…

I’m still celebrating the sightings of cherry blossoms in my sleep before I dream of Japanese cuisine! One of my pleasures is sharing my tastes and travels with you…watch out for my account of a bucket-list trip in the Winter Gourmet Guide magazine, to be released on 1 June.

Tokara

As the vineyards of Stellenbosch change their colours from green to orange and yellow, there is a young chef who is embracing this quiet season to define her craft. Trips to New York and Spain are sure to broaden the horizons of Carolize Coetzee. Her skill is obvious, demonstrated on every plate, her heritage forged with heirloom recipes from her mother and gran. ‘Plaas kos’ and foods that evoke memories and nostalgia are her trademark. This cuisine is different from the legacy left by chef Richard Carstens, from whom she took over at the end of 2018. He favoured Asian-inspired, gastronomy-influenced cuisine, Carolize favours whatever is growing in front of her eyes in the garden at Tokara.

We arrived at the estate allowing enough time to enjoy the setting, a wine tasting and to drink in the view. Tokara commands the best views of the valley, and with award-winning wines, Carolize has been given a great stage on which to perform. “Here we serve fresh, local produce, and every recipe and ingredient means something. New ideas come from the garden, old memories come to the fore. I remember my gran making biscuits and vetkoek whilst we were stealing raw dough and her hitting us on our hands,” Carolize reminisces.

Her first-choice ingredient is fish, which she sources from ABALOBI. “You can play it up, play it down, it is simple and versatile.” The Mauritian sea bass, farmed, is flown in daily.

It was the sea bass which she prepared with to perfection, served with fennel and pancetta (accompanied by Tokara’s Director’s White Reserve). My man had the lamb with ratatouille-style veg and smoked tomato paste, generous in portion and flavour, perfectly paired with Tokara’s Syrah.

Our starters too were generous, the beetroot and pea mousse for me, the parsnip with bacon dust and brioche for my man. Our desserts deserved applause and again, substantial yet delicately served. Gooseberry clafoutis with gingerbread crumb and basil ice cream was as delicious and rich as the chocolate fondant with coconut ice cream and passion fruit.

As I complimented Carolize on an impressive lunch I asked how she defines her cooking style. “You take a little piece of everyone, all the chefs you have worked with, to shape yourself. Some inspire, some show you what you don’t want to be, but everyone has shaped me.”

The Pot Luck Club and KLEIN JAN

THE POT LUCK CLUB

Elevating yourself to six stories above ground level to lunch at the Pot Luck Club is a treat. By reputation you know that this two-plated restaurant will exceed expectations. Chef Jason Kosmas has worthy credentials and skills gleaned during his Chef’s Warehouse days and is now embracing the opportunity of working alongside Luke Dale Roberts. It is a delight to see him rise to this challenge with aplomb. Chatting before lunch was almost as good as the grub! In addition to his experience he has good genes, given by a Greek dad and Italian mother, “Eating is all about being around a table together,” he says of his heritage. “It is amazing to walk in here and not have to fix anything, it works well. I have slotted in to run it as it should be.” Having applied for the senior sous chef position at The Test Kitchen, he then got a call offering him the change of leading the Pot Luck team. And true pot luck, with regular changes and surprises, is part of the plan.

The menu is divided into Pot Luck Family Favourites, Salty, Sour, Umami, Bitter and Sweet ending. His dishes are perfectly plated without being fussy, flavours are robust and harmoniously combined, with the result that one struggles to say no to another, and then another, tantalizing dish. He insisted that I, and my guest, should try all the new dishes. Who am I to complain, I love being told what to do…

The Doenang-glazed tuna with kimchi cabbage, ssamjang and tofu purée, fabulous. My food-muscle memory was woken with the fish sliders and peri-peri chicken, as good as in the past.  He highly recommended the venison. The springbok loin with sauce vierge, fermented black bean jalapeno crispy vermicelli noodles and shaved walnuts is piquant and robust, creating its own umami. The truffle and asparagus tart fine with porcini hollandaise and poached quail eggs, delicate – a lovely contrast in the umami section. The sweet ending was superb for someone who boasts not to have a sweet tooth – try the raspberry curd with burnt Swiss meringue, citrus shortbread and pistachio – or better still, wait until the delectable olive oil cake makes its appearance on the menu – I will be there.

KLEIN JAN

Marlene van der Westhuizen, the newest member of the Gourmet Guide team, caught up with Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen this week to find out more about his forthcoming venture of opening Klein JAN in 2020. All will be revealed in our Winter Gourmet Guide online magazine, to be released on 1 June.

If you haven’t already read the Autumn issue, visit www.gourmetguide.co.za/gourmetguide, free for you to read, download and print.

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Applauding all the way

THE INSIDE JOB

BY SANDALENE DALE ROBERTS

“It’s a celebration of everyone who works with us,” said Sandalene proudly as she welcomed the team, family and media to the launch of her book. It’s a big family, a tribe that shares the life of achieving excellence. Now it has been shared to inspire anyone who has dined at any of the Luke Dale Roberts restaurants.

Extracts from Luke’s diary, revealing quotes, emotive photography and handwritten notes – the book is a collection of visual treats. It’s personal, a true share. Sandalene thanked her two men (Luke and Finley), her parents who were present, and the individuals who made it happen – each person highlighted in the book was easily identifiable from a caricature badge, a collection of which features on the cover. Their sense of pride was palpable.

Cocktails and canapes, the recipes for which are in the book, were sipped by an appreciative audience in the courtyard and light room of The Test Kitchen.

The book, at R970 is available exclusively from the Test Kitchen, Pot Luck Club, Shortmarket Club, and Salsisfy.

THE DISTELL INTER HOTEL CHALLENGE

BY SHOWCOOK

It was during a quick chat to Test Kitchen sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka at the book launch that I discovered that he was the first-ever winner of the wine steward category in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge.

The challenge, now in its seventh year, has been launched at a series of sumptuous functions around SA – Johannesburg, Durban, two in the winelands, and the last, at the 12 Apostles in Cape Town. On a glorious evening glamorously-dressed guests gathered on the lawns to witness not only a spectacular sunset, but whales playing in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s this kind of attention to detail that one has begun to expect from Annette Kesler and Chania Morrit-Smith of Showcook, who engineer this worthwhile initiative. It makes a unique and valuable contribution to the industry, giving talent a platform on which to learn, grow and shine. The candidates in the chef, sommelier and now concierge categories were introduced by their executive chefs and managers of the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, the One&Only, Vineyard Hotel, Southern Sun Cape Sun and SunSquare City Bowl, the President Hotel and Marriot Crystal Towers. They were charming and engaging, nerves and all, and I wish each and every one of them the very best of luck in the forthcoming months as they compete to be crowned the best in their categories.