Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Week’s MENU. De Vrije Burger; A relaxing time up the West Coast; Leeto Restaurant in Paternoster; Russell's on the Port; West Coast Fossil Park; A cold soup. Salmorejo; Quando Mourvèdre Rosé

Fishing on the beach near Velddrif
*      De Vrije Burger
*      A relaxing time up the West Coast
*      Leeto Restaurant in Paternoster
*      Russell's on the Port
*      Travelling back 5 million years at the West Coast Fossil Park
*      This week’s MENU recipe is a cold soup. SALMOREJO
*      MENU’s Wine of the Week. Quando Mourvèdre Rosé


This is our first edition of MENU for 2018, after enjoying the summer and taking a well earned holiday. Our last media function was on the 12th of December and then it was time to proverbially pack up the work desks and relax. Well that was the theory but, of course, working at the pace we do, lots of things at home get neglected, so we spent a couple of weeks before Christmas cleaning, tidying and fixing. It becomes quite satisfying, seeing things you have meant to do for a long time finally finished and you do feel more organised, but we were beginning to get a bit obsessive when Christmas arrived. We got our tree up, doused the three year old Christmas pudding with more brandy and we had a very happy festive season with friends and family.
We did go and visit one new restaurant before Christmas, Bertus Basson's burger house in Plein Street in central Stellenbosch. Die Vrije Burger - it's a play on words, it’s named after the original Free Burgers in the Cape in the 17th Century and fits nicely into Bertus' concept! (And no, these burgers are not free). It is already popular with the students and locals and tourists, offering just one thing, a very good burger, with accompaniments, chips and a soft serve ice cream cone to finish. We do like his witty logo. 
After New Year, it was time to get away from the house, tidying, fixing and bemoaning the death of the garden and escape to one of our favourite places to chill out, the West Coast, a couple of hours’ drive north of Cape Town. We hired a simple self-catering cottage at the St Helena Bay Hotel for 9 nights and took with us piles of books, quite a lot of wine and some food that didn't need much preparation. We discovered two new West Coast restaurants - see the reviews below - and came back really relaxed and ready to dive right in to the 2018 media season. Harvest has begun.

One of our best chefs, but largely unrecognised and unsung, Garth Almazan, who was at Catharina's Restaurant at Steenberg for many years, had left and we heard that he was opening a restaurant in Paternoster at the Strandloper Boutique Hotel. We had this on our list of things to do when we were there on holiday and were absolutely delighted when their PR agent invited us to visit and sample the food. And we were not disappointed. Garth is a very good chef.

This is a small 15 room boutique hotel in Port Owen, owned by Russell Foster, a British restaurateur from Durham in Sutherland in England where he and his son-in-law own and run 12 restaurants. He told us he had come here to retire, found this place on auction, saw the potential, bought it and opened just 16 months ago. It has been a success. We had recommendations from people we know in Cape Town long before we decided to come up to this area for a holiday, so when Carmen Lerm of West Coast Way asked if we would like to visit it and write a review, we were very keen to oblige.


We have long wanted to visit this interesting place. Lynne studied Gemmology for the FGA in London and we are both fascinated by the environment, man. rocks, minerals and the earth's formation and history. We decided to go on our way back to Cape Town last Sunday and are so glad we did. It seems our delay played in our favour because just two months ago the brand new centre opened and it is almost as impressive as the fossils themselves. It is located on the R45 just off the R27 between Langebaan and Velddrif. And they are a National Heritage site, so they need funding.


This week’s MENU recipe is a cold soup. SALMOREJO 
We had a dinner for friends on their annual pilgrimage from Johannesburg last night. It is rather hot and muggy in the Cape at the moment, so a cold soup is not only easy to do, but is well appreciated
This is one of our best and easiest recipes, a cold fresh tomato soup, no cooking required. It is from the second Moro cookbook, Casa Moro.
Photo courtesy of Taste.com.au

2 garlic cloves – 1 kg ripe tomatoes (Roma or jam work well) – 5 tablespoons of olive oil - 100g white bread, no crusts, lightly crumbled - 1 or 2 tablespoons good quality sweet red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar – a pinch of caster sugar (optional) – sea salt and black pepper
Cut a small cross in the top of every tomato, this will help when peeling them Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes then remove, dip in cold water briefly and allow to cool off. Then peel, remove the cores and halve them. Crush the garlic with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste. Using a food processor or an electric hand-held blender, purée the tomatoes and bread until smooth. If there are many pips, strain through a sieve. With the machine running, add the garlic and then the olive oil. (I have to confess that the original recipe says 10 tablespoons of olive oil. 5 worked for us. Use your own discretion). When the oil has combined, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not particularly sweet. Put into the fridge for 2 hours to chill. Just before serving, check the seasoning once more. Add some iced water if it seems too thick. Traditionally, you serve it with chopped egg and jamon Serrano (cured ham). You can also use a mild chorizo if you can't get jamon.
As they suggested in the recipe, we took all the peel, skin and pith off a large orange, sliced it and then cut it into small wedges and added three to the bottom of each bowl – it is magic and a lovely surprise. Or just open a tin of naartjies (clementines), drain and add them. Serve with crusty sour dough bread or rolls.
We enjoyed this wine with this week's MENU recipe at a dinner party last night. It is a wonderful accompaniment to any dish with a tomato base and is a perfect summer wine. Light in texture with a nice mineral edge and a hint of cranberry. We buy this wine by the case; we are always surprised how well it goes with food, whether it is vegetarian, fish or fowl or meat.








18th January 2018

© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2017
PS If a word or name is in bold type and underlined, click on it for more information
Phones: +27 21 439 3169 / 083 229 1172 / 083 656 4169
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Recommendations of products and outside events are not solicited or charged for, and are made at the authors’ pleasure. All photographs, recipes and text used in these newsletters and our blogs are © John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus. Our restaurant reviews are usually unsolicited. We prefer to pay for our meals and not be paid in any way by anyone. Whether we are invited or go independently, we don’t feel bad if we say we didn’t like it. Honesty is indeed our best policy. While every effort is made to avoid mistakes, we are human and they do creep in occasionally, for which we apologise. This electronic journal has been sent to you because you have personally subscribed to it or because someone you know has asked us to send it to you or forwarded it to you themselves. Addresses given to us will not be divulged to any person or organisation. We collect them only for our own promotional purposes. If you wish to be added to our mailing list, please click here to send us a message and if you wish to be removed from our mailing list, please click here to send us a message.

This week’s MENU recipe is a cold soup. SALMOREJO

We had a dinner for friends on their annual pilgrimage from Johannesburg last night. It is rather hot and muggy in the Cape at the moment, so a cold soup is not only easy to do, but is well appreciated
This is one of our best and easiest recipes, a cold fresh tomato soup, no cooking required. It is from the second Moro cookbook, Casa Moro.
Photo courtesy of Taste.com.au 
2 garlic cloves – 1 kg ripe tomatoes (Roma or jam work well) – 5 tablespoons of olive oil - 100g white bread, no crusts, lightly crumbled - 1 or 2 tablespoons good quality sweet red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar – a pinch of caster sugar (optional) – sea salt and black pepper
Cut a small cross in the top of every tomato, this will help when peeling them Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes then remove, dip in cold water briefly and allow to cool off. Then peel, remove the cores and halve them. Crush the garlic with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste. Using a food processor or an electric hand-held blender, purée the tomatoes and bread until smooth. If there are many pips, strain through a sieve. With the machine running, add the garlic and then the olive oil. (I have to confess that the original recipe says 10 tablespoons of olive oil. 5 worked for us. Use your own discretion). When the oil has combined, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not particularly sweet. Put into the fridge for 2 hours to chill. Just before serving, check the seasoning once more. Add some iced water if it seems too thick. Traditionally, you serve it with chopped egg and jamon Serrano (cured ham). You can also use a mild chorizo if you can't get jamon.
As they suggested in the recipe, we took all the peel, skin and pith off a large orange, sliced it and then cut it into small wedges and added three to the bottom of each bowl – it is magic and a lovely surprise. Or just open a tin of naartjies (clementines), drain and add them. Serve with crusty sour dough bread or rolls.

MENU’s Wine of the Week. Quando Mourvèdre Rosé

We enjoyed this wine with this week's MENU recipe at a dinner party last night. It is a wonderful accompaniment to any dish with a tomato base and is a perfect summer wine.

Light in texture with a nice mineral edge and a hint of cranberry. We buy this wine by the case; we are always surprised how well it goes with food, whether it is vegetarian, fish or fowl or meat

The West Coast Fossil Park, Langebaanweg

Travelling back 5 Million years
We have long wanted to visit this interesting place. Lynne studied Gemmology for the FGA in London and we are both fascinated by the environment, man. rocks, minerals and the earth's formation and history. We decided to go on our way back to Cape Town last Sunday and are so glad we did. It seems our delay played in our favour because just two months ago the brand new centre opened and it is almost as impressive as the fossils themselves. It is located on the R45 just off the R27 between Langebaan and Velddrif. And they are a National Heritage site, so they need funding
The entrance
Necessary warnings, especially in summer. We didn't see any of these but they obviously are there, it is wild nature
We arrived in time for the 12 o'clock tour. This was our very well informed guide, Yaseen Whatney, waiting for the group to assemble
Resting in the shade and rehydrating
Yaseen giving us an introduction to the site. We will not spoil your own experience, go and find out for yourselves. There were children on our tour and they absolutely loved seeing the fossils and hearing about dinosaurs (more 10 million years ago) and later animals that roamed this area
It is just a short walk from the new centre in the middle of the picture to the tented fossil site
You walk on boards above the fossils and the guide points out bones of different animals to you and explains how they got there. It is fascinating
This was a phosphate mine for many years and they discovered the fossils underneath the phosphates when they ran out. Digging is still going on. If not the richest deposit of fossils from this period in the world, we were told it is one of the richest
A jawbone of an ancient short-necked, long-horned giraffe, the extinct Sivathere (sivatherium hendayi)
They have found the only fossils of the African bear (agriotherium africanum)  here; the only bear ever found south of the Mediterranean
A picture of what they must have looked like
Pointing to other fossils and answering questions
The archaeologists always dig in a grid pattern for record purposes
Quite amazing things have been found, some are exactly like the present day animal, others so different
You do get a chance to dig through a pile of tiny fossil remains. We were asked to see if we could find some fossils of tiny skinks, frogs and other tiny animals. These are their bones
lose and use the one below The dig is covered to protect it from the weather and wind. The Berg River used to come through here 5 million years ago and this is why there are fossils here
You can then visit the exhibitions (the exhibition venue is under construction, but should be ready soon) and amphitheatre. There was nothing on when we were there on a Sunday. but you might want to check out their programmes
lose and use the one below 2 A sculpture of a Sivathere is being made from fossils
A painting of what the river might have looked like
move up 2
Pollens were found in the dig and they are all plants that still exist, but just not in this area. It was quite sub tropical. They have planted many of these plants, so you can get an idea of what it might have looked like
A nice place to sit
They have a restaurant as well with lots of seating inside and out
And you will find them in social media
What is in the hole? An egg and an animal....
Do visit, we loved it. Tickets cost R50 for adults and less for pensioners and children

To Russell's on the Port in Port Owen for lunch

This is a small 15 room boutique hotel in Port Owen, owned by Russell Foster, a British restaurateur from Durham in Sutherland in England where he and his son-in-law own and run 12 restaurants. He told us he had come here to retire, found this place on auction, saw the potential, bought it and opened just 16 months ago. It has been a success. We had recommendations from people we know in Cape Town long before we decided to come up to this area for a holiday, so when Carmen Lerm of West Coast Way asked if we would like to visit it and write a review, we were very keen to oblige
The entrance. Finding Russell's is not difficult, there are signs pointing the way from the centre of Velddrif, which is on the mouth of the Berg River. You cross over the causeway past the salt pans and Cerebos sea salt plant and then as you enter Velddrif, turn left and follow the signs If you get lost just head for the Marina, the hotel is alongside it
The enclosed terrace restaurant
And the outer terrace restaurant where they seated us. The views are lovely. The umbrellas are very necessary as it was a gloriously hot day. One very clever adaptation that we have not seen before and we are surprised it hasn't caught on: all the umbrellas were on wheels, so they could be trundled about by the staff with ease as the sun moved across its arc
Lots of yachts moored nearby. There are plans to make an hotel jetty right in front of these steps so they will have direct access
The 4 star hotel is probably the same age as our 3 bed house in Sea Point which was (solidly) built in 1924. We have the same pillars, balustrades and arches but in a very much smaller scale. Lynne calls the style Early Cape Tuscan! They have recently acquired the second house down on the right and it is now a nine suite Guest lodge
The starter menu has lots of temptations and a good vegan option. The Head chef is Charl Coetzee who was previously at Spier wine farm and the Alphen hotel in Constantia. He is very into local and sustainable food where possible, and does forage for samphire on the local beaches and estuary. The restaurant can seat 90 people
The main course menu also presented us with difficult choices! We both chose the same course then realised we do need to write about different courses so we happily changed our order
They serve pizzas and, at the moment, are serving Sangria at the weekends
And the final temptations
We have heard that the breakfasts/brunch are also worth going for so we asked to photograph the menu, in case you are tempted
"Mine Host" Russell Foster joined us for a chat and told us about how he bought the hotel and some of his plans for the future. His son-in-law will be opening a craft brewery (they have one in the UK) and they will have a riverboat where they can take guests on trips up the river while enjoying a gourmet meal. He sings and while we were having lunch they played a tape of his music, a customer having requested it. They do have regular musical evenings at the hotel with different artists
Lynne's starter of Seared Norwegian Salmon was perfectly cooked. Crisp caramelisation on one side and yet still pink and moist and flaky inside. seasoned simply with Japanese Ponzu sauce - soy flavoured with a crisp Japanese lime like citrus and sesame. Salmon this fresh and good does not need gilding. On sliced avocado and green leaves with coriander sprouts and sesame seeds, it was dotted with paprika mayonnaise. The small fried cube in front was very clever. It is plain sushi rice, cubed and deep fried. A novel and really good addition of a small amount of carbohydrate
John ordered the Salt and Pepper squid, which Lynne did covet a bit. Beautifully cooked and well flavoured tempura coated baby squid tentacles and polpetti, crisp on the outside and tender within, it was dressed with black ink aioli, paprika mayonnaise, lemon, tomatoes and pea shoots
Lynne's salmon with its dressing and the inside opened to show how pink and moist it was
We had a bottle of one of our favourite West Coast wines from Groote Post, their Chenin Blanc 2017 Fresh, zesty, full of classic Chenin flavours with a tropical hint of guava and pineapple. It seems that the Pentz family (who own Groote Post) also like Russell's on the Port. It paired so well with the food
Lynne's main course was a large piece of well glazed Pork Belly, served on good creamy mashed potato, with seared onions, pak choy and an onion broth. The cracking was world class - the best for a long time, the pork tender and falling apart, if a tad too fatty for her. It needed a bit more seasoning and the vegetables were a little superannuated and undercooked
John chose the Moroccan Spiced Yellowtail, one of his preferred fishes, served with Israeli cous cous, an aubergine cream, olives, tomato, basil and some homemade labneh (fresh cheese) flavoured with herbs. It was also perfectly cooked - they know how to treat fish - moist and not at all dry as it is sometimes served in restaurants, which is why Lynne doesn't order it
A lazy afternoon on the terrace
We had a friendly visitor to our table, this small wagtail looking for scraps, he seems to be a regular
"Who is that handsome bird I can see?"
Oh, they tempted us into having desserts. Joneve was our friendly waitress.
Lynne risked the dairy allergy and went for Affogato (drowned in Italian) . It is an ice cream drowned in espresso coffee. It had grated chocolate on top of the ice cream, and in the base caramel chocolate and nuts. Wicked beyond belief and worth the suffering
It was accompanied by two banana beignet's. Crisp on the outside, but rather raw on the inside
John's Chocolate Brownie Sundae with pecan ice cream, a cherry, nuts and crumbs. He managed to wolf it down without blinking, so much did he enjoy it
The hotel under manager, Enver, then asked us if we would like to see some of the rooms in the Guest lodge so, always curious, off we went
This is a lovely suite with its own terrace facing the marina. Prices per night for two people are in the region of R1,650 to R1899. http://russellsontheport.co.za/
Another front suite ...
... which has its own balcony and direct pool access
The private pool
We had a really good lunch and will definitely return when next in the area. It is nice to see restaurants of this quality opening in this area, which has long been rather lacking in quality dining. Now someone just has to open something good in Britannia Bay. Thank you Russell, Chef and all the staff who were so helpful