Thursday, September 08, 2011

110901 Main Ingredient's MENU - Pizza and Beer, Seductive Sauvignons, World Chefs Tour, Risotto of Chicken and Broad Beans, Durban trip, leisure activities and restaurant special offers

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Two delightful aliens: A grey squirrel in a Franschhoek oak
Pizza and Beer     We were invited to a very convivial 8th birthday celebration at Sense of Taste in Maitland on Thursday – one of our best suppliers, they are extremely successful and professional caterers and they do superb cookery classes - the “hands on” kind of class which we so prefer to the “demonstration” classes. We discovered that they have quite another talent and that is for making fantastic pizza. These are crisp, with a very thin base and the fillings are sensational. We loved the Middle Eastern influenced one with melting lamb and cumin (they have opened a branch in Istanbul), the spicy chicken tikka pizza, and the smoked salmon with caper berries. There were lots of other sensational flavours as well. Sadly, you can’t order them in the evening, but if you have a corporate event in Cape Town during the day or a lunch, they can be delivered to you or your office. Check out their website or phone Sense of Taste on +27 21 511 0426.
Seductive Sauvignons festival      Wine Concepts’ Sauvignon festival which covers their choice of both the best Sauvignons blanc and the best Cabernet sauvignons is held once a year at the Vineyard Hotel and is certainly one of the highlights of our wine tasting year.
We tasted many of the sauvignons: lots of favourites, some new farms and some very improved wines but only managed to taste one of the Cabernet sauvignons. It is just not possible to taste that many wines in one evening, even if one spits and doesn’t swallow - which Lynne does with reluctance but John (our driver) has learned to do of necessity. It looks like a good year for this white wine and we hope to re-taste many of these wines as they get a little older because many of them had been very recently bottled and released. There were some magnificent older wines available for tasting (a special feature of this event) and it proves our point that you don’t have to drink Sauvignon blanc while its young, because it does age fantastically well. Favourite examples were the Oak Valley 2006 (which was as fresh and lively as it was when first released), Cape Point and Miravel 2006, Klein Constantia Perdeblokke and Paul Cluver 2005, and Groote Post and Hermanuspietersfontein 2007. Lynne’s favourite wine of the evening was another ‘aged’ wine, the 2009 Black Oystercatcher Blanc Fumé – a wooded Sauvignon Blanc which is in very short supply. Only 600 litres were made by the winemaker for his own use but he has been persuaded to release it onto the market. It is very French in style, with lots of minerality and elegance.
2009 was an exceptionally good vintage for Sauvignon blanc and we have several good examples at home which we are enjoying, including the Elgin Vintners, which was on the show. Lynne thinks that the wine which will develop best from this year’s vintage is the Bouchard Finlayson which has lots to offer, full and perfumed and a corker on the palate. Springfield, Nitida, Cederberg and Miravel all delivered great wines as expected and they, too, can be expected to improve if you keep them. La Barry from Martin Meinert is also definitely one to try, although the sample we tasted had only been bottled a few days earlier and was very closed. Many producers had only just released their 2010 wines and these showed a delicious maturity. These included Black Oystercatcher, Cape Point, Groot Constantia, Constantia Uitsig, South Hill, Louis, Shannon, First Sighting and Sterhuis.
After the festival, we and some other visitors and exhibitors decided to have supper at the Vineyard’s The Square restaurant before the drive home. We both had a lovely seafood pasta in a marinara sauce. It is on the a la carte menu at the cost of R110. The hotel is currently running a special of dinner and a night at the hotel followed by breakfast, which is very good value indeed. Our friends were taking advantage of this special and the three course menu looked very good indeed.
World Chefs Tour against Hunger     You may have been aware from the huge newspaper advertisements that there were foreign chefs visiting for the Bidvest World Chefs Tour against Hunger. We saw them advertise only three countries: Holland, USA and Egypt and, as it was a busy week and these cuisines are not particularly inspiring to us, we didn’t plan to go. Apparently there were 200 chefs from 44 countries here for the tour. Then, on Saturday morning at the Biscuit Mill, Pete Goffe Wood told us what a fantastic meal he had had with the Singapore team who were cooking at the Holiday Inn Garden Court, just off the Mandela Boulevard. On the spur of the moment, and because Lynne knows and absolutely loves Malaysian food (she used to eat it at least once a week in London for many, many years and has visited Malaysia) we decided to book and go that night. Cost was R155 per person, a portion of this going to the charity. Pete did say that the two top chefs would be cooking at the Banquet on Saturday, but that the other chefs would be cooking at the hotel. Sadly, they were not and the food was a bit of a disaster.
It seemed as if it had all been prepared a lot earlier (possibly the day before?), and was languishing in bains marie, dried out, overcooked and in pools of oil. The presentation was appalling, dirty spoons lying around and everything looked like slop. The hotel staff were mostly unable to tell us what we were eating and the added complication was that Egyptian food dishes were mixed up with the Singapore. The prawn curry had all been eaten by 7.30 and all that was left in the dish was a little sauce and a few large prawn shells. There was an enormous dish of expensive scallops in a spiced sauce. They were ruined because they had stewed to hard disks, such a waste. We did manage to taste the chilli soft shell crab Pete had so sung about, but it was dry and not hot - we think someone had been a bit shy with the chilli - and it had little texture and flavour. The rice was transparent and crisp with age, the egg on it solid rubber. One dish they could not ruin was a Nonya Laksa where the noodles, fish balls and bean sprouts had to have the Laksa sauce poured onto them at the last moment and this tasted fresh and very lively indeed, if a little oily. An in-house cook did grill some fragrant fresh chicken satay while we were there, but provided no dipping sauce. Luckily there was some Gado Gado salad covered in peanut sauce, so we added some of that. Some of the dessert dishes had been placed next to savoury so we had a few surprises eating our main courses, like finding an Egyptian sweetmeat which we had mistaken for a meatball. There was one super Malaysian dessert hidden in a lidded pot of fragrant ginger and lemongrass broth – a sweet rice dumpling stuffed with sweet soya paste. The other desserts were a disgrace! See our pictures which include the childrens’ party dessert plate: green lime jelly, packet chocolate mousse, packet crème caramel and a melk tart. And some of the food was a complete mystery – Lynne got a huge surprise tasting some of them as they were completely unidentifiable as food.
Besides the residents of the hotel and an entire visiting football team (who we think were a bit shell shocked with the food selection), there was only one other foodie couple eating there. We enjoyed comparing notes with them. If we had seen this advertised earlier in the week, we would have been there when the Singapore chefs were cooking. Just before we left, the manager gave us a menu of what ‘should have been’. Made you weep. We hope the money we paid went to the charity.
Sadly, we think that this exercise was very badly done and we feel so embarrassed for the chefs who were not given any publicity. We met several senior Czech Republic chefs at the Biscuit Mill that morning and gave them tastes of some of our local specialities, which they loved. But we hadn’t known beforehand that they were here, either.
This week’s Vinimark trade show was the latest in the current season of wine tastings hosted by wine distributors. Favourite wines we tasted were Altydgedacht’s The Ollo (a delicious blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Chenin and Semillon), Creation’s Sauvignon blanc, Viognier, Merlot and Shiraz Grenache, Fryer’s Cove’s subtly salty Sauvignon and Pinot Noir (the vineyards are right on the coast north of Lambert’s Bay), Le Riche Cabernet Reserve 2008 and 2010 Chardonnay, Morgenhof Estate 2005 red blend, Morkel’s Bellevue Pinotage 2009 (delicious fruit with a serious backbone, possibly the best wine Wilhelm Kritzinger has made in ten years), Atticus and Tumara red blends and their wild buchu/eucalyptus Malbec and Krone’s Nicolas Charles Krone Marque 1 MCC (Not for Lynne, but John liked the mature flavours). These tastings are so often quite social and one seldom gets to taste all the wines. We missed Rustenberg, Warwick, Villiera, Veenwouden and Spier, among a few others. Lynne has to mention the varied canapés served during the wine tasting. They were particularly good – original, nothing too spicy, they all were very freshly made and they went very well with the wine. And, most important, there were plenty of them. Well done One and Only.
Risotto of Chicken and Broad Beans
Drift Farm at the Biscuit Mill has had superb young broad beans for the last couple of weeks. They inspired Lynne to make this risotto and she now uses the Masterchef method of shaking the pan instead of stirring it. She finds it much easier and far less tiring and you do still get a lovely creamy risotto. Do make sure that your cooking temperature is not too high, the rice should simmer, not boil. It should not every stick to the bottom and should stay nice and liquid and creamy.
1 T olive oil – 1 T butter - 1 small onion, finely chopped - 2 cloves of garlic, crushed - 500g Arborio or Carnaroli rice – a large pot of good chicken stock– 150ml dry white wine -1 t fresh thyme leaves – 1 kg broad beans – 400g cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces – 1 T butter – 100g grated parmesan cheese – pepper and salt
De-pod the broad beans, boil them for two minutes, drain and take off the hard skins of very large beans and discard them. In a separate pan, heat the stock and have a ladle ready. Fry the onion in the oil in a heavy bottomed pan until soft but not brown, add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir till it is all covered in the oil and butter. Pour on the wine and let it bubble and reduce for a few minutes. Cook on a medium heat, not a high one. Start ladling on the stock, a ladle at a time. Shake the pan rather than stir and when the stock is reducing, add another ladle. Keep giving the pan a good shake every now and then. Stir if you prefer to. When you see the rice is nearly ready, and getting nice and creamy, add the thyme, the chicken and the broad beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. With good stock you usually don’t need extra salt. Continue shaking the pan to incorporate everything and when the rice is cooked but still has a little bite, remove from the heat, stir in the butter and the cheese and rest for five minutes before serving. Serves 4.
Travel     As we told you last week, we will be paying a short visit to the land of John’s birth, Durban (his father was transferred and they left before John was a year old!), at the beginning tomorrow. We have quite a programme of restaurants and other places to visit, so you’ll hear about them in the next couple of weeks. MENU will come to you from Ballito next week.
Our products. We haven’t added anything new because of  our impending trip, but some of our suppliers are talking about some exciting new products and we’ll give you news of them when we come back.
We have a lot of fun putting MENU together each week and, of course, doing the things we write about, BUT making it possible for you to enjoy rare and wonderful gourmet foods is what drives our business. We stock a good range of ingredients and delicious ready-made gourmet foods. So, please have a look at our Product List and see what you need. You can contact us by email or phone, or through our website. We can send your requirements to you anywhere in South Africa. If you are following the various international foodie programmes on television, we have or can find lots of what some may call the strange and difficult things that they use.
Our market activities   We will not be at any markets in the next week, because of our travels in The Last Outpost of the British Empire (as it has fondly been called). We will be back at the Old Biscuit Mill’s brilliant, exciting and atmospheric Neighbourgoods Market on Saturday 10th between 9am and 2pm. The following Wednesday, we will be back at the Dean St Arcade in Newlands from 09h30 to 14h30 and at The Place at Cavendish the Friday after that.
Good food and wine continues to grow as a focal point for many people in the Western Cape and, to an extent, in other parts of the country. As a result, our list of Interesting Food and Wine Events has grown so much that it was making MENU too long for some of our readers. So we’ve taken it online. Click here to access it. You will need to be connected to the internet.
Our  list of Winter restaurant special offers continues to grow. Click here to access it. These 2011 Winter Specials have been sent to us by the restaurants or their PR agencies. We have not personally tried all of them and their listing here should not always be taken as a recommendation from ourselves. When we have tried it, we’ve put in our observations. We have cut out the flowery adjectives etc. we’ve been sent, to give you the essentials. Click on the name to access the relevant website. All communication should be with the individual restaurants.

1st September 2011
Remember - if you can’t find something, we’ll do our best to get it for you, and, if you’re in Cape Town or elsewhere in the country, we can send it to you! Check our product list for details and prices.
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
Postal address: 60 Arthurs Rd, Sea Point 8005
Our Adamastor & Bacchus© tailor-made Wine, Food and Photo tours take small groups (up to 6) to specialist wine producers who make the best of South Africa’s wines. Have fun while you learn more about wine and how it is made! Tours can be conducted in English, German, Norwegian or Dutch flavoured Afrikaans.
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 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. Our Avast! ® Anti-Virus software is updated at least daily and our system is scanned continually for viruses.
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