Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Week’s MENU. Melissa's, Du Toitskloof winery; Ye Olde Tavern, Montagu; Mimosa Lodge, Montagu; De Wetshof and Arendsig tastings; A bubble at Graham Beck; lunch at Nuy on the Hill; Winter menu at Haute Cabrière

A tanker in one of the wonderful sunsets we see in winter
Midwinter brings a touch of peace to the hectic life we usually lead. We went to one of our favourite wine-producing areas, Midwinter brings a touch of peace to the hectic life we usually lead. We went to one of our favourite wine-producing areas, Robertson and its near neighbours Montagu and Bonnievale, with members of our wine club and had an enjoyable weekend visiting some of our favourite farms with good friends – and spent some time doing some essential sorting at home. But, a luta continua, as some say, and the pace is hotting up again, more of which next week, with members of our wine club and had an enjoyable weekend visiting some of our favourite farms with good friends – and spent some time doing some essential sorting at home. But, a luta continua, as some say, and the pace is hotting up again, more of which next week  
Mimosa Lodge, Montagu      Once a year Lynne organises a trip to some part of our rich Cape winelands for members of our wine club the Oenophiles. Last year we stayed at Laborie’s in Paarl, the previous year we were in Wellington at Dunston and this year we ventured to Montagu to stay at Mimosa Lodge. Montagu has lots of good accommodation but, nowadays, not so much wine, so the weekend featured some trips through the pass to Robertson and Bonnievale. Montagu is a lovely old country town filled with beautifully restored houses and lots of pub restaurants

Lunch at Melissa's, Du Toitskloof winery; supper at Ye Olde Tavern, Montagu         The trip to Montagu takes about 2 to 2½ hours and we wanted to stop along the way at Du Toitskloof winery near Rawsonville to buy some of their Nebbiolo, an Italian grape that produces wildness and richness in this cherry and spice supple red wine. It was also a chance to stop for some lunch
Tasting the wines of De Wetshof and Arendsig     Saturday morning in Montagu dawned fair but chilly and we set off for our first appointment for a splendid tasting at De Wetshof in Robertson. There are major road works on the road through the Montagu pass which will last up to 3 years as they are remaking the road, which was washed away in floods in recent years and they are also widening it, so blasting takes place twice a week, when the road is closed for a few hours. There is a stop and go procedure but we only ever had to wait about 2 minutes at the stop this weekend. SO if you plan to travel in that direction, do check out the situation so that it doesn't delay you
A bubble or two at Graham Beck, then lunch at Nuy on the Hill     Sunday morning in Montagu was warm and sunny at last and, after breakfast and checking out, we all wanted to explore the town a little. The Breyten Breytenbach festival was on and we headed for the art exhibition at the gallery in the KWV premises in town. Lynne was also on a crusade to find some fresh country eggs. There was some interesting art in the centre and there was a session going on in a back hall with a writer so we had to shush. There were some breathtaking quilts on display upstairs. Then we were off to Graham Beck winery to taste some of their MCC bubblies
Lunch from the winter menu at Haute Cabrière, Franschhoek     Last Tuesday, we headed off to Franschhoek and it was the first of three visits we will be making in the next two weeks. We had been invited to come and sample the winter menu of the new(ish) chef Dennis Strydom, who took over at the beginning of the year. It was another glorious Cape winter day
Recipe of the week - Clam chowder      This is an old winter favourite and we usually make it with tinned clams found in the supermarket. But this time Lynne found some raw frozen clams at a seafood wholesaler and wanted to try it using them.  If you want to make this super rich, you can add a cup of cream. We find this to be rich enough.
2 tins of clams - 4 rashers of fatty bacon, cut into small lardons - 1 T olive oil - 20 g butter - 1 large onion, finely chopped  - 1 stick of celery, finely chopped - sea salt - 2 or 3 large potatoes, cut into 1 cm dice - 1.5 Tblspns flour - 1 cup of clam juice - 1.5 cups full cream milk - 1 T fresh thyme leaves - 1 fresh bay leaf -  Tabasco sauce - Worcester sauce - freshly ground black pepper - 1 cup water - dry sherry
Drain the clams but KEEP the liquid aside.  Mince the clams if they are large. Fry the bacon in the oil until it is brown and crisp. Add the butter and the onions to the pot and season with some salt. Fry for five minutes until the onions are transparent. Add the celery and fry for  another five minutes. Add the potato and fry together for 5 minutes. Then add the flour and stir well to incorporate it. Add the clam juice and then quickly stir in the milk. Make sure there are no lumps and everything is incorporated. It will start to thicken. Add the thyme, the bay leaf and a good grinding of black pepper. Add more milk or any remaining clam juice if it gets too thick or the water if it is too creamy. Cook until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the clams. Season with salt and more pepper if necessary and add a dash of Tabasco and Worcester sauce to your taste.  Serve with crisp bread rolls. You can also add a dash of sherry to the pot just before serving. Add a sprinkling of chopped parsley for some colour. Should serve 4
If you can get fresh or frozen clams you will need 1 kilo or 900g of them. Put into a deep pan with a cup of water, 2 T dry white wine and bring quickly to the boil, covered. Steam for  7 to 8 minutes then remove any that have opened properly and set aside. Put the lid on and give the rest another 2 to 3 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Keep the liquid from the pot and strain it well to remove sand and any shell fragments. A coffee filter works well. When the open clams have cooled, remove them from their shells and mince them. Then use them and the liquid as instructed above.
MENU's Wine of the Week, Arendsig Blok A9 Cabernet Sauvignon      This lovely juicy red wine is exactly what Cabernet Sauvignon should taste like; you could use it in a classroom to showcase it. 
But it also has so much more. Lots of cassis (blackcurrant) fruit, great minerality, good wooding that doesn't overtake the wine, soft chalky tannins from the chalky soil it is grown on.  A food wine and a wine with good aging potential. Available from the farm at a very reasonable price. You are getting quality that could cost three times as much, and often does.  Go and try it for yourself. Also available from fine wine merchants. Arendsig means Eagle View. R115 from the farm

7th July 2016
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