Thursday, August 04, 2016

This Week's MENU. Laurium Red Blends, Caroline's Red Wine Review, New chef at Catharina's, Mussels and wine at Den Anker, Nederburg Auction preview, Ham and chicory, Badsberg NLH

A winter walk on the beach, Britannia Bay
When life gives you lemons     This is been a rather disappointing and very stressful week for us. We all have these weeks from hell from time to time; the point is that you just have to take charge and get through them. After the storm last week, most of the phones in Sea Point were down. We registered a complaint, almost everyone is back on line, we are not. Last time, in June, we were without a phone for 20 days and dealing with Telkom is chronic. No response at all to our logged calls and no appearance of anyone. How to run a business from home! Then, on Wednesday, on the way to Steenberg, our car started kangaroo jumping. We assumed that there must have been water in the petrol, as we had filled up after the storm the day before from a garage at the bottom of our hill. No. We broke down that evening while crossing the intersection of Beach and St John's Road at 7 pm. Dangerous. Thank heavens for AA membership, and we were finally towed home at 9.30. Sea Point Beachfront security were also supportive, thank you. We have an electronic problem and a leaking gearbox. Barons, the VW dealership, only does plug and play repairs with new components nowadays, they don't actually fix anything and can't help us, so it now has to go to the gearbox people and then to an electronic firm. The main problem? We are due to go to Tulbagh on Sunday for five days, visiting Saronsberg and other wine farms, the Tulbagh Hotel, restaurants and other fun things to do there, which we will write about. So car hire looms. We will regard it as a holiday expense, regardless of the fact that we will be working the whole time
MENU has a new Facebook page 
The Laurium Capital Signature Red Blend Report 2016 at Ellerman House     This annual competition now has Laurium Capital as their sponsor and it was held this year at Ellerman House. Christian Eedes (, James Petersen and Roland Peens (Wine cellar) usually judge the red blends entered, this year. Roland was ill, so Accountant Hennie Coetzee was co-opted. There were 16 winners. You can see who won here: There will be public tastings in Cape Town on 17 August at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront and in Johannesburg on 18 August at Summer Place Hyde Park respectively. Tickets available on line from
Tasting some of the Cape's best Reds at Caroline’s Red Wine Review     Caroline Rillema of Caroline's Fine Wines holds two of the best wine tastings every year: her Red Wine Review in July and the White Wine Review on Wednesday, 19th October. She selects wines that have four and a half or five star status which she judges to be great wines. It is an incredibly well attended tasting, held this year at rather hot Table Bay Hotel.
An intriguing meal at Catharina's at Steenberg     Are you an adventurous eater? Because we have been in the food and wine business for so long, first as retailers selling unusual ingredients and fine wines, then as writer and photographer of food and wine, etc, we tend to take adventurous food in our stride, but the event at Steenberg this week made us pause. We were invited to sample the food of new Executive chef Archie Maclean and it turned out to be quite an adventurous journey that we absolutely loved, but others, perhaps, were cautious.
Muscling in on Mussels at Den Anker     We had been invited to Muratie for the Port Festival but sadly, without a car, we had to cancel. That meant we were able to take up Mark Norrish's (he heads the wine buying at Ultra) invitation to attend his annual Ultra Mussels Wine Celebration at Den Anker Restaurant, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town as we can get there and back by MyCiti bus
Nederburg Pre Auction Tasting at Durbanville Hills      We attended the Nederburg Auction last year and Lynne did manage to secure one lot, despite heavy bidding, of Graham Beck 2009 Blanc de blancs MCC for John for his 70th Birthday. So we were delighted to be invited to taste the wines that will be auctioned this year. However, because of heavy home going traffic it became an exercise in speed tasting. A good friend kindly lent us her car and we left Sea Point at 10 to 4. We reached Durbanville Hills at 10 to 6 - they were closing at 6. Luckily, others had also been working or delayed and they kindly stayed open to allow us to taste till nearly 7 o'clock, for which we are very grateful
What's on the MENU this week?     We had this dish for supper tonight and wonder why it is not more popular. Chicory or witloof is a vegetable that is widely available, but we don't see many of you buying it. Nor do we remember ever seeing it on a restaurant menu. But, cooked the right way, it is delicious. You can also include this as a standard Banting dish. You could use slices of smoked chicken if you don't use pork. As the chicory needs proper draining, you might like to start boiling it a few hours before you eat. We are having four and using 300 ml of thick cheese sauce and grating cheddar on top.
Chicory enrobed in ham with a thick cheese sauce
2 large chicory bulbs per person - sea salt - one large slice of ham per chicory bulb - salt and pepper - a rich cheese sauce - more grated cheese for the top
Take a sharp paring knife and remove the bitter core of each chicory bulb. Insert the knife tip in the root and rotate it, a tent shaped piece will drop out, discard. Place all of the chicory in well-salted cold water. Bring to the boil. Drain the pot and repeat once again. This removes any residual bitterness from the chicory. Boil until it is very tender. Drain carefully and leave in a colander to continue draining. When they are cold, squeeze out any residual water and pat them dry. If they stay wet, it will thin out the cheese sauce. Wrap each bulb in a slice of ham. Place in rows in an ovenproof casserole. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over your thick cheese sauce. Top with a good grating of strong cheddar. The matured English cheddar at Checkers is especially good and well-priced. Put into the oven and cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the top is browning and the sauce is bubbling. You can also put this under a hot grill. The flavour is close to asparagus. Enjoy with a crisp dry white wine. A white blend would also be good, but we chose a Chenin blanc, Forrester Meinert FMC 2010, which, predictably, was superb.
What's on the WINE MENU?     Badsberg's much awarded 2009 Noble Late Harvest made from Chenin Blanc and Hanepoot grapes.
We had a superb tasting of Noble Late Harvest wines last night at our wine club and this wine was one that really impressed from those which are still available for purchase. The bottle looks like a Christmas tree with baubles, it is so decorated, but you do need to take the gongs seriously; it is not easy to earn a Platinum award from Michelangelo or many of the other awards. The producer is a co-operative in Rawsonville which produces a range of very good wines, with dessert wines being four of the five wines which were awarded four or more stars in the 2016 Platter. This wine earned four stars. The non-dessert wine in this group of five is the Chardonnay sur lie.
The wine is, as expected, a honeyed, amber-coloured sweet wine with great acid sugar balance. It is full of treacle tart on the nose, quite salty, with almost a liquorice drop character and with bucketfuls of apricots and marmalade. A wine to go perfectly with desserts and rich pat├ęs. And, at last, some serendipity. We discovered that we have a bottle in our cellar. It is made from 80% Chenin blanc and 20% Hanepoot (or, if you like, Muscat d ‘Alexandrie)
4th August 2016
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