The tang of liquor is as much a part of the Christmas spirit as fruit, nuts and those silly costumes Santa Claus wears. Flame brandy or whisky over a pudding, add a glass to yourself along the way a la Keith Floyd, and the headier side of the yuletide is ignited.
STEP into Christmas – here is the first of three consecutive menus to help those who celebrate Christmas decide what to feed their family and friends this season. On the menu: Smoked Snoek Mousse, Roast Duck with Cranberry and Red Wine Sauce, and Pink Champagne Jellies with Frosted Red Grapes.
Pairing wine with Indian food is a bit like trying to force square pegs into round holes or to persuade certain people to shut up so that somebody else can get a word in. So a wine and food matching evening at the Bombay Brasserie was an intriguing prospect, this being the posh restaurant at the new Taj hotel in central Cape Town, part of the Indian chain which casts its net worldwide.
I sensed that afternoon how the British regard the press: truly as the Fourth Estate, i.e. “other”, and not far removed from what used to be called the servant class. There to fulfil a role, not to be overly catered to (quite literally, actually), and to know their place. It was a lesson and in a strange way refreshing because, really, that is what the press are there for. To cover the event, write about it, and then bugger off so that the elite can misbehave in peace.
What would they all have made of our age of preciousness about what we put into our mouths? Imagine explaining to a Medieval trencherman that you follow a low-salt, low-GI gluten-free diet and only eat organic vegetables handpicked under a crescent moon by Ethiopian virgins? You’d be declared mad and locked up – if you survived the lynching in the village square.
See, even though I live in Cape Town, know how to say “bainmarie” and once ate a dish made entirely from weeds, I’m not a foodie. And while I’m sure it’s hindering my ability to join all manner of art collectives/literary circles/underground weaving conventions/cello movements, I am determined to remain untainted by Maldon salt, wild pigeon breast and yak butter. Because once you become a foodie, there’s no turning back.
Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg in Tokai in the Cape’s Constantia vineyard country has introduced a summer menu of oysters and bubbly pairings, which in this venue of supercharged design set amid vineyards with a mountain backdrop makes for a delicious way to while away a sunset this summer.
Making a good first impression is often the most important moment in a relationship, or even the difference between a relationship and none at all. I remember one of my first dates as a 16-year-old. She was a farm girl from the Northern Cape and I was a fidgety youth who’d been paired with her for her family’s visit to the Douglas agricultural show. Why? I have no idea why. You’re 16, you’re visiting your sister in some cement making town even the people living there have never heard of, and next thing you’re in the back of a car with a plump farm girl who thinks you’re a big city catch, on your way to a whole lot of humiliation.
The verkrampte mindset of the perpetrators of apartheid sucked all of the potential for fun out of life and it would have been crass to have partied openly in the face of what was going on. But we could live in hope and try to imagine that world beyond our grasp, where the fall of a leaf on the cobbles at your feet could silence the distant bomb. Things have come so far from those dark-heart days. St George’s Mall is lined with cafés and restaurants from Wale to Riebeeck. The square has finally started to resemble the kind of square you find in a city such as Amsterdam or the Old Town Square in Prague, another city with a bleak past.
History repeats itself at La Colombe, where chef Franck Dangereux’s stupendous food put the restaurant on the local and global map, before Franck left to eventually open his own eatery in Noordhoek (The Foodbarn). Now chef Luke Dale-Roberts, after four years at La Colombe and intimations of moving into more of a ‘consultancy’ role, has set up his own restaurant, The Test Kitchen, due to open on November 24 at the trendy Old Biscuit Mill premises.