Jamie Who is a blog about everything. Except current affairs. And politics. Also science, sport, religion, celebrities, movies, media and marketing, technology, business and design. So...basically Jamie Who is a blog about food. All things food.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cafe Chic - Lots and lots of work to do

I went for drinks at The Roundhouse on Friday afternoon and bumped into a friend who works for Eat Out magazine. She asked where I was going for dinner and when I told her Cafe Chic she said, without hesitating for a second, "Oooooh, I've heard only bad things." Seriously. I tried to explain to her that she could have at least sugar-coated it for me a little bit but she was pretty relentless. She was even a little bit smug about the fact that she was off to The Bombay Bicycle Club. It seemed we had entered into some kind of "dinner-off" and I told her I was confident my meal would be better. Well...I was wrong. Cafe Chic was a massive let down. I must concede defeat on this one. 

The dinner started off well-enough. We arrived at a beautiful venue and were given a quick tour of the place, which consists of a few houses that have been bought, re-zoned and converted into several rooms offering different things. There's a formal dining room with beautiful pressed ceilings and wooden flooring, a whiskey bar, a breakfast or "sun lounge" and a Moroccan tented area where tapas are served. We had a few drinks in the bar before we took our seats at our table and as I paged through the bar list I began to get more and more anxious. You see...a lot of thought has gone into that menu. Like...A LOT of thought. Too much perhaps. There are loads of different cocktails, divided into normal booze and premium brand categories, there are several different variations of whiskey, from Scottish to Irish to American. There's bourbon. There's vodka in several flavours and prices. And then there's the bubbly and wine which boasts the most expensive and luxurious brands around. So..basically the more I read the more I began to worry that Cafe Chic is a bar and not a restaurant. A hunch that would later prove to be absolutely spot-on. 

Anyway, after drinks we took our seat at our table. Long-Distance and Mouse had joined us and our table of four doubled the amount of people in the room. Seriously, there were 8 people having dinner. Not a good sign. To start I had a prawn ravioli which had fresh, plump prawns cooked well but unfortunately in a casing of stodgy, heavy pasta. Others ordered a ceviche which was ok but strangely complicated with unnecessary ingredients like almonds. A ceviche - to me - should be a celebration of the fish, but in this case it was overshadowed with other flavours. The last starter was a salmon and potato dish which was decent enough but a bit bland. 

For mains, I had a ribeye steak. When it was placed in front of me I saw a grey piece of meat the size and thickness of my palm. You might be surprised by what happened next. I tasted it and it tasted shit. Seriously, it was awful. Overcooked and under-seasoned. The other mains were a rack of lamb on butternut, pork-belly and monkfish (which I was excited to see) and were also distinctly unimpressive. 

Cafe Chic prides itself on their Patisserie section which is a selection of freshly baked pastries and sweets so I was hoping dessert could salvage something from the night. I was badly wrong again. Mouse and I had their "selection of pastries" which allows you to choose three bite-sized pastries from their selection. These were probably the best part of the meal - the pecan nut pie was good and the chocolate torte was rich and decadent. The Queen's dessert was, unfortunately, laughable. She ordered a rum baba. A rum baba is a traditional small spongy cake that is soaked in rum. Sometimes there will be a syrup made from rum, sugar and water. The cake is often filled with cream. So...it sounds pretty delicious right? Well, what she got was a piece of sponge with a blob of cream on it swimming in a little pool of rum. I'm not sure what they were thinking. Maybe Jack Sparrow could've eaten it but nobody at our table could even stomach a bite. There was enough rum on the plate to get the entire restaurant hammered.

Our waiter was a bit of a shining light and his knowledge of wines was phenomenal. In Cafe Chic's defense he did explain to us that the new chef had started on Monday and was busy "re-working" the menu. I'm not sure that was the problem though. I think Cafe Chic needs to decide what it wants to be. At the moment all they want to be is posh (as highlighted by the R10 000 cocktail which includes Moet, Hennesey and a diamond bracelet). 

You might not think it from this review but Cafe Chic has lots of potential. They just need to spend a bit more time sourcing ingredients that are seasonal and designing a menu that is less pretentious. If they can find a balance between bar and restaurant they will be ok. If not, this place will become somewhere to go for drinks. Not for food. 

Jamie Who

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lepitite Orange

I promised you I would be posting some cocktail ideas a while back and since then I've only put one up. That's my bad. But let's be honest... you and me, we've still got a lot of QT to spend together this summer. 

So allow me to introduce the lovely Lepitite Orange. Say it with me.... Lepitite Orange. I believe that's French for "sexy shit." Honestly, how you can you not love this drink with a name like that? 

Let's get into it. (I apologise for the quality of photo but this was served up by Power on a particularly steamy Saturday and it was probably the fourth different cocktail we tried.)  

Stuff you'll need to make one:

25ml of Bacardi Superior Rum (use another brand if you want but honestly, why would you?)
25 ml of Noilly Prat Dry
2 teaspoons of apricot preserve
25 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice (I swear to God if you use the lemon juice that comes in a green bottle I will never talk to you again)
3 dashes of orange bitters
1 dash of egg white

What to do:

1. Put all the ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously . 

2. Strain the drink twice and pour into a rocks glass or tumbler. (Full of ice.)

3. Garnish with grapefruit zest. 

This drink is so good on a hot summer's day it will make you weep. The combination of fresh citrus and apricots leaves a long, cool finish. Trust me, you want to be part of this. 

Jamie Who

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The River Cafe - Somebody got a facelift

Complacent. That's how I would describe the attitude of the Constantia Uitsig River Cafe. Until recently that is. You see, in the past there were always three types of people who flocked to The River Cafe: 
  1. Tourists
  2. Old people
  3. Soccer moms looking for a few glasses of vino in between errands
So the restaurant seemed happy serving average food that was overpriced. Why not? People kept coming. That has changed radically now though, with the introduction of Luke Dale-Roberts. Look, when you've won Chef of The Year and your restaurant has won Restaurant of The Year for two years in a row you are pretty hot shit and his impact at The River Cafe is plain to see. The atmosphere is relaxed and less stuffy and the food reflects this. 

I stopped in for a lunch with The Big Dog, Pafoof, Monkey Whisperer and Thirsty and was stoked to see the bistro-styled food. As a table we ordered quite a wide range of things and all of them were brilliant. A tempura-prawn salad came with wonderfully crispy batter and was laced with avocado and tomatoes. My yellowtail came perfectly cooked and was served on fresh, seasonal vegetables with a sauce that seemed to be a variation on the classic Bechamel. The slow-cooked lamb shoulder was packed with garlic and rosemary and fell off the bone - you could've eaten it with a plastic spoon that you get on SAA Economy. But it was The Monkey Whisperer who stole the show with his ribeye burger. Oh. My. Word. I can still smell it. It was delivered on a wooden paddle with chunky, crisp fries and I challenge anyone to find a better version in the country. I know "where can you get the best burger?" is a popular question but you won't be hearing it from me. Because I already know. The answer is The River Cafe. 

The food was decently priced and the service was some of the best I've had anywhere. Friendly, efficient and knowledgeable, even when I asked the waitress if the fish was on the green or orange list. (I knew that already by the way but I just wanted to test her...yeah yeah, I'm a dick. Whatever.) 

I got a really good vibe at The River Cafe. You can see and taste how fresh the produce is. The portions are generous, the mood is laid-back and the setting is stunning. They are open 7 days a week, which in itself is amazing. There was even a wine special on when we were there so we tucked into a few bottles of the estate's Sauvignon Blanc for R50 a bottle. Not bad at all. In fact, if I didn't have a job I would probably still be there. 

Give them a call on (021) 794-3010

Jamie Who

P.S I took a beautiful photo of my fish but it has somehow been deleted by evil Nikon gremlins. So...you'll just have to take my word. Or go there yourself. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prawn and coriander pizza

Last week Icepick jumped in at the last minute to babysit Elvis as The Queen and I headed off to an overnight party in Franschhoek. To thank him I had him round for dinner on Monday and decided to make pizza. I did them in a little portable braai called a Buzbee and if you're clever you'll click here and order one. It's an awesome toy. A portable braai that you can grill, roast and bake on. You can take it to the beach or put it in the middle of your dining room table. It's pretty skoochie. If you don't want to go that route you can try and cook your pizzas on a clay tile in the Weber or buy yourself the pizza plate especially made for Weber. Or, if you are boring or if it's raining you can just cook them in your oven. Let me just say it won't be anywhere near as good but hey, it's your call. 

What toppings you put on is totally up to you and if you want to buy pre-made pizza bases or dough then do that. I'm not judging (I am actually). 

Okay, what you'll need to make the dough (enough for about 4-5 medium pizzas)
  • 500g bread flour
  • A 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • About a tablespoon of sea salt
  • Half a tablespoon of caster sugar
  • 325ml of lukewarmwarm water
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
What to do:

1. Sieve your salt and flour onto a floured work surface and make a "well' in the middle. 

2. Combine your water, olive oil, sugar and yeast in a jug and leave for about 5 minutes. 

3. Slowly add the water to the middle of your well and with a fork bring in the flour from the outside-in. Carry on with this process until the dough starts coming together and gets solid. Flour your hands and start kneading the dough using the palms of your hands. Do this until you are left with a springy, smooth ball. 

4. Put you dough in a bowl, cover with a bit of flour and place a damp dishcloth over the bowl. Leave in a warm spot for about an hour. 

5. When you're ready, take the dough out and knead it a bit more, knocking out the excess air. Then cut the dough into as many balls as you need (1 ball per pizza obviously guys)

6. 20 minutes before you want to cook the pizzas, flour the work surface again and roll out the balls to the appropriate thickness. If you want to do this in advance you can - just place floured wax paper over each pizza base and stack them in the fridge. Don't roll out the bases and leave them lying around or they will dry out badly. 

To make your tomato sauce:

1. Roast about 500g of cherry tomatoes in an oven at 200 degrees celsius with some olive oil and dried herbs for 30 minutes or until done. Remove and place in a blender. Once blended, add the tomatoes back to a pan with a tin of tomatoes, three sliced cloves of garlic and one sliced chilli. Cook over a medium heat until the sauce thickens and reduces to the right consistency to allow it to be spread over the bases. 

Okay, so you've got your pizza bases and your tomato sauce. From here what you add is really your call. I panfried some prawns but do whatever you want. Once you have your toppings here's what you do:

1. Spread some sauce over your pizza base. Not too much, just enough to lightly cover it. 

2. Add a few toppings (olives, bacon, pesto, chicken etc.)

3. Tear up some mozzarella and dot it around the pizza. Again, not too much - if you add too much the pizza will be impossible to handle. 

4. Place the tile/skillet or whatever in the Weber and allow to get white hot. Transfer the pizza and cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until done. You want a slightly charred base and the cheese needs to be bubbling. 

5. Remove and garnish with your favourite herbs. I went for coriander and rocket but just use your favourite. 

Jeeeeeeeez, that was a hectic entry. I will say this though, the pizza was f-ing amazing. There is a strange satisfaction eating a pizza you've made from scratch. I also felt a bit smug knowing that it wasn't actually unhealthy at all. Not like the greasy processed stuff you get when you pick up a phone and order a delivery. If you prefer doing that...well...you're reading the wrong blog. 

Jamie Who

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vaudeville - Fantasy world of wonder

I've got a feeling Vaudeville is going to make lots of cash. Which is a good thing considering how much they must've spent on drugs when conceptualising the place. Honestly, it's pretty crazy. The first thing I saw when I arrived on Friday night to celebrate Squeeze's birthday with her and Hotspur was a French poodle the size of a baby giraffe. It was wearing a nappie. So now you're starting to get the picture? 

The vibe here is that you pay R350 and get a three course dinner plus a show. And what a show. I can't remember everything perfectly (probably owing to their "house speciality shooter" which is cinnamon and orange infused tequila) but I do recall a woman with six boobs, two juggling midgets, a group of singing and dancing girls in black catsuits, a chick with a flaming hula-hoop, a Romanian bodybuilder, a couple of B-Boys, an eccentric English dude who climbed curtains and a penguin who was the but of all the jokes. I also had some major issues with the face that was being projected onto a giant white balloon behind me. To be honest it scared the pants off me. It should probably be mentioned that by now I was dressed like Che Guevara. What, you find that strange? Well, that's just how it works in there. You see, there's a stand where you go and buy various hats/wigs/feathers/eye-patches etc. to kind-of get in the swing of things. It really is an incredible thing to see so many people checking their inhibitions at the door and just enjoying a bit of escapism. 

The food is provided by DISH catering. Starters were various salads and dips, mains were a choice of either salmon ravioli, beef short-rib or a vegetarian tart. A chocolate torte rounded it off. The starters were really good and so was the beef but The Queen's salmon was disappointingly bland and had far too much dill in it. In the name of journalism I ordered the vegetarian tart which was a good combination of gorgonzola and caramelised onion. It was well-seasoned with a good pastry. The dessert was actually seriously good and the mascarpone ice-cream deserves a mention. But let's be honest, when you've got rich velvet everywhere, a variety of crazy costumes at every table, fake clouds dotted around the room and waitresses wearing red corsets the food isn't really the centre of attention. 

We went to The Fez afterwards (entrance is included in the R350) to spank a plank but ended up laughing at the...how do I say this nicely...older generation who had clearly been planning their big night out for some time. It was pretty cool seeing them let their hair down and my word they didn't disappoint. It was priceless. 

This thing is one of those events you have to go to. It is a surreal, weird, cool sensory overload and you can't help but enjoy yourself.  Stepping into that place really is like enjoying a few hours in some kind of trippy fantasy world. Apparently you need to book quite a long way in advance so give them a call on 086 178 7797. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Kitchen - Quirky and cool in equal parts

I had it on very good authority from a reader of this blog who's opinion I have come to respect that The Kitchen in Woodstock was well worth a visit. Yesterday I stopped in for lunch and can honestly say it was one of the coolest and unique lunchtime venues I have had the pleasure of experiencing for a while....

Let's start with the decor. Imagine putting all the characters and colours of Alice in Wonderland into a blender and then taking the resulting mix and kind-of just throwing it around a room. That's the vibe at The Kitchen. But I mean that in a good way. From the customers to the awesome owner to the actual food itself the place is dripping with a vibrant energy that you can't buy or re-create. It's a special, intangible quality that some restaurants have and others don't. 

The room itself is tiny and can only seat about 15 - 20 people at a time (not that it's a problem because you can be in and out in 15 minutes if you want). I took up a seat at a low counter with my back to the action. I soon found myself turning around every couple of minutes as I tried to actually take it all in. There are trinkets everywhere with a collection of retro crockery that looks as if it has been collected from HUNDREDS of garage sales. Some of the food is laid out for you to admire (I saw the most decadent-looking chocolate cake I have ever seen alongside apple streudels and ginger fudge), some is behind glass (beetroot salad, buckwheat salad, potato salad etc.) and...well...some of it is just kind of lying around. Like the mielies I almost knocked over. Somehow it all works beautifully. 

The food itself has to be amongst some of the best-priced I have seen. You get to build your sandwich by choosing from a variety of artisanal rolls and fillings and finishing it off with some proper, homemade pestos, pickles, preserves and salads. I went with their famous grilled chicken on a 100% rye roll and built a side salad. My meal came to R35. Hey?!! How awesome is that. A wrap from Kauai costs more than that and believe me you cannot even compare the two. It would be like paying more for an ugly hooker except the cheap, hot hooker has a personality. Yeah...maybe that simile was a bit too hectic. But you get the point. Personality. X-Factor. That's what this place has. And as a result it falls into the Cheyne's and Superette category for me. Something a little bit different. 

The Kitchen is run by Karen Dudley who is pretty awesome herself. You should check out her site at www.karendudley.co.za 

If you don't you're a loser. 

Jamie Who

The Queen's Hake kebabs

Last night I got home and The Queen was busy knocking up these kebabs for dinner. After fake-helping and watching her do about 99% of the work I jokingly asked her if she would be bummed if I blogged and claimed the recipe to be mine. She asked me if I would like a foot up my ass. Aaaah, marriage. It's truly a magical thing. So guys, make no mistake. These kebabs (delicious by the way) are hers. Let's appreciate that. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • About 400 of firm white fish, skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces (we used hake owing to the fact that it is on the green list)
  • A handful or two of cherry tomatoes
  • A few pieces of black forest ham, cut lengthways (or bacon if you want, we were keeping it as healthy as possible)
  • A handful of courgettes, sliced lengthways as finely as possible
  • A few wooden skewers
  • A bowl of mixed lettuce leaves (look for different colours, sizes, shapes and textures)
  • A handful of mixed sprouts
  • 2 lemons, zest removed
  • Two tablespoons of mixed dried herbs (thyme, basil, oreganum etc.) 
  • A handful of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 chillies, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Okay, what to do:

1. Soak the skewers for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning. Turn your grill on to maximum heat if cooking in the oven, (They taste waaaaay better cooked on a braai though).

2. In a pestle and mortar add a few glugs of olive oil, the garlic, the lemon zest, the rosemary and mixed herbs. Bash up the mixture to create a rough paste.  (If you don't have a pestle and mortar don't stress. Just mix the stuff together in a bowl.)

3. Thread a courgette slice onto the skewer, wrapping it around a piece of fish. Add a slice of ham and double them both back over. Add another piece of fish and wrap the ham and courgette back around it. (See picture to get the vibe). Add a cherry tomato and repeat the process until the skewer is loaded up and good to go. 

4. Place the skewers in a baking dish and pour over the marinade. Leave for about 30 minutes. Just before cooking add juice of one lemon. 

5. Cook for a few minutes under the grill or on a braai. They are done when the bacon/ham is crispy, the fish is white but still moist and the tomatoes are blistering. This won't take long guys. Please don't overcook the fish. Rather take it off for a taste early. You can always put it back on for more. 

6. Meanwhile make the (ridiculously easy) salad by combining the lettuce, the chilli, the sprouts and the juice of the second lemon. Season well with black pepper. Throw on a bit of olive oil too. 

7. To serve, spoon out the salad and cross the kebabs over each other. 

In terms of health and nutritional value you will be hard-pressed to beat this one. Throw in the fact that it tastes like rainbows and you've got a winner. Enjoy it peeps. And if you ever bump into The Queen just be sure to mention how f-ing good those kebabs of hers were. Cool, I owe you a solid. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jardine - Now serving lunch

There's something pretty exciting happening. Well...exciting if you love amazing chow at silly prices. What's that? You do. Well then listen up. 

From today Jardine in Bree Street is serving lunch upstairs on Wednesdays (fake Fridays to me anyway) and Fridays (umm...real Fridays I guess). For the first two weeks they're having a launch special where starters are priced from R40-R60 and mains are at R80. Desserts come in at R40. So...three courses cooked by one of the best chefs in the country, at one of the best restaurants in the country, will sting you about R160. Call the cops people, that's a steal. Dishes like Saldanha Bay Oysters, West Coast Mussels, Roasted Line Fish, Ribeye with green beans and Dark Chocolate Mousse feature. The vibe is that they bring fresh, seasonal meals out quickly with no stuffing around so that - if you want to - you can be in and out pretty quickly but still get a killer meal. Sounds like a win. 

Give them a shout on (021) 424-5640.  

Jamie Who

Overture - Straight out of the top drawer

On Saturday I was lucky enough to join Bertus Basson, of Overture fame, for lunch. Now look, I have been quite outspoken in the past about the fact that I don't do comped meals for the simple reason that I want to maintain credibility but this was different. If a chef calls me up and has the decency to put aside some time to talk about food philosophies and plans for the future of course I will listen. And let's be honest...it's Overture people. Come now. I still turn down invitations by restaurateurs, brand managers and PR companies offering free meals in exchange for good reviews but here was an opportunity to conduct an informal interview with someone I admire and respect while at the same time enjoying some of the best food in the country. The moral debate was an extremely short one. 

The first thing I noticed about Bertus (other than the fairly hectic mohawk) was the obvious love for food. When someone talks that passionately about something you listen and what followed for the next three hours was nothing short of fascinating. I didn't have a pen and paper (that's not the vibe I like to kick out on a Saturday) but let me try summarise what came out of our chat: 
Bertus changes his menu the morning of service, according to what arrives at his door. He spends a lot of his time driving around with his wine guy (affectionately referred to as Stretch throughout lunch) tasting wines and figuring out how he can work them into his menu design. He loves Cape Town and believes food will always taste better in areas "where there are vineyards and an ocean." He has a huge amount of respect for other South African chefs and admits that they draw inspiration from each other. He is hugely ambitious and was gutted to finish in 10th place at the Eat Out Awards Dinner (a position most would celebrate). He believes taste is paramount to creating a good dish, "what's the point if something looks pretty but tastes shit?" He loves old-school cooking techniques like braising. He puts a huge emphasis on sourcing ingredients to the point that he actually got excited talking about a particular supplier of shallots. He loves fish, specifically the less common species and thinks it is important for people to be more aware of the green/orange/red grading system. He's not just bound to the restaurant and in fact has a catering company and several other exciting projects (secret unfortunately) in the pipeline. He says there is a time and a place for fancy food and simple food and people need to know that. "I actually dig the Spur hey...". He spends time deliberately breaking down new recruits at the restaurant to see if they have what it takes but has only ever met one member of staff who was untrainable. "I like getting these guys in from the catering schools who think they're hot stuff and making them peel potatoes. That tests them and makes them understand the hierarchy here." 

Look there's a lot more that was said but we did have quite a bit to drink and besides I really should be talking about the venue and the food...

The restaurant itself is on Hidden Valley Wine Estate and is perched high up on a hill looking back over a beautiful valley towards Cape Town. The interior is modern - a combination of earthy stone and wood mixed in with a lot of glass. (Understandable given the ridiculous views.) 

As mentioned, the menu changes daily but will always consist of 10 options for guests to choose from. The dishes range from light starters to heavier options and you have the choice of 3, 4, or 5 course options priced at R250, R300 and R360 respectively. How you put your meal together (in what order I mean) is up to you. With wine pairings the meal jumps out to R300, R380 and R460. An 8-course tasting menu is available for R455 (R755 with wine). 

I was lucky enough to enjoy 8 courses. I could honestly go on for pages and pages about them but I don't want to get into the technicalities of each dish. You'll see by the style of food the level of cooking that is on offer but when I say each dish was at least 8/10 (Most were 9, some were 10) you should understand I don't really need to wank on and on about them. Let's break it down for you:
  • Raw salmon, salmon-stuffed courgette flower, cauliflower puree
  • Foie gras poached in port with fresh figs, fig sorbet and brioche
  • Geelbek and green beans (served in a bouillabaisse sauce made from the bones)
  • Crisp pork belly with roasted apple, glazed onions, pomme puree and confit garlic
  • Gnocchi with tomato, fried mozzarella and olive tapenade 
  • Parmesan spoom with tomato sorbet and balsamic onion 
  • Gingered watermelon soup with yoghurt sorbet 
  • Chocolate sorbet served with a shot of white and dark chocolate Bottega grappa  
And then the wine. Bloody hell, the wine. What a joke how unbelievable the wine was. We had (in order, matched to the courses) a 2009 Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a Pierre Jordan Ratfia (Google Ratfia - it's quite interesting), a 2009 Land's end Sauvignon Blanc, the 2006 Hidden Valley red blend (sorry, not too sure about this one but I think it was mainly Cab Sav with a bit of Malbec?), a 2009 Jordan Unoaked Chardonnay, a 2009 Paul Cluver Gewurztraminer, a 2009 Bon Courage Red Muscadel.      

Sho, that's quite a bit of reading to get through. It certainly was not a mission to eat our way through it and we had an awesome time and some good laughs. During the lunch no less than three guests came over to thank him personally with comments like "That was the best lunch I've had" and "Congrats on having the best restaurant in the country." Pretty high praise that was not lost on Bertus who explained that that is what makes all the hard work worthwhile. When walking us out he casually pointed to the beautiful pond at the entrance and explained the plan to introduce trout and tilapia. That's a pretty awesome vibe. Just like everything else at Overture. 

You can give them a call on (021) 880-2721. They are open for lunch from Tuesday through to Sunday and do dinners on Thursdays and Fridays. 

Jamie Who


Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooked In Africa by Justin Bonello

In Cooked in Africa by Justin Bonello we find a cook and a cookbook that showcases the simple pleasures in life: food and friends. Justin has travelled the country shooting his TV series Cooked and the book shows us this journey. His overriding philosophy is that if you surround yourself with some good mates finding the actual source of food and enjoying the end result together can be an amazing experience. 

He is clearly extremely proud of South African culture and our food heritage and the recipes featured reflect that. So expect things like waterblommetjie potjie, koeksisters, roosterkoek etc. Get the picture? This is rustic, traditional, get-your-hands-dirty kind of stuff. He also celebrates nature and the outdoors in general with this book and as a result quite a few of his dishes are full of theatre. The Tarzan Roast, for example, involves a huge chunk of meat being hung above a fire in a wheelbarrow! 

In terms of look and feel I really like what the design team has come up with. The book is shot beautifully but put together in a way that creates a real sense of the laid-back style of Justin's cooking. So the paper is thick. The font is haphazard. The images are never glossy. The photography is often more about the journey and the amazing scenery than the food itself. 

All in all the book is one that I like because of the fact that at least it has a personality. Odds are that you would NEVER have seen some of the crazy shit he does. The food might not be the type of stuff you'll serve when the in-laws come round but for a braai and a few beers it's perfect. Food is supposed to be fun and Justin Bonello does a good job reminding us not to take it too seriously. 

Jamie Who

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mushrooms on toast

I am always struck by the beauty of simple food. With chefs constantly learning and experimenting there is still something strangely appealing about an old classic. Don't get me wrong, I am always keen to hear about a new cooking technique or admire a dish that is plated up in a way I haven't seen before, but honest cooking with quality ingredients is a style that I always enjoy most. With this in mind I got my hands on some beautiful mushrooms and went to work. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • About 250g - 300g of mixed wild mushrooms (I used porcini, king oyster, shiitake and enoki. Feel free to use what you like but please don't try this dish with just button mushrooms. I'm telling you know it will be average.) Keep the smaller ones whole and try not to cut any of them to much. I like the rustic nature of bigger chunks of 'shroom. 
  • About a quarter of a cup of water
  • About 3 tablespoons of the best balsamic vinegar you can find
  •  2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • A handful of chives, finely chopped
  • A tablespoon of thyme (dried is fine)
  • 2 - 4 soft boiled eggs, peeled. (Boiling an egg to perfection is actually quite difficult and depends widely on the stove but as a guideline do this: Bring a pot of water to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the eggs for 4-5 minutes and remove from water to allow to cool. That should get you close. Obviously the way you like your eggs will dictate times so just play around a bit.)
Okay, what to do:

1. In a little olive oil fry off the garlic for about a minute. Do not let it brown though. Just cook gently. 

2. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook for about a minute. Add the water, the balsamic and season generously. 

3. Increase the heat and cook for about 8minutes or until your balsamic has reduced to a gorgeous thick sauce. 

To serve, spoon the mushrooms onto your favourite toasted bread. (I'm a big fan of a sourdough/rye combo). Add either one or two soft boiled eggs onto the mushrooms and break open to allow the yoke to run into the mushrooms. Garnish with chopped chives. I served mine with some tomatoes roasted on the vine. A nice touch yes? 

The key to this dish (obviously) is the quality of produce. With something this simple you need the best. If you can find that, you have got a winner. I know a lot of you will want to fry the mushrooms in butter but do you know what I want...I want you drop and give me 20. The butter is unnecessary. Now go run somewhere. 

Jamie Who 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trout tartare with ponzu dressing

I can't believe how hot it was yesterday. I got back from gym and my sweat was sweating. After a shower (cold) I actually couldn't deal with the thought of cooking. I had two gorgeous trout fillets and figured I would make a little tartare. I used ponzu sauce as the main ingredient for the dressing. I love that stuff. Ponzu is a Japanese, citrus-based sauce that I mixed in with soy sauce and sesame oil. I was extremely stoked with the results. Let's check it out.

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • About 400g of fresh trout (just get two fillets with the skin on)
  • Half a cup of ponzu sauce
  • Half a cup of soy sauce
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • A dash of honey
  • A handful of chives, finely chopped
  • A handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • A lemon
  • A bulb of fennel, finely sliced
  • Two avocados
  • A teaspoon or two of sesame seeds for garnishing
Okay, what to do:

1. Start by peeling the avocado and cutting into cubes. Squeeze the juice from one half of the lemon over the avo to stop it turning brown and put it in the fridge. 

2. Remove the trout's skin by peeling back the skin and using a sharp knife to follow it along the bottom of the fish. Once this is done, chop the trout into small pieces. (How small exactly is up to you.)

3. Place the trout in a bowl and add the ponzu, the soy, the sesame oil, the juice from the other half of the lemon, the coriander and the chives. Season with cracked black pepper. You probably won't need to add salt because of the ponzu and soy but if you have to then go ahead. Mix everything up and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. (Don't leave it longer or the lemon juice will start to cook the trout)

4. Find something in your kitchen that is a good size and shape and rub a bit of olive oil on the inside. Pack the trout tightly into the container. Put a plate over your chosen container and flip it over quickly. Put some avocado over the top of your trout and sprinkle some sesame seeds over the top. Drizzle some ponzu sauce around the plate and finish with a bit of the fennel. 

What a perfect dish for summer. Healthy, tasty and not even necessary to turn a stove on. The fennel - if I do say so myself - was an incredible touch. I'm not going wank on and on about fennel because I feel like I do that every time I cook with it but it really was amazing with the other clean flavours. With hindsight, I would've added a bit of chilli into the mix though. Aaah well...next time. 

The smarter of you will notice that there are TWO photos of the tartare. That is a result of The Queen's competitive streak coming through (as it does) and her being convinced she could present the dish in a better way. I'll let you be the judge. 

Jamie Who

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Restaurant ratings - Let's first get apples and apples

So it turns out rating these restaurants is going to be quite a lot of work. I've got 64 of them to get through so far. Thanks to everyone who wrote and left suggestions on what they would like to see points get allocated for. 

The first step has been to categorise the restaurants (check out the new tags on the right). That way when you guys log on you can say "mmm...I think I'm up for a little bit of fine dining" and click on it to compare apples and apples. I should point out that these definitions are what the restaurant is SUPPOSED to be, not necessarily what I experienced. For example, Ocean Basket is grouped as "Cheap & Cheerful" when in fact I found it to be neither. 

There are bound to be differences of opinion as to some of the restaurants and which category I have put them in. Let me know when you come across these and we can talk. I threw in the drinks tag because some of the places are well worth just stopping by for a Jack Black or a glass of bubbly, even if you're not eating. 

The actual restaurant ratings will come shortly. Patience my lovelies. Patience. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The new superfoods

If you, like me, ate and drank way too much over the holidays hopefully you have already begun the road to recovery in the form of eating properly again and hitting the gym/pool/road/mountain trail/boxing ring etc. I exercise throughout the festive season and I try to be healthy most of the time but the diet is what is hardest to control. Booze is everywhere, you are always eating out and, let's face it, sometimes life is just too short to constantly be worried about what you eat. 

When I get back to the real world I get super-strict with what I eat and find a little bit of a detox goes a long way to repairing the damage caused. I've heard of people taking January or February as a dry month and not touching booze at all but I'm a realist. I know I could never do that so I prefer to look to food to do the detox for me. Loads of fruit and vegetables packed with anti-oxidants. That's the ticket. So I really appreciated The Other Guy Who Can Cook sending me a list from UK's Life & Style of the latest "superfoods". Look, the jury is still out as to exactly how potent the so-called superfood group is but I always find it interesting to check out the latest magic food. It seems stuff like raw chocolate, goji-berries and acai powder are "so last season". Check out these new weird and wonderful items...

1. The Maqui Berry. Apparently this little berry has the most antioxidants around due to it's dark purple colour. It supposedly helps prevent premature aging. It also aids in weight-loss. You can find it growing in Chile and Argentina. I'm not sure when Kauai/Sumo will throw them into a smoothie though...

2. Matcha. You know how much I dig a cup of tea by now surely? Green, white, oolong. I love them all. Well, matcha is like green tea on steroids. It is a concentrated version of all the health benefits (increased metabolism, higher energy levels, anti-stress etc.) and is an electric green colour. 

3. Dulse. Okay, this one is surely a longshot. Dulse is a dried red seaweed that has ridiculous amounts of calcium, iodine, potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamins. They recommend sprinkling it over soups and salads. 

4. Muscadine grapes. You might struggle to find these guys but they actually contain more antioxidants than blueberries. They claim to protect from certain types of cancer and are a good source of fiber. 

5. Salba seeds. A complete form of amino acids, these seeds are a bit of a miracle snack. They are a superfood I see as being more accessible and easily sprinkled into salads or smoothies or just eaten like nuts. They are from the Aztecs and Mayans who I believe also love a bit of quinoa (also a superfood). 

6. Mangosteens. These might also be a bit of a problem getting out hands on...unless you're in Asia. Apparently they taste really good and are gaining in popularity. The antioxidant count is through the roof and the biggest advantage seems again to be fighting off various cancers. 

7. Teff. Another one that we might actually see pretty soon. Teff is a teensy tiny African grain that you mix into flour for added nutrients when baking. I reckon you could easily stir it into soups or even oats in the morning. It is high in protein, calcium, fiber and iron. 

8. Acerola. Another miracle fruit, this time from Mexico. I'm hoping they start producing Acerola juice as it contains more than 30 times the amount of Vitamin C (necessary to prevent premature aging and great for boosting your immune system) than a glass of OJ. 

Phew, that was quite a post. A little education coming at you today. Who said we just ate and drank and cooked stuff here at Jamie Who? No sir. Let's hope we get to see some of these popping up in health shops in 2010. 

Jamie Who

Monday, January 11, 2010

iCi - Loving it.

Saturday saw The Queen and I heading through to Franschhoek for The Gym Nazi and The Pilates Pirate's wedding. With the ceremony starting at 5 we decided to cruise through early and have lunch at one of the many amazing restaurants out there. In the car we settled on Reuben's. The brilliant Richard Carstens has joined Reuben (I think on a consultancy basis) and I was keen to see what he has been able to add. Look, we were pretty arrogant thinking we could just arrive and get a table. When we arrived and asked for a table for two the chick did her best not to laugh in our faces and to her credit politely told us the place was full. It was. As a matter of fact it was absolutely humming. Not to be defeated, I suggested taking a flier at Le Quartier Francais, headed up one of my favourite South African chefs, Margot Janse. I thought we had even less of a chance to get in there but surprisingly we got lucky and were seated at iCi (iCi is LQF's daytime restaurant, not to be confused with the more formal Tasting Room which is open for dinners). 

The vibe at iCi is a chilled one but you know you are dealing with quality from the second you walk in the place. Service is polished and the menu itself had several items jumping out at me straight away. I guess I would call it bistro-styled food but with South African ingredients. There are "The nibbles" consisting of things like oysters, ham croquettes, marinated olives and a charcuterie board with baby beetroot. (The meat for the charcuterie comes from sister restaurant Bread & Wine which is on Moreson wine estate. That itself is well worth a visit.) Starters range from chilled sweetcorn soup to mussels with a curry and orange sauce. The mains had courses like wood roasted crayfish, springbok shank lasagne and grilled ribeye sitting proudly alongside spaghetti and lamb meatballs. Something that really tickled me was the wood roasted free range chicken for two with roasted potatoes and salad. (How cool is that? Come on, you know you dig it). A table next to us ordered it and it looked sensational. It even came with a little gravy boat...what's that saying about simple things amusing simple minds? 

Anyway, to eat I had a rabbit and tarragon terrine with an apricot relish (R55). You might know from past postings that I absolutely love rabbit. I had never had it in a pressed terrine before and the combination with the tarragon worked beautifully. For mains The Queen went for a peppered seared tuna with a cold potato salad and cucumber(R60). The potatoes had a hint of lime running through them which lifted the dish and added a phenomenal dimension - light, elegant and summery. Superb. I had a yellowtail which was served on a brandade and braised baby fennel(R125). Brandade is a puree of white fish, olive oil and milk - it is unusual to see (in fact I can't remember seeing it before) but bloody hell it was good. The fish was topped with a salsa verde. Now, I'm going to make a big call here. That dish was the most memorable fish dish I have had for years. The flavours were gutsy and bold and might have been a bit overpowering for some but for me they were unreal. Wow. 

It's also worth mentioning that iCi has an impressive wine list showcasing local wineries. We had a few gasses of Moreson's Miss Molly Chenin Blanc which I had never tried. That too was fantastic. 

All in all, I was really, really impressed. I know LQF gets a lot of attention for The Tasting Room and having been there before I can vouch that it is all well deserved but what I can add is that iCi deserves a lot more hype. It's 45 minutes from Cape Town and well worth the drive. Trust me. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Jamie Who rating system - I need your help

So...I'm back in Cape Town. I can't believe I spent a month cruising The Garden Route. It felt more like a week. What a good trip though. Besides getting married, I ate at some of my favourite restaurants, discovered a few new ones, tripped over one or two hidden gems and visited a few places that were absolutely diabolical. In short, I formed opinions. Opinions of restaurants. That's a big part of what this blog is about and I often get e-mails from people asking me where to go. What is the best restaurant? Where is the best setting? Blah blah blah. Well, the thing is I can't answer these questions. All I can do is offer my opinion. And, thinking about it more, I realised I need to quantify these opinions. I want to start giving numbers and ratings to places I visit so you guys can gauge which places I enjoy most.  

The thing is, how do you go about judging a restaurant? This is the question I pose to you. I'm keen to look at food (that's probably important hey?), ambience and service. What I need is how to weight these categories. What do you guys value as most important? If you get a great meal in a shopping centre does that compare to an average meal on a gorgeous wine estate for example? How much of a difference does the waiter, host/hostess, chef etc. make to your overall experience? Enough to ruin a great meal? Enough to make an average meal acceptable? 

I'd love to know your thoughts. I'll get the basic vibe you guys are after and then start trawling through the archives to give a rating to every restaurant I've reviewed so far. 

Drop me a line (jokes man, who actually says that?). E-mail me at jamiewhoblog@gmail.com or just leave some thoughts below. 

Jamie Who

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sumptuous by Marlene Van Der Westhuizen

I've been involved in food pornography for quite a while now. Not in a weird "where can I stick that carrot?" kind of way but more in the fact that I can spend hours paging through cookbooks admiring recipes and photographs. Food writing, food styling and food photography are skills that I admire greatly and my collection of cookbooks grows monthly as a result. With this in mind, I've had a mini-epiphany. I'm going to add a "cookbook" tag to the blog where I can write about my favourites. I figure this could be really helpful if you guys are looking to get something for yourselves or as a gift. There are so many books out there at the moment so hopefully I can point you in the right direction and show you which ones are worthwhile.

We kick things off with Marlene Van Der Westhuizen's second book, Sumptuous. Van Der Westhuizen is a trained chef who splits her time between Green point, Cape Town and Charroux, France (all together now...shaaaaaame). Yeah, I know. Sounds kak. Anyway, she spends her time in both homes cooking for students in a style she describes as 'brasserie luxe' which basically means uncomplicated food that celebrates quality produce. A style that by now you should know I absolutely love. As well as cooking classes, Marlene rents her food studio out for private functions - Pafoof once invited top-end clients to Marlene's place for dinner where she hosted an interactive dinner. By all accounts it was amazing. Anyway, this book shows glimpses of Marlene's life in both kitchens. Each chapter begins with a description of some of her inspirations at the time (markets, sunflowers, gates, antiques, vines etc) and is supported with breathtaking photography. The way the book is shot makes you want to book a ticket tomorrow and start travelling and Gerda Genis (the photographer) deserves all the accolades she has achieved throughout a hugely successful career. 

Recipe-wise, the dishes are practical and as a result I would recommend the book to basically anyone. If you are an average cook, a hopeless cook, a brilliant cook or just someone who appreciates creativity and beautiful production you should check it out. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bramon - Cheeky or brilliant?

I have written before about the awesome Bramon Wine Estate just outside of Plett. I still find something outrageously cool about the fact that you can leave the beach and be sipping bubbly 20 minutes later in the middle of a vineyard with beautiful views of the Outeniqua Mountains. On my last visit The Queen (then merely The Princess) and I quaffed some bubbly and were so impressed we ended up getting some for our wedding. This time round was a different celebration...my birthday. This time we were going not only to drink (although we would be doing plenty of that by the way), we were going to check out the menu. 

At a long table literally in between the vineyards sat a hilarious crew made up of Pocket Rocket, Justice, Vin D, Shmici, Godmother E, Hotspur, Pafoof, The Bear, The Dragon and The Queen. The bubbly flowed and the menus were presented. Interesting. Basically, it's a selection of different tapas that you eat with freshly baked bread. The bread itself was amazing and we were presented with hummus, caprese salads, rocket pesto, smoked salmon, pickled mackerel, olives, peppered beef and more. The first thing I noticed is that I had bought suspiciously similar produce from a deli in Plett. I eventually asked our waiter (an absolute beauty by the way - obviously a stoner) about this and he unapologetically told me that they buy the stuff from the deli too. "So..." I asked our boy "What do you guys actually cook here?" I was not really prepared for the response. "Nothing." So..in a nutshell they buy the produce and bake some bread. I'm not even sure if they do that to be honest. I was seriously pissed off until someone told me maybe I should just appreciate how clever that actually is. I suppose it is but I was still left with a horrible taste in my mouth. 

The real highlight was still to come. Before I tell you about it let's play a game. Suppose you are a waiter and someone gives you what is obviously a surprise birthday cake. What is the worst thing you could do with that cake? Answer: Drop it on the kitchen floor. That's exactly what happened folks. But get this...keeping with our game, if you were the waiter who dropped what IS OBVIOUSLY A SURPRISE CAKE what is the worst way to handle the situation. Answer: Announce to the table that you have dropped the cake. Surely pulling aside someone and explaining the situation is better? Surely trying to actually make something edible in a restaurant is better? One would think so. Eventually the manager brought us some chocolate truffles as compensation. The first one was good, the second was really good. We began feeling sick by the fourth but ate about 8 each out of spite. To their credit they brought a few shooters and comped a bottle of bubbly. Not a bad recovery I guess. 

We left with opinion very much divided. Some thought Bramon's idea of simply unpacking food and re-presenting it was cheeky and cheap. Others thought it was business-savvy and brilliant. One thing I can say is their bubbly is delicious and the setting is beautiful. At least we all agreed on that. 

Give them a call on 044534 8007

Jamie Who 

Monday, January 4, 2010

East Head Cafe - Fish and chips. Order it.

Hi everyone. I gather quite a few of you started work today. Me? Not quite yet. I think I'll knock around Knysna and Plett for a bit longer thank you very much. I'm lucky enough to have a place in both of these awesome towns and love them both. The Knysna abode is on the Heads and is literally just above Cornuti, where I have spent several long and difficult hours hard at work for you trying to find out what the best wine and food on offer is. (I'll let you know in due time of course). The other day I thought I'd give the less fancied restaurant on the Eastern Head (creatively dubbed The East Head Cafe) a go for lunch. Let's have a look. 

A few years ago this place was...how do I say this nicely....well, quite shitty. I'm glad to say it has been taken over and been given a nice facelift. Touches of funky African prints and cushions offset an otherwise pale colour scheme and the outside area has been redone with wooden tables and a bedouin tent to properly make use of a really spectacular setting. It's casual, "slip-slop" stuff, typified by the fact that I could take Elvis along. 

To eat I went with a jalepeno burger which showed very little sign of heat. The patty was decent enough, well cooked and definitely home made. The star was The Queen's fish and chips though. Let me just say, The Queen has been hard at work too. Unselfishly eating fish and chips throughout the holiday until she could find a winner, she announced it here. The batter crunched with every cut and prod, the flesh was moist but not oily and the chips were perfect. A couple of beers washed it down and we left happy. Look, it could've gone very differently as a result of Elvis lifting his leg on a guest's bag. Yeah, not great. Luckily the dude was obsessed with bulldogs and was totally cool about it. 

Anyway, if you're looking for something cheap and cheerful and you're in Knysna check this place out. It's a good alternative to the hectic queue you'll get at Cornuti. Give them a call on 0443840933. 

Jamie Who