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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Massimo's Pizza Club Interview

It's no secret where I think you get the best pizza in Cape Town. Made with passion and delivered by an Italian with a reassuringly strong accent, Massimo's Pizza Club in Hout Bay is king of the pizza world for me. Massimo's wife Tracy is brilliant as front-of-house and when you arrive you feel like part of the family. I recently sat down and asked them a few questions on what makes their pizza so special. As with most Italians, getting him to talk wasn't a problem at all. Getting him to stop? Well...

JW: Let’s start with the boring stuff. What part of France are you from? 

M: haaa monsieur, je suis Italiano! But we lived in beautiful Dordogne,  France, for 7 years before moving to SA. That’s where the Pizza Club was born, in the garden of our 400 years old farmhouse. 

JW: Okay, relax. Bloody hell. Italy then. Now…Italian cooking is very regional, with each area claiming to have their own version of some pretty famous dishes. What were the meals you can remember eating growing up, and did they differ from the way they would’ve been prepared in other parts of Italy? 

M: Not only every region, but every village! I come from Piemonte, north west region, near the mountains. My family grew their own vegetables, made wine and had chickens and rabbits running around.(I remember once a year buying a pig and making salami), so for me ‘free range’, ‘organic’ has always been the natural way to eat. In my family, like in most Italian families, every meal, lunch & dinner was cooked from scratch. Normally there’s a pasta or risotto or soup, followed by a main meat course with vegetables. I recall with affection my Mum’s coniglio alla cacciatora (rabbit casserole) and ‘illegally’ distilling grappa with my Dad. 

JW: So Italian cooking is just as romanticised as it appears on the BBC Food Network then? Tracy, maybe you should answer this one… 

T: Well yes. When Massimo talks about food everything sounds romantic! TV is becoming more true to life though and at least it’s not all designer kitchens. In my opinion Italians eat well but they’re not adventurous with new foods.  I have introduced Asian foods to my-in laws and as my father-in-law LOVES what I cookwhich has landed me in trouble with my Suocera (mother-in-law)!!! 

JW: Beautiful. Does it irritate you that most people interpret authentic Italian food as being red-and-white tablecloths and red pasta sauces? 

M: It does. But what irritates me more is the amount of salt and pepper people put on my pizzas before they’ve had the first bite! How do they know is not already salted to perfection?! There is an annoying habit here of people adding extra toppings to already perfectly balanced pizza recipes. I don’t get it; this never happens in Italy.

..another thing that irritates me (and I don’t want to take the place of another CT restaurateur famous for this...) is when small children waste my food… I’m used to Italian kids who learn to sit at the table and appreciate proper food!  

JW: Which brings us onto pizza. I’m not just saying this because you promised me free pizza forever after this appears on my blog but I have never tasted anything that even comes close to your creations. So…what is more important: the quality of the flour used for the dough, the quality of the tomato sauce or the toppings? Or is it everything?  

M: The quality of the flour is certainly important, and I use only the best Eureka mills (before I decided I went one morning at 5am to see what they were using at Ile de Pan in Knysna). We use only Fior di Latte Mozzarella and not the processed pre-grated stuff that is standard in most other places. But the most important thing is certainly the woodfired oven and the high temperature the pizzas are cooked at. On average a pizza is ready in 90 seconds and on some evenings it can take as little as one minute. This allows the toppings to remain fresh and maintain all the individual flavors.   

JW: Aaah, the wood-burning oven. I see you are now baking your own breads in there. What’s the vibe with that?  

M: My grandfather was a baker but unfortunately he retired before I was born and my biggest regret is to never have asked him his secrets. At an Italian table you can’t start eating if the bread basket is not full... and you never leave a plate with some sauce left on it! You use the bread to do a ‘scarpetta’ (mop it up). I try to bake bread one morning a week, when the temperature of the oven is perfect (it would be too hot in the evening after the pizzas) and I love every moment of it. I’m still experimenting with lots of different recipes, it’s not as easy as you would think, but the result is unique, like nothing you could buy.

JW: I see you are now doing a mezze platter using this bread...

M: I serve my bread with the Piatto di Legno, which is a selection of simple, fresh ingredients and recipes from my mamma. Like the giardiniera (summer vegetables cooked in a tomato sauce) and the zucchini in carpione (slices of fried courgettes in agrodolce).

JW: And Tracy, you handle the salads? 

T: Yip. Even we get tired of pizza and can appreciate that customers will sometimes feel like something lighter. 

JW: I hear you. So guys, how often do you eat pizza then? 

M: We eat pizza at least 4 nights a week.

JW: Ha ha, living the dream. That's awesome. What are the favourites?

M: Every night we try a different combination (and when it works it becomes part of the menu), but we tend to prefer vegetarian combinations. Lately we love the one with goat's cheese and salsa verde, pear & pecorino cheese, or just a simple Margherita with home-made pesto. The secret for a great pizza is to have few, but tasty ingredients. 

JW: Okay, one more question. When I stop by for a pizza what should I wash it down with?   

M: In Italy we prefer to drink beer with pizza. We have recently started stocking some interesting beers like Birkenhead and the &Union range. 

JW: Glory. Can I have a menu please? 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jack Black and Brewers&Union - We Love Real Beer

I have written quite often on this page about how much I love Jack Black Beer. I've also mentioned how awesome Brewers & Union is for delicious chow and artisanal beer. Last night I went to the launch of a concept that sees these two teams collaborating on a very exciting idea. 

It's dubbed We Love Real Beer, and plans to showcase the microbreweries around the country (and continent). With mass-produced, chemically-enhanced stuff being the beer of choice for most people in this country, We Love Real Beer plans at setting up a platform for the little guys. The guys who truly care about their produce. The guys who use no additives or preservatives. The guys who brew their beer for longer. The passionate guys. 

Both Jack Black and Brewers&Union have realised how the marketing landscape has changed with the rise of social media. Everyone now has a voice and the consumers' is the loudest. With this in mind, their We Love Real Beer website is aimed at being an interactive way of bringing retailers, suppliers and consumers closer together. The vibe they are after is to get people to communicate where they go for a beer, what they drink, who they drink it with, how often they drink it etc. It's a very, very cool idea to gather information and use it constructively. 

The thing that really stood out for me last night was watching a Brewers&Union employee happily pouring me a Jack Black pint. In theory these guys are direct competitors, but they don't think like that. They have the bigger picture in mind and both are looking to do one thing: champion beer. Real beer. Made properly. It's that simple. If only other industries were this open minded. 

Their site is spanking new and at the moment there's not much to look at. But apparently they did that on purpose. Their theory? Beer needs to be the focus, not a pretty site with loads of worthless gimmicks. 

Watch out for Jack Black and CSG beers. They might cost a bit more but to me they represent amazing value for money. You need to remember value-for-money doesn't mean "cheap". It means VALUE FOR MONEY. 

Check out the www.weloverealbeer.com site 

Jamie Who

The Pepper Club - Underseasoned

I've got Pafoof staying with me at the moment. She's down from JHB scouting a few venues as she looks for a place to host her next client dinner. Somewhere, somehow, someone suggested The Pepper Club in Camps Bay. We went there last night to check it out with The Quad and his lovely girlfriend who were here from England. Was it suitable for the vibe Pafoof was looking for? Unfortunately not. Why? Well...she's not too keen on expensive, average food in a place with slow service and zero atmosphere.  

Look, I'll be the first to admit that last night wasn't the best night to show off Camps Bay. The wind was pumping, it was raining and the impressive views from the restaurant were rendered pretty much useless as we were forced inside. But still. Was that the reason we were literally THE ONLY table there? In a 100+ seater restaurant. I think not. 

After arriving at 8 o'clock we eventually got our starters after 9. They consisted of the prawn tempura (good batter, good prawns, terrible dipping sauces), a house salad (absolutely massive but fresh) and the salmon tartare (good, well seasoned.) By now 2 people had made their way to the bar and I was beginning to understand why the place was called a bar SLASH restaurant. Those two had really got the place humming. In fact, if I leaned forward far enough, I could actually hear them talking. It was getting wild. 

Onto the mains (after 10 o'clock). The Quad and I both had the nori and sesame crusted salmon which sounded fantastic but under-delivered in everything except price (R135). It was bland and overcooked. Pafoof had the linefish which was kobeljou (R125). Her dish was the best of the night and was beautifully cooked and nicely presented. The Queen had a sirloin steak which I found to be tough. It was pretty good in terms of flavour though. The Quad's girlfriend had a vegetable tempura platter which was also not bad. Good batter and fresh vegetables at least. 

An interesting part of the menu (which is huge by the way. Ranging from prawn platters to venison to pasta to grills to chicken etc) was their desserts. They had some guilt-free options and we tried the cheesecake. The actual cheesecake was perfect in terms of texture and flavour but the blueberry "coulis" it came with was without doubt one of the worst and strangest things I have ever eaten. They looked like blueberries that had been dried and then re-hydrated. When you put them in your mouth they were chewy and then sticky and then totally dry. Imagine a tiny blue piece of cotton wool soaked in blueberry juice. Weird. And not in a good way.

The Pepper Club may well heave in summer on a beautiful night. The bar area might be packed with shmodels having cocktails when the sun is shining. But that's really not good enough in a fickle Cape Town restaurant scene. You need to be consistently busy and consistently good. Busy and good. Last night it was neither. 

Oh, did I mention the waiter asking for his tip in cash? No? Well...yeah, that was weird. Also, there was the cleaning staff packing up the chairs around us as we ate. Hardly ideal. 

If you still want to go there call them on (021) 812-8888. 

Jamie Who 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chicken and wild mushrooms braised in white wine

I normally start giving some thought as to what I'm going to write for you lovelies somewhere on my way to work in the morning. This morning was different though, and as I stood admiring myself naked in a full-length mirror, I knew what I was going to write even before I had time to exfoliate. You see...it was raining. And I have just the thing for a rainy day. Look, it's not the prettiest dish you'll find here but in terms of taste it's hard to beat. And perfect - absolutely bloody perfect - for a cold night when you just feel like no-hassle cooking. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 4:
  • About 800g of organic, free-range chicken pieces (I use skinless. Try and get the thigh meat, otherwise get chicken on the bone.)
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A cup of white wine
  • A cup of water
  • An onion, finely sliced
  • A handful of mixed wild mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
Okay, what to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. 

2. In an oven-proof pan or casserole dish gently fry the onions, mushrooms and garlic in a little olive oil. You want the onions to soften but not colour and you don't want to burn the garlic so make sure the heat is not too high. 

3. After about 2 minutes add the chicken pieces and the herbs and fry for about 1 minute. Add the water and the wine and increase the heat. Bring to a boil and reduce back to a simmer. 

4. Add the tomatoes, season well with black pepper and sea salt and cover the pan/dish with a lid or damp wax paper. Place in the oven and cook untouched for about an hour and fifteen minutes (maybe an hour and a half, depending on your oven). 

5. Remove the pan/dish from the oven and cook gently on the stovetop to reduce the sauce to your desired consistency. You can have it as thick as you want, depending on what you are serving it with (quinoa, couscous, brown rice and lentils are good options). 

So...that's it. There's an expression that says if something is too good to be true it probably is. Not here though. Here it really is that easy. And healthy. And f-ing delicious. Enjoy it. 

Jamie Who 

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Toffie Pop CultureFestival - A shot in the arm of funky

It's a good thing I'm married. Because after reading this there's an extremely strong likelihood that you will want to sleep with me. The most exciting festival I have seen in ages is coming soon. And most of you probably haven't heard of it. It's called the Toffie Culture Festival and, quite frankly, it looks like the balls

With a creative celebration of art, music, design and fashion their guest speaker lineup is like reading a list of the world's coolest jobs. Most notable is Kim Jones (head Creative Director of Alfred Dunhill), who has been voted by The Face magazine as number 20 in their "most influential people in fashion" list. 

The Toffie Festival promises to be raw, edgy and brilliant and more importantly, accessible. And...oh yes...creative. The best part? A ticket costs R680, which gives you access to the exhibition plus two full days of lectures. When compared to The Design Indaba prices (which in all honesty are an absolute joke) that is phenomenal value. 

The festival is from the 26th to the 28th of March. For more check out www.toffiepop.blogspot.com/

Jamie Who

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Grand (Granger Bay) - Not that grand

At the Dear Me tasting the other night I met an awesome guy who told me a great story about The Grand Beach Cafe in Granger Bay. Now...I haven't reviewed the place yet but there have been plenty of mixed reports. (read some of them here). The general consensus seems to be that they have an amazing view and because of that the standard of food is not very good. In fact, words like "horrid" and "extremely disappointing" pop up. If there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on though it is the shocking service. Something that irritates me more than anything is when a restaurant realises their location is fantastic, and adopt a we-don't-really-need-to-try-because-people-will-come-anyway policy. The story I heard the other night seemed to sum up what everyone is saying about The Grand. It goes like this...

He arrived at The Grand and ordered a Peroni. Fine, things were going according to plan. He drinks the Peroni and goes back to the bar to order another one. The barman's reply? "We don't serve Peroni." The guy explains nicely, holding up his empty bottle as evidence, that he just bought one. "You must've brought that in yourself, where is a receipt?" was the barman's only conclusion. Our boy goes back to his table. Eventually the owner comes over and explains that somebody else must've brought them in and HIDDEN THEM BEHIND THE BAR. WTF? ARE YOU GUYS GETTING THIS???? Hey? How priceless is that? Well needless to say the guy was speechless and his expression obviously registered with the owner who then gave him a Peroni "on the house." Wow. What a charmer. 

The night got better when the same friend then went back to the bar to get a cocktail. He asked for a cocktail menu and when he opened it it was nicely held together with...a big blob of bright pink bubblegum. Not exactly Grand. Not quite. He gave the barman (who saw the gum quite clearly) a pleading look but was given no apology. Just a casual "So what'll it be?"


He was aware enough to snap a quick photo of the disgusting menu. Now, I understand that these things happen in restaurants and some of you might be saying it's not The Grand's fault. I am well aware of that. What is their fault - totally their fault - is the way they handled it. Terribly. 

Jamie Who


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dear Me - Could, and should, be amazing

Remember this day. The day you were browsing through a couple of blogs and stumbled across Cape Town's hottest new bar/restaurant THREE AND A HALF MONTHS BEFORE IT OPENED. How could this be? Let me explain.

On Monday night I was invited for dinner to crit a sample menu for a new restaurant set to open on the 1st of June. The place is going to be called Dear Me and sounded interesting. Situated just off Long Street and Greenmarket Square in the building that used to have that really weird Russian champagne/oyster/caviar bar in it, I was intrigued. (I think it was called Sobeit back then.) Anyway, Dear Me is to be set on three levels and promises a lunch menu focusing on light, healthy meals, a more substantial dinner menu, private dining areas/function rooms and my favourite...a rooftop bar with awesome views. Sound good? Thought so. 

Back to dinner. Amazing. Eight of us enjoyed a six course meal, talking music, art, food and wine (not in that dry, poncy way that is so common with pretentious "foodies" but more in a way that showed just how passionate the owners are.) The courses we had were reflective of how chef Vanessa (previously of Cassia) sees the food being served and were all excellent. There was a definite style to her food, as she tried - and succeeded - to produce healthy food that was still interesting. As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a huge believer that this is possible and anyone who disagrees would certainly have been proven wrong had they been there on Monday. We sampled tomato consumme with fresh petit pois and basil, a chicory, couscous and pomegranate salad, sauteed wild mushrooms with asparagus and truffle oil, vanilla scented quail and more. We even had a semillon sorbet which was an unusual and brillant palette cleanser. 

Speaking to the Dear Me team, it is obvious that they have put a strong emphasis on design and decor elements. This is often a worry for me, as the actual food doesn't get the attention it should. That wasn't the case on Monday though and I reckon if they produce this level of food when they open they'll be fine. Better than fine actually. Watch this space. 

Jamie Who

Constantia Fresh Festival

There are some things that go hand in hand in the food world. Always have. Always will. Bacon and eggs. Fish and chips. Tequila and regret....

Seriously though, for me, food relationships are a bit more complex than that. It's the feeling you get when you're eating/drinking and the surroundings you're doing it in. So yes, fish and chips go well together but it's more about the memories you had as a kid eating them on the rocks at the beach. When I sit down and eat roast chicken I don't only taste the chicken, I taste the memory of how my Mom always makes it. The difference is subtle, but hugely important. (Was that all a bit arty? My apologies.)

One of these food relationships is that between summer and Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing says hello summer like a chilled glass of a beautiful, crisp SB. (I will be calling it SB from now on. Deal with it). The joy of this wine is that I have mostly enjoyed it outdoors. It somehow tastes better that way. So you can imagine I was pretty stoked to hear about the Constantia Fresh Wine Festival which is taking place on the 26th and 27th of Feb. The festival showcases SB in all its glory and participating farms include Constantia Uitsig, Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Steenberg, Eagle’s Nest and Buitenverwachting. A huge drawcard for me is the pairing of the wines with canapes prepared by some of our most talented chefs. Look out for Peter Tempelhoff of Cellars-Hohenort, Bertus Basson of Overture, Garth Almazan of Catharina’s at Steenberg, Roland Gorgosilich of Bosman’s at Grande Roche Hotel and Edgar Osojnik of Buitenverwachting.

Tickets for the Friday are R1500 (yeah, that is bloody steep I know) but there are several international farms on display. Personally, I'm going to hit it up on the Saturday where tickets will sting you R400. If you are interested call Jorg on 072 467 5943. Tell him Jamie Who said you should call. He'll give you the tickets for free. Just kidding. I've never met Jorg. 

The festival's strapline is "For the love of Sauvignon Blanc." Me? I'm doing it for the love of summer. 

Jamie Who

Monday, February 15, 2010

Taste of Cape Town - A double ticket could be yours

Okay kids, gather round. I'm sitting here holding two double tickets for this year's Taste of Cape Town Festival, which takes place on the 24th-28th of March. I wrote about this event last year (here) and can safely say it is an awesome day out and needs to be experienced if you consider yourself (a) Capetonian (b) a foodie or (c) both. 

Because I feel the way I do about you guys (we really have taken things to the next level lately don't you think?) I am giving these tickets away. They are valued at R160 per double ticket and could be yours. All you have to do is send me a recipe or a restaurant review that makes me smile/cry/applaud/laugh/pump fist in air etc. Basically you need to send me something that gets a reaction. I'm telling you not to be boring peeps. Do you hear me? Do you feel me? Good. 

I will pick one winner for a recipe submission and one for a restaurant review. They don't need to be long, they just need to be brilliant. 

If you still need convincing of exactly how cool this event is, check out their website on www.tasteofcapetown.com 

I'll announce the winners on Monday, the 1st of March. 

Jamie Who

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sichuan pepper calamari salad

I got the idea for this dish from Kylie Kwong, who has to go down as one of my all-time favourite chefs. Her philosophy is to bring Asian techniques into Western cookery and she does this by showing us that real Chinese cooking isn't all about sticky sweet and sour pork, MSG-packed sizzling beef and some chicken and stale cashews served in a gooey sauce. It's more about clean, simple flavours that showcase the main ingredieent of the dish. She is very clear about the fact that quality of ingredients is absolutely vital. I'm a big fan of this approach to food and love her "less is more" vibe. 

Last week I had some fresh calamari steaks and didn't really know what to do with them. I ended up adapting one of her dishes and the whole thing took about 10 minutes from start to finish. The end result was a beautifully balanced, light warm salad. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • About 400g fresh calamari steaks
  • A quarter of a cup of cornflour
  • Canola oil (I like using this oil for this dish as olive oil is a bit overpowering)
  • A handful of coriander, finely sliced (use the stalks and roots) 
  • 2 tablespoons of spring onion, sliced diagonally
  • About a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 - 2 chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 - 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • About a teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of Sichuan pepper (you can find this in any Asian store but I think places like Woolies and Pick 'n Pay are stocking it now too)
  • A head of iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • A packet of rice noodles, soaked in boiling water as per packet instructions
Okay, what to do:

1. Score your calamari steaks to make criss-cross patterns. Be careful not to break through the skin. 

2. In a bowl, combine the calamari and cornflour to coat. Shake off any excess flour. 

3. Heat some canola oil in a wok (or the biggest pan you have). Wait until the oil is extremely hot and cook the calamari steaks for about 1 minute per side. 1 minute guys, that is all it will take. Please don't be tempted to cook it longer. Remove calamari, cut into pieces diagonally and set aside. 

4. Add the coriander, spring onions, ginger, chilli and garlic to the wok and stir fry for another minute. Return squid and add the sea salt and Sichuan pepper (leave a bit for garnish). Stir-fry for 30 seconds and you're done. 

5. To serve, place a handful of noodles in one half of a bowl and shredded lettuce in the other. Top with the calamari mixture and finish by sprinkling over some Sichuan pepper and squeezing over some lemon juice. 

This dish is healthy, fresh and ridiculously easy. The only thing that can go wrong is if you overcook the calamari. It will be tough, tasteless and generally pretty average. Just have a bit of faith and pull it off early. As a worst-case scenario you can chuck it back on if you need to. 

Jamie Who

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jardine - The real question is...do you book for lunch or dinner?

Me reviewing Jardine is a little bit like Barry Ronge reviewing Avatar. Well, instead of a fat gay man I'm actually blindingly handsome and instead of blue people I'm talking about food but you get the point. Everyone knows about Jardine. Everyone knows how good the chow is. But those places are always worth reviewing. Hear me out. You see...sometimes that can be the worst thing for a restaurant. If people arrive expecting awesome food then you are under real pressure to deliver it. Thankfully, Jardine does. Every single time. 

The reason for my visit was the introduction of lunch at Jardine on Wednesdays and Fridays. I wrote a post about it here and after hearing good reports I went along to check it out for myself. The menu is surprisingly simple. I say "surprisingly" because...well...I like saying the word. No, not really. I say it because I was surprised at such relaxed, bistro-styled food being served in a place that I had always associated with fine dining. There was a choice of four starters, three mains and three desserts. I had steamed mussels in lemongrass, ginger, garlic and coconut milk (R45). They were served in a wax paper bag and were sublime. Plump, fresh, tasty and beautifully seasoned. I would've loved a bit of chilli thrown in there but other than that they were hard to fault. The Queen had oysters served with a shallot dressing (R60). I would've liked to report back on how they tasted but they disappeared before I had to chance to start negotiating for one. So, assume they were good. For mains we both had yellowtail served on squid ink risotto (R85) and, along with the meal I enjoyed at iCi, it was one of the best fish dishes I have had for a long time. The fish was moist and light and worked extremely well with the velvety risotto, which actually stole the show. The dish could - in fact - easily have been called "squid ink risotto topped with linefish." Micro-herbs topped it off. Sensational. 

We skipped dessert and walked out having paid R125 and R140 per head. To me, that's a good deal. Yes, I know it's not cheap but it's all relative. For that caliber of food you could easily be paying more. Look around you. It's Jardine. 

I take my hat off to Eric who has taken over as the man in charge while George is away working on his new venture at Jordan wine estate. From what I've seen, and heard from others, he is doing a top job. My next visit is for dinner. 

Call Jardine on (021) 424-5640. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wild Woods - Can comfort food get any more comfortable

You know that restaurant that's warm and inviting, serves simple but tasty chow, good wine and local beer. You go there often. You call it your local. You pop in there for something quick and easy during the week but also for a lazy lunch on a Saturday or Sunday. You tell everyone how reasonably priced it is. Got it? Well Wild Woods, Pete Goffe-Wood's new venture in Hout bay, is that place. Only better. 

I went to check it out last night with Pafoof and The Dragon who were down from Joburg and was impressed. When you walk into Wild Woods, there is a window that allows you to see straight into the kitchen where Pete is hard at work. Up a few stairs and you know you're in a neighbourhood spot pretty quickly (I don't mean that in a bad way...it's more in reference to the relaxed vibe). There is a particularly inviting pub with two equally beautiful features taunting each other for pride of place. One is a gorgeous piece of Jamon ham. The other is a Jack Black tap. There is a mixture of some interesting light fixtures and a green mosaic feature wall behind the bar. The eating area leads onto a deck which boasts awesome views of Hout Bay. It's basic but nicely done. 

The menu at Wild Woods changes daily but retains most items. The style of the food is unashamedly bistro and concentrates on flavour and texture combinations more than frilly presentation or overly complicated cooking techniques. I was thrilled (like high-school girl waiting in line to see Twilight thrilled) to see hangar steak on the menu. The only restaurant in SA I've seen it at before was Carne. I explained it there but let me do it again for you. Hanger steak is found near the kidneys of the animal and as a result is dark and quite gamey. You don't see it too often because not too many people know how to cook it. Also, not too many people know how to eat it. You really do need to have it rare or maaaaaybe medium rare. If you cook it any longer it becomes way too tough. Anyway, last night I had it with roasted shallots, potatoes and spinach all served in a rich, dark jus. Fantastic, strong flavours. I started the meal off with some of the Jamon ham already mentioned. It was paired with nectarines and rocket and the clash between the salty ham and sweet fruit was perfect. I made sure to taste food from the plates around me and can confirm that the home-cured duck with figs, a salmon gravadlax, the yellowtail with new potatoes and the roast chicken breast with porcini mushrooms were all superb. (How confident do you have to be to put chicken breast on a menu?!) 

Look, the place has only been open for two weeks so there were always going to be a few teething problems but I expected that. The good news is that they arrived in the form of our waiter rather than the food. It wasn't through lack of trying either - the dude really was doing his best - but the language barrier was more Berlin Wall-ish in proportions. Shame, he battled with everything and we did wait too long for our food. As I mentioned though, these things can be fixed and I'm sure they will be with a bit of time.

Chatting to Pete he told me that he'd much rather have a restaurant full on a Wednesday night than a Saturday. He reckons those are the guys who will pop in once or twice a week regularly rather than the person who gets dolled up and treats Saturday night like a big occasion. Fair enough. My impressions were that the place is likely to be full on a Wednesday AND a Saturday night pretty soon. Everyone is going to want to call this place their local. 

Wild Woods is open for dinners (18h00 - 23h00) from Tuesday to Sunday but the bar opens at 16h00. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve lunch from 12h00 to 15h00. Call them on (021) 971-1166. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bread & Wine - Should be called Bread, Meat & Wine

Bread & Wine restaurant on Moreson Wine Estate is a little misleading as a name. Because (as I was forced to do as a result of AlcoFreeFeb) if you take wine out of the equation there is a whole lot more than just bread on offer. Let me explain...

On Saturday I found myself at The Blessing of The Harvest Festival at Moreson. Basically, the whole day is centered around good food and wine and besides making our own, people were drinking quite a bit of the stuff. I was sitting at a table with Clayton, their winemaker, and he was chatting about the wines on offer and their plans for the future. It was a beautiful day and the script was written to get stuck into some quality wine. Knowing I wasn't allowed to booze I was holding firmly onto the fact that I knew the food would be good. I was not disappointed. 

They set up one of the most impressive buffets I have ever seen. I asked for a menu so I could tell you everything we were served but I proceeded to lose that somewhere between Franschhoek and Cape Town so you'll just have to take my word for it! The style of food was a great reflection of what they serve at Bread & Wine though: chilled spinach and ricotta soup, chickpea and roasted pepper salad, rare roast beef, smoked ham, corn tart with pancetta, watermelon, feta and pumpkin seed salad etc. The highlight had to be the duck board with four different versions of the animal. 

Neil Jewell is a known genius when it comes to meat (his charcuterie board is legendary) and he took me into their coldroom to show me dozens of salamis, hams, chorizos and more. He got SO excited talking about meat and the experiments he is busy working on (including a Guinness sausage!) The passion and pride he has for his craft was inspirational to see, and was also infectious. I never expected to get sucked into his weird world of meats but there I was rubbing a paprika chorizo like it was a labrador puppy. I felt a bit embarrassed when I eventually snapped out of my trance and headed back to civilisation. 

On a day-to-day-basis the restaurant offers gourmet food but served in a rustic setting. The standard of produce is uncompromising and the menu is innovative. If I had to have one criticism (and it's not their fault) I would say the venue lends itself too much to summer (their tables are mostly outside in a beautiful courtyard.) An idea would be to do a bit more to improve the vibe inside which is insipid and a bit dull.

Tina Jewell is responsible for putting the "Bread" into Bread & Wine and her ridiculously good freshly baked varieties are some of the best I've had. Ever. I have been on a bread-making course she runs and if ever you feel like something a bit different you should check it out.  

There are dozens of phenomenal places to eat in the winelands but if you feel like a chilled glass of quality wine (Clayton won young winemaker of the year for his Premium Chardonnay so that's the one you want) and a relaxed lunch this is your spot. Just pick a good day. 

Call them on (021) 876-3692

Jamie Who

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dutch - something (and somewhere) you should remember next time

If you're reading this blog then let's face it you're pretty cool. I know I consider myself to be unbelievably cool. So by enlarge you and I (being cool) would hang out with cool people and visit cool restaurants. Well...here's an experiment. Take 10 of your cool friends and ask them on a gorgeous Saturday in Cape Town where they'd like to go for lunch. I guarantee none of them will say Chelsea Village, near Wynberg. And I just can't understand why...

Chelsea is full of beautiful buildings, most of which have retained their original facades. Besides awesome little cottages that are now peoples' homes, loads of them have been turned into decor shops. The streets are full of people walking around browsing and the Maynardville Park is packed with dogs and families having a picnic. The whole vibe is very European and extremely cool. There are a few coffee shops and one or two restaurants. Last weekend I visited one of them and was pleasantly surprised. 

Dutch is a breath of fresh air not only for this area but for Cape Town generally. Paying homage to his country of birth, the owner, Stephan, has splashed bright orange touches onto charcoal walls. The setup is small and shares an entrance with a florist. There is a beautiful little courtyard and an open-plan kitchen that shows off friendly and well-trained staff, every single one of which wore a smile with enthusiasm when I visited. The menu itself was described by Stephan as "casual, relaxed cafe food that we would serve in Europe." (True, but it also has one or two Asian-inspired dishes like fried rice with chicken satay, peanut sauce and prawn crackers.) The rest of the menu was the definition of simplicity and featured things like a chilled sweetcorn and basil soup, spaghetti with chilli, parsely, garlic and parmesan and salmon trout fishcakes. What was more interesting though were the Dutch dishes, none of which I had even heard of never mind eaten before. I asked Stephan for some advice and ended up ordering beef kroketten which was served on rye(R55). It was sort of like a beef tartar that had been rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The clash of textures was unreal and the flavours were intense. Normally I steer waaaaaaaaaay clear of deep-fried food but there was no sign of grease at all in the dish and it was surprisingly light. The Queen had the spaghetti mentioned above(R65) and it too was full of flavour - a great example of the fact that it is the QUALITY of ingredients in a dish that is important, not the amount!
The winelist was small but featured a few of the smaller farms which I always enjoy. The presence of Jack Black Beer is also testament to the fact that Dutch enjoys truly artisanal fare. 

For a good change-up Dutch is well worth a visit. A few years back it was in De Waterkant and developed a big following. I never got a chance to visit but I will definitely be returning to his new Chelsea venue. 

Give them a call on (021) 797-5838.

Jamie Who

Friday, February 5, 2010

AlcoFree Feb - For South Africans Against Drunk Driving

My general response to anyone mentioning a "detox month" has in the past been to stick my fingers in my ears and run away screaming. So you can imagine how much thought I've given to what I am about to announce:

I will not be boozing for the month of February. 





But wait, let's explore what on earth would make me feel like I need to do this. The answer is...I'm doing it for a good cause. You see, there is a charity set up which is aimed at promoting awareness for the South Africans Against Drunk Driving campaign. Now, I'm not going to get all high and mighty and start preaching about how bad South Africans are with drinking and driving but I honestly do believe we must be one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to this. In London or Australia if you have a glass of wine or two at lunch they call you a taxi. It might seem silly but that's how it should be done. In South Africa it's not uncommon to check someone drink his own bodyweight in brandy and then drive himself home. But as I said, this isn't a lecture. It's more about championing what I feel is a great idea. You donate R50 to sign up and here is the best part: YOU CAN THEN BUY DAYS YOU ARE ALLOWED TO DRINK ON FOR R20! 

"So Jamie, you can cheat?" 

Damn right you can. The way I see it, the more you cheat the more money you donate so it's win/win. Look, I'm going to try and hold out for as long as possible but with The Big Man's wedding to C-Dog and The Queen's birthday (not to mention So-So also having a birthday and no less than three more weddings this month) I'm bound to fall off the wagon once or twice. The beauty with this campaign is that you're allowed to. All it costs is R20 a pop. 

For more info log onto http://www.alcofreefeb.co.za/

It's going to be bloody hard but let's stay strong together people. Safety in numbers. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, February 4, 2010

La Bottega - I'm happy enough

They haven't exactly re-invented the culinary wheel there, but La Bottega has definitely added value to the ever-improving Woodstock restaurant scene. (Remembering Superette and The Kitchen)

Set in Buchanan Square (opposite Banks) the decor is the (cliched?) exposed bricks mixed with more modern materials like steel and wooden decking. A blackboard lists the specials which I'm told change every day or two. What is not a cliche, however, is the enthusiasm the owners bring to the place. We were greeted, sat and partly served by one of them who looked unbelievably young. I'm pretty sure if he walked out of his bar and into another one he might be asked for ID. The pride for his restaurant was there for everyone to see though and I'm always impressed by that. He took us through the menu which is basic and Italian in origin. The focus is on ciabatta (which they bake daily), pizza, pasta and salad. I was impressed to see things like marinated artichokes, roasted peppers, high-quality mozzarella and pork loin featuring. My lunch was good enough - fresh ingredients and well seasoned but to be honest it's not somewhere you go for a fine-dining experience. It's chilled. The waiter called me bru and openly perved my car. That's the vibe there. The owner (Alistair by the way) was wearing a baseball cap and doing it unapologetically, which I actually liked. They're not being arrogant but they certainly know what they are all about. 

I was busy thinking how much I HATE bedouin tents (they have a huge orange one covering their awesome deck) when I heard Alistair telling another table how it is only temporary and they plan to build something more permanent. When they do, I can see this place becoming very popular for after-work drinks. He tells me they already heave on a Friday. What they do is put bowls of free food out (free bowls guys...like free bowls) and only ask customers to pay for drinks. You buy a R100 booklet which gets you 7 drinks. Bloody hell that's a good deal. No wonder it already heaves. 

Give them a call on (021) 461-9731. 

Jamie Who

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 Moreson Blessing of The Harvest Festival

Normally when I say to people "I'm planning on spending the day knee-deep in wine" it means...well it means I'm going to be drinking a lot of wine. On Saturday though I'M GOING TO BE SPENDING THE DAY KNEE-DEEP IN WINE. You see, I'm going to be making my own. It's all part of the 2010 Moreson Blessing of the Harvest festival. 

For R300 you get to pick grapes from their vineyards, climb in a barrel and create your own wine. Then you enjoy lunch at the awesome Bread & Wine run by Neil Jewell (I don't care how full I am, I will have a charcuterie board even if I have to blend it up and inject it into my veins). There's also a label-designing competition which I am looking to The Queen to win. She is a graphic designer after all. (Did you like that little insight into my life. Hey? How close have we grown lately? It's wonderful.) She better win, If not, she's walking back to our hotel. Joooookes man, relax. I'll give her a bike. 

Seriously though, it promises to be a good day out. Wine and food. It's that simple. 

For more check out their site (here) or call Tina on (021) 876-3055. The event also runs on Sunday but don't forget The CapeTown10's  rugby is on in Greenpoint. Bloody hell I love Cape Town. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Roundhouse - pleasure and pain in one weekend

Regular readers will know by now that The Roundhouse in Camps Bay is one of my favourites. Everything they do there is class. Breakfast on a Saturday morning dealing with a hangover? Let's try the scrambled eggs with salmon trout. Formal dinner with the boss? I'll have the roasted scallops with cauliflower caramel please. Quick lunch? Try the roasted bone marrow with oxtail marmalade. You get the point. There's also a picnic they can throw together for you with amazing tapas and a bottle of Villiera bubbly. So when I found out about their Friday afternoon "drinks and snacks after work" vibe - that's not the official name in case you were wondering - I was always going to be there. Except for not being able to get my hands on a Jack Black, I wasn't disappointed. 

What they do on a Friday afternoon is offer the tapas/picnic/chilled menu on their grass lawns. There is a DJ playing chilled background music, waiters and waitresses fetching your drinks for you and a view that could make Zeus weep. If you don't start going there then good. More for me. Booking is essential so plan ahead. If you don't you can always take a seat on their terrace though which is also cool. 

On Sunday I had an altogether different Roundhouse experience. They say dynamite comes in small packages. If by dynamite they mean torturer and small packages they mean lycra then they are absolutely right. You see, I had signed up for their Bootcamp Breakfast. How it works is you pay R150 and you are then put through a hectic workout for an hour before being served a health breakfast. Again, it was extremely well done. Our torturer's name was Jenny and she proceeded to put me and The Queen through our paces until we could hardly stand. Various cardio excercises were mixed in with some strength stuff and it all ended up with a little mini trail-run through The Glen. Working out outdoors is special and the views of Camps Bay definitely eased the pain a bit. Breakfast afterward may not sound exciting (muesli and yoghurt with fruit and fresh orange juice) but true to form it is better than anything in its category. Homebaked with cinnamon and dried cranberries and served with plenty of banana, kiwi fruit, apples, raspberries and blueberries it tasted awesome. As does any meal when you feel like you've earned it. 

Get hold of The Roundhouse to book for either of these very different experiences on (021) 438-4347. 

Jamie Who

Monday, February 1, 2010

Racist. Bigot. Loser.

The best part of this blog is when I get an e-mail or comment from one of my readers saying how much they enjoyed a review or a recipe. Look, sometimes they won't enjoy something I write and if they put their point of view across in an intelligent, logical way then I appreciate it. This blog is only my opinion after all. It's not like I try and pretend to know more, or that my opinion matters more. All that said, every now and then you get someone commenting on something in a way that is totally unnecessary. One particular idiot had a go at not only me (which I could have handled) but also at our beautiful country. He was a racist and a bigot and his closed-mindedness was exceeded only by his stupidity. Yesterday I had had enough. I tweeted about it and asked people what they thought. Well...the response was awesome. Please feel free to click on the link below to check out what all the fuss is about. And...of course don't be shy to have a little dig yourselves. It's wankers like this that I have no time for.