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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beef braised in beer and served on butter beans

Beer is a highly underrated ingredient when it comes to cooking. It makes a great batter, it is awesome to braise meat in and it's pretty handy in a marinade/sauce. I'm talking about good beer. Real beer. Beer with depth of flavour and character. (The irony is that I'm writing this post after drinking my own body weight in Budweisier at last night's football. My word that stuff is average.) 

Anyway, the other night I got my hands on some free range beef and threw together a little stew using the beer I was drinking. It was good. Like...reaaalllllly good. You should try it sometime. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • A dark beer (I used the dark lager from &Union) 
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • About 400g of free-range stewing beef, cubed
  • A handful of chopped celery
  • A teaspoon of coriander seeds, crushed
  • A teaspoon of dried thyme
  • A handful of parsley, chopped
  • A handful of chopped carrot
  • An onion, roughly chopped
  • A handful of mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • A few leaves of sage to garnish
  • A cup of water
  • A chilli, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • A tin of butter beans, drained (or your favourite beans) 
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees celsius. Brown your meat over a high heat in some olive oil. Remove and set aside. 

2. Reduce heat and gently fry your onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the mushrooms, chilli, herbs (except sage) and garlic and fry for an additional minute. 

3. Add the tinned tomatoes, the beer and the water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer. 

4. Cook in the oven for 2 hours. (If you can, cook it longer at a lower temperature. The longer the better) 

5. About 30 minutes before serving, remove pot from oven and cook on the hob to reduce sauce to the desired consistency. 

6. To serve, spoon beans into a bowl and pour on some beef and sauce. Garnish with sage. 

You'll have to go a long way to find better comfort food than this. The beer is phenomenal in the sauce and plays a part in tenderising the meat. It is a healthy, hearty dinner and will impress anyone. Well...it should. If it doesn't (1) You're an idiot and you messed up or (2) They're an idiot and they should leave.  

Jamie Who 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Caveau cookbook (and Sunday brunch/lunch)

I was invited by the owner of Caveau to join him for lunch at the Newlands branch (in Josephine's Mill) on Sunday. I sat down to what he described as "the best offering we have as a brand." Big words from a guy who has successfully opened (and then extended) Caveau in Bree Street, Gourmet Burger in Heritage Square, HQ steakhouse and the Caveau in Newlands where we sat. As part of his collective restaurants he's got a sushi bar, a huuuuuge wine offering, Friday night parties at HQ, rugby days at Newlands, annual birthday parties, events in the Heritage courtyard and a deli to buy fresh produce. So...he's got a few things to throw at the public. 

About 15 minutes into the lunch I knew what he meant though. The sky was clear, the live singer (a gorgeous brunette called Louise Day) was singing up a storm, the river was gently trickling along and the bubbly was being opened at pretty much every table. Very skoochie and super-chilled. 

It was about halfway into my second glass of Villiera Brut Natural 07 that I stopped listening to anyone at the table. I had picked up a copy of The Caveau book. The Caveau book???! Who knew they had a book? I didn't. It's bloody well done though. With the food styled by none other than Liam Tomlin and beautifully shot, the book is written in a deliberately informal tone and does well to reflect the relaxed, warm atmosphere that began with the opening of Caveau back in 2004. There are personal anecdotes, food philosophies, recipes, a focus on wineries and the winelist, an explanation of the vision for Caveau and more. The thing I enjoyed most about the book is that the main stars in it are the loyal customers and the staff. The people who have made Caveau a success. 

Anyway, I can tell you my lunch was brilliant too. A potato and leek soup with just the right amount of truffle oil and a nicely seasoned vegetarian risotto with perfectly cooked rice and sweet mediterranean flavours (peppers, courgettes, patty-pans etc.) Next time you wake up looking for something to do on  Sunday consider this as an option. They are open from 10h00 to 15h00 so whether you do brunch or lunch is up to you. Either way, good luck avoiding the bubbles. 

Jamie Who

P.S. The Caveau book is available at both branches and also at The Chef's Warehouse 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wine of the week - Bramon Sauvignon Blanc MCC 2007

It's no secret that when I take a break from work (that's right, I do actually work) I like to head to The Garden Route. What is a secret though is a little wine farm about 10 minutes outside of Plett. It's called Bramon and makes MCC that I have been drinking fairly solidly for a while now. The chain of events (in a nutshell) goes like this:

1. About 18 months ago I propose to (then) The Princess. (now The Queen of course). 
2. About 8 months ago I spend a long day at Bramon Wine Estate drinking their MCC. 
3. I order waaaaaaaay too much of it for my wedding. 
4. About 6 months ago I get married. 
5. All the guests do their best to finish the bubbly at our wedding. 
6. They don't even get close. 
7. We wake up after the wedding with crates and crates of extra bubbly. 
8. We spend 6 months drinking it. 

It's been a pretty awesome 6 months. 

The MCC itself is unusually made from Sauvignon Blanc, which results in fresh, citrus on the nose and crisp green apples in the mouth. A hint of asparagus comes through nicely. The bubbles themselves are quite aggressive, and perhaps not as refined as some MCC, but I love it. I think it gives the glass some character and it also awakens the mouth. Gentle but authoritative at the same time. Does that make any sense? Like a slap you might give your lover on the bum? (you can see my extensive wine jargon coming through in that last sentence)

Anyway, the stuff is delicious and you would do well to get some. To find out where, check out their site on www.bramonwines.co.za and if ever you are in the area make sure to visit. Just be sure to place your order early on in the trip. Not like us. Unless you want to drink bubbly for 6 months. Well...now that I say it out loud...

Jamie Who

Friday, June 25, 2010

Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer

Guys, I have been asked to take the post I did down. WINE Magazine paid me to write for them exclusively so it's not really the done thing for me to publish it here. That's fair enough. I'll re-post it when this month's issue is off the shelves. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, June 24, 2010

La Mouette - Fancy a dinner for two?

You may well have heard about La Mouette already. It's the restaurant that sparked the infamous Rossouwgate. I actually felt for them, as JP's review of the restaurant was totally overshadowed by the scathing attack that was mounted by readers in the comments section. People totally lost the plot, and more importantly lost sight of JP's opinions. I haven't reviewed La Mouette, as the only eating experience I have had there was the invitation to a chef's table as part of their launch. I can't provide a fair review based on that meal, but I can tell you the food I ate was sublime. I have also heard from others - who's opinion I trust - that their experiences have been equally good. La Mouette seems to be the real deal, and with an undoubtedly beautiful setting it's worth checking out, even if only for a drink or two.  

But what makes it categorically worth a trip is the special they are currently running. R150 for a 6 course tasting menu. That's bloody good value. Even if the food is only average (which I'm confident it won't be) that's worth visiting for isn't it? Dishes like crispy calamari with paprika, fish soup with potato, mussels and leek and tuna tartare with avocado and rocket promise brilliant value for that price.  

What? Still not convinced? How about half-price cocktails in the new upstairs bar. What's that? Does it have a TV? Yes my dear, it has a flat-screen showing all the football. 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I'm giving away dinner for two at La Mouette. All you have to do is tell me which teams will be playing in the Cape Town semi-final of the World Cup. Yip, guess those teams and dinner is yours. 

I'll give everyone until 5pm tomorrow to have their predictions in. In the case of more than one person being correct we'll have a draw. 

Go. Go. Go. 

Jamie Who

If you don't win, but still want to check the place out, try their website 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweet potato gnocchi with shredded lamb shank

Who doesn't love lamb shank? In winter it must rate as one of the best comfort dishes around. Plus, it's super easy to cook. I usually make mine the night before and let it cook on a low temperature through the night. Serving it on the bone with polenta, parmesan mash, saffron rice etc. is cool, but what I like to do is shred the meat. It opens up so many options and you can create phenomenal things with it. I've used it in the past in a risotto which was sensational. The dish was pretty heavy though and I needed something a bit lighter when we hosted The In-Laws on Sunday. Enter gnocchi. 

Gnocchi is highly underrated. It is not overly difficult to make and when you use sweet-potato as I do it's a lot healthier than most starches. The other bonus is that you can always make extra dough and freeze it. In terms of exact amounts, it's a bit tricky. Just gauge as you go and add flour or water as necessary. 

Stuff you'll need to feed four:

For the gnocchi:
  • 3 - 4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • One free-range egg yolk
  • About 2 cups of flour plus extra for dusting 
For the sauce
  • 4 lamb shanks 
  • A handful of finely chopped carrot
  • A handful of finely chopped celery
  • An onion, finely chopped
  • Two tins of tomatoes
  • About half a bottle of red wine. (Good wine. Wine that you would drink happily)
  • A handful of hard herbs, chopped (Go for thyme, rosemary, oreganum or a combo)
  • Flour, for dusting the meat
  • A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 - 2 chillies, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Okay, what to do:

For the gnocchi

1. Make sure the sweet-potatoes are well mashed and while they are still warm add flour, egg and nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper and knead to make a warm, soft dough. If you need to add some flour or water do so. Cover with a tea towel for 5 minutes. 

2. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out the dough to form a long, thin "sausage".

3. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 1cm pieces. Use a fork and squash each piece to form ridges on one side. Place pieces on a floured baking tray. 

4. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook gnocchi pieces in batches. What's pretty cool is that the gnocchi tells you when they are ready by rising to the surface. When this happens, scoop them out gently and put aside. 

For the shanks

1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees celsius. Dust your shanks in flour and brown them in a deep pot. Remove and set aside. 

2. Gently fry your onion, carrot and celery in the pot for a few minutes and add your herbs, garlic and chilli. Fry for a bit longer before adding the tinned tomatoes and wine. Place your shanks in the liquid. They should be covered so you might need to add a glass or two of water. 

3. Bring to the boil before reducing heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes before placing in the oven. 

4. Cook shanks for as long as you can (at least 2.5 hours but preferably 7 or 8!) Take the pot out and gently turn the shanks every now and then. 

5. When the meat is falling off the bone, remove shanks and set aside to cool. Shred meat. 

6. Add ladles of the sauce to a pan and reduce until desired consistency. Add the meat and heat through. 

To serve, spoon sauce into bowls, top with some gnocchi pieces and garnish with chopped parsley. 

Quite simply, an epic meal. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AmaZink Eatery - Sensational

When you're getting paid to eat out, and deadlines loom, the danger is that sometimes the pleasure of a restaurant experience is lost. It can become a job rather than a passion, as dishes and flavours blur into plates of "sameness". Having said all that, what it does mean is that when a restaurant or meal stands out from the masses it does so because it deserves to. It stands out because it is memorable and special. It is a defining food moment. One of these moments presented itself to me on Saturday. In the middle of a township. 

AmaZink Eatery is the brainchild of Bertus Basson, the man behind the fine-dining establishment, Overture. His new venture is poles apart and is a no-nonsense, no frills restaurant in Khayamandi. The decor is a collection of lively coloured wooden chairs and gorgeous painted tables. There is an amphitheater set up with a big screen for watching sport and an outside section where you can watch the goings on of a bustling township. The menu is scribbled on chalkboards in funky fonts and the meat you're about to eat displayed behind glass. Loyiso is the man in charge of a friendly, vibrant staff and he runs the show brilliantly.  

I sat down and skeptically ordered a glass of their house white. A pleasant surprise arrived in the form of a cold glass of Chenin Blanc from Ernst Gouws & Co. I asked our waitress about it and it turns out it has been created especially for AmaZink. Nice. To eat, I ordered a vegetable soup to start. It arrived with light, steaming-fresh vetkoek and was an enormous portion. The soup itself tasted like vegetables which already was a lot better than vegetable soups I have had in more expensive settings. With none of the meat being free-range, I asked Loyiso if I could taste some of his pap. What arrived was the biggest plate of food I have seen. Ever. Pumpkin fritters, potato wedges, chakka lakka, spinach, pap, sauce. Alright then. I ate until I couldn't actually face another bite, savouring every bit of food. This was proper food, cooked simply and with a distinct sweetness to the vegetables that is characteristic to the culture. The Queen had a perfectly cooked half Peri-Peri chicken, blackened by an open flame. The same vegetables were offered, this time with a generous combination of samp and beans. Again, brilliantly cooked. 

Other options for mains were pork, lamb, chicken, wors and even a platter for two combining everything! We couldn't face desserts but next time I reckon I'll just start with one of them. I already know the malva pudding will be the real deal. 

Next time you feel like doing something different, this place is worth a trip. Unfortunately I was driving, but the best way to enjoy this place would be to hire a shuttle, get 10 mates, do a bit of wine-touring and end here for lunch. That - my friends - would be the ultimate day. Who's keen? 

Jamie Who

P.S. Check out their website on http://www.amazink.co.za 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wine of the week - Cloof Inkspot Vin Noir 2007

Cloof is a winery in Darling which produces serious wines without taking things too seriously. With names like Daisy Darling, Happy Dragon, Very Sexy Shiraz etc. it's clear they have a sense of humour out there in Darling. Don't be fooled though, their wines are crackers. One of them, the Inkspot Vin Noir 2007 (a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz, Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon), is a personal favourite for sentimental reasons... 

I chose it as the red for my wedding, which means I got too much and am still drinking it 6 months later. Not necessarily a bad thing. I chose it for the big day for a few reasons. Despite the intense dark colour (hence the name), I found it to be exceptionally fruity. I got some strong citrus coming out of it, particularly orange zest. This set my mind wandering and conjured up images of sipping sangria somewhere along the Spanish coastline. Of course, it's not sangria and saying it is might be a massive insult to the winemaker. What I'm trying to say is that it's fresh, lively and not too heavy. Plums and summer berries come through in the mouth, and in a blind tasting I reckon I would've said it was a Pinot Noir. Wrongly, of course. 

It is the type of red wine you can drink during the daytime. (Which is not the case for all red wine in my opinion). It is the type of wine that I can happily drink standing round a braai or having lunch in my courtyard. It lends itself to be served slightly chilled and I reckon it would be dynamite with something like a smoked duck salad with blueberry dressing. 

Jamie Who

P.S. This wine is a bit more difficult to find than some. That's the bad news. The good news - no, the GREAT news - is that all you need to do is drop them an e-mail on marchell@cloof.co.za and they will deliver. A bottle costs R45. Call the cops people...that is an absolute steal.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cape Wine Braai Masters - South African to the core

Maybe it's the World Cup fever that has swept through South Africa in the last few weeks and months, but it's safe to say I have never felt prouder to be part of this country. I always considered myself to be patriotic, but things have been taken to a new level lately. Seeing foreigners openly perv our beautiful scenery, and hearing them rubbish reports they heard prior to arriving (about safety, lack of development, poor infrastructure etc) has been awesome. Our heritage has come to the fore but at the same time change is evident. Super 14 semi-finals and finals in Orlando? And then two weeks later Bafana Bafana playing at Loftus? Who would've thought it a few years back? 

I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. Flags and mirror socks are one thing, but you need only look at peoples' faces in the packed stadiums to know that we are all in the middle of something special. There is a swell of excitement and it's good to be part of it. 

So it is nothing short of genius that the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) - a non-profit organisation - have timed this general feeling of euphoria with the release of a cookbook which aims squarely at our heritage and the heart of what is truly South African. Yip, I'm talking about the braai. 

153 pages are dedicated to our beloved pastime, with areas of focus including such serious matters as:
  • Braai grid preparation
  • Making the fire. (This is especially technical and involves wood selection, lighting technique, stacking coals etc.) 
  • Equipment necessary
The book takes readers on a journey through some of Cape Town's favourite wineries, with the owners and winemakers each sharing their interpretations of the perfect braai. Of course, wine features heavily and is paired with sensational recipes. Expect things like tea-smoked springbok salad, gemsbok fillet, seafood potjie, vegetables in phyllo pastry etc. 

The photography and styling of this book captures not only the food but also the joy of lighting up a braai with mates. It is a simple pleasure, but one that speaks loudly to us. Louder perhaps than any vuvuzela in any of our incredible new stadiums. 

Jamie Who

P.S. I'm sure you'd like to know which farms are interested? Yes? Well I can do better. Go to their website (www.wosa.co.za) and check out the digital version of the book. It's a pleasure luv. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Caprese salad" soup

Look, in the food and wine world we know some ingredients belong together. Dark chocolate and raspberries. Mint and peas. Mushrooms and thyme. Shiraz and pepper. Tequila and Myprodol. Some things just work, you know? 

One of the most celebrated examples of flavours being best friends is the simple Caprese salad. Basil. Tomatoes. Mozzarella. Done. With the temperature being what it has the last few days (fu*king cold basically) I had a stab at trying to bring these flavours together in a way that would warm me up too. The result was a pretty cool "Caprese salad soup", which was a bit like a tomato soup dressed up for a night out. 

Stuff you'll need to feed 4:
  • Three handfuls of cherry tomatoes 
  • Two tins of tomatoes
  • A bunch of basil 
  • The best olive oil you can get your hands on 
  • About 500ml of the best chicken stock/vegetable stock you have (Check out NoMU's fonds range) 
  • About 12 balls of bocconcini, or the equivalent amount of mozzarella ripped into 12 pieces. 
  • Half an onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • A handful of finely chopped celery
  • A handful of finely chopped carrot
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place your cherry tomatoes in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast for 35 minutes, or until they begin to blister. Remove and set aside. 

2. Meanwhile, gently fry your celery, onion, garlic, carrot in a pan until softened but not coloured. 

3. Add your tinned tomatoes and stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer. Add your roasted tomatoes. Allow to simmer for as long as possible, or until the liquid has reduced to your liking. 

4. Using a stick blender blitz mixture until smooth. (If you don't have a stick blender pour into normal blender and blitz.)

5. While soup is simmering, make a very rustic "pesto" by pounding the basil with some olive oil and sea salt in a pestle and mortar. 

6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and add three pieces of cheese to each bowl. Drizzle over the "pesto" and a bit of olive oil if you need to. Make sure to season with plenty of black pepper. 

This is - quite simply - cooking for dummies. Anybody can make this. It is more sophisticated than a tomato soup and way tastier. The cheese that melts into the soup is what makes the difference. It scores high on the health:taste ratio and is perfect for winter. Get moving. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Neighbourgoods Market - open tonight (15.06.10)

A quick one here my lovelies. A quick one to let you know that the Neighbourgoods Market will be open tonight. What? You knew that already? Well, that's nice. Off you go. Go buy yourself a samoosa. 

For those of you (like me) who didn't actually know the good news until recently, let me break it down:

The usual suspects like Kitchen Cowboys and Piroschka will be there, as will the stand selling ridiculously good seared tuna burgers. Curries and paella will be piping hot to battle the cold and the fashion wing will be there too, sporting a distinctly winter offering. So think scarves, beanies, hats, gloves, coats etc. Get something yourself, get something for the missus. Get both...

I have it on good authority that the Von Geusau hot chocolate is the stuff of legends so grab a cup of that if you're trying to be responsible. If not, I'm sure the Jack Black team and other local micro-breweries will be there. Maybe a glass of red from one of the wineries? Yes? No? Come on, I know you want to. Tomorrow is tomorrow's problem. 

Jamie Who

The Epicurean chopping board - Skaters dig cooking too

My second product review for the team over at Yuppiechef went out in their newsletter today. I see they have taken my photo off this one. I queried this with them and got answers that were too technical for me to understand. "Traffic overload", "Systems crashing". Something like that...

Anyway, read about it here. Who knew a chopping board could be that cool? 

Jamie Who

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wine of the week - Idiom Cape Blend 2006

I've realised that my Wines of The Week haven't exactly been of the "cheap and cheerful" type lately. I realise this may seem like I am a snob. Far from it. I enjoy a glass or bottle of well-priced wine. I've got no problem with it. In fact, discovering a little gem is often far more rewarding to me than enjoying wine that you know is good. That said, there are times when you need wine to celebrate. You need a special bottle to enjoy and savour. There is also no doubt that mood and circumstance can have an effect on how good (or bad) a wine can taste. So perhaps I should explain what I was going through when we opened this one.

Long Distance, Prego and I had just finished the African X (well, 2 of the 3 days. The last one had to be cancelled because of dangerous weather). My left knee felt like a midget was standing under the table stabbing me in the leg. My toenails were black. My back ached. I had blisters the size of golfballs on both feet. But I felt awesome. Six mates (the others were staying somewhere else...shame) had pushed ourselves and our bodies for 65km's through some of the most beautiful trail running around. We sat and traded war-stories. I had thrown a leg of lamb into the oven about 4 hours earlier and the smell of rosemary and garlic was filling the room. I needed a drink. 

Prego had brought along a bottle of the Idiom Cape Blend 2006. We decanted it, gave it as much time as our patience could manage and poured ourselves a glass. On the nose, pomegranate. With a bit of something sweet. Maybe honeycomb? If that sounds weird, it is. But good weird. Anyway, from the first sip it was brilliant. Full-bodied and with the ability to linger in every millimeter of your mouth, it made all the sweat of the two previous days worth it. 

We managed to drink the wine slow enough to enjoy some of it with the lamb, which proved to be a great pairing. Again, the situation may have helped that. A roaring fire and watching the rain lash into a wild sea 20 metres from where we sat can do that I guess...

Next time I promise I'll showcase something a bit more entry-level. But if you're celebrating this is a good one. Trust me, my knee felt instantly better. 

Jamie Who

P.S. The wine itself is a blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. It comes from a Stellenbosch winery and  should cost you about R145 - R155 from wine boutiques.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Espresso - Bad name, good fun

If you judge a restaurant by how busy it is (and quite a few people do) then Espresso in Parkhurst must surely be one of the best in the country. Every time I have visited the place it has been absolutely heaving. The formula of: arrive for lunch, get an outside table on the pavement, drink copious amounts of wine, eat calamari and go across the road to The Attic (a funky bar with plenty of character) was revisited last night as I hooked up with The Big Dog and his missus for an early dinner. It was the first time I had been to Espresso for dinner and upon examining the menu it became obvious why. It is simple, cafe food that lends itself to daytime eating. Less obvious is the reason behind calling the place Espresso...

The pizza is thin, crispy and delicious, with the pasta playing a solid hand too, but really it is their secret Peri-Peri sauce that forms the backbone of the menu. It is splashed on the three best things to order at Espresso, which are:
1. The falklands calamari
2. Beef trinchado
3. Prego roll

I tried a caprese sandwich last night which was decent and packed with some high-quality pesto. Not as good as the three options above but something to consider if you just feel like something light.

A strange aspect of Espresso is the fact that they only accept cash. If that seems a bit shady...well...it is. If you don't like it I guess they are happy with you going somewhere else. As I mentioned, with the amount of people this place gets they seem comfortable with losing the odd customer.

Call them on (011) 447-8700

Jamie Who

Pomodoro - Hello Joburg

The e-mails continue to flood in from the Jozi masses. "When are you going to write about Joburg Jamie?" "Why don't you visit us more up here Jamie?" "Can we see a photo of you naked Jamie?" It's never-ending. I don't really know what to say - I love you guys just as much as the Capetonians. If you were here right now you would see I'm busy blowing you kisses. So I'm delighted to be spending a full week up in Jozi. Eating. Drinking. Trying to pretend running at altitude is no big deal.

Yesterday I visited Pomodoro for the first time since they made the move from 1st Avenue in Rivonia. Their new home is the Morningside Shopping Centre and it's a nice shift. Some of the original look and feel has been maintained but it has received a nice injection of style. So less spartan, but still true to the formula that made it a success. Look, it's in a shopping centre, but there's a nice outdoor eating area, soft natural light, good finishes and an owner who is very, very good with his customers. And the menu is good too. Plenty of pizza and pasta but creative sauces and toppings packed with authentic ingredients. Ther are also more substantial offerings like baked linefish and ostrich fillet.

I tried The Dragon's bruschetta topped with fior di latte and anchovies, which was delicious. God I love real anchovies. The Queen was similarly impressed with a simple carpaccio and a side order of wilted spinach and parmesan shavings, but in all honesty they both knew I had ordered the best meal of the day: A prawn pasta with perfectly cooked penne and the curious addition of tequila in the sauce (which was basically tomato and onion). Well, it was a triumph and brought a sharpness to the dish that was most welcome. The fresh chilli I asked for took the dish from good to excellent and in my opinion it should be a permanent fixture in that specific recipe.

I was told to look out for the owner's grandmother but couldn't see her anywhere. I was initially disappointed at not being able to meet such a legend (she's about 85 years old but pulls in for lunch on most days) but sure enough on my way out there she was...happily slurping up Pomodoro's famous Puttenesca sauce. What a legend.

It's in a mall, yes. So are most of the restaurants up here. But it's got a bit of soul and is definitely worth checking out.

Call them on 087 940 3811.

Jamie Who

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Food blogging - it's real

I attented a brunch yesterday where I was named as one of Mail&Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans you should take to lunch. Now, this article is not just to brag and blow my own vuvuzela (although let's face it, that's part of it) - it's to hopefully settle something that has been irritating me for a while now. A few weeks ago there was huge drama in the food writing/blogging world, as JP Rossouw was attacked on his site for allegedly not conducting all his own reviews. The outcry was long, tedious, malicious and strayed from what is the main point: credibilty.

Credibilty is the cornerstone of any food writer/blogger when they take it upon themselves to review a restaurant. With the internet and the more recent emergence of social media it has meant basically anyone can be a food critic. Anybody can have a voice. This is a double-edged sword though, as people with absolutely no clue are now free to write disparaging things about restaurateurs and their establishments. Now, I am the first to admit that I don't have any professional training. I set up a blog to write about food, which I love. The tone throughout the past year has deliberately been informal as I want to try and talk to normal people. Normal foodies. And I want to do it with a normal voice.

The response has been staggering, as I now find myself part of 'the media'. Invited to launches, events, functions, chef's tables etc. and being commissioned to write for other publications. Initially this seemed strange to me. Only yesterday did it sink in that food bloggers are now considered real media. The events I attend inevitably include fellow bloggers. Like Dax from Relax-with-Dax. And Chris from Whale Cottage. These people sit alongside representatives from the bigger sites like Eat Out and Food24. Indeed, Neil Pendock's mention of Clare Mack (fellow food blogger) and Harry Reginald (wine blogger) in the Sunday Times again confirmed the need to pay attention to food bloggers. The Foodie (yet another food blogger) remains one of my favourite food reads, above some more prestigious publications. Michael Olivier is soon to launch his online magazine, Crush, which shows huge faith in the online food writing industry. It really is an exciting time to be a food blogger. Let's not forget the wine guys over at Spit or Swallow, who are climbing up the highest-ranked sites.

But back to credibilty, and perhaps the more importnat question: what makes a good food/wine blog. To me you get blogs where the writer has great knowledge. There are others where the actual writing is brilliant. A good blog is a combination of both. Get that right and the credibilty will come.

And what gives me or the other bloggers out there the right to slag off establishments? Some say we are wrecking careers. I understand that. I understand the sensibilty that those people might be doing their best. But that's called freedom of speech. Food bloggers are here to stay I'm afraid. If you don't like us, don't read us.

Jamie Who

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wine of the week - Haut Espoir Gentle Giant 2006

The first time I tasted this wine it was from a bottle that I had won. Some dude called Rambowine was having a competition on Twitter where you had to identify a restaurant's bathroom from a photo he had taken with a cellphone. I ended up guessing Reuben's in Franschhoek and 24 hours later I was holding a bottle of the Gentle Giant 2006 from Haut Espoir. Lovely...

Since then I have learnt more about the mysterious Rambowine (real name Rob Armstrong) by following him on the TV show, "Way of The Warrior". On the show his determination and passion for life was obvious and this comes through clearly in his wine. Upon completion of that first bottle (which was the same night by the way) I have made a point of ordering the stuff whenever I can find it. It's a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. So some strong flavours are involved. The smell is spicy and reminds me of  poached plums. In the mouth it is incredibly smooth, with cracked peppercorns and even a bit of aniseed coming through - like crushed fennel seeds or star anise. Very skooch. 

A great way to enjoy this is with a simple, grilled ribeye steak. Use plenty of black pepper to stand up to the spicy wine. 

You're welcome. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Madame Zingara - She's gorgeous

The Madame Zingara  story is a beaut. It's like a soap opera. In a nutshell, it goes like this: 

1. One of Cape Town's most beloved restaurants burns down
2. In one of the greatest marketing/PR coups South Africa has ever seen, the restaurant is resurrected. This time in a massive tent. With live shows.
3. The wildly successful show comes to an end. It gets packed up and the team departs on an overseas tour.  
4. A major investor pulls out. 
5. The team returns to South Africa, battered and in dire financial trouble. 

Last night I was lucky enough to be part of what would read as point 6 in the above story. Point 6 would say: The restaurant opens again. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes! Bigger and better than ever, and this time in the middle of a designer shanty-town. 

The team has done a phenomenal job in creating a faux-township, dubbed eZingalethu. There's a shebeen, a pool bar, some dodgy tattoo shop (they're fake, don't worry), hubcaps on corragated iron partitions, plastic chairs everywhere, a place to hire gumboots and more. The staff are dressed in the trademark whacky costumes and there are several familiar faces from the past MZ adventures. There are some new characters too - my favourite being "the tart". A dude (quite a big dude) who is dressed as a brilliant parody of the Paris-Hilton/Joburg kugel type of girl. She (he) dons a tiny dress and a 1m tall wine glass. She (he) flits around chatting to anyone who will listen and is brilliant. A similar satirical character is "the Trance-party chick", which is another dude dressed as a hippy at a trance party. She (he) has ribbons everywhere, a florescent headband and a moonbag from the 80's. It's classic. She (he) also does a good job of acting like the shrooms have kicked in too hard. Come to think of it, most of the MZ staff do a good job of acting like the drugs have kicked in....

Anyway, once inside the tent you are reminded of how much you missed it. The vibe is electric, the costumes outrageous and the tent itself beautiful. I took my seat and for the next few hours was treated to some awesome cirque acts. A combination of physical strength and raw power, beauty, humour, talent and style were seamlessly strung together. It was awesome to watch and I enjoyed it way more than Vaudeville. Some might disagree but at Vaudeville I found myself drinking tequila to try get in the mood. Last night I had to stop myself from getting tequila. I didn't need it.  The show has something for everyone but the stand-outs for me were the hula-hoop girl and the roller-skate pair. Truly skoochie. 

Another major aspect of MZ is their community work. They have one again teamed up with Ikamva Labantu, a non-profit organisation who help support communities with health, education, food, security and skill development initiatives. Awesome stuff. 
Oh, the food. Right, I forgot about the food. An antipasti platter is shared between two people. Not bad. Mozzarella, fresh figs, a sundried tomato tart, a simple salad and some toasted cashews. The starter dish was a artichoke ravioli and for mains you could choose from their signature fillet with chocolate and chilli sauce, a springbok shank, salmon or a vegetarian risotto with roasted butternut and gorgonzola. Dessert was a chocolate torte with a raspberry mousse. Was the food spectacular? No. But it was decent. And let's appreciate that they are feeding 5oo people! That alone is pretty spectacular and gets my respect. And let's be honest, you're not there for the food really. You're there for a night of escapism and to have a good time, which I absolutely did. 

So there it is. Madame Zingara is back. And she's beautiful.

Jamie Who 

P.S. How much are tickets and how do you get them? Well, I was lucky enough to be invited as media so I didn't pay anything. Well...I paid for the wine (the winelist is impressive by the way). For info on prices etc. check out their website on www.madamezingara.com  

Jamie Who favourites

I've deliberately stayed away from two types of stories over the last few weeks/months. One is the "winter specials" story. I swear when I have to read about some of the ridiculous things certain places are offering it makes me wonder how desperate they actually are. Come visit us on the first Monday of the month between 1 and 2 pm, wearing a Bafana Bafana jersey and if you order your pizza in Afrikaans you get your second caraffe of wine free if you pay for your first with a R20 note. Okay, it's not that bad but I have read and heard enough of winter specials. Enough. Every single day the list grows and grows and I personally am completely over it. Fellow food blogger Dax wrote a great piece on specials and their shortfalls and followed it up with a piece on the worthwhile ones. Nicely done. 

The second story I have steered clear of is anything World Cup related. These stories often tied in with restaurant specials and I refused to get sucked in. Until recently. The fever has got me and it's got me bad. The socks are on the Fire Truck mirrors (yes, I just told you the name of my car), the flag is hanging out my office window, I've bought a ridiculously-expensive Bafana jersey, I own a Puma Unity jersey and when I finish this post I'm off to get myself an Ivory Coast top. I am totally over-excited for The World Cup. So...I thought instead of listing specials that different places are offering I would provide a list of my own. A list of Jamie Who favourites for visitors lucky enough to be part of this historic event. These will no doubt spark debate (which I would love by the way) but please guys, let's keep it civilised. Below is a list of my favourites. Things I enjoy. I'm not saying they are the best. I'm saying they are MY best. Please understand the difference. By all means, comment and leave your suggestions. Here we go:

1. Best steak: HQ and Carne. (Go for the hanger cut here. Rare.)
2. Best place to have an artisanal beer: Brewers & Union. (I'm a fan of the Berne.) 
3. Best place to have a glass (or more) of wine: Caveau. (Their Heritage Square branch.) 
4. Best pizza: Carlyle's on Derry Street. (It must be made very clear that this is only because visitors won't have the opportunity to enjoy a pizza from Massimo. We should all agree by now that he is king of the pizza)
5. Best beer on tap: Jack Black
6. Best place to enjoy Jack Black on tap: Harvey's Bar at Winchester Mansions and Twankey Bar at the Taj Hotel. 
7. Best bakery: Ile de Pain in Knysna and Jardine Bakery in Bree Street
8. Best restaurant on a wine farm (if you're looking for fine-dining): Overture on Hidden Valley
9. Best restaurant on a wine farm (if you're looking for something rustic): Bread and Wine on Moreson
10. Best place to have a cocktail (if you want a view): Salt at the Ambassador hotel. 
11. Best place to have a cocktail (if you just want a bloody good cocktail): Martini bar at the Cellars Hohenoort and Asoka. 
12. Best food market (for a vibe): The Neigbourgoods market in Woodstock
13. Best food market (for the produce): The Wild Oats Farmers' market in Sedgefield or The Slow Food Market in Stellenbosch. 
14. Best burger: Loading Bay (when they have burger nights). Otherwise Caprice. 
15. Best breakfast spot: Bistro Sixteen82
16. Best sandwich: The Kitchen in Woodstock
17. Best overall lunchtime restaurant: Superette in Woodstock
18. Best healthy food: Osumo (chicken fajita wrap is what you want here. Trust me)
19. Best coffee: (...............) I can't drink coffee so it's up to you to judge by the comments. 
20. Best food memorabilia shop: The Chef's Warehouse 
21. Best curry: Firefly in Knysna 
22. Best value-for-money restaurant: La Boheme 

And now, the big dogs. Let's get a slow clap going....

23. Best restaurant in Cape Town: Bizerca Bistro
24. Best restaurant in South Africa: Zachary's in Knysna

A special mention must go out to Cheyne's in Bree Street. He does private functions in the evenings and the feast he cooked for The Queen's surprise dinner still rates as one of the best I have had.  

There you have it. My favourites. A guide to places I would recommend to anyone visiting Cape Town and/or the Garden Route. If you think of any categories I may have forgotten let me know. We'll chat. Also, I didn't include links to the places I've mentioned.  If you want contact details for any of them please drop me a mail at jamiewhoblog@gmail.com 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The 2010 Stellenbosch Wine Festival - Really, honestly, why wouldn't you?

There's almost too much going on during the World Cup. Don't get me wrong, I love the hype and I'm incredibly proud of the beautiful country that we get to show off. I just think restaurants/hotels/bars etc. are putting too much hope in the whole thing. People have invested loads of time and money in some cases and personally I'm not sure they're going to be able to get back the returns they had in mind. I think World Cup Fever has blinded them a bit and their excitement has clouded judgement. Having said all of that, some guys have got it right and introduced spectacular ways to showcase the incredible things we have to offer as a country. The 2010 Stellenbosch Wine Festival is a good example of this. 

From the 1st to the 5th of July, visitors are invited to experience the festival in a slightly different format. This year the plan is to offer a decentralised experience, where guests are transported by shuttle buses to participating wineries. All you need to do is rock up at one of the Park-and-rides, buy a pass and off you go. That's how they're rolling this year. Sounds awesome to me. 

Various activities will be offered by the participating farms, including winemaking workshops, tastings, live music, game drives, football on big screens, food-pairings and interactive meals at some of the farm's restaurants. Idiom Wines are even hosting a 5-a-side football tournament. For the less enthusiastic - or those looking to do more drinking and less running - there is a Boules court (yes there is such a thing as a Boules court) too. For those not in the know, Boules is that game where you chuck the little wooden ball and then the heavy silver balls to try and get them as close to it as possible. It's chilled and can DEFINITELY be done while drinking. 

With participating farms including Delheim, Jordan, Villiera, Waterkloof and L'Avenir (pictured) this event promises to be an absolute corker. Trust me. Have I ever let you down? Tickets will set you back R150 for the day or R500 for the duration of the festival. Do it. 

Jamie Who