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Myrna Robins

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Restaurants

Posted by on in Restaurants

 

DEATH CUP by Irna van Zyl, published by Penguin Random House South Africa, 2018.

 

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How could I resist? A thriller sub-titled Murder is on the Menu, set against an Overberg background dripping with fickle foodies, on-trend restaurateurs and self-important chefs, followed by a series of deadly dishes and human corpses.

This is van Zyl’s second detective novel and is translated from the Afrikaans original, titled Gifbeker. I was impressed by the author’s culinary knowledge of gastronomic contests, trends and top restaurants. Having raced through the book, I came across pages of generous acknowledgements where she listed cookbooks that afforded her culinary knowledge both trendy and basic, chefs who shared their passion and knowledge especially with regard to foraging, both seafood and funghi and techniques like open fire cooking in the kitchens.

From page one the tension is tangible, as a well-known and not always popular food blogger keels over in a top restaurant and dies – a highly poisonous mushroom provomg responsible for her untimely death. Zebardines is one of the top restaurants in the country and is gearing up for the chef of the year and restaurant awards so timing could not be worse –Zeb the chef is celebrated, awarded, young and black – with everything going for him

Detective Storm van der Merwe is on the case, helped by a couple of colleagues, some friendly, others wary. Storm has her own problems to contend with , not least of which is Moerdyk, a former policeman who had quit the force ahead of being fired. He usually turns up at Storm’s doorstep when least wanted, such as just after the first murder. He is determined to stay, and help her find a new place to rent as the owner (also a restaurateur) has complained about her three dogs.

Tracey the waitress and seducer of Zeb is found dead in the restaurant wine cellar – victim number two and the plot thickens as Zeb is attacked by unknown men but survives and is taken to hospital. And Storm has to contend with Pistorius, her supervisor, a molester with past history and now transferred to Hermanus. Two men break into her bedroom and steal her phone and iPad, and her favourite dog Purdey disappears as they run away.

Protesters outside Zebardines, rumours of a food website takeover, a smooth property developer (and old boyfriend of Storm's) add complexity to an already crowded scene. Tension reaches breaking point , as a third victim, Maria Louw, Zebardine’s maitre ‘d is attacked but survives and the glitzy restaurant awards event in Cape Town take place with heightened security in place . Storm herself is in danger before the murderer is stopped – and as in all good thrillers, not many readers will guess who this is.

Topical, fast-paced, complex and accurate when depicting Hermanus backgrounds, this is a well-executed and gripping crime novel.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

 

ILE DE PAIN ANYTIME by Liezie Mulder. Published by Quivertree Publications, Cape Town, 2018.

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This is another gem from Quivertree, a sizeable hardback with a linen- feel cover, featuring a inviting plate of Mexican fish tacos on the front cover and a shot of the restaurant, shelves laden with loaves, on the back.

There can be few South African foodies and gourmets who do not know about the iconic Ile de Pain, a Knysna café and bakery that makes a major reason for some for visiting the Garden Route town.

Co-owner and head chef Liezie Mulder, together with her partner and master baker Markus Farbinger, started the restaurant in 2002 and it did not take long for its reputation for wonderful croissants and bakes and authentic coffee to spread, first among locals, then to a wider audience.

As one would expect, bakes star prominently in this collection of approachable recipes that cover every meal of the day along with a range of chutneys and sauces to have in the pantry. Appropriately, the dishes are grouped by time slots – Around 8am, noon, 6 pm and midnight, with some sweet treats and a chapter of favourite recipes from family and friends getting their own chapters. There is also a good number of recipes that will please vegetarians and even a few vegans and many that reflect the influence of the Far East, Mexico and Italy. A three-year stint in Texas during her childhood still influences her favourite barbecue sauce recipe. Meat is not a major role player in this fresh, contemporary and nourishing culinary collection.

To focus on just a few of her dishes, the superfood smoothie in the breakfast chapter offers a powerhouse start to the day, and the baked yoghurt with berries, an Indian delight, can be served to start the day or as an easy dessert. In the midday chapter, an inspiring selection of exotic, healthy, grain-based salads finishes with a Greek salad that takes the classic to new heights. Supper recipes include casual bread-based dishes, from burger to flatbread while sweet treats reflect a more classic approach – scones, banana bread and berry tart. And there is a great choice of breads – loaves, tortillas, buns – in the midnight chapter, although readers can, happily, choose their time to start kneading...

I missed out on Liezie’s first cookbook Café Food published nine years ago which probably stars croissant recipes, the only item I missed in this collection. This treasury well reflects her present philosophy of being open to possibilities with ingredients, to have fun and not take food too seriously. On the other hand she is meticulous when testing new flavour combinations and adapting dishes that inspired her while travelling to ensure they suit the restaurant menu. As usual, Craig Fraser’s evocative photographs add hugely to the title’s appeal, and Wilna Combrinck's design make it a visual delight.

 

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Posted by on in Restaurants

 

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It is one of the oldest farms in the Durbanville area, but it’s only recently that visitors, diners and winelovers are being invited to discover the joys awaiting them at this venue. Celebrating its long history, Andre and Ronelle Brink, fourth generation family owners, are marking the 320th anniversary of Groot Phesantekraal with the new vintages of their range of wines, along with a renovated tasting room where guests are invited to sniff various spices, herbs and  teas to awaken their senses. Therre’s also a restaurant that occupies a mid-18th century stable, offering fine country fare of breakfast and lunch along with a Saturday brunch.

Having recently tasted some of the wines, it was good to get an update on two of their impressive releases, the 2017 sauvignon blanc and the 2015 cabernet sauvignon.

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To start with the white, Durbanville is renowned for sauvignon blanc and this, made by Etienne Louw (ex-Altydgedacht) is as good as it gets, confirmed by its being placed in the Top 10 of the 2017 FNB Sauvignon Blanc awards and sporting a double gold from Veritas 2017.  Made from vines just a decade old, the nose offers some passion fruit and other tropical flavours with citrus and green notes being added to the fruit on the palate. But there’s also a welcome crispness without searing acidity and an  elegance with faint whiffs of the Durbanville dustiness lingering at length. Alcohol levels at 14% are a little higher than current trends dictate, but this is a wine that many sauvignon fans of all ages will sip with delight. The selling price of R72 is very reasonable for quality of this class.

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Cabernet sauvignon is not Durbanville’s  signature cultivar but the region’s winemakers produce some fine examples, and this wine, from the brilliant 2015 vintage, can comfortably  compete with its regional cousins.  Its a rich medium-bodied cab, with an agreeable freshness accompanying the berry and minty flavours, alongside a hint of the trademark Durbanville dustiness. Soft tannins mean that the wine is accessible now , but it’s sure to improve with age. Those opening it now should let it breathe for an hour or two in a decanter before pouring. It sports a gold from last year’s Michelangelo contest and sells for R100.

The rest of the range consists of a Cap Classique, a chenin blanc, and a wooded chenin named after Anna de Koning, wife of the farm’s first owner. The flagship red is the 2016 pinotage Berliet.

Call 021 825 0060 for more info or visit www.grootphesantekraal.co.za. The tasting room and restaurant are closed on Sunday and Monday.

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Given how rapidly the upper half of Franschhoek is changing, it is as well that we get a quarterly newsletter from  Nicolette Waterford to keep us up to date. As autumn gives way to winter and the number of upcountry and international visitors diminishes, the time is ripe for locals to reclaim the village and its many culinary and vinous attractions. We are also more likely to find place to park and contemplate the magnificent scenery at our leisure, can overnight in luxurious comfort and wander down the main road the next morning, as aromas of croissants baking drift on the crisp air.

Thanks to the Leeu Collection guests can take their tastebuds a lot further than local and Gallic fare: Tuk Tuk – the popular watering hole for tailor-made brews - has just launched a new menu at its Taqueria, consisting of small snack items which make ideal accompaniments to the beers produced at the Microbrewery, unique to Franschhoek. The snack fare consists of chimichangas and croquettes while the taco selection – think corn fajitas, game fish tostadas, burritos and chicken burger – will appeal to carnivores and vegetarians alike. There is also an irresistible dessert choice based on classic Mexican and Tex-Mex favourites. Enjoy all this seven days a week from 11am onwards.

There is also a special offer of accommodation at Leeu House and the magnificent estate hotel for families staying a minimum of two nights, that is valid from now for a whole year, with exception of the period Christmas to end of February 2019. This could make a breakaway for adults and children as memorable as any destination across the planet. And that’s a personal recommendation!

For more info, see www.leeucollection.com

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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There are very few who do not enjoy riding the rails and many who claim that train  is by far the best way to travel. The experience of rattling along in carriages, especially when pulled by a proper steam engine, is an experience both unique and nostalgic, so that many visitors, local and international, mourned the passing of rail transport to Franschhoek.

The station, however, stayed intact and was maintained , not like other forlorn deserted stations across the South African platteland. Occasionally trips were organised to farms along the line – I remember one, in particular, a splendid journey to Bellingham to mark, I think, both a wine launch and the restoration of the old farmstead.

When doing research for my Franschhoek Food cookbook nearly a decade ago, there was talk of reviving the rail link shared by several farms along the R45 – while nothing has come of that  there was great excitement some five years ago when the Franschhoek Wine Tram service was launched, taking guests on a short journey on rails in a 32-seater open-sided tram which stopped at two wine estates in the village. Brainchild of the Blyth family, who no doubt spent many frustrating hours dealing with the logistics of their venture, from bureaucracy downwards, their vision and persistence are worthy of thunderous applause!

The tram proved to be an instant success, offering local and international visitors a fun way to travel that was adventurous, but less hazardous than tasting wine on horseback.

Earlier this month, the Blyth family and GM Brett Garner hosted officials,  media and  visitors to the new Franschhoek Wine Tram Double Deck trams, at Groot Drakenstein station. The service now embraces some 22 wine farms, spanning the valley’s wine route. Travellers can spend between 30 and 60 minutes on board as part of a full day R220 wine tour which extends as far as Vrede en Lust in Simondium.

From the wine tram website, we learn that a combo of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops. They can choose to hop on and hop off for wine tastings, cellar tours, lunch or just stroll through the vineyards.There are six hop-on hop-off routes to choose from, each visiting eight wine estates in different parts of the beauteous valley, while a narrative covers the history of the valley and its wine.

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As Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde remarked   in his launch address, this new expanded service will allow more than 120 000 guests to enjoy the trip in the current tourist season.

Just another good reason to make sure that the stupendous Franschhoek valley is on every traveller’s must-do itinerary this summer and autumn.

See www.winetram.co.za.  For more information  call Brett Garner on 27(0)83  260 0453.

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