Life.

“Carpe Diem.”

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

“Life’s a journey, not a destination”.

These were exactly the kind of quotes that I used to roll my eyes at. For me, they belonged on a laminated poster, peeling off the wall of my Matric guidance counsellor. Throw in a picture of a beautiful sunset, a black and white portrait of a sports star, or a mountain range covered in snow, and you’re pretty much describing one third of the first year students’ rooms I saw at varsity.

But that all changed on Saturday.

On Saturday my wife said goodbye to her stepdad for the last time, after a year of fighting Leukemia. I say stepdad, but this is the man who raised her. He made her school lunches, taught her how to ride a bike and – I’m guessing – reacted to her first boyfriend like an over-protective bear. The man was enormous and I know he scared the shit out of me when I first met him. (Nothing a homemade butter chicken and a few beers didn’t sort out though.) Our relationship went from strength to strength from there. Indeed, when I proposed, it was his house that I drove to to ask for permission. 

For a year I have watched my wife and my mother-in-law suffering. They have been victims too. That’s the thing about this fucking disease; it affects far more people than the patient. It affects everyone they know. Everyone they love. Both women have been as strong as possible. Both are not strong enough. Not yet, anyway.

Over the last few weeks, as things deteriorated, I have had lots of time to reflect. Hospital cafeterias aren’t good for much but they’re good for thinking. And those same cheesy expressions, previously meaningless to me, suddenly took on new substance. The exact phrases that used to sound so lame now carry the weight I need. Because there has to be a silver lining to this agony. Surely?

The only one I can see is to stop taking life for granted.

If you have an overseas trip that you’ve always wanted to go on, book it. If you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion, drink it today.

Today is that special occasion.

Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Take an extra 30 minutes in the morning to play with your kids. Walk your dogs on the beach. Phone your parents. Hike up a mountain. Enjoy the views. Dress up and book the fancy restaurant. Eat the second piece of cake. Drink the second beer. Worry less about work. Worry more about family.

I’ve learnt a lot through this thing. I’ve learnt that humans are stronger than we realise. And I’ve learnt that humans are weaker than we realise. Nobody should have to endure what I’ve seen two generations of women go through over the last year. But they have each other to lean on. If you have that person, make sure they know it.

We lost a great man this weekend. But hopefully with that loss we can gain some perspective too. Life is there for the living. I drained two pints at Den Anker and ate as many mussels as I could on Sunday. I’d normally be starting to plan my work week, worrying about deliveries, deadlines, clients, orders and basically how I’m going to carry on making enough money to keep a start-up business afloat. Instead, I had a drink. And a laugh. Another cliche crossed my mind… “It’s what Ron would’ve wanted”. Finally, finally I think I know what people mean when they say that. You need to feel it to understand.

Andy.

 

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Open letter to a Cape Town chef.

Dear chef,

How much do you love your job? How much do you love food? These are two questions that are mutually exclusive. Just because you have a passion for cooking doesn’t mean you have a passion for cooking the food you currently are. If that’s the case, listen up.

Together with my wife, I have spent the last few years of my life building Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants. It has been tough. It has been fucking tough. Self-doubt has niggled pretty much every day and there are times when I wonder if it’s all worth it. But there are also great moments taken in small gestures. The e-mail from a customer, with a video of their young daughter singing a song about Frankie Fenner’s “proper meat”. The stranger who stops you in the street to say thank you for giving a shit about the meat that their family eats. These are the moments that give me goosebumps.

As the brand has evolved we have (I think) improved. When I look back at some of the stupid mistakes we have made along the way, I’m not disappointed. I’m proud. We don’t make those mistakes anymore. We are improving every day. And we will continue to improve. We never stop learning.

With our new store, we also launched Publik Wine Bar. A friendship that merges into a business relationship can be a disaster; people a lot smarter than me will tell you it’s a bad idea. In our case it’s been anything but. With an unflinching philosophy towards promoting specific styles of wine, David Cope has revolutionised the way a lot of people in this city drink wine. And I don’t think that’s an overstatement.

The missing piece to this puzzle – we’ve realised – is a chef.  Working with whole carcasses every day I am more convinced than ever that the opportunity is there for someone to grab this city by the throat and start serving the type of food we all want to cook. The type of food we all want to eat. The type of food that nobody is making properly.

Are you that chef?

There are some brilliant restaurants in this city. Shit, there are world-class restaurants in this city. And they are being run by world-class talents. If you are working as a CDP or a sous and you are learning from these people, then I applaud you. This letter isn’t for you. Stay where you are. Develop your skill set. Learn from the best. And one day you’ll be ready to do your own thing.

But maybe that day is today. Maybe you’re ready to do your own thing right now. If you think you are, we’d like to make you an offer. With an existing kitchen, and access to some of the best meat in the country, we want you to step into two established brands and have some fun serving simple, delicious food. You want to make the best burger in Cape Town? Cool, let’s make that happen here. You want hanger steak on the menu. Done. You want to pickle and you want to smoke? So do we. Roast chicken for four? Yes please. And you better believe there’s going to be some steak tartare action.  Forget about the fact that on any given day you can grab a boning knife and help break down a carcass or two. That’s something not too many chefs get to do nowadays.

Let’s put all our cards on the table. This isn’t a salary-based job. It’s a partnership. With turnover percentages. You get the space for free. And you do your thing. With some hard work you’ll be clearing more than you are now. If you want it badly, you’ll be taking home a lot more. You’ll also be having some fun hopefully.

Think about it. If you’re hearing a voice whispering that this could be for you…well, maybe you should listen.

Andy.

 

 

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Profile: Nikki Albertyn.

A newspaper that recently asked me for a recipe and a few pieces of advice on lesser-fancied cuts, decided not to use the recipe I submitted. I was pretty bummed about that. Forget the fact that they asked me for input and then ignored it. Forget that. They had their reasons, I suppose. I was more bummed because the talented photographer that shot the dish never got her pic in a national newspaper. And she deserved it.

Nikki Albertyn is one to watch. As a stylist and a photographer her star is on the rise and I’m tipping her for big things. With a killer eye, Nikki has that exciting skill set where the lines between design and cooking blur. Photographer, stylist, cook. Triple threat.  You could say she likes all things aesthetically superior. You could also say she likes nice stuff.

Check out her pic below for my sherry-vinegar braised lamb neck risotto. (I’ve thrown in the recipe too). You might also want to check out this link for an event she’s hosting in Stellenbosch.

Nikki Albertyn. Remember that name, people.

Lamb neck risotto:

Recipe (serves 4):

 Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 2 whole lamb necks (leave whole if your pot is big enough, otherwise get your butcher to slice them into discs)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots, or small onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 litre homemade vegetable or chicken stock; more as needed (alternatively, just add water if you need)
  • 1/2 cup capers, to garnish
  • A few high-quality anchovies, to garnish
  • One lemon, peeled, to garnish
  • Parmesan, grated, to garnish.

Heat the oven to 140 Degrees Celsius. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the lamb neck with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides; transfer to a plate. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, leeks, celery and carrots to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are tender and  just starting to brown. Stir in the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook one minute more. Add the vinegar and simmer until it reduces to about half a cup.

Return the meat to the pot, and add enough stock to barely cover. (Use the water if you need to). Bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop, then transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven.

Braise in the oven, basting and turning the meat occasionally for 4 – 4 1/2 hours. The lamb is done when they’re tender enough to cut with a fork and the meat easily comes away from the bone.

Transfer the lamb to a plate, let the liquid cool, and spoon off any fat. (Meanwhile, strain the liquid and return to the pot.) Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Shred the meat from the bones and roughly chop.

When ready to serve, warm the meat in the sauce, basting frequently.

Make the risotto as per normal. When it is the right consistency, stir in the lamb and sauce. (You can use some of the braising liquid to make the risotto) To serve, spoon lamb risotto into bowls. Garnish with anchovies, lemon rind and sprigs of thyme.  Finally, finish with cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Go forth and eat,
Andy

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National Braai Day at Weinhaus + Biergarten

 

The bromance continues on Wednesday. To celebrate Braai Day, which (I guess) was borne out of a desire to celebrate Heritage Day, FFMM are teaming up with Weinhaus + Biergarten across the road. As with everything Jason Lilley does, the menu has been scrutinised and I can tell you two things:

1. That dude takes meat seriously.

2. That dude takes his guests seriously.

We were briefed with creating a meat platter and, having presented him with a few options, he had no hesitation in choosing the most expensive one. It’s worth remembering that the end selling price was always going to remain the same so – essentially – all he wanted was the most kick-arse platter we could do. And he kept wanting to add more. Eventually we talked him out of adding a whole beef rib to the platter. (We figure that deserves an event all on its own)

If you like the idea of lighting a fire next week, cracking a few beers and getting some mates over please go ahead. Nothing wrong with that. At all. But if you like the idea of one of the best pound-for-pound cooks I’ve met lighting a fire for you…and you like the idea of his well-drilled staff cracking beers for you…then you know where to go.

A quick note on the meat you’ll be enjoying:

Chicken wings. Our chickens come from one farm near Mossel Bay. They are all reared with compulsory exercise hours and they have no animal by-products in their diet. They are farm chickens, from a farm, delivered by the farmer.

Smoked brisket. Our beef is grass-fed and pasture-reared. We are currently buying Simmentaler beef from a farm in Elgin and a Beef Master/Hereford cross from Natal. Brisket is a fibrous cut from the breastplate and requires a long, slow cooking time. This obviously makes it a popular cut for smoking. The meat will be brined for 3 – 5 days before the smoking process begins.

Boerewors. Come on. We can’t celebrate Braai Day without it. Ours is gluten-free. No cereals, rusk, bulking agents etc. Also, no MSG or other nasty shit. Just meat, spices and fat.

The P.A.C.MAN sausage. Pig and cow. That’s the basis of the second sausage you’ll be eating. Smoked bacon that we grind and add to forequarter mince. Throw in chilli flakes, white pepper and celery seed. Some garlic too. Ka-tang. One ticket to flavour town please.

Doors open at 12. See you there.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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Pot Luck Club brunch

 

This is not a restaurant review. Me telling you that The Pot Luck Club is awesome would be a bit like Barry Ronge telling you to go watch Wolf of Wall Street. (Except that I’m not old, grey and – let’s face it – a little bit fruity.) This post is more to tell you how you should plan your next visit to one of Cape Town’s best.

Two words:

Sunday

brunch.

I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to fully appreciating Sundays. I’m not sure if it’s because I work most Saturdays nowadays, but lately I am very much on board with Sundays. They are my new Fridays. Fact: there is not a nightclub or a bar in Cape Town that can compare to a boozy lunch. And Sundays are the day for these affairs. Up until very recently this would mean The Queen and I heading out to the winelands. Places like Camphors, The Table at De Meye, Overture, Jordan etc. were all ticked off. Bread & Wine was hit. And hit often. La Motte. Maison. Delaire Graff. These are all likely candidates. And – don’t get me wrong – they are all brilliant. But I’m here to tell you that arguably the best venue for a Sunday brunch/lunch is sitting in the heart of Woodstock. Waiting for you. Let me break it down for you: we live in one of the greatest cities in the world. That’s not an overstatement. Cape Town was voted number 1 in a New York Times piece, “52 Places to go in 2014″. The Guardian also released a list of “International Hotspots” and, again, Cape Town came in at Number 1. Throw in the fact that we are hosting the World Design Capital and we are talking about a world-class city. But maybe that’s another post entirely for another day entirely.

Back to Pot Luck Club. The reason I love going there on a Sunday is because it’s light. The 360 degree views that are so special during dinner at the same venue are – arguably – even cooler at 11am on a Sunday morning. Views of the mountain. Views of the harbour. But, more importantly, views of the actual city. The city we love. It’s gritty and real and brilliant. When you sit in Pot Luck Club during the light of day you can’t help but feel proud to be Capetonian. Anyway, back to the food.

R350 gets you an absolute feast. Seriously. Eggs Arnold Bennett, smoked salmon wrapped around sour cream and served on rye, mushrooms on toast, oysters with perfect seasonings, popcorn milkshakes, Korean BBQ chicken, fish tacos, bowls of churros, smoked beef fillet with cafe au lait sauce. It’s a ton of food. Throw in the fact that for R150 more you get bottomless (yes, bottomless) bubbly and you’ll understand the levels of excitement we’re dealing with here. R500 a head for a meal like this is serious value. Oh, did I mention the DIY Bloody Mary Station? I didn’t? Forgive me. Get your head around a Consol jar packed with your choice of bacon, pepper or jalapeno-infused vodka. Throw in chorizo and huge sticks of celery. Crispy bacon stirrers. Stuffed olives. Sriracha sauce. It’s mental.

Luke Dale-Roberts is the one you’ll see in the magazines, but chef Wesley Randles is very much the man in charge here. He sticks to his guns of walking guests through sweet, salty, sour, bitter and Umami experiences. And he does it so, so well. The food is good but the experience is even better. The ideas are fresh and the service is spot on. Keep this one in mind for your next Sunday treat. Celebrate the city by staying in the city.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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OZCF

I don’t blog much anymore. It bums me out. One of the reasons for stopping/slowing down was the constant press releases, the constant media events, the constant product drops and the eventual decline in the standard of my own writing. I felt like I was writing for the sake of writing. I promised myself I would quit. And I did. The new site was dedicated to posting about food experiences that actually moved me. Food experiences that were worth sharing. Food experiences that made me smile or made me pause for a second to reflect.

Oranjezicht City Farm is one of those.

I haven’t seen something as cool as that in a long time. Most people know it as a Saturday morning market but the real secret is Wednesday evenings. The place is open to the public from 4pm – 6:30pm and all you need to do is rock up with an empty bag and an open mind. You’ll get led around the place and shown what you can harvest. You’ll even be shown how to do it. (Yup, there’s a way to do it). This week I went to town with Swiss chard, baby spinach, baby marrows, lettuce, radishes, red basil, aubergine and kale. I packed a basket full of the stuff. And the cost? The cost of fresh, seasonal produce pulled from the soil? R70. FOR THE WHOLE BASKET.

Woolworths will never see me again.

The setting for all of this is a bit of a joke too. With views of the sun setting over this incredible city that we call home, even if I wasn’t allowed to take anything home I would recommend a visit.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

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BROR Restaurant

 

“Welcome to the brotherhood”.

When a bearded Dane utters these words (as he ties an apron around your waist and hands you a big-ass carving knife), it’s a food memory that you know is going to stick with you. Probably forever.

Add to the surreal setting the fact that David Chang and Chris Ying (Lucky Peach Editor in Chief) are at the table next to you and you might get a feel for what a special night it was. But not without a few nervous moments.

But let’s take a step back. I was hanging out in Copenhagen for the MAD Symposium – arguably the greatest food festival in the world – and I had left the three day affair with a book full of notes and a head full of ideas. The festival itself is ridiculous. It would be too easy to call it inspiring. It was so much more. Held in a circus tent, it is two days packed with some of the biggest names in the food world. Neil Perry, Fergus Henderson, Margot Henderson, Sean Brock, Rene Redzepi, Barbara Lynch, Christian Puglisi, Alain Ducasse, Roy Choi, Dario Cecchini, Alex Atala, David Chang, The Voltaggio brothers. And a whole lot more. The audience? People from all over the world; united with a basic, simple love of food. A common geekiness for food. A need to know more about it and the people behind it. A thirst for more. It is a rock concert for food nerds. It’s electric and contagious and awesome.

The theme for the event was GUTS and you can imagine how various speakers interpreted it. Sure, there were guts – literally cut and displayed on stage. But what struck home for me was to hear these household names talking about courage in their industry. To hear them speak about taking risks and to hear them speak about blazing a new trail for themselves, instead of following the rules. The common theme of self doubt was addressed and the common theme of perseverance seemed to emerge as an answer. In a world where “follow your passion” can be an empty cliche, to hear some of the greatest food minds on the planet echoing exactly that sentiment was comforting.

Anyway, fast forward a few days days and my wife and I were ready for a week of eating and drinking in one of the coolest food cities in the world. She hadn’t been lucky enough to attend the event and – although she wouldn’t admit it – I think she was pretty sick and tired of my gushing, as I tried to explain how great the whole thing is/was. She was just looking for a chilled dinner. Instead, what followed was us arriving to the restaurant and literally bumping into Chang & co. I managed not to go too fan boy. Then we were seated next to their table. And then came the announcement to the restaurant that “a South African butcher is in the house”. That’s when the apron and the knife came out. By now people were beginning to wonder what was going on. People were definitely staring. Chang was staring. And I was sweating bullets.

The wine I was throwing back didn’t help much as my mind started racing. These Danes are fucking crazy. Everyone knows that. The staff in this place look like extras from Vikings. Who knows what they’re going to make me to?! Am I going to have to break down a carcass for the restaurant? Am I going to have to debone something for Chang’s table? Are they going to bring a live pig out here for me to slaughter?

The eventual scenario was tame in comparison. A roasted pig head brought to the table on a wooden board. Just for us. Relief. Then a few more aprons and a second head for Chang’s entourage. I’m not sure if it was the crisis that had been avoided, or the wine eventually doing its job, but that pig head was one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. It formed part of a tasting menu filled with soul and personality. Blackened catfish. Pike with grilled cucumbers. Chicken wings and kelp. Buttermilk with currants. It was all laughably simple. I don’t remember seeing more than three ingredients on a plate. But every bite was perfectly executed. It was real, tasty food and it was presented with some of the most unusual and interesting wine you can imagine. In fact, the wine is reason enough to visit BROR. Billed as stuff they are “enjoying at the moment”, it is wine that encourages questions and conversation. It is not easy-drinking wine, but it is delicious wine. (Mind you, when the sommelier pulls up a seat and puts his arm around you while he talks about ” the joy of cloudy wine” everything seems to taste better.)

I will eat at BROR if I’m ever lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again. I will visit MAD Symposium if I am ever lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again. I will make sure I am lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

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Pot Luck Club x Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants

At FFMM we’ve been flattered to have received a few proposals from chefs looking to collaborate with pop-up style restaurants/concepts in our store. Naturally, we’ve been hesitant. Who runs the thing? Who staffs it? Where do we prep? How is point of sale organised? What is a fair split of profits? Blah blah blah. On top of that, we love our brand and are fiercely protective about who we would want to let in our doors. In short, we’ve come up with quite a few reasons NOT to do a pop-up.

But when Luke Dale-Roberts called us up to chat about a joint venture with Pot Luck Club I forgot about technicalities. He described a night of “bohemian madness” with no reservations, no pre-bought tickets and a first-come, first-served menu. Three dishes, 30 kg of meat and some barrel drums full of flames. That’s it.

Wesley Randles will be the man in charge and will be bringing some of his team to help out. With a loose theme of organised chaos expected, Simon Widdison will hopefully be bringing his calming influence to the party, as we hit the street for some fun times. The Baby-faced Dane and The Foodie have come up with some good wine pairings for the night and you can bet your ass we’ll have some cold beer too.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

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