October, 2012

Jason Bakery and The Hatch

 

I’ve been doing some branding/consulting work with my good mate over at Jason (no apostrophe!) Bakery. I call it consulting, but – if we’re honest – a lot of it has involved sitting around drinking beer on a Friday afternoon. It was in the middle of exactly such a “brainstorming” session when it dawnded on us: sitting here is pretty cool. Actually, it’s very cool. You’ve got that mountain view and you’ve got a very cool satisfaction that comes with sitting in the heart of the city you love. You’ve also got Boss Models across the road. Irrelevant. But not really. Anyway, it was here that an idea was born: we should invite some friends. In fact, we should invite the whole of Cape Town.

So we are.

Starting this Friday, Jason Bakery is open for business serving a brand, spanking new tapas menu from 4pm – 7pm. On top of that, he will be rolling out his Urban Picnic baskets. Instead of boring shit like tzatziki and hummus, these will involve things like chocolate crackle top biscuits,  beer bread, rillettes, farm butter, pretzels and various pickles, homemade chutneys, preserves etc. Frankie Fenner will be bringing along some cured meats in the form of chorizo, prosciutto, coppa, Soujouk, pastrami etc. and they’ll be paired with a wide range of artisanal cheeses. Order a picnic basket, take a seat at one of the pavement tables and wash everything down with a jug of Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic (with cucumber, mint and lime.) There’ll also be a featured Grey Goose punch of the week to keep you guessing.

And there’s more. Saturday sees the launch of Jason’s new baby: The Hatch. As a stand-alone shop, this hole-in-the-wall will be slinging out exclusive items and answering the question:  where do I eat in the CBD on a Saturday morning? It’s not Jason Bakery that is now open for an extra day. It’s a new menu, with new items, from a new space.

So there you go. Fridays sorted. Saturdays sorted.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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Ramblings | Comments { 4 }

Spaghetti Carbonara

 

Spaghetti Carbonara is a classic. And, because it’s a classic, there are various things that spark a bit of debate when it comes to making the best version of the dish. I’ll say this: I won’t call this “The Ultimate Carbonara”. In fact, I don’t feel anybody has the right to call their version of  a truly classic dish the ultimate anything, unless they invented it themselves.

Below are some points that you might want to consider.

The pasta:

This might seem like a stupid place to start. If you’re pointing excitedly at the opening word of this post (ready to tell me what an idiot I am) hear me out. I’m not an idiot. You see, penne has made a bit of a recent surge as an alternative. So much so that London’s widely esteemed The River Cafe uses that shape. Now you won’t hear me saying this often, but I think they’ve got it wrong. For me penne is a cop out. For me you should be able to slurp up a long strand of pasta coated in your sauce alone. For me that is the simplicity and the beauty of this dish. So let’s stick to spaghetti.

The sauce:

I have touched on it above. The hero of this bowl of food is unquestionably the sauce. The pasta is just the best way to get it in your mouth. And what’s the point of having beautiful, tarred roads without a kick-arse car to drive? You’re left with three options here. 1)Eggs and cream, 2) eggs and butter, 3) Just eggs  . The first two are just way too much for me. Overpowering, overbearing, over-everything really. If you get the best eggs you can find, you’ll be fine. Trust me.

The eggs:

Wait, there’s more? I’m afraid so. Once you’ve settled on just eggs you need to decide on whole eggs, egg yolks or a combo. I fear this article is starting to get dangerously close to boring, so let’s just say my version is a combination of whole hen eggs and one quail egg yolk per person.

The pork:

Bacon will work. Pancetta, cubed, is infinitely better. This one is not up for debate. You need the rendered fat for the sauce.

The cheese:

Parmesan is preferred in some regions, Pecorino in others. In my particular region (my stomach) I prefer equal amounts of both.

The rest:

You may have broken out into some kind of cold sweat by now, waiting anxiously for the addition of garlic. Well, there is none. Deal with that. The sooner you accept it, the sooner we can move on. And we need to move on, because I am here to tell you there’s no pretty, snipped green herb in here either. Nowhere.

Okay, finally.

Here it is:

Spaghetti Carbonara (enough for 2)

What to use:

A slick of olive oil
About 80g Richard Bosman pancetta, cubed
250g dried spaghetti (the best you can get)
2 hen eggs and 1 egg yolk
25g pecorino, finely grated
25g parmesan, finely grated
Freshly cracked (not ground) black pepper – the amount is up to you but use more than you think for this dish.
2 quail egg yolks, to serve 

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, then add the pancetta and cook until golden. You want it cooked to the point where it is beginning to crisp.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water.

3. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and the extra yolk and then stir in the the pecorino and most of the parmesan, reserving a little for garnish. Throw in plenty of black pepper.

4. Scoop out a small cupful of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta well. Tip it into the frying pan and toss to coat with the rendered pancetta fat.

4. Take the pan off the heat and tip in the egg mixture, tossing the pasta very quickly. Once it begins to thicken, add a splash of cooking water to loosen the sauce. Toss again, spoon into deep bowls and add the remaining parmesan. As a final touch place one quail egg yolk in each dish.

There is no Carbonara dogma. The above is my method, but one that respects the authenticity of the dish. That’s a fancy way of covering my arse. If you know something I have missed, let me know. But I will say this: cook it as per the recipe above and you’ll love it.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

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Food By Me | Comments { 1 }

Punching above their weight

 

 

With Cape Town – and surrounding areas – being home to the best restaurants in the country (yes, that’s a fact) we often get carried away by celebrating places like The Tasting Room, Test Kitchen, Terroir, Overture, The Greenhouse etc. And rightly so. They are world class.

But there are also some unsung heroes producing phenomenal food from kitchens far less grand than those listed above. I think it’s time we give them a much-needed high five.

Here is a list of places that consistently impress with quality and commitment.

Dear Me:

Yes, they make a mean eggs benedict, but there’s a lot more to this place. Vanessa Marx has a clear food philosophy with only  a handful of ingredients being presented on a plate. A daily changing menu is tough to do and they nail it time and time again. A carefully constructed wine list too.

Burrata:

Neil Grant is a magician with wine pairings. And he could’ve opened a fancy pants place, sold high-end wines and charged through the roof prices. Instead he opened a modern take on an Italian joint. Chef Annemarie Steenkamp bangs out a bone marrow risotto that rates as one of the best plates of food I have eaten recently. There’s a lot more where that came from and when you throw in Neil’s pairings this place starts to move into a whole new eating category. Hospitality is brilliant too. I once strolled in there for a nightcap and asked for a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. They didn’t flinch. I had three.

The Common Room:

You might already know that Margot Janse is brilliant. But did you know that The Common Room serves the best tapas in the country? A small, chilled space in Le Quartier Francais where you  can kick back and eat things like fish lollipops with chakalaka, a bacon crumble or a wood-fired roast chicken for two (complete with gravy boat).

Jason Bakery:

This guy makes sandwiches and pies, right? Wrong. He breaks down whole carcasses, hangs cheese in his cold room for months until they’re ready to use, hand-makes things like buffalo bresaola and sometimes takes two days to make a pork pie. And (of course) there’s his bread, which is still made the painstaking, wake-up-at-3am-and-get-to-the-bakery-in-the-dark kind of way. Whereas 99% of “artisanal” bakers in Cape Town are cutting corners and selling you pre-made factory stuff, he’s not.

Loading Bay:

At the butchery we deal with all types of restaurants. When the team at Loading Bay approached us to experiment with their (already awesome) burger we thought it would be a pretty quick process. MONTHS later we were still perfecting the ratios of various cuts to nail down their burger patty. They are absolute nazis when it comes to getting the details right and I mean that in the best way possible. I eat at their place often and am amazed at how the simple ingredients are treated with respect and a bit of creativity. A bucket of chicken and a craft beer sounds easy. But have it there and see what I mean.

Societi Bistro:

Having spent a week cooking in the kitchen with Stef Marais I can vouch for the guy’s commitment to sourcing free-range meat, sustainable fish and seasonal produce. He could get half his ingredients for a fraction of the price but he coughs up extra. It shows in his food too. In terms of a comfortable, chilled, reliable neighbourhood spot this one is hard to beat for me. The bar, The Snug, is one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets too.

El Burro:

When I first met the owner of El Burro he gave me a long and passionate explanation of how he was determined to get South Africans to shift their perception of Mexican food. I must say, I was doubtful. We all have a pre-conceived image of sloppy beans and yellow cheese served in a soggy fajita. Well, I definitely did. Since then Nic has educated me about the intricacies of all things Mexican. Yes, this includes tequila. But even that was a total eye-opener with the whole experience being really interesting. He too makes a concerted effort to find ethically-reared meat and has been constantly pushing the boundaries at his spot with unusual cuts like pig cheeks, ears, tongue and trotters.

Oep ve Koep:

You want to be pretty careful throwing around words like “genius” when explaining any kind of talent. In any field. But for me Kobus Van Der Merwe is a genius. His spot in Paternoster is about as unassuming as you get. But look at one of his plates of food and it’s got that same minimalist, deconstructed vibe that you expect from the popular Scandinavian chefs like Rene Redzepi. He is the absolute pinnacle in terms of local chefs who forage for ingredients and he trawls the local sand dunes for his ingredients. Take a drive out there and let him do his thing. Last time I was there a papaya and raw fennel salad was topped with apple granita. The second time it was gnocchi with sauteed dune spinach. Like I said: the dude is a genius.

La Mouette:

I’ll make this very simple. They could charge double what they currently are for their tasting menu and they’d probably get away with it. I’d still go. Let’s throw in a sunny courtyard for summer and a bunch of fireplaces for winter and you’re pretty much set for all-year-round good times. Which matters, because their menu is carefully constructed and bang-on in terms of seasonal produce. So you should be going there all-year-round. A nice wine list, good pairings for that (ridiculously priced) tasting menu and some of the warmest hospitality in town. Boxes ticked. Why this restaurant is consistently overlooked for higher honours I don’t know.

So there you go. Yes, we are blessed with some of the best restaurants in the country. But you don’t have to go to the fanciest places to be impressed.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

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Food by others, Ramblings | Comments { 2 }