Ramblings

Cape Craft Beer Fest

 

I’ll be brief. I realise that if you’re reading this right now then you’re one of the sad bastards who (like me) is not yet on holiday. I realise that you’re sitting at your desk trying your best to look busy. I understand. You don’t feel like wading through loads of information. I get it. But surely you don’t mind reading a few details when said information is about beer? And not just beer – but where and how to consume it this weekend. Interested? Thought so.

The Jozi Craft Beer Fest is coming to Cape Town.

A cunning name change (now called the Cape Craft Beer Fest), a rad and unusual venue, some belting music, great chow and suddenly Saturday the 21st of December isn’t looking so bad. Hell, if I was in Plett already I’d drive back here. This one is going to be a really, really good day out.

What can you expect? Farryl Purkiss is not a bad start. Beatenberg too. That’s a decent drinking soundtrack. We (Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants) will be teaming up with the boys from The Southern Smoke to bring you lamb ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and a few other bits and pieces. Cooked in the beast of a smoker (seen above), they’ll be pretty damn good. Trust us. Oh, then there’s the beer. Here’s a list of the types of guys who will be pouring pints.

  • Darling 
  • Jack Black
  • CBC
  • Citizen
  • Everson’s Cider
  • Lakeside
  • Birkenhead
  • Lakeside
  • Triggerfish
  • Boston Breweries

Food. Beer. Music. That’ll do it.

Details:

Venue – The Garage, cnr of Bree and Carisbrook Streets

TIme – 11h00 to 23h00

Cost – R80

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

 

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Publik Wine Bar

 

I met David Cope 6 years ago. We had a coffee and chatted about food and booze for hours. Essentially, we went on a blind date. We set up the meeting because – basically – Cape Town is a tiny city and we kept getting told by people who knew both of us that we could be the same person. We had the same ideas. We wrote the same articles. We went to the same restaurants. We cooked the same food. We drank at the same bars. So we went on a date.

The bromance has been pretty thick since then and we have been trying to collaborate on a project for years. There was talk of a gin joint. There was a TV pilot. (We still think we’re awesome in that by the way). There was craft beer in a can. There was whale sushi. But the timing was never right.

Until now.

As is the case with most good ideas, Publik Wine Bar was conceived halfway through a fair amount of booze. The idea seemed simple. I was opening a butchery with a liquor license. I didn’t want to run a bar. Dave did. Two beers later we had pretty much come up with the concept. A wine bar inside a butchery. That’ll work, won’t it? What if it was a wine bar inside a butchery that concentrates on natural wines. A bar showcasing interesting varietals. A bar championing winemakers who like to do as little to their grapes as possible. A bar for people who love wine but are bored of drinking the same stuff.

And guess what?

We actually did it.

Publik is a place where you come if you want to hang out in a chilled environment, sip some wine, eat some cured meat and basically just hang out for a few hours. It’s a place where you can lean back and take your time. It’s a place where you can learn a thing or two while you discover some new favourites. Or celebrate existing ones. It’s a place where we open magnums on a Monday. For no reason at all. I’m very proud of it.

Dave was quick to snap up Kristian Sorensen (a very smooth, very cool, very knowledgeable, very passionate Dane) to help him steer the ship. I’ve got a feeling they are onto a winner. Find out tonight, as Publik opens its doors. Umm…to the public.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

Publik Wine Bar, 81 Church Street.

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Cape Town wishlist

I’ve learnt a few things over the last few years with my involvement in the food scene in Cape Town. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that restaurants are a bit like boats. You want your mates to own them but you don’t want your own. That way you get to go and hang out, eat some awesome food, drink some good booze and then head home while they finish off the 18 hour shift they kicked the day off with.

Let’s be honest; we’ve got most of our bases covered in this city. Because the place is so small, most independent eateries form part of an informal club where everybody supports each other by trying to stick it to the big corporates. As a result, there’s a pretty cool overlap amongst the little guys. But I’m not quite satisfied yet. Sure, I’ve got my bakery. My beer bar. My Mexican hangout. My cocktail spot of choice. I know where to head if I want a burger, or a pizza. But I want more dammit. Here are some things I think the city is crying out for. And here are the people that I wish had the time to open them.

A wine bar. Can someone tell me why Cape Town doesn’t have a proper wine bar? I’m talking about a tiny little corner shop where you can buy delicious AND INTERESTING wines by the glass. Small tumbler glasses being filled with varietals that we don’t see that often. Someone who can actually talk you through them with a bit of knowledge. Maybe some charcuterie boards and good bread. It’s not rocket science. Who should be manning this shop? I’m thinking it’s The Alphabetical boys, David Cope and Si Wibberley. If they’re looking for some help, Harry Reginald would thrive here. Stock check may be a problem though…

A curry and beer house. What do people dig to drink with a good curry? Yup, a good beer. I’m seeing a long bar with a few taps and a small kitchen. With the range of options available locally nowadays, matching beers with different flavour profiles of various curries would be pretty cool. Beer is no longer just beer. A Devil’s Peak Saison and the All Day IPA from Brewers&Union are radically different. They should be treated as such, and showcased. For this little venture, I’d love Pete Goffe-Wood to get stuck in. Sure, he’s a bit busy with little projects like Masterchef SA, but I want a curry dammit. Having tasted one or two of his curries at The Kitchen Cowboys Canteen, he’s the man for this job. Trust me.

BBQ joint. Dudes, I’ve got something to say about this. I know we as South Africans think we know our way around an open flame, but the Americans have taken it to another level. We can braai, sure. But they can cook. If you see what guys like Adam Perry-Lang are doing over there it’s phenomenal. And plenty of other former Michelin-star chefs are packing in their fine-dining kitchens to cook meat on fire. So who is the perfect fit for this locally? Bertus Basson ticks all the boxes for me. Currently one of the head judges on Ultimate Braai Master, he’s the guy who could introduce us to the simple pleasures of smoked brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, through-the-night-ribs, burnt-end baked beans, spatchcock chicken and spicy wings. Shit, how good would that be?

Tapas bar. I can’t figure this one out either. Tapas can be the best form of food around. You buy the best produce you can, you stick literally one or two ingredients on a plate and you create a cool, fun room with plenty of noise. So why is there not an inner-city tapas bar somewhere? The challenge here is on flavour combinations. Sure, you have to be prepared to go the extra mile with sourcing the best produce, but you also need to know what to do with it. If there are only two or three things on a tiny plate there’s nowhere to hide. You also need bloody good bread for a lot of tapas dishes. So…are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yup. Jason Lilley. He’s our guy for this. With a fondness for Spanish flavours, and an even bigger fondness for massive hunks of cured pork, he fits the bill. Very nicely actually.

An oyster shop. Sure, people have tried to open oyster and “champagne” bars in Cape Town before. But where is it written in the Restaurateur Wannabe Handbook that they have to be bright white, with sharp geometric lines and shiny silver fittings? What I’m after is a cool, relaxed room. Oysters don’t have to be pretentious. A long bar with communal seating. Giant zinc baths filled with oysters that are shucked in front of you. A couple of simple dressings and maybe one or two baked versions. Simple stuff. Oh, and of course there’s the option to take a couple of freshly shucked oysters home too. This is my dream, remember? So who is pushing and prepping these beauties in my ideal scenario? Considering a lot of these oysters might be sourced from the West Coast, Kobus Van Der Merwe could be our man for the job. His ability to forage for things like dune spinach might translate into some interesting condiments/toppings/dressings.

Nose-to-tail meat heaven. It’s no secret I love eating the less fancied parts of an animal. Offal is a glorious and misunderstood thing but it needs to be prepared by someone who loves eating it as much as they love cooking it. This place would see items like confit and deep fried pig ears, crispy pig tails, pickled lamb tongue, grilled ox heart etc. For this, we look no further than Chris Erasmus. Having spent some time learning from Fergus Henderson – the Godfather of nose-to-tail – Chris would definitely convert a few skeptics.

A steakhouse. “But Cape Town already has steakhouses!” Relax. I know they do. But what I’m talking about is one serving interesting cuts from grass-fed animals. And literally a menu with a handful of items. Hanger steak. Bone-in ribeye. T bone. Flank. That’s it. Wooden boards with big-ass knives. Cooked by people who know their stuff. And served to you by hot chicks with tattoos. What do you mean that’s off the topic? Head chef at this imaginary establishment? PJ Vadas. Here’s a chef who loves sustainable, ethical meat. It’s not often you find a guy who enjoys serving a giant pork chop as much as dainty tapioca wafers with edible flowers. (I ate both of these items at his restaurant Camphors recently by the way) but in my head he belongs in town serving the best steak in the country.

A Ramen noodle bar. Do I need to go on? Rich, deep flavours with broths so good you don’t know whether to drink them or sprinkle them on newborn babies. And the ramen sitting nice and comfy with beef short rib, chunks of pork or just a big whack of shiitakes and spring onions. WHY IS NO ONE MAKING RAMEN NOODLES IN THIS CITY?! I’m looking at Richard Carstens or Cheyne Morrisby for this one. I haven’t met too many chefs with better understanding(s) of Asian flavours.

The gastropub. Gastropubs in this country are a joke. Forries? No thanks. I want to sit at a place where I can choose from a number of craft beers AND CIDERS, check out a small but well thought out winelist and tuck into things like scotch eggs, fish pie, calamari with aioli made from scratch, pork scratchings, sausages and gravy, fish soup etc. I want a wooden board full of cured meats, pickles and cold pork pies. I want a whole chicken to share with my wife while we drink wine by a fireplace. And that must come with gravy. In other words, I want someone to open a proper pub. One you’d find in the English Countryside. I want Cathy Marston to open this pub. (She once had a spot called The Nose in a previous life but I never got to go there and this is my fantasy food world, so she’s the woman for the job here for sure.)

A waffle house. Can someone just go ahead and open a Milky Lane for adults? Thick waffles with their deep grids loaded with crispy bacon and maple syrup. Rich ice cream maybe. Proper shakes on the side. Who do I have in mind? Well, obviously The Creamery ladies. They are opening a retail store though, so let’s hold thumbs that this might actually be the one item on this list that comes true.

A charcuterie bar. Picture it: a place that has a conveyor belt in the middle of the room. You sit facing it, but – instead of sushi – you get to pick from various cured meats and pickles as they cruise by. So essentially it’s a sushi bar. But meat instead of fish. That’s it really. Step up Neil Jewell or Richard Bosman. Make it happen.

Liam Tomlin’s restaurant. Look, I’ve left this one completey blank because – quite frankly – I don’t care what Liam opens. In a dream world…in my dream world…he has a restaurant. He can serve me whatever he wants.

Cape Town is a pretty special place. We’re spoilt for choice. But imagine a world with all of the above. That’s a world I want to live in. Is there anything I’m forgetting?

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

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Yuppiechef: Eat For the Earth

You’re reading this post. So I already know you dig:

1. Food

2. Booze

3. Enjoying food and booze with mates.

In other words, you don’t need an excuse to get a few cool people together to do some cooking. But here’s one anyway – it comes form the awesome people at Yuppiechef.

On June 5th (National Environmental Day) the crew has arranged an incentive called Eat For The Earth. With all proceeds going to their Soil For Life charity, all you do is head over to the website (www.eatfortheearth.com) and register your event on their plant wall. One plant, one event. You are then encouraged to get people to support your event by donating money. These are likely to be guests you are cooking for, but not necessarily. As they give cash for the cause, your plant gets cool things added to it in the form of “plant love”. These are typically quirky of the brand and include lego men, mini pink cars, bunny ears, Indian headdresses, trolls, stickers etc.

The reason I love this campaign is because of the transparency. Yuppiechef have created the wall which could have backfired for them badly if nobody had got involved. Imagine how sad that empty space would look. Instead, more and more people are getting their plant up there and doing their best to rally some support and some cash. It’s very, very cool and it becomes a visual representation of everybody chipping in.

I hope you get on board. For those that are interested let me break down some options:

1. Register your own event and cook on the 5th of June.

2. Donate to the event I have arranged (a collaborative lunch at Dear Me). Look on their site for the plant, as per the pic above.

3. Donate AND ATTEND the above event.

4. Donate to any of the other cool events on the wall.

That’s it really. If you want to see a bit more check out the video below which we shot yesterday while I was visiting Yuppiechef HQ.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr7Kw8ODc9I

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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Confessions of A Hungry Woman

Sam Woulidge has built up quite a following with her monthly column in TASTE Magazine. And rightfully so. Through her words she manages – every month – to take something as seemingly simple as food and somehow translate it into life lessons. Of course, life lessons can often be condescending and (let’s face it) irritating. This happens when they are delivered in a preachy, higher-than-thou tone. I don’t think Sam could get that tone massaged into her writing if she tried.

Instead, she is the friendly relative who invites you into their kitchen. She’s the talented chef who fills you in on one or two cooking tips you never forget. She’s the proud fisherman showing off glistening tuna. She’s a wife, a mother and a friend to share a bottle of wine with. She’s a winemaker. In short, her writing lets her become whatever you need at the time, and her subject matter has always been perfectly conveyed in the pages of magazines.

The fact that she has recently released a book, where these raw emotions are on shelves for anyone to pick up and read, is not lost on me. Sam has always struck me as a writer who is enormously honest and, unlike a lot of recipe/food books (mine included if I’m honest), this is a personal journey where Sam wears her heart on her sleeve. Confessions Of  A Hungry Woman introduces you to a bunch of colourful and talented locals who share a love of food and wine. That’s the “plot” in a nutshell. What makes it so special though is the writing. Sam’s writing. Writing that makes this writer feel insignificant when he reads it. Writing that makes you laugh. Writing that makes tears well up in your eyes. Writing that makes you crave weird things. Like granadillas.

This is a book to add to the collection of anyone who loves food but also one to add to the collection of anyone who loves life. And anyone who loves reading. It’s sort-of a recipe book, as it does have recipes, but it’s also one that you can read on a Sunday morning. Look out for it at all major bookstores – you might notice the subtle cover.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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Bacardi Legacia

 

If you’re reading these pages, chances are you know who Pete Goffe-Wood is. You know who David Higgs is. You’ll have heard of Reuben Riffel. Luke Dale-Roberts? Yup, that rings a bell. Margot Janse – yes, yes, I know that one. In other words, you will be fully aware of the top chefs that this country has to offer.

But who the hell is Ryan Duvenage? And Assaf Yechiel. And Nick Koumbarakis. And Travis Kuhn. And Anil Sabharwal. No clue, right? I don’t blame you – nobody knows them. Not the way they should. These dudes are some of the best bartenders in the country. And quite why they don’t get more credit is beyond me.

Let’s stick with the chef comparison. A good chef will get some kind of formal training. They’ll then get work experience. They’ll bust their ass racking up long hours for shit pay. They’ll get yelled at. They’ll get shat on. But they’ll do their time. Eventually they’ll make inroads and start climbing the kitchen hierarchy. One day they may open their own spot, or they’ll head into catering, consulting or something related to their field.

Here’s the part I don’t get:

Good bartenders are no different.

They’ve also put in the hard yards. (In fact, they’ve probably dealt with more abusive customers than any chef in the country.) They’ve also spent years perfecting their skill set. They’ve also worked crazy hours for stupid salaries. And for far too long they have been under-appreciated. Having spent a bit of time recently with some of the best in their field, I’m amazed at two things:

1. Their commitment. We aren’t talking about guys who are in this field because they couldn’t hack it in the corporate world. These guys are here out of choice, not necessity. Passion is what drives them and they are 100% dedicated to their craft. They’re constantly learning, constantly experimenting and constantly innovating. Do you know who that reminds me of? Chefs. Celebrated, talented chefs.

2. Their palates. When you taste various drinks every day – each with subtleties and nuances – it stands to reason that you’ll be able to pick out a few flavour profiles. But the level of sophistication these guys show is quite something. Forget the poncey wine writers and commentators that get most of the media attention. If you want to taste (and I mean TASTE) good booze, do it with these guys.

Anyway, last week I judged the local chapter of a global competition spearheaded by Bacardi. Following a nationwide search, four bartenders were picked to present their cocktails (which they each invented themselves) to the judges. The brief was to create an iconic, “legacy” drink that has the potential to sit alongside classics like The Negroni, The Manhattan, The Mint Julep, The Daiquiri etc.

The quality of the drinks we tasted was top-drawer but, in the end, Nick Koumbarakis came out on top for his coffee-inspired drink, The Tourist. It was a well-deserved win for Nick, who quickly proved to us that we had made the right choice by crying like a baby when his name was announced. Ha. In all seriousness though, to see how much it meant to the guy was pretty cool. And to hear his heartfelt acceptance speech was an eye-opener. These emerging bartenders are at the top of their game but they are all noticeably on the same team. They’re looking to promote the forgotten art of mixing good, classic, clean and delicious drinks. I’m on board. I admire the shit out of them. My message is simple: bartenders, AND IN FACT BARTENDING, in this country, deserve(s) more respect.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

P.S. A big shout out to Travis, Anil and Ryan. Your cocktails all rocked and it was a privilege to imbibe.

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

It could be argued that a top chef’s challenge today is to meet the public’s seemingly never-ending fascination with novelty/gimmicky food. Of course that’s a cynical approach. The flip side of this is sometimes true innovation and – in some cases – genius.

Maybe this desire to change and constantly adapt to meet demand is why I found Jiro Dreams Of Sushi so brilliant. You see, with all the fiddly food that is being produced nowadays, simple but perfectly-executed food is what I find myself drawn to nine times out of ten when it’s my turn to book the restaurant. Sure, there are cases when a full-on tasting menu will blow my mind. But it’s the comfort of a flawless risotto or a well-cooked steak that do it for me most often.

This movie is 80 minutes dedicated to that exact simplicity and perfection in food. It’s a documentary that follows a three-Michelin-star chef. Not your average three-star chef…if there is such a thing. This dude is 85 years old. And he makes sushi. Just sushi.

He’s been doing it since he was a teenager and, for a large part of the movie, we are taught the art of being able to dedicate yourself to repitition. Indeed, the 10 000 hour theory put forward in Freakonomics came to mind as I watched. If ever there was a good example of practice making perfect, Jiro is it.

The movie is simply shot and touches on Jiro’s upbringing and his complicated relationship with his two sons. His eldest son is 50 years old and still grafts away under his father’s guidance. Surely able to stand on his own feet, and exist as one of the best in the world at what he does, he gracefully accepts the task of working under Jiro and sees it as a privilege instead of some kind of restriction. The younger son left Jiro’s to start up his own restaurant. His father’s comforting words of “if you fail there is no home for you here” are explained in detail by both parties. Again, the acceptance of responsibility is amazing to watch.

There are some incredible  lessons to be taken from this movie, all of which tie in with food philosophies I have seen mirrored in all of our best local chefs. Here are a few:

1. Rather than building an empire and rolling out a whole bunch of restaurants, Jiro and his staff obsesses over his one small outpost (which seats 12 people). The lesson? Strive for perfection.

2. Apprentices work ten years before they are allowed to cook eggs. One, interviewed in the documentary, describes making tamago two hundred and fifty times before Jiro deemed it acceptable. And when he finally got the nod of approval he broke down in tears. The lesson? Humility.

3. Jiro’s “innovation” is so laughably simple . One of his major insights was to massage octopus for 30 minutes to tenderise it, instead of his usual 20 minutes! That was groundbreaking stuff in his restaurant. The lesson? Instead of trying to push the boundaries and re-invent food, sometimes  you need to perfect the basics first.

4. The entry price to eat one FIFTEEN MINUTE meal at Jiro’s is about R3,500.00. The lesson? If simple items are good enough, they can still be top drawer.

5. Along the way we meet a rice dealer and a tuna dealer who are both at the top of their industries. They make a point of expressing that Jiro could get any ingredient he wanted for less from other people. Instead he has committed to the best produce and he goes to great lengths to find it. The lesson? There is no substitute for getting your hands on the best produce.

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s doesn’t have exploding buildings  and the sexiest thing I saw in the whole movie was a whole tuna at a fish market. In other words, it’s for food nerds. But if you want to understand dedication to learning a craft (and perfecting it) this is worth checking out.

Go forth and eat,

Andy

 

 

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The Meat Manifesto

Instead of the first post for 2013 being another “hottest food trends for 2013″ article (we have MORE than enough of those going around at the moment) I thought I’d give you something to add to your list of resolutions as we kick off a new year. To be more precise, I thought I’d urge you to prioritise the way you eat and the way you view meat. Treat it as a new beginning and a good excuse to make some changes. This isn’t meant to be an overly-serious piece but rather a call to action to take a hard look at the shit you are eating and the atrocities that have been committed to get it on your plate. Okay, wait, this  may well be overly-serious.

Inspired by a brilliant book, by a brilliant man (The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) I’d challenge you to read, absorb and actually ACT on my meat manifesto.

2013 Meat Manifesto:

1. Don’t eat meat simply out of habit. Ask questions instead. Pause for a second. Is this meat good enough to actually provide me with pleasure or is it something that I take for granted? Will I forget this meal in a few hours? Could this meat taste better? Should it taste better? Was it cheap or expensive – and, if it was cheap, WHY was it cheap? Maybe better meat is more expansive for a reason. Maybe eating less meat, but meat of a higher quality, is worth considering. Maybe.

2. Think about the animal that gave its life for that piece of meat. Beef is cow. Pork is pig. Meat doesn’t just magically appear in your supermarket aisles. Make the connection. And then ask yourself if you are at all concerned about the way the animals were treated. Have they been fed properly? Have they been treated with respect? And are you sure? How do you know? Did you even ask the person who sold you the meat? Was there even anyone to ask? Perhaps it is time to at least try and find people who seem to be able to answer these questions confidently.

3. Think hard about the way you cook your meat. Do you do it justice? Would you like to know a bit more about how to get the best benefits of various cuts? Because there is plenty of literature out there. Meat is a luxury item and deserves to be treated as such. Arm yourself with knowledge on how to roast, braise, grill, cure etc. and you immediately start looking at meat through different eyes. You respect the meat. You respect the animal that gave its life for the meat.

4. Do you try different things with meat? Do you explore cooking techniques, textures, cheap cuts and offal? There are parts of the animal that nobody ever wants but they are often the best and tastiest cuts of the whole beast! And they’re dirt cheap. Next time you want a fillet of beef, ask yourself: why? If the (wrong in my opinion) answer is you think it’s the tastiest, ask yourself what you are comparing it to. If people explore unusual cuts of meat then the entire animal can be utilised. Another sign of respect.

5. Do you stretch the meat that you buy as far as you can? Do you use leftovers for salads, stews, pasta sauces etc. Are you creative and do you put any effort into turning one meal into two or even three? Some effort and some planning will bring surprising results.

6. Are you willing to accept responsibility? The reason animals are pumped with things like growth hormones and additives is us. And our insatiable demand. As farmers speed up what should be a natural process the animals are the ones who suffer as a result. But the farmers are shirking their ethical responsibilites only because the general public keep snapping up the resulting inferior meat. Are you really ready to stand up and accept that there is a moral dimension that needs to be swallowed along with every bite of meat.

Sheesh, sorry. I got going a bit there didn’t I? But you see where I’m coming from. Instead of making a list with things like “stop smoking” and “go to gym more” on it, do something that counts. Do something that isn’t easy. That’s the point of change isn’t it?

Go forth and eat,

Andy

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