A weekend in the wine lands

The rain had been beating down on CampsBay the whole week, and we were getting cabin fever. Friday finally arrived and the prospects of bad weather didn’t seem half as bad if the days could be spent curled up in bed or on the couch. However my better half, the brains in our outfit, had other ideas about how such a cold rainy weekend should be spent and come Saturday morning, I was whisked off to the wine lands.

We drove through the mountains and through spots of sunlight and rain until finally we reached Franschhoek, where we checked into the Protea hotel.

After unpacking we went for a wander around town, ended up (obviously!) at the chocolate shop for a Belgian hot chocolate and Black Forest cake for me. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily relaxing and getting ready for dinner.

Dinner in Franschhoek is never disappointing. You can even buy cheese and crackers from the BP garage and it would taste better than anywhere else in the world; however, what we experienced at dinner that night could only be described as spectacular.

Grant (the brains) had recently (5 months ago) decided that he would progress (or is it regress?) to veganism (from being a vegetarian) and this had proven quite a challenge when it came to picking restaurants – even in Franschhoek.

He called up a couple of restaurants, including Le Quartier (which used to be my favourite over there) but they were closed and highly recommended Ryan’s Kitchen. I had never heard of this “Ryan’s kitchen” and was quite pouty about going to some place that I didn’t know, but off we went nevertheless, and what awaited us I just didn’t expect, at all.

Ryan’s is at the end-ish of the Main road on the right hand side. We crossed the green wet front yard and I felt like we were visiting with friends; warm lights glowing through the windows of the house, it reminded me of a time long past.

We were welcomed into the house by a beautiful woman with a hint of a foreign accent; Lana is Ryan’s wife and unbelievably the mom of two young boys. She walked us to our table in the dining room, which flows into the warm open-plan kitchen, I sat down and started looking around the room, beautiful home, I wonder if they live here.

Grant had called and spoken to Lana and Ryan when he booked because of the vegan-ness, he asked if they could make a plan for him. At first Ryan seemed a bit perplexed by this crazy vegan weirdness, but he patiently listened to Grant as he explained the no eggs, no milk vibe. We thought Grant would get a veggie curry or something typically easy to cook, perhaps even a carrot and a piece of potato, garnished with a blip of olive oil or something similarly bizarre. (You wouldn’t believe what people think when they hear vegan)

But Ryan had gone out of his way to create a masterpiece, and I think for the first time in five months, Grant forgot that he even was a vegan and that he had limited options when it came to food – and me, I was in food heaven.

The first course came out, looking like a kitchen-esque science experiment, with test tubes and vials, even a petrie dish with a scoop or a blob of light orange foam. I was sceptical at first, I can’t now come and tell you that I was all like “Wow this looks yummy!” because I was looking at the lot in front of me thinking “I hope Col Caccio is open till late”.

There is a scene in the movie Ratatouille where the rat explains what happens when tastes combine and he compares it to music and colours – this is the first time in my life I’ve experienced tastes like music. My mind was blown and I couldn’t compare what I tasted with what I saw – not even in the slightest.

I thought that the strange little starter was as good as the night was going to get (when it came to the food, of course) because the menu sounded queer and outlandish and for a while I couldn’t figure out what to eat – I settled on the quail (I don’t like quail, it’s bony and weird) as a main and for dessert I picked the Guava soufflé, which sounded like the most standard desert on the menu.

I watched the kitchen the way a kid watches cartoons, Chef Ryan doing the impossible. The energy in the kitchen was tense, as if they were performing open heart surgery, whispering shouted commands at the sous chef, never raising his voice to higher than a breathing whisper octave. Perfection with every deft movement when plating the food.

The dreaded quail arrived and it looked amazing, like fat quails that have been living in fat quail heaven. The quail looked nothing like any of the scrawny little bird blimps I’ve ever seen served.

The taste sensation was overwhelming and I recall that I had actual tears of joy welling up in my eyes at one point during the meal. The colours were beige and brown juicy yumminess in a pool at the bottom of my plate with blots of truffle and I was tempted to lick my plate when the food was gone.

When I hear soufflé, I see a tea cup size ramekin with a cupcake looking top hanging over the edge. The soufflé from Ryan’s kitchen is a proud, light puff of pinkish guava foam and she is large, no hanging over the edges, this soufflé looks as though she will just keep on rising if you don’t damn well hurry up and eat her.

About a third of the way through the soufflé, Lana came over to see how we were doing. She noticed that I had been eating my ice cream separately and promptly showed me how the dish was best enjoyed – she tipped the ball of ice cream into the soufflé and with a encouraging nod she said “Now you try again” I loaded my spoon with a little bit of each and popped it into my mouth… At that moment my mouth turned into a Madonna Concert and the soufflé was the music.I love food and I have never wanted to write songs about food, but that night I felt like standing on our table and singing about the food.

I couldn’t help myself, and I had to take pictures of everything – mostly to prove that it was real. I was dying to know more about the restaurant and the food; I asked Lana if she could sit with us for a moment and tell me a bit more. She did me one better and invited us to sit down with her and Ryan for a glass of wine after dinner service was done.

I had ordered an espresso and was yet again surprised, by another set of mini deserts that just finished me off. I had found food Shangri-La in little Franschhoek, and I met a real life kitchen warlock.

The other patrons left and the four of us sat till the wee hours of the morning, talking about Veganism, restaurants, food, hotels and Russia. Chatting and talking nonsense about children and life and having a good skinner as well. It’s been a long time since I have met such lovely people and I can’t wait to go for dinner to Ryan and Lana’s again.

Winter is coming to Cape Town…

Winter is coming to Cape Town…

This may be slightly premature, but the rainy weather in the city today has made me realise that we are stepping closer to winter in Cape Town every day. It has been an interesting summer. I didn’t spend half as much time on the beach as I usually do. This is evident in that my “tan” has already started fading, and my summer glow is almost gone.

Nights are getting colder, the sun is setting slightly, but noticeably earlier. Another way of telling that winter is surely en route is by the migration of all who can afford to travel to warmer places. My friends have all (every single one of them) decided to go overseas this winter, I have New York, Spain, Vietnam, Turkey and Bali on the travel list of places to research slightly so I know where my buddies are hanging out, so I can “travel” with them.

I love hearing about all the adventures, or misadventures, shopping and restaurants, and I will be along for the ride inside a Black Berry or/and an Ipad or whatever, while cozy-ing it up in Cape Town. I am so looking forward to road trips to Hermanus, wine tasting in Stellenbosch and some serious yummy comfort food in Franschhoek.

For me, winter is a time to quiet down and reflect, review my goals and do some serious introspection. I am hoping to take up Hot Vinyassa at Jai and learn to cook Thai food… and then there is the French, I have been threatening to learn French for the past two years and have just never gotten around to it, now I just need to find a patient peep from France to sit down and teach moi.

The Kove Camps Bay Part 2

I do love my wine!

I do love my wine!

The reservation was made, the confirmation call came at midday, and at 20:23 I finally arrived, late as usual. My less than impressed boyfriend was already sitting at the table waiting for me, and I didn’t even have a pen or paper to write anything down. (Eventually I did though)

In a perfect Camps bay style cliche, our waiter was some guy that used to sleep with one of my friends, mildly amusing. Okay so we finally settle in and get to ordering drinks, the wine list starts off by explaining in great detail that the restaurant is all about the wine. The list carries on by giving you a blow by blow summary from 1991 (if I remember correctly) up to the present on the kind of harvest every year had and what the conditions where like in that particular year.

Now before I get into the night, I just have to mention the event that set the undertone for the entire experience. While John and I were picking at the wine list, I couldn’t help but noticing a hive of activity in one corner of the restaurant, paramedics were swarming around an elderly gentleman, whilst the rest of the restaurant just carried on as if it were a normal occurance for the man at the table next to you, to be going into cardiac arrest. I am no innocent, and will admit that eventhough I sort of saw what was going on, I still asked David “What is that bloody beeping noise?” It was the noise from the machine that was saving Mr. Unknown’s life, it was annoying me. The epitomy of pretension… ahhh Camps bay. (Kinda”let them eat cake” vibe.)

Picking John's wine.

Picking John's wine.

Back to the wine! I order a sauvignon blanc, asking the waiter to recommend one that is not wooded, and end up with a crisp light wine from Spier, nice. My friend John arrives, right on cue being quite the wine expert, I have another tool in my new found reviewing artillery.

The interior is not as fabulous as I expected (although David liked it), but I did like the fake plant “growing” up the pillar next to the table. The seating is well appointed making every table feel private, also there are cool “booths” with beautiful wooden butterfy mobiles suspended over the table.

This one is for the girls, for some reason women always want to know “What does the bathroom look like?” well here it is, the entrance to the bathroom is gorgeous, reminiscent of the scene in American beauty when Mena Suvari is lying in roses, framed by velvety red roses, with a panel of white roses in the middle. What was really funny though is that you can see yourself side-on, sitting on the loo in the smoke mirror panel, and it immediately made me think “I so shouldn’t have had dessert!”

On to the starters, we decided to go with the prawns and the mussels. The prawns where tasty, they made them in a variety of three seasonings, garlic butter, mustard and peri peri, the  nice thing about the prawns was that they were already out of the shell so you could just eat them, what a lekker lazy delight. The mussels stole the starter show though, the white wine sauce they make is so aromatic, just super, just beautiful and yum yum yum. (But when we asked the runner for some bread to lap up the sauce, we got asked “How many slices?… Huh? What? That really made us laugh.)

My food.

My food.

I was not surprised by the menu, especially after I heard that The Kove is in-fact a sister restaurant to Bungalow, Paranga and Pepenero, they all have kind of the same feel, almost like the macdonalds chain of the fine dinning experience in Cape Town. One thing that did catch my eye was the Chateau briand, a dish rarely seen on a menu in Cape Town, and also well priced for a 500g fillet.

David's food, sharing bearnaise is caring.

David's food, sharing bearnaise is caring.

I ended up having the fillet Bearnaise, the meat was very tender melt in you mouth mmmmm… tarragon, yum. John had the fillet Bordelaise, a marrow based red wine sauce, but not particularly spectacular. David had a rump, plain and simple, a little dry not great (a little over cooked). Which made me think that without the sauce, mine probably would also have been dry and boring, I just have such a love affair with Bearnaise sauce, love could be blind.

John's food, and my Bearnaise!

John's food, and my Bearnaise!

The wine we ended up having with dinner was a Thelema Merlot 2004, very chocolaty, very plush and perfect with the food! But what a fight to get it out of them, we originally ordered a Meerlust 2004 merlot, our dim waiter brought us the 2005, thinking we wouldn’t notice, but the clever cookie I am I remembered their cultivar year thingie at the front of the menu and remembered wondering why 2005 was such a shitty year for wine, so I told him that that was not what we ordered, and asked to speak with their sommelier… They are supposedly a wine restaurant, bla bla, but they don’t even have a sommelier, I thought that was very weird.

The sweet stuff though was seriously, seriously out of this universe! Les desserts étaient superbes! John had something like orange flavoured cream cookies, Dave had the chocolate ice cream with rich Lindt chocolate sauce, and I had the crown of creation, three flavours of panna cotta, chocolate, pistachio, and vanilla pod, plus I hi jacked half of David’s chocolate sauce.

The service was prompt, the waiters eager and helpful but uninformed, all but one. The music set the mood of having dinner in an elevator.

All in all, the deserts, wine and the company were the best things about the night. Yet another Camps bay restaurant is characteristically abusing unassuming tourists and presenting another plastic platform for the wealthy folk to have a public pissing contest. Our bill came to an astounding R1200.00 for three people. Our mistake, I for one will probably not be going there again.