Entries tagged with “molecular gastronomy”.


Wild Peacock David Bullard Whale Cottage PortfolioOn Thursday I met writer and recent Winelands resident David Bullard, Shan Pascall from Oneiric Wines, and Sophia Hawkins of Vilafonte for lunch at Wild Peacock Food Emporium in Stellenbosch, after we had connected at the pop-up lunch by Chef Bertus Basson at Oneiric Wines last Sunday.   I met new Wild Peacock Chef Andrew Jordaan, and we were told by co-owner Andrew Baker that they supply all 2013/2014 Top 20 shortlisted Eat Out restaurants on their wholesale side, run by Sue Baker with son Ross.  Wild Peacock is synonymous with oysters, and other ‘fine delicacies’ served by our country’s leading restaurants, the wholesale operation having opened more than 20 years ago.

Andrew said that the space of their deli and The Larder restaurant had seen a number of different retail outlets previously, and none had been successful due to the lack of parking.  He and Sue had the vision for the deli, which was initially managed by their daughter Sarah, Wild Peacock Cake and cheese counter Whale Cottage Portfoliowho now focuses on the company’s artisanal cheese selection. Parking has been addressed, and from next week onwards there will be parking marshalls operating outside their door, ensuring a regular replacement of shoppers, now able to pop into the Emporium, and to have a bite to eat and a glass of wine to drink.  The deli has grown to become the 2013 Eat Out (previously run by former sister publication Eat In) Produce Awards Best Food Outlet in the South of South Africa!

Andrew created the wine section of the Emporium, and its offering has won a Diners Club Diamond Award as well as Best Small Wine List Award.  Andrew runs The Wine Worx in his day job, selling, marketing, and distributing a range of wines of 21 boutique wineries.  He is also a keen winemaker, having made a house Pinot Noir, which we enjoyed with our lunch.  We were told by the waiter Danny that Andrew uses the cellar at Fryer’s Cove on the West (more…)

MasterChef 2 26 Top 4 Whale Cottage PortfolioThe viewers’ blood is boiling, in that Finalist Kamini Pather was given a second chance two nights running  in episodes 25 and 26, to hang in at MasterChef SA, given that she clearly was the weakest performer in both the episodes.  The episode was an exciting one, however, showing the diversity of the Finalists in being able to recreate something as difficult as Chef Richard Carstens’ Chocolate Handkerchief dish, consisting of eleven elements.

The Final Four were given black aprons on arriving at the MasterChef SA kitchen, being in a Pressure Test, without deserving it as such.  They noticed technical equipment they had never seen before on their workstations, including gloves, goggles, palette knives, and nitrogen guns.  They also noticed an unnamed white jacket hanging in the kitchen. They were told that the judges were turning up the heat, and that they would face the toughest challenge.  The winner would go directly into Wednesday’s Finale, while the person preparing the weakest dish would be eliminated.

Seline van der Watt reacted by saying that she would ‘put all on the line today and go for it’.  Ozzy Osman said cleverly that he would rather have the jacket than have to fight over it later in the series. Leandri van der Wat said practically ‘Let’s cook’, looking forward to the challenge! Kamini said that she felt calmer, after losing her nerves in episode 25, when her Lemon Meringue Gâteau was less than perfect, and she cried (more…)

MasterChef 2 25 Judges and gateau Whale Cottage PortfolioDescribed as cool and aloof by viewers, Kamini Pather showed some emotion and her first tears in the 25th episode of MasterChef SA last night, frustrated in her efforts to bake a Lemon Meringue Gâteau, the focus of much of the episode.  Being the darling of viewers and tipped to win Season 2 of MasterChef SA, it was a surprise that viewers reacted with such vitriol against her performance at the end of the episode last night.

While Ozzy Osman was on his way to Gansbaai as a guest of Dyer Island Conservation Trust for having created the best month-end dish, the three Finalists who had to go into the Pressure Test as a result of their poor month-end ‘cuisine’ in episode 24 were only supported by Leandri van der Wat, watching her sister Seline, Kamini, and Jason Steel bake up a sweat in what was billed as the ‘most daunting Pressure Test‘ in the series. Chef Benny Masekwameng warned. It would test their limits, in replicating the ‘work of art and masterpiece‘ of invited guest Chef Kelvin (more…)

Tension ran high in the Pressure Test in episode 6 of MasterChef SA Season 2 last night, when six Finalists had to go through a two-stage challenge, to allow the judges to eliminate the first Finalist, Shannon Smuts being chopped from the show. (more…)

New Eat Out judge, blogger Bruce Palling from the UK, has arrived in Cape Town to assist Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant and associated awards organiser Abigail Donnelly in selecting the top ten restaurants in the country and in ranking them.  He has barely set foot in the country, never having been here before, and he has attracted controversy already!

Palling is a rude Tweeter, and on Twitter yesterday afternoon he announced his arrival, having been to Clarke’s second hand bookshop on Long Street, and in having eaten springbok for lunch, commenting on its bland taste: Cape Town on a glorious sunny Spring day – and my first experience of Springbok – surprisingly mild…was expecting more depth of flavour...  A chef retaliated immediately: It’s not stag steaks stored in the deepfreezer for 3 years wrapped in wellington boots, boet”. Palling also Tweeted a comment which was criticised for its implied racism, by labelling a fellow guest on skin colour at the restaurant: Black guest excusing lateness@Cape Town restaurant: “Sorry but had to take taxi because my Ferrari cant make it over bumps at entrance here”. For that Tweet he was admonished too, including by Über-Tweeter Jane-Anne Hobbs.

Palling, who is being accommodated at the Taj hotel, will be visiting the Top 20 restaurant list, unless Ms Donnelly has already cut that list down to her Top 10, and he will assist her in ranking the list, and in choosing the winners in the categories introduced last year: Boschendal Style Award, Best Italian, Best Asian, Best Bistro, Best Steakhouse, and Best Country Style restaurant.  This is our prediction of where Palling can be expected to eat in potential 2012 Eat Out Top 10 restaurants in the next few days in the Western Cape (we have excluded Grande Provence, The Roundhouse, and Nobu due to chef changes, and other deserving restaurants at which the chefs have been at the restaurants for less than a year):

*   The Test Kitchen

*   The Greenhouse

*   Planet Restaurant

*   Makaron Restaurant

*   Tokara

*   Delaire Graff

*   Pierneef à La Motte

*   Overture

*   Terroir

*   Babylonstoren

*   Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine

*   Waterkloof

*   La Colombe

*   Rust en Vrede

*   The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français

From Palling’s blogposts, of which variations are published in the Europe edition of the Wall Street Journal occasionally, one has learnt the following about his eating and drinking tastes:

1.   Local is lekker:  he wants to eat ‘native produce’ rather than it being imported  (e.g. ‘wallaby’ in Australia!)

2.   He is fond of wine, and it should be local and single varietal, and not blended

3.  His benchmark is Michelin-ism

4.  He is quick to describe food as ‘bland’

5.   He has a ‘boredom with egg-dominated dishes’

6.   He loves ‘Nordic’ (especially Swedish) cuisine

7.   He scoffs at molecular gastronomy, which he calls ‘pretend food’, and likes to be able to identify produce on a plate ‘rather than look at an inanimate mixture of textures and smears’

8.  He ‘cherishes food which exudes strong, not to say, disgusting odours’.

It will be interesting to see if Palling’s assistance to Ms Donnelly will make any difference to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards results. Palling has already shown that he is a difficult and opinionated writer and judge, and a rude Tweeter.

POSTSCRIPT 5/9: Eat Out has just announced that it is hosting a weekend of food celebration from 23 – 25 November, with international chefs in attendance too: This is from their website:

On Friday 23 November, there will be an exclusive dinner with Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescana, number 5 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the prestigious annual awards sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Aqua Panna.

On Saturday 24 November, for the first time ever, we’ll be hosting an Eat Out Conference at The Westin Cape Town on Cape Town’s foreshore. Speakers at the inspiring, interactive day include top international chef Massimo Bottura; Bruce Palling (Wall Street Journal critic, World’s 50 Best Restaurants judge, blogger and Eat Out 2012 judge); and British food designer Andrew Stellitano (check out his incredible food landscapes, sculptural pancakes and edible Louis Vuitton handbagshere). Local speakers include reigning Chef of the Year, Luke Dale-Roberts, and prominent members of the local food and restaurant community, who’ll join a panel discussion led by Eat Out editor and judge, Abigail Donnelly.

On Sunday, the winners of the 2012 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony in the Grand Ballroom at The Westin Cape Town. A four-course meal will be prepared by top chefs, and the new Top 10 will be announced, along with the winners of the awards for best steakhouse, bistro, Asian, country-style and Italian restaurant, along with the Boschendal Style Award“.

POSTSCRIPT 9/9: Bruce Palling has been eating his way around the Cape, and the only clues that he is leaving is that he has eaten Springbok on more than one occasion, and he is Tweeting photographs of the wines he has drunk with his meals, which must be very frustrating for him, as he is a keen food photographer, but that would give the judging away!  His wine choice over the past five days has included Zorgvliet Cabernet Sauvignon (vintage not mentioned), Raats Cabernet Franc 2008, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2010, Raats Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Paul Cluver 7 Flags Pinot Noir 2008, and Luddite Shiraz 2006. He is seeking wines with less than 14% alcohol content, to suit his wife’s requirement, and has been asking for advice on Twitter, a sad reflection on the restaurants at which he has eaten not being able to advise him!  He has taken back his criticism of springbok in his Tweet on his arrival (see above), and Tweeted on Friday: “Take back Springbok being boring/bland – had 2 non sous vide versions which lean + voluptuous helped along by Raats Cabernet Franc 08″. No local chefs, with the exception of Oliver Cattermole, who is not in the running for the Eat Out Top 10 Awards as he has not been at Dish at Le Franschhoek for a full year, have interacted with Palling on Twitter.  Chefs Peter Tempelhoff (Greenhouse), Jackie Cameron (Hartford House), Gregory Czarnecki (Waterkloof), Margot Janse (The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français), Scot Kirton (La Colombe), Tanja Kruger (Makaron), Eric Bulpitt (The Roundhouse), Marthinus Ferreira (DW Eleven – 13), and Tokara Restaurant are all following Palling on Twitter, perhaps hoping for a clue or two.  Further disparaging Tweets in reaction to our Palling blogposts have been posted by Palling, one of which was (unprofessionally) ReTweeted by Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room owner Susan Huxter).

POSTSCRIPT 12/9: Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room and McGrath Hotels’ The Greenhouse must be concerned about Bruce Palling’s attack on ‘Relais Chateau‘ (sic) on Twitter today, both hotel groups belonging to Relais & Châteaux.

POSTSCRIPT 13/9: One hopes that Bruce Palling’s restaurant judging is better than his a-palling spelling and photography. This was his Tweet from Biesmiellah last night: “Taking a break at Biedmiellah (sic) – Babotie (sic) and Denning Vleis (sic)”. Poor quality writing, especially from a ‘journalist’!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Yesterday Rougié, the world’s largest producer of foie gras, introduced a number of us to their method of foie gras production, dispelled all myths of the ‘cruelty’ of this production, and spoilt us with a wonderful Chef’s Table lunch at the Mount Nelson Hotel.

Guy de Saint-Laurent, Directeur: Commercial Export of Rougié Sarlat, flew in from France to explain to Chef Rudi Liebenberg from the Mount Nelson’s Planet Restaurant, Chef Dylan Laity of Aubergine, and Chef Darren Badenhorst from Grande Provence how duck foie gras is produced.  The company specialises in foie gras supply to the restaurant industry, and calls itself the ‘Chef’s Foie Gras’.  We were told that foie gras is one of the oldest food products, having been developed in Egypt 5000 years ago, the Pharaohs already force fattening wild birds at that time.  For their long journeys to other parts of the world in winter, the birds naturally overfeed to create a natural layer of fat around their liver, for their long flights, doubling their weight. The first foie gras recipes emanate from Rome, and were based on geese livers. Now 80% of the world’s production comes from France, with another 15 % being produced in Spain, Belgium, Japan, and the USA.  With the introduction of corn from America to France, the production of foie gras was revolutionised, in being used to force feed the ducks and geese.  Foie gras is produced from Moulard ducks, a cross between Muscovy and Pekin ducks.  Up to 98% of all foie gras is made from duck, taking 12 weeks to breed and 10 days to be fattened, while geese need 14 weeks breeding time and 21 days of fattening.  Duck foie gras is more affordable therefore, and tastes better, Guy said.  Its preparation has been mainly pan-fried or seared in the past, but Rougié is working on guiding chefs to find more uses for it. The company has recently set up the L’Ecole Du Foie Gras, teaching chefs the art of foie gras usage.

We were shown a video of how duck are fed a boiled corn ‘mash’ with a tube which goes into their crop, the process called ‘gavage‘.  This process takes 3 minutes, and is done once a day over the last 12 days of the duck’s life.  Vets visit the foie gras farms, and confirmed that ducks are ‘anatomically pre-disposed to be force fed’,  having a long neck, and that there is ‘no indication of stress’ to the ducks, a study showed.  The quality of the treatment of the ducks is reflected in the quality of the foie gras that is produced.  Rougié exports foie gras to 120 countries around the world, either raw, in cans, or flash frozen, the latter having a taste and texture ‘as good as fresh’. The company is a co-operative of about 700 duck farmers, foie gras being one of the products they make.

Foie gras has nutritional benefits, containing Vitamins B, C, and E.  A slice of foie gras has 260 Kcal, compared to a hamburger having 275 Kcal, and a pizza 600 Kcal.  It has good fat similar to that in olive oil, and protects the heart.  It is a food that can be adapted to the food traditions of the world, going well with the sweet, sour, and acidity in ingredients.  The Japanese are even making foie gras sushi, and the Chinese are making foie gras dumplings for Dim Sum.

While we were listening to the presentation, Chef Rudi’s team was busy preparing a foie gras feast for us, a nine-course lunch of small portions, to demonstrate the diversity of foie gras.    Chef Rudi’s brief to his team was to do him and the foie gras proud in the dishes that they created for this unique lunch. Three foie gras canapés were served with Villiera Tradition Brut NV, a terrine with beetroot, a macaroon, and a whipped foie gras torchon.   We discussed the reaction to foie gras, and that the state of California has banned its use in restaurants, despite foie gras being USDA approved.  Restaurants in the state wish to reverse the ban through legal action.  Guy said that the negative reaction comes from foie gras being seen to be for the well-to-do, making it elitist, the gavache method of feeding, and the love for comic characters such as Daffy and Donald Duck.

We started with frozen shaved foie gras, which was served with pine nuts and litchi, a  fresh surprise combination of ingredients, which Assistant Sommelier Farai Magwada paired with Bellingham’s The Bernard Series Chenin Blanc 2011.  Guy told us that he has chefs which visit restaurants around the world, especially to those far away from France, to educate and excite chefs about the preparation of foie gras. Last week Guy and Sagra Foods, the importers of the Rougié foie gras, had hosted similar lunches at The Westcliff with Chef Klaus Beckmann, and at The Saxon with Chef David Higgs, of whom Guy said that his work was two star Michelin quality, having been more classic in his foie gras usage.  Foie gras served with fresh apple, apple chutney, on an oats streusel, was paired with Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2007.

I asked Guy about cookbooks about foie gras, and he told me that three have been written to date, one produced for Rougié, another done by Chef Nobu of the restaurant group by the same name, and the third by Beijing restaurant Da Dong. Given that Rougié was not prescriptive about how the foie gras should be served at its South African lunches, it seemed a good idea to develop a compilation of the dishes served, perhaps even including those lying ahead for Guy in Mauritius and Reunion.  An indian touch came through with foie gras and curried banana being sandwiched between two poppadom crisps, served with a fresh Solms-Delta Koloni 2010. A fun dish was pairing foie gras with popcorn and chicken breast, which was paired with Jordan Chameleon 1995.  As if we had not eaten enough already, we had a small palate cleanser, being duck confit with artichoke and mash.

We moved to fish, for which we were served fish knives, for hake cured with lemon and lemon grass, served with foie gras spuma and grilled melon, and paired with Cederberg Bukettraube 2011.    Guy explained that sous vide was invented for foie gras, and has since been adapted for use for other foods.  He also told me that French chefs predominantly used foie gras in terrines, but since Rougié has started marketing their products, and running their chefs’ courses, they are seeing it put to a greater number of creative uses. The beef, marinated mushrooms, and foie gras emulsion was paired with L’Omarins Optima 2006.  We talked about Chef Rudi’s support of Farmer Angus at Spier, buying his free-range meats, and having guinea fowl and turkey bred for his restaurant.

The Mount Nelson’s creative pastry chef Vicky Gurovich has just returned from a stage at Chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in Great Milton, and visited Valrhona in Paris.  Her dessert creation of a foie gras, Valrhona chocolate and toffee terrine served with hazelnuts was the pièce de résistance. It was paired with Nederburg Eminence Noble Late Harvest 2009.

Sagra Foods was established in 1994, and operates from Cape Town, but distributes a range of exclusive foods and wines nationally, and even into Southern Africa, planning to make this country a hub of distribution of its fine foods into Africa, Darryn Lazarus said.  They commenced with Italian products, but decided to focus and specialise on premium products such as truffle oils, truffle butters, and many more, to make these products more affordable for local chefs.  Darryn said they are the ‘pioneers in specialty ingredients’, using wholesalers like Wild Peacock to offer chefs a single source of supply.  They import products ‘that make a difference’ from France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and the USA. So, for example, they sell El Bulli’s Texturas range, being the technical elements which once world best Chef Ferran Adria uses in his molecular gastronomy; De Cecco pasta from Italy; Vilux French mustards and vinegars; Borde dried mushrooms; Belberry jams, sauces, syrups, and vinegars; pastry cases with an 8 month shelf life; Australian Massel beef, chicken and vegetable stocks which are kosher, halaal, and gluten-free; and Tea Forte, the original designers of the tea pyramid, with such award-winning tea flavours as Blueberry Merlot and Lemon Sorbet.

The Mount Nelson was praised by Guy for its playful and less classic interpretation of the foie gras challenge, and he liked how the structure and taste of the foie gras was brought to the fore with the ingredients used by Chef Rudi’s chefs.  It was a most informative, once-in-a-lifetime lunch highlight, with excellent food, paired with a amazing range of wines, good company, and hosted in a special venue inside the sixty year old Mount Nelson kitchen.  Merci beaucoup!

Sagra Food & Wine Merchants, 10 Flamingo Crescent, Lansdowne, Cape Town. Tel (021) 761-3360. www.sagrafoods.com.  Twitter: @SagraFoodsZA

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

In 15 weeks we will know who our own MasterChef SA is.  We are curious to hear who our readers think will become MasterChef SA, and why.  We ask you to send in your nominations with a motivation via Comment to this Blog (please add your name and surname).

To thank you for your input, we will award one lucky reader a complimentary weekend of your choice location at one of our Whale Cottages in Camps Bay, Hermanus, or Franschhoek, subject to availability, out of all of those entries correctly predicting the winner of MasterChef SA.

Whale Cottage Camps Bay is ideally located 500 meters from Camps Bay beach and 25 restaurants on the Camps Bay Promenade.  It offers secure parking on the property, with seven seafacing double rooms, and single rooms facing the Twelve Apostles and Lion’s Head.

Whale Cottage Hermanus is located on the seafront, with a wonderful view onto Walker Bay, in which Southern Right whales and their calves frolic from May – November.  The region is also known for its excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in particular, from estates such as Hamilton Russell, Hermanuspietersfontein, and Creation on the Hermanus Wine Route.

Franschhoek is best known as the Gourmet and Wedding capital of South Africa, and some of its wine estates recognised  as the best in the country. Whale Cottage Franschhoek is situated 200 meters from the main road in the village, up the road from Le Quartier Français and Reuben’s Franschhoek.

Jorgensen’s Distillery has generously donated two of its brands to the runner-up of the competition to correctly predict MasterChef SA, their Savingnac Potstill Brandy (value R300) and Naked Lemon Limoncello (value R120). The Savingnac Potstill Brandy is made in Wellington, and has roots of brandy making on the same property going back more than 300 years. Specially made wine is double distilled in owner Roger Jorgensen’s copper pot still to concentrate the flavour and the alcohol, and then is matured for a period of ten years or more in French oak barrels. The Naked Lemon Limoncello is made from hand-picked organic lemons, hand zested, with the skins macerated for 12 days in fragrant wine spirits to infuse the spirit with the lemon oils, giving the liqueur the vibrant yellow colour. It is bottled at 30% alcohol, and can be served with desserts or drunk ice cold.

To get the ball rolling, a listing of the eighteen MasterChef SA finalists, and our predictions of the chances of some of them winning MasterChef SA, follows:

Babalwa Baartman - would it be feasible for her to run the MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg for a year, being from Cape Town, if she wins MasterChef SA? No exposure in episode 4 and 6. Eliminated in episode 8.

Berdina Schurink - she auditioned in each of the three MasterChef SA cities, so determined was she to become a finalist. The MasterChef SA write-up describes her as ‘serious, determined and focused’. They warn viewers to not be fooled by her quiet and reserved nature. Pastry is her speciality.  Berdina kept her pose when she fell into the bottom five for a childhood dish in episode 4, and her ‘pressure test’ koeksisters were judged to be perfect. She went into the ‘Pressure Test’ for the second time, but her lamb was undercooked, and therefore she was voted out by the judges in episode 5.  Berdina has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Riviera in Pretoria.

Brandon Law - little is known about him, but he has done fan signings at Eastgate. He is interested in molecular gastronomy. Could he become our next Chef Richard Carstens?  No exposure in episode 4 and 6. Eliminated in episode 8.

Charles Canning – being based in Cape Town, can he afford to be away from his family panel beating business, a family with four children, and the Cape Town Highlanders, which he leads, to take over the MondoVino restaurant for a year?  Both his childhood dish and ‘pressure test’ koeksisters bombed and he was one of two sent home in episode 4.

Deena Naidoo - his Butter Chicken was loved by Chef Pete in episode 1 and he finished it all, it tasted so good!  He has been interviewed by the Sunday Times. on 15 April.  There is no real story to the interview, entitled “Masterchef hopeful not just ‘curry guy’“, but it does state that he took unpaid leave to participate in the competition.  Interesting is that he wears a MasterChef branded chefs’ top in the newspaper photograph.  Interesting too is that he is the only one of the 18 contestants to use ‘mcsa’ in his Twitter address.  No exposure in episode 4.  Made top curry dish of all in episode 6.  Leader of winning Blue team in Navy challenge.  Did well with Denningvleis dish in episode 8. Only finalist not yet in a pressure test. To go into his first Pressure Test in episode 12. One wonders how MasterChef SA could have chosen Deena as a candidate if he does not drink, given that a chef would have to know his wines, and pair them with his foods. Given that Nederburg is a sponsor, and a wine training course offered by the South African Sommelier Association is part of the prize, they could not have a MasterChef SA winner who does not drink wines. Deena made a superb Passion Hazelnut Gateau in his Pressure Test, to his own surprise, in episode 12. In Pressure Test in episode 13, but survived it, despite heavy criticism from Chef Pete Goffe-Wood of over-smoking his fish.  Not very successful in his Springbok loin Pressure Test in episode 15. Won the bell for best dish, to call on Chef/Judge input in episode 17, in episode 16. Highly praised by Chef Michel Roux Jnr from La Gavroche in London.  Deena won the best dessert in episode 17, winning him a test drive in the Hyundai Elantra for a picnic with his wife Cathy at Plaisir de Merle in Franschhoek. Deena has gone through to the Finale.

Fortune Kangueehi – could a MasterChef SA come from Namibia?  The judges may vote this advertising executive out over time on this basis alone.  Her childhood dish did not make it, and she forgot to add baking powder to her ‘pressure test’ koeksisters, and became the second person to leave in episode 4.

Guy Clark – from friends of friends we have heard that he has made it close to the top.  He is not visible on Social Media.  Has this former model and now property broker gone underground? Does this make him the winner? No exposure in episode 4 and 6. In Red Team ‘Pressure Test’ with not so good pig’s ear dish. Eliminated in episode 9 for his soufflé.

Ilse Fourieshe attracted attention for the most favourable comments of all for her hot cooking (salmon steak) in episode 1, and she was the fastest egg whisker of all finalists in episode 2. She has had a write up on Channel 24. She is also pretty, having been a lingerie model, and this would add an extra touch of spice to the award! No exposure in episode 4. Praise for her curry dish in episode 6, and pork shoulder in episode 7.  Did well with Tripe dish in episode 8. Not visible in episode 9 and 10.  Seen in M-Net promo ad for MasterChef SA on 15/6, in which she says she will move to Johannesburg, should she win.  Eliminated in episode 14, after her mini Boerewors popped, and she struggled to debone her lamb shoulder in the resultant Pressure/Perseverance Test.

Jade de Waal - loved by some and hated by others for her odd English/Afrikaans/undefined accent, she is a true character.  Her cardamon ice cream was loved by the judges in episode 1. She was interviewed extensively after this episode by her aunt Sonia Cabano on the Robertsons Twitter account, when she still was the Social Media Manager for Robertsons.  Jade received extensive ‘airtime’ in this Twitter interview, which no other contestant has received on this account to date.  She has changed the name of her Twitter account, and has locked it as well, only allowing certain Tweeters to read it.  Is she too hip, trendy, and frivolous for such a serious accolade?  Based in Cape Town.  Her Avo Ritz with a twist was highly praised in episode 4.  She has announced that she has written a Cook Book on vegetables with her aunt.  She was interviewed by Huisgenoot, she announced on Twitter. No exposure in episode 6.  First criticism seen, for her Waterblommetjie bredie dish (with Sue-Ann Allen). She made a very poor soufflé, which should have seen her eliminated in episode 9, many on Twitter felt. In the Elimination Challenge in episode 10. Going into Pressure Test in episode 12.  Voted out in episode 12, for a mess of a Passion Hazelnut Gateau.  Reported to have written a cookbook ‘Luscious Vegetarian’ with her aunt Sonia Cabano, to be published in October.

Khaya Silingile – this Marketing Co-ordinator attracted attention in episode 1 for her highly praised scallop and smoked salmon dish, which she served with an unusual rhubarb tart. Her salmon childhood dish was praised by the judges in episode 4. No exposure in episode 6. Won the International Cuisine challenge in episode 9, with her French dish.  In the Elimination Challenge in episode 10.  Won best wine and food pairing in episode 11.  Was beaten by 4-point margin by Chef Reuben Riffel in making his Seafood Fricasee – had she won, she would have won an Immunity Pin for the next five episodes.  Announced her pregnancy in episode 13. In Pressure Test in episode 14. Eliminated due to her Springbok loin dish errors in episode 15.

Lungile Nhlanhla - this young fashion designer from Durban wants to create a link between fashion and food, says her MasterChef SA profile. No exposure in episode 4.  Was praised for her curry in episode 6 and pork tail in episode 7. Came in on budget and her R150 budget meal acceptable in episode 10. Eliminated in episode 16 for not getting her chicken ballotine correct.  It has been announced that Lungi has been appointed Junior Food editor of Drum magazine.

Lwazi Mngoma – appears very confident in his Tweets, and has been interviewed on Johannesburg radio stations Highveld Stereo and Kaya FM, and proud of it!  Due to a less than satisfactory childhood memory dish, he went into the ‘pressure test’, and was lucky to have been retained, as his koeksisters were not perfect in episode 4.  Back into ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 6, and was sent home due to his ‘Salmon Three Ways’ not meeting the judges approval.

Manisha Naidu - she cut short her honeymoon to audition for the show, says her MasterChef SA profile. She made the second best childhood memory dish, and was voted a team leader by the judges in episode 4. Commendably she elected herself into the ‘pressure test’ in episode 5, taking responsibility for her team losing the Harvest Celebration challenge, and she did not perform well in preparing the lamb rack.  She will live with the conscience of having taken Berdina into the ‘pressure test’, and causing her elimination indirectly. No exposure in episode 6. Did well in Tripe dish in episode 8. Made top Budget family meal in episode 10.  Her Boerewors dish voted best of all by the judges in episode 14, becoming a team leader in episode 15. In the Sunday Times on 8 July, a most honest interview reflected a sad past for Manisha, battling bulimia, a suicide attempt, and a divorce. But she remarried last year, and was on honeymoon when she received notification that she had been selected to participate, and therefore cut the honeymoon short. Manisha did not have to go into the Pressure Test in episode 17. Manisha forgot to add the pea shoot to her dish in episode 18, and made plating mistakes which cost her a place in the Finale, and she was sent home.

Mmutsi Maseko - as a ‘stay-at-home’ mum, she may not be able to take up the prize of the restaurant chef. She ‘cooks from within’, says her MasterChef SA profile, and her favourite foods to prepare are meat, pap, and chakalaka.  Floundering in her childhood memory dish by running out of time, she redeemed herself in the ‘pressure test’, making perfect koeksisters in episode 4.  She went into the ‘pressure test‘ for the second time in episode 5, but her rack of lamb was praised by the judges. No exposure in episode 6.  Voted out in episode 7.

Samantha Nolan – also from Cape Town, and ‘stay-at-home’ mother of four children, according to her MasterChef SA profile, so the MondoVino restaurant prize may also be a problem. Her childhood memory dish was voted the best of all, and she was chosen a team leader too in episode 4. Best judge of spices in Chef Vanie Padayachee’s curry, and could choose main ingredient for curry in episode 6.  Clearly leading the winning Blue team in the Navy challenge. First time in Pressure Test in episode 9, for having too many spices in her mince with the vetkoek.  Voted out in episode 10 for Minestrone soup.

Sarel Loots – very quick to correct an error on this blog, asked to be followed on Twitter (a no-no), and subsequently blocked our account, possibly due to our Robertsons blogpost. He also auditioned at all three MasterChef SA venues.  He loves making desserts most.  Embarrassing poorly spelt Tweets were sent by him to Chefs Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, and Guy Fieri, all with the same message:”Love your programs. U insired (sic) me to enter @MasterChef_SA and made it to top 18 and stil (sic) going“!  He also Tweeted ‘I will win this’, at a time when the MasterChef SA winner is known to some or all of the last 18 finalists. His poor English and Afrikaans spelling should be enough reason to disqualify him. No exposure in episode 4. Into Pressure Test in episode 6 due to his curry dish, but redeemed himself with an excellent ‘Salmon Three Ways’. In Pressure Test in episode 9, for not trying hard enough with his Brazilian dish.  No exposure in episode 10.  Second best Boerewors dish in episode 14, to be second team leader in episode 15. Except for his Bearnaise sauce, his Springbok loin dish for the Pressure Test in episode 15 was a close copy of the dish by Chef Andrew Atkinson.  His peppadew stuffing of his chicken ballotine clashed with the truffle on his stuffed artichoke in episode 16. Voted out in episode 17, for forgetting the hazelnut gel.

Sue-Ann Allen - also from Cape Town, so the MondoVino restaurant prize may also be a problem.  She was so dedicated to participate in MasterChef SA that she resigned her job as lighting designer. No exposure in episode 4.  In ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 6, and was lucky to not be voted out.  Pork loin not well received by judges in Red Team ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 7.  Criticised for poor Waterblommetjie dish in episode 8. No exposure in episodes 9 and 10. Sue-Ann is on holiday in Croatia (June).  Due to her Boerewors becoming ‘droë wors’ in episode 14, she did a brilliant Rolled lamb shoulder in the Pressure Test, judged to be her best MasterChef SA dish. Her stuffed artichoke said to be closest to that of Chef Michel Roux Jnr, but her chicken ballotine, stuffed with cream cheese, less successful, in episode 16.  Survived the Pressure Test in episode 17.  One of the two Finalists going into the Finale in episode 19.  Sue-Ann was the Runner-up to Deena Naidoo to MasterChef SA.  She is doing a one-month apprenticeship with The Greenhouse, Eat Out‘s number one Top 10 restaurant, from 21 August.

Thys Hattingh - received high praise for his dessert in episode 3, when the challenge was to make the best braai dish.  Not a ‘braaier’, by his own admission. No exposure in episode 4.  Made second best curry dish in episode 6.  Leader of losing Red team in Navy challenge in episode 7.  Did well in Denningvleis dish in episode 8.  Came second with his Moroccan poached pear dish in episode 9, even if he poached it in Nederburg wine, Morocco being a Muslim country!  Into Pressure Test in episode 12.  Struggled greatly with his chocolate mousse in making the Passion Hazelnut Gateau in the Pressure Test, and was lucky that Jade de Waal’s Gateau was even less perfect than his. Eliminated in episode 13, for overcooking his fish in Zanzibar.

We look forward to your votes – please keep them coming!

POSTSCRIPT 16/4: M-Net’s Senior Publicist Ingrid Engelbrecht provided the following information about the restaurant prize: Regarding the restaurant prize, Southern Sun is happy to tailor-make the options in order to meet the needs of the winner and to ensure that all parties are happy going forward with this amazing prize. They will take into account factors such as the contestant not being from Johannesburg, having a family and any other obligations, and will assist to whatever degree is necessary’.

POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Die Burger ran a poll today, asking readers to vote who will win MasterChef SA. This is how they voted:

Ilse Fourie 32 % 367 Stemme

Jade de Waal 6 % 70 Stemme

Sarel Loots 15 % 175 Stemme

Thys Hattingh 22 % 246 Stemme

Deena Naidoo 5 % 59 Stemme

Khaya Silingile 5 % 56 Stemme

Lungile Nhlanhla 3 % 33 Stemme

Manisha Naidu 2 % 20 Stemme

Samantha Nolan 4 % 41 Stemme

Sue-Ann Allen 6 % 68 Stemme

POSTSCRIPT 27/7: The winners of the MasterChef SA Winner competition are the following:

*   Weekend at a Whale Cottage guest house in Camps Bay, Hermanus, or Franschhoek: Francesca Tiganis. Her motivation for nominating Deena was as follows:My vote is for Deena Naidoo – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him evolve with such passion and confidence, but in the most humble way. The way he listened so carefully to Chef Michel Roux and Chef Margot Janse really helped him execute his dishes so very well – he deserves to win Masterchef SA!’

*   Jorgensen’s Distillery’ Savingnac Potstill Brandy and Naked Lemon Limoncello: Alicia Peter, for nominating Deena as follows:I nominate Deena Naidoo – because he has managed to impress the judges and audience with almost all his dishes. To impress THE Michel Roux Jnr himself is simply superb! He is so talented yet so humble. I take my hat off to him…Go Deena!’

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage whalecot@iafrica.com

Earlier this week I attended a winetasting of Sequillo wines, led by well-known and highly respected maverick Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie, at French Toast. It was the most enjoyable wine function I have ever attended, largely due to the refreshing down-to-earth three-hour tasting done by Sadie, and excellent value at R100.

The name of the winemaker leading the tasting was clearly a big drawcard, with 45 winelovers having booked.  I was introduced to Eben by Karen Visser, co-owner of French Toast, and Eben struck me as a really nice and friendly person, without any airs and graces, not what I expected at all, for a winemaker who has achieved a number of career highs, including having his winery selected as Winery of the Year, and his Sadie Family Wines Palladius selected as South Africa’s top white wine in the 2010 Platter’s South African Wine Guide.

It took some time for the tasting to get going, due to some late-comers, but we were served a Mystery wine, which we were asked to identify.   It was a Riesling, only 60 bottles made (unwooded) by Eben from grapes coming from Elgin, and not one of the attendees could identify it.  Throughout the evening, Sadie told us stories, and for him the most important role that his wines play is that they too tell stories.  He loves to play with wine, to experiment, and his greatest goal is to get locals to enjoy wine, without any fancy references to the aroma wheel (which should be burnt, he says), as it puts people off wine-tasting.  He said ‘my guava is not your guava’, explaining his controversial winetasting views.  Eben came across as the most down-to-earth, hands-on winemaker. Awards generally do not mean much to him, and he would not answer my question as to how he views the Platter’s guide.  In the introduction, French Toast co-owner John Harrison said that Eben is recognised as a ‘renegade’, who has broken all the rules of conventional winemaking.  This ‘enfant terrible’ is South Africa’s first certified celebrity winemaker’, Wikipedia writes about him.

Eben’s big passion is surfing, he studied at Elsenburg, and he started his winemaking career at Romansrivier Winery in Wolseley, moving to Charles Back and making his Spice Route wines for him.  Sadie Family Wines is a joint venture between two Sadie brothers Eben and Niko, and their older sister Delana, starting with R9000 in 1999. They grew up on a vegetable and pig farm on the West Coast, and it was grape farming, and winemaking with it, that attracted Eben to this sector of agriculture, telling me that winemaking ‘can carry a century’.  They have three wine operations, making Sadie Family Wines (a wine for weekends and special occasions) and Sequillo (a wine for weekday drinking) in the Swartland, and make wine in Priorat in Spain (Terroir Al Limit label) too. Studying winemaking in Germany, Austria, Italy, the USA, and Burgundy, Eben liked the lifestyle of the Spanish the most, choosing this country, but clearly declaring his love for the Cape. Taking a swipe at ‘molecular gastronomy’, Eben said he believes that winemaking has been ‘intellectualised’, in that wine drinkers are encouraged to sniff and spit the wine.  He said one should not bother with drinking one glass of wine only, as it was as good as drinking a glass of water!  Wine drinking must be done in volume, so that one can enjoy it, he said.

All the Sadie wines are blends, and they do not make any single varietal wines to sell.  Eben said that winemakers could make wines to the ’100 point formula’, to tick all the judges’ boxes, but this would be an ‘intellectual wine’, made without regard for soil and climate.  It would have ‘blueberries, cigarbox, cream, and fennel on the nose, would be opaque, and have tannin’. He mentioned this dig at the ‘aroma wheel’ a number of times during the evening.  Rather, wines should be an ‘ambassador’ of the place and the climate, and that is why Eben does not irrigate his grapes anymore, to be a true representation of the climate of that vintage. To counter climate, Eben will reduce his crop by half, depending on whether there is late rain or not.  His wines have no added yeast, and only about a third of the allowed quantity of sulphur is added two days before bottling.  Very old barrels are used, adding little or no wood to the taste.  Eben said it was hard to move from conventional farming to ‘natural farming’.  He told us how they have built up the resistance of their grapes in Spain, and plough with mules there.  Mules were not suitable for the Swartland, he found, so they use horses.  We laughed when Eben said that one can read how to get onto the moon, but the internet does not guide him as to how to use horses to plough his land!

Eben became very fiery about Law 70 of 1970, which does not allow the sub-division of agricultural land. This means that Eben leases 53 blocks of land in different areas, which he tends to with his staff, driving from one piece of land to another.

Sequillo is a second label, and the name comes from the Latin, meaning ‘dry arid place of great purity’.  To introduce the Sequillo Red and White blends to us, Eben ‘deconstructed’ the wines for us, and we drank most of the individual varietals that made up each of these two blends.  The Sequillo White blend 2010 consisted of:

*   Grenache Blanc: Eben said this wine is like someone you know who is in jail, being someone you love but you cannot mention it.  This variety came from the south of France.  It is used in the blend to ‘build volume of wine’.

*   Palomino: the origin of this grape is Jerez, from which sherry is made in Spain.  It has acidity, firmness, coming from a 65 year old block in Piketberg.  It has minerality, and white peach and other stone fruit, with a lingering after-taste. There is some saltiness.

*   Verdelho:   This wine is made from grapes originating from Portugal, planted in its northern areas.  Eben said that his wine comes from 8 year old vines, the youngest vines he has.  He tested this variety’s suitability in different soil types, and it does well across a variety of these.  It does not have the prettiest bunch nor leaf, not having been to ‘finishing school’, he says in Sadie-speak, but is a great grape that is conducive to good natural farming.  Their grapes are planted in Wellington, Perdeberg, and Stellenbosch.  It has spiciness, potpourri, great nose and taste, easy to grow but hard to make in the cellar.  Presenting it to Portuguese winemakers, they were very complimentary about his wine, Eben said.

*   Viognier:  This variety comes from Croatia originally. Eben said that it was grown too ripe originally in South Africa, giving too much alcohol.

*   Grenache Noir: This is the most planted grape in the world, about tenfold of the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a Mediterranean grape, which can go to 17% alcohol, but Eben keeps his at 13.5 % by picking the grapes earlier.

*   Semillon and Roussanne are also part of this blend, but we did not taste them.

The Sequillo label design is done in-house, and is refreshingly different, changing every year.  The ‘Dorper skaap’ on the Sequillo White symbolises the hardiness of this sheep variety, like his wine, and is politically correct in being white and black, he laughed!  The Sequillo Red has a locust on it.  The Sadie wines are sold in 35 countries.  When asked how they market internationally, Eben said that he answers his e-mails!  They do not have a website for the Sadie Family Wines, and have only just created a website for Sequillo.  They will never get into Social Media, Eben said, and he probably will throw away his cellphone when the contract expires, he said.  He has no TV nor radio, and does not follow rugby.  He makes all his own wine, and does not buy any of it in.  While Eben had to keep reminding himself to ‘focus’ on the tasting, to great laughter, he explained that he is ‘semi-German’, and has ‘structure and order’, answers his e-mails, and is organised about his wine-making.

Asked which wine estates and their winemakers he admires, Eben mentioned Mullineux, Hamilton Russell, Newton Johnson, Adi Badenhorst, Neil Ellis, Boekenhoutskloof, Paul Benade, and Chamonix, and described them as mavericks too.  He told us that he used to make full-bodied heavy wines, but now he makes lighter ‘roadblock’ wines, that will get one through a traffic control! He said that the wine industry has come a long way, and that the country’s political transformation in 1994 caught the industry by surprise, not being ready to compete on an international platform initially. Eben deplored that rarer and interesting wine varieties do not sell locally.  He is focused purely on making wine, and is not there to set up pretty gardens with fountains on his wine estate!

The Sequillo Red blend 2009 is made from the following varietals:

*  Syrah is Eben’s favourite varietal, and he told us that its origin is said to be Persia or Greece.  The Australians could not pronounce its Old World ‘Syrah’ name, and called it ‘Shiraz‘. While other winemakers pick their Syrah grapes in March, Eben picks his in January, to prevent it being ‘jammy’, sweet and pruny, because of its thin skin, and the intensity of our sun, giving him 13,8% alcohol compared to 16 % for others picked later. He says it is a lunchtime wine, is well suited to the Cape, although it may be too hot, needing altitude to do well. He would not reveal where the special Syrah is grown, but hinted that the block is 60 km from the city, just above that of a very well-known wine brand. Platter’s Guide says 65% of the blend is Shiraz.

*   Mouvèdre is the most difficult wine to make, Eben said. It is great to farm, a beautiful grape and a vertical grower, but difficult to make in the cellar.  It has ‘nervous aromas’, ‘energy and electricity’, ‘is alive’ and great to use in blends, as it raises the fruit in these.  This grape variety makes the world’s greatest Rosé in Bandol in France, Eben said. He added that Rosés are cool wines now, not a ‘chick wine’ any more!

*   Cinsault is like one’s brother that is in jail and about whom cannot talk (Eben likes to use the analogy of wines and jailbirds!), being one of the greatest varietals but that has ‘suffered from human ambition’, he said, extending the analogy to say that it has been ‘framed for a murder he did not commit’, referring to its poor appeal as a variety. He says it is one of the most drinkable red wines in the world, it is seductive, and a wine he thinks about every day.

*   Grenache and Carignan are two further varietals used, but not offered for the tasting.

As if we had not had enough to taste, Eben opened a 5 litre bottle of his newly 5-star rated 2012 Platter’s (for its 2009 vintage) Columella 2007, a Rhone blend of 80 % Shiraz and 20% Mouvèdre, according to Platter’s.

Eben Sadie and his wine brands will continue to make waves, given his passion and charisma, his dedicated focus on what he loves doing best, in making wines, and his fresh anti-bureaucracy and anti-convention views.  Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof said of Sadie that he makes wines as an ‘artisan’, and not as a chemist or a technician!

Sequillo Cellars, Malmesbury.  Tel (022) 482-3138.  www.sequillo.com

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com,  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

I was lucky to have been able to book one of the sold-out tables for the Tokara Tribute to El Bulli, the number one restaurant in the world for many years, in honour of its alchemist chef/owner Ferran Adria, who served dinner for the last time at El Bulli last night.  Tokara Chef Richard Carstens’ advertised eight-course dinner became a 13-course feast, and was a fitting tribute to a chef who created Modernist Cuisine, and who is best known for deconstruction and molecular gastronomy.

Last night we read on Twitter that some of the world’s greatest chefs were at El Bulli, to ‘celebrate’ the end of a magnificent era.  Chef Rene Redzepi from Noma in Copenhagen, the world’s number one restaurant for two years running, Tweeted regularly, and kept one up to date about the 50-course (yes, not a typo!) dinner, even Tweeting photographs as the list of dishes were ticked off.  He unfortunately Tweeted more photographs of the chefs present than of the food served.   While the dinner at El Bulli probably would have been impossible to obtain a seat for, what we experienced at Tokara last night was world class, and confirms that Richard Carstens is South Africa’s best chef, and that Tokara deserves to become the number one Eat Out  Top 10 Restaurant in November.  It did help that sole Eat Out  judge Abigail Donnelly  was present, and that she pronounced her satisfaction with the meal, and expressed how happy she felt Chef Richard appears to be at Tokara. It is the first time that I have seen a restaurant ‘audience’ give a chef a standing ovation, when Chef Richard and his team came out of their hi-tech kitchen.

The UK online Big Hospitality site writes that El Bulli was ‘the most influential restaurant in the world’.  It opened 21 years ago near Roses in Spain, and operated as a 3-star Michelin restaurant in their summer months.  The restaurant won the number one spot on the S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant  for five years, a spot relinquished to Noma in 2010.  However, Adria was crowned the inaugural Chef of the Decade at the awards ceremony in April.  In the winter months Adria and his team would work in Barcelona, experimenting to create 40 new dishes for his 40-course dinners for the season ahead. Some of his best-known dishes include Mimetic peanuts, foie gras noodles, deconstructed Spanish omelette, and a sherry glass with potato foam, onion puree and egg-white sabayon with deep-fried potato crumbs.  Despite a two-year waiting list for a €250 per person table, El Bulli was reportedly making a €500000 loss annually. Adria will reopen a new Barcelona-based restaurant in 2014, as a non-profit Foundation of avant-garde Gastronomy.  Twenty chefs and five other staff will work on ‘creating new, innovative cooking techniques and experiences’“Adria and El Bulli’s  achievements over the past 21 years will forever be heralded as the catalyst for the new trend of modernist cuisine, and with a bit of funding and hard work, Adria will continue to lead the way for gastronomy for years to come”, the site wrote.

We were welcomed with a glass of Colmant sparkling wine, included in the R500 price tag.  I told Andy Fenner that I would have paid any price to not have missed out on last night’s dinner, so special it was, and so clever an idea.  No South African chef is more capable of having recreated Adria’s special cuisine than Chef Richard, our own ‘Ferran Adria’, and long a fan of Adria’s work, which he had first read about in 1998, he told me.  Chef Richard said that Adria changed the way of modern cooking, and he was so impressed that he bought the annual El Bulli  books Adria wrote about his recipes every year, and had them translated into English.  Two years ago he met Adria in Cape Town, and cooked for him with Topsi Venter at a Design Indaba event.  Chef Richard described Adria as the Dali and Picasso of cuisine, and his admiration of this guru is evident. 

The list of 13 courses was simply typed on a double-sided menu (most only saw the one side initially, and the list of six dishes on the front side was impressive enough already).  While the words described what was on each plate, and the waiters did a superb job in expanding on this information when presenting each plate (even in Afrikaans at some tables!), one would have wished to have Chef Richard explain each work of his alchemy, but he obviously could not be in two places at the same time.  For most, his description of the ‘scientific’ preparation of what he served last night would have been difficult to grasp or replicate.  I enjoyed a glass of Eben Sadie’s Sequillo 2006, a Shiraz Grenache blend, with my dinner, costing R45.

A bread basket with a baby slice of seed loaf and an ‘air baguette’ was the most ‘normal’ item served during the evening!  Each of the courses served was a surprise in terms of the beautiful plating, and the mouthfeel in terms of texture and taste.

Course 1 was a shot glass of white sangria suspension, in which tiny fruit pieces were emulsified with Xantan  to make them float at the top of the glass, and to not sink down.  This was served with a plate containing smoking citric domes, using liquid nitrogen and a trademark Adria technique, as well as pieces of cucumber, papaya and caviar.

The second course was a ‘sandwich’ of frozen Mojito cloud made from egg-white (the cloud was inspired by Chef Michel Bras, I was told by Chef Richard) and I was told to eat it by hand – it was surprisingly firm enough to do so, and had a refreshing minty taste.  No matter how Chef Richard explained the technique to make it, it seemed unbelievable to have achieved this, and to make it 60 times over for the dinner!  This came with a ball of strawberry sorbet served on Szechuan soil (made from Szechuan pepper, butter and flour) on a smear of almond cream.

Course 3 consisted of olive sfericas – they were olive-flavoured domes but in liquid form, set with gel, a tribute to Tokara and its olive wealth.  With this was served parmesan marshmallows, olive oil rocks, black olive puree, and balsamic gel cubes. 

Course 4 was a piece of cob, a sushi cloud tasting of sushi elements topped with salmon roe, miso (fermented soya bean) puree, yuzu fluid gel, miso sfericas, and wasabi, on watercress emulsion with basil seeds, a very colourful presentation.

Course 5 was a smoking study in tomato, with liquid nitrogen creating the smoke, and on the colourful plate was tomato presented blanched, and as skin, paste, puree, gel, sorbet and tartar.  Also on the plate was avocado, goats milk cheese cream, olive oil paste, and corn puree.

Course 6 was meant to be served with soya glazed eel, and I asked to have this excluded from the dish. Instead of accepting my request, which would have made things easy, Chef Richard added crispy duck in its place, and it was served covered in gari (home-made pickled ginger) foam, on yoghurt, with enoki mushrooms, ponzu dressing, rocket emulsion, and edamame  beans, an interesting contrast created with the warm duck and the other elements being cold.

I liked the ‘Chicken Curry’ course, deconstructed with chicken breast, a ball of curry sorbet, a tumeric  crisp, and served with  coconut foam.  The curry sorbet was a delight – one associates curry with heat and bite, and not to be ice cold!

Course 8 was an intermezzo, being toasted almond with a white ball of tomato gazpacho sorbet, having been made from the light coloured tomato liquid, the skin having been removed.

Chef Richard told me that Adria always has one ‘conventional’ course, and this was often pork and prawn.  Chef Richard’s interpretation was beef (the most tender slices) and prawn, served with liquid centered gnocchi, shitake and shimeji mushrooms, mange tout, spring onion, a Cantonese jus, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. 

‘Black and white’ was the first of four dessert courses, and consisted of ginger mousse, coconut sorbet, black sesame sponge, and Pavlova. 

Course 11 was called ‘Smashed snowball”, and the sugar syrup and citric whipped cloud looked exactly like its name, served smoking too, with a ball of strawberry sorbet, linking back to the strawberry sorbet of the second course, so completing the cuisine circle, Chef Richard explained.

As if we had not had enough to eat, course 12 was called ‘Chocolate textures’, and consisted of frozen white chocolate mousse, frozen dark chocolate mousse, chocolate branches, dark chocolate sponge, chocolate soil, cremeux, bits of honeycomb, mint emulsion, and a dusting of cocoa powder! 

With my cappuccino came the last course, called ‘Morphings’, Chef Richard saying that he was not sure why Adria had used this word for the friandises.   It consisted of white chocolate and naartjie caramel, a mini Magnum ice cream, white chocolate and black olive crisps, and beetroot powdered marshmallow.  

Tokara restaurant owner Wilhelm Kühn must have been extremely proud of his team last night, including Chef Richard of course, as well as sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn and the professional team of waiters, none of whom seemed phased by the daunting task of getting the many ‘smoking’ dishes out to the tables quickly, and to remember where in the sequence of thirteen courses each table was!  GT Ferreira, owner of Tokara, told me he is very happy with his new restaurant, and I shared with him my Eat Out  prediction, which made him even happier!  We had met at La Touessrok three years ago, when he brought plane-loads of friends to Mauritius to celebrate his 60th birthday there.

Gracias senor Adria and may you delight the cuisine world with new inventions in your ‘next life’!  Thank you Chef Richard Carstens for an unforgettable evening, and may you continue to re-invent yourself, to bring us more of your cuisine talent!

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: In the weekly Eat Out newsletter editor Abigail Donnelly wrote about the Tokara El Bulli tribute dinner on Saturday evening as follows:

“Standing ovation

I am reading The Sorcerer’s Apprentices at the same time as the rather significant elBulli restaurant serves its last supper. The book is a behind-the-scenes look at a restaurant that has changed the face of modern cuisine. It describes how mastermind chef Ferran Adrià ran the ‘world’s best’ award-winning establishment and, in the process, trained the next generation of culinary stars. On Saturday night the stars certainly shone at Tokara in Stellenbosch. Chef Richard Carstens took centre stage to pay tribute to Ferran, his mentor. Although elBulli had a brigade of the best chefs in the world creating 50-course dinners, the magician Richard performed his own magic by preparing a clever and curious 13-course feast for his guests. I have followed Richard and his playful concoctions of nitro foams, spherifications, gels, suspensions and textural plates since his time spent on the KZN South Coast at Lynton Hall, and have enjoyed his passionate readings and translations from a few Spanish chefs.  I believe that night I tasted Richard’s best food yet. The dishes were smart and beautifully executed without losing the emotional component of the dish – those layered flavours. Ferran has announced that elBulli is not closing; it is merely transforming, and its soul will remain. Indeed, there is plenty of Richard’s soul at Tokara, and a whole lot of admiration there too”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

It is not often that an evening that starts as a disaster ends off on such a high note.  Our evening at the two month old Indochine at Delaire Graff could have gone horribly wrong, but the service recovery from the Duty Manager Sabrina D’Agrossi, chef Jonathan Heath and waiter Nick all combined to rescue the evening, pulling out all the stops to ensure that we were made to feel very special, and to enjoy the outstanding unique and special Asian-fusion menu.

I had booked a table for a Thursday evening two days earlier, and confirmed that I had pronounced the name of the new restaurant correctly, so there was no mistaking at which of the two restaurants on the estate I wanted to book.   We drove through the open gates at the security entrance, passed the Delaire restaurant, looking for the new Hotel, designed by French architect Pierre Bories, but there was no signage yet for the hotel, and the security guard we asked in the parking area had never heard of Indochine, nor had the person he asked via his walkie-talkie!  I then Googled the telephone number on my phone, and had the luck that Sabrina answered the phone.  She gave me the news that the restaurant was closed as they had no bookings!   I told her about my booking, and she told me where to find the hotel, through the gates, ‘guarded’ by the two Dylan Lewis cheetahs.  Nick met us outside, and walked us into the restaurant, showing us the tiny cinema, and we noticed the outstanding artwork inside the generous hotel reception area.  The chef was called and he came to the restaurant from Stellenbosch, to prepare our meal, with such graciousness that you could have sworn that it was a pleasure for him to be called away from home.

The owner Laurence Graff (owner of Graff Diamonds International Ltd, victim of one of the biggest jewellery robberies in London last year) is known as an art collector from the original Delaire restaurant, and he has invested in four further Dylan Lewis cheetahs on the lawn outside the restaurant, each costing R 250000, we were told.  He has also focused on father Anton and son Lionel Smit, with sculptures and paintings by the Smits, especially the latter featuring strongly.

The restaurant is a large open plan one, with the bar at the entrance, and two comfortable chairs if one wants to sit at the fireplace.  The interior design has been done by London-based David Collins, who did the Delaire restaurant and wine centre too.  If the Delaire restaurant leans to the orange side in terms of its decor, Indochine is definitely blue – blue leather chairs (strangely low, indirectly admitted by Sabrina as not intended to have been so low), and small blue leather couches with round dining tables, one could say ”cut-up” and small versions of the large orange couches in the Delaire restaurant. The tables have a copper top, the colour a warm decor touch, but with a wooden bar underneath the tables facing one, which means that one can bump one’s knees against it, and one therefore has to put one’s legs on each side of it, an uncomfortable position. There is little art inside the restaurant, and it is understated relative to the sister Delaire restaurant.  The view must be magnificent by day, onto Stellenbosch.  The glassware probably is from Riedel, the cutlery is the most modern chic Italian, and a wooden board on the table holds a lantern with a candle.  The music is reasonably soft Eastern style.   The Hotel building only houses the spa and restaurant, and guests are accommodated in 10 “lodges” outside the hotel, with Cape Dutch style gables (the cost for one night starts at R8000).  Graff has so much faith in his team, that he has supervised the building work via DVD, the staff tell us, and he has yet to see his new hotel and restaurant.

We were presented the blue-cover menu and winelist, and were served a glass of Delaire Sauvignon Blanc (initially the Chardonnay was brought to the table in error) for my guest, and a Red Blend 2006 for myself (the Delaire Shiraz was a 2009, so I declined), expensive I felt at R50 and R60, respectively.  Only the Delaire wines are served by the glass.  Nick told us that they had not intended to serve wines by the glass, but have realised that there is a demand for it, so they will be added to the winelist.   Nick struggled to get away from serving us bottled water, when I asked for fresh Stellenbosch water.   The Delaire wine labels are beautifully designed. The winelist is interesting, in being only two pages (not likely to win the Diner’s Club Winelist Award), and offering a very restricted choice of no more than four/five brands, but in many cases only one or two per varietal.  Only the champagne (Billecart-Salmon Rose, Laurent-Perrier and Louis Roederer Cristal), and six other wines are imported (the Chateau Pichon Lalande 2005 costing R 5500, Hospices De Beaune 2002 R 1950), and Delaire Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose’, and the Red Blend are offered.   Vintages are specified on the winelist, but no wine descriptions are provided.

I noticed references to chilli, pepper and curry in the menu, and did not want to order anything that was too hot.   The chef came to the table, and explained the menu to us (what a great touch, given that the menu creation is his “baby”, so who better to describe it?).  I had not heard of Chef Jonathan Heath before, and most of his experience after he started his apprenticeship at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West was at Southern Sun Hotels both domestically and in Africa, his last stop having been the opening of a Southern Sun in Nigeria.   He loves Asian-fusion food, and is therefore in his element.   Mr Graff does too, and that is why such a style of restaurant was selected for the hotel.   It also contrasts the cuisine of the Delaire restaurant, is healthier in that the food is only steamed and poached, and is light.   Chef Jonathan is a big fan of Heston Blumenthal, and is into foams and froths, and molecular gastronomy, he says.  He also sources organic produce where he possibly can.

Sabrina came to the table with a customer feedback form, so that the problems experienced can be addressed by the management, as well as a media pack.  She also brought a gift pack with a bottle of Delaire Shiraz, to express her apology.  She offered me her card, so that I could book directly with her in future.

The menu offers 2 courses for R 225, 3 courses for R290, 4 courses for R385, and 5 courses for R 470.  Like Overture, one may choose the dishes from any of the sections on the menu.   The Chef quickly sent an amuse bouche of duck liver parfait and a home-made paneer cheese, with a strong lingering aftertaste.  Chef Jonathan impressed us by bringing each of the dishes to the table, and explaining the ingredients to us.  My guest’s Tikka Duck Marsala was served with curried lentils, coriander, cumin, spring onion and red pepper, garnished with pea shoots, and had a wonderful cucumber and cumin riatta.  My duck springroll was made from rice paper and was steamed, Chef Jonathan saying that it has close to zero calories, with julienned carrots and beans, and served with pickled cucumber and daikon radish, a bamboo shoot salad and dipping sauces.   Other starters are marinated beef salad, tuna loin, poached tiger prawns, and wild mushroom salad.  This was followed by a wildberry and litchi sorbet.

My guest had the salmon trout, topped with squid and caviar, with tomato and chilli broth poured over it by the Chef at the table.  My four 7-Thai-spice braised pork belly slices also had caviar on them.  We ordered a bowl of Jasmine rice and a butternut salad with the main course (one is allowed one side dish each).   Other mains offered are seared scallops, steamed line fish, duck breast, and Green tea poached Quail Breast.  We did not order dessert, but were served a trio of treats with our cappuccino – pistachio mousse, a chocolate amaretto cycle, and a macadamia nut spear.   Dessert choices are de-molded chai brulee, butternut sponge, citrus baked cheesecake, 5-spice malva pudding, and passion fruit panna cotta.

Chef Jonathan impressed us with his ability to interact with his guests, with his creativity in food preparation and presentation, and the generosity of what was sent out of the kitchen (a 2-course meal had an added amuse bouche, sorbet and sweet treats).   He comes to greet and chats with guests as a matter of course.  One hopes it stays this way.  But none of this would have been possible without the calm and efficient way in which the Duty Manager Sabrina dealt with the problem, and had turned it into a wonderful evening.  The restaurant is one of the finest in Stellenbosch, its addition strengthening our call for Stellenbosch to be given the Gourmet Capital crown, and to develop a Restaurant Route.  Another fan of foams and froths, Richard Carstens, opens across the road at Tokara in October.

Indochine, Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160 (Ask for Sabrina to book). www.delaire.co.za.  On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com