Increasingly consumers are entertaining their guests at home, by shopping at a select number of specialist food shops and delis, and preparing something last minute.  This is partly due to the recession South Africans have experienced in the past two years, as well as the general shortage of time, and this has stimulated the production of wonderfully healthy and creative food products for in-home use.   It also reflects the greater time that consumers spend on shopping for produce and ingredients than they do cooking or preparing it.   This was said by Anelde Greeff, editor of Eat In, at the announcement of the winners of the 4th Eat In Produce Awards, which was held as a Night Market at the Old Biscuit Mill on Thursday evening. 

The Best New Product winner of the 2011 SAB Eat In  Produce Awards, as judged by Anelde Greeff, Justine Drake (previous editor of Eat In), Pete Goffe-Wood (an Eat Out  Top 10 restaurant judge), Anna Trapido (an Eat Out  Top 10 restaurant judge) and Michelle Barry (principal of the Christina Martin Cookery School in Durban), is Totally Wild’s Aloe and Baobab Juice, which contains calcium, iron and vitamins.   The South African Heritage Award went to Enaleni Farm in KwaZulu-Natal, and this selection was motivated as follows: ”This KZN farm is preserving our heritage by keeping a herd of Nguni cattle, endangered Zulu sheep, growing rare, local maize varietals and the traditional ibhece melon”.

The other 2011 SAB Eat In  Produce Awards winners, with the motivation for their selection, are the following:

*   “Best Organic Product: Kimilili’s Witzenberger cheese:  Made in the Swiss Appenzelltradition, using nothing but cheese cultures, microbial rennet and salt, the tangy, six-month matured Witzenberger had the judges carving off slice after slice.
 
*   Small Produce Award: Paddock – Chuck and Bobs:  Creating a small range of bacon, salamis and hams, Chuck and Bobs’ produce delighted the judges, as did the small-scale, hands-on way in which they make their charcuterie.
 
*   Small Produce Award: Earth – The Drift Farm’s range of organic fruit and veg:  Specialising in rare vegetables like black Aztec corn, fingerling aubergines and candy-striped beets, this family-run farm also goes to great lengths to be environmentally friendly. 
 
*   Small Produce Award: Bakery - The Foodbarn’s ciabatta and rye bread:  Made using locally produced stone-ground flour, natural yeast and water, the texture and freshness secured The Foodbarn’s woodfired loaves a place at the top of the bakery list.
 
*   Small Produce Award: Dairy – Swissland St Maure cheese:  The judges were blown away by the character of Fran Isaac’s fromages; most notably the soft, wood-ash-coated St Maure log, with its slightly salty, nutty taste.
 
*   Small Produce Award: Grocery – Quality Pickles’ range of chutneys, atchars and pickles:
This home-based kitchen produces 11 delicious sauces and seven stupendous pickles, including fragrant Mebos Chutney, crunchy pickle, and dhania.
 
*   Merit Award: The Kitchen Garden sprouts:   Joseph Feigelson offers the largest selection of edible sprouts in Africa, and supplies the country’s top chefs.
 
*   Best Markets and Stores: 
North – Braeside Meat Market and Pretoria Boeremark:   The judges commended Braeside for their commitment to sourcing the best, most ethically-reared meat. Owner Caroline McCann shoots her own venison, offers braai classes and is even breeding local turkeys.  Family-friendly Pretoria Boeremark meanwhile, was commended for its warmth, its unaffected charm and its amazing range of fresh farm produce. 
 
South: Get Stuffed Enterprises’ The Real Cheese and Neighbourgoods Market :  Valerie Elder’s range of South African cheeses is hard to beat and is illustrative of her dedication to our local cheesemaking talents. Running since 2006, the Neighbourgoods Market has grown into a hub of fabulous produce which has transformed Woodstock into a sought-after foodie destination.
 
East: Everfresh La Lucia and The Food Market :   With the widest range of products, from imported truffles and cheeses to indigenous beans and mfenu, Everfresh La Lucia goes to great lengths to promote fresh, indigenous produce.  Established by Emma Dunk, Nick Papadopoulos, Eric Edwards and Karen Brokensha, The Food Market showcases the most superb produce in KZN. 
 
Central: The Valley Market :  In the foothills of the Magaliesberg, The Valley Market show off both the area’s natural bounty and the pioneering artisan produce of its residents. There is even an online box scheme delivering to Joburg” .

The 2011 edition of Eat In magazine was launched at the event, the tenth issue, with 850 listings in categories such as bakeries, butcheries, cheese suppliers, delis, cooking schools, kitchen tool suppliers, ‘exotica’ (being spice and imported product suppliers), fish suppliers,  farm stalls and markets, organic food suppliers, caterers, olives and olive oils, and tea and coffee suppliers.  For the first time quick and easy recipes are provided as well.  

For the first time the Eat In Produce Awards were held with a ‘Night Market’ at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, with many of the regular stall holders and past Eat In Produce winners selling their wonderful products.  I was pleased to meet Richard Bosman  (left), making an excellent quality and packaged range of cured meats using pasture reared pork.  I bought lovely mozzarella products from Puglia Cheese, and loved the stand for Buffalo Ridge in Wellington, buying their mozzarella too, and trying their yoghurt.   It was good to see La Motte’s Farm Shop have a stand too.

To co-incide with the Awards, S A Breweries launched two craft beers at the event – a Newlands Extra Special, and the Sunset Wheat Beer. A lovely sparkling Newlands Spring water was also available to drink at the launch.

As an invited guest to the Awards, it was disappointing that there was no name tag on arrival, despite my RSVP.  The media and “VIP” guests were herded into the back section of the market hall, but there was no one to guide one to the SAB table for the beer, and there was no wine available if one was not a beer drinker.  No food was served (ironic for a food-related event), and invited guests had to buy their food.  The whole function seemed a little amateurish in its execution, and I had to ask for the media pack on my departure, no New Media Publishing staff member proactively ensuring that all guests received such a pack.  The media pack consisted of a selection of SA Breweries beers, a lanyard and the Eat In  magazine, but none of the award-winning products!   Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, who was attending the event as a colleague, and who was one of the writers for the magazine, was most hospitable and helpful, even though it was not her function, and not her duty to do so.  New Media Publishing’s Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards’ events have a far longer history, admittedly, but are slick and almost without hiccups, in contrast to what we experienced at the SAB Eat In  Produce Awards.  Parking anywhere reasonably close to the Old Biscuit Mill remains a challenge, even in the late afternoon.

Eat In 2011 magazine.   www.eat-in.co.za

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