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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by gsquared

  1. Impala is a small antelope. About the size of a Springbuck, if that helps.
  2. The Lagavulin helped. The dogs are passed out. and I may as well get on to tomorrow's menu. I have two loin of warthog. Strange - I have never seen a fillet of warthog. Nevertheless, the loin is a clean, fat-free and pinkish strip of meat. Slightly tough, so you need to marinate it or deal with it in thin slices. Ideal for stir-frying. So - thinly sliced loin of warthog, stir-fried with ginger, coriander and cumin. Served in a creamy mustard sauce with cinnamon butttered apple chunks and an onion bhaji. Chef's choice will be our interpretation of a croque madame: a fried egg on ham on a round of garlic toast, covered with a cheese and herb sauce. I'll worry about the bread in the morning. We have 14 for breakfast - 6 singles and 4 doubles. Of the 6 singles, 4 asked for an early breakfast at 7am. This means that I will have to lay 4 tables and have all the prep ready by 7 when the staff arrives. Up at 4:30, I think. I will probably start waking up periodically at 3, wondering if it is time to get going. I have a fancy clock that has an LED projection thingy attached to it. You hit a big button and it projects the time against the ceiling. Useful for a quick check in the wee hours.
  3. How easy it is to do. And how much fun. I worried about retirement and becoming a bored, boring old man. Maybe the boring bit will be difficult to avert but bored? No way. I like devising ways to please guests. I like to anticipate their needs. I like giving them the odd unexpected snack when they are sipping wine on their patio, looking at the sunset. I like getting their muddy car washed early morning before they get up. I like helping them organising their day. I like serving them a glass of wine upon arrival. I enjoy their pleasure in our food. I am not sure where all this came from, given that I spent most of my working life writing computer software, but this is right now exactly what I should be doing. Two things: 1. When a guest sprinkles salt without tasting first. We have spent a lot of time on seasoning properly and the mindless salting really gets to me. 2. When a guest asks for ketchup and pours it all over a carefully constructed dish. I mean, we really tried to make this good and the best you can do is drown it in ketchup. When this happens I leave the rooms an go and sulk on the patio. And look at the neap tide. I am indeed interested. Please PM me with the recipe. My seed bread is simple - please forgive the rough and ready quantities: 300gm roughly milled wheat flour 100gm rolled oats 50gm wheat bran a handful of sunflower seeds 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder Place the above in a food processor and whizz briefly. This mixes the ingredients well and chops up the seeds. Turn out into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons cane sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons molasses and sufficient milk to make a smooth batter. The batter should drip from a spoon like thick mud: if it flows, add more wheat flour. If it falls off in huge globs, add more milk. Spoon into a greased bread tin and top with more seeds. Bake for 40 mins in a 200C preheated oven.
  4. Come to think of it, the Lagavulin is appropriate. We lost the cricket test against the Aussies. Last guests are in and the house is full.
  5. As suspected, the monkfish was vile. No texture and an unpleasant "fishyness" to the nose. Cat food. What to do with the rest? Certainly not suitable for pickling. I should have known better. At least the skins and the Bok Choi turned out great. The wine was also fine. L'Ormarin Sauv Blanc ($8). The rest of the bottle will serve to soothe. I still have no idea what to do for breakfast tomorrow. The bloody fish has upset me and I will now go and sit on the patio and look at the neap tide. Maybe a dram of single malt is also indicated. I think I still have some Lagavulin 16yrs. left.
  6. The monkfish looks dubious. Not much water leaked out during defrosting, but the texture is mushy rather than firm. I shall, however, persevere. The spuds prior the becoming skins. and after Drizzled with duck fat. Maldon salt and into the oven. Chopped up the Bok Choi, roasted sesame seeds and orange peel, wilted the bok choi down, added chunky cottage cheese. More later.
  7. Yes, we do. The Venison Company specialises in, well, venison. They acquire it mainly from commercial game farms. Very few adverse reactions. There are always people who are more comfortable with familiar food, and we will happily do bacon, eggs, baked beans and fried bread if it makes a guest happy. The overwhelming majority are happy with trying out something new. Yes, we do. There is much to do in and around Wilderness and our local knowledge helps guests get the best out of their stay. Closest winery, or rather Co-op, is about 70Km from us. Quality is somewhat dubious, unless you are partial to fortified wine (Jerepiko and Muscadel). Neap tide is the weak tide caused when the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon are perpendicular. That is, perpendicular relative to the earth. I think I mentioned dark moon upthread. That is, of course, not correct. Neap tide by definition occurs at quarter moon. True, but what delights await the end of the ordeal! Look forward to seeing you.
  8. The weather is beautiful today. We'll eat on the patio. I prefer fresh to frozen fish (who doesn't?) but I got hold of some frozen monkfish tails a week or so ago. The theory was that the monkfish should stand up better to the damage wrought by freezing. Tonight I will test the theory. Pan fried and then into the salamander for a short while. Maybe some garlic buter over. If they come out well, I'll reserve the rest for our own use, otherwise I'll pickle them for the breakfast menu. I may do some potato skins with it. And perhaps use the bok choi that has been lurking in the veggie drawer for a day or two.
  9. Tonight is neap tide and Judy Dixon, a local resident who is an expert on marine life, will take a group on a starlight (it is dark moon) meander of the intertidal zone exposed by the low tide. The group has pizza and wine on the beach and then sets off to examine the marine life in the rock pools and on the beach. Four Mes Amis guests are trundling along. I'll ask one of them to take some pics. Maybe they'll even return with something edible. Fortunately the weather looks good – blue skies and sunshine.
  10. The bloody dogs found a dead, rotten fish on the beach this morning. And rolled in it. They returned smelling to high heaven. I have taught them to jump into the paddling pool when we return from the beach (to wash off the sand). This morning they had to be soaped and hosed down. Much barking and excitement. Reminded me of the dead whale two months ago. About 3 tons of decomposing whale meat washed up up the beach a few hundred meters from us, right in front of Wilderness Village. The chemist ran out of face masks toute suite and the place looked like a biological war zone. The restaurants all closed down - nothing like the smell of a rotten whale to put one off dinner. The municipality dug a very deep hole in the sand and buried it in situ. Lets hope that we are in a cycle of beach accretion and not erosion...
  11. I'll tell you about my staff tomorrow - have to get them together for a pic first! Yep- mango, diced chilli, dill, coriander and black pepper
  12. I'll walk you through morning's work in some detail to give you a feel for how my day typically starts. It is now just after 10:00. 5:00am. Preheated the oven and started baking the muffins. Veronica, who is the chef for this 14 day cycle, baked the seed bread yesterday afternoon. The great thing about muffins is how forgiving they are. Ideal for a bread wuz like me. Cheese muffins – grate some cheddar, add salt, pinch of sugar, two eggs, melted butter and some milk. Mix and then add about 400g self raising flour. Mix and into the muffin pan. Top with finely grated cheese and into the oven for 26 minutes at 190C. 5:45am. Muffins in the oven. Typed and printed the menu. Wrote the number of covers and seating arrangement on the chef's copy of the menu. Today we had 12 guests. Four singles and 4 doubles. Easy seating plan, as the breakfast room has 8 two-seaters. 6:00am. First batch of muffins done, second batch in. Bran and peanut butter. Whole wheat flour, brown bread flour, bran, molasses, baking powder, peanut butter, eggs, milk, melted butter. Pan-fried a piece of the Impala to check that it is ok. It is a boon that we have two kitchens. One is dedicated to breakfast cooking and is located of the dining area. The other is my personal kitchen in our living area. This means that the mess I make when baking muffins can be cleaned up at leasure and does not affect breakfast service. Also a damn sight more convenient knowing that I will not encounter early morning guests and can do my work in shorts and an apron. Not a sight any rightminded guest would want to encounter unexpectedly in the wee hours! I should explain that our living area is completely separated from the guest facilities. This keeps our private area private and keeps the dogs away from the guests. 6:45am. Second batch of muffins done. 7:00am. The girls arrived and I discussed the seating plan with Miki, who will wait on the tables. Went though the menu with Veronica. They left for the breakfast kitchen to start prep. Handed out housekeeping checklists and arrivals/departures lists to the others. Off to the breakfast kitchen to do a sample plate of the fresh fruit and to check that the mise had been properly laid out. For the first hot dish we had no prep to do other than trim the loin, cut it up into chunks, toss in olive oil and sesame oil, wash the tomatoes and set out the mozzarella. For the second we only needed to set out the salsa ingredients, cheese and the grater. The chicken is still half-raw and sits in one of the fridges. It is a lot easier to stop the smoking before the meat is completely done and then quickly sear the slices in a pan to complete the cooking. I find it fiddly to get the timing right to cook the chicken completely when smoking it. Here is the setup I use for smoking: 7:30 Mozarella no good – sour smell to it, so we substituted haloumi. 8:10 First guests arrived. We get the fruit, coffee/tea, bread and fruit juice out as soon as possible to take care of the initial hunger pangs. When we are slammed, it buys a lot of time. You may chuckle at the thought of being slammed with a max of 18 guests, but getting orders for 10 hot breakfasts in short order is, in my world, a problem. Mainly because I bought the wrong stove. I should have waited a while but I was keen replace the dysfunctional relic in the kitchen. Still thinking within my then frame of reference, I bought a very decent 5 burner Smeg gas stove with a big electric oven. What I should have bought is two electric ovens and a 6 burner hob with a flat top. Oh well…. The magnificent but utterly screwed up and unrepairable old Garland And the new Smeg Service proceeded well. The guests arrived well staggered and I could leave the cooking to Veronica. I only get involved when things get a bit hectic. This was an easy morning, so I could spend more time on the floor, talking to the guests and, where required advising on their plans for the day. Two golf bookings, a booking for the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe (steam train) and a dinner reservation. Fruit plate Scotsman Fried eggs, fritter, kebab, tomato, cheese Chef's choice As the guests arrived for breakfast, Welda and Patricia popped in to check which rooms are in for breakfast so that they could get into the stayover rooms to do housekeeping. For stayover guests who are not going out immediately after breakfast, we try to clean and refresh the room while the guest is breakfasting. I have always hated getting back to a mussed up room when we stayed in some hostelry and I was determined to do better in our own place. Breakfast service was done by 9:30. Miki, Veronica and I sat down over a cup of coffee to do a quick post mortem. Room cleaning is underway, the laundry is running full tilt and all is at peace.
  13. We do not have many markets in S.A. The supply chain has traditionally been farmer->wholesale market->retailer->consumer. Over the past 10 years or so markets have appeared where smaller producers sell direct to the consumer, but it is still not prevalent thoughout the country. We have a local market on Saturday mornings, but it is useful mainly for the range of preserves that is available. There is better fruit, veg, meat etc. available in the retail shops and from wholesalers that supply the catering industy. That said, one can on the odd occasion pick up some decent baguettes and home cured meat.
  14. Ok. Time to get to work. It is 9pm and the menu awaits. We try to have one cereal that is a bit less boring than the usual suspects. Tomorrow it will be "The Mes Amis Breakfast Brulee" : muesli soaked in muscadel, covered with layers of fruit (probably apple slices) and topped with bruleed yoghurt. Bread was a problem right from the start. As one grows older, you realize that there are certain things you will never be:- a baker of really good bread I never was and never will be. I simply do not have a rapport with dough and yeast. I have tried. Oh dear, how I have tried! My past is littered with a string of dense loaves, overproofed boules and ghastly baguettes. All suitable only for feeding to the seagulls. I think that I am genetically yeast-challenged. Yeast see me coming and immediately subside into a fit of giggles. We do, however, need to serve decent bread. I found a recipe for a baking powder leavened whole grain and bran seed bread that after some experiments came out really well, so that became a standard. When I realized that non-yeast leavening is the way to go, I added muffins and scones to the repertoire and that is where we are today – seed bread and two or three versions of muffins is the daily bread offering. I did experiment with buying in frozen croissants, but, strangely enough, did not get sufficient enthusiasm to warrant the cost - $1 a croissant as against $1-50 for 12 muffins. In a fit of misplaced confidence I will on the odd occasion bake brioches. Every now and then they actually turn out edible. I buy bread dough from a local supermarket and use that for beignets. For tomorrow, cheese muffins and bran and peanut butter muffins. We have a plentiful supply of venison (The Little Karoo, an ancient inland sea dotted with game and ostrich farms lies just over the Outeniqua mountains), and I decided early on to make extensive use of good cuts of Impala, Kudu, Springbok, Gemsbuck, Blesbuck, Ostrich and crocodile. I thought that we could use the venison to produce breakfast dishes that are different and would in time become a sort of signature. Especially as venison does not normally feature as a breakfast dish. The cost is reasonable – around $15 a kilo for a fillet or loin. The bigger animals such as Kudu yield a decent fillet. We use the loin of the smaller ones such as Springbok. I have used Crocodile tail but found the meat to be rather bland, aside from the awful thick strip of fat that runs through each segment of tail meat. My supplier has come up with thinly sliced smoked tail which is great. First thing is to check the reservations book to see who has been in the house for a few days, and look over the menus they have had. I try not to repeat any dish during a guest's stay. Only two who had breakfast this morning, the rest are new. Check the book for dietary requirements- we enquire when guests book. None for tomorrow, thank goodness! Dietary requirements are sometimes difficult, but dealing with them and dealing with them well is part of getting people to pay to stay at your establishment. We have Impala loins in the freezer, so one hot dish can be eggs prepared to choice with Impala loin kebabs tossed in sesame oil and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Sesame and game are a good match. A sweet corn and chilli fritter should go well with that. Add a grilled tomato topped with seared mozzarella. Mozarella acquires an interesting flavour when you zap it with a blowtorch. Note to self: remember to take the Impala loin from the freezer…. For the second hot dish I try to be a wee bit more adventurous. Still have to select something that the staff have been taught to cook. (More about the staff later). I have defrosted chicken breasts that cannot last much longer. A cheese omelette with tea smoked chicken breasts and a mango salsa, I think. Means I have to go and smoke the chicken breasts, but that will only take 30 minutes or so. I'll go and do that right away, and then to bed. Goodnight.
  15. The curry turned out reasonably well. I was chuffed with the dumplings which for once was light and not stodgy. I added some tinned chickpeas which was, in retrospect, not a great idea. No fatal, but wounded the end product. Served over basmati rice.
  16. Time to start thinking about dinner. I fear that my efforts this week will pale by comparison to all those of the previous bloggers. The artists and I eat a late breakfast, at around 10:30 when all the guests have been fed. For lunch we keep a bowl of fruit around, some cheese, olives and so on and snack when we feel peckish. Dinner therefore has to be a tad more substantial, but I tend to keep it simple. I find it interesting that we now have a renewed appetite for the comfort foods of our younger days. For the past two evenings I had a yen for cornmeal grits with spicy ground beef in a rich gravy. So we indulged. Tonight the artist wants a vegetarian curry. She says that she is now off meat for a few days. Must be that spicy ground beef. I am going to try my hand at basing a curry around gram flour dumplings. Maybe some yoghurt. And spinach. Forgiving thing, a curry, so for the rest I'll wing it and let you know later how it turns out. It is still cloudy outside, so we'll eat inside in our dining area: For the wine, we'll have a 2003 Allesverloren Cab ($10): Better make that curry really robust. Is that a valid approach - first select the wine and then adjust the food to match? Sort of the reverse of a wine pairing - a food pairing?
  17. Jack, You must remember that I am retired. Running a bar and cooking dinner sounds suspiciously like hard work, something to be strenuously avoided. We do have an "honesty" self-help bar in each lounge. For the substantial evening meals I defer to the local eateries. We also have a restaurant delivery service from George (about 15Km from us) that has about 15 restaurants on their delivery list.
  18. Thanks! We have an average of 320 days sunshine per year. Having said that, it is cloudy and rainy today with a strong southeaster. The guests (at least those on holiday) are not amused...... Dinner. Perhaps the easiest is to quote that part of our in-room brochure devoted to Wilderness restaurants:
  19. We are probably cheaper than the norm, but our price is on a level where I am comfortable with it, and comfortable with the profitability of the business. For the moment at least, I am focused on bums in beds. The minibar is stocked with one red and one white wine. Depending on when you open the red, you may find yourself in dire need of more by early evening.
  20. $120, breakfast included. In off season (May-Sept) down to $100.
  21. A scoop of oats porridge (large ice cream scoop) is put into a hot porridge bowl, cream is poured over, a drizzle of honey and then the shot (about a single tot) of whiskey is drizzled into the cream around the edges of the porridge. We cook the porridge slightly firmer than usual. The assumption is that, if you order the Scotsman, you are ok with the whiskey. The important thing is that the whiskey needs to mingle with the cream. Wilderness is about 70Km from Oudtshoorn, the centre of ostrich farming in S.A. The Klein Karoo Ostrich Co-op markets ostrich meat very actively, and it is available in most supermarkets thoughout the country. Ostrich fillet is a misnomer, of course, as an ostrich does not have a fillet in the usual sense of the word. All the meat comes from the thigh. The inside and outside strips from the thigh are the most tender and usually referred to as fillet.
  22. Thanks for remembering! The renovations went well, although there was a lot to learn. Thread count, cotton v polycotton, cut pile v threaded pile, 18/10 v 18/8... It was so damn frustrating, because all I wanted to do was get to the FOOD! Typical bedroom: Formal guest lounge: Informal breakfast lounge:
  23. Lori, I did, in a previous life and more years ago than I like to remember, run a hotel for a while. That is so long ago, though, that it hardly counts as experience. In some respects no experience is a good thing: I could bring a fresh eye and my own ideas to the guest house. It really is not difficult. Common sense, planning, a good sense of what guests would like and not like takes one far. Add to that a sense of contentedness that comes later in life..... Our living space is separate from that of the guests, so we do not share lounges etc. and have our own piece of garden. More than sufficient privacy. The guests occupy all my attention until 10-11am with breakfast and checkout, and again from 4pm-about 6pm with checkin. In between there is the occasional soul that needs advice, a table booking, more wine or something, but there is ample non-guest time. We have to be here evenings, of course, unless we arrange one of the staff to house-sit, or one of the kids when we want to go away for a few days. But then, I'd rather be here than anywhere else in any event. Mornings are the best time of the day. I always used to be up and about at around 5am, which is when the innkeeping day starts. No hardship there. There is a feeling almost of supriority being up when most other people are still abed - the world, somehow, seems to belong to only me. It has been two years now, and although my enthusiasm for the work at hand does not always run at 100%, I have never had a problem getting going. The dogs get up with me and help with breakfast prep by keeping the kitchen floor clean! Most people seem to expect the mundane but accept the unusual happily. Best ever guest has to be the French honeymoon couple that sent us 6 bottles of Pierre Gosset as a thank you. The worst guest I have yet to encounter. Everything except fruit and veggies is delivered from various specialist suppliers. I have tried getting a herb garden going, but nothing seems to grow, except for rosemary: Although we have a very mild winter, most fruit and veggies are seasonal to some extent, especially fruit. The seasonality of produce is blurred to by off-season hothouse cultivation and imports. Fruit is our main problem, as we do not require a huge variety of veggies to make breakfast work. As away - I did say that I have plenty of spare time
  24. My name is Gerhard and I live in Wilderness in Eden. Two years ago I decided to retire and do nothing for a while. The problem with doing nothing is that it is difficult to know when you are done. That is probably the main reason why I decided to buy a guest house. The Artist's prodding did play a role. Her version was that I interfered with the creative process and was a nuisance around the house. Mine was that I was merely offering support by way of constructive criticism. Be that as it may, I woke up one morning with the thought that we should up stakes in Johannesburg and move to the coast. If we could find a large house, we could convert it into a guest house. I could keep myself busy looking after guests and cooking. The artist always had a yen to live at the seaside and I got enthusiastic support for the idea. She would paint and I would be the innkeeper. Two weeks later we bought Mes Amis in Wilderness, an existing, somewhat dilapidated guest house. 9 guest bedrooms and a large 2 bedroom apartment for us. The location is terrific: right on the beach with a splendid view of the Indian Ocean. Wilderness is an area of rivers, lakes, wetlands, mountains, forests and the Indian Ocean. Perhaps slightly overdeveloped, but still a quiet, bucolic village where the main economic activity is tourism and life proceeds at a gentle pace. We have a temperate climate, with an average min/max of 17/25 in summer (Oct-April) and 8/18 in winter. In May 2004, we relocated. The artist, sissy tutu and I. I made the mistake of visiting our local animal shelter shortly after arriving, and the result was two new additions to the menagerie, Bibi and Becky. This will be mainly a breakfast blog. That is where most of my culinary creative energy is spent these days and it may just be mildly interesting for you to follow me through a few days of cooking for the guests. (And, of course, for the artist and myself). Breakfast is served a la carte in our breakfast room: It is now just after 11am and breakfast service is done. We had 13 in, a table for 8, two for two and one single. As always seem to happen when we have a large table, the whole lot sat down at the same time. Here is today's menu: The front and back and the inside Between helping Miki with table service, giving Veronica a hand with cooking and smooching the guests, I did not have time to take pics, other than the fresh fruit: I'll do better tomorrow morning. The 8 Italian guests checked out and service should be easier. Voluble bunch, the table for 8. The shy young Swiss couple in the corner were somewhat bemused. Every time I headed for their table to discuss their plans for the day, and advise where I can, I was waylaid by the Italians. Time to take it easy. I intended watching the cricket test, but we are (again) getting soundly beaten by the Aussies. I have a large pot of duck legs on the stove and may as well start preparing the jars for the confit. The rest of the day will proceed placidly. Patricia will draw up the list of stuff that we need to order – groceries, fruit, veggies, meat, toiletries, cleaning materials and so on and place the orders for delivery tomorrow after I've checked the list and added my two bits. Time then to take the dogs for a walk on the beach, have a short siesta and then get ready to receive guests. That involves checking the reservations book and memorizing new guest names. It is often very easy to guess names correctly when the guests arrive. Tonight we have a German couple, two ladies from the UK, a businessman from Johannesburg and a repeat couple from Cape Town checking in, so I should be able to greet them all by name. I will, if you will allow me, tell more about my innkeeping day tomorrow.
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