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Dave Hatfield

Cape Town - Foodie heaven?

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Ok, here we are staying in the suberbs of Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks on a house swap. I noted before we left home in France trhat there didn't seem to be much in the forums abour food down here, yet I had fond memories of past visits. So....

Herewith, my sort of food diary. We're now into our 3rd day. What I've noted so far is that the cost of food is really low. The cost of wine is really low as well; probably about as low as in our part of France which says you get drinkable table wine for $3.00 a bottle & nice stuff for $5-10 a bottle. (Example - tonight we had a bottle of Pinotage, 2003. About $7.00. A really really nice wine, smooth, lots of nice flavours, great fruit. Just plain good.)

So far we've had 3 meals in local restaurants; 2 fish & one lunch place. Both fish were Ok. These were chain sort of places so we didn't expect a lot. The 2ond was pretty good. I had some very nice calamari & Linda had a whole small fish (billed as Sole, but not what we would call Sole in Europe.) which was very nicely cooked & flavoursome. Both served with french fries & a nice little Greek type salad. This with a glass of wine each set us back about $13.00. The lunch was at a winery in a beautiful setting. L had chichen pie & I had a toastie & greek salad. this & three glasses of the white wine they make were just over $10.

For cooking at home so far I've bought nice little lamb chops, large steaks, salad stuff & some predone nibbles all of good quality at silly prices. $3.50 for 7 nice little lamb chops? Life is good. The meat looks excellent, the produce & fruits are great & all the back up seems to be there.

The only disappointment so far seems to be cheese. Blah! About as good as your average American supermarket; maybe.

As we progress we're determined to seek out & find the areas best restaurants as well as the best sources for ingredients. Should be fun.

I'll do my best to post at least something every day so long as there appears to be interest.

Couldn't think of quite where in the forums to post this so chose here on the basis that blogs go here & a diary is sort of like a mini-blog. Hope that's OK.

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Maybe this should be in the Middle East and Africa forum?

I'd like to visit South Africa someday. My grandmother was born in Malmesbury, not that far from the Cape, and liked to tell stories about her childhood there and the difficult passage to New York in the class just above steerage (she left when she was 7).

One thing I'd be curious about is whether you have a chance to sample Cape Malay food.


Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan

 

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One thing about being a maritime professional as well as a culinary professinal, is that living internationally is not that big of a deal. I have long thought about living in Cape town or Durban or Walvis Bay; I might have to think a little more seriously about it now.

(BTW, there are excellent cheeses available in American supermarkets if you just know where to look. You should start looking in the American Midwest.....)


This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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One thing about being a maritime professional as well as a culinary professinal, is that living internationally is not that big of a deal.  I have long thought about living in Cape town or Durban or Walvis Bay; I might have to think a little more seriously about it now.

(BTW, there are excellent cheeses available in American supermarkets if you just know where to look.  You should start looking in the American Midwest.....)

Don't know about full time living, bur we're going to have a serious look at spending three of the European winter months down here.

I must be missing something on the cheeses. As a native Californian who has lived all over the states the only supermarkets I've ever found with a decent selection of

cheeses has been Wholefoods & they seem to vary a lot from store to store.

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Maybe this should be in the Middle East and Africa forum?

Maybe, but I'm not sure how much readership it would get so I plumped for this forum.

One thing I'd be curious about is whether you have a chance to sample Cape Malay food.

We're certainly going to try to find a good place for Cape Malay food. We've heard there are some pretty good places in Cape Town.

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Today we found a really nice restaurant. Only about 10 minutes from where we're staying; between Sumerset West & Stellenbosch. Its called " Auberge de Paysan"; French as the name suggests.

You enter through a lovely garden into a nice reception and then into a classic dining room. Beautiful linens & glass.

The menu is French with a twist. There were four of us & both ladies choose the daily special salad which was shrimp & mussels with piquant sauce & well dressed salad, our friend had a carpaccio of kudo which he thought was excellent & I had a crepe filled with shrimp with a lobster sauce. All nice starters well presented. For wine we had a chardonnay from Eikandal which had light oak & tasted very much like a chablis.

Mains were a veal steak with brandy sauce for my friend, a boullibaise for one lady, an entracote for my wife and filet medallions with a pepper sauce & rosti for me. A nice selection of baby vegetables was served family style. Wine was a zifandel from Blaauwklippen. I ordered this as so far as I know South Africa is the only place other than California that its made. This one was typical, robust & fruity, but a bit lighter than the heavy Californians.

No desserts even though the menu was good; just coffe & some very nice chocolate biscuits.

All in all a very nice meal. Excellent service throughout. Not a WOW sort of place, but well above average. I'd go back. Both wines were outstanding.

Total cost was about $35.00 per person including wine & tip. Very good value for money.

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We were in Cape Town very briefly in '05 and had a wonderful dinner at Savoy Cabbage. They continue to send me emails about special 'opera' and other event nights. The wine we had that night, if I remember correctly was a merlot - Long Ridge??? I'll have to check my notes. It was very nice. The other meal we had there was on the waterfront, a seafood place - Panama Jacks. Touristy, but still good. We had a huge mixed seafood platter with several sauces. There is a thread in the Africa section recommending other restaurants.


Stop Family Violence

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Interesting thread; thanks for sharing some of your food experiences in Cape Town.

Any tempting seafood, fruits or vegetables in the market that might be different from home? Gsquared blogged from South Africa a few times and I seem to remember that there were lots of different types of meats available as well.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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We were in South Africa in Dec. and found it perfectly safe. In fact in the 3 weeks that we were in Africa and travelling all over we found the people to be most warm and welcoming.

In Cape Town we stayed at the 12 Apostles which is about 15 minutes from the downtown but has a spectacular view. We ate in the dining room there and the meal was excellent. We also stayed one night in Stellenbosch and had an excellent meal at ?1803. Agree the wine is very good and very reasonably priced.

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Interesting thread; thanks for sharing some of your food experiences in Cape Town. 

Any tempting seafood, fruits or vegetables in the market that might be different from home?  Gsquared blogged from South Africa a few times and I seem to remember that there were lots of different types of meats available as well.

We've been eating fresh passion fruit from the treee in the garden. Papya seems very common and there are quite a few different varieties of vegetables in the markets.

There seem to be quite a few types of game although so far we've only had kundo in the form of biltoong. We're told that you can get antelope, springbok, wart hog and others. We're going to investigate.

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I would love to go to South Africa and especially Cape Town but keep hearing disturbing reports about how dangerous it is? What's your impression Dave?

From our very limited esperience we agree with Madge. It seems safe enough. We're told that you do need to be careful and certainly the shanty towns look pretty dismal & somewhere one would not go.

The crime rate is fairly high, but I think with reasonable precaution this area is as safe as most large cities. Somerset West where we're staying is proported to be very safe. Don't know for sure, but it certainly is a beautiful place.

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More comments.

We have yet to find a restaurant with innovative food. Our fault I'm sure. What we have found are restaurants with very good food, well cooked, presented & served.

Last night we had dinner at Laurenton which is one of the older wine estates. It has glorious gardens & the winery is very interesting. We ate out under a covered patio.

The menu was a veriety of salad or pasta starters, meat & fish mains & a small selection of desserts. The salads were both good & large. I had pasta with pesto which was excellent. Two of us had very nice filet mains, again both good & large. I had my favorite calamari which were perfectly cooked.

With terrific bottle of "five Heirs" chardonnay the bill including a nice tip came to about $75 for the four of us.

As you can see nothing unusual or really innovative, but amazing value for money.

I'm going to be doing some wine tasting at home as with the advice of a very knowledgable wine merchant I've bought 4 different bottles of "pinotage" to try.

We'll see how they stack up. If they're anywhere near as good as the whites we've had then we're in for a treat.

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getting a bit disappointed with the restaurants.

Today we had lunch at what was proported to be the best restaurant in Francheshoek (dicey spelling); a place called the French Connection. Five star chef & all that. It wasn'r bad, but it wasn't even as good as a couple of the others that I've mentioned.

Thought I was onto a good thing with a starter of Smoked Trout Rillet, but it was disappointing. Lots of it, but it needed a bit of citrus & to be honest wasn't as good as what I make myself. I broke down & had a T-bone steak whick was Ok. Linda had the fish of the day which was also OK. Both dishes came with rosti potatoes which were awful.

We're going to try downtown Cape Town & also some Indian which is reputed to be good.

So far the verdict is that you can eat well, but not with much innovation or imagination from the chefs. No flair.

Can't beat the prices though.

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Check out my reports from Sept./Oct of 2005. Actually some quite excellent innovative food can be found in and around Cape Town, a marvelous city. This recent article from the New York Times should give you some places to try in Cape Town. Bruce Robertson is a very talented chef doing very good things with fusion. I very much enjoyed my meal at One.Waterfront when he was there.

Pinotage is the local grape, but not necessarily the best example of what South Africa can produce as far as wine. It does tend to be a good value though. I particularly enjoyed the wines of Boekenhoutskloof (sp?) and Vergelegen.

Many different kinds of meat are indeed available and most are farm raised. During a conversation with a chef in Cape Town he was lamenting that most of the best produce and seafood tends to be exported.

As for safety, I never felt uncomfortable in or around Cape Town, but then I didn't visit the most risky areas. My impression is that safety is no worse than any other major city and probably better than many. I cannot attest to Johannesburg though.

I look forward to reading your continuing impressions and discoveries.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Check out my reports from Sept./Oct of 2005. Actually some quite excellent innovative food can be found in and around Cape Town, a marvelous city. This recent article from the New York Times should give you some places to try in Cape Town. Bruce Robertson is a very talented chef doing very good things with fusion. I very much enjoyed my meal at One.Waterfront when he was there.

Pinotage is the local grape, but not necessarily the best example of what South Africa can produce as far as wine. It does tend to be a good value though. I particularly enjoyed the wines of Boekenhoutskloof (sp?) and Vergelegen.

Many different kinds of meat are indeed available and most are farm raised. During a conversation with a chef in Cape Town he was lamenting that most of the best produce and seafood tends to be exported.

As for safety, I never felt uncomfortable in or around Cape Town, but then I didn't visit the most risky areas. My impression is that safety is no worse than any other major city and probably better than many. I cannot attest to Johannesburg though.

I look forward to reading your continuing impressions and discoveries.

Thanks for the info. We'll br trying some of the better city restaurants & expect better results.

I choose the Pinotage specificly because it is a local grape which is finally getting some serious attention. Again, we'll see.

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At last! Found a really good place where we had luch today. The name is: Restaurant Joubert, 3 High Street, Hermanus. and it was very nice indeed.

The main dining area is simply, but tastefully done. The tables are well spaced and it just looks a good place to eat. We received a warm welcome & were promptly seated despite having no reservations. We choose sit on the outdoor terrace as the day was warm. The sight of various herbs growing around the terrace was encouraging.

The menu was encouraging as well. I decided to have the ostrich carpaccio as a starter. Turned out to be a good choice; the ostrich was very lighly smoked, flavourful and tender. It came with a small mixed salad with fresh herbs and a light vinegarette. The dish worked; it looked good & tasted good.

Linda had a Tunesian mutton stew for her main. Really really good. The taste of mutton came through well and was nicely balanced by the herb mixture. Delicious; every bit got mopped up.

I had a Vension pie. This was a mixture of eland & pork with a spice blend & served with rice & homemade chutney. In consistency the pie was like pulled pork, tender & tastyand was served between puff pastry slices. With this came a selection of the accompanyments. Fresh grated coconut, finely chopped vegatables and a very spicy sauce I couldn't identify. All good & all complemented the 'pie'.

This is exactly the type of restaurant we were hoping to find, good, innovative and definitely different than we'd find elsewhere. Chef Joubert has a great touch.

Wine was a glass of a merlot. Cab blend from nearby. Good, not terrific.

As I type this I am sipping a serious wine called "the Work of Time" from the Springfield Estate in the Robertson AOC (well, I don't think they call them AOC's here, but its the equivilent). This is a 2002 and it is seriously good. 42% merlot, 31% cab sav & 27% cab franc. Native yeasts, 5 weeks on the skins followed by 18 months in the barrel followed by a further 18 months in the bottle. (I love it when they give all this information on the label. Even I can sound like I know what I'm talking about!)

The result is NOT a Brodeaux knock off as one might guess given the grapes & the method. The proportions are different for one thing.

What the result is; is a wonderful wine that can hold its own against the best Europe & the New World can offer. If it weren't for weight allowances I'd stock up on this.

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Back home now. And thinking about the bottom line of our Cape Town trip. First, would we go back? Yes! In fact we may go for a longer visit next winter (European winter that is) Its hard to beat the weather, the scenery & countryside and the cost of things.

Random thoughts:

- The wines are really something special. We had Chardonnays that were equal to any I've tasted anywhere, but at low cost prices. We had Bordeaux style blends that would knock your socks off. And we had a Pinotage from Morkel that was amazingly good at any price let alone $10 a bottle. Ordinary good everyday wines could be had for less than $5. I'm told that there are 6,000 registered winemaker & over 14,000 registered labels in SA, I believe it & would love to explore more.

- The restaurants were good. We only hit one I'd call exceptional, but I suspect there are great places to be found. We were staying out in Somerset West which is a suburb; I suspect that if we'd spent more time in the city we'd have found more culinary excellence.

Still we never had a bad meal or even close to one, the service was universally good & the prices were low low low.

Like most places it takes a while to get to know your way around. Next trip!

- Next time I'll cook more. We were so much in vacation mode that I didn't try to cook a serious meal. Yet, walking around the markets it was easy to see that very high quality ingredients were in abundance. It would not have been difficult to buy whatever I needed. It was notable that ingredients, herbs & spices for a pretty wide range of cuisines were stocked.

The disappointment was cheese. There seemed to be lots of it, but nowhere near the range I'd expect in the UK or the states let alone in France.

- We found the people of all colours to be friendly and very nice to us. We never felt threatened at any time and that includes going to an outdoor market mainly patronised by non-whites. (got some real bargains there!) The statistics say that the crime rate is high & I'm sure it is. The locals are all very security minded I assume with good reason, we just never saw that side of things.

All in all a great place to visit. Foodie heaven? I think it could be given a bit more time to explore and pick up local knowledge.

Our advice? GO, what a way to avoid cold Northern winters.

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Glad you had a good time!! Open invitation to any other E gulleters: Please contact the South African members of this forum. I cant speak for all of us but I am sure there are lots of us who would love to show you round our wonderful country and point you in the right directions to find great food while you are here. My mail is simon@cranford.co.za and I am only too happy to tell you more!!


The fat & happy Chef from Clarens, Eastern Free State, South Africa.

I've never had a bad day in the kitchen, but I've had some bad kitchens in my day!

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