Legend has it that Kobe cattle from Japan, in their final months before slaughter, are massaged daily by maidens and fed a diet mainly of dark beer. Now I don’t know about you, but there are far worst ways to meet your maker – we’re all going to die sometime but not many can say that their last days were spent in such a state of bliss.
So what is it about this fabled beef that’s so damn impressive and expensive?
On the menu: Rabbit terrine, fig leaf baked ricotta, wild honey, lemon and porcini velouté.
Jean-Pierre recently enjoyed this starter dish as one highlight of an overall excellent meal at The Shortmarket Club. We chat to chef Wesley Randles about what may seem like an unusual combination to local diners in Cape Town.
Welsey Randles: It might seem unusual, but if you break down the flavours, it’s actually the perfect northern Italian plate, incorporating everything important to that palate. For example if you start with gnocchi, and then add rabbit and truffle, that would be completely normal in that region. This is exactly that, just broken down into slightly different components.
There’s a well-known pizza restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, called Roberta’s. Opened in an old warehouse in 2008 by two friends who bought equipment from a shuttered pizzeria in Italy, it has “a D.I.Y. feel, like a Bushwick loft, The ceilings are high, with beams exposed, and the floor is poured concrete”. And evidently very good pizzas. (It’s also also home to the many excellent food and/or drink-related podcasts recorded by Heritage Radio Network, which is housed in an old shipping container in Roberta’s backyard.) It is, in short, the perfect – authentic! – embodiment of the “Global Brooklyn” trend that seems to be sweeping the world with bare brick walls and naked filament lightbulbs, and the “hipster” crowds that such spaces draw.
The restaurant reviews and Story of a Plate features on this website continue to take on more and more of an indigenous angle as it is my belief that we need to celebrate and thereby develop South African cuisine in all its forms. So this year’s writings have been slanted to those chefs and establishments that carry the flag for cuisine that is expressly rooted in our country. These are the establishments and dishes that in-bound food lovers would not find elsewhere – for is this not what we all want to find and explore when we travel to new places? And for the local food lover, should we not be expecting our best chefs to be diving deeper into our food history and culture? It’s high time South African chefs and diners look inward for inspiration, and not only adopt imported food trends. Continue reading “2018: A Year in Review by JP Rossouw”
I’ve always been wary of chefs who say they don’t read cookbooks. How do you continue to educate yourself without reading; how do you expand your own consciousness and repertoire if not through reading?
I don’t mean that chefs should just thumb through pages and hi-jack ideas – well-written cookbooks can be inspirational, informative, hilarious and bloody helpful at times. You don’t have to follow the recipes religiously nor keep strictly to the ingredients listed – these are merely guidelines. Let your own creative juices run riot!
When I first started working in London, Dan Evans, my head chef at the time, asked me a question that ultimately changed how I viewed my craft. He simply asked, “Who are you reading?”. Upon finding out that I wasn’t “reading” anyone in particular, he issued me a long look of scorn followed by an even longer list of writers and told me that would get me started. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Books for Cooks”
On the menu: Octopus casserole, chorizo, bean, kale, garlic
We chat to chef David Higgs at Saint, the new “twisted” Italian restaurant he opened a few months ago with business partner Gary Kyriacou in Sandton, where Jean-Pierre recently enjoyed the bean casserole with wood-fired octopus.
David Higgs: I think the Italian inspiration behind the dish is mostly the bean casserole, which is such a typical Mediterranean dish, almost Spanish and Portuguese as well. So that’s why we call ourselves crazy or “twisted” Italian rather than just Italian, because these are basically flavours that I’ve been inspired by on my travels. Octopus on the fire has always been one of my favourites. And bean stews are so flavoursome, with lots of cumin, and coriander – almost Moroccan, so it really represents that whole Mediterranean region, whether on the European or African continent. Sometimes you just get something in your head, and you want to go with it…. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus Casserole at Saint”
On the menu: Served as an amuse bouche, this is not listed on any current menus, but Executive Head Chef Kayla-Ann Osborn agreed that Jean-Pierre’s description of “Driftwood Canapés” has a nice ring to it.
Even if you didn’t have an official name for it, clearly a lot of thought went into both the ingredients and presentation of this elegant plate.
Kayla: Yes! The story behind it is that although we live on the coast, we’ve ironically always battled with getting fresh seafood (especially shellfish), both in KwaZulu Natal and in the country as a whole. But after working with (and pushing) local suppliers, we started getting a little bit of fresh seafood here and there, and suddenly we had this major influx of local seafood (which even the Cape doesn’t have), all sustainably caught, and from within a 20km radius of our waters.
Then I started thinking about how to put that together as a course, but I didn’t want to have five or six seafood elements on a plate and call it a dish, because that would just look messy, with too much going on. So we decided to use it as an amuse, and when I started thinking about what to serve it on, driftwood came up as a fun option. I contacted a couple of guys who do woodwork, and they said they would love to work on driftwood because they don’t often get to do it, and about a week later we had about 6 or 7 of these driftwood platters. So the thought process was really about finding a way to showcase all this great local seafood. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Driftwood Canapés at The Chefs’ Table”
A recent piece in The Guardian tackles the issue of diners who make reservations which they fail to honour, and how an increasing number of restaurants are responding by either requesting a non-refundable deposit on booking, or simply requiring credit card details and then “fining” people for not showing up.
On the one hand, it’s a fairly simple – and understandable – form of insurance on the part of restaurants which may stand to lose significant revenue if the booking sheet promises a bustling evening that instead results in empty seats, wasted ingredients, and a contingent of staff whose time could be better employed – and rewarded! – elsewhere.
We visited La Colombe after their recent refurbishments, and particularly enjoyed this spectacular finale to a very fine lunch. We asked Executive Chef James Gaag to tell us the story behind this unique sweet ending.
Chef James Gaag: The way we do the menu at La Colombe is more of an evolution than changing everything in one go. So this idea actually started a few seasons ago, when we had stumbled across a cork log, which we filled with chocolate soil and plated our petit fours on.
Cooking over hot coals is the measure of a man, making and controlling fire is what has helped us rise above the rest of the animal kingdom, and braaing is what sets men apart from other men. It is an unspoken language in which you are sized up by peers and judged to be an equal or found to be wanting.
We have been cooking over open flames since the dawn of time, and recent archeological discoveries have seen cave paintings that prove unequivocally that South Africans were braaing while others were still trying to walk erect.