In the 1930s, Italian “Futurist” Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ) probably embodied that era’s version of “avant-garde” (defined as “an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts” by Merriam-Webster) in the dining world, what with his controversial ideas about abolishing the tradition of eating pasta in Italy (as he’s pictured doing below). Amongst other things, he claimed that eating pasta both made people “heavy, brutish … skeptical, slow, pessimistic” and also harmed Italy’s rice industry by supporting the import of the foreign grain crucial to the production of the national staple.
Or should I say, “The Emperor’s recently acquired hand-stitched, interlocking, sustainably, hydroponically and organically grown organic attire”?
Menu speak gone mad!
“48-hour cold smoked organically farmed, hand-reared, pole-caught Monrovian yellowfin tuna, compressed cucumber, sous-vide heirloom tomatoes, air-dried fennel, Kalamata espuma, lemon granita, green bean emulsion, confit of new season’s potatoes, and anchovy soil.”
Salad Niçoise by any other name, but not in today’s uber cool menu speak.
Chefs seem to have lost the plot entirely – whatever happened to simplicity? This kind of nonsense has replaced the old 80s style descriptions when ingredients were “nestled on a bed of …” or “floated in a pool of …”, but I don’t think that we are better off.Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: The Emperor’s New Clothes”
On the menu: Green sunflower, sunchoke, butternut, quince
One of the highlights of a recent visit was an intriguing play on risotto that used sunflower seeds instead of rice. How did you come up with that, and were you intending for it to be “risotto-like”?
Chef Michael Cooke: Yes, we were, and it took roughly nine months of development to create this dish. To give a bit of background, we keep a diary of everything that’s available on the Vergelegen property; we document the season, the exact time of the year each ingredient is available, and the timeline that it’s available for. We do this to keep ahead of the seasons, and to be on track for when something becomes available, so when it is, we’re ready to use it immediately when it’s at its peak, and not waste any valuable time as the timeline of that ingredient slowly withers away. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Sunflower Seed “Risotto” at Camphors”
On the menu: Citrus cured seabass with duck liver parfait, fine herbs, pickled cucumber, red pepper essence
We recently enjoyed the suprising combination of duck liver parfait with cured fish in this very pretty dish. How did you conceive of putting those two together?
Chef Gordon Manuel: This dish is from our Discovery menu, and while The Pool Room and Oak Valley have always been well-known for their pork and beef, those can get a little bit heavy, so part of my thinking since we took over the operation of the restaurant was to add a bit more finesse, but finesse without being overly finicky – no tweezers and that type of thing. It’s also about balance; adding something to the menu that’s not so meat-heavy, and that works really well. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Citrus Cured Seabass at The Pool Room”
I sit on the stoep of my room, miles from civilization, surrounded by dense green bush, the Zambezi River rumbling below me. My only companions are a thousand and one insects and an ice cold beer. Even the generators have gone to bed, so the whirring ceiling fan has spluttered its last breath and total darkness has descended. The humidity clings like a wet blanket and somewhere in the distance I hear the grunt of a hippo. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Carry on up the Zambezi”
When in Andalucia and looking to eat tapas, which one should always be doing when in Andalucia, I have one simple rule.
I was in Ronda last week, home of the oldest bullring in the world, perched astraddle the sheer El Tajo gorge and looking like a CGI set from a Star Wars film. I was talking to two American ladies I’d met in the street, and we were debating where to eat lunch. They had lists of recommended eateries and I did not. I like to lunch by serendipity. This has had some very good results and some very bad results. Continue reading “Table Manners: The Thing about Tapas”
On the menu: Salt crust baked celeriac, curry brittle, parmesan and passion fruit
Such a beautiful plate, and surprisingly complex for a meat-less dish. How did you come up with such an unusual combination?
Chef Gregory Czarnecki: I wanted to do something with this dish that you can’t do in Europe, where if you follow the seasons, and you respect the origin of the product, celeriac is a winter or spring root vegetable, whereas in South Africa winter almost takes up half of spring (especially now!). So I wanted to showcase something that wouldn’t be possible in Europe, and that also represents this country. People often think of South Africa in terms of landscape, and culture, but it’s also about the weather: so while in the western Cape we’ll have root vegetables now, in Durban, you’ll have passion fruit in the same season, growing at exactly the same time. This just wouldn’t be possible in Europe, so I wanted to come up with something that would promote the two different regions and climates you can have here at the same time, and that would also bring together a really “old school” vegetable and an exotic fruit. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Salt Crust Baked Celeriac at Waterkloof”
One of the most talked about restaurant openings in the U.S. recently has been Vespertine in Culver City, Los Angeles. Self-described as “a gastronomical experiment seeking to disrupt the course of the modern restaurant”, the building it’s housed in (pictured here*) has been described by others as a “crashed spaceship”, and dining there like “eating on Jupiter”. Jonathan Gold, the Pultizer-prize winning critic for the L.A. Timessummarises the experience:
It’s not dinner; it’s Gesamtkunstwerk [German for ‘total work of art’]…“Checking in with valet before dinner is required,’’ says an email sent to you before your dinner, “as this member of our team is integral to your experience.’’ You hand off your keys. You walk past a watery ditch lined with shattered rock whose cracks ooze green light. You are led to an elevator in the rust-colored steel structure, and are let off in the kitchen and a bowing Kahn. You climb stairs to an aerie at the top, settle into low couches, sip at a concoction of white vermouth garnished with a purple passion fruit flower. This is the first of many flowers you will see tonight. You will recognize none of them. … The more you eat of the turnips, the more vinegary the dish becomes, until by the end you are practically coughing at the fumes.Continue reading “Dinner Theatre”