Food from the sea

In 1979, the late Lannice Snyman, a doyenne of South African cookery, published a cookbook called Free from the Sea. Nearly 40 years later, it remains remarkable that this natural wilderness offers us so much food, but I doubt anyone today – writer or publisher – would have the guts to use such a title for a seafood book: the myth of sea as an endless buffet is, one hopes, finally dying.

But it’s a struggle to regulate fisheries thanks to so much open space, so many players, and so few enforceable boundaries. While there have been some successes, the big picture is ever-bleaker. Part of the problem is that, for so long, we’ve viewed seas as discreet spaces, and if we just look after our own stretch, we might be doing alright. But there is, in reality, only one ocean as all seas are linked by winds, currents and migratory patterns. Continue reading “Food from the sea”

Waves of Coffee and Truth’s Black Honey

For the size of the city, Cape Town is blessed with an unfair number of fine coffee emporia. In one of those “where the hell did the time go?” moments, I was recently reminded that Origin Coffee Roasting, the epicentre of “Third Wave” coffee in South Africa, was started 12 years ago, in 2006.

In coffee parlance, “Third Wave” represents the point in the evolution of modern coffee culture that the artisan roastery takes a central place after the traditional coffee scene, which is the First Wave. In South Africa the First Wave was “coffee” from chicory granules and weak drip brew in hotels and restaurants (and in the USA it still means weak drip brew). The Second Wave is marked by the arrival of the branded stand-alone coffee chains, which we got a decade before the Third Wave hit, in the form of Mugg & Bean (est. 1996 in the V&A Waterfront) and Seattle Coffee Co. (also 1996, in Cavendish Square). The most famous international chain, Starbucks, only arrived here well after our Third Wave (April 2016, ten years after Origin) – testimony to us being blessed with quality. Continue reading “Waves of Coffee and Truth’s Black Honey”

Women Eating in Movies

From our latest newsletter:

Everyone has their favourite “food movies” (our guest chef-writer Pete Goffe-Wood rounded up his personal best for his imagined Food Oscars last year), or at least food scenes from movies – *that* scene from When Harry and Sally featuring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in Katz’s Delicatessen in New York jumps to mind for those of us of a certain age. But of course Meg Ryan’s performance is memorable not for what she’s eating, but rather for the, uhm, uncomfortable position she puts Billy Crystal’s character in while he’s trying to eat a sandwich. Continue reading “Women Eating in Movies”

Review: Upper Bloem Restaurant

The Proposition

The name of the restaurant is Upper Bloem, which is slightly confusing to any Capetonian since Upper Bloem is a street address in the Bo-Kaap, but the restaurant is located on Main Road in Greenpoint. What the name references are the roots of the menu here – Cape Malay and the Cape in general – as does the interior of the unprepossessing but comfortable space in its “curry” colours. As they explain, the menu speaks of chef Andre Hill’s childhood spent in the Bo-Kaap and they “invite you to (sic) a journey of flavours, spices, tastes, textures and nostalgia”.

The Experience

The caveat to this account is that lunch currently is an “opening special” set menu that is pared-down from the dinner offering, and I am unsure how often they plan to change the menus, so it may differ when you get there. Costs can be very well managed by means of set menus (and certainly are here at R195 per person), but the plates necessarily default to “simpler” and less luxurious ingredients to achieve this value. Not all diners will like the choices either, but I enjoy the exercise of a “pared down” menu, as it forces kitchens to be more creative and less reliant on the obvious “big hit” flavours or hero ingredients. Continue reading “Review: Upper Bloem Restaurant”

Review: Skotnes at Norval Foundation

The Proposition

As of writing, the Norval Foundation building is so new that they are still snag-fixing, but it is already something to behold, and clearly adds another contemporary jewel to the crown of the Cape’s beautiful art spaces so far populated by the likes of the Zeitz MOCAA and Cavalli. The Norval is a space where creativity is on display in the architecture as much as in the sculpture garden and the exhibits within. The gallery has a strong link to the famed South African artist Cecil Skotnes, hence the name of the restaurant on the premises. So it’s an eatery with plenty of sophistication and high art around it to live up to. Continue reading “Review: Skotnes at Norval Foundation”

In Memoriam: Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)

From our June 15 newsletter:

It’s been a week since the tragic news of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide sent much of the food world reeling, and a significant proportion of the non-food world too, notably Barack Obama, who that evening tweeted the following memory from his appearance on the Vietnam episode of Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown:

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)”

Story of a Dish: Maryland Crab Cake

In a slight departure from our usual Story of a Plate series, where we feature interesting and unusual dishes encountered at SA restaurants, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to a dish from Jean-Pierre’s recent travels to Maryland, D.C., where crab cakes are as ubiquitous on local menus as fish cakes are here at home.

While there are of course numerous variations on fish cakes (apparently the most ordered item on South African menus), like which fish is used, and which combination of spices and/or herbs, mashed potato is fairly standard across the board as a filler. In the US, the closest a potato will (or should) come to a crab cake is in the heap of French fries or crisps they are typically served with.

Continue reading “Story of a Dish: Maryland Crab Cake”

What was that you said?

The Washington Post Magazine offered reviews of 30 new restaurants in its Spring dining guide, summarised by reviewer Tom Sietsema. Let’s just pause there, while we in South Africa consider the scale of this – 30 brand new upper-end eateries in one quarter of one year in one city, Washington DC, alone.

The “Smith Island” cake, from the Old Maryland Grill, one of Tom Sietsema’s top 30 new DC eateries. (Image courtesy of the Washington Post.)

Continue reading “What was that you said?”

Artificial Intelligence in the Kitchen

From our May 5 newsletter:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a divisive concept, as partly captured in the idea of whether we should welcome or fear the “robot overlords” (adapted from the 1977 film adaptation of HG Wells’ Empire of the Ants, in which Joan Collins reacts to the threat of giant ants out to take over the world with “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords”).

In the restaurant world, digital innovations designed to make the lives of both diners and staff easier have been around for years already, from being able to order off interactive table surfaces at eateries like Inamo in London, to restaurants in China replacing waitstaff (and noodle makers) with robots, not to mention IBM’s “chef” version of Watson – the “supercomputer” that famously beat human contestants on the TV quiz show Jeopardy in 2011 – which allows both chefs and home cooks to generate innovative recipes based on a database that houses thousands of possible combinations of ingredients that none of us would imagine work, but which are scientifically compatible according to their flavour profiles (Watson has even “authored” a cookbook).

Continue reading “Artificial Intelligence in the Kitchen”

Pinch of Salt: Steak, Glorious Steak

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

Julia Child, the celebrated American food writer and TV chef, once quipped that “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”.

Well, I couldn’t agree more, and now that the winter is finally upon us, it’s time for smouldering coals, smoky red wine and large cuts of steak slowly charring to perfection.

If you’re going to cook steak over the open fire you’ll achieve far better results if you go for larger cuts of meat: cooking a 1kg piece of meat will produce far more consistent and desirable results than five 200g steaks, and you’ll get a better char on the bigger cut without sacrificing those pink, inner juices (as long as you don’t overcook it!). There are few more glorious slabs of marbled and aged flesh on the fire than an enormous T-bone. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Steak, Glorious Steak”