Howzit? How are you? Kunjani?

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Nestled in Devon Vale, Stellenbosch you take the turn on Blumberg Drive taking you up to Kunjani Wines.  This little place boasts a huge heart and I cannot help wondering where I should start, doing justice to my experience at Kunjani.  First of all, their contemporary look that boasts deep greys and vibrant reds is an oxymoron in itself.  The region is known for its established, old, premier wine farms and estates that speaks of yesteryear splendour and luxury and then there is this new kid on the block.  Well, THIS kid is not one that should be underestimated.

Walking up the steps you get why they chose the name Kunjani.  Their greeting and heartfelt hospitality translates from the first smile at reception, “Hi, How are you?”.  Chris and the team quickly showed us (Stefan Schrage @Steffmerlot and Zelda @rhubarb_riesling) around and the decor and setting was a precursor to what was to be expected. Seated outside on the balcony, the surrounding vista flooded our sights with greens, ambers and reds emulating from the small vineyard in front.  It’s almost winter after all.

Kunjani’s goal to your dining experience, is to make it a fun dining experience rather than a fine dining experience.  Their food is whimsically prepared, tastefully plated and their variety is beautifully selected especially for their patrons.  Take note that you can have each order expertly paired with one of the Kunjani wines.  Enough with the shilly-shally and let’s talk about the good stuff. Their awesome wine!

We quickly were introduced to lovely baked bread-bites with savoury cream and beetroot-butter.  A good entrance to what was to come and I was already salivating.  We opted for à la carte dining and I started off with a lovely ensemble of West Coast style fresh Mussels prepared in a fragrant Portuguese sauce.  To match this course Kunjani Chenin Blanc 2017 was the perfect companion.  Tropical nose of Papaya and Lime that is fruity and fresh.

Main course consisted of a beautifully prepared “Stolen” Chicken Curry.  A lovely red curry prepared with chilli & ginger served with fragrant rice, sambals and papadums.  The “Stolen Chicken” Pia-noir was the perfect varietal of Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, an absolute joy to taste and enjoy with notes of berries and apple.  Furthermore the Sauvignon Blanc was not standing back at all with crisp freshness, cucumber and coriander. 

Moving over to their prime red selection we enjoyed their ready to drink Shiraz that exhibited remarkable notes of spice, red fruit and plums.  My personal favourite you might ask?  The Kunjani Red Blend, an easy and multi-dimensional red with 46% Cabernet Franc, 46% Merlot and 8% Malbec. This beautiful blend was my ultimate favourite and it contributed well to the stunning sunset over the mountains and vineyards.

Being a very young winery and only established in November 2017, Kunjani is surprising.  Surprising in the way that their wines speak to your palate, their food speak to your eyes but even more so, their story of love, passion and friendship (old and new) that makes every visitor and wine-lover feel they entered a place where they can be at ease, breathe and enjoy.  To Pia and Paul, thank you for an experience that will stay imprinted for a long time and Chris for your hospitality that was unmatched and off course. Dear Gracie, who so passionately made our experience around the table one that seriously need to be repeated.  To you all, I say: “I am well thank you!”.

PS.  Make sure you check out the Kunjani Cottages you can book to make your experience even more memorable.

Fermier for more!

fullsizeoutput_4f21There is a saying that  states:  “Good food is equal to a good mood” and I’m a true believer that a love for food is both in the art of preparing it, but also in enjoying it.  In recent years Pretoria have seen a plethora of gastronomic experiences peek out from under the kitchen counters and we, the citizens of this great city, are reaping the ever-tasty rewards.

Award winning Fermier (Farmer in French) is unique in every sense of the word.  They pride themselves on being a self-sustainable restaurant where they incorporate everything around them, from the ground used to build their restaurant, to the garden that offers fresh produce, to the pottery shop on the premises that makes the beautiful vessels to serve delicious meals in.  Everything works together to make the Fermier experience one to remember .  Adriaan Maree chef and founder has got quite the reputation when it comes to good food and brings not only local, but also International experience to the table.  He sure raised the bar in Pretoria, when Fermier opened it’s doors not so long ago.

Arriving at Fermier, I was greeted by a lovely young lady when I parked my car.  I walked up the foot path and it felt like I was leaving the city every step I took in the dark.  Dimly lit lanterns showed the way and I arrived at a contemporary structure that resembled a barn.  It was rustic, yet classy, old charm, yet with a modern twist.  Ambience were created by perfectly chosen lighting and no more than a dozen tables nestled perfectly in the cozy space.  Clearly the space and layout were carefully planned and designed.

First things first and I had to glance over their very impressive wine list and menu that offered 9 set courses for the evening.  One thing is for sure, you are not going to get Butternut & Spinach on the sides.  (ok, I chuckled at myself when I wrote this).

 

After a glass of bubbly, we enjoyed a lovely Elands Rivier, 2014 Pinot Noir.  Delicate, with berries and rose notes with a beautiful garnet colour.  This was a good start to the evening. The menu boasted surprise, esthetic enthrall and bursts of flavour.  The food was the entertainment and the line up was impressive.

First course saw an introduction with freshly baked bread, with Duck liver parfait and canapes.  Beautiful and tasty!

 

Second course in line, was a bundle of Kingklip with black radish and smoked tomato coulis/sauce.

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Third saw an ensemble of Mussels, Squid Sea Vegetables and a light foam. perfectly prepared. (Could’ve sworn I was at the beach with every bite).

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4th Course offered Tuna on a bed of Almonds, Grapefruit, Black Garlic and Olives.

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Course 5 was surprising with Pork Neck with Summer Apple, Celeriac and Samphire.  Soft, oozing flavour and I wanted a second plate (just kidding, 4 more courses to come).

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We enjoyed Duck for our 6th course with Turnips, Verjus and Grapes.

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Lucky number 7 arrived and Springbok, tender and sliced perfectly with Porcini mushrooms, Cauliflower, Daikon and honey.  The balance between savoury and sweet was a dance of perfection.

 

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Course 8 was lighter with an good selection of fine cheeses.  Huguenot, Karoo Crumble and various fruits to compliment.

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The last course rounded things off beautifully with White chocolate and Miso. Sweet and everything you can hope for after 8 courses of utter gastronomic bliss!

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So there we have it fellow food fans! Do not be fooled, although the portions are small, they pack a punch when it comes to flavour.  Adriaan Maree and his team, don’t prepare food, they create art that is absolutely super sensory!  I would seriously recommend you make this spot, one of your top ones as it’s a game-changer when it comes to haute cuisine here in Pretoria.  Their menu also change from time to time, so it will be great to see what’s on the menu in a few month’s time.  Be sure to book your table since they offer limited seating. I believe this enables them to pay careful attention to detail and give you the best experience possible.

I will most certainly go back to Fermier, for more!

Visited the new Pachas yet?

Located in the green and tree-filled neighbourhood of Waterkloof in the capital called Pretoria, you will find Pachas.  They have moved the new development and very trendy area called The Club on the corner of Pinaster Avenue and 18th Street.  From the get-go Pachas is elegantly inviting with decor, service and crisp clean tables to match.  Their menu offers a variety of dishes carefully selected and crafted for the discerning diner. 

Swiftly (off-the-menu) offerings were introduced and starters were ordered.  One thing is for certain, when it comes to swift service, they are on top of things.  I enjoyed Smoked Marlin Carpaccio with deep fried Capers on a Rocket and a bed of micro-herbs with a Wasabi dressing.  Beautiful, aromatic and tasty.  To accompany the meal I opted for a 2015 Laborie Merlot which worked wonders with my palate.  Please check out Laborie Wines after reading this post.  Main course saw a special medium-rare beef Fillet topped with Halloumi, a green salad and potatoes that were pan friend with bacon that is crispy golden brown bliss personified.  Naturally the side dishes offered a familiar face in the form of creamed Spinach and Butternut.

I must say, I glanced at the dessert menu and resisted temptation due to the lack of space in my tummy.  They do offer lovely “traditionals” like Crème Brûlée, Italian Kisses, Cheese cake and lot’s more.  So my my overall experience at Pachas was positive and very memorable.  Food was delicious and beautifully prepared.  Pachas is priced to the higher range in terms of their menu and be sure to fork out a little bit more but the food and experience is well worth it.  You will definitely see me back again and thank you for a delightful evening.

Oh Amsterdam!

Where shall I begin.  Not only is Amsterdam one of the most liberal cities in Europe with regards to almost anything, but it’s also filled with so much history, people and amazing architecture.  Let’s rewind back a bit.  Boarding my flight on Egypt Air, I was pleasantly surprised by the spacious seating and that was it.  The air stewards were not the friendliest people and nor are their english skills up to hostess/steward standard in my opinion, I enjoyed my flight which was important.  (Oh, and remember, they don’t serve any alcohol on their planes).  Being my first trip to The Netherlands, I waited in anticipation for the plane to touch down so I can put my two feet on foreign soil and just drink everything in that was happening around me.  Yep, I’m that type of romanticist.

I quickly find my way through immigration, collected my monster of a suitcase and braved the metro.  Everything works well here.  Busses and trains arrive to the second and the people are friendly.  The Dutch language on the other hand can sometimes be tricky, even to me as a native Afrikaans speaker, I have to concentrate and listen very well not to miss anything.  Day 1 saw me being the victim of a pick pocket and so I lost my OVkaart (metro card) with E30,00 on it and had to get another one.  Visiting a new city I’m usually inclined to pack away my smartphone and try to steer clear from using  maps.  I started my walk and followed all the signs that indicated Amsterdam Centraal.  Walking along there were a few things that any visitor in Amsterdam should take note of:  1.  Stay out of the bicycle lanes and 2, watch out for the trams.  My head almost felt like it was spinning as I looked left, right, up, down, left again and then only crossing any street or lane.

The Netherlands is famous for their cheeses and naturally I visited a cheese shop to taste and see what they had on offer.  Wonderful experience and note that the more central you go, the more expensive the cheeses are (in my opinion).  As we all know, The Netherlands are very liberal and using cannabis (smoking weed) in the city is quite a common thing.  Don’t be fooled by going into a coffee shop and think you are going to get just coffee, you will be getting cannabis experience with it.  Coffee shops in Amsterdam are known for being spots where you can  comfortably light up and enjoy your joint.  Heading deeper into the city I found myself in the famous red light district and man, was this an interesting experience.  Girls prancing around in the windows, scantily dressed and trying to make eye contact with their next potential customer.  Moving on swiftly!

Canal cruises are very popular in Amsterdam and is one of those “to do’s” that you just have to tick off your list.  My suggestion to you, walk a bit to the outer canals and take your canal cruises there as they are less crowded and off course less expensive.  I went to the Bootvaart kiosk on the Amstel river and paid E11 for an hour long canal cruise, totally worth it since you get to see a lot in that hour.

Food in Amsterdam can be very expensive or it can be cheap and it totally depends on what you prefer.  I enjoyed a lovely glass of Merlot (red wine) and a pizza at Casa de Leo for E14,00 which is not bad at all.  A croissant will typically cost you around E3,00 and a take away Americano about E2,00.  The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that you can find almost anything here, from fast food, Indonesian cuisine, Italian, Tapas, Burgers and the options are endless.

So, when visiting Amsterdam what are the things one should keep in mind:

  1. Get an OVkaarten.

This will help you to use the tram, train, bus and is reloadable via their yellow machines at most stops and stations.

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2.     Drink enough water.

Water in Amsterdam are filtered by the dunes, due to the fact that they are lower than sea level and tap water is pleasant to drink.  Stay hydrated.

3.     Watch out for pick pockets.

Make sure you keep an eye on your phone, wallet and bag.  Don’t get caught by a nasty surprise.

4.     Download the 9292 (especially developed for travel in The Netherlands) app for your smartphone.

This app will help you tremendously to navigate yourself through transport in Amsterdam.

5.  Museum visits:

Get your tickets online to skip the queue.  Really, queues can get ridiculously long. 

6.  Albert Heijn Supermarket:

Pop in to any Albert Heine to buy yourself something to eat should you get hungry.  A lot cheaper than any restaurant and a good spot to shop when you need something.

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7.  Take an umbrella:

Thankfully I packed mine and man was I glad I did.  Since it’s October here in Europe, the weather is unpredictable and my umbrella was my saving grace.  This brings me to point 8….

8.   Download the Buienradar app. 

This is so precise and shows you exactly when it will rain and when it will stop.  This is super cool!

9.   Rent a bicycle.

If walking is a bit of an issue to you, why not rent a bicycle and explore the city this way.  Can cost you between E9,00 to E13,00 depending on where you rent it from.

10.  Stroopwaffels.

This is a Dutch classic and these small sweet treats are amazing.  I bought 3 packs for E7,00 to take back home at a food market and I can’t wait to indulge.

So there we have it my dear friends.  Amsterdam is a very enligtning city and offers you experiences galore.  Don’t be afraid to take a walk, taste something new, braving the queue or spending a bit extra and your experience in the city will be one that will be rewarded with great experiences, sights, sounds and tastes.  Dank je wel! (Thank you in Dutch).

Forti’s Grill & Bar and La Motte Wine Estate making magic!

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Well where should I begin?  Firstly, getting an invite to attend an exclusive wine and food pairing hosted by Forti’s Grill & Bar and La Motte Wine Estate was already tantalising enough that I was fathoming ideas and expectancies even days before the actual event.  Fortunate Mazzone is himself an institution in the Pretoria community and even wider, since his days as the owner of the famed Ritrovo Restaurant.  He made his move to a grandeur establishment nestled in the new Time Square Casino just off Menlyn Maine.  Forti’s Grill & Bar is a cosmopolitan restaurant that is par excel-lance in not just the exquisite cuisine it offers, but in it’s styling, bathrooms and yes, the ever so popular roof top dining experience. 

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I have previously reiterated that I am a total ‘scenery-slut’ when it comes to the perfect view at a restaurant and I suspect looking at THIS restaurant, Fortunato knows that his clientele is somewhat expecting the unordinary experience and off course Fortunato delivers!  Meeting Edmond Terblanche from La Motte Wines, you do gather that La Motte and Forti’s already have a long history in sharing good food and wine, and giving their following a plethora of tastes and memories.  Brilliantly styled wines with food that is ever endeavouring to ones taste buds made it an opulent and vivacious event.  The invite was extended to only a handful of lifestyle journalists, influencers and foodies and they wowed us.

Our gastronomic experience started off with a lovely Prawn ensemble that was oven grilled, with champagne & garlic served on a bed of parmesan rice, decadent and beautiful!  This was accompanied by the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, with crisp tropical flavours.

Main course offered a lovely crusted marbled beef Fillet prepared to perfection on a a bed of fresh braised vegetables topped with rocket and greens. The La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon  2015 played its role brilliantly with a full bodied presence with it’s oak, plum and smokey notes.  The star here naturally was La Motte’s Pierneef Syrah Viognier that is totally in a league of its own.  A deep flamboyant red wine with a spicy and peppery palate that is truly unique. 

Dessert was a colour explosion and saw planks of sweet delicacies.  From Chocolate Brownie, fudge with a citrus kick and off course panna cotta that was to die for.  A golden honey coloured bottle that classifies (well in my mind that is) as an Apricotty (if there is such a word) mouth watering dessert wine with a perfect balance between sweet and acidity.

How do one end off such a perfect Forti’s Grill & Bar & La Motte onslaught?  Easy, with a sorbet that is pleasing to the eye and palate, oh and don’t forget the flavourful in-house grilled cup of Americano. 

These two players (Forti’s & La Motte) is a mean team and what really stood out, was the complimentary, symbiotic relationship these two have.  The best part of it? That you and me both can experience the fruit of their relationship.  Well done Fortunato and team! Equally well done to Edmond from La Motte Wine Estate for giving us an unforgettable experience.

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PS.  Go to the bathroom when you are there! It’s worth a pic or 6! 🙂

When Bellingham & Fumo collide!

Most of us grew up with the smells from our mom’s kitchen.  Well, some of us in anyway.  To be able to sustain oneself to the stage of reading this, you survived by having food to eat.  In my case, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that is just totally over the top when it comes to preparing delicious meals and trying out different cuisine.  Another thing about growing up, were my memories of Sunday lunches where we as children could actually have a sip of wine.  Mom would take out the bottle of white wine, a Bellingham bottle.  Jip, those Bellingham wine bottles that were shaped like the mountain side.  I can still remember parts of the television advertisement where the landscape changed into the bottle.  That was a very clever advertisement, because most Bellingham wine drinkers can and would probably still remember that advertisement.

So I was invited to an evening of culinary delight and premium wine at an extraordinary Italian Restaurant called Fumo (here in the capital Pretoria) last week.  The evening was in partnerhsip with Bellingham Wines.  No, there was no hill-shaped bottle in sight, but rather an unveiling of a premier range of wines from Bellingham Wines.  The story of Bellingham is one that alleady started in the early 1700’s and then much later to where Mr & Mrs Podlashuk bought a derelict farm called Bellinchamp which means “pretty fields” and was forced to build it up to what it is today.  A creative Hub which produces world class and award wining bottles of wine, with a local and international following.  It is not longer the Bellingham we knew, but rather a journey of wine ending up today with 3 genres or ranges of wines called the Innovation series that can be seen as more contemporary wines, the Homestead series that hatched special wine concepts and praising itself as very inventive and lastly their flagship, the Bernard series,  a tribute to the wine pioneer, Mr. Bernard Podlashuk who had the vision to make superior, intricate and beautiful wine.

Now imagine this, an evening where the current Wine maker Niel Groenewald of Bellingham Wines enticed everyone with glamorous intrigue around the premier wine they produce.  Sampling them was a palate-adventure and true learning and appreciative experience.  Chef Claudio Uccello, the Executive Chef of Fumo and his team, showered us with Italian cuisine to capture our senses and indulge our tastebuds.

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Josper grilled Tuna & Smoked Salmon.

The evening started with the 1st course of Josper grilled Tuna and in house smoked Salmon with crostini bread paired with the elegant Homestead Saugvinon Blanc 2017. Boasting fruity flavours with a soft crisp finish.

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Stuffed Baby Squid in a black ink curry

The 2nd course offered us, stuffed baby squid in black ink curry, accompanied by a Bernard series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015.  A lovely layered golden wine with citrus flavours and spicy oak.

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Sea Bass with Culatello Ham on Mushroom Risotto

3rdly, We enjoyed a wrapped Sea bass with Culatello ham and beautiful mushroom risotto and off course a stunning Bernard Series Old Vine Pinotage 2015. Lovely berry flavours with a lasting oaky succulent fruity finish.

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Lamb Loin & Almond Crust with celery puree and baby carrots.

Our 4th course was a delectable Lamb loin with almond crust, celery puree and baby carrots.  Paired with a Bernard Series Small Barrel SMV 2014. Alluring black berry aromas, layered with chocolate and intense fruit that is smooth and lovely.

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Chocolate Budino, with white chocolate mouse

Rounding things off, we enjoyed a naughty (yes very naughty but lovely) Chocolate budino, white chocolate mousse with pistachios and Angel hair partnered with their Homestead Shiraz 2015.  An intense dark vino with notes of plums, blackcurrants and pepper.

Listening the Neil tell the story behind each and every bottle, made it almost feel like a ballet of different notes, flavours and scents combined to present a new generation in wine from Bellingham.  No longer (in my mind) will I think of the old green mountain shaped bottle, but rather of their premium and exquisite ranges on offer and when you pair them with cuisine that is world class from Fumo, you are sure to enjoy and evening that is LUX to the fullest!  The evening was a wonderful collision between Bellingham & Fumo and we got the best of both worlds! Visit their sites and support their quality products.  Go! Now!

 

 

 

It’s Hemingway’s

 

 

Pretoria as the capital has so little options to experience fine dining that fits one’s pocket.  Hemingway’s Restaurant at Leriba Lodge is surely one of those little unexplored gems.  Stepping through the doors at Hemingway’s you are immediately inundated with the sophistication and elegance of their table settings.  I have a thing for crisp white tables and serviettes.  Add to that service with a smile or even smiles.  Waiters that caters to your every whim, friendly, available and their attention to the table was a good balance between overprotective hovering and the vanishing act. Being a special evening, we celebrated a birthday and man was this an amazing evening.

We were treated by amazing red wines from Doolhof Wine Estate and their range is ever impressing.  The food was undoubtedly one of my best food experiences I enjoyed in a long time.  Starters consisted of a beautiful Carpaccio served fresh with a Quails egg. Beautiful.  Main course offered us a lovely crisp Pork-belly prepared to perfection.  The plating and presentation is top notch and they surely know how to prepare their food.  Dessert was equally impressive and the ever-classic Creme Brûlée did not disappoint! A sugary crunch with delightful light and creamy custard sent me to foodie heaven! Hemingway’s is a sure stop for amazing food and is a great catalyst for good conversation.

The Centurion area is busy with it’s own rejuvenation process when it comes to good food, restaurants and unique cuisine.   Hemingways is sure getting it right.  They are also a good venue for weddings, family events and they regularly host tastings and festivals.  Well done guys, you won my tastebuds and I will most definitely see you again soon.  Your new fan. So people, all I have to say is…. Go! Now!