Dining with Sarah

Wine & Dine with Sarah

In a series of columns over the coming months St Francis Today is privileged to have Sarah Jane of Dune Ridge share some thoughts and experiences on wine and dining. Many of you will have personally experienced the fine fare created by Sarah at her popular Wine Pairing evenings and are sure you will enjoy her sharing her experiences of fine dining and wines she has enjoyed.

What better time to start a wine of the month than in the middle of Winter…

Winter has definitely bestowed her icy chill upon us.  What does winter mean to you?  For me mean it means frequent little road trips to little dorpies or a few days up in the winelandsred wine that boasts the skills of local wine makers and of course fierce fire places, large pots of family style food – typical Karoo comfort food.

Starke Conde Tsating - the view

We recently took a trip to Stellenbosch – I think its my favourite time of the year.  Seeing the vines changing from bright green to hues of burnt sunsets.

One evening we met a group of friends out at a beautiful eatery called The Stellenbosch Kitchen.  Rich Ox Blood leather chairs with blown up postal stamps that had been cleverly positioned on the walls.  Big brass lights and the friendliest waiters I have ever come across.  The menu is wholesome and bounteous; rich and saucy;STARK-CONDE SYRAH Vintage: 2013 flavourful and colourful; opulent and infinitely gratifying – this is comfort food done to perfection.  The evening was chilly and what better way than to have a couple of bottles of red wine on the table.  Thankfully it was not up to me to decide this time around as we had a few wine makers within our group but between them they settled on a Stark-Conde Syrah

The Estate Stark-Conde is situated in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. Their wines are all hand-crafted in small volumes using traditional methods of hand sorting, open-top fermentation and manual basket pressing.  All their wines are bottles without fining or filtering.

STARK-CONDE SYRAH
Vintage: 2013
Grape blend: 100% Syrah
Region: Stellenbosch
State or country: South Africa
Price: R179 per bottle

General Information: Dark garnet coloured Syrah with aromas of berries, pepper and very subtle hints of dark chocolate.  Medium bodied and VERY easy to drink. The flavour profile is a stony mineral infused black cherry and old oak blend. The finish is dry and very smooth.

They have the most incredible tasting room positioned on the dam at the Estate and Restaurant called the Postcard Café.   Take a drive out to Jonkershoek Valley next time you are in Stellenbosch and go for a light lunch and do their tasting.  You definitely will not be sorry.

Dune Ridge Country House

 

 

Gourmet to Go

Gourmet to Go opens in the village

Well known St Francis Bay Chef, Rose Carter recently opened her shop “Gourmet to Go” in the village and it is a must visit. Situated next door to KC Properties behind the pharmacy in the it is already proving to be a popular and much needed addition to shopping in St Francis.

No longer will you need to wait for the monthly market to savour Rose’s offerings which have long been in demand at the Market. SFT ‘s first visit to Gourmet to Go  this week could easily have broken the bank such is the choice of delightful food on offer but discipline and a realisation that I could return the next day rather than stocking up as one normally has to do when shopping at the market.

My choice on this my first visit was a really generous slice of pork pie to take home for lunch and for a mid-morning snack, the nicest sausage roll I have ever tasted. So generous was the pork pie slice that it actually was enough for two lunches.

Popping in the following day to take some photographs for this article the temptation was simply too much and I left, not just with a few photographs but also a chicken pie and a slice of cheese cake.

Gourmet to Go offers a wide choice of frozen dinners to take away (see menu) and certainly makes life easier for us single types and no doubt for busy moms on those days where she just doesn’t have time to prepare a family supper.

Gourmet to Go has a small but delightful choice of products either for a sweet tooth or something more savoury and Rose will be taking orders for fresh vegetables that will be delivered fresh from the farm to the shop that customers can order in advance. She has also in the process of introducing some deli items including a range of cheeses and cold meat cuts.

Pop in to Gourmet to Go during your rounds of St Francis for we can almost guarantee you won’t leave this delightful little ‘shoppe’ empty handed.

 

Goodie on display at Gormet to Go

Fresh produce and vegetables at Gourmet to go

Deligtful choice at Gourmet to Go

 

Hands-on Cooking Experience

Brighten your winter with a “Hands-on Cooking Experience”

Winter in St Francis can be rather laid back. With late sunrises, early sunsets many don’t get to enjoy their early morning or evening beach walks. Even paddlers, canal swimmers and runners have to rush after work to get their exercise fix before dark. And of course the weather doesn’t always play its part either, the past weekend a example which even reduced the popular morning market to but all but a few diehard vendors.

Fortunately several of the hospitality purveyors come to our rescue with food & wine pairing dinners as hosted by Sarah at Dune Ridge and the beer spin off to these tastings at the St Francis Brewing Company. Then we have the occasional fund raiser events such as the “Els for Autism” event to be held at St Francis Links on 22nd June that was such a huge success last year.

But there is a new event on the calendar that will be held the last Thursday of each month from June through to November. Receiving a late invitation to the inaugural event last Thursday it promises to be a lot of fun and a novel way of dining out whilst learning a few cooking tips along the way. We speak of “Cooking with Mauro”, a concept devised by Anne of Baud’Au Health and Beauty in the Village and Mauro of Mauro’s Restaurant at Port St Francis.

At his the first event the gathered participants were given a lesson in making the perfect pizza. Now most of us enjoy the odd pizza but actually making one from scratch would never enter our minds for it is far easier to pick up a few to go as a family treat. Of course as an alternative one can always buy one of those pizza bases and concoct your own topping but these usually end up as soggy, unappetising renditions of the real thing. But as Mauro demonstrated to a group of enthusiastic participants at “Cooking with Mauro” last Thursday evening, it really is not that difficult.

Demonstrating step by step from mixing dough, kneading it to a perfect consistency and finally, rolling it out to a nigh perfect circle with the ideal thickness, edge and centre, Mauro guided the partakers through the process.

Of course a pizza without the topping is nothing more than a tasteless flat bread so next step was how to add the topping, most importantly the tomato paste. And it was here that you will need to attend a class on making this tomato paste for Mauro, although stressing the importance of the tomato, did not divulge the process or ingredients of making it. Surprising was how little cheese was added before the selection of other topping choices.

Demo done the group set about making their own pizza. Well not all managed to get the shape quite right first time out but all sat down to enjoy their creation and judging by the empty plates at the end of the evening, all were perfectly happy with what they created. A truly fun evening with a little wine and plenty of laughter! Certainly a great way to spend a winter’s evening.

The next “Cooking with Mauro” will be held at Mauro’s Restaurant on the 29th June starting at 5:30pm and this time participants will cook in the actual kitchen. If you would like to be part of this fun evening best you call Mauro and book for there is limited space available.

Some photos of the evening and the results.

Cooking with Mauro

Preparing to make pizza

Adding the pizza topping

The real deal pizza

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

 

Get-a-Fix

Get-a-Fix Health Bar - St Francis Bay

Feeling a little off colour this past week I strolled into Get-a-Fix health bar in search of one of their pick-me-up drinks that Sacha Park had introduced me to some months back.  Situated in the Village Centre, Get-a-Fix along with some other businesses in the centre had to close for a couple of months while the thatched roof was replaced with a new shingle-look roof that Wattle & Daub seem to be installing more and more of in St Francis.  Well now that the roof is almost complete, Get-a Fix is open again and if you haven’t yet tried their fare you really should pop in for a healthy awakening.

When Get-a Fix opened in the Spar Centre a couple of years back I thought it just another juice bar selling smoothies, milkshakes and fresh juices and never ventured in. Their move to Village Shopping Centre made them a neighbour of Sacha’s “Studio” and it was during a visit to the Studio that I was introduced to some of their magic. Certainly they sell smoothies and juices but there is a lot more to what they offer.

Rather than try and explain what Get-a-Fix offers rather do yourself and your health a favour and pop in and have a chat to Lyn about the different health food and drink options they offer and that you can make up at home as they also sell the natural ingredients to the health food options they offer on their menu.

I spent about an hour chatting with Quinton and Lyn about all the different natural health products they sell and whilst I am enlightened, maybe I would prefer to have it all in a readable format so I can better absorb what is a rather intriguing subject. To this end St Francis Today is introducing a weekly column from next week where well known fitness guru Nadine Lahana of NRG2GO will be keeping readers abreast with health and fitness tips and no doubt will touch on some of the natural foods that Get-a-Fix offers.

Get-a-Fix also offers a range of delicious frozen take-ways for those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking. And yes they are delicious and as you would expect – healthy meals!

 

Calamari Lovers

Calling all Calamari Lovers for a 3-Way

Having forgotten to delve into the freezer for something to prepare for dinner and not having had lunch, the thought of scrambled eggs on toast didn’t seem too appealing and so decided that maybe  Joe Fish at Cape St Francis Resort was a good option. Sipping one of the new additions to their beer draft collection, a delicious amber ale named ‘Car Park John’ that they sell at just R25 a pint, a good price for a good beer I pondered what to eat. Remembering a conversation with Resort CEO Anita Lennox  last week I remembered her singing the praises of the Joe Fish ‘Calamari 3-Ways’ special on offer.

Whilst beautifully prepared calamari is always a treat I tend not to order it for all too often I have had bad experiences with rubber bands rather than a delicate melt in your mouth this delicacy should offer so tends to  sway me to something else on the menu. Approaching Joe Fish restaurant manager Jason he assured me they were not chewy so I jumped in the deep end and ordered Calamari 3-Ways.

Served on a wooden platter the three different ways certainly looked inviting and so I started with the calamari rings prepared as most restaurants do, lightly battered, fried and served on a bed of rice with a dipping bowl of Tartar sauce. All good – tasty, succulent and certainly not tough. I would have been quite content if that was all that was served but the other offerings looked even more inviting and interting.

Moving on to the second of the 3-way offering, small calamari tubes dusted  in wasabi and sesame seeds and then deep fried until crispy, I took a bite into the soft tasty, slightly tangy meat and really good with an interesting tang of the Wasabi. I took a second tube but this time dipped it in the accompanying Asian dipping sauce and wow! Now if you are not into really hot, dip very lightly for the dipping sauce is hot. Coming from the land of hot curry, my taste buds were invigorated after a few more tubes dipped in the sauce and soon had the top of my head feeling a little itchy, always a good sign of a really well prepared hot sauce.

So on to the third of the 3-way!

In my opinion and to that of my palate this Is the pièce de résistance! Vodka flambé calamari tubes stuffed with a spicy, not hot, delicious herb filling.  Biting into the tube it exploded the delicious spicy filling onto your taste buds. Without doubt my choice of the three calamari dishes on offer although any one of them as a main dish would have been a treat.

Calamari 3-Mays at Joe Fish at Cape St Francis Resort

Not too sure how long Joe Fish will be running this 3-way calamari special but if you love your calamari get there soon for there is no guarantee that the chokka boats will be able to keep up with the supply for at just R110 it is a steal. A delicious steal and certainly an “I want some more’ experience. That said I will have to return for that ‘more’ for it certainly is a meal on its own so seconds would need to be on another occasion.

And whilst on the 3-Way theme, Joe Fish is also offering a beer tasting 3-way special where for R55 you get taster servings of three draft beers, Car Park John, a fruity amber ale, a Beach Blonde Light and a Hansa draught. An Ideal choice to accompany the Calamari 3-Ways.

Seafood market great value

An affordable night out at Seafood market

If you are on a tight budget, as most are in January, but still wanting to go out for a meal, there can be few better choices than Balobi’s Seafood Market & Deli at the Port. During the season this cavernous venue was bursting at the seams on most days and word has it that they were serving well over 1000 meals most days. That’s a lot of cooking and that they managed to serve these sorts of numbers truly is remarkable and says a lot about the staff that manager Janet Harrison has put together.

Looking back a couple of years one remembers the Seafood Market only opening on a Friday for a couple of hours. One didn’t have to toss a coin of where to get lunch on a Friday and hake & chips was top of most of those who religiously made the trek to the Port most Friday’s. Its growing popularity saw it opening during the week and finally upgrading from a take-away to a small diner with beautiful views over the ocean. This saw its popularity grow and it wasn’t long before finding an empty table meant getting there a little earlier and as custom grew, so did their operating hours until it quite simply outgrew itself.

And so the decision to close the adjacent Loligos Restaurant and expand the Seafood market into the enormous area that the Seafood Market now occupies. A better decision they could not have made for Loligos simply didn’t work, certainly for this scribe.

Venturing to the Port only once over the season and seeing the crowd spilling out of the restaurant’s doors I beat a hasty retreat, sadly deprived of my portion of the sea’s bounty.

An invitation to celebrate a friends birthday at the Seafood Market renewed my acquaintance on Saturday evening. Although it meant missing out on the fun music of ‘Absent Irish’ and the  ‘taking back St Francis’ party at Legends, friends always come first closely followed by hake & chips. And so eight of us gathered at the restaurant at around 7:00 and were not disappointed. Being so late, they close at 8:00, I expected it to be deserted but whilst not bursting at the seams, it was busy enough  to not make one feel uncomfortable in the knowledge that it wasn’t your table keeping the staff from getting home to their families.

As always the meals were excellent and nary a complaint from anyone at the small birthday bash.  My choice of grilled hake with rice was an absolute winner and unlike so many fish restaurants, Seafood Market doesn’t hold back on the lemon quarters. And the choice of rice rather than chips was rewarded with a really inventive rice dish filled with colour.

Outstanding company, excellent service, well-priced and delicious food served with very little delay and all exactly as ordered.

A few small comments though, not criticisms, just ideas to consider.

Whilst appreciating that the Seafood Market is able to keep their prices low by cutting back on serving and scullery staff, a slightly larger group, such as ours, had a problem ordering. In the end one of our party wrote down all our orders on any available space on one of the menus as there was nowhere else to make up the order. Maybe putting a small note pad with a pencil on the table for larger groups would be a good idea and would certainly make it easier for the person going to the counter to place the order.

The last two comments have nothing to do with the food or service which, as said, were excellent, but rather on the general ambience. Whilst the majority of the restaurant is quite well lit, the area at the back where we were seated, adjacent where the deli products and fresh fish are sold and obviously closed that late into the evening was quite dark and dingy. I spotted a couple of lights above our table but these had been switched off.

The last comment was as one approached the restaurant in what was the old take-away area, seemingly now used as a preparation area. It was left in a rather messy condition with empty food containers on the working counters as if those working there had heard the going home bell and dropped everything in their haste to leave. Appearance is so important and small things can detract from the overall experience.