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.

 

Some Cape Eloquence

A touch of Eloquence at Cape St Francis Resort

Eloquence at Cape ST Francis Resort

Zelda (violin) and Michelle (guitar) of Eloquence performing at lunch at Cape St Francis Resort.

There was a little touch of Eloquence for lunch around the pool at Cape St Francis Resort on Sunday and one can only hope that we hear more Eloquence in the coming months. It really was a wonderful change from some of the music delivered on Sundays at the resort and whilst maybe not to everyone’s taste, Eloquence played mellow, gentle music from the sixties or seventies so they are sure to please the over 60’s brigade as well a few of the younger folk who enjoy music from quieter background offerings with their meal. It left one feeling groovy and allowed table conversation rather than having to shout to be heard or wait for the band to take a break to chat with friends.

Eloquence is two Jeffreys Bay lasses, Michelle Ohlhoff on guitar and Zelda Malan on violin and they offer their quiet folksy rock style music in a lovely relaxed sound that only an acoustic guitar and violin duet can. Most of the songs they played during the short period I stayed were old favourites, easily recognisable and soon had one quietly singing under one’s breath or at least humming along to the tune. Music to lift your spirit so well done ladies for playing such great music and for bringing back such great music from those happy, hippie days!

Here’s hoping the resort invites Eloquence back for Sunday lunch at least once or twice a month going forward for they are bound to become a popular lunch time act.

Michelle & Zelda of Eloquence

Eloquence at Cape St Francis Resort

Bread & Butter for dinner

Bread & Butter never tasted so good!

Ham & Pea Soup at St Francis Brewing CoThe beer / wine / food pairings regularly held at St Francis Brewing Company are always one of the highlights on the St Francis dining calendar and an opportunity not to be missed. Chef Daniel again served up a gastronomical treat last night and it seems there is no end to his creativeness in taking a simple dish and creating a gourmet’s delight. It would be difficult to choose the best dish of the 5-course meal served last night for the vegetable terrine fish and steak were all superb and perfectly prepared but his pea and ham soup was undoubtedly my pick of the evening. Unlike a conventional pea and ham soup Daniel served the pea soup, a separate patty of ham and crackly pork ‘biscuit. Ingenious in its presentation and quite divine to the taste buds.

But to top of what was a great evening, spent on the benches of the brewery with friends both known and newly met, was his dessert offering. Now those who spent time and boarding school, well us oldies anyway, before food nutritionist were employed to ensure growing lads are properly fed,  we were served weekly bread & butter pudding, a tasteless mess of brown bread with  smattering of weak tasteless custard. Horrible stuff!

When Daniel presented his menu at the start of the ‘feast’ he came to the last item, bread & butter pudding served with peaches and strawberries and custard, not particularly inspiring to an ex boarder until it was served. In one word “DELICIOUS”, so delicious in that I was very nearly tempted to approach our hosts, Linky and Lance and even Daniel himself, in a rendition of Oliver’s famed “I want some more”. I noticed almost every diner at our table quite unashamedly wiping the remnants of their plates with their fingers to mop up the last morsel and for one moment it looked as though one of our dining partners (no names) was about to lick her plate clean. Without doubt the tastiest bread & butter pudding ever and the custard, well I never knew custard could taste that good. If Daniel were to bottle it, it would put all other custard makers out of business.

A splendid meal enjoyed with wonderful company. Oh, and the beer is damned good too with a couple of new additions I hadn’t tasted before.

Sadly it is St Francis Brewing Co’s last pairing of the year so roll on 2017 so we can again witness some of Daniel’s creativity. But in the interim at least we can still enjoy the daily menu and the outstanding Sunday lunches.

Daniel Hoffman preparing the entree at St Francis Brewing Co