Four fabulous food and wine collaborations
Happily for many, restaurants can now open for sit-down dining and serve alcohol at the same time. Eating out and/or ordering in is still a personal choice, though, and the era of home deliveries is far from over as restaurateurs and chefs weigh up their options.
Inside Peregrine Farm Stall in Elgin, there is a useful sign to help idiots calculate social distancing. “Take one big step, then another small one,” it urges. Personally, I’d prefer it if they took at least three big ones (or more) because I’ve always been a fan of a decent perimeter of personal space, long before this germ invaded our lives and changed them forever.
The required 1,5m distance seems acceptable in a supermarket queue, even if some people can’t figure it out despite big red crosses taped on the floor. At least I can snap at them to keep away without too much aggressive fallout (although it’s not guaranteed; there’s a lot of anger out there, in general) and suggest they wear their masks over their nose at the same time. But in a restaurant, as a gap between tables, that one and a half metres is suddenly not very much at all.
I’ve always been baffled as to why humans want to be so close to each other when they have the option not to be. Countless times I’ve been in a fairly empty place, and when new patrons arrived they would be seated at the next table. For the love of all things holy, why? And especially now.
I am delighted restaurants can trade now, almost the way they want to, and I’ve been out a few times – but not without anxiety, and a fair amount of annoyance. The past few months have taken a toll, and being at a steakhouse where a group of six older guests arrived, took off their masks and arranged themselves “boy-girl-boy-girl” (hard eye-roll) and engaged in loud conversation freaked me TF out. I wished they were 1,5km away. This was still sans wine; I can only imagine how intolerable that would have made the situation. I would have had to drink in self defence. As it happened, we went back the following night (we were staying in the area and it was the best dining option), and the staff discreetly gave us a table in a quiet corner, bless them.
It’s a learning curve, and I know how to adapt and manage my eating out experiences in future. At the same time, I’m not ready to give up the home deliveries, à la Level 4, Level 3, and Level 3 higher grade, and I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not alone because I’ve been following the Female Forward Feasting (#FFF) collaboration during August 2020 and the response has been such that diners ordered for the entire month, and others are quickly sold out in any given week.
The concept came about when chefs met each other while volunteering for Ladles Of Love, which has been feeding the hungry since the beginning of lockdown (before that actually; it expanded its service dramatically since March 2020). They came up with the idea of creating a menu and partnering with a winemaker to provide a convenient package for home diners, and do something which would keep them in business. Planned for every Thursday in August, the wine component fell away with the alcohol ban but has been reinstated now. Previously, the wine was to be included with the meal, for one price; now it’s a suggested pairing which can be added to the food order separately.
The four participating restaurants are Reverie Social Table, Sepial’s Kitchen, Jason Bakery and Tjing Tjing. Each of their menus is available only on a Thursday, so you have one more chance to order. Some of them are reopening for sit-down in phases, or not yet, and some normal deliveries and collections will still be available.
“Through the lockdown and volunteering at Ladles of Love, we had the amazing opportunity to meet some incredible chefs and got to know a couple of them really well – something that would not have happened otherwise as we don’t normally have much down time,” said Julia Hattingh of Reverie Social Table. “Turns out that the majority of us are female chefs and a good couple also the owners of their independent restaurants. It’s an eclectic mix of establishments, showing off the beautiful diversity of food in our Mother City. Each has a weekly offering paired with a wine from a fantastic female winemaker.
“We knew that it would be a while before we’re at any level of normal so figured why not pool our resources? We all have very different guests so advertising together opens us up to the others’ guests too. Working together has highlighted how amazingly different we all are. And it’s an excuse to have a chat and glass of vino together,” smiled Hattingh.
Given the size and set up of the dinner party idea, the re-opening of the Social Table is being considered for limited lunches in September 2020, said Hattingh. “So we offer you the love and deliciousness in the comfort of your own home.”
In addition to the August soups – which change every week – Reverie en Résidence is a monthly meal subscription which provides a meal every week (from a choice of two) with ingredients from small scale local farmers, producers and suppliers. Something which sets this delivery/collection apart from others is the use of Pyrex dishes rather than single-use disposable packaging, whether it’s biodegradable or recyclable or not.
“I have developed this increasing aversion to packaging/single-use plastics. When we had to close and only allow takeaways, it was a big blow. The entire ethos of Reverie was now frowned upon!” said Hattingh.
“If I was going to offer takeaways, it needed to be in line with what we believe in and also needed to make financial sense (a hell of a lot harder than anyone thinks). If you’re ordering a meal for takeaways, the cost of packaging involved is incredible (anything from R10 to R100, even more depending on how extravagantly packaged and presented) so how about separating that cost, paying for your dishes (they’re yours to keep at the end) and then the price of your meal is just for the meal?
“We’ve had a great reception so far. Our guests are a mix of regular Reverie guests and new guests who are strongly eco-focused. It works pretty much like how milk was delivered – return your empties with your next delivery.”
Hattingh brought me one of her soups in week one, a glass jar of broth (my new obsession; they are so nourishing – the broths, not the jars) with melt-in-the-mouth pork belly and daikon, along with a loaf of her beautiful bread, both utterly delicious to the extent I requested details to sign up for the monthly programme just in case this comes up again.
The other restaurants settled on set menus and dishes, but Hattingh said she decided to go to the opposite end of the spectrum with a very simple supper to break it up a little. Her partnership is with Craven Wines.
“Jeanine Craven is actually a distant relative of mine,” said Hattingh with a laugh. “At Reverie, our dinner parties were always wine pairings featuring a single winery at a time and I have been wanting to work with them for a while now – pretty tricky as their wines sell out so quickly! This seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
Hattingh only knows what soup she’s making when she hears from her suppliers what veggies and other produce they have at the beginning of the week, so drop her an email to find out more, and what specific wine she recommends with your choice. Booking is via Dineplan.
Juggling a variety of factors, I also managed to get a taste of the set menu from Sepial’s Kitchen in time for this story’s deadline. It comprises six dishes – not courses, because according to the letter enclosed in the box, “the traditional Korean hansang is a one-person table with many various dishes to be served together. All our dishes are meant to be enjoyed in conjunction with each other so please do not worry about eating things in the correct order.”
A small amount of heating is required, but nothing taxing. A Spotify playlist is included, with the final songs to be played when clearing up afterwards. There wasn’t wine last week, but a bottle of jasmine kombucha was provided. Sepial Shim’s wine of choice is Saurwein’s Chi Riesling. “Korean cuisine is not really easy to pair with wine. You cannot follow general pairing tips,” said Shim. “Riesling and Pinot Noir in general go well with my plates and that is why those two are my favourites. I think I am so lucky to have Jessica Saurwein as a partner because she is dedicated to make wonderful Riesling and Pinot Noir specifically. Her wine elevates my set menu.”
I sat down to a feast of chicken and herb mandoo (dumplings) in broth, miyeok salad of cucumber and seaweed with a roast chilli oil and soy sauce vinaigrette, root vegetable tempura with tart persimmon kombucha vinegar dipping sauce, divine beef short ribs braised with mushrooms and kombu (galbi-jjim is a special occasion dish in Korean cuisine and packed with umami), and steamed rice cakes with honey, and lotus leaf tea harvested by a female Korean monk staying at a Buddhist temple. There was also some house-made daikon radish kimchi, a speciality from Sepial’s Kitchen. It’s pungent, and if it’s too burny you can rinse off the chilli paste.
Sepial’s Kitchen is in Salt River, but is not reopening just yet. “As most of the ban was lifted and we still have a serious Covid-19 infection rate, we think expanding the business is dangerous,” said Shim. “We are going to keep weekly delivery/collection only with more precautions.”
Orders can be placed online.
Multi-level City Bowl venue Tjing Tjing’s head chef Christina Semczyszyn has put together a six-course at-home kaiseki (quite simply, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) menu for delivery throughout Cape Town, paired with Andrea Mullineux’s wines.
“Besides that we love her wine, we chose Andrea as she is a world-class celebrated female winemaker,” said Semczyszyn. “We also love the Swartland wines and what their forward-thinking producers have done for South African wine and the industry, with her being the leading female and a very powerful and inspirational woman.”
The #FFF menu is based on the regular Momiji kaiseki menu, but presented in a way that it can be heated and completed at home, explained Semczyszyn. “It focuses on seasonal and local produce, presented in a simple and sophisticated manner. We wanted to give customers a taste of this menu in the comfort and safety of their own homes.”
Dishes include sesame seared tuna – locally sourced sashimi with chive and ginger paste, futomaki, buchu pickled ginger, wasabi, and kumquat ponzu; grilled Wagyu tongue with braised daikon flower and pickled waterblommetjies; slow-cooked lamb rib with nettle and rice with house-made dashi; and milk bread pudding taiyaki with rum raisins and bay leaf custard.
The order comes with informational cards, and a music playlist.
“Torii and the Rooftop bar are trading from 12pm to 9pm, with last rounds called at the Rooftop bar at 8.30pm,” said Semczyszyn. “Momiji is currently open for reservations from September 25, 2020 onwards, with a special of R550 per person on Friday and Saturday, September 25 and 26.
“We are carrying on with takeaways for pick up at the restaurant (Tuesdays to Saturdays) as well as pre-orders for pick up or delivery from Thursdays to Saturdays going forward. This will obviously change again as soon as the curfew is lifted or changed.”
Amy-Jo Windt is representing Jason Bakery in Green Point (which has donated hundreds of loaves of bread to Ladles Of Love), with wines by Christa von La Chevallerie of Huis Van Chevallerie Wines in the Riebeek valley. Windt’s menu is simple: Spanish chicken pie, side salad with tomato vinaigrette, and dessert.
The pie is made with boiled dough, free range chicken and flavoured with smoked paprika, red and yellow peppers, tomato, green olives and chorizo. The recommended wine is Nuwedam Chenin Blanc 2018 – 100% Paardeberg old vine Chenin Blanc.
Dessert is caramelised white chocolate Napoleon mille-feuille, made using Jason Bakery’s house-made puff pastry, caramelised white chocolate custard and candied pecan nuts. It’s paired with Circa NV, a 100% Pinotage Brut Rosé.
“This showcases items that the bakery does on a regular basis and demonstrates what we stand for, using only the freshest and wholesome ingredients possible,” said Windt.
“The bakery has been stocking Christa’s bubbly for a number of years, so it was an easy choice. The Nuwedam Chenin Blanc also works perfectly with both the spicy aromatic pie and the decadent mille feuille.”
Order online. Delivery is available for the City Bowl and Northern Suburbs, otherwise collect from the bakery. Follow on social media for triple X-rated pastry porn. DM/TGIFood
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