A Happy New Year to Everyone.
May it be Joyous, Prosperous and Healthy.
A Happy New Year to Everyone.
May it be Joyous, Prosperous and Healthy.
A brief post here as we get ready to go cage diving for Great White Sharks. Just case this is my last post (see previous sentence), I wanted to have some pre-emptive payback. My solution to achieve that? Why a seafood feast, of course. We actually went down to the local seafood market, at Hout Bay. Hout Bay is where the trawlers and fishing boats come in, and was an important commercial port in the past where ships would load up on African wood to take to Europe (Hout is the Afrikaans word for “wood”). We were treated to local, fresh silverfish (red snapper), tuna, hake as well as local specialities kob and kingklip. There were fresh shellfish and rock lobster, or as it is called here, crayfish. We picked a couple of crays and headed back.
Chef artfully prepared the sea bounty; lightly sautéed calamari with 5 spice (cinnamon, cumin, coriander, anise seed and ginger), mussels in white wine butter sauce, fresh scallops on the half shell, prawns, langoustines and the crayfish. A choice of garlic lemon butter or cream peri-peri sauce was available. This was paired with a Graham Beck local Champagne which was soft, creamy with a hint of yeast and just perfect with the seafood and sauces. I just hope this doesn’t make me smell like seafood in the shark cage….
I set my iPod to shuffle. Sometimes I do that to call the Muses for inspiration. When the mood is right, shuffle the iPod, sit back and see what words of wisdom appear. It’s this generation’s Magic Eight Ball. So after arriving to Ezard House in Camps Bay on the other side of Table Mountain from Capetown, I did just that. Not so much looking for inspiration this time as looking to relieve the overwhelming sense of wonderment. An amazing cliff-side dwelling so high above the white sand beach below, I felt like Lando Calrissian sitting in the Cloud City. Yet looking above me loomed Table Mountain, actually covered in clouds but seemingly close enough to touch.
Joan Osborne drifted in on a sun massaged lazy breeze;
“What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home….”
Yes, I thought, my attention now focused. What if God was trying to make his way home? What would it look like? Where would it be? A river of inspired questions flowed forth.
I looked around again and answered myself.
“Jesus Christ”, I said, realizing the irony of that statement as soon as I said it.
“This would be God’s House.”
Before telling you why this would be God’s House, let me share with you some simple secular observations. The accommodations are better than 5-Star, it’s like 5 star gone supernova. The physical plant is spectacular (more on that later). The accommodations are just madly resplendent. The furnishings are beautiful and I believe the bed is actually a cloud from Tabletop Mountain. Yet what really sets Ezard House apart from other places (some equally resplendent), are the people. They put the best cruise staff to shame. Our attendants (for lack of a better term, since the serve as wait staff, assistants and address your every need) are friendly, accessible, knowledgeable and accommodating. The Chef obviously takes pride in her personal creations, each one just a little feast for the gastronomic senses. And that includes the presentations; from start to finish she weaves a delightful dining experience. The cellar has a tremendous selection of South African wines and the bar is fully stocked so that all your hot tub or out by the heated pool needs are met with savoir faire.
Anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t enjoy a stay here needs to be exiled to the Island of Penguins formerly known as Jackass (now more properly and pc known as African Penguins). Actually, the penguins are entertaining and humorous and they don’t deserve those cracked baboon butts. They should be exiled to the Island of Misfit Stars and stuck for a holiday with Paris Hilton. And all her inane friends. And no guys, you don’t get to have them for the evening because Tiger Woods is there, has slept with them and left the island and you’re just there on “You’re my best friend can I just cry on your shoulder” duty.
So a worldly Eden, there are lots of breathtaking lodgings-but what makes this so very special?
It is the setting.
With the sun an absurd fireball in the sky, glowing an impossible bright orange-red the wind sings loudly. The temperature is perfect. The waves chorus the wind and the mountains behind form an echoing amphitheatre, adding their voice to the harmony. Every element in harmony. The very definition of magic. God’s own Magic. I began to wonder amongst this insane Glory- where was my place? Why was I here? How did I deserve this? Why, why had God seen fit to allow me in his very home?
Then the Jimmy Buffet/Magic Eight Ball chimed in:
“I was God’s own drunk, and a fearless man….”
Forgive the Trespassers.
I was beginning to think this place was a little like New Orleans. Restaurant competition so tough you could not serve consistent quality food and be in business for long. Particularly not in the cut throat feeding frenzy that is the V&A Waterfront. Well, just as I was telling myself that I could not seem to find a bad meal Fate intervened. She appeared on the Waterfront that day, a slim maiden standing innocently next to a menu post.
“Doc”, she seemed to say with a glance, all the while speaking not at all.
“You underestimate yourself, truly, and this is not a word of lie, you can find a crappy meal. While no one else here might be able to do it, like heroes of yore, you can find a place that sucks AND pay top dollar. Why not try this Portuguese and Turkish fusion. “
“Yes” I said to no one in particular, “that makes perfect sense.”
Like Odysseus, I should have lashed myself to the mast of culinary sanity. But no, I had to hear the song. I was drawn inwards to Tasca. Things actually started out not half bad. We had a tapas plate. The grilled calamari was tender and delicious, if the butter sauce a little too over the top. A single sardine covered with rock salt was fresh and delicious. Then the sharp pointy rocks appeared. Whilst everyone else seemed to be enjoying these huge grilled fresh prawns, we got some deep fried Long John Silvers’ rejects. Then there were some deep fried calamari “steaks”. These calamari had been encased in the batter equivalent of concrete shoes and dropped into the deep fryer depths. They should have stayed there. Let me share a culinary clue; if the gulls don’t want any of what you’re eating, move along. And that is exactly what we did, full speed ahead, tummy torpedoes be damned we went for a main course. I had a game meat kabob that was to have a light Portuguese sauce upon it. I asked medium rare and expected some slightly different flavors on the delicious grilled meat I had tasted several times already. When it arrived after a prolonged period made tolerable only by an excellent South African Viognier, I knew a disaster awaited. The kabob pieces ranged from fingernail sized slivers to quarter pound hunks. Anyone familiar with Grilling 101 for Dummies knows different size pieces of meat cannot cook at the same time. I either had a bunch of raw chunks or biltong (South African Jerky). Well my friends, a serving of fresh jerky it was-but wait, not only had they dried it so it resembled a dry aged steak straight from the Sahara, but through an heretofore unknown process, they made it tasteless as well. There was one piece that was edible. It sucked. I am not sure Bourdain’s warthog rectum was any chewier or tasted any worse. In fact, I think it was Bourdain’s warthog rectum.
So when the manager came over (you knew I would call them on this) her solution was to offer 1 “complimentary” glass of piss Chardonnay. Ladies and Gentleman, a glass of piss off the vine listing for less than 10% of what I just threw away does not a “comp” make. So if you are exploring Capetown and at the V&A Waterfront, remember these lines from my Odyssey:
A Tisket, a Tasca
It’s a disatah.
Another day, another exotic feast. Today we traveled to City Grill on the V&A Waterfornt. We had some traditional South African barbeque, or braai. Among the items were kudu, ostrich, warthog and crocodile. All were fantastic. The kudu, which I have had several times now (all prepared magnificently) resembles a delicious venison or elk. The ostrich, amazingly, was very beef-like. The warthog was not near as gamey as I expected, and milder than wild boar I have had. Unlike Bourdain, I stayed away from the rectum. I saw that special. The crocodile was very much like alligator I have had in the US, no surprise there. The traditional braai sauce was very subtle. It imparted some delicious background notes yet allowed the distinctiveness of each grilled item to shine through. There was a venison sausage which was most remarkable for it’s distinctive melody of spices. It was unlike any sausage sampled in the US or Europe, the spices tasted vaguely of India. We also tried the South African beef. This was amazing. The filet was reminiscent of true Kobe, not just Wagyu raised somewhere else, but true Kobe. It was fork-cutting tender, buttery melt in your mouth. I have not seen a chance to get this beef in the US, so if you get a chance to try this somewhere…just do it. We washed all this carnivore carnival down with an Asara Cape Fusion 2005 from Stellenbosch (www.asarawine.com ). There was a hint of coffee in the background with cherry tones forefront and secondary strawberry jam/currents in the chorus. The fusion is a Pinotage forward blend, with Cab, Merlot and Shiraz in smaller concentrations.
No whining here. Part of the excitement about coming over to South Africa was to explore this wine region. Thus far it has been a pleasure. We previously discussed the local small production champagne, Waterford. We’ll now update you with a few more (and more to come as the visit continues). I quite recommend trying any of these if you can find them, or if your local wine purveyor can order you some of these selections. All these were purchased from $10-$20 (US). As we mentioned in an earlier post, South African wine was under the control of a monopoly until about 1994. Since that the monopoly breakup at that time, the industry has flourished and become quite diverse. Previously, South African (SA) wine was often limited to pinotage (not a form of pinot noir). Today, there are tremendous varieties and blends to choose from the many different regions in SA. Here’s a list of some of the major wine regions ( the information is taken from http://www.wineanorak.com/saregions.htm):
Historical region that’s tucked away in the smart southern suburbs of Cape Town (this is where the first vineyards were planted in South Africa), now undergoing a bit of a revival. As well as being a beautiful region, the vineyards are ideally sited on the slopes of Constantia Mountain, where they are cooled by the sea breezes. Just five estates here, all good: Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Buitervenwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg.
Newish cool-climate region east of Stellenbosch, which is still predominantly a fruit-growing area. Because of the altitude, it’s usually a good few degrees cooler than the main wineland regions. Leading producer is Paul Cluver, but some of the 12 other grape growers apparently have plans to bottle their own wines soon.
The Franschoek valley is a small but significant region, inland (to the west) of Stellenbosch. Surrounded by the spooky-sounding Drakenstein mountains, the wide variety of soils and relatively high rainfall permits production of a wide variety of wine styles. It’s a hotter region than Stellenbosch, and with its profusion of trendy restaurants it can rightfully claim to be the gourmet capital of the winelands. An easy day trip from Cape Town.
Well known region north-west of Cape Town, and home to several leading producers, including Veenwouden, Nederburg, Fairview, Glen Carlou and Plaisir de Merle. Traditionally a white wine region, but with its Mediterranean climate and terroirs it’s now focusing more on reds. Hotter than Stellenbosch, so the very best wines come from the more elevated vineyards.
Some 120 km east of Cape Town, next door to Worcester, this hot region is rather paradoxically best known for its whites. De Wetshof, Springfield and Graham Beck are among the leading producers here.
Just a short distance east of Cape Town, this is the country’s leading wine area, and is home to many of the country’s leading estates. The town itself is dominated by the University, and despite its relatively large size has quite a relaxed feel. Vineyards fringed by mountains make for some lovely views, and the wine route, which takes tourists through several different trails, is well marked out. There are several different subregions, and the geology here is quite complex. Simplistically, the granite-based soils in the east are especially suited to the production of fine red wines, whereas the sandstone soils in the west are best for whites.
Large region to the north of Cape Town, mostly given over to wheat farming. Rainfall is light, so irrigation is usually needed. The cooperatives dominate.
This cool-climate wine region, on the Whale Coast to the south of Cape Town, is on the up: just a few producers so far, but Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson are now making classy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc shows promise.
Hot (thermally, that is) wine region located inland from Cape Town. Production here is dominated by several large cooperatives.
Now a few recommendations: