DINING OUT VICARIOUSLY IN JO’BURG AND CAPE TOWN
My son is a roaring carnivore, his girlfriend a vegetarian. For her birthday, I treated them to dinner cooked by chef Marthinus Ferreira of DW eleven-13 fame. Living life vicariously is part of lockdown, and getting their rave review of a wonderful dinner allowed me to feel like I too was dining out in one of Jozi’s two-plated restaurants. The evening started with a frantic phone call requesting reheating directions as a thoughtful birthday card had replaced cooking instructions!
A fried, spiced cauli wrap with red cabbage salad and black bean hummus for her and steamed Adobo Asian pork wrap for him to start, then a slow-baked butternut stuffed with imam bayildi and veg couscous and slow-roast roast pork with veg – a family portion for four that my boy probably devoured over two nights. I dithered about the dessert selection so ended up ordering every option, thereby ensuring a week of sweet treats – popcorn and salted caramel ice cream, apple crumble tart and a decadent choc brownie sundae with pecan brittle, white choc semifreddo and peanut butter sauce that deserved a series of Whatsapp adulations from the receiver to giver.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLATE
Every winter I am hard at work dining out, validating scores for potential plating of restaurants from our team of reviewers. This year is the exception in so many ways. It is a privilege to try whatever the chefs wish me to eat, and to witness their innovation and creativity. I realise what I miss as much as the fabulous cuisine is the interaction with the chefs. Interviewing them is eye-opening, and after so many years I have come to know and appreciate their unique personalities. It would be impossible for me to review anonymously unless in disguise!
The highlight of my dinner delivery from one-plated Aubergine was seeing chef Harald Bresselschmidt’s smiling eyes peeking above his mask as he handed over a big white cardboard box topped with a pretty pink bougainvillea spray. It was the quick catch-up more than a metre apart, he hopefully not noticing my overgrown veggie garden, now desperate for attention, that I appreciated. He told me he had picked fresh lettuce from his garden for our dinner – oh how I love trampling through gardens with chefs as they share their passion for produce. It is on these walks that they divulge anything from their dreams to their cooking secrets.
Harald is a consummate professional who has never wavered from doing what he does well, unfazed by fads and trends, he sticks with what he knows – the classics. Harald is renowned for allowing his food to follow the wine. It is at his elbow that so many lauded chefs have learnt the foundation of fine dining, and wine. He is celebrating 40 years of his profession this month, and I for one, wish to applaud him – loudly. Our chat focused on the challenges facing the industry, on how chefs are digging deep to find ways of retaining staff by doing deliveries and delis. When they do re-open their restaurants, it may be with fewer tables, staff and tourists. Wearing masks makes constant tasting a challenge. It will be adapt or die. I have every confidence that it will be survive and thrive.
Tuesdays and Fridays are Aubergine Meals at Home delivery days. It was the creamiest gnocchi with a forest mushroom sauce and blue cheese for my domestic hero, and an uber-delicious aubergine parmigiana for me, to start. We both had the South Indian fish curry, basmati rice and roti thereafter. It has been said that behind every successful man there is a woman (wishing he would get out of the way?). Harald confessed that his wife made the curry. It was outstanding, my fisherman husband declared it the best he has ever had, and this wife decided that she would do anything for that recipe! The next night we tucked into the gravlax with mustard dressing on a bed of hand-picked lettuce, followed by leftovers of the night before. Generous in flavour, generous in portion, that dinner demands another date night, soon. I can’t get my hands on his fish curry recipe but Harald’s recipe of seafood chowder is in this season’s Gourmet Guide magazine. Click here to get your free copy. Tag us on Instagram of your replicated dish, we would love to see and share.