General

Dear Me, Tjing Tjing – Two new favourites.

I have found my favourite bar in Cape Town.

Underneath it lives a restaurant that could easily become my favourite.

The reason, of course, that Dear Me (the restaurant in question) does not shoot up into immediate top position is because restaurants take time to crawl the list, while bars move up and down quickly. I show less loyalty to bars. Bars are ephemeral; opening and closing (as opposed to pubs who are solid) while restaurants  – even if they open and close like a whore’s legs – offer the idea of permanence, or possibly the hope. Bars are here today and, where am I? Why does my head hurt? What’s that? A slip for a bottle of Krug?

Back to Dear Me. No, hold on a second, I need to make it clear that I am not a restaurant critic or reviewer, I usually don’t do it as there are better-equipped bloggers who actually derive pleasure from doing it. What I do is mention restaurants when they piss me off beyond belief – like Caveau – or point them out when I am mightily impressed. Thus, Dear Me.

First off it is beautiful. Sure it may appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities, but I have good taste so that’s OK. Just look at these photos.

I stole them of their website, as I hate photographing in restaurants, it makes me feel like a douche. Also I’m not very good at it.

Seriously though, I think the décor and design in Dear Me is wonderfully balanced between class, funk, sex, cool, function and awesome . Yes, I do have a degree in interior design. How did you know?

The food is equally balanced. It had a freshness, and zing to it that I enjoy with wines as much as food. The textures had quite obviously been considered, and I had the best reslish that has ever passed my lips.

There were three of us, and in the end I had tasted the Confit Tuna Niçoise, it was solid, very good but did not bowl me over – a meal for the non-adventurous. Solid portion, great tuna, R85. The Pork rilettes, pickles, relishes and toast was bloody delicious. We had this as a starter, I could have it for breakfast every morning. Brilliant. R58. Honey roasted parsnip soup, crispy sage, pine nuts was a blinder, although a bit rich for the full portion, as a stater it would of been perfect. this turned out to be a spot on match for the HB riesling (read below), producing a wonderful flavour of earthy granola with tropical fruit. 10 points and a high-five.R70. The (Ok this is a long one) warm cous cous salad, marinated buffalo yoghurt labneh, mange tout, baby carrots, red chard, orange zest, cumin, dates, and preserved lemon was another winner. My mother, who had ordered this, couldn’t contain her excitement. R65 (bloody bargain). West coast mussles, choriço style free range sausage, tomato, smoked paprika, raost red pepper, salsa rosa. This was scrumptious, hearty, warm and comforting but, in my ‘umble opinion, just not as good as the others, it lacked the precision of flavours the others had. I don’t know maybe I was just too full by then, still a solid plate of food R58 for a starter portion. There was also a mushroom risotto that was incredible, loads of different mushrooms, with rich, almost meaty flavours.

(Wine is so much easier to write about. I hated that paragraph almost as much as I loved the food)

The wine pairings work, but there will in time be a tweak here and a tweak there. But that’s wine pairings for you. We ordered the Howard Booysen Riesling 2010 which is brilliant. The closest to a German Kabinett that I have tasted from SA; although there is a sunny aspect to this one. It is fresh, off-dry, with tropical flavours and some mineral notes, the bright balancing acidity makes you go back again and again for another sip. I can finish a bottle in 20min. Easy. So damn, delicious.

The other interesting aspect of Dear Me is that all the meals come with a secondary option that caters for those generally known to piss off chefs.

So in our case we could have had the starch free option for the tuna salad, gluten and wheat free for the pork, and a lactose free option for the soup and cous cous salad,

This is great, and although I didn’t taste any of these options (I prefer my food as god intended it) I trust Chef Vanessa Marx with them unwaveringly.

The menu changes often depending on what is best sourced and seasonal. Please  visit Dear Me, I don’t work for them, I am just trying to offer you a happier lunch time.

And then once you have finished your long, lazy lunch, you can simply move on upstairs to Tjing Tjing.

It’s a bar for grown-ups who like to play. People dress well here. So far they all seem well educated. Am I sounding snobbish? Well excuse me if I don’t like being thrown up on my some poppie whose vocabulary falters when the letters in a word add up to more than five. Places where Bru, and Hawzit ring out like battle cries, where a glass of wine comes from a papsak, or if from a bottle off a list – I can almost guarantee this – that is as interesting as yesterday’s mealie pap. It is also not one of those overtly trendy bars where, because fashion dictates, all customers must sit on nail shaped bar-stools (pointy side up), white noise is played continually through the R40 000 sound system, and the staff instead of working sit sullenly reading Sartre.

Tjing Tjing is not like this. It offers a really good wine list, an excellent tapas menu (with, perhaps the best charcuterie board in Cape Town, for both quality and price), a waitress with the coolest hair, fantastic wallpaper, the setting – a coverted attic type room of a 132 year old building with dark exposed wooden beams. I love old wood and red leather, so I am baised.
The cocktails are well made, it still feels exclusive without being snotty, and the owners are some of the friendliest I have met. I am starting to gush, so I will end it here. But I will bet my bottom dollar if you have lunch at Dear Me and then a few drinks at Tjing Tjing after it will be a good day and you will be happy. And when you have had your happy day, you can thank me with Riesling.

165 Longmarket Street, Cape Town

Opening hours:

Dear Me

Breakfast (from 7am) & Lunch every day Monday to Friday

Thursday nights: food and wine pairing

021 422 4920

Tjing Tjing

Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 4pm to late

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General

Riesling Slogan Competition (not here though)

Noticed a little competition that has been started on wine blogs – just seen it on Neil Pendock’s and Cathy Marston’s so far– aimed at coming up with a slogan for Just Riesling (an updated website would be good too).

I think it’s a fun idea. The winning slogan – that is presuming there is one as I imagine there are going to be a lot of shitty entries (Riesling is rad, Drink Riesling, get laid, Riesling is on the rise etc.) – will win a mixed case of Riesling.

I first thought “Riesling, just do it”. But then I thought people might link that with a philandering golfer, and nobody wants that. I then thought I had a winner with “Riesling is good for you.” But then I thought, nah, that would never work. “Ah, Riesling!” would have been good, but it didn’t sound close enough to “Hey presto.”

After much consideration I entered these on Mr. Pendock’s blog.

“I drink, Riesling.”

“When you know wine, you know Riesling.”

Or the other way round, I’m not sure.

“When you know Riesling, you know wine.”

And finally, not my favourite, but hey:

“Riesling, it suits you.”

What do you reckon? Am I in with a chance?

I’ll enter a few more on Cathy’s blog when I feel inspired.

Oh and I know there has been little but competitions on this blog since I emerged from my silence. Sorry about that. But at least you can win stuff. I’ll be back to wine stuff where you get nothing but reading pleasure soon. I’m revisiting my old friends at Under the Influence on Wednesday for a white wine tasting; I’ll tell you what I taste there.

Drunk, Visited

Some media whoring with Nederburg and Bruce Campbell.

So yesterday I was a bit of a media freebee whore, taking in a whiskey tasting in the afternoon from Brandhouse, and then a dinner at Anatoli from Nederburg.

The Whiskey tasting was held at the Westin Grand with Bruce Campbell of the Scotland from Home campaign. A funny guy who tries to convince the world that he can make as good a whiskey as the pro’s in 5 minutes. Obviously this is impossible, and as such the time honoured tradition of making whiskey is seen as the only way. A smart, tongue in cheek campaign.

DSC00084We tasted through a bunch of whiskey’s and some ‘lucky’ attendees got to taste some of Bruce’s special brew. On the left here you can see Gentleman Chris Rawlinson taking a glass. His reaction to this ‘instant whiskey’. *cough* *splutter"* “Jaysus!”. I am not sure if the 20 mini burgers he went on to eat was an effect of the Campbell Classic.

DSC00079

It was a fun little event, and the comedy from Bruce helped break up the tasting and kept everyone from nodding off. There was some swag as well. Although most of mine was hijacked by the restaurant staff when I got back to work. I managed to hold on to the bottle of Johnny Walker. Whoring FTW.

 

 

Next up was a quick glass of wine or two at a new wine bar on Bree St, French Toast. DSC00091

From my barstool

I like the place. It offers 100+ wines by the glass, which are dominated by local wines with a few international offerings. It’s not exactly a bargain spot, but the selection is good. I will write up a proper review next week with a tasting of some of the wines along with prices.

With a glass of Mullineux White 2009 in me I was off to Anatoli in Greenpoint for a dinner served with some Nederburg wines. I hadn’t tasted through Nederburg’s wines in awhile so I was looking forward to giving them a swallow. Anatoli is a Turkish restaurant run by Tayfun Aras who has become good friends with Nederburg wine maker Razvan Macici of Romania. They found that they had many national dishes in common, so the idea of having a dinner prepared by Tayfun paired with wines by Razvan came about.

We started with the Nederburg Winemaster’s Chenin Blanc 2009 which was made from Durbanville and Darling fruit, with a portion  barrel fermented. It started off a little sweaty but this soon blew off. The nose gave some rich pear notes with a touch of toasty oak. The palate was full of tropical fruit and some buttery flavours underneath. The oak gave a creamy edge but the acidity was fresh and bright which balanced the wine nicely. I was slightly disappointed when the wine warmed up a little as the alcohol started to rear its head a little aggressively. The wine was paired with meatballs in a walnut sauce which was spot on; the food enhanced the fruit flavours of the Chenin and the nuttiness of the sauce worked with the creamy texture of the wine.

Next up was the Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2010 with a mezze platter. This wine is very young and rather tight and shy. The residual sugar of 7.2 g/l is mopped up by the puckering acidity. This created a light footed sweet/sour experience on the palate. Despite its youth and lack of complexity (at the moment) this the acid sweetness aspect makes for a scrumptious little number.

The main course, riblets served with courgettes stuffed with burghul and tomato, was served with wines I have been wanting to try for some time; the Ingenuity White 09 and Red 07. The white is a blend of 8 different varieties. You ready? Here they are:  Sauvignon blanc (30%) from Groenekloof and Durbanville; Chardonnay (25%)  from Durbanville and Paarl; Semillon (15%) from the Philadelphia area; Chenin Blanc (15%) from Darling and Stellenbosch vineyards, Nouvelle (6%) from Paarl; Riesling (5%), and a splash of Viognier (2%) and Gewürztraminer (2%) from Durbanville and Paarl. All are vinified separately and then blended.

Whoah! four and a half lines of components. The reason I went through the painstaking task of copying and pasting them here is that you can feel the wine is made from all of this. I am not saying I could have picked all 8 blind, but the wine has a ‘this-way-and-that’ character. It is fresh and rich, floral and grassy, tropical and taught. I found a slight nittiness, with some sweet apple on the palate as well as floral peachy flavours and a wonderfully refreshing acidity. I really liked this wine. It wears it’s tutu with stripy leggings, Doc Martins and a tweed blazer , but still manages to be cool, sexy even. My wine of the evening.

The red impressed me less. Nicknamed the Italian it’s a blend of Sangiovese (45,5%), Barbera (45,5%) and Nebbiolo (9%) grapes. I enjoyed it, but it just seemed less characterful than the white, a touch flat. There was some sour cherry and leather on the nose which followed through to the palate. The tannins were fine and the acidity refreshing. This all sounds good. I’m not sure what it was that didn’t sit right with me. I tasted and re-tasted, and was simply underwhelmed. It packed a punch, but a somewhat sluggish one, it needs to do some skipping, get lighter on its feet, but still be as big and bold.

Finally there was the Wine Maker’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2009 which was poured generously, and drank even more so by me. I love sweet sticky wines. This one has all the dried apricot, apple and honey goodness that makes NLH’s so decadent and dastardly delicious. It’s not shy with 220 g/l of residual sugar but is well balanced by the acidity. Young, tasty and sticky. A vinous Lolita perhaps. Come to think of it I have the right initials for that comparison.

I finished off the evening back at French Toast with a glass of LBV 2005  Port from Dirk Niepoort whom I shall be writing about in the next instalment of “Harry drinks through Europe” as I spent a week with him in the Douro.

The evening was finished by trying to tell my fortune from the grounds left over in my cup of Turkish coffee. The cup is turned upside down onto the saucer and left for a minute before being righted, and the patterns on the side are supposed to give you a glimpse into your future. I got a man with a beard. Hmmmm, it is Movember. DSC00103

Drunk

For the Love of Fine Wines Part 1

Caroline“Where the fuck is that bloody waitress,” I shouted at no one in particular, “of all the days to be late she fucking decides today. Fuck.” I was running late for a fine wine workshop at the One & Only and I had to wait for the waitress to arrive before I could leave. She arrived at 11:50 – the tasting was supposed to start at 12 sharp – I gave her a withering look, I hoped it was withering anyway, but I’m not sure she picked it up through the glazed eyes and torpor of her breakfast joint.

I shouldn’t have worried though, this is Cape Town after all, and I have yet to attend a function that has started promptly. After leaving my keys with the valet I found my way to the board room where the tasting was to be held. An amusing aside: In my haste to get to the tasting I pocketed my keys, so for an hour and a half a perturbed One & Only staff searched for the owner of a very dirty Citi Golf so it could be moved and stop blighting the hotel’s entrance.

The tasting was part of the One & Only’s Birthday celebrations, and in collaboration with Jorg Pfutzner of Fine Wine Events they had brought out four wine makers from Germany, Austria, Burgundy and Portugal. So instead of a large tasting like the Sauvignon Blanc one I attended recently, this would consist of each winemaker giving a 60-90 minute talk alongside the tasting of the wines.

After the croissants had been devoured, the coffee imbibed, and the weather, harvest, and the other typical small talk topics had been exhausted we all found our seats in the conference room. My tasting partners for the day were Caroline Rillema of Caroline’s Fine Wines, and Carolyn Martin of Creation Wines. Our opinions on most of the wines that were in accordance, except for the White Burgundies, I liked them, they didn’t.

First up was Egon Müller the wine maker of the of the family owned Scharzhof estate in the Mosel valley. The famous Scharzhofberg vineyards are regarded as some of the finest in Germany and have been in the Müller family since the 18th century, but were founded during the Middle Ages.

In the first flight we tasted three Rieslings from three different countries: the 2008 standard Riesling from Scharzof, the 2009 Kanta made in Adelaide Hills inBela Australia, and the Chateau Bela 2008 from Slovakia. The Bela had a steely start with a hint of lime that gave way to an almost creamy texture. After a while in the glass a honey-comb aspect started to emerge.

Not having tasted other Australian Rieslings I cannot say how different The Kanta 2009 is to the norm, but apparently it is. Müller said that he wanted to see whether a European approach could work in an Australian environment. The wine has a limey weight on the nose that extends to flinty gun smoke. It is fresh and precise on the palate with a hint of litchi and lime that ride over the stony undertones.

SDC10230My favourite of the flight was the German version; bright and flinty it had a slightly sweeter entry that marched sternly through my palate with a smile on its face. It was taut and minerally with a delicious, if fleeting, touch of wheat as it disappeared. The wine had superb balance; the image in my mind was of a slender wheat stalk balancing on the edge of a knife.

My notes are full of these descriptions as I found many of the wines easier to picture than taste. I guess it is because in South Africa we have far more fruit forward wines; the flavours are more obvious and therefore easier to pinpoint and declare. As the day progressed I found myself thinking of the wines as poised, subtle, controlled, lurking, pacing, rather than the simple listing of various fruits and flavours. I think Dirk Niepoort summed it up perfectly for me later when he said that he “prefer[s] wines that you have to jump into the glass to find rather than the other way round.” And goodness, did I have to do some jumping.

The next flight was more serious as we moved to vineyard specific Rieslings and some aged examples. These wines came from older vineyards, some of which are ungrafted and date back to the 19th century. Müller said that when he presents tastings he always likes to bring an aged example so that people can experience the joys of older Rieslings. I’m not sure if he used the word joy, but he should have; by the end of the flight I was damn near dancing for it.

The wines we tasted fell into the Prädikatswein category in the German wine  classification system. This is the category that holds the highest quality German wines, where chapatilization (the adding of sugar to unfermented grape must to increase alcohol) is not allowed and other prerequisites need to be met. Find more at Wikipedia or here. Within the Prädikatswein the wines are divided into levels of ripeness. We tasted four, each having a different level of ripeness. .

German wine pic

Pay attention you’re being schooled.

The Kabinett, a wine whose grapes have been harvested fully ripe during the main harvest, around September, and is generally semi-sweet, was the 2007 Scharzhofberger. It had that typical turpene Riesling nose and a little ripe Jack-fruit – which was the first time in my life that that smell has ever been a positive one. A little like a garbage bag that has been in the sun. Only a whiff mind you; it was in the company of wet stones and a touch of lime. The palate was creamy and rich with the acidity cleaning the palate like a receding wave on a sandy beach.

The Spatlese – where grapes are harvested later and are therefore over ripe – was a 1995 Wiltinger Braune Kupp Spätlese. (Fuck, I feel fancy just typing that out – say it with an accent and you will too) It was rich and soft with a slight turpene edge underneath a honeyed nose, with hints of dried fruits. It started broad in the palate and then was reigned in. Gentle and balanced. I love Rieslings for their cleanness, and despite their sweetness – this one was around 35 grams of residual sugar per litre – they are wonderfully refreshing.

Moving up in the ripeness scale we had the 1999 Scharzhofberger Auslese – picked very late the ripeness is concentrated by botrytis. A deep nose of turpene and flint, with whiffs of apricot and dried fruits. The palate was dense and concentrated but that the same time dainty and light. Again the lightness and refreshing nature of these wines that have such concentration and sweetness flabbergasts me. It was pretty easy to see why Egon Muller is famous for these types of Rieslings.

But none so far were as expensive as the last. It was the 1983 Scharzhofberger Beerenauslese – a Beerenauslese has been made from individually selected grapes infected by botrytis. According to Jorg this wine, from an outstanding vintage, can fetch up to R20 000. Would I drop twenty grand on a bottle of Riesling? I’m not sure. My two sips or so cost around R600. What struck me first was the weight on the nose; there was a density to it; complex with some waxy almond aromas among honeyed notes, as well has very faint dried mango and apricot. The palate was taught and nutty with the fruit following through. I also picked up a hardness underneath it all, like water running down slate.  It was balanced, complex, rich, yet light. I underlined two words in my notes that sums this wine up well I think: Rich and Pure. Which is a rare combination. Rare enough to justify R20 000. Well, not with my bank account looking the way it is.

Next up are the incredble Grüner Veltliners of Michael Moosbrugger,