It’s been a week of endless eating and drinking. Things I love, but which are somewhat at odds with my decision to start with a new personal trainer. In winter. When other people are taking things slow. I sometimes like to do things the other way round. On Monday evening – on the eve of my ambitious fitness programme – I drove through torrential rain, not home to comfort food and a sensible early night, but to the intimate, chandelier-lit Sidedish Theatre Bistro at Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay, where the Cape Town chapter of the International Wine and Food Society was holding fort. I have to admit, a tad shamefully, that I had no idea there was such a movement based in Cape Town, but discovered that the IWFS is ‘the world’s oldest and most renowned gastronomic society’ (its members are, ahem, mostly of the mature and distinguished variety). Part of the society’s mission, says local member Oscar Foulkes, is to enjoy ‘food and wine experiences you wouldn’t normally have.’ (Check out Oscar’s cool blog.)
I liked the progressive dining theme of the evening – a variety of home-cured fish, paired with a good selection of white wines from Cape Legends – which was not quite typical fare for a cold blustery night (but as a red-blooded, er, pescatarian, the novelty factor hit the spot!). Sidedish chef Arno had a field day playing around with different flavours for his delicious ceviche offerings, using melt-in-the-mouth fresh Yellowtail and Red Roman (a curious choice, as it’s on SASSI’s Orange List * cough cough *) and Norwegian Salmon – grapefruit and wild pepper; pink peppercorn and fennel; ginger and smoked salt; lemongrass and garlic; and ponzu and mint. The flavours were subtle and mysterious, and best paired with some of the more subtle wines on offer.
We sipped between glasses of Neethlingshof Gewurtraminer 2010 (a lovely example of the varietal, but better served with something spicy like, say, a curry); Tukulu Chenin Blanc 2010 (which I found a bit overpowering with the fish); Uitkyk Chardonnay 2009 (a fantastic Chardonnay, but quite a big wine – overshadowing the fish flavours once again); Lomond Snowbush 2008; and Stellenzicht Semillon Reserve 2008. The latter two were definitely the favourites for the pairing for both HL’s food editor Raphaella Frame and me; we made sure to stake out the bottles on the table for regular refills. (Incidentally, Lomond is a special winery, located close to the coast at Gansbaai – its Sauvignons are pretty superb and are named after the proteas endemic to the area.)
Happily it wasn’t just little heaps of semi-raw fish we got to eat (considering the amount of wine going down); next up were steaming bowls of mussel-and corn chowder, which was served with Monis’s excellent Fino sherry.
By Wednesday the rain had cleared and the weather had pulled itself together accordingly for the boat trip I was ever so slightly dreading (stormy swells and PR soirees surely aren’t good company?). I was also feeling sharp, tetchy alerts from core muscle groups long forgotten, and could barely walk down stairs without wincing, but in the name of duty (and any excuse to wear my brand-new Hunter wellies!) boarded luxury yacht Tigger 2, berthed at the V&A Waterfront, for the launch of Pongrácz’s dinky new 375ml bottles – perfect for picnics and of course boat cruises. Called Pongrácz petites (R58 for the ‘regular’ Pongrácz, and R68 for the rosé), they’re not quite the little bottles you sometimes get at parties along with a straw; I don’t think it would go down at all well if you tried it. This is the size more likely to be found in hotel mini bars (love mini bars!), but the contents are the same as the big bottles of this ever-popular bubbly.
Needless to say the chilled fizz perfectly suited the yachty vibe, gorgeous sunset views of Table Mountain, and – importantly – the heaps and heaps of firm, fresh, delicious oysters that came our way in, um, tidal waves. One things for sure, these guys know how to do a good launch!