The joy of sparkling wines

Sparkling wine is called sparkling because of those sweet, delightful little effervescence bubbles which are created by trapping carbon dioxide. Sparkling wine is usually the preferred one for special occasions and celebrations. This is probably attributed to the fact that those tiny little bubbles appear to be having their own fun dancing merrily around in […]

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Gordon Ramsay’s Maze at the One&Only has closed

A cross looking Gordon prowls through Maze Prague, also closed under Phil Carmichael’s direction.
It has been rumoured for months, speculated about, whispered between foodies, journalists, bloggers, gossipers and last but not least, staff.
Finally the inevitable has happened. The old horse has finally been taken out and shot. The knackers in this case were not the owners or management, but Cape Town customers who have given this restaurant a resounding thumbs down for a variety of reasons.
The main one was poor value for money. Or at least that was the perception. Secondly, the quality of the food and service was not up to scratch for such a such an exalted international brand.
Thirdly, when you add the raft of international and local poor PR that Maze and Gordon Ramsay has garnered you could be forgiven for thinking that the man has balls of brass, or very deep pockets, for staying open for so long.
Whatever about the balls of brass, the deep pockets are only allowed go as deep as the owners will let them. In this case enough was enough, and they decided to pull the plug on this obviously loss making venture before it ate into any more of the reserves of the International Empire of the Gord.
But let’s look at the facts. The signs that all has not been well have been there for quite a few months.
1. On nights that they should have been busy Maze has been deserted. A bit like an international airport terminal lounge after the last flight has departed. There is no space more lonely and atmosphere sucking. I have counted as little is 15 diners in a space built for 170.
2. Executive Chef, Phil Carmichael, was rumoured to be throwing in the towel after the World Cup. This he has done.
3. The Sous Chef has secured himself a new position.
4. The restaurant General Manager, has also thrown in the towel with Maze, and after her holidays will return to the O&O as the Bar Manager. Hardly a vote of confidence on Maze’s future.
The last rumor set my alarm bells ringing. I heard that a South African chef was to replace Phil Carmichael.

The Gord waves goodbye to his Cape Town fans.
I took the view that they’d have to get a talented person in, and who would do this job as a hind tit to the marketing brand of Maze?
A decent chef would only come to the One and Only if they could have their own identity.
This could only mean one thing; Get rid of Maze.
Now they’ve done it.
So, the next story, who will take over the Maze space?
For now they are calling it the restaurant at the One and Only. Watch this space.
In the meantime have a read of my review of Maze, below, and also the hilarious high jinks surrounding the visit of the Gord to Cape Town recently.
http://www.spill.co.za/south-african-restaurant-reviews/gordon-ramsays-maze-at-the-one-and-only/1509/
http://www.spill.co.za/south-african-restaurant-reviews/gordon-ramsay-apologises-for-cape-town-cock-up/1598/

Graham Beck

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In memoriam Graham Beck

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Chenin Blanc and Summery Dishes!

Posted by Fredric Koeppel
http://biggerthanyourhead.net/

We continue to work our way through one of our favorite cookbooks, Jamie’s Italy (Hyperion, $34.95), by British chef and cooking personality Jamie Oliver. Many of the dishes he presents are eminently suited to the ferociously hot weather we’re enduring, that is, cooking is at a minimum (well, risotto takes some time at the stove) and the effects are light and delicious. We prepared these two meals on consecutive nights this week.

First was the Fennel Risotto with Ricotta and Dried Chili. This is basically a risotto, made the usual way, with minced onion and garlic (or shallot), white wine, a little butter, but halfway through, you add the thinly sliced fennel that you’ve slowly sauteed with pulverized fennel seeds, garlic and olive oil. You add ricotta, Parmesan and lemon zest before the cooking is finished and at the last minute sprinkle on the crushed — or “bashed up,” as Oliver says — dried red chilies, fennel tops and more Parmesan. This was a seriously tasty dish, bursting with sweet, earthy flavor and heat but not heavy or too spicy.

With the risotto, I opened a bottle of the Graham Beck Gamekeeper’s Reserve Chenin Blanc 2008, from the Coastal Region of South Africa. Traditionally, the Chenin Blanc grape is called steen on labels, but that usage is becoming rare as the country’s wines are imported more widely into the United States. What a beauty this is! Scents of quince, yellow plum and pear are wreathed with crystallized ginger and cloves and a touch of honey. There’s more of a citrus tang on the tongue, like lime peel and grapefruit, with a hint of mango. The wine is notably crisp and lively, yet the lovely texture is neatly balanced between spareness and almost luxurious lushness. This aspect is tempered, as the minutes pass, by a tide of piercing minerality in the form of limestone and damp shale. At a bit more than two years old, the Gamekeeper’s Reserve Chenin Blanc 2008 offers an alluringly mature example of the grape. The winemaker was Erika Obermeyer. Alcohol is 13.5 percent. Drink through 2012 or ‘13. Excellent. About $16, representing Great Value.

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Les Echansons 1999

Posted by Christian Eedes
http://www.whatidranklastnight.co.za/

The MCC Technical Seminar was held yesterday at the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Centre, the culmination of the day being a tutored tasting of Champagne Mailly Grand Cru by chef de cave Hervé Dantan.

The Mailly vineyards are situated around the village of Mailly Champagne, one of only 17 villages to hold the highest classification Grand Cru out of 318. Total area under vineyard amounts to 70ha tended by 81 different growers, and annual production is approximately 500 000 bottles. To put this into perspective, there are 32 000ha of vineyard in Champagne altogether and the region sold 293 million bottles in 2009, 61% in France and 39% in the rest of the world.

Mailly Champagne is located between Epernay and Reims in the area of Montagne de Reims, an area renowned for the quality of its Pinot Noir and the vineyards of Mailly are accordingly planted 75% to that variety and 25% to Chardonnay.

Yesterday Dantan showed the following wines (prices of local importer Colmant Cap Classique & Champagne in brackets): Brut Réserve (R320 a bottle); Extra Brut (R350); L’Intemporelle Brut 2005 (R560); Blanc de Noir (not available); Les Échansons 1999 (R740); L’Intemporelle Rosé Brut 2006 (not available) and Brut Rpsé (not available).

The wines were all Pinot Noir dominated but intriguingly did not display as much red fruit as might have been expected. Rather they tended to show flavours of peach, pear and apricot. Why would the wines of fellow Grand Cru village Bouzy not far away to the south be so much more red fruit character than Mailly? “Our ripening process is more gradual but ultimately it’s impossible to explain,” says Dantan.

Another curious thing about Mailly according to Dantan is that the Pinot Noir typically possesses a Chardonnay elegance and freshness while the Chardonnay has a Pint Noir roundness, making them very compatible blending partners.

“Better than Dom P and half the price,” reckons JP Colmant of Colmant Cap Classique and Champagne.
The two stand-out wines were L’Intemporelle Brut 2005, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and Les Échansons 1999, 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. Ascribing gender designations to wine is often contrived, but here it really did make sense to think of the former as “feminine” and the latter “masculine”. The L’Intemporelle showed great finesse with a very fine, soft mousse and again an acidity that appeared very gentle while Les Échansons was much more rich and powerful.

What sets Cap Classique apart from Champagne generally is that the wines have less residual sugar but also less total acidity, the result of the fundamentally different climatic conditions that prevail between here and there. What was striking across just about all the Mailly wines was how despite an awareness that the acidity would be technically high, they presented in a wonderfully unobtrusive, subtle way. In addition, the mousse in each case came across as very fine, soft and creamy.

Earlier in the day, Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira had asked rhetorically what more Cap Classique had to do in order to regularly rate 5 Stars. Champagne can provide only a very distant point of reference given its very particular growing conditions, but tasting the Mailly line-up, I had a sense that local bubbly still has some way to go.

Bastille Festival in Franschhoek 17 & 18 July 2010

Make your way to Franschhoek, South Africa’s Gourmet Capital, over the weekend of the 17th and 18th of July, where locals and visitors will be celebrating the Valley’s centuries-old French Huguenot heritage at its annual Bastille Festival.

The Franschhoek Wine Valley has throughout the years been linked with the pursuit of freedom, as the destination where the French Huguenots sought refuge from persecution. Aside from the European legacy, the connection with freedom is also evident in a local context with the Drakenstein Prison (formerly Victor Verster), the prison from which the iconic Nelson Mandela was released, situated between Franschhoek and Paarl. This year in particular will be more significant as it commemorates the 20th anniversary of Mr Mandela’s release from the exact prison.

And 2010 will without a doubt be a year of celebrations. Taking into account that South Africa will be winding down from the hype and festivities of World Cup 2010, what better way to paint the town red, white and blue and join in ‘A Celebration of Freedom’. Not forgetting, it’s the only time of the year you’ll be forgiven for wearing a beret.

The Food and Wine Marquee open from 12 noon until 5pm, is always the focal point which draws people to the hub of activity, where visitors can sample fine wines from some of Franschhoek’s award-winning wine estates and indulge in mouth-watering dishes created by the Valley’s highly acclaimed chefs. Sample a wide selection of cuisine, ranging from: oysters, sushi, local and French cheeses to charcuterie, hand-made chocolates and salmon trout from the area.

Not to be missed is the festival’s comprehensive sporting element featuring the usual, popular traditions and activities of: boules, Franschhoek minstrel parade, a barrel-rolling contest and a waiters’ race. A farmers’ market, French Corner Market, musicians and children’s activities are also included in the line up of festival celebrations. For those wanting to appreciate French heritage in comfort, the Screening Room at Le Quartier Français will be screening movies throughout the weekend.

Known throughout the world for its fine cuisine, Franschhoek’s award-winning restaurants will also be offering special menus exclusively prepared for this annual Festival.

So, with something for everyone, make a weekend of your visit, taking full advantage of the many Bastille accommodation packages on offer. Come celebrate the universal triumph of freedom. C’est la vie!

A R100.00 per person entrance fee allows you access to the Food and Wine Marquee, which includes a tasting glass and a complimentary booklet containing 5 tasting coupons. Thereafter all tastings will be charged on consumption.

Tickets can be purchased through webtickets (www.webtickets.co.za)