Monday, 29 September 2014

And Friday became Friyay at the Steenberg Farm...

I've just had one of my best weekends away ever. To do the experience justice, I'm going to upload more than one post so as not to bore anyone with a blog that goes on forever....all that amazingness needs the appropriate attention, so I'll launch with Friday, the start of the much anticipated bloggers weekend away.

With bags packed and loaded into my car, I headed for some downtime in vineyard territory, to a place where low lying stoney mountains (first clue right there) give way to acres of vines that taper off into a divine 5 star, 24 room hotel with olde worlde charm oozing class, comfort and simple elegance. You may be thinking that I'd escaped to one of the usual out of town spots like fabulous Franschhoek, Stellenbosch or even Greyton, but you'd be wrong. This glorious time was spent a mere 20 minutes away from the Cape Town CBD in Tokai, where you can find a gem of a destination called the Steenberg Farm that comprises the Steenberg Hotel, two restaurants called Bistro1682 and Catharina's, and a first class winery.

Invited by PR Clare Mack of Spill Communications, I had no idea what I was in for as on my previous visits to the estate I'd only been to the Bistro. My bad clearly, as Steenberg in all it's complete glory blew my hair back. Seriously, it way exceeded my expectations. From the minute I arrived at the hotel, I felt at home, welcomed by an amazing team of people at the reception.  From the attentive and friendly staff to the beautifully appointed suites, the top notch food, the spa, the surroundings and of course the bubbles and wine, the whole experience was outstanding. In one word, Steenberg is gorgeous.

The weather on our first day was a bit bleak so when rain disrupted our wine tasting in the indigenous garden on the hill above Bistro1682, marketing manager Caroline van Schalkwyk and brand communications officer Chanel, swiftly and effortlessly shifted to plan B, hoisting up the table, glasses, ice buckets and bottles, and led the way to the cellar to continue where we'd left off. That move turned out to be a win as I got to see, for the first time, racked sparkling wine in the remuage and degorgement phase..... the ins and outs of what goes down before that bubbly finds its way into your flute glass. Fascinating facts I tell you, and I have Ms. Sam Linsell to thank for shedding light on it all.

Dinner later at Bistro1682, hosted by the fab Nicolene, the sales and marketing manager (hospitality) was beyond. I left all restraint at the resin chandelier in the restaurant foyer and practically had to be rolled out the restaurant after our feasting session, but who could have resisted the beef tataki, those insanely delish truffled grilled taleggio focaccia, the zucchini fritters in smoked tomato butter, Asian sticky pork with salted Thai caramel, plus plus plus?

And then all that sublime bubbly and wine... I've made no secret of the fact that the Steenberg Nebbiolo is one of my fave wines and it flowed freely on Friyay.....yes, I did indulge, but don't judge me, you would have done the same. Needless to say I slept very well that first night.

The Steenberg Hotel as seen from the gardens...
Welcome to me...
My fabulous Pinotage suite...

This to-die-for focaccia...grilled telaggio and hot tomato oil...

Beef tataki with chilli, ginger, coriander soya and lime...
The delectable Nebbiolo wine...

The small plates menu at Bistro 1682 is available daily by the way, but only between 16:30 and 20:30 so don't go cruising in after 20:15 and expect a meal- you'll be too late to order and have to leave crying. Unlike me (@AllisonFoat_capetowndiva) and my fellow bloggers, Fiona Rossiter (@InspiredLivingSA) Natalie Roos (@NatalieRoos), Sam Linsell (@drizzleanddip) and Claire Gunn (@clairegunnphoto) ...

Bistro bookings: 0217132211/reservations@bistro1682.co.za
All pics taken on a Canon 600D by Allison Foat, copyright DIVA PR

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Dining on the rocks, with killer views...

For the past 8 days we've been hosting a young man called Matteo from Venice who's been staying with us as part of a scholar exchange between my younger son Oscar's school, Camps Bay High, & 2 schools over in that stunning Italian city, the names of which I totally can't remember or spell.

Cape Town is a show-off kinda city so you'll believe me when I say there's been no shortage of where to take Matteo to see the most stunning beaches, mountains, wine farms, forests, hiking and walking trails, and way more. Cape Town literally has it all.

And when it comes to food the city has every type of cuisine available but as with everything, we tend to seek out the best so it made sense to take our guest somewhere superb to savour the finest of seafood, and where other than at Harbour House, one of the most outstanding restaurants situated right on the small fishing harbour in Kalk Bay, a quaint village along the False Bay coast. Matteo experienced excellent fresh fish, langoustines, the famous tian of prawns, and way more. It was a fine feast as the pics show....

People From Afar, if you plan on visiting our gorgeous city, be sure to make a turn at Harbour House in Kalk Bay (0217884133), or at the V&A Waterfront (0214184748)

Follow them @HarbourHouseZA @taste_kalkbay and Like their Facebook page.

*Most of the dishes pictured are part of the September winter special menu, only available at the Kalk Bay restaurant ~ such great value for your moolah at R160 for 2 courses & R180 for 3 courses (unavailable for Sunday lunches). Best to book ahead or you'll feel very bleak when you arrive and can't get a table ...

 

Kalk Bay...

 
Inside Harbour House- they've recently renovated & it looks & feels spacious & amazing...
Prime beef carpaccio with tomato concasse, parmesan & parsnip crisps, parsnip purée & micro arugula...
That famous tian of prawns...
Oscar made swift work of those langoustines ...
Baked strawberry cheesecake with mini meringues, earl grey frozen yoghurt & creme anglais...
Creme brûlée, say no more...
 
The beautiful view from our table towards Simonstown...

 

Coffee power in Cape Town

There are only a handful of places in Cape Town selling AMAZING coffee and The Power & the Glory is one of them. They stock Deluxe beans, very popular in this town. FYI other great coffee shops in the Mother City (that's what we fondly call Cape Town) are The House of Machines, Deluxe and Espressolab. Don't even think about getting your caffeine fix at Vida e Caffe, there I said it.
This little post of mine on this slightly grumpy-weather-Wednesday is just to show you, People From Afar, where to be sure to visit when in this hood when seeking out that excellent espresso / latte / whatever. Thando is probably one of the best baristas around so you're sure to get a smooth delivery,  in a stylish Le Creuset cup. For tea lovers- I'm also one of those- they serve Dilmah, such a fine leaf I must say. Oh, and the food is great as well. This is my go-to place for a breakfast of soft boiled eggs, with roasted sweet baby tomatoes and avo to replace the toast (yes, I'm busy Banting). And if you're love a spot to chill after work, P&G is also a bar, the Black Ram, doing the finest gourmet hotdogs, fabulous local and other craft beers, and some great vino...try the organic Waverley Hills cab sauv...it slips down ever so nicely.

13B Kloof Nek Rd, 0214222108, 08h00-23h30










Friday, 5 September 2014

Bagged in Bangkok...

You've gotta love the quirky accessories you spy on the BTS Skytrain, in cafés and on the sidewalks of Bangkok. This trip I kept an eye out for handbags...anything that stood out from the usual bag brigade. I've always found the women of BKK to be so girly - toddlers, teens, twenty, thirty and even seventy somethings just know how to do bags. Away with Louis, Giorgio and Miuccia and in with no name brands in plastic and canvas, fun and statement purses slung over a shoulder, swung from the hand, packed on the back or clutched under the arm. And with all the voiles, chiffons and lace going on it all combines to make for an adorable display of femininity and individuality, something the uber brands just can't offer. BKK bag ladies, please ladies take a bow...

 

 

 

 

 

Okay so this Issey Miyake bag had to be included because it's just so darn cool in all it's plastic glory ...

And this hat had to be included too, for obvious reasons...

Me, celebrating my backpack, made in Cape Town by Chapel...

 

 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Meet the Mangosteen....

Breakfast today? Mangosteens. What, might you ask, are those? Well it's another exotic, completely more-ish fruit that I've just discovered here in Koh Phangan, Thailand. I went to market yesterday with my friend Kem and was introduced to many weird looking edibles, one of them being a most gorgeous tasting fruit, the purple Mang-Kut or mangosteen, only available between July and October so best book your Thai trip around that *wink*. 
Not as spectacular looking as the dragonfruit, the mangosteen nevertheless way upstages the latter...the taste and texture (for me anyway) is a combination of a loquat and a litchi. It opens simply - no knives please, in case you cut through and destroy the perfectly placed segments inside...all you need do is gently press on the sides and the fruit sort of pops open revealing the soft white flesh - see pic. Of course, like with most Thai food, mangosteens cost pretty much nothing, unless of course you're buying them at Fauchon in Paris! 

And check out the nutritional value of the mangosteen:
  • Delicious and juicy, mangosteen is one of the popular tropical fruits. It comprises an impressive list of essential nutrients, which are required for normal growth and development and overall nutritional well-being.
  • This fruit is very low in calories (63 calories per 100 g) and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Nonetheless, it is rich in dietary fiber (100 g provides about 13% of RDA), which can be very important for individuals who are concerned about putting on excess body weight.
  • Mangosteen is good in vitamin C and provides about 12% of RDA per 100 g. Vitamin-C is a powerful water soluble anti-oxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against flu-like infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
  • Fresh fruit is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and folates. These vitamins are acting as cofactors the help body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Pretty impressive! The mangosteen also holds the title as Queen of the Fruits and having devoured about 20 today so far, trust me, it's a well deserved accolade. So I bow before you, majestic little fruit, and back to market I go, for more.



Pic by Allison Foat, copyright DIVA PR

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Enthralled by a Mall...

Until today, I'd  never really given a mall much thought, the way it looks and feels. I mean why would I?  if you've seen one mall, you've seen them all right? Wrong. Yesterday I visited the very new Central Embassy in Bangkok and was totally mesmerized by what I reckon is architectural design beyond anything I've experienced. If you think I was stunned, Lateral Paul was almost hyperventilating. Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) London have created a masterpiece with this airy retail and hotel space (the latter is still being completed), situated in the former gardens of the British Embassy on Ploen Chit Road in Bangkok. Admittedly I know very little about architecture but my heart races when I see this type of creativity, design and innovation (I had the same reaction  to Tadao Ando's mall in Omotesando in Tokyo by the way). 

We've all been impressed by malls and glitzy plazas like Galleries Lafayette (Paris), the Bullring (Birmingham), Siam Paragon and CentralWorld (Bangkok), Omotesando Hills (Tokyo) and even Cape Town's V&A Waterfront on the Harbour's edge,  all amazing buildings in their own right and with their own signatures but truly, Central Embassy takes first place for me. Of course it's the newest on the global mall block and thus draws on the very latest in digital design and all that jazz and architectural blah blah. We hung around for hours, walking around slowly, level by level, admiring everything from the considered alive open spaces, light wells and skylights, to the sculptures, curves and lines of the escalators and banisters. Just gorgeous.

So whilst malls are neither here nor there in my universe I'll definitely return to this one, to absorb the beauty of the space if nothing else. My quest to perpetually acquire stuff is long since a thing of the past - at 50 I've come to embrace the Less-Is-More philosophy and I'd trade vintage shirt hunting at a street market in BK or a second hand store back home any day. I have enough Massimo Dutti and Paul Smith threads to last a lifetime and edging past a doorman with a superior attitude and a look of disdain on his face at Hermes, Vuitton or Prada is just a drag.

So then what's in a mall trawl for me? I want to be in a beautiful space and go where I can browse at stores with incredibly designed product (like the retro industrial and bluecollar work wear at Levi's or a concept store at Central) and then sit myself down and have a superb coffee in chic, cool surroundings like the Rocket Cafe in Siwilai at Central Embassy. This look-don't -buy approach is clearly not the objective of those creating these insanely beautiful shopping environments - they're made to attract well heeled feet that are ultimately attached to the black credit cards of the Big Spender and certainly they do achieve that. Good for them. Good for me. I'll mall it my way.













Central Embassy ->  546/4 Phloen Chit, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok, only a 5 minute walk from the BTS Phloen Chit. www.centralembassy.com

All pics copyright Allison Foat, DIVA PR/ Cape Town
#capetowndiva


Saturday, 9 August 2014

A small market in Montagu in the Klein Karoo...

This is a small market that happens in Montagu on Saturdays...I've been a few times & there is always something divine I spy, usually to eat! Today it was these amazing delicate almond biscuits, made by a very nice Belgian gent with an accent. To be honest I've seen way more interesting markets & if I may say so, I think they could perhaps up their offering a tad. My eye did alight upon some of the fabulous items like mohair throws, divine olive oils, homemade breads, interesting craft items & wire works....
Take a turn but don't go thinking you're in for a mini Biscuit Mill. Take it for what it is and seek out the fabulous, as one does.  Montagu is one of my fave destinations...















Friday, 4 July 2014

Cactus farm, a thing of beauty...

In the small town of Robertson, 170km outside Cape Town, there lies a cactus farm called the Sheilam Cactus and Succulent Nursery. For those who love thorny plants, plump leaves and cycads, this place is a little bit of paradise. Actually even if cacti do nada for you, you'll find yourselves being amazed at the vast collection of bizarre looking vegetation. Sheilam has been around for ages- since 1954 - and is owned and operated by the Schwegmann family. You can walk through the nursery rows where about 2000 species are neatly laid out - plants of all heights, widths, shapes and colours, creating a bizarre and beautiful landscape. And they have weird names like the The Old Man of Peru, Mother-in-Law's-Chair, Horses' Teeth, Elephant Feet, Klipplante (stone plants), Bushman's Grape... take a drive into a stunning part of the Cape and have a wander amongst the pricklies....just don't touch...

http://www.sheilamnursery.com

Ps, there are amazing wine farms in and around Robertson so make a day or weekend of it..

 

All pics copyright DIVA PR, taken on a Canon D600