Bakery, Cape Town Food

C’est La Vie in Kalk Bay (has since moved)

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Off to C’est La Vie early this morning (after a walk to Kalk Bay harbour where there were three lone fishermen) to get some fresh bread…

And there’s our neighbour Josh, taking orders in his notepad with a red pen. A gentle hug hello and a quick catch up. Zack doesn’t look up as he finishes off the heart and leaf-shape patterns on his cuppachinos.

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Choosing bread and there is Zaida, another neighbour. She’s one of the bakers, and she’s busy listening to the baguette’s ‘sing’ as they come out of the oven. ‘They sing… no, really they do… listen…’ Josh and I put our ears to the hot pile of baguettes and sure enough, there’s the sound of crackling fire inside. ‘Wow, I’ve never heard that before,’ says Josh as he dashes off in slow-motion with a breadboard piled up high.

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‘I didn’t know you worked here,’ I say to Zaida.

‘It’s my passion,’ she says. ‘I hounded the owner for a job here for six months. After seeing their croissants, I knew I had to learn how to do it myself. Eventually the owner got tired of me asking and said, ‘okay, come around tomorrow morning at 5 am.” She checks the oven. ‘I’ve been here at five in the morning ever since. This kitchen is my favourite place… working with dough and bread is my meditation time.’

When she’s finished baking in the early morning, Zaida hangs up her apron and heads off to work at her shoe shop. She suggests I try the ciabatta loaf: ‘it’s made with a poolish ferment’. She wraps it up with paper and string.

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A little later, Candice explains why she loves baking. ‘There’s something about waking up in the early morning when the world is so quiet. I love it. Baking is such a gift.’ Then she reads Markus Farbinger’s poem:

Bread Monk

In the first hour of this morning

I ‘saw’ myself work for the first time.

I understood that this has become

my study, my meditation,

my religion, my life,

my connection to the universe.

The notion of work,

commercial benefit,

a safe occupation

to relieve my fear –

has turned

into an act of love

towards myself..

the person next to me..

humanity…

the entire universe.

Her sister, Rachel buzzes by to pick up some coffees.

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Why do people adore this place? ‘The coffee is good. The prices are good and it’s chilled,’ says Josh.

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I hand him twenty bucks for the ciabatta and he mentions that he’s hitchhiking up the East coast next week. I suddenly feel the need to put a GPS tracking device on him. But he adds that he’s (definitely) coming back coz he’s studying philosophy, politics and economics at university next year.

Au revoir, for now…

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And a quick trip down to the market where the traders are still unpacking. Crossing the road, I bump into an ex-Kalk Bay local. He’s putting on his helmet. I tell him we’re staying here until the end of January to check it out. ‘You know who’s buying up Kalk Bay these days?’ he asks. ‘The whole of bloody Rondebosch! What for? To come here to their hippy weekend homes and drive around in their monster four by fours. It makes me sick.’ And off he goes on his black Japanese soul-machine.

Home with Zaida’s bread still warm under my arm, a takeaway cuppachino in hand, waving to le neighbours as I open the door. That’s the thing about living in Kalk Bay: everybody gets to be your neighbour.

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Bakery, Cape Town Food

A happy discovery in Muizenberg: The Good Bakery

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An inconspicuous garage door opens out of a big, bare looking building across the way from the railway line. A grim place, you’d think, but then — what is it that smells so good?

There are two odd chairs just outside the garage door. What is this strange set-up? Some kind of post-apocalyptic restaurant? The answer is somewhat revealed: there lies, just inside the unexpected hole in the wall, a table which is spread across the width of the door area. It is laden with breads, muffins, scones and rustic fruit tarts.

Behind the table is an open plan kitchen. And in the kitchen are two men dressed in blue-black aprons. But then, if this was a restaurant, surely there would be a sign? Not necessarily a shop sign but at least a menu of some kind? Surely there’d be some pedestrians, passers by? Some foot traffic?

Yet here these guys are, in the middle of nowhere with splatterings of flour on their aprons, a telltale sign that they have just finished an early morning shift. I sit down on one of the chairs but there’s not even a breezy blackboard marking out the day’s offerings. ‘So, what do you make, I mean, what can I order?’ I ask.

‘Well, there’s this health bread and this rye bread and these berry tarts I made…’

‘Okay, do you have tea?’

‘Yes.’ Pause. ‘What tea would you like?’

‘What tea do you have?’

I follow his eyes to find three boxes perched neatly in a row on top of what looks like an electricity box. The box is high up on a blank canvas of a wall. And as he tries to read the labels from afar, I’m losing all perspective and rising into a bit of a cloudy state of mind. I’m baffled by this sense of timeless unhurriedness. This sense of ease, of no-marketing-required.

The mysterious place is a bakery, it turns out. It’s existed for some time now. Orders have been delivered by bicycle to date. Now the owners have decided to open up the wall and invite the early morning sun in. And whoever purchances to find themselves in the backstreets of this neighbourhood.

‘What is this place called?’ I ask the chef in the peak cap.

‘It’s called the Good Bakery,’ he replies, rolling pin in hand. ‘Sometimes a fantastic bakery, always a good bakery.’

I’m forgetting about the tea and so is the man in the cap. He’s answering more questions and saying ‘ohhhh, how I love making puff pastry’ as he finishes off a butternut pie. We are both in agreement that pastry is all wrong when butter, flour and eggs are taken out of the equation.

Next thing I’m inside the kitchen checking out the starter dough. The baker is stretching it out into a thin sheet. He’s showing me the ‘skin’ and the action of the gluten and explaining the texture. That characteristic sour yeasty smell is drifting out of the sweet, snug warmth of the dough. These chefs well know the joys that come from baking.

Suddenly I am handed a large chunk of freshly baked bread. It’s topped with a pile of pale yellow butter. What a gift.  But then, I thought it was only my father who put this much butter on his bread!

‘You think this is too much butter?’ asks the proprietor. ‘It is nothing but cream with a little salt! You must eat it.’

I bite into the crispy stuff with its ladles of soft yellow. ‘Homemade, fresh from the farmer as it came from the cow.’ The lightest butter I’ve ever tasted. It really is like cream. Nothing like the heavy butter from a supermarket.

I look around: coffee mugs snuggle up to measuring scales. Baking tins are stacked on shelves. The pies are just out of the oven. This is a place where things are ready when they’re ready. Where you’ll see not a clock on the wall.

Several people have popped by in the meantime including Shaun, an artist and Directed Pressure Point Technique practitioner who works above the bakery. And Nic, the carpenter from next door who still seems bowled over by his next door neighbours’ bread.

I pick up a farm loaf and wave goodbye to one of the proprietors who is getting his hands dirty again. He is merrily picking up litter off the railway line.

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The ‘sometimes fantastic, always good’ bakers Mitchell Penning and Martin Mossmer are pictured above. You’ll find The Good Food Bakery at 12 Milner Road just across the road from the railway line crossing to the right. You can contact them on 074 174 5554 or email them at thegoodbakery@webmail.co.za.  They’re open from 6.30 until 3.30 pm.

PS. The plaasbrood was fabulous with cheese, tomato and salad leaves. But it was even better toasted with butter and Verlaque’s Burnt Orange Seville preserve for breakfast. Martin has since advised that yes, The Good Bakery does sell their homemade butter (!)

Cape Town Food, Restaurants

What not to miss in Knysna: the forests & ‘ile de pain’

Knysna is a beautiful place, from the surrounding lonesome beaches to the secret mossy forests with their age-old trees (how does one explain the feeling of being close to an 800 year old tree?).  But what would the town itself be without ‘ile de pain’, that bakery come cafe that had me hooked before we even got there…

We stayed on Thesen Island so the hot-spot was just a few hundred metres walk away – and I took that walk just about every day of our week-long stay. If it wasn’t for breakfast then it was for a tea-time pastry treat or for bread to take away with us on some fishing trip. 

If you fall in love with the bread and decide that you want to do an apprenticeship there, the good news is that this is possible. But then you could take the easier route and buy master pastry chef and co-owner Markus Farbinger’s ‘bread’ dvd. The film shares several of his artisan bread recipes. Be warned though, these breads are folded three times and can take up to 5 1/2 hours to produce – including mixing, folding, shaping, resting and baking time.

Many people have described what makes  ‘ile de pain’ such a popular place so I won’t go into the details of the decor and the food – pop across to Jamie Who and read his restaurant review (and yes, the Como breakfast is fantastic, especially for vegetarians). I just want to say that if you are going to Knysna, don’t miss it!

Cape Town Food, Interviews, Journal

Behind the scenes at Cassis Paris in Cape Town

I don’t think you’ll find a patisserie store in Cape Town that’s more authentically French than Cassis.  It is owned by Patrick Moreau, a Frenchman, who was taught in the French tradition in France.  If you ask a French local where to go for the best pastries in Cape Town, you’re sure to hear the following: ‘ahhhhhhhhhh, Cassis of course!’

Chef Patrick Moreau worked as Executive Pastry Chef for the Winter Olympics in France and made the wedding cake for King Mohamed VI.  I interviewed him awhile back which is when I got to view his highly impressive portfolio.  He spoke about his time with Lenotre while I looked through page after edible page of his creations.

I asked him how he ended up opening Cassis in South Africa.

Aahhhhhhhh, my wife is South African!  When we came out on holiday a few years ago, I saw a big gap in the market and decided to invest here.’

As a result, he set up The French Oven bakery which supplies Cassis.  I was invited to spend a day there to get a taste of life behind the scenes.  This meant setting my alarm for 3 am and heading out to an industrial area to meet Patrick and the team at 4am.  This meant saying good morning to everybody under neon light.

I was given a tour of the factory to begin with: the storeroom, the scaling room, the prep room, the finishing room, the ovens (picture sweet pastry baskets with baking beans inside), the machines (picture an awesome stone grinder, the secret to Cassis’ macaroons), the fridges (picture puff pastry at rest and tubs of buttercup pastry cream), the cutting room etc.

 

Then I was assigned as assistant to one of the pastry chefs.  We made pastry cream, packed boxes of beautiful petit fours and did various other tasks at break-neck speed.  I helped her with her tasks in the cold-room (ohhhhhhhhh, was it cold)!

I then spent some time with a stocky French baker who kept his eye on the clock, pacing himself as he shaped hundreds of loaves.

I was thinking about how people might be a little afraid of Chef Moreau, who checked everything at regular intervals, when I realized that everybody had suddenly stopped working.  It was lunch time.  The baker and I stepped outside to get some sun before we joined the team who were passing baguettes around while cheese was retrieved from lunch tins.  No red wine I’m afraid.  But then, it was only 8.30 in the morning!

A few hours later, while the rest of the world was ordering lunch, my shift was packing up to go home.  I thanked Patrick and everybody for their generosity and time.  I noticed how pale their skins were.  ‘What’s it like to work such unusual hours?’ I asked one of the girls as we left.

‘You get used to it,’ she said.

A reminder of Dumas’ words on Cassis’ website:

“In Paris today millions of pounds of bread are sold daily, made during the previous night by those strange, half-naked beings one glimpses through cellar windows, whose wild-seeming cries floating out of those depths always makes a painful impression. In the morning, one sees these pale men, still white with flour, carrying a loaf under one arm, going off to rest and gather new strength to renew their hard and useful labor when night comes again. I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread.” -Alexandre Dumas, French writer (1802-1870)

I later organised a field trip for the pastry students at Zevenwacht Chef School.  The class was unusually quiet.

Cape Town Food, Journal

Casis’ Almond Rainbowland

‘Is your macaroon special still on?’ I asked.

‘Only on Mondays…’ replied the tall friendly chap behind the counter.

Oh…’ (pause).

‘But we have another special on today: any of these patisseries with a coffee on the house…’

Hmmmmmmmm‘ (ponder Opera ponder Tiramisu ponder Vanilla Tart with Strawberries) (pause).

‘Actually, I’ll have four vanilla macaroons please…’ (pause).

‘Since you always have vanilla, why don’t you try the chocolate or the pistachio, they’re our best-selling macaroons!’… (ponder ponder).

‘Ohhhhh, OKAY, let me TRY the chocolate AND the pistachio AND…’

‘And two vanillas?’

I took a bite of the chocolate macaroon just as soon as I’d paid.

‘But I can see it on your face, you prefer vanilla?!’

I tried the pistachio.  Then I savoured the vanilla macaroon.  And I savoured the other vanilla macaroon.

And then I realized that… one is surely enough.

That’s all I have to report today (except that my sister is off to Italy just as Starwalker arrives back from his adventures in Thailand where he apparently drank whiskey out of paint tins with local fisherman and got tattooed by an ancient monk in an ancient forest).

Ohhh, one more thing… here are Casis’ weekly specials:

For wanna-be-macaroon-makers, check out my friend Brownie Girl’s post on how to make chocolate macaroons at http://browniegirlblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/you-say-macaroon-i-say-macaron/ 😉 . 

Post-script. I admitted my Macaroon-Making- Fears to Brownie Girl and she has encouraged me to give it a bash, saying she’ll share her recent learnings and inspirations.  Thank you Colleen, I think I’m going to give it a bash quite soon (!)

Cape Town Food, Journal, Photo Series

A peek into The Biscuit Mill market with my best bud

‘Happiness is the biscuit mill market,’ said Starwalker.  ‘How about oysters and champagne for breakfast?’ 

Those were the last words I heard from SW.  I was taken up and away by the crowds and by the time we found each other again (about an hour later), le champagne had gotten warm and had been dutifully drunk by SW.

If you live in Cape Town (or are visiting) and you haven’t been to The Biscuit Mill market yet, here’s a peek (although there aren’t any pics of the top hot food section as it was way too busy to get any pics worth posting). 

 

 

 Best you get there soon!  It’s open every Saturday between 9am and 2pm.   The address is Old Biscuit Mill Complex, 373 – 375 Albert Rd Woodstock (directions).

Cape Town Food, Journal

Trip to Riebeek Valley’s Festival

 

The people of Riebeek Kasteel gave us a warm and colourful welcome at the Olive Festival yesterday.  We started off by sampling traditional pancakes in an old shed (that was manned by twenty people), followed by all kinds of treats like coffee infused olive oil (above), Ten Buck Bites (below)…

Homemade bread ( ‘which is kneaded until your hands are no longer sticky,’ said the bread-lady, who had started her baking at 3.30am)…

Darling slow brewed beer (my favourite find of the day)…

Endless stalls that lined the roads of the town (selling everything from cacti to cupcakes to cheese)…

Offering more tastings of things like vetkoek filled with mince (‘and peas!’ said Dion)…

Potato kebabs…

And more pancakes (‘they should have called it The Pancake Festival!’ said my friend)…

There was live music…

And there were tractor rides for the olive and wine tasters (lunch for us consisted of olives in every form and variety: plain olives, smoked olives, olives in lemon, olives in Malay curry, olives in garlic, olives in etc etc etc…)

There were the hot, long roads for those who preferred to travel on foot (why on earth did I wear suede shoes?!) …

And then another hot trip to find the car before our final journey home through the countryside…

Cape Town Food

Riebeek Valley’s Olive Festival is coming up… next week!

 

Don't miss out!

 

A little bird (or was it a little black sheep?)  reminded me that Riebeek Valley’s Olive Festival is next week.  Thanks Derick, I wouldn’t want to miss out again after hearing people rave about it for years (my sister nearly bought a property there on a whim due to the said festival!).  

This egte South African event is happening from 30th April until 2nd May in and around Riebeek Kasteel.  The area is a food & wine hotspot so it’s not only about olives.  It just means that you’ll be in your element if you’re mad about olives.  In which case you’ll have to get hold of the festival route map – apparently it lists 23 different stops where you can taste and learn about olives and various olive products.     

Local wines and traditional South African food will be available at the Food Village.  That’s where I’m planning to spend Sunday.  And while I’m there I’m totally going to check out Bar Bar Black Sheep again.  They’ve lined up a special olive festival menu which you can read about on their website http://www.bbbs.co.za.  

Looking at BBBS’s scrumptious offering, I’m thinking Grilled and Marinated Artichoke Salad (‘artichoke hearts grilled and marinated in olive oil, garlic, coarse salt and rosemary served on top of greens with black and green olives with a chopped parsley and lemon rind dressing’), Viskoekies (‘very traditional and made with snoek, pan fried and baked in the oven – served with ginger and cinnamon sweet potato and a pineapple and coriander sambal’) .  But then there’s the Roasted Tomato and Olive Risotto (‘creamy Risotto warmed with roasted tomato and olive sauce – served with whole roasted tomato, basil pesto and parmesan’) too and and and….  

The question is HOW does one fit it all in?   

Perhaps the answer is to go up on Saturday and spend the night.  Will have to check out the accommodation situation at http://www.riebeekvalley.info.  

Should you have any questions about the festival, you can contact the festival organiser, Nichola Hodgson on 082 896 5022 or via email nichola@phatcatz.co.zavvv (she can fill you in on tastings, art, music,the kids play area et al).  

If you want to know more about what’s happening at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant during the festival, call 022 488 1031 or email bbbs@telkomsa.net .  Alternatively, check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Riebeek-Kasteel-Western-Cape-South-Africa/Bar-Bar-Black-Sheep-Restaurant/99492701620?ref=ts  




Journal, Restaurants

Sipping on Sunday outside Knead (Muizenberg, Cape Town)

Firstly, there was no parking outside Knead on Sunday morning so I parked a block away and walked back, barefoot under the clear, blue sky. 

It was a typical day at Surfer’s Corner: surfers, surfers & well, those who were watching the surfers.  But when it came to Knead, everybody was there to eat and oh, my word, was it COOKING! 

I found an open seat outside and ordered coffees while I waited for Ricky.  It was a short-lived experience because next thing I had a couple coming up to me looking rather perplexed.  ‘Um, we’ve been waiting in the queue…’ they said. 

When I saw the queue, I was reminded of the Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay on a weekend…

Too noisy for me!  I’m into slow and quiet on Sundays.  So I revised my order: two take-away coffees please…

Which we sipped on near the Shark Hut…

Before taking a long, leisurely walk along Muizenberg beach…

Beautiful!