UA-30029399-1

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Restaurant of The Year 2014

I know I said on Monday that I would be taking a break from the blog for a while, but I went out for dinner on Wednesday night and I felt compelled to share my Restaurant of The Year for 2014. Because if there’s one thing I love sharing with you, it’s great food.

I’ve had a phenomenal year of eating and drinking. In April I was part of the Stellenblog campaign, where I got to eat and drink my way through Stellenbosch at some of the country’s best restaurants. In fact, Tokara Restaurant was one of the best places I ate this year. 


Chef Richard Carstens' menu of fresh, light meals cannot be faulted in my opinion and paired with Tokara wines and the restaurant’s exquisite view, it’s easy to see why this takes second place on my 2014 favourites list.

Now, there are many places to eat sushi in Cape Town. You can find it on practically any menu - at a pizza restaurant, at a Chinese restaurant and even in the fridges of the nearest grocery store. 


This year, I ate one of the best meals of my life at Kyoto Garden Sushi, a small and unassuming little spot in Tamboerskloof. In a city full of deep-fried California rolls and cream cheese fashion sandwiches laced with sweet chilli sauce, Kyoto Garden Sushi is a haven of the freshest fish, cleanest flavours and most authentic Japanese plates. 


On my first visit, I put the fate of our plates in the hands of owner, Scott Wood. Plate after plate of gorgeous, fresh seafood and tempura vegetables was brought to our table. Between mouthfuls of the lightest, crispiest tempura and the richest, most palate-pleasing salmon sashimi, all I could whisper was “Mmm…this is so so good” over and over again. I highly recommend doing the same - you won’t be sorry.

In a way, I feel a sense of pleasure in knowing that this is one of Cape Town’s true hidden gems. Or, that it has been, up until now. In 2014, people sat up and took notice of Chef Kochi Koyama's way of preparing, plating and serving the fresh and simple flavours with a distinct flair that takes a salmon California roll from average to sublime.

In 2014, Kyoto Garden Sushi received the coveted five stars in the Rossouws Restaurant Guide and Eat Out's Best Asian Restaurant in South Africa. 


Homemade wasabi and pickled ginger add so much flavour to a piece of perfectly sliced tuna that even the most fervent fan of the creamy Japanes mayo you’ll find slathered all over a certain re-loaded roll at one of the city’s most popular sushi joints will forget all about it. 

A dish called Jewels of the Sea (Oyster, Abalone and Scallop) is what I imagine mermaids get served at their mermaid balls. The most delicate, yet full-flavoured mouthfuls of pure ocean.


A small ball of ginger ice cream sits in the centre of a tiny plate, garnished with nothing but a mint leaf. Because that’s all it needs. In true Japanese fashion, every spoonful of creamy, gingery coldness is a whole dessert in itself.

Between 5,30pm and 7pm you can sit down for an early dinner menu of miso soup (the best I’ve ever had), edamame beans, California rolls, vegetable tempura and ginger ice cream, served with a glass of MCC or Sake for just R180. 


If there’s one place I would choose to eat any day of the week, it’s Kyoto Garden Sushi. My  Restaurant of The Year for 2014. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wrapping up 2014

There are just 10 days to go until Christmas and I have to say, I'm only kind of getting into the festive spirit now. Despite spending my entire life except for one white Christmas in Germany celebrating the 25th of December in summer, I somehow can't associate Christmas with warm weather. I'm waiting for the snow, you know?

So last weekend I celebrated an early Christmas with all my best girls at Greenpoint Park and it was a perfect day in the weather department. There was delicious gammon and roast chicken and a few salads and we were all so happy and it felt a bit like Christmas.





This year has been crazy and when I look back I can't believe how much has happened. I quit my job and went freelance. I travelled to Reunion Island (twice), Greece (more here) and Namibia.

I went on a safari and and I went camping at the beach and I stayed in some seriously luxe hotels. I celebrated one year of happiness with my most awesome partner. We took a weekend trip to Nature's Valley.

I ate my way through Stellenbosch, the Knysna Oyster Festival ,Athens and much of Cape Town and I have the extra bits of flesh to show for it. Sometimes I have to scroll through my own Instagram feed just to get a grip on how much has happened this year.

So having said that, I realised last week how tired I actually am. I've worked hard, and a lot, and I've travelled and experienced and now it feels like my brain is exhausted. There's so much to tell you and I've got some Greece and Namibia stories coming up. But for now, I'm too tired to sit down and write them.

I'm squeezing in one last trip for 2014 when I head back to Reunion Island this Thursday for their Creole Festival, which celebrates the Creole culture and food and I cannot wait. I'll be sharing the whole trip on social media along the way, so follow me if you want to see what this festival is all about.

I might share some stuff on the blog now and then over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I'm going to say that I've wrapped up 2014. Thanks for experiencing it with me! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dilmah Tea Tasting Experience

Sometimes I think I'm having a bad day, or I am in a really bad mood, but then I have a cup of coffee and I realise that everything is totally fine. So I have never really been a tea drinker. Mostly because I'd never discovered Dilmah up until now.




I was recently invited to experience a formal tea tasting at the Queen Victoria Hotel. I love learning new things about the food world and experiencing tastings. Going through a tasting, whether its wine or chocolate or tea, with someone who knows what they're doing and what they're talking about is always enriching.

The Dilmah range of teas is unique in the sense that every single tea bag is as fresh as it can be, retaining as many of the anti-oxidants as possible. Tea has many healing and medicinal properties, which are often lost if the tea leaves are not preserved or prepared correctly. These are a few of the tips I picked up for making an amazing cup of tea:

1. Don't pour boiling water over your tea. Allow the water to cool down slightly before brewing.
2. Don't squeeze the tea bag. Give it a gentle stir and allow it to steep for the recommended amount of time (2-5 minutes, depending on the variety).
3. Drink tea that is as fresh as possible. Over time, tea loses much of it's anti-oxidant properties. So check the origin and the sell-by date.
4. Tea can be used in many different ways. We had Laborie MCC and Vanilla & Rose cocktails which were delicious!
5. Good tea doesn't need sugar or milk.
6. Gree tea shouldn't taste as gross as I've always thought it does. A good quality green tea delivers a subtle flavour that isn't overly bitter, with lots of health benefits.




Dilmah tea comes in a huge variety of flavours, but my favourites are the White Tea and the Rose & Vanilla. As always, quality is key to exceptional flavour. So while I'd never really seen the appeal of tea before, now that I've started drinking Dilmah, I am experiencing the depth of flavour that has made tea a popular beverage for thousands of years.


All images by the exceptionally talented Claire Gunn

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Let's Get Real About #Steersgate

Last night something pretty awkward happened on Twitter. If you didn't see it, the fire fighters who were helping to keep Cape Town from burning to the ground as a fire raged on Lion's Head Tweeted the official Steers account asking for a few burgers for the guys fighting the blaze. And Steers said no. Well, the social media manager behind the account said no.



Pretty awkward since almost anyone could agree that those guys deserved some free burgers. And that Steers could have earned some pretty substantial free media from offering them. (And let's be honest, that "best of luck" comment sounds like it's coming straight from the mouth of a sarcastic teenager.)

So who is to blame? Should we all boycott Steers? I don't think that's the answer. Should we all be calling for the social media account manager to be fired and thrown into the embers that remain from the fire that started this social media storm? That seems counterproductive.

What we need, is to seriously re-look the way brands are hiring, working with and empowering the people who manage their social media accounts.

Brands, would you hire a toddler to be the spokesperson for your brand? Ok, nappy brands, sit down. I mean everyone else. No, I don't think you would. So why are you handing over your social media accounts to interns?

If you've got your agency handling your social media, why aren't you equipping them with the tools they need to take your account from spam-bot to engaging, relevant, voice-of-the-brand?

I've seen more and more brands and agencies jump onboard with social media over the past five years, and that is awesome. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that a one-size-fits-all approach is never going to work.

Brands, you need to stop chasing follower growth and meaningless "engagement" and rather look at how you could spend your time and budget engaging with people who are actively promoting your brand online.

I see brands posting FIVE TIMES A DAY on Facebook. (I won't even get started on how much damage you are doing to your algorithms). Grocery stores asking which pair of shoes I would wear on a date. And ads promoting doctors in cities I don't even live in. All these things make me roll my eyes and click unfollow, hide and even report as spam.

As a social media manager I can tell you that your dedicated social media manager/team's efforts would be far better spent searching for relevant keywords and engaging in conversations than creating 200-post content calendars asking fans which flavour of curry they prefer (by the way, chicken and beef are not even flavours).

So, how could #Steersgate have been prevented? Here are the three most important things I hope to see happening in the social media world in 2015.

1. Stop hiring babies to be the voice of your brand


Over the past year people have finally stopped saying "oh so you just sit on Facebook all day?" because people have realised that managing social media accounts is an actual job. So that's a step in the right direction.

However, I still see accounts - accounts that are speaking directly from the brand, in the voice of the brand, to the consumer - being handed over to interns, entry-level account managers and, in the case of my old company, THE DOOR MAN! 

In 2015, I hope to see social media teams being created. Ideally, a big account should have three people working on it at any given time. Especially in an agency environment where people have many other deliverables to take care of.

An account should have a content creator, a client service manager and a quality controller. The content creator is responsible for creating meaningful, informative and engaging content. The client service manager is responsible for replying to requests and questions and the quality controller makes sure that conversations happening outside of the brand are being tapped into.

A burger bar in Cape Town can do so much more than Tweet their daily menu and burger memes they find on Reddit. Do you know how many people in Cape Town Tweet about burgers on a daily basis? TAP INTO THAT!

If one person is responsible for all of this, give them a raise and take 50% of their other responsibilities off their plates.

2. Empower your social media team



You know how #Steersgate could have been prevented? If the Steers social media manager had been empowered to make decisions without having to go through their account manager, creative director and client first.

Give your social media manager the tools and the power to make your brand's online presence and excellent one. If the Steers account manager had the power to make important decisions first and ask for permission later, they could have called up the Strand Street branch, ordered 50 burgers and had them delivered and today, they would be the hero.

Give them a monthly "random acts of kindness budget" that they can spend without anyone's permission. Like when a fan asks for food for a homeless shelter or a bunch of social media-using kids are on a road trip. Introduce them to the client and make sure that they have the authority to call him/her at any time with a time-sensitive question. Make sure that they have the authority to act with immediate effect, because social media does not work on your client/agency protocol.

3. Allow them to leave the office


Social media accounts cannot be run from an office all the time. Your account manager needs to be able to get out there and take pictures, see people engaging with the brand online and tell the stories that are happening offline.

Because that is where the stories are happening too - not everything is happening on the internet. And you - your brand- needs to be the voice sharing them. And also, your social media manager works on the internet.






Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: Wine Edition

Christmas should be a time of celebrating family, love and good will. But somehow it has become a time of financial strain and hellish shopping experiences. This year, give your loved ones the gift of your chilled-out self and something small they really want/could really use by shopping online. 



If you've got friends or family who are into wine, here's my guide of a few great wine gifts. And you can order most of them straight to your door. These are unique wines that offer great value for money (and have pretty labels too)

Moreson


There are so many opportunities to pop a bottle of bubbly over the festive season, that a good bottle of MCC is always a perfect gift. Moreson's bubblies are fantastic and the farm is famous for their Chardonnay, so you know this is right up my alley.

PS. This is the perfect place to visit these holidays. Book a table at my favourite wineland's restaurant, Bread & Wine for a delicious meal paired with the farm's wine.

Môreson Brut Rosé Pink MCC

The strawberries and cream, carried through from the aroma, are well supported by a fresh red berry palate.

Order a case for R882,00 on orderwine.co.za

Môreson Solitaire Blanc de Blancs NV

It tastes like biscuits and smells like tropical fruit salad. So, so good. Crisp and clean and fizzy.

Order a case for R654,00 on orderwine.co.za

Genevieve MCC


I ordered a case of their new vintage at the Franschhoek bubbly festival so I think you can assume that I really like it.
Genevieve MCC 2009

Light straw colour with a bright mousse. Delicately elegant, with fresh and subtle aromas of white fruits. This 100% Chardonnay has had extensive time on lees to bring depth and flavour to the wine. A lingering follow through.

Order a case on wineofthemonth.co.za

Black Elephant Vintners


Probably the best MCC I tried at the Franschhoek bubbly festival. I've ordered a case for the holidays. Also, their black-on-black packaging makes for a really beautiful gift - just add a gold bow or a Chritmas card and you've got something really special for someone you love.

Email sales@bevintners.co.za to order (it's such a new release that it hasn't even been made available on their online store yet)

Arendsig Chardonnay


Despite South Africans' obsession with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay is making a big comeback. In my opinion, this is the best Chardonnay out there. It tastes buttery without being sickly and the heat of the Robetson valley gives it a sweetness without it being a sweet wine.

Order a case for R564,00 from orderwine.co.za

Monday, November 24, 2014

Foodie Date Ideas in Cape Town

The way to a man's heart is... well I honestly don't know. From what I've heard it's through his stomach but I've found that route to be a bit hit-and-miss. The way to woman's heart on the other hand, now that I can vouch for. And I'll give it to you straight: It's either diamonds or food.

I know this might come as a shock to you, but women do still enjoy some chivalry now and then. Even feminists. A little effort and a few drops of truffle oil wouldn't go amiss. So the next time you're looking to show a little love to a lady, maybe don't invite her over for another evening of Eastern Food Bazaar and DVDs and take her out on a foodie date instead.

I'm not talking just a candle lit romantic dinner. I can hear you yawning already. There are lots of really fun and interactive foodie experiences in Cape Town that involve good food, a lot of good wine and fun.

One Ingredient with Matt Manning

Chef Matt Manning has been hosting his One Ingredient dinners for over a year now and the one I went to had a group of ranging groupies present so I think that attests to it's fun factor.


Using just one main ingredient, he designs a 4 course menu - so for example he will use pumpkin in every dish yes even dessert. This results in some really unique and interesting dishes that are all truly delicious.


First you watch him prepare the menu, then you prepare it yourself, then you eat it. There is also more than enough wine being poured at any given time. A really fun date idea - especially if you're kind of still a new thing and a romantic dinner seems a bit awkward.

More info here.

The Kitchen Table at Majeka House

Honestly, Majeka House is super romantic. The decor is beautiful and the food is amazing and if you book a room for the night on top of the dinner you'll be scoring too many boyfriend points to know what to do with.

I took some pictures but then unfortunately, I accidentally deleted them all from my phone! 
This picture belongs to The Inside Guide.

The Kitchen Table Dinner at the hotel's Makaron restaurant is a really fun and intimate experience. Any foodie will just love it. I really did. Honestly, it's one of the best food and wine pairings I've ever had.

A little table seats two right in the heart of the Makaron kitchen. Chef Tanja Kruger will welcome your little two seater table and talk you through the menu and Esme Groenewald, the lovely sommelier, will tell you about the wines she's chosen to pair with the dishes.

Image credit: The Inside Guide

What I loved most about the wines was that they didn't only pair the most expensive bottles. One of the wines we had goes for R40 a bottle - and it was my favourite pairing of the night.

When I was there I ran into a girl in the bathroom who was like "you're sitting in the kitchen right? That's so cool" and I honestly felt like Beyonce. That's how you want to make your date feel, am I right?

More info here.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Personal - Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

I woke up at 3am with the familiar racing heart and ice cold knot in my belly. I'd been dreaming that someone had broken into my car again (this would have been the fifth time in four years) and I had caught them in the act and now they were after me. I didn't fall asleep again until the sun came up. Just in time for my alarm to wake me up.

In the middle of the night I lay with my eyes wide open in the dark, my ears thick and swollen with the blood rushing through them, straining through the ringing of the midnight-darkness, trying to hear if anyone was moving around in the house.

In the middle of the night I thought, tomorrow I won't be able to carry on. Tomorrow I will be too scared and too tired to wake up and get up and work and get back into bed at night for more dreams like this one. I am so sick of being scared.

I dream about being a victim of crime about four times a week. I wake up, look around in the dark, listen for unfamiliar noises, pick up my phone to check the time. Then, when my heart has slowed down and my ears no longer have the whooshing waves of panic blood rushing through them, deafening me, I scroll through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

At 3:30am I read articles on subjects I'm interested in; How white blood cells work, Princess Diana, feminism. Google people I admire. I take BuzzFeed quizzes and catch up on American Twitter. But I don't sleep. I just pass the time until the sun starts coming up and the room gets a little lighter and sleeping seems a little less scary. I fantasise about having an alarm system, more burglar bars, a higher wall surrounding the property. I map escape plans in my head. Is it too high to jump out of my second-story bedroom window? I promise myself that I will have a shatterproof layer added to my car windows. Tomorrow.

I am one of the lucky ones. I haven't actually been the victim of a violent crime. I haven't been tied up and gagged or beaten up by criminals. But I've had a lifetime of small, seemingly petty experiences with crime and I think they are ruining my life.

There was the house I lived in that bordered on the street, where anything and everything that was left on a windowsill or near a window would be stolen. Face wash, an empty handbag, a necklace that was fished out with a stick. I could hear people walking around outside my bedroom at night, looking for an open window to stick things through.

The series of small crimes in that culminated in a particularly creepy break-in which I still can't explain where, despite locked doors and windows, I arrived home to find someone had scribbled my name in blue ball point on my headboard above my bed, and drawn a series of question marks inside a Valentine's card that was on my bedside table. I rushed out, petrified, and came back later to find the front door bolted shut from the inside, the entire house ransacked and anything small enough to carry gone. Were they in the house when I was there? I don't know and that still gives me chills.

My car, as I mentioned has been broken into enough times that it's actually become part of my nightmares.

People have been on my property in the night, thankfully unable to find an entry point, so breaking into the neighbour's house instead.

As a child, I woke up in my parent's house to the sound of breaking glass and gunshots as my dad shouted get out of here! into the dark. That house had an alarm system and a dad and I long for the safety of those two things most nights.

Am I paranoid? Am I going insane? Is it normal to live like this? Because I feel guilty. I have a home and I have a car and I should feel safe and grateful to live in a not-so-bad neighbourhood. I know there are literally billions of people around the world who would kill someone to be in this position.

But fear is relative. The fear I feel waking from a nightmare where a man carrying a gun opens my door and walks over to my bed in the dark is the worst fear I could ever experience.

Because when I open my eyes from the dream, the pain in my chest is real, like someone heavy is sitting on me. The sudden icy coldness all over my skin and the pins and needles in my feet from the shock are real. The pain of fear is real. Even if it is just a dream. A nightmare.

Sometimes I wonder if the small crimes throughout my life have resulted in this scared adult I seem to have become. Or if I would have been a scared adult anyway. I wonder all the time if there's a cure. Maybe I'd feel safe in Australia? Maybe I'd feel safe if my house was an actual cage, with bars of unbreakable materials that could only be opened by my finger print. Maybe therapy?

Tonight by 8pm I will be exhausted. I might go to a bar and yawn over my drinks. I might feel like crying when one of my friends suggests we go to a next bar instead of going straight home. I don't want to, I'll think petulantly, wishing for sleep instead. Then later, I might wake up with visions of someone in the room, or downstairs, or chasing me. I might download Tina Fey's audiobook to keep me company.