Unlucky Thirteen

I must say I am not sorry to see the end of 2013. Maybe it’s true that 13 is unlucky? We have had such loss. My children’s childhood nanny and 2nd Mom/Grandmom passed away, my stepfather passed away, my son lost 2 kittens, this week a bird died in my care and then today I hear about my childhood friend Robin dying.

My heart is sore. I think of her family who lost her brother Lee a few years ago. I think of her children and grandchildren who are left behind. I think of all of the years we lost touch with me moving around the world, back before everyone had at least an email addresses if not a Facebook account.

Facebook is how we finally reconnected. I was able to update her on my life and she was able to update me on hers. I was so excited to find her.

We reminisced over our youth. We were teens when we met as we went to different primary schools. We spent so much time together and got into such trouble… Innocent 1970s type trouble. Things were different then. We would sneak out of my bedroom window. We would meet up with her brother or with one of our other friends who had cars. We would park off In a random field belonging to a farmer, pop in an 8track and dance around, drinking a beer if we were lucky.

Then we would go home and climb back into the window as if nothing had happened.

We had such a laugh. Her brother was much older than us it seemed then, in reality only few years. He was one of my 1st crushes.

We would baby sit for Robin’s sister Debbie and once the boy I was running around with had his Mom show up at my Mom’s when he didn’t make it home by curfew. Which of course resulted in all 3 parents comparing notes and realizing none of us were where we were supposed to be.

At that age a year seems an eternity. I still feel we are far too young to have lost so many classmates.

I feel so sad for her family, her children and grandchildren cheated of time with her. Of course in the big scale of things one of our lives is but a blip on the time line. I hope Robin is one of my soul connections and will be with me in one of my next lives.

20131221-213755.jpg
We can only hope 2014 brings more happiness to us all. I hope her family find peace

Raga-Fabulous

Like the proverbial fat kid at the candy store we have been peering through the windows of Ragafellows for weeks, watching the changes to the familiar old Cape Dutch building which has been a part of Hout Bay Main Road for the 20 years I have been visiting Hout Bay. It’s been transformed completely, stripped back to the bare essence, the soul of the building being allowed to breathe.

They managed to get the renovations done just in time for tourist season and today we finally got to experience it.

And what an experience it was!

I am a critical person with high standards. I know that, and I know I can be impossible to please. That’s just life as a Virgo. I had no cause for complaint today.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Julie Ragavelas. Her and her husband Spiro also own the local Greek restaurant which is a huge success due to being child friendly and for providing big portions at a great price. Spiro is the heart of that operation and his skills as a charming host also help to keep people coming back. They also are backers of the new venue Cheyne’s which is one of my fave venues in all of Cape Town. So these people know what they are doing and Ragafellows is no exception.

You enter to a gorgeous metal and granite table with a stunning chair I just adored. I imagine when busy this will be where the host greets the patrons.

20131216-023436.jpg
We were given a tour on arrival and I could not believe how stunning it all was. The theme is Victorian Steampunk – for the local Capetonians, it is as if Madame Zingara and The Orphanage Cocktail Bar had a baby.

The attention to detail is meticulous.

20131216-023803.jpg

20131216-023813.jpg

20131216-023955.jpg

The same attention has been paid to the food. The head chef is Spiro’s brother, Aristotle Ragavelas a 5 star Savoy chef. His food is just so exquisite. I have a very delicate palate and a sense of smell like a bloodhound, so overbearing flavour is too overwhelming for me. I can’t bear rosemary, mint or pesto just because the smell is too strong. I love delicate flavours which leave you trying to identify all of them with each mouthful.

We tried a few different starters in order to taste a few options. We had the calamari in a crunchy potato basket and a beautiful salad with tomato, cheese, pomegranate and a balsamic glaze.

20131216-024731.jpg

20131216-024815.jpg
The salad was fresh, light and tasty. The textures of the creamy goats cheese and the crunch of the pomegranates complimented each other beautifully. The calamari was in a pesto and Parmesan sauce. I never would have ordered anything with pesto, but it was not part of the description on the menu and I could not even identify the pesto, it was so subtle.
Pierre had the bone marrow, not something I particularly wanted to taste as I’ve had it before and find it very intense. But Pierre enjoyed it. It was all presented so nicely.

20131216-025053.jpg

For my main I had the pulled pork as did Pierre. As a Yank, I know my pulled pork and have not really had proper pulled pork since I left LA. There we just called it carnitas and slapped it in a tortilla. But wow! The flavours were so divine. The pickled cucumber was fresh, tart and crisp, the perfect accompaniment to the smoky tomato sauce.

20131216-025520.jpg
Norm had a burger which I had a wee bite of and it was gorgeous! No need to drive to the city for Hudson’s ever again! There are a few different variations of toppings for burgers, Norm had prosciutto, bleu cheese and onions. Instead of fries it came with little roasties which looked done to perfection.

20131216-031022.jpg
Retha had the kingklip which came with mash. I had a bite and it was perfectly cooked, moist and nicely flavored. It had a mint type salsa and again, the mint was so delicate it was barely discernible. Aristotle knows how to tickle a girls palate for sure. 🙂

20131216-031643.jpg

After this we had a breather to digest and have a few drinks and chat. I adore leisurely Sundqy lunches, our lunch lasted 3 hours!

But we had to try some of the delicious sounding desserts. I was so full I just had a scoop of the authentic Italian gelato from IceDream which I previously blogged about. Norm and Retha had the berry pavlova with yogurt.

20131216-031904.jpg
Pierre had a chocolate ice cream sandwich which looked divine.

20131216-032209.jpg
All in all it was a fabulous way to spend a lazy afternoon and I really recommend you give it a try.

20131216-032411.jpg

20131216-032420.jpg

Spoiled For Choice

Tourist season has arrived in Cape Town. The traffic is busy, the shops more crowded, and the weather is fabulous. We have had several new restaurants pop up. I hope they all succeed as it’s lovely to have so many choices as we eat out a lot.

This is a 3 day weekend in SA so everyone seemed to be out dining on Friday. We didn’t know what time we would be out of the house so didn’t make a booking, we left it to chance.

We wanted to eat at the new Italian restaurant Posticino’s http://www.posticino.co.za/contact/ which had only just opened that week. It is a branch of a Seapoint restaurant that has been there for many years and has a loyal clientele so I did expect it to be busy but wasn’t prepared for just how busy! It was rammed. The charming young Italian host asked if we minded waiting 15-20 minutes and we thought that acceptable so we sat at the bar and ordered a nice bottle of Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc and settled in. The place was wall to wall with people. Every seat at the bar was full. We ended up waiting 40 minutes before we were seated, but I was enjoying the wine so wasn’t too bothered.

What I did mind was the noise and chaos. The bar is on the runway to the kitchen and the waitresses would come and shout en route to the kitchen. They were quite literally running through the restaurant. Now I want fast service when I go to McDonalds, but I prefer a bit of a more languorous evening when I am out for dinner.

We were shown to a table by the door, I had been hoping for a table outside but as it was almost 9pm I no longer cared, I just needed food. Later I spotted that they allow smoking so was glad I wasn’t seated in the midst of that. I hate that the smokers get the best tables with the best view, or else I have to breathe in that stink while eating and go home with my hair reeking.

I ordered the Capricciosa pizza as I wanted to try the notorious pizzas, and Norm ordered gnocchi. They have a few different sauces so you can choose which you fancy. He chose a creamy based sauce with a touch of Napoli sauce and loads of Parmesan.

My pizza was topped with salami, mushrooms, olives, asparagus but I requested to swap the asparagus for avocado. Most pizzas have that horrid tinned white asparagus and that’s disgusting so I didn’t want to risk it, and I love avo.

20131215-011228.jpg

Norm’s gnocchi looked nice, and he scarfed it up in no time at all.

20131215-011430.jpg

I loved the crust on my pizza, a proper authentic Italian style crust, thin and crispy and thoroughly cooked. Nothing worse than a pizza with a damp doughy centre. The salami was not greasy and tasted fresh, some are so fatty they taste rank but this was yummy. The mushrooms were a bit much for me but I am sometimes a bit funny about mushrooms. I hate the flavour or spunk-like earthy smell of half cooked mushrooms or raw ones, the only exception being whole button mushrooms fried in butter, those remind me of my fave restaurant from my childhood. Next time I will make up my own unique combo I think.

We have several Italian places in Hout Bay. Luigi’s, Casareccio, Bugattis, Papino’s and St Elmo’s. Considering the size of our little village I hope that they can all co-exist and survive. They will all be busy in peak season, it is the winter when places struggle here. I do think Luigi’s is struggling in their new venue, I often drive by and it seems a bit empty. Casareccio is always busy and is our usual go to place for take aways. We used to eat at Luigi’s almost every weekend. Either take aways or eat in. I loved his spagbol and had it so often, but then I found a bit of plastic in my food and was so ill I couldn’t eat. I am so freaked out by things food and germ related. I think if a huge hunk of plastic could end up I there then lord knows what else could be in it. We also noticed the food’s taste had changed, our fave dishes tasted different than they always had. Then the final nail in the coffin of that relationship was when our take out was so unbearably salty we couldn’t eat it. I wrote privately on social media to the owner, but it took him over a week to respond to me and by then I was over it. We haven’t really been back as we discovered Casareccio.

We have yet to be disappointed by the food at Casareccio it is consistently good. I think the pizzas are pretty much evenly matched between Posticino’s and Casareccio but Norm thought the gnocchi to be average at Posticino’s. I didn’t taste it as I am not a fan, I find gnocchi too stodgy. But I do look forward to trying their other dishes. We will definitely go back. We won’t abandon Casareccio but we eat out enough to give them both our attention.

It will be interesting to see what happens in a few months once tourists leave…. Casareccio have a loyal trade and people were loyal to Postocino at their other location – I suspect some people may drive through on a lovely summer night such as last night.

Tonight Norm cooked dinner for us, simple food, baked potatoes, roast vegetables and a lovely fillet steak. We just had a night in which was nice, it’s so hot and we sat with all the doors open enjoying the evening.

Tomorrow we are trying another new venue, Ragafellows. It is owned by Spiro and his wife Julie. I love their vibe at their Greek restaurant and I have heard great things about this new place.

I’ll try and take lots of pics as it is a bit of a visual delight based on what I have seen so far.

Loving the long weekend!

Goodbye Tata, Sleep Well

I first moved to South Africa in 1990, the year before Nelson Mandela became president of the ANC and 3 years before he became the 1st black SA president. I was pregnant with Lily, my 3rd child and the country was pregnant with anticipation, a change was in the air. The world was focused on SA and a total flip in the culture was occurring. I feel so blessed to have been a part of the country’s transition into the light. To see things shift for the better of the common man and the majority.

It saddens me that so little of Mandela’s vision of betterment is being brought about by the ANC. But that is not the focus of my blog, I don’t want to get bogged down in the blame game.

To me this time is for reflection on what Madiba’s vision was. I’ve seen so many people bashing the UK governmental leaders, bashing our own government. There is a time and a place for that, this is not it. It’s not about politician agendas, racist tendencies or scare-mongering. It is a time for respect.

To be able to be imprisoned and forced into labour by a government which repressed the people native to the country they took over, to spend that time and come out of it as open and generous as Mandela did? Not something I think most of us could do.

“I have fought against white domination, I have fought against black domination”. I hope that comes true and we all find our place.

As a country we are in mourning, internationally, everyone felt a bit South African on the day we lost Madiba.

I read that when a great African leader dies, the universe sends a strong wind to help his spirit cross over. We had torrential winds the last few days….blow wind blow.

Good bye Tata, rest well. It’s so deserved.

20131207-145009.jpg

African Extremes

South Africa is such a place of vast divergences in life styles of people living very close to each other, especially in our small village of Hout Bay. This was so evident to me this weekend.

With the girls in George for the holidays, Norm and I had a cosy weekend in planned, just us two. We seldom get one on one time, and even when alone we still have 5 animals to contend with, hardly a romantic chilled out vibe at best. Friday we stayed in and watched a movie and got take aways from Spiro’s in Hout Bay. They have the most divine fried calamari – I’d even say it is some of the best in Cape Town if not THE best.

Saturday Norm had to work but I had a relaxing day and had an appointment at Hout Bay Manor spa at 2pm. I had been given a voucher for their Spring time special. It took me so long to redeem it, I see that they now have their summer specials on, the 2nd one is what I had booked:

20131201-171506.jpg

Here is the link to the site if you want to book:
http://www.houtbaymanor.com/manor-specials/cape-town-hout-bay-spa-specials and these vouchers make wonderful Christmas gifts.

I had just had a pedicure a week ago so asked if I could pay the difference and have a facial, so I did. Gail is their resident therapist and she also shaped my brows. The whole experience was amazing! It was warm and cosy so I didn’t mind being starkers, and they keep you discretely covered other than the area they are working on. The smells of the warm sugary body scrub smells almost like you are submerged in a baking cake- all warm, sugary and smelling of vanilla. After they scrub you top to toe you pop into the prepared shower and wash off the scrub. You then pop back on the bed for an hour long top to bottom massage. My skin felt like a baby’s bottom after. Positively deliciously soft and smelling divine.

She then ended with the facial and I felt like an overlooked limp noodle I was so relaxed when I left.

Last evening I had lots of bits and pieces which needed cooking so I made a pasta with bacon, onions, red peppers and several types of cheese in the sauce. It was really delicious. We enjoyed not having to go out, just relaxing surrounded by our pets on a warm windy evening.

We then heard over the Neighborhood Watch Radio that there was a fire in Hangberg, the predominantly coloured community on the harbour side of the village. There are shacks, apartment blocks and even beautiful big homes in that area- all levels of prosperity or lack of.

20131201-163814.jpg

The end result is that 7 shacks have burned to the ground.

20131201-163947.jpg
This may sound like it isn’t many but that is 7 families, and affects 35 people from babies to old people. 7 people live in several of the shacks. These people have nothing. They had little to begin with but they had a home, they had clothes and food, however little. Now they have nothing at all. I can’t imagine the devastation of losing everything you have. And most will have no insurance.

It really highlights the divergence between the have and the have nots. The Facebook group many people in Hout Bay have joined started a collection, one of the local business volunteered as the drop off point and everyone is digging deep, emptying cupboards, collecting old clothes and linens and household items and dropping them off. We chose to contribute food and went and filled a grocery cart with non-perishable items, long life milk, cereal, tinned vegetables and fruit, toilet paper, pasta, rice, mealie meal, everything we could think of which you could make with just a pot and a fire or a kettle of water. If many more people do the same then the victims of the fire should be able to set up a basic home. The City gives each home a basic set of building materials so hopefully the community will help them get a roof up ASAP. The thing I loved was how our little community just pulled together in a time of need, helping complete strangers, just because they need it.

It is a beautiful, if windy day. After we dropped off our food donations, we stopped off at the local Italian IceDream ice cream spot and sat in the sun eating our cones while enjoying the lovely village feel as Liana the owner comes out to chat to all who love her amazing ice cream, her little dog scooting round her feet.

20131201-165506.jpg

This is the best ice cream you will ever eat, made with no preservatives, all natural ingredients. The peanut butter is a toss up with the coconut as my best. Today I had a scoop each of peanut butter and chocolate. It was so good.

20131201-170628.jpg

Tonight we are going to have another night in, Norm is making dinner, fillet steaks one of my faves. I hope you have all had a good weekend. I have had a relaxing one, after the last few weeks I have had at work it was just what I needed. I am grateful for all I have, particularly my home after what has happened in our village this weekend.

IceDream shots compliments of Matt Mercer.