Friends With Benefits

I have been very spoiled over the last few weeks, that’s an additional benefit of having friends from overseas visiting. I have a lot of things to cover so grab a cuppa tea and settle in.

Last Tuesday night we went to Quinton’s at Oakhurst Barn for dinner with our friends who were over from Scotland.

There are just so many fabulous places to go in Cape Town, it was hard to narrow it down to enough choices to fit into their week-long visit. I chose Quinton’s because of the service and the venue. It is close to our house so easy to go on a week night, and it is the most stunning and luxurious of all of the HB venues in my opinion.
me n cait

norm n annmarietrish n annmarie

trsh n john

We opted for a 1st and 2nd course rather than a main and dessert as none of the desserts particularly appealed to us.

For our 1st course, Caitlin and I could not decide which to choose and had both narrowed it down to the same choices so we decided to share. We ordered the Sweet Potato fritters and the Asparagus.

The Fritters were described as Sweet Potato fritters charred corn, tropical fruit, coconut, lime and crispy ginger salad at R75 which is approximately $7.50 USD.
fritters

The asparagus was described as Steamed asparagus with quails eggs and a sauce béarnaise at R84 a serving, which is about $7 USD.

asparagus

I was really looking forward to both dishes, sweet potato fritters are a dish I have only ever experienced in South Africa, I think that they were introduced by the Malaysian people who settled in SA but this may be a Lisa Fact. Whomever I have to thank for introducing them, I am glad I met them! However on this occasion I was slightly disappointed.

As you can probably see from the pic, the fritters had been left to fry just a bit too long resulting in them being a wee bit burnt. This made them a bit dry. The flavours were still nice, but it was rather disappointing to pay over 35 bucks for a single burnt ball of sweet potato. If you are going to charge those sorts of prices, then each item you serve must be faultless.

For our main several of us decided to have the East African Prawn Curry, described as served with coconut, lime and cashew nuts. This was rather pricey at R215 but we decided to row the boat out and give it a try as we love prawns.
prawn curry

The blokes both decided to have the fillet steak, which is what I usually have when we go there.
steak

Norm ordered his medium rare and it was cooked perfectly, however John had ordered his medium and wished he had ordered it a bit less done. However that was his own mistake not that the steak was overcooked. There is a definite difference in the UK version of medium rare vs SA, in SA if you ask for medium rare that is most often what you get!

The prawns were really nice and plump and fresh, however the sauce was very mild, I like a bit of kick in my curry but I have never eaten an East African curry, maybe the east Africans like it mild? But the dish was nice, was it R215 worth of nice? No. Not really.

I wonder do you judge a venue more harshly if you have recommended it to someone else? Maybe so. Everyone was happy enough, but I wasn’t 100% taken with our food.

Thursday I had an appointment with my GP so I had to leave work early. I had spent the week looking like Cyclops as I had a sty in my eye. I have never had a sty in my eye, which meant I did not know if it actually was a sty or not as I had swelling under my eye as well as the normal symptoms of tenderness and swelling of the eyelid. I asked him about my hip pain and he seems to think it is bursitis in my new hip. I was not keen on the idea of getting a cortisone injection so I agreed with him to give my myosteopath the chance to resolve it and have been for a few treatments since then.

Thursday night my book club went to Clay Café to all create a new piece of pottery. The concept is that you choose a piece of raw pottery and then you choose your paints and designs and decorate it yourself, leave it for them to fire and then you collect it. Caitlin has been wanting to go for a while now so I waited on her to finish work. This meant we were very late and most people were finished when we arrived, now knowing that they normally close at 9pm.

Caitlin did a very complicated design which meant she didn’t finish, I just did a simple design (as that is the limit of my skill set) but Cait is very talented. So I managed to finish mine, Cait will have to go back to finish hers. But it was lots of fun. I forgot to take a pic of my work prior to firing so you just have to wait until it is finished. Try to contain your enthusiasm 🙂

Friday night we booked to go to The Foodbarn Deli & Tapas for our last meal with our visiting friends. This was partly due to the fact that Noordhoek is half way between Hout Bay where we live and Simon’s Town where my friends were staying and partly due to the fact that the last meal I had there was amazing!

We had challenges with getting there and arrived over an hour late, but our friends had been there from the booking time and had gotten stuck into the cocktails and bread plates. They seemed to not been terribly stressed about our rather rude behaviour.

I ordered a cocktail and got busy perusing the menu for the same items which had me so enamoured after the 1st visit.

We ordered a Bread board with butters and dip priced at R35. Norm wolfed this down in seconds! The bread was just a French loaf, but normally there are lots of interesting breads from the deli, I think we were just a bit late.

We had the same issue when we wanted to order the charcuterie platter – it wasn’t on the menu that night. That was one of the main reasons I loved it last time we went so I was rather disappointed.

We then ordered:
Grilled haloumi w basil and balsamic R28
Flash fried prawns pilipili w basil R40
Seared fillet with mushroom duxelle R45
And some cheese beignets which were available but are not on the online menu so I cannot tell you the price.

The portions are tapas sized, so after all of the above Norm was still starving so we ordered another bread plate. I tried to convince him to order another piece of fillet to go with it, but he thought the portion size and the quality of the steak not to be aligned, so he gave it a miss.

For dessert we ordered:
Berry Pavlova – it is not on the menu online so I cannot get a price for it.
Churros with chocolate dip R28
Baked cheesecake topped with fresh seasonal fruit and cream ~ R32

I have no photos as we were in a very dark area, the restaurant was packed out and our table was set up in the little area outside the venue. Our guests were not happy there and asked to be moved but there was no where else to be moved to. I was happy enough there other than it being too dark for photos.

All in all – it was very expensive (R450ish in total for Norm and I) for what we actually had to eat. Norm was starving and had a sandwich when we got home.

By the time we got home I was exhausted as I had been up since 5.30 am. I have found that with all of the road works going on, if I am not on the road by 7am my journey can take well over an hour.

Saturday morning I was up and out early to get to my hairdresser by 10, I had my hair coloured and headed back home and then Norm offered to take me out for lunch.

We went to The Riverway Café my new fave lunch spot to have a wee bite. Norm tried something new, the pulled lamb, it looked divine and he loved it.
lamb

It is served with tzaziki, pita bread and sliced grilled zucchini. Or baby marrows to your SA locals.

I had a sandwich and the piggy poppers. I am going to have to go to PP Anonymous. I crave those little devils, they haunt me, enticing me with their piggy chilli fabulousness. Divine.

After Norm finished, Julie popped over with a slice of Galaktoboureko that her visiting father had made, and oh my goodness was this a heavenly addition to their pastry table. It is a custard pie in phyllo pastry, so light and fluffy and delicious.
pie

I think Daddy RagaMan may need to immigrate back to SA! (and yes I know he is not actually a ‘Ragavelas’ seeing as he is Julie’s Daddy not Spiro’s, but as I do not know Julie’s maiden name I have made a new name for said Daddy.) We need his pie to be available at all times.

We then had a wander round the shops and popped by the eye doctor to order new contact lenses for me then we headed home to relax and for Norm to prepare for his next work trip. Sunday I had to drive him to the airport and Lily drove back again from George to help us out with the dogs and everything else.

The girls and I have been very good about our eating healthy while on our own and we cooked.

This week has been hectic, thankfully Lily has helped so much. I had bookclub on Wednesday and last night was the first Hout Bay Women’s Gin Club. I arrived late and was the last to leave! Typical.

I’m having a weekend of nothing at all. I’m exhausted so looking forward to down time. I hope you enjoy yours!

Heartboxing

Norm returned from Scotland last week and Lily headed back to George until she starts her new job at the end of March. It was so nice to have Norm home, I love that I get a decent snore free night’s sleep when he is away, but I do miss him. The girls were a huge help while Norm was away, I could not have managed without them and it always makes me realise just how supportive he is.

Friday night we just had a quiet night in as we had been so busy, we needed some chill time.

Saturday was Valentine’s Day and I had planned a lovely evening for us as a treat and Norm had bought me some lovely flowers.
flowers

I had booked tickets for us to go to 15 On Orange to an intimate concert by local artist Jimmy Nevis served up with snacks and a glass of bubbly included.

We headed into town just after 5pm as it was first come first served in regards to seating. There was plenty of parking and we wandered into the lobby area and saw the set up for the concert, it looked very polished. We were met by a professional group of people, one with a clipboard. You know you are official if you are clutching a clipboard. Right? She found us quickly on the list and handed us off to someone to be seated. We were offered a seat right below the stage so we snapped it up. There were already delicious looking platters awaiting us on the table, one of bruschetta, aubergines, peppers, crudités, cream cheese and other bits and one of various charcuterie, posh cheeses, figs in honey, mustard and home made bready snacks. Those figs were to die for, when eaten with the sharp Edam it was like heaven.

mezetapas meat

A waitress arrived bearing glasses of champagne before we could even get seated. My kind of place 😀
me

We were glad we had made an effort to get there early as our seats were fab. Norm was unfamiliar with Jimmy Nevis but I knew many of his songs from radio play and videos shown on telly, I knew he was from the ATL same as me. Except his ATL is Athlone and my ATL is Atlanta but I still like to think we are homies.

http://youtu.be/_iqNqfPhSzw

I’m not clever enough to embed it, so ^^ here ^^ is the link to Jimmy’s video ‘Heartboxing’. This was the first thing I heard and thought, ‘what? Hotboxing?’ And then you see the little whisps of smoke blowing on the video? Brilliant. So 420. Maybe what generated my homie familiarity.

I loved that they distracted us from arrival with food and drink so I did not even notice the time the set started, but I never felt like I was waiting. There were a wide mix of people in attendance so it was a bit like sitting in an airport doing a bit of people watching. It was a real South African event, people of all colours, sizes, dress styles, all races, all sexual orientations, aged young and old, we were all ready for a great night. And Jimmy gave us that.

There were only 3 other band members in addition to Jimmy, one fellow playing a guitar and one dude with gorgeous dreads playing drums as well as a Glamazon of a woman with an amazing voice singing back up.
photo 1

photo 2

I didn’t know what to expect regarding the playlist, I didn’t know if it would be all his original music or whether he would just make it a night of lurve songs but when he kicked off with my absolute fave song at the moment, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ I sighed with contentment. This is mine and Norm’s song – he just doesn’t know it. But after I punched him his memory came back and he tolerated me singing along at the top of my whisper voice, clutching his hand dramatically to my heart.

Jimmy sang a mix of his own songs, a few Micasa songs and everything from Alicia Keys to Whitney GodRestHerSoul Houston. This boy has some pipes. He has a huge range as well, any fella who can do Miss Whitney justice has gotta have some special skills.

They took a break and we all stretched our legs and chatted, I am happy to say this is one evening where the South African audience members did not talk throughout. That is my pet peeve and I am glad I didn’t have to shout at any one and ruin my lady like pretences.

They served the next course, but I was a bit tipsy by this time after guzzling down a few pink cocktails, and I didn’t snap a pic. But it was crispy calamari in a sweet chilli sauce and a bowl of carbonara penne pasta. Both were very nice but we were so full still from the meze and tapas we had munched on that we didn’t finish it all.

The waitresses were fabulous about keeping our glasses topped up, Norm couldn’t indulge as he was driving and the waitress kept bringing ice cold bottles of water for the table. The service was exceptional.

The second set Jimmy got us all up on our feet, and it was the sort of setting where you could recline in your comfy chair or jump up for a wee boogie without feeling you were in any one’s way. Jimmy even drifted into the audience to chat and engage the attendees.
photo 3

We enjoyed the show, danced a bit and then we were given the dessert course, I was a bit slow to snap my pic and you can see that someone had been gnawing on the nougat already. Cheeky wee mouse 😀

desserts

We just had such a brilliant evening, if I see another of these types of events I will sign up as 15 on Orange did a great job.

Yesterday our friends John and Trish arrived from Scotland. They had a week in Sun City before they came down and were already tanned and relaxed when they hit the Mother City. They had rented a self catering cottage in Simon’s Town and we planned on meeting up that afternoon. We had a lazy morning then stopped by our fab Oakhurst Spar to get food to take as we knew they did not have time to shop. We got a whole roast chicken, several fresh bread loaves, some edam cheese, dips, crudités and a variety of crisps and snacks to go along with the bottles of wine and water which we took. We had a bit of a challenge finding the villa but finally saw them waving at us from the stoep of the rental. It was right on the main road with a view out to sea. It was a lovely old original house from that area, but it had been beautifully decorated and renovated. I took a few snaps of the décor for you to see. bath

bed

cupboard
dressing room

We carried the kitchen table out to the verandah and set up our little picnic.
patio

We sat for hours just snacking and chatting and catching up. Then we decided to head down the road to the village to have a coffee. We went to a place over the harbour and enjoyed a coffee in the sun while watching seals frolic and the boats bob in the harbour. It was magical.

harbour

me norm

It was a lovely day, so fabulous to see our old friends and meet a new one.

Today was back to work, there was a strike or a protest of some sort and the roads were quite dangerous, the taxis were all brawling and causing chaos.

Just another day in Africa.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When I received the notification that La Mouette had implemented a new menu I was of course front of the queue to try it.

We had thought that Caitlin and I would be home alone this week with Norm off in Scotland so we booked for the 2 of us to celebrate starting her new job, but then Lily was summoned home to help us all cope with the animals and everything else that Norm usually takes on, so we increased the booking to 3. Lily is a very fussy eater so I wasn’t sure if she would cope with the adventurous menus that La Mouette usually produce but was willing to take the risk.

I had been lucky that the drama I have been having with a rather rubbish service provider had resulted in a thousand rand being reimbursed to me that day, so it funded the majority of our dinner. Thank you universe!

We arrived and were seated in the front of the courtyard, by the front gates. My girls are so stunning aren’t they?
cait
lilyme

The gardens and the fountain are so lovely, it is such a gorgeous venue. However the problem with sitting at the front table is that you get constant cigarette smoke wafting in from the diners who have nipped out the front for a fag. So I will make sure to ask for a different table in future. I really hate cigarettes especially while trying to savour fabulous food, it taints your taste buds.

The new Mid Summer Tasting Menu was 6 courses for R295 or with wines R495.

They brought out a platter of the 3 varieties of bread and the girls got stuck into that, I did warn them that there were 6 courses to follow and to go easy but they were hungry and made a rookie mistake. But damn that is some good bread.

For the 1st course we had:
Tomato salad which consisted of Basil oil, olive powder, smoked aubergine, buffalo mozzarella and tomato essence.
tom starter

As I am not a fan of basil I was a bit worried about this one, but wow!!! The flavours were just divine! Sweet, yet tangy, the tomato essence brought an acidic cut to the mix of textures and flavours. It was gorgeous. Even fussy Lily ate every bite and then soaked up the sauce with her remaining bread. I couldn’t blame her as it was too lovely to waste a drop.

The next course was called ‘Salt and pepper mushrooms’ which was described as having Mushroom ketchup and burnt onion panna cotta. We were all expecting just crispy salt and pepper mushrooms like you get a Chinese restaurant, but there was much more going on here.
mushrooms

The dish was topped with 2 of the crispy mushrooms but it also had a variety of other mushrooms, these were a bit too ‘slimy’ for Lily and as she does not eat onion in any shape or form the burnt onion topping put her off as well. But I did really enjoy this one, the panna cotta was gorgeous and the burnt onion gave it the kick it needed.

As Lily did not eat hers she sat playing with it and in doing so noticed that her mushroom had a rather rude shape.
naughty mush
Oh dear.

On that note we shall move onto our next course. We each chose a different option for this course.

Lily had the Smoked duck with Gorgonzola croquettes, celeriac puree, confit fig and candied walnuts. She really enjoyed this, she thought the candied walnuts were the bomb. I remembered those from the last visit as they topped the amuse bouche so I felt her pain when she launched the largest one off her plate while trying to spear it with her fork.
duck

Caitlin chose the Seared tuna Asian salad which came with Pickled cucumber, shaved vegetables, charred mango, nam jim dressing and peanuts. It was quite a large portion and as she was full of bread she only finished half of it, so Lily and I halved the other bit and got a taste too. The tuna tasted very fresh and was perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and very pink in the centre. As a share Lily and I both gave Cait half of a cheese croquette in exchange.
tuna

This pic also highlights that the Samsung seems to take much better pics than the iPhone, however my friend Retha takes amazing pics with her iPhone so maybe it is the fault of the photographer haha.

I ordered the Truffle and cheese croquettes which are served with Mushroom pesto, truffle dressing and shaved parmesan.

I would walk through a desert for those croquettes. Luckily no desert was involved, just more dark iPhone pics. 😀

croq 2
I loved the sharp tang of the parmesan served with the croquettes and the various other sauces were just perfect with it. It was probably my fave dish of the night.

The next course also had 3 options, I really expected my Pescatarian daughter Caitlin to order this one, but she is also a big mushroom fan and decided to try the mushroom option instead. So I am sad to say no one tried the Bouillabaisse which consisted of Line fish, crispy prawn, mussel, confit tomato, smoked leek, potato, parsley puree and croutons.

Lily and I both chose the Beef rib eye with Buttermilk mash, watercress emulsion, caramelized shallot and horseradish. There were 2 nice sized chunks of rib eye which were rare and perfectly cooked. Lily doesn’t like shallots so I got a double portion and they were brilliant with the meat and mash. I did really enjoy this course.
ribeye

Caitlin had the Mushroom Pot Sticker served with Satay, charred endive, pickled mushrooms and white bean puree. She thought the filling of the pot stickers to be a bit too intense to serve as a separate item, she thought it might be better as a side dish with something less intense. I didn’t taste this so I only have her feedback to go on. However I am not a huge fan of foam and I had seen this dish before so it did not appeal to me.

mush potsticker

The next course of Gin and tonic described as Lemon curd, lemon sorbet, juniper meringues, tonic jelly and foam had sounded lovely and refreshing as I love lemon curd and I love lemon sorbet. However I do not love either gin or tonic and the tonic jelly was incredibly bitter. None of us could eat this course, we took one bite and sent it on its way. Not a fan at all of that one. Maybe people who do like gin and tonics might like it but not for either of us.

The next course sounded like a strange way to end the meal, more like breakfast than dessert but this was one that Lily was very keen on.

The ‘Muesli’ came with Malted milk ice cream, honey comb, oats, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, raisin puree, cranberries and vanilla milk.

They bring the dry ingredients first:
pourng cocmilk
Then they pour on the vanilla milk and voila, dessert!
muesli

I love the taste of malt and this was such a lovely ending, very sweet and crunchy and so yummy. We all 3 licked our bowls with this one!

We chose a great night to be out as Load shedding is at stage 2 so all of Hout Bay was without electricity, by the time we got home power was restored and we could chill out a bit then head to bed. This morning when I got up Lily came in to tell me she had been ill all night. I’m not sure if it was the food or a virus, the only thing she had that neither of us had was the duck, not sure if it was too rich for her or what happened but she looked dreadful when I headed off to work.

This week we started receiving organic veg from Harvest of Hope. The Harvest of Hope organic vegetable box was started as a solution to Abalimi Bezekhaya’s micro-farmers, providing a reliable market for their organic produce. Each week we will pick up a box of freshly harvested organic veg suitable for a family of 4. It forces us to try new things and it means we are eating gorgeous fresh goods. Our 1st night Caitlin cooked and we had crispy red cabbage, fried potatoes and onions cooked in coconut oil and a big salad of the most divine crispy lettuce – the freshest I have ever had.

The following night I made eggplant/Aubergine Parmigiana and for my sauce I added in a huge bunch of parsley as it was in the box and I don’t like it but as I was whizzing up the onions and peppers and tomatoes in the blender I thought it was a perfect time to use some of it up. It made such a difference to the sauce. Was really gorgeous. However we thought the aubergine tasted a bit underdone as we hadn’t done the breaded option as we are trying to eat healthier so there was no precooking and the cheese was getting overdone so we took it out. But it looked perfect 😀

egg parm

It was oozing with tons of mozzarella and ricotta and tasted delicious but after we finished we noticed on the little recipe inserted into the box that it had a warning to never eat uncooked aubergine as it has a toxin which can make you very sick. Oops. The aubergine was not raw, just undercooked so not sure if it was that or the excess of cheese but we all ended up with a bit of a dodgy tummy. I think this just left Lily a bit vulnerable on a digestive level so that combined with the richness of the food at La Mouette is what set her over the edge. Poor girl, I just checked on her and she sounds as if she has perked up a wee bit.

We girls are all at home tonight so we will just chill out and watch a movie, I love these special times with my girls. We all miss Norm though.

Today is Mavis, my mother in law’s funeral in Scotland. I wish we could all be there to support Norm but he has a big family who are all very close, I am glad they will be there for each other.

RIP Mavis. You were a wonderful lady.

The Pipes Are Calling

We have had a sad and stressful last few weeks, my mother in law had a bleed to the brain and passed away. Norm was the oldest of 5 and helped raise his siblings and he and his Mum were very close. At 85 she was still living on her own so she was doing quite well both mentally and physically, she was just a bit frail. She hadn’t been ill, she had what must have been a small stroke then the following night she had a catastrophic bleed. Luckily Norm had rang and chatted to her that day. Mavis was a lovely lady, and she was so accepting of my 3 children, she saw them every New Years when we lived in the UK as we always went up for Hogmanay and the family rented a big hostel for us all. It was the best NY Eves I’ve ever had.

We miss those celebrations.

We have to comfort ourselves that Mavis is with her son Derek and her husband Duncan. But she will be missed by those of us still here.

Norm is going back to Scotland for the funeral but I have no time off from work left and the flights are very expensive so can’t take unpaid leave. We will all have to support him from afar.

Friday night was a police operation and Norm participated in that so I just relaxed at home and waited up for him to come home safe.

Caitlin went to the Up The Creek Festival this weekend and she starts her new job tomorrow. Lily and Josh came down for the weekend and she will come back when Norm leaves as we will need the help around the logistics of feeding and walking the dogs and dealing with Cordelia. Lily doesn’t start her job until the end of March so she has been spending her time with Josh in George.

Yesterday Norm and I were invited to our neighbour’s birthday party so we went out to find a gift and do a food shop. We decided to go to The Riverway Cafe again to have lunch.

We were ravenous so I devoured everything before I took a pic, but we ordered piggy poppers and the pulled pork baguettes with chips. The poppers are amazing, if you want to see a pic you can refer to my previous blog. The baguette is served on a large wooden cutting board. The chips are very thin and come in a little bowl. The pork is lean, juicy and full of flavour, the slaw is crispy and fresh with cabbage and maybe apple? There was a taste of mustard either on the bread or in the slaw I wasn’t sure.

I couldn’t manage all the bread, I simply ate the filling, in the southern states we would serve it on a soft roll, but the baguette is a nice twist, just too crunchy for my preference. But it was delicious.

We were very full but the dessert table looked so stunning!

IMG_9501.JPG

Julie has a few different ladies who contribute to this table to make sure to avoid the monotony.

I love how Julie has mixed the open industrial finishes with the romance of old silver and lush fabrics. I so adore this chandelier it’s so stunning.

IMG_9503.JPG

We were surprised by Julie making up a tasting plate for us! It had a gorgeous caramel, chocolate and shortbread concoction, it was like a millionaire bar but less sweet, really divine. There was a pear and almond tart with cream and a chunky monkey brownie. The brownie had caramel oozing from it, was rich and really delicious.

We went to do a grocery shop and bought an orchid for Kate’s birthday.

We were drawn down the hill by the sound of bag pipes so we headed down to the party. We left it til after 9pm in order to let things get swinging, it was full of beautiful people as Kate is in the film industry. I’m so bad at these things when I’m sober. If people start the convo I can hold my own but I’m not great at breaking the ice. And walking up to a group of chatting strangers is my idea of hell. I’ve also twisted my hip somehow and am in a lot of pain so I was impressed I made it to midnight. Norm brought me home and he went back to socialize with all the Scots, but I had enough by then.

Today I’m going for cocktails with my friend Retha as we’ve been too busy to catch up.

The next few weeks will be a challenge for Norm so I’ll be wishing him strength as well as missing having him here with me.