Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cannelloni (Italian: large reeds) are rectangular pasta sheets that are rolled into a cylindrical shape encompassing a filling. After a pasta sheet has been boiled, it is typically filled with a savoury stuffing which may include ricotta cheese, spinach, and various meats. It is then covered with a sauce, typically a classic tomato or b├ęchamel sauce. Cannelloni is often erroneously referred to as manicotti (Italian: sleeves), the latter being a pre-shaped tube that is then stuffed.

Today was pretty interesting! We were invited to The Boma at Hillside Dams to celebrate Chloe and Alan Forrest 51st wedding anniversary which is quite a feat with today’s disposable lifestyle. As I have said before it really is a great place to have a weekend meal and judging by the number of people there, it was a good choice.

Now the thing with Hillside Dams is that all the plates of food at some time more or less pass under your nose, so it’s easy to get an idea of what will whet the appetite For us it had to be the Cannelloni - golden grilled cheese toppings promising a mouth-watering feast underneath, until we dug our forks in to find that there was no pasta??

After a rather confusing few moments where we searched through the creamy vegetable mix hoping we had made a mistake, we realised that this was in fact a rather tasty vegetable bake that had mistakenly been mis-named.

One of my pet hates is when someone comes along to a restaurant, has a dreadful meal and then spends all year talking about it in the school car park, so I decided to have a `quiet' word with the Chef and tactfully suggest he rename the dish. I have to say in an understated way (it is Sunday evening after all and the stress can wait till Monday) that he didn’t appreciate my helpfulness and informed me in icy tones that CANNELLONI is a VEGETABLE dish !! I am not going to bore you with my reply but I seem to remember words like "cookbook, shove and nose" being amongst many others.

One good thing though was that the restaurant owner did phone me when I got home which was appreciated, but the next time I go there I am going to be a little wary of what might end up on my plate - there could be a lot of different interpretations of a Beef Salad !

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Location Location Location !

This is the swan-song that real-estate people yell from the rafters for potential buyers and sellers, when it comes to making a good decision regarding property - but how on earth can it appy to the interior of a restaurant!

I got a last minute phone call on Friday from some friends to say meet us at the Bulawayo Club for lunch.  I havent actually eaten there since an ill fated travel promotion where I was still in bed when they were serving the breakfast so I wasnt going to look at their food then, but this was an ideal chance to see what people were talking about.

A lovely friendly waitress took us through to the Atrium which is one of the prettiest settings with little white tables, lovely pretty linen, green palms gently swaying in the wind, butterflys and bees ... and put us at a table for three - WHERE I SAT FACING THE WALL !!

Now anyone who eats out knows that you never put ladies with their backs to anything.  We have to see the whole thing, who is there, what they are wearing, if they are happy or having a row - you name it, its all part of the eating out experience. My poor husband plays musical chairs with me when we go out as I chop and change from table to table to just make sure everything fits into the peripheral vision.  No I am not odd - its what we girls do!

As a result I fidgeted and fiddled around and even the delightful menu with all sorts of lovely light temptations, the great company and the two gin and tonics didnt really appease the moment.  Next time I go there (and I will definately go there again), I am getting there 15 minutes before everyone else - so I can rearrange the restaurant!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So where do we go from here??

What a grand experience.  Out of sheer curiosity rather than some trade knowledge, I decided I wanted to have a look at the revamped Oyster Box Hotel.  Not that I had even been in the old hotel, but somewhere some bells were ringing - new owners, renovations, expensive and extreme indignation from the other restaurants in the area when they decided to canvas for staff by approaching them at their place of work during peak hours in front of the management - seemed to come to mind.  So of course I wanted to see the place!

As luck had it, the hotel had been open less than a week and it was an ideal time to see them go through their paces.  The horror on my daughters face when I suggested that we just go and have a look persuaded us to go for a meal instead - surely we could afford a toasted sandwich (I dont think they do them as no evidence on the menu of anything like that).  With a bit of coersion, we managed to get together a table and headed for the doors.

After 30 years of swanning in and out of hotels around the world, its not often I am left speechless or overly impressed and I have to say its a great feeling when it happens.  I didnt want to leave!  I wanted to check into one of the R6000-a-night rooms and live there - forever - and eat in one of the three restaurants all the time!

The precise style of decor, red and white stripes, mozaic walls in pale green and white, royal blue and white, gleaming white, pearly white, spa white with emerald green grass and the sea a stone thow away. Admittedly it was one of the most glorious Durban days - sun, sea and all that goes with it so the picture might be a little bit over-exagerated but I dont think so.

In that kind of environment, Its easy to get into the swing of it.  My daughter Baye got to try Oysters for the first time - we didnt dare tell her they are alive when they slide down your throat.  We had a dozen Pimms instead.  A variety of main courses and even desserts all round.  And in spite of all the concerns about the prices before we got there, we still managed to leave with our shirts on our back.  Now this is somewhere I intend to do justice to over a period of time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Real men eat Burgers!

Well they do when its my cousin Michael.  Its his birthday today and we all wanted to go out to dinner (back in Durban again so the choice is endless).  But these days its normal to be broke in the 2nd week of the month so we had to really think about where to go that would suit the occasion and our pockets.  Even so, brows were slightly raised when he suggested we go to the new Gourmet Burger Co in Durban North.  Somehow the thought of a burger didn't quite fit the birthday feeling so I personally went along with a lot of curiosity as to how the evening would pan out.

Bearing in mind that most of us work, own, run or cook in a restaurant, it would have been an intimidating table to serve if the waitress had any idea of who we were, but apparently she was oblivious and and gave us a fairly mediocre service with little interest.  In a fairly empty restaurant that was just starting out, the old adage of "good help is hard to find" springs to mind.

But all that changed when the menu arrived.  Burgers of all description with wild combinations (beetroot, egg and pineapple) started to whet the appetite.  Unfortunately not a lot of starters were available - either an early rush or poor ordering? and the evening kicked off.  If there is such a thing as a Gourmet Burger, this is the place to go. 

We ended up having a great evening.  Good Food, Great Company, Expanding Waistlines.  Seems you can go to a Burger Joint for a night out!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday - it must be Durban !!

I am on my travels again. And I have to say totally delighted. It definitely gets tiring traipsing around the countryside but after a while the Nomadic pull (courtesy of my parents who in 80 years have moved 110 times) starts to kick in and its time to head off again. This is a business trip which means I have tight schedules and planes to catch, but in between all of that I have managed a couple of days in Durban with my family.

My absolute favourite place there is Umhlanga. We have gone there for years on holidays and the whole laid back Beach Holiday feel is totally rejuvenating - but that ends when we all decide to go out and eat. Where on earth do you start! There are no less than 17 restaurants in a one block radius and they all look fabulous. Little Cafe Bistros, Sidewalk Pubs complete with the Flatscreens showing the Rugby, Sushi Bars and Steakhouses, the aroma from the area makes you salivate just driving past.

Now our dilemma is even further put the test as my cousin Michael, who incidentally is also a Chef, runs the fabulous Bangkok Wok which is my idea of heaven, but his gorgeous girlfriend Jen runs Myra's Mediterranean Kitchen which is fine dining at its best. And more to the point they are 100 yards apart so you simply cant sneak in to one or the other without them seeing you.

The solution - we just have to eat at both restaurants, oh, and perhaps try the Sushi Bar and the little cafe advertising gourmet breakfasts and maybe pop in for a pint at the Pub. Its just not fair to have so much choice and so little time !

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is that a Restaurant in your Garden?

We have finally succumbed! Surrounded by Chefs and Hoteliers and Travel people, we have decided that the time has come to start serving coffee in our Garden. Well not exactly, but that's how it feels at the moment.

My husband has always been on the receiving end of our jokes about how you ask for something simple and the next thing he starts building you the Taj Mahal. Well when he built our offices some 14 years ago, for some reason he built a rather interesting courtyard area, complete with paving, a storeroom, etc etc as well as a back gate, a large parking area and adequate power. All of which suddenly added up to `CAFE'.

I immediately had visions of trying to make travel booking, throwing eggs in a pan, whilst rushing off with flour in my hair to teach my tourism classes. Apparently not! We are running an Internet Cafe.. This means that well mannered people will arrive looking for the IT connection whilst absent mindedly sipping a hot cup of coffee.

Seeing everything we need for the Internet side of @work is already in hand, all attention has been turned to the Cafe which is growing in size and expectation by the minute. As we speak Andrew (Chef no 2) is scouring his recipes and the cooking channels for meals that suit my "ju or boho" images especially with no power and Dayne (Chef no 1) is telling me its not possible to do Cordon Bleu meals from a shed. Says who??

Friday, August 7, 2009

What happened to the Pub???

A lovely friend invited me to lunch today to meet up with a whole lot of girls I don't often get to see. As it was my birthday (days back) I got to choose the venue and opted for the New Orleans Pub Lunch as its something new and its been years since I've actually been to one.

The first thing I noticed was the little blackboard on the side of the road had disappeared, which is a good thing on one hand as it was fairly tacky, but bad thing on the other hand as now no-one remembers the Lunch. This was pretty evident by the fact that apart from another table of four people, our table of 9 was the largest and loudest one there.

Now when you think Pub Lunch - immediately the first thing that comes to mind is the actual Pub! In this case it is a small counter in the corner near the pool, which is not a problem - after all the most important thing about a Pub is the actual drinks. This is where the issues started. No Gin at all ! Everyone knows if Ladies go to Lunch, they drink Gin and Tonic. I am sure if there was a rule book on Lunch Etiquette it would be in there somewhere. The drinks on offer were very limited so after a lot of backwards and forwards , I settled for a Shandy.

The lunch menu arrived and to my disappointment it was just a miniature version of the normal dinner menu. Presentable and tasty but totally mis-represented as a Pub Lunch. I had visualised Plowman's platters, salads, pickles, anything but a normal meal. And no dessert in sight as by the time we finished lunch at 2.30 the Chefs had gone off duty and there was no one to prepare any pudding.

It all about "Terminology". Pub Lunch indicates relaxed lunch with great drinks, probably sitting around informally. Table D'Hote Lunch indicates a set menu, laid out tables and more formal environment.. Sometimes its the smallest details that need the most attention !

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mark gets Full Marks !!!

Full marks to Mark for his amazing snacks at my recent Birthday Party. I have been so busy lately, organising a string of functions that I had little time when it came to arranging my own big something "O" party. I think half the Guest invitations are actually still in my car if truth be known. Fortunately my organised German husband sorted out the food, otherwise half of that might still be in the stove.

After a lot of humming and hawing about suitable venues, we settled on The Coffee Shoppe and in rapid speed turned it into the set of The Addams Family where various members of my family and long suffering friends arrived in a variety of costumes. Theme parties are always about "Love" as who else would paint their face and black out their teeth, just to make your party look good.

On first glance at the menu, four snacks and a couple of steak rolls hold little appeal but when they actually arrived, I was overwhelmed. Four snacks, my foot! Outstanding platters groaning with long skinny chicken kebabs that melted in your mouth, squidgy cocktail sausages, cooked to perfection, sticky baby ribs that made you lick your fingers long after the marinade was gone and baby samoosas, made by Mark that blew your head off if you werent a chilli person - which I ate copious amount of as they were so delicious. I couldnt even begin to try the fillet steak rolls as I was expanding by the minute. Mark gave them to us to take home the next day and we threw them on the braai that night and again ohhed and ahhed about his marinade.
Andrew, our Chef Guest from South Africa made me an orgasmic chocolate mousse cake and frankly, my cup runneth over - literally - a prime example of old people behaving badly!

And All That Jazz !!

Jazz, Pizazz, Razzmatazz - it doesn't matter what you call it, most places have it. It can be the funky decor, the signature dish, the eccentric Chef, but whatever it is, its one of the reasons people come back time and again. So what happens when a Restaurant looses theirs? How do they find it again
Take the River Cafe at the River Farm Estate. This is a really laid back sort of Boho feel Restaurant with their signature dish of Chicken Liver and Chips making my mouth water just typing this. You look out onto a lovely garden setting, there are funky shops around the complex and all sorts of interesting people wandering in and out - but it feels heavy. Not even the music livens it up at the moment. I always think people staring into space whilst waiting for a meal is a bad sign - if you get a relaxed feeling, you have to smile at other patrons, talk to your husband or be entertained by the waiters antics.

I suppose it was little surprise when I was there the other day that someone showed me around to where a new Deli was about to open and pointed out where the tables and chairs would go outside for coffee and a croissants. I would be a little worried if someone else opened up a hop, skip and a jump away from my restaurant - but then maybe everyone is out looking for their Lost Jazz ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What happened to my Mushroom Sauce?

It never fails to amaze me how many new restaurants start up with all the ingredients of success, only to be mystified when things start to go wrong for no apparant reason. Its a simple case of Where is my Mushroom Sauce?

It happens in most restaurants, an item not available, marrow bones missing from the soup, no salad dressing. The Boma at Hillside Dams, is set in one of the prettiest settings you have yet to find. The Restaurant is delightful. Water in the dams, ducks on the water, people clinking glasses and enjoying the sun and no sign of stress or irritation. My favourite dish here is a lovely Chicken Schnitzel with the most delicious Mushroom Sauce you have ever tasted. It would be of course, considering the Chef there is Silwood trained and my Son ! So you can appreciate it that when the Schnitzel arrives sans Mushroom Sauce there is great disappointment. Its these little things that catch restaurants behind the knees!

I did enquire where the sauce was and was told `the mushrooms are only coming tomorrow' - what did they miss the bus?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who's New in the Restaurant Zoo

Went to a very interesting meeting this morning with two lovely `lads' who will be running Rodney Broombergs up and comming Bed and Breakfast. Never underestimate the power of rolling green lawns and a fabulous sun lounge. Mark and Paul have been in the restaurant world for years, running Bon Journee which was recently sold. Now, for those of you who just turned their noses up at the thought of Bon Journee being part of the restaurant world - you try and get a table there on a Friday night - pretttttty busy!

Anyway the boys are going to make their mark with Sondela and the first thing they plan to do is host the monthly Travel Lunch next week - so watch this space!

Happy eating

Monday, July 20, 2009

We were invited out on Friday night - good friends taking us to an old restaurant which had started to feel very jaded. Zimbabwean times catching up with even the best fine dining restaurant had taken their toll! Anyway with good grace we agreed to go, which was
a good thing as it turned out to be a surprise dinner party for my upcoming birthday which the Good Friend wouldnt be here for.

Lovely surprise though, same old decor, nice new Front of House Manager and great new menu. New Orleans in Hillside is somewhere to go again with the reassurance of a decent meal. They are even advertising a Pub Lunch on a Friday - badly done on a childs blackboard jammed on the side of the road - but a Pub Lunch no less. Its been ages since someone advertised something like this and good for Bulawayo who will of course support it - just once if its bad but regularly if its good. No second chances with this crowd. I remember asking someone about food at a popular hotel in Victoria Falls. She said it was terrible, I asked how long ago she was there and she replied - 5 years ago. Now five years is a very very long time to have a reputation for having BAD food !

Eat Well

Who would have thought that changing a carpet would make such a huge difference to the look of a restaurant - especially one that looks out onto an unkempt race track long past its sell-by date! Well THEE COFFEE SHOPPE at Ascot Race Track in Bulawayo did just that and it looks like a million bucks now!! Eating out is not about the food - anyone who eats out can tell you that one for free. Its about the location, the buzz, the social interaction and above all the `Trend'. Which restaurant will we eat in today, who will we see - more importantly who will see us.

Anyone living in Bulawayo will know that restaurants are on the up - its a cafe culture that is growing fast and every week you hear about someone who has or soon will be opening up a little munch spot. Anyone living in Bulawayo will also know that there are just not enough people to support all these places so its a bit like a lottery. Do we feel like Chicken Breasts with Salad done with the special kind of marinade that makes Thee Coffee Shoppe famous, or will it be Chicken Liver and Chips, the signature dish as The River Cafe. Will we brush shoulders with the Tea Ladies every Wednesday or wait for the Bulawayo's finest on a Sunday at The Hillside Dams Boma.

Whatever your choice - watch this spot - I eat out a lot !