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 ...