Paris Postcard: Canal St Saint-Martin

Canal Saint-Martin is a 4.5 km long canal in Paris, originally built in 1802 by Napoleon to create an artificial waterway in order to supply Paris with fresh water. At one point in the canal it widens to make the largest artificial lake in Paris. I love how the people sit on the benches and canal walls soaking up the sun, having lunch or meeting their friends. You might even remember that charming moment in the movie Amélie when she skips stones at the locks of the canal. It was right here. Wish I was there….

Melissa’s has opened in Parkhurst

We’re not exactly a country with a poor food heritage, and so you would have thought that many, many shops or deli’s would have been eager to take the best of what we have and put it on display. And yet what Melissa van Hoogstraten did when she opened her first shop in Cape Town in 1996 seemed revolutionary: a person with great taste and an eye for the best that SA has to offer a foodie, packaged very simply so that the products speak for themselves.

Finally, our favourite deli/food shop now graces us with its presence in Parkhurst, one of my favourite neighbourhoods (you can read some of my Parkhurst posts here and here). It is the perfect location for the first of many branches (we hope!) in Johannesburg.

I popped into Melissa’s and still on yesterday’s subject (on how to taste olive oil - see the post here), could not help but to be in awe of their packaging. Melissa’s branding has always been very impressive, with clean lines and simple, no frills labelling. I just adore the new olive oil canister with the olive leaf motive.

You can visit Melissa's website here.

How to taste olive oil

This month, I’ve been doing quite a lot of corporate olive and olive oil tastings for my shop. So, when my book club gathered at my house for our monthly meeting, I decided to make it an olive evening and educate the girls a bit about the wondrous olive. I served them a watermelon salad with olives, feta and mint as a starter and as a main course a chicken pasta dish with lots and lots of olives in it (see here).

The “educational” part of the evening included tasting two different olive oils, one slightly fruitier and the other more pungent. We also tasted olives, discussing the difference between green and black olives and the interesting flavours the South-African consumers favour. For example, in my shop the most popular product is a Kalamata in a Blueberry dressing (grape vinegar flavoured with blueberries), which masks most of the bitter olive taste. I am sorry if you are an olive purist, but they are delicious!!

And just in case you find yourself at an olive oil tasting and you want to know what you have let yourself into, today’s blog is about the steps in tasting olive oil. 

1. First warm the tasting glass in your cupped hands to liberate the aromas. In contrast to a wine tasting, for olive oil the best glasses are blue since it masks the colour of the olive oil. The reason is that the colour tends to influence the taster's perception of the taste, and in truth the colour of an olive oil has no bearing on its quality. 

2. The next step is to smell the oil, in order to get an immediate first impression. You should be able to detect the desirable fruitiness of the oil or perhaps even defects such as rancidity.

3. Carefully take a small sip – and let me pause here to say that most people fear this will be like having a mouth full of cooking oil. In fact, you will find that olive oil is light, non-greasy and does not coat the inside of your mouth at all. Roll it around the mouth cavity and suck air in through your clenched teeth - this is called 'aspiration'.

4. Swallow it and evaluate if you taste the positive attributes in the oil. Look for the initial fruitiness in the mouth (green fruits or grassiness or even a nutty flavour), then a slight bitterness on the middle palate and lastly a biting sensation in the throat. This pungency is sometimes quite delayed.

Well, at least two girls in my book club are still not big fans of the olive, but at least they gave it a try!! Some book clubs are the “we only read wine labels” groups, but I can honestly say that we do read a variety of books in our club. But we also did not go home thirsty

This is the farm Kleinood

Last night we attended the opening night of the Sanlam Investments Food Wine Design Fair, which is being held in a marquee tent that occupies the top floor parking of Hyde Park Corner (See last year's photos here).

It's a mad rush of colour, sounds, flavours and smells, with all the stalls vying for attention. The heels are high, the fashions current and the conversation is knowledgeable. In this mad rush, it takes something special for a wine estate stand to stand apart from the crowd. Apart from its wines, that is. And so the small booklet, which sings the praises of Kleinood in quite a different language than the average brochure, with the pages of poetry and illustrations then exploding on to the walls to form the backdrop to the wine and olive oil, is something quite unique.

"These are the grapes so red and so ripe
That hang from the vines all luscious and green
That grow on the farm Kleinood..."

To read more about the fair, visit their website or Facebook page. For more on Kleinood, visit their website here.

Books I love: Scrumptious

One of the cookery books I stock in my shop is Scrumptious by Jane-Anne Hobbs. She started a food blog about five years ago, and along the way her hobby turned into a new career as a recipe developer and now a published author. What I find interesting is that although she thinks TV reality shows encourage people to cook good food at home, they do not show the finer details of the cooking process. For example, they don’t show the patience needed and the time consuming attention to details. For her, cooking and entertaining is about following your heart, planning ahead and being careful about measurements, all the while staying calm, paying attention to every part of the process.

My own little Junior Masterchef (see here) is a perfect example of what the author describes – he thinks everything in the kitchen must be done in a huge rush because you have only “15 minutes to go”. But the two of us attempted the truly scrumptious Linguine with a Chilled Sauce of Chicken, Tomato and Herbs. Lots (and lots!) of chopping and very time consuming, but what a great dish! The five year old’s very blunt knife did not make life easy for him and I smiled every time he licked the tomato seeds off his forearms when it sprayed all over, but we had a great time in the kitchen!



You can follow her blog here.

Riding with a purpose

On Sunday it was the Momentum 94.7 cycle challenge, an almost 95km cycle race through the streets (and highways!) of Johannesburg. About 27,000 riders (and a lot of spectators on the side of the road) braved the heat.

My husband and our friend, Johnny both did the race supporting a cause. My husband, an “Alley Cat”, raised money for MES, a Christian social development organisation that works in the heart of Johannesburg with vulnerable children and adults. Their goal is to enable them to change and live sustainable lives. Johnny’s was a CHOC Cow, dressed for the occasion in his cow-printed cycling kit and his bike sporting a cow bell (my husband said that bell was great because he always knew where his buddy was!). The CHOC Foundation provides support for children suffering from cancer, and look after the kids’ families as well.

We took our kids to support their dads. With loud “MOOOOS” every time a rider passed in a cow suite, and smiles at the other outlandish costumes (I loved the pink wings on the people supporting breast cancer!), it was a great day out. We saw people on “post office” bicycles complete with a basket in front, unicycles (!!!), tandems and even people pulling others behind them in small buggies.

So, a few days later, the husband is still nursing sore muscles, but it was definitely worth the pain. I am super proud that he (and J) used the ride to make a difference! Well done!


You can read more about MES here or the CHOC Foundation here.

Café Del Sol

For a while now, the most popular restaurant in the Johannesburg area on the Trip Advisor website has been a restaurant named Café Del Sol. It is located in a very non-descript small little suburban mall in Olivedale looking out onto a car park, but let me tell you, you are really in for a surprise if you judge this place by its surroundings.

This Italian family restaurant serves up all your favourite Italian meals (no pizzas), but in a very hip and funky gourmet dining setting. The décor of the restaurant is modern, airy and minimalist with inspirational quotes on the walls and napery. The kitchen is open-plan and this just adds to the great buzz in the restaurant.

We went with a group of friends and the food was fantastic. Tasting everyone’s food around me while finishing my own plate of food, I can recommend the queen prawns in a Limoncello sauce and the absolutely divine dark chocolate tart.

Just a little word of advice, this is one busy restaurant. The maitre’d phoned me a couple of times to confirm our table of 8, left messages and when I did not phone back, they promptly cancelled our booking! Luckily, and only after my friends gave me a hard time about my habit of conveniently not “hearing” my phone ring, the staff prepared a table for us to wait outside. After about 45 minutes, and a bottle of wine or three, we were able to move inside. It was worth the wait. So, be sure to make a reservation and even more important, confirm that reservation!!

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

High end shoes out of a low bed truck

A week or two ago an American friend was in town. To show her a bit of Johannesburg and to experience the local vibe, I took her to the Neighbourgoodsmarket in Braamfontein. We had a fantastic time at the market. We also visited the funky Juta street shops and watched the world go by from our window seats in Post over a great cappuccino. On our way back to the car, we noticed a very funky Feiyue shop …. in the back of a mobile truck!

Feiyue is a French canvas sneakers brand. The brand started in the 1920’s, but was re-launched in 2006. A local entrepreneur brought the product to South Africa and is marketing the shoes in very different and interactive ways. One of them is the creation of a Mobile Unit with a Feiyue shop inside. The truck was parked outside the market in Juta Street. On the outside of the truck Jozi barbershop paintings are used to grab passers-by’s attention. And it did exactly that – we loved this way of marketing the shoes, which no doubt contributed to our new-found love of the shoes themselves! 


You can visit their Facebook page here.