The Good Food & Wine show is probably one of the most exciting annual events for SA Foodies and Wine lovers alike. And man has it come a long way. It’s no longer only about exploring new flavours, discovering new food and wine brands, meeting your favourite Culinary Celebrities and attending as many food theatre programmes as possible. It now hugely focuses on healthy living and sustainability which is becoming increasingly important to extend not just our own lifespans and quality of life, but also our children’s and our children’s children. We need to start looking after the earth people and that can mean starting small like recycling or as much as possible supporting brands that source their products from farms or companies that practice sustainability. Even if your budget is tight, there are ways and means to contribute to the cause.
Wow! That just got very serious, seriously fast! But back to the delicious food, mouth-watering wine & talented people that made the Good Food & Wine Show such a fabulous experience for me this year.
A few years ago, all I remember about the GFWS was the Gin Tastings at the Inverroche Gin stall. Inverroche Gin is made from hand harvested Fynbos botanicals and has the most palatable and smooth taste of all the gins I’ve tried. One of their reps took my husband and I through their three gin varieties and warned us to refrain from adding slices of orange, lime or lemon flesh to our gin, and instead to add a small slice of the peel alone. This is the best way to enhance the flavour of gin, instead of overpowering it. We were hooked. I never considered myself a gin lover, but this stuff was good! You can find their gin at most bottle stores these days and you can check them out at http://www.inverroche.co.za Please do yourself a favour though and don’t use any old tonic water in your G&T. Rather buy Fitch & Leeds Indian Tonic OR buy one of Fever Tree’s assorted new tonic water flavours from Woolworths, including Elderflower which is my personal favourite. Make every G&T an occasion!
So this year, I was pleasantly surprised to leave the Expo with far more stand out memories than that.
It began with getting an email response from Rose and Thirza at Fiera Milano, the company that organises the GFWS every year, to inform me that I will have two complimentary press passes waiting for me at the door. Being a Durban Food Blogger definitely has its perks! On top of that, I was also invited to the GFWS Networking dinner taking place the Wednesday before the Expo. This was probably the most daunting thing that introverted ol’ me has ever had to do, but it turned out to be a great learning experience and opportunity to be exposed to celebrities and brand representatives who are great to have as connections in the food industry. The event took place in the heart of the Umlazi township, at Max’s Lifestyle, 1 of the top 200 restaurants in the world. They boast an upmarket Shisanyama offering of which their Jeqe bread was an absolute stand out for me. That buttermilk flavour, a hint of sweet carrots and that fresh, moist texture left me wanting more and more. Forget the braai meat; just give me more of that bread!
Thank goodness I had Rose from Fiera Milano to look after me, otherwise I may not have had the guts to introduce myself to Jenny Morris, the Giggling Gourmet, SA celebrity chef & radio personality. She was also one of the first chefs to headline the GFWS. What an amazing woman! She invited me to eat at her table, and was so welcoming and down to earth. When asked, her advice to me was to remain humble no matter how successful I become and when it comes to staying fit and healthy, to remember “everything in moderation”. She was happy to hear that my gran used to say the exact same thing. I also plucked up the courage to speak to Kamini Pather when she wasn’t surrounded by adoring fans or other celebs. This Masterchef SA 2013 winner also know for her 10 part series show Girl Eat World and I’m pretty impressed with what she has achieved considering she claims to be a social introvert. Radio host, restaurant reviewer, TV personality and trend writer – how do they do it all? I also spent some time chatting to Kobie from Premier Foods about blogging for Spekko rice and Chef Shaun Smith about the amazing Fusion Cooking School and one of their restaurants just up the road from us, which I’m dying to try, the Fusion French Cafe. Other speakers at the dinner including the likes of Claire Allen, the skinny counterpart from Short Chef, Skinny Chef and Sherwyn Weaich, also known as the Gourmet Bushie. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Sarah Graham from My Food Safari and Neill Anthony from The Private Chef but I would just have to make do with seeing George Calombaris in the flesh come Sunday morning.
The day had come, and Craig and I thought we would beat the crowds and get to the GFWS at 9:30. I think we underestimated the amount of Foodies in Durban that would literally kill to be within a few metres of George from Masterchef Australia. There were already fifty people in the queues, but at least we were in time to be safely under cover from the rains. You could feel the excited anticipation in the air, and once the tickets started getting stamped, people were gunning for the open theatre that George would soon be performing in. We ended up tenth in the queue and sitting 5 rows up next to the middle aisle – perfect for photos (for short people like me). Usually international Chefs like George would not be speaking in the free open theatres but thankfully this year, the GFWS decided to treat us. If you wanted a more up close and personal fine dining experience with either George or Neill Anthony, then for a price you could have a seat at the VIP Chef’s table next door. But that didn’t faze me because I got to go up on stage and taste one of George’s signature dishes called the Hill’s Hoist, a mini washing line of individually pegged gorgeous crisps. Eek! He told us it was inspired by how he used to run and swing on his mother’s washing line when he was a boy while she screamed at him to stop. This really epitomizes George’s style of cooking. He told us that he cooks to make people smile and connect to happy memories. He encouraged us cook what we love, and that if you’re not enjoying it, it will show in your food. He also said that it’s ok to mess up every now and again – just keep learning from it. Wise words. He loved his stay in SA and kept throwing in words like braai and Boere-worst. He was really funny. But back to the food! From the Hill’s hoist, I got to sample the Saganaki Crisp, made from a mature Greek cheese, which was incredible. Also on the line was a sweet potato crisp, puffed black rice puff with miso melitzanosalata, kolrahbi, pear and walnut cone and a sesame pastelaki with fennel seed fetta. Mmm..crunchy… He also quickly whipped up a Beef Moussaka and a modern celebration of traditional tzatziki, which was plated as beautifully as only George could, using his trusty micro herb tweezers.
After George had wet our appetites, we couldn’t wait to get stuck into some yummy food. There was so much to choose from, but thankfully the stalls were laid out really well with ample personal space in walkways, and it was pretty easy to navigate the space and make sure you covered all areas. We had a quick squiz around to get a feel for what was on offer and there was everything from assorted cow & goat’s milk cheeses, biltong and droëwors, pestos & sauces, olives, styled cakes, spiked cupcakes, DIY macaroons, artisanal pizzas, Greek lamb buns, gourmet burgers, vegan dishes, coffee in a cone, craft beer and girly beers, G&T on tap, wine galore, liquid N2 Ice-cream, airtight silicone suction lids to protect your precious left overs to Black Insomnia Coffee, the strongest coffee in the world #sleepingischeating
We immediately got pounced on by a friendly and informative sales rep from Epa! Sauces. Their huge variety of sauces are preservative free and made from only fresh and uncooked ingredients, so are not only tang-tastic, but good for you too! We immediately got stuck into some bread and dips and all I need to say to explain how delicious these sauces are, is that we left our very first stall with two large bottles of Lemayo Basil and Sweet Jalapeno Zing. The latter by the way is almost dry.
We decided to start with a caffeine & chocolate injection to get our energy levels back up! What else, but a coffee in a cone from the Grind & Clover stall? I’d seen pics of these on Instagram and couldn’t wait to try it: A sugar cone with a chocolate lining and a solid chocolate tip, filled with cappuccino or hot chocolate. Pure indulgence! Thankfully you don’t have go through messy trial and error to figure out how to eat and drink it. They had a step-by-step guide to help you out. Strangely, the hot coffee does not seep through the cone, giving you just enough time to enjoy your chocolate sweetened coffee as well as your crunchy cone and solid dark chocolate tip.
With energy levels high, we raced around taste-testing some macarons made from Luqibons ready-mix. Now everybody can make flop-proof macarons at home! No more Pinterest fails!
We then passed by and admired the walls of the Listen & Smell Food Sharing Memories Wall. Each glass bottle had a flavour of Durban that you were encouraged to smell, while listening to some soothing tunes, and then you were asked to write down what food memory the experience elicited. What a lovely way to challenge your senses and reminisce about tasty past-times.
Next we bought some droëwors from the Begk’s Smoked Food as their biltong just looked the most enticing of all the stalls. I am always on the hunt for droëwors that is still slightly pink in the middle and that’s exactly what I got. Great flavours of coriander but not so overpowering that I couldn’t taste the quality of the actual meat. Can’t wait to try their smoked turkey leg when I next encounter their stall.
We then headed over to The Standeaven Brewery that never seems to disappoint. They are literally everywhere in Durban from the new Shongweni Market to 8 Morrison Street and no matter what your taste, they’ve got you covered: G&T on tap, to No11. Best Black Gold and Watermelon or Litchi Lager, beer for those who don’t enjoy that hops aftertaste. Delicious, crisp and refreshing stuff!
We sipped on our drinks and munched on droëwors while watching a show about healthy juices at the Eat Well theatre. Ironic I know 😉 I loved that the seats were turned over green plastic crates. Re-use, Re-cycle and Re-duce!
After that we were absolutely ravenous. We passed by a stall called Prawn Star, and of cause both of us working in advertising get drawn in by the clever name and well designed logo. I chatted to the owner,Yunus, about his menu, which other markets he frequents and introduced myself as a Durban Food Blogger. He immediately asked his ladies to whip up a seafood boat for us on the house and to “make it nice!” which I was totally blown away by. I was in heaven! Crunchy and perfectly cooked Panko prawns, golden crispy on the outside, soft on the inside tempura calamari and scrumptious battered and deep-fried hake coc-tails on a bed of mint and herb-fried rice topped with toasted sesame seeds and a chilli mayo. So SO good! I’ll definitely be eagerly waiting in line at his stall at the Musgrave night market the first Friday of every month, and so should you!
That was like a starter for Craig so we headed over to the Greek stall for a lamb bun for him, which he devoured and loved. Thankfully there was ample seating available for those who had meals too messy to walk and eat, so we sat next to a nice couple and chatted about how impressed we were with the whole event. At this point I was stuffed, so decided to get up, walk it off and take some pics of the decor, tempting peppermint crisp brownies and ooey gooey cheesy pizzas. I definitely still had space for wine and cake though so we resumed our adventures.
We passed J’Something running a cooking class and the Short Chef Skinny Chef educating some excited listeners on money-saving cooking tips, then came across the Wine Connoisseur Wall and became wine experts in 5 minutes! The wall consisted of glass beakers each containing a different wine packed with the aromas of a specific wine note. When you squeezed down on a rubber pump attached to a pipe leading into the beaker, the wine released its dominant aroma, labelled on the wall. It was a unique experience and really fun making our way through the 12 most common wine notes just before putting our now vastly more refined and developed sense of smell to the test in the Wine Tasting area.
When purchasing our R50 GFWS limited edition wine glasses, we received 5 complimentary tasting vouchers, which I thought was more than generous (especially if you didn’t plan to spit anything out).
I never know where to start with wine tastings but this time around I decided to choose by label design, my preferred wine type and what stall looked the most young and vibey. First up was the Wildekrans Brut Rosé 2013, because it had a very pretty and feminine pink label and I love most Rosés. I obviously failed to take into account the fact that it was brut, and was surprised by just how dry this drink was. It wasn’t exactly what I expect from a Rosé, which is sweet with undertones of berries, but if you like your very dry white wines, then this is one to try.
Next up was Frohlich Cabernet Sauvignon, which was recommended to satisfy my love for dry red wine. I’m not the biggest fan of woody undertones in wines, but if you are, then give this one a go.
In the middle of our wine tasting, we heard a commotion coming from the Spekko Rice Open Theatre and spotted Jenny Morris getting everyone on their feet, jolling and singing to stand a chance to win a bag of rice. Only Jenny has the personality to get a crowd this excited over rice. Although I must say that I’ve been loving the Spekko Basmati and Spekko Brown Rice that I have at home, chosen for their new and improved Around the World looking labels. I managed to chat to her briefly again after her show while the paparazzi snapped some shots. What a great lady!
We then came across the D’aria Wine stall, which was adorned with young reps sporting “How Merlot can you go?” tops. Just my kind of humour! They had many wines on offer with beautifully designed labels and very clever names so I decided to try the two wines that stood out from the rest – D’aria Rock Song, and D’aria Pop Song. The Pop song was a dry white, which I would definitely ask for again while chilling at a restaurant on a hot Durban Summer afternoon. But the D’aria Rock Song without a doubt stole the show for me. It combined two separate wine attributes that I absolutely love – bubbles and dry red. They’ve managed to concoct a dry red wine with just enough sparkling flair to add a touch of salty and sweet to each sip. It was so good I just HAD to take a bottle home with me.
My fifth and final tasting needed to be a palate cleanser, something not overly alcoholic, something fruity and sweet, but not gassy. I settled for an old faithful, which I remembered tasting at the last GFWS for the first time – Ice Tropez, a French wine-based cocktail cooler which was exactly what the doctor ordered.
We were buggered. Magies vol, ogies toe! But not before we got some take away dessert. A quick look at all the stalls, left us with the obvious decision of spiked cup-tail cupcakes. Never heard of them? Well Lana’s Cakery really outdid themselves with not only these amazing adults-only alcoholic cupcakes, but also their donut cupcakes, macaron cupcakes, Oreo cupcakes, caramel & fudge cupcakes, lemon cupcakes and chocolate cherry cupcakes. So there is something for everybody! Even though there were very tempting cup-tail Amarula’s, we opted for the Lemon Tequila cup-tail and the Rose Champagne cup-tail. You can clearly tell what our flavours of the month are. When we got home, totally bushed, we immediately got into comfy clothes and settled down for our desserts. Craig’s Tequila cupcake took my breath away but he really enjoyed it – must be a guy thing! But mine was incredible! It was like having a sip of the lightest sweet Rosé bubbly while biting into a Turkish Delight. It really put a smile on my face – the perfect ending to a glorious food-filled day!
So I hope this has convinced you to not miss out next year. I’ll definitely be there! Maybe they’ll even use one of my suggestions and fly Adam Liaw or Heston Blumenthal in!
Thank you again to the Good Food & Wine Show and Fiera Milano for having me at the Networking Dinner and for the press passes to the show. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I feel so privileged to have been exposed to all of these amazing brands and people first hand, to help spread the good word.