Friday, 24 February 2012
Often overlooked in favour of its more famous Winelands neighbours, Wellington nevertheless has a wide selection of its own attractions to entice and enthral visitors.Driving through the Western Cape’s idyllic Winelands, one does not expect to see a herd of buffalo happily chewing the cud in a flower-filled field. Thankfully, they are not the notoriously bad tempered African buffalo that counts itself among the continent’s Big Five. No, these are Indian water buffalo, originally from Australia, and farmed by a lawyer turned cheese maker. Yes, in the hills surrounding the quiet Winelands town of Wellington it seems you will find almost anything! The lawyer in question is Wayne Rademeyer, who hung up his gowns to focus on his first love: cheese. Today, his small herd of water buffalo produce the only authentic buffalo mozzarella in South Africa.
Not far off, on the flanks of the Groenberg, the folks at Foxenburg get their milk from a herd of rather less
intimidating goats, but their crumbly feta, fresh chevres and soft cream cheeses are equally delicious. Every cheese on the farm is made by hand according to age-old techniques, using pure goat’s milk from their herd of free-range animals. The herd forages freely on the vegetation of the Groenberg – the aptly named “green mountain” – giving the Foxenburg cheese its unique flavour or distinctive terroir. Terroir is, of course, a term more usually associated with fine wines, and happily the vineyards in and around Wellington have that by the barrel.
Although often standing in the shadow of its more glamorous Wineland neighbours Stellenbosch and
Franschhoek, the vineyards of Wellington are known for having some of the best soils in the country, and there are wineries galore waiting to be explored.
Not far from the cheeses of Foxenburg, you will find the wines of Welbedacht. This wine estate is equally famous for what is in the bottle as for the day job of the winemaker’s son, Schalk Burger Jnr, who is one of South Africa’s bestloved rugby players. The winery produces a range of wines, including the premium “No. 6”, named for the number on Schalk’s Springbok jersey. That is about as close to celebrity as you will find in Wellington, a village that offers a decidedly low-key Winelands experience. In the wineries surrounding the village, you can feel that this is still a farming community, and you will find honest country hospitality and genuine warmth at every stop. Nearby Doolhof is certainly worth a visit. Tucked away in a lush valley between the Groenberg and the Bain’s Kloof Pass (worth the drive for the wonderful views), the estate is the kind of place where you could easily while away mostth century wagon of a day. The picturesque Kromme River flows through the property, and in 2007, a River Walk was laid out to allow visitors to wander at leisure. The meandering path runs for several kilometres across the estate, and a number of carefully laid out picnic sites are available along the way. If that all sounds like too much hard work, then simply settle in and sample some of Doolhof’s delightful wines. The tasting room, situated in the original 19th Century house, spills out onto a terrace. With the light meals on offer, it is a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon.And if you find yourself unable to head back to the city, simply check in at Grand Dédale Country House, which offers fine five-star accommodation right on the estate. Wellington also produces excellent brandies, and it is easy to meander through the stills of the valley. Savingnac de Versailles offers brandy and chocolate tastings, while at De Compagnie an 1849 alembic copper still drips out fine brandy. Upland Organic Estate boasts organic brandy and grappa, with similar snifters on offer at Nabygelegen.
Oude Wellington Wine and Brandy Estate is a good spot to end off a morning, with the Oude Wellington Restaurant offering wonderful South African cuisine. Once well fed and watered, do not leave town without a short stroll along the high street. The Dutch Reformed Church dominates the skyline, along with a statue of Dr Andrew Murray, a missionary who was instrumental in establishing schools and colleges in the area. The nearby tourism office can also point you in the direction of the Anglo-Boer War Blockhouse. The most southerly relic of the war that devastated the country at the turn of the 19th century, this was one of a number of fortified Block Houses built by the British to protect the railway line from Afrikaner commandos, and is worth a visit for history buffs. There is quirky history to be found all over town, from the very first all-steel bridge to be built in South Africa – still in use today at Lady Loch Road – to the dusty rooms of Ouma Granny’s House which will whisk you back in time. There is a distinct feeling that time already moves a little slower in Wellington, which is all the more reason to plan your own trip to this quiet corner of the Cape’s beautiful Winelands.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
The office at Grand Dédale is located in a glass walkway which connects the Manor House with the kitchen building. Needless to say, I get a constant reminder of what is cooking in the kitchen. Pure torture - how I manage not to put on 10 kg every week I do not know.
A couple of days back I followed this amazing smell back into the kitchen. Even though being February and close to 35 degrees, it felt like coming home on Christmas Eve! As I entered the kitchen the entire kitchen counter was covered in something resembling gold medals, about to be dipped into icing. Noticing the look on my face, my chef just said "Butternut cookies"!
And here is the recipe:
Cream half a cup of soft butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Add 1 cup of butternut puree, 1 egg and vanilla essence. Then fold in 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarb, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves and 1/2 tsp salt.
Drop small amounts of the batter onto a baking sheet and back for 15 to 20 minutes at 175 C.
For the icing mix 2 cups icing sugar, 3 tbsp milk, 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp vanilla.
Thursday, 16 February 2012
Wellington’s first five-star Country House reflects all the elegance of Cape Dutch architecture with 21st-century comfort. Formerly Doolhof Manor House onDoolhof Wine Estate, the Country House is set at the foot of the Bainskloof Pass on 380 hectares of vineyards, forest and fynbos and is surrounded by three dramatic mountain ranges – Groenberg, Limietberge and Hawekwa – and the Kromme River flows through the estate.
Check in: Enter the estate via a driveway lined with manicured horse paddocks and rows of white roses, and choose to spend the night in one of the six individually designed rooms and suites in the historic Manor House or in the free-standing stone cottage. Start your day with a sumptuous “Cap Classique” breakfast with a range of homemade treats like freshly squeezed juices, homemade jams and freshly baked rolls and croissants. If you’d like to spend the day outdoors, request a picnic basket or stay near the main house and sample the tasty delicacies of the high tea buffet. There’s plenty to do so a two-night – or longer – stay is recommended. Go for a leisurely stroll along the river bank or opt for the 10-kilometre vineyard walk, which will lead you past the vineyards and will beautifully showcase the surrounding mountain ranges.
What it costs: From R1 800 per room, which includes breakfast and afternoon tea, as well as all soft drinks, beers and house wines from the self-service resident bar
Find out more: www.granddedale.com
Feel-good factor: The sunsets in the Winelands are magical, and to celebrate the passing of each day, Grand Dédale organises sundown pre-dinner drinks.
Not bullish perhaps, but charmingly buffalo-ish.Hotly in pursuit of making a great deal of money from telling people what they already know, or making their lives hell – but with promise of redemption via reduction – I’d like to announce the Seychelles Diet. It has nothing of the digestive lockdown of Dr Atkins, the anti-social caveat of ‘be prepared for gas’ attached to the Cabbage Soup Diet and the depressing and curt instruction to eat prunes for breakfast in the Beverly Hills regime. To be fair, the island diet is costly in the short term, but it yields positive returns in the long haul. For the first week, it requires an airfare and a luxury villa as basic ingredients to kick-start the regime, but no financial dross, no fatty loss, I say. From Johannesburg, Mahé is a four hour flight. That alone makes the island an accessible hop into the blue. Just ask the hundreds of South Africans who’ve bought property on Mahé’s reclaimed land, Eden Island, and found rare, deep-water berths for their yachts. Desroches is only 45 minutes by charter flight from Mahé and is the real inspiration for the diet. This is a teaser of course. Not a word more until our September edition when I reveal all in the travel story. Here’s a hint; start thinking of ways to make your deep-sea fishing mates bring you back swordfish so that you can make your own carpaccio. You’ll also need a modest mountain bike with a basket attachment. I’ll have a new picture by then. It offers proof that several micro-breaks in the year effectively recharge you when you’re working at high-wire career level. Why the exploration of a new business now? I’m inspired by South Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, where small-town savvy is adding to the economy. Try stationing yourself slightly off the beaten track near Wellington in the Boland at the splendid Grand Dedale guest house with Italian Angelo Casu at the helm. Yes, Wellington is Mrs Ball’s Chutney domain, but she’s long been factory produced. The business now is buffalo mozzarella. Buffalo Ridge Farm is owned by attorney Wayne Rademeyer, who oversees the production of creamy balls of soft cheese quite unlike the gelatinous and tasteless yellow rubber we’re used to. The Mediterranean water buffalo – curious, ingenious (they switch water systems on and off) and social creatures – were flown in from Australia by airfreight some years back at eye-watering cost, and have landed with their dark, furry rumps in butter. In gratitude, they produce white gold. Up the road, Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse has bolstered their disease-free buffalo breeding stock for local ‘export’ to game farms and reserves. Under the hammer at R250 000 a beast, it’s serious bloodstock. And that’s not all, as they say. In the same geographical zone, Foxenburg Estate’s herd of fat white goats produces delicate chévre (with none of the oily-hide smell of some goat’s cheese) and delicate oyster mushrooms. And then there’s designer/inventor Gakiem Fakier who is exporting his sleek kit cars, and Dutch team Tin Korver and Paul Rohof, who have set up a business to further stimulate the design and décor industry. The theme of this issue of Private Edition is seize the moment, and while we’re doing well on the home front, off shore it takes on a more sinister meaning. In Captains of Industry , Paul McNally outlines the drama unfolding in the Indian Ocean as Somali pirates continue to attack and seizecontrol of cargo ships. It seems that South Africans will think and create in a sluggish world economy, will fight for market share and will not lie down in the face of stiff international competition.