The Meerlust manor house, built in 1776

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This has been another hectic week, with some wonderful events to report, while we prepare our house for a big event at the weekend. Lots of things on this weekend and we are going to miss lots of them as it is time for a big celebration. Friday will be John's 70th birthday and we are having a family dinner on Friday night and a lunch party for close friends and family on Saturday. Lynne has been cooking and preparing for weeks. We did try to have it elsewhere, but the function venues were out of our reach, so home it had to be. And we will have some great wine to drink from our cellar.

We will be at the Beer Festival launch on Thursday evening, however and also hope to get to the Jordan Summer Festival on Sunday, bearing animal necessities. It really depends on how much clearing up we have to do and how tired we are! Hope to see lots of you there.

We have many American readers, to whom we send our hope that you will have a joyful, peaceful Thanksgiving celebration.

Klink Awards     The awards focus on what wine farms have to offer visitors, other than the wine. The awards were held on the terrace with those marvellous views of the city at De Grendel wine estate, last Thursday evening. Wesgro have come on board as sponsors; we hope the association continues for a long time. Wesgro is the official Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency for the Western Cape.

"Out of its 17 categories ... the best performing category, with 1512 votes, was the Gourmet. It awards the best cellar-door restaurant that is set in a great location, offers first class service, focuses on artisanal foods, has a sommelier service and wine list with older vintages, own wines and other regional wines. Among Klink’s 77 nominees across its 17 categories, the overall Supernova (or nominee with the most votes) was De Grendel. It took first place in both its category (the Gourmet) as well as overall, receiving 634 votes, beating La Colombe and Waterkloof to the true-blue foodie post." See the event and the results here

Casa Labia relaunch     This beautiful house, filled with treasures, is owned by the Labia family and has been used as a museum for several years. It was returned to the family by the state after several years in the shadows. They have now restored it perfectly and on Thursday evening we rushed from the Klink Awards to the relaunch of the house and the opening of the new restaurant and function venue, which will be run by Andrea Foulkes of Dish Food and Catering. With a huge fire raging on the mountain in Simonstown, we did not rate our chances of getting there on time, but the trip down the M5 was fast and seamless at 6.30 pm. The good news is that the road repairs outside Casa Labia have now been completed. Click here for photographs

Meerlust 40th Anniversary lunch     How to describe this classic Cape Dutch wine farm in the Helderberg? Owned by charming Hannes Myburgh, who prefers to keep rather a low profile, the award winning iconic wines are made by Chris Williams and shepherded into the cellar by viticulturist Roelie Joubert. Guests are shepherded to the tasting room by the ten friendly dogs, who have the most wonderful life on the farm. We were privileged to have lunch on Friday in the beautiful lived-in Manor house, which is filled to bursting with art, antiquities and curiosities. We had a marvellous Cape country lunch and a tasting of great vintages of Meerlust Cabernet and Rubicon, starting with the first ever vintage, made in 1975. And, yes, it has lasted, as we expected.

We also visited the Compagniesdrift wine storage and bottling facility next door, which Is the Myburgh Family Trust Social Responsibility investment in their staff. The companies involved, MWT Investments and Faure AgriVillage, are jointly owned (50% each) by the Myburgh Family Trust and the Meerlust Empowerment Trust, which is comprised of 72 people who have long-standing relationships with the Meerlust, Vriesenhof and Ken Forrester farms in the area. See the wines, the people and the farm here

Fire and Ice at the Wine Concepts Champagne Festival at the Vineyard     After a nap, Friday night saw us enjoying life at The Vineyard Hotel, where we enjoyed Wine Concepts’ annual salute to French Champagne. It was a busy and very social evening, with a chance to taste 18 Marques (brands) and at least two different champagnes on each stand. Many of the top names were there to enjoy. Lots of prizes were awarded to ticket holders, the band played great music and you could fantasise about driving and buying the two classic cars in the room. And The Vineyard supplied canapés throughout the evening. Glitter and glam here

Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Awards     This glittering affair was held at La Residence in Franschhoek on Saturday night where the Winemaker of the year Award went to Johann Fourie of KWV for the Mentors Pinotage. The Young Winemaker of the year was Phillip Viljoen of Bon Courage for his NLH. It was a chance to put on one’s best bib and tucker and enjoy the good wines entered into the competition with dinner. A truly  glamorous affair, see it here

Le Franschhoek     Diners Club, thankfully, offered us and many other guests accommodation for the night at Le Franschhoek, which meant we could really enjoy the evening and, because shuttles were provided, no driving was required at all for John. We had a very comfortable room in a quiet setting and a good breakfast the following morning. See the hotel here

Travel Massive     We also did some good travel networking this week at the local Travel Massive meeting held at the NAC helicopter offices in the V&A Waterfront. Photographs here

This week’s recipe is a vegetarian dish for a change. It serves 4 to 6 people. Carrots have an affinity with two spices - cumin and nutmeg. You can add a dusting of them to the purée if you want more flavour but not at the same time, either powdered cumin or nutmeg.

Carrot and Cashew Nut Gratin

750g thickly sliced peeled carrots - 100g raw cashew nuts - 2 T dried breadcrumbs - 100g fromage frais or mascarpone cheese - salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the carrots in boiling water until soft. Meanwhile, roast the cashew nuts till golden, either in the oven or in a dry frying pan over a low heat. Take a tablespoon of the nuts, chop them coarsely and mix with the breadcrumbs. Drain the carrots and put into a food processor with the fromage frais and blend till smooth. Stir the whole nuts into the mixture and season well. Spoon into an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the nut and breadcrumb mix and place under the grill till golden. Serve with green vegetables or a salad. Great with a dry viognier or a crisp Chenin Blanc.

Learn about wine and cooking We receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to learn more about wineCathy Marston and The Cape Wine Academy both run wine education courses, some very serious and others more geared to fun. You can see details of Cathy’s WSET and other courses here and here and the CWA courses here. Karen Glanfield has taken over the UnWined wine appreciation courses from Cathy. See the details here

The Hurst Campusan accredited school for people who want to become professional chefs, has a variety of courses. See the details here

In addition to his Sense of Taste Culinary Arts School, Chef Peter Ayub runs a four module course for keen home cooks at his Maitland complex. Details here

Nadège Lepoittevin-Dasse has French cooking classes in Noordhoek and conducts cooking tours to Normandy. You can see more details here

Emma Freddi runs the Enrica Rocca cooking courses at her home in Constantia

Nicolette van Niekerk runs baking courses at La Petite Patisserie in Montague Gardens

George Jardine will be running a series of winter cooking courses and other activities at Jordan. Details here

We write about our experiences in MENU, not only to entertain you, but to encourage you to visit the places and events that we do. We know you will enjoy them and we try to make each write up as graphic as we can, so you get a good picture of what is on offer at each place, restaurant, wine farm, festival we visit. 

 18th November 2015

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