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A tango on the tip of the tongue

Notes from a delicious year spent pairing Peruvian food with South African wine

OrmondeWinesRTPMarch 11 2015, Ormonde: Darlings of food and wine

We had a gorgeous tasting with Hennie Huskisson, the winemaker from Ormonde in Darling, last night. He introduced us to some delicious wines and taught us his formula for judging grapes fresh from the vine. He uses this formula to give every grape an equal chance, a level playing field so to speak. He told us many stories about his experiences working in the Western Cape and in Margaux (That’s right! Margaux!), my least favourite being about the time, many years later, when the builders made off with his 1994 Margaux, payment he received for working a season there.

One of the (many) great things about wine and winemakers is that there are always so many wonderful stories to hear. I have yet to have my curiosity satisfied about the story behind the naming of the Ondine range, inspired by the lost sister remembered as being like the water nymph of the fairy tale.

But what about the food, I hear you cry …

TiraditoRTPChickLiverPateRTPAngel and green mango tiradito: The delightful shocks and tremors that this dish creates on the tongue are met and raised a little by this gorgeously aromatic Semillion

After that racy little number, expect to be lulled into gentle purring by the Chardonnay and peanut chicken breast with salad and honey and mustard.

Think of the deliciously buttery chicken liver pate with the Pinot Noir as crucial acclimatisation on the way to the heavenly robust peaks of flavours of the Shiraz with quinoa and mushroom risotto with pork medallions.

The !watermelon sorbet with a crumble of feta and a crack of pepper! puts the exclamation mark at the end of this journey.

February 18 2015, Hawksmoor: Food and wine …  wedded bliss

HawksmoorVines1We weren’t even at the house at Hawksmoor when the cooking up of plans started. Bunches of purple grapes hanging heavily off vines made us wonder what they would grow up to be … and what would we pair that with.

HawksmoorEstate1By the time we got to the house at least one us was cooking up something else. Hawksmoor House is a very popular wedding destination and it certainly set our imagination on fire! I, for one, am ready to start applying pressure for a proposal.

Come to think of it, it is probably a great place for a proposal too. Each gorgeously furnished room has a very specific charm – from the divinely styled to the heavenly chic. I can imagine coming back here and staying in a different, totally dreamy room, for so many anniversaries.

But it is wine, not weddings, that we are talking about today …

Hawksmoor is a boutique estate that stands out in so many ways. Mark and Simon have a healthy respect for history and tradition while being courageous and adventurous spirits and winemakers. They certainly cut their own path, but never through the ancestors’ graveyard.

The environment is so beautiful you would be forgiven for thinking it could only produce sensational wines (and … ummm … happy marriages … nudge nudge).

I won’t go on about the Wild Card we tasted on the day we visited (Pinotage 06) since there is none left (the bastards!). This one, Michelle’s favourite by a long way, comes with a great story of waiting till the last possible minute to harvest, long journeys and hot days.

HawksmoorWinesI will, however, mention the Triginta (Shiraz 2011), of which we each had a thimble-full. Mark has promised to scratch around in the cellar and see if there is any more, but I fear that those of you who missed out on the 50 bottles we managed to secure last winter have Missed! Out! This Happy Accident is not likely to be repeated. Don’t let it happen again. We will be doing a food and wine pairing at Keenwä on February 18.

Just to mention a few … the wine candidates include: Serliana ’13 and ’14 (chenin blanc from 30-year-old bush and trellis wines), French blend and Cape blend (don’t tell me you don’t know these beauties yet), 100% Mourvedre, Algernon Stitch (50% shiraz, 50% mourvedre) and maybe, just maybe … the Triginta (30 months! In French and American oak).

Food candidates include: Gazpacho (cold soup of tomato, celery, vodka, black pepper); sardines with olive oil and rough salt and garlic; chicken and chorizo skewers; beef mince wrapped in blanched cabbage with fresh tomato and red pepper paste; lamb chops with mustard and chive crust served with green rice; watermelon sorbet with feta and cracked black pepper

February 18: R295 for four courses and five wines. Booking essential, tel 021 4192633

In case you missed it last year, here is what I said about the Triginta (Shiraz 2011):

HawksmoorWilhelm Defries for Hawksmoor (Paarl region) made just 8 barrels of this delicious vino. I hate to say it but it looks unlikely they will replicate the recipe next time. For a number of reasons (happenstance rather than design) the wine was left in old French and American oak barrels for 30 months, longer than anyone might think advisable.

The result of this ‘happy mistake’ is an unusually round wine that seems to give a little something extra with every sip. It is not clear if any of this vintage, the 2011, will make it on to anyone else’s shelves but Hawksmoor’s owners, Mark and Simon, were persuaded to let us have 50 bottles before they headed to Europe for the northern summer or research … or something. Our 50 bottles are disappearing fast!

 2014: one sip at a time

Glass of WhiteStreetfoodSkewersRocotosEvery so often the Keenwä tasting team drags a winemaker or two on to the dance floor for a little creative choreography. From Groot Constantia, Springfield and Durbanville Hills to Joostenberg, Hawksmoor and Flagstone the dances have been delicious, fun, mad, clever, cool … visionary even.

Food and wine pairings are a great way for us to create great new taste combinations, explore new partnerships and introduce new wines to our regulars and our wine list.

 food festival posterNovember 8, Kumala: From the carts, off the charts

 Join us for a crash course in Peru’s super-delicious streetfood this Saturday (November 8) from 4pm.

Expanding on the classic food and wine pairing, we have taken a selection of the most delectable streetfood dishes and paired them with Kumala wines. We will be serving diners in the restaurant, in Pisco Bar and at tables outside.


Ceviche, Quinoa-coated prawn skewers, chorizo and chicken skewers, Corn on the cob, Chicharonne (pork sandwich), Rocotos (pepperdews stuffed with mince), Pork spare ribs, Tacu Tacu (rice and bean patties), Picarones (sweet potato and butternut donut), Alfajores (caramel shortbread)

Paired with:

Sauvignon-Semillon, Chenin-chardonnay, Chardonnay, Cab-shiraz, Shiraz, Zenith red blend, Medium sweet white

As you might have guessed, there really is nothing pedestrian about Peruvian streetfood!

Whether you feel like a nibble or a full-on feast there will be something for you this Saturday …


StreetfoodRibs&Corn StreetfoodSkewersRocotos






Thursday October 30, Neethlingshof: Wild cats … and a tame one

Our search for Malbec (at the insistence of some Argentines we count as regulars) led us to the gates of Neethlingshof and we quickly discovered a shared affinity for wild cats.

The pairing lunch that precedes food and wine pairings at Keenwä got off to a rocky start when De Wet Viljoen, Neethlingshof winemaker, missed the tasting event because of some nonsense about international visitors and a multi-million dollar auction.

Xavier1Our favourite sommelier, Xavier Didier, very kindly agreed to step into De Wet’s shoes at the last moment.

Xavier, fulfilling the requirements of being gorgeous, amusing and a dedicated wino, helped us choose the menu while sticking to his strong policy of advising clients, “Yes, listen to the experts and do lots of research but trust YOUR gut.”

We had already decided on the basics of the menu when De Wet, a tame lion of a man, strolled in and put his stamp on proceedings. He agreed with most decisions Xavier had guided us to, with one audacious suggestion: that we turn things upside down and serve the dessert wine as a welcome drink.

We had planned to serve the estate’s chenin blanc with a few mouthfuls of our signature pesque de quinoa (quinoa and spinach risotto) to kick the evening off. A genius plan, we thought, but we were quick and happy to concede that De Wet’s idea of putting the sweet deliciousness of the Maria upfront with the pesque was another stroke of genius.

Keenwa&NeethlingshofDe Wet gave his stamp of approval to the rest of the menu and pairing as planned with Xavier.

After the pesque and Maria guests can expect:

2 Ceviche and lychee in pastry cups

with a glass of the farm’s knockout white 6 Flowers

QuinoaCoatedPrawns13 Quinoa-coated prawn kebabs and a glass of the unwooded chardonnay

And then a little twist suggested by Xavier, essentially giving diners our short-list (2 wines, 2 courses) and leaving the ultimate choice of the better pairing up to them …

Two glasses of red served side by side (Malbec and Cabernet Merlot) with two courses in succession:

4 Stir-fried red and white cabbage with ginger and pork medallions, and

5 Tacu tacu (rice and beans) and honey-basted pork ribs

MaracuyaSlider16 Passion fruit sorbet with caramelised chilli and feta cheese with the Gewürztraminer.

It may not be a household name on these shores, but once tasted Gewürztraminer isn’t easily forgotten. It’s tremendously fragrant, with a flamboyant aroma that recalls roses, lychees and spices.

Caracal1We were determined to get the Wild Cat, Caracul, on to the menu but couldn’t find a decent and worthy sparring partner for it so we decided to provide a glass to those Wild Cats who like to stay on after our wine pairings, purring and play-fighting. This blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc is definitely on our Big Five list.

6 courses paired with 6 wines and a glass of Caracal R350 a head.

September 25, Groot Constantia: Mixing it up with the Grande Olde Dame

Heavy snowfall and avalanches kept Capetonians at home during late August, forcing Keenwä to postpone the food and wine pairing with Groot Constantia. With the roads open again and the carriages rolling into town the event was held on September 25!

It was a great night that elegantly combined the old and the new. This is how we got there:

Tradition out the window: Keenwä and Groot Constantia food and wine pairing

A food and wine pairing at Keenwä without ceviche? Sounds scandalous … but it is true.

Our house dish, Ceviche – the most delectable combination of the freshest of fish, lime and chilli – goes beautifully with so many wines. We do not insist that one fish is better than another: we use the best available on the day. Sometimes it is the meaty gamey-ness of tuna; at others it is the flaky delicateness of angel fish.

At the tasting lunch for Keenwä’s food and wine pairing with Groot Constantia it was the decadent butteriness of marlin. A perfect match with Gouverneurs Reserve white: Groot Constantia’s inversion of the proportions of the classic Bordeaux blend (ie much more Semillon than Sauvignon Blanc) highlights the vague salty promise of the ocean.

GtConstCellarWe submitted the combination to the acid test: a sip of leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) – the juice that is left after you have marinated the fish – and then, in quick succession, a sip of the vino.

Hmmmmm perfect! Test passed with flying colours but still there are only 5 places in the finals … and in the end this duo didn’t get one of them. But then nor did the Groot Constantia Shiraz, our stand-out favourite red at a recent tasting at the estate.

But, of course, these nights is not about the also-rans and the nearly-rans.

Our chosen stars for the night:

ChardonnayThe Causa de atun, a layered dish of potato and lime mash and tuna tartare, stands in for the ceviche, with a glass of Chardonnay on her arm. This made perfect sense on the night – even those who are not normally chardonnay fans. (The only tuna available on the day was ‘fresh … ummm . I mean freshly defrosted’ so we opted for Yellowtail just out of the ocean, which turned out to be an excellent choice)

Break with tradition and you may soon discover that rebellion is like a drug …

We couldn’t quite decide which of the lamb dishes was tastier and more dramatic with the zesty pepperiness of the Pinotage, so we decided to let the people decide.

LambMeatballs1RedbottlesDiners were served the lamb meatballs with yoghurt, cucumber and mint dressing and a hot salad of red cabbage and quinoa with a glass of Pinotage.

After that, they were served the Seco de Cabrito (lamb braised in beer with coriander, peas and potatoes) with another glass of Pinotage.

By the time we had decided on this were on our umpteenth glass of Groot Constantia and were building a rhythm breaking with tradition. So we decided to put the cart before the horse, the chicken after the lamb and a white after a red.

At this unexpected twist in the road (and in a sort of nod to tradition) it seemed only right to give diners a little something to re-set and refresh the palate.

KiwiMarcianoMaricano de kiwi, a little Martian of a dessert combines kiwi fruit sorbet with caramelised chilli and a sliver of Brie cheese.

chickenRoseThymeThat cleared the tastebuds in readiness for the thyme and rosemary chicken with a light guacamole cream and lemon zest-infused quinoa.

We were in full flight now, the rebellion was in full swing … we were banging on the gates of the palace. We paired this course with two wines, but not like last time: this time every second person received a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the others got a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Then we went up to Pisco Bar for the grande finale: Grande Constance. A lone star, an outlier on the Richter scale of wicked sweetness.

A welcome drink, 5 courses paired with 5 wines, and Grand Constance: R400

Boy, have we got a treat for you: Keenwä chef Gift Matwaya and Groot Constantia wine-maker Danie Keulder

1 Welcome drink: Blanc de Noir

2 Causa de atun. Chardonnay

3 Lamb meatballs. Pinotage

4 Seco de cabrito. (also) Pinotage

5 Palate cleanser: Marciana de kiwi

6 Thyme and rosemary chicken with a light guacamole cream and lemon zest-infused quinoa.
Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc

7 Grande Constance

July 3: Those 3 magic words: Springfield Pinot Noir

SpringfieldPinotNoirSpringfield is releasing a pinot noir. You heard it here first! Okay, go on, you might as well taste it here first too.

Famous for not releasing their pinot (perhaps, like the Argentines, they keep the best of the best for themselves), Springfield is finally going to let us have some! On July 3 it will be served at a food and wine pairing at Keenwa.

Why the previous vintages have not been released is not public knowledge, but this pinot fan was not even tempted to start asking probing questions lest they might upset the grape cart.

It is very exciting to be doing a pairing with Springfield Estate, an old favourite of the house. We were determined to keep an open mind for our pairing lunch with Jeanette and Izak (representing Springfield), but feared that our relationship with certain of their wines represented an intolerable risk. In the interest of levelling the playing field, we asked Mark and Simon from Hawksmoor, a new favourite estate of the house, to join the Tasting Committee.

We started with a smorgasbord of flavours, textures, colours and combinations from the incredible selection that is Peruvian cuisine. My new favourite quote about Peruvian food (forgive me if you have heard it before) is: If a Peruvian chef were to make three different dishes a day for a year he wouldn’t need to repeat one recipe.

So on to the job of tasting and choosing from an already pared-down shortlist.

We started with:

3-way ceviche: Small portions of a selection of fish cured in citrus juice with different accompaniments, including chilli, avo and pineapple

Pineapple tiradito: Slivers of raw white fish sprinkled with grated pineapple marinated in orange juice served with chilli and basil

These were both strong starters (pun intended), but the ceviche paired with the crisp minerality of the Life From Stone 2013 screamed out as the perfect partnership. Still, none of us could quite turn our backs on the sweet orangey subtlety of the tiradito, so decided to make Gift, the chef, prove he was worthy of his name and somehow consolidate the tiradito into the 3-way.

We also decided that we should serve it in such a way that the basil does not get pushed aside as if it were mere garnish because it is an unexpected star of this little show. Expect it to dance a little jig on the tongue with the Life From Stone.

The Enrollado de quinoa: Cooked angelfish (or asparagus) with avocado and red pepper wrapped in jasmine rice and rolled in quinoa didn’t make the final cut. It is hard to put words to the exact reason. Maybe it was too heavy, perhaps too much of a lightweight for the exuberant fruitiness of the Special Cuvée 2013 … either way we went back to the drawing board.

The Special Cuvée is surprisingly different from that diamond of a sauvignon blanc (Life From Stone), being much less flinty and way more full and fruity. We realised that after the obvious and almost-too-perfect 10 of the previous combination, the Special Cuvée called for a bit of ambition and risk-tasking. Rocotos, our version of a fabulous Peruvian creation, is very popular as a starter in Keenwa. We set it alongside the Special Cuvee and ^! bingo and hey presto !^ another star pairing was born.

After a little tussle (although, unusually, consensus was achieved without the customary wine pairing arm-wrestle) we agreed to put this combo up front as a welcome drink and nibble. Whether serving a tapas-style nibble with the welcoming drink will make herding the crowd into seats easier or not remains be seen.

So they will stand for the rocotos and sit for the ceviche … and [insert drum roll here please] we expect them to be floored by the mains.

We had three to choose from:

Sopa de Cangrejo: Crab, celery and carrot consommé/vegetable consommé

Braised pork belly with pisco and orange zest glaze and sweet potato puree (we are still searching for a vegetarian alternative for pork belly)

Chicken thighs and pastel de choclo (corn cakes) with a chilli, lime zest and pepperdew jam

The crab consommé was given a full set of MMMmmm (culinary 10s), without exception or suggestion of even the slightest tweak. Bingo. And how perfectly matched it was with the Méthode Ancienne Chardonnay 2009, which is so full of delicious, expansive natural yeastiness.

Then, just when we thought we might have peaked, the pork belly came along and danced with the 2010 Pinot Noir. Words don’t really work for this description … the best I can do is a selection of noises … mmm hm hmm Ummm hmmmm ahhhhh!

By the time we got to the chicken thighs and corncakes with a chilli, lime zest and pepperdew jam we had disproved the mantra that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Each of the three parts of this dish was delicious,, but somehow it felt like we were going backwards after the pork ad the pinot. Each of us dreamed of squeezing a favourite component into another dish … in the end it was only the chilli, lime zest and pepperdew jam that survived.

We were still trying to find a worthy partner for the Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

‘This calls for something meaty,’ said one. ‘The only way is up … beef fillet,’ murmured another. ‘Game,’ was the point of view of a third. We have a shortlist in our sights: warthog, beef, ostrich and venison. The chilli, lime zest and pepperdew jam will work with any of those. All that chatter about meatiness brought to mind another perfect companion for meat: our consistent crowd pleaser, Pesque de Quinoa, the risotto-style dish of quinoa and mushroom or spinach.

One last sweet little chore remained: to choose between the sticky, luxurious sweetness of Machu Picchu chocolate coffee pots and the classic Peruvian Picarones (pumpkin and sweet potato donuts served with a honey glaze). The coffee pots may combine two of Peru’s famous exports, but the committee felt they could have come from anywhere, while Picarones are so specifically Peruvian. Typically sold on street corners of Lima, picarone translates as a cheeky, mischievous person. And these sticky treats certainly live up to that name.

Springfield doesn’t have a sweet wine so Jeanette has offered to introduce her neighbour to the Keenwa crowd in the form of Weltevrede’s Ouma se Wyn, a white muskadel.

May 29, Durbanville Hills, Surprise and delight

Keenwa wine pairing DURBANVILLEOur slight deviation from less-well-known wine pairing partners of the past proved a roaring success. Our food and wine pairing with Durbanville Hills was packed with surprises despite the estate’s reputation for consistency.

DHillsMartinMooreMartinPlannerWe had created the menu with Durbanville Hills cellar master Martin Moore and red winemaker Wilhelm Coetzee. Martin had squeezed our lunch into a super busy schedule and was not able to join us on the evening so it was up to Wilhelm to keep us informed and entertained. He outlined the intention and processes of wine and dine events and gave some background on the recent harvest and the wines being served. A veteran of many similar events, Wilhelm made the hostesses glow with pride when he said that he had seldom experienced the level of care and attention to detail shown by the Keenwa pairing team and kitchen. [Blush]

WilhelmCoetzeeWilhelm had done his homework and waxed lyrical about how incredibly varied the food of Peru is. He told us that ‘they say’ that if a Peruvian chef were to make three different dishes a day for a year he wouldn’t need to repeat one recipe.

The evening started with Durbanville Hills 2013 Rosé. This 100% merlot works well as an aperitif for both red and white fans. Not as frisky as your usual rosé, this one could even be described as kinda serious … there is definitely no South of France summery silliness here.

Then we had the Ensalada Miraflores paired with Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc 2013. When we had presented this winter salad to Martin and Wilhelm at the tasting lunch it had included chorizo. But, after much deliberation, the Tasting Committee had decided (incredibly) that – when paired with this wine –this fresh, lively mixture of corn, butter beans, pepperdew, feta, red onion and coriander with a tangy red wine vinegar was better without the chorizo.

Miraflores1On the night we decided to let diners decide for themselves. After some discouraging, fewer than half went for the chorizo. Most of those who tasted both agreed with the Tasting Committee that this was a rare example where excluding a great ingredient was an excellent choice. One of the diners, Victoria, took time out from charming her way around the room to wade in on the side of management.

She had thought the reasoning for excluding the chorizo was absolute bollocks – it was clearly a cost-saving exercise. Sceptical as they were, she and the handsome Alessandro had taken one of each in the interests of research and had proved the theory for themselves.

Then it was our headline dish, ceviche. The delicious tuna and mango cured in lime juice with a hint of chilli (or mushrooms, avocado, corn and red pepper cured in grapefruit juice with a hint of chilli) co-starred very nicely with the Bissieskraal Sauvignon Blanc, the second in a line of surprises form Durbanville hills. Many people know the estate for its very good, reliable wines; not that many know of their premium lines.

DHills1Then the big surprise of the night, the month actually. Causa Santa Rosa with the Durbanville Hills Pinotage 2011. You might think this layered, subtle vegetarian dish of potato and spinach mash, beetroot, avocado and sweet potato crisps would be overpowered by a red wine. The delicacy of the cold-climate pinotage makes the perfect partner for this dish that somehow makes people forget bout meat.

The award for most interesting course of the night has to go to roasted quail with a risotto-style dish of quinoa and mushroom. People were amused by the gamey little birds and loved the way the gamey-ness worked with the Durbanville Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Dessert was properly decadent with Pisco Sour ice cream and quinoa con leche dancing the tongue with the Rhinofields Noble Late Harvest.

Now there is hardly time to rest before the next event. Pairing lunch with Springfield Estate! Tickets for this food and wine pairing on July 3, priced at R450 a head, are already selling fast … doubtless helped by rumour that Keenwa will be the first restaurant to serve Springfield Pinot Noir! Ever!

Joostenberg: a lot more than wine

Welcome drink and five courses and five glasses of wine for R300

Welcome drink: Joostenberg Family Blend Rose 2013: A fresh, dry blend of Syrah and Merlot

1. Ceviche (with a difference): fresh tuna cured in grapefruit juice with mango, chilli, coriander and red onion; or ceviche champignon: mushrooms, avocado, onions and corn in grapefruit juice. Joostenberg white family blend: an unusually fruity and friendly blend of Chenin and Viognier

2. Choros a la chalaca: mussels with onion, tomatoes, corn and lime juice; or a Keenwa salad: lettuce, cherry tomatoes, avocado, quinoa, mixed beans and feta. Joostenberg Fairhead (2011): the farm’s flagship wine, barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne

3. Inchicapi: spicy chicken chowder with roasted peanuts and coriander; or Pesque de Quinoa: risotto-style dish with quinoa and mushrooms. Joostenberg brings out the big guns to cut through the abundant delicious richness of these dishes: Fairhead 2010

4. Papas Rellenas: Corn-stuffed coriander and chilli potato mash with sweet, honey basted pork ribs or honey basted black mushrooms. Joostenberg Syrah 2010: full-bodied and bold with a good balance of spice, fruit and savoury flavours

5. Marciano de Maracunya, granadilla sorbet with caramelised chilli and feta. Joostenberg Chenin Blanc Noble Late Harvest 2013

Thursday March 27, Flagstone:

FlagstoneInviteRTP1FlagstoneThis month’s wine pairing is with a personal favourite, Flagstone …

This promises to be a great evening of fine wines and food that will most certainly set those tongues wagging after dancing there together.

  Thursday February 27, Hawksmoor: A love affair that was to endure

HawksmoorWine pairing menuWe were hardly in the saddle at Keenwä when this event was held. It was a wonderful introduction and has resulted in a strong and enduring love affair.

The choice of 5 courses and 6 wines designed to dance together on your tongue was made by a committee of experts and enthusiasts including Simon Olding, German de la Melena, Xavier Didier and Call Off The Search’s top foodies (and winos). The event costs R275 a head. There will be a prize draw on the evening for a stay at the fabulous Hawksmoor House.

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