It’s one of those winter’s days when your duvet is your best friend and you seriously contemplate working from your bed. All I want to say is “Really Cape Town, does it have to be this cold?”
But I have a date with food and wine and history at Groot Constantia, so I dress up and show up, shivering and muttering just a little bit.
The focus is food, but I am still at the “I don’t understand this menu” level .
The food is being paired with wine which unless served in a really small glass makes me sleepy, drunk or both very quickly.
My mood improves slightly as I enter the grounds of Groot Constantia. A weak sun is shining on the vineyards and the old buildings have a classic beauty that is admirable in any weather.
Entering the private function room at Jonkershuis Restaurant I am cheered up a bit more by the warmth of the fire, gorgeous table, warming nibbles and a glass of Grand Constance.
I am addicted to Grand Constance, so let me tell you a little bit about it.
It comes from the Cloete Cellar at Groot Constantia which is the original home of the South African wine industry dating all the way back to 1685.
Grand Constance is a sweet wine with spicy undertones and smoother than anything you will ever taste in your entire life.
It is high in sugar, totally organic and wine maker Boela Gerber has managed to come very close to replicating the recipe and methods used hundreds of years ago, when this wine was highly sought after by the who’s who of Europe.
Groot Constantia still have the original purchase order from Napoleon Bonaparte who needed thirty bottles of Groot Constantia wine a month to give him comfort during his exile on St Helena Island.
Grand Constance is made from Muscat grapes which are left on the vines until they are practically raisins. They are then picked, stomped and allowed to ferment for a few days before being pressed and put into barrels for a couple of years. That’s just the basics of the process; they are not giving away all their secrets.
Whatever they do and however they do it, the result is very palatable. In my opinion Grand Constance can be paired with everything, but Groot Constantia does have other great wines, and this is how they chose to pair them.
By now I am cheerful and warmed by the fire and the generous glass of Grand Constance that has warmed and charmed me into good humour. I take a look at the four course menu and foreign words assail me.
Pafait, gnudi, emulsion, parmentier, terrine, fondant.
Help! What does it all mean?
A few English words come in to focus and reassure me, nice easy words like cauliflower, mash, kudu and chocolate cake. OK,maybe I will survive.
The starter and dessert were both paired with Grand Constance and did an excellent job in enhancing all the subtle flavours of the wine.
For the foodies, here are the details, foreign words and all.
Starter: Chicken liver parfait, soft creamy goat’s cheese on brioche toast served with a choice of these preserves.
Apricot and vanilla, spiced beetroot relish, apple chutney, almond and honey praline, pineapple and chilli preserve.
The dessert was a celebration of chocolate flavours and consisted of a dark chocolate and citrus terrine, a chocolate fondant with salted caramel and a gluten free chocolate cake.
We also enjoyed a Governeurs Reserve White wine with Ricotta Gnudi, butternut emulsion, sage noisette butter and spinach.
This was followed by a Governeurs Reserve Red with Deconstructed Kudu Wellington, buttered cauliflower mash, puff pastry with porcine and red wine sauce and roasted winter root vegetables.
Despite my initial misgivings and appalling ignorance and inability to speak fluent “food and wine” this restaurant is not easy to leave.
From the creative blends of flavours to the friendliness of our hosts and the perfect private setting for a day of indulgence, GrootConstantia delighted me.
Foodies will swoon and drool and to any non-foodies like me, the food might sound scary and weird but it is actually normal food with a delicious twist and when the plate is in front of you, you will recognise most of what is on it.Trust me, just dig in and enjoy it.
I finally left the venue, full, warmed, merry and with a great respect for the creative people who combine science and a passion for food with such artistic flair and make eating an adventure.