Cape Town Capers
Anchored by mountains and situated at the meeting of two oceans, Cape Town is an achingly gorgeous city. The tree-lined cobblestone streets and charming colonial buildings are idyllic, but the poverty is never too far away. Still, the abundance of natural beauty is so dazzling that one can easily forget the country’s troubling past. Cape Town is the culinary capital of South Africa. No other city has a population as discerning about food nor the wide selection of restaurants. Its Western culinary history dates back more than 350 years. Cape Town was founded specifically to grow food, and that heritage is reflected in the city’s cuisine.
The style of Cape Town’s cuisine is similar to that in other places rich in local produce, such as California and Australia. Dishes are served fresh and simple, and the cuisine also draws inspiration from South Africa’s multi-ethnic background, including the Cape Malay and Indian populations. It is virtually impossible to get a bad meal anywhere, but here are some spots not to be missed:
1. Just an hour’s drive from Capetown, the Hidden Valley Wine Estate has one of the best restaurants in the country. Diners book months in advance. If you aren’t lucky enough to score a reservation, fear not – you can walk-in for a vino tasting. They offer a selection of their vineyards’ best, with what is modestly call a charcuterie “plate” but looks more like a mini-buffet of local cheeses, chutneys, and cured meats.
2. The Old Biscuit Mill Market, a farmer’s market that runs every Saturday, is a gourmand’s delight. The food stalls cater to a wide variety of tastes and offer South African classics, such as the spicy mince bobotie and ostrich burgers, in addition to Greek kebabs and Thai stir-fries. On the fringes of the market are farm stands selling organic produce, cheeses, vino and artisanal products including hand-made soaps – all produced in the Western Cape.
3. Chic cliff-side restaurant Salt, with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, commands 180-degree views over the Atlantic ocean. That would be reason enough to visit, but the food also has a loyal following. The menu is innovative, and the tiny sweet local oysters paired with sparkling Cape grapes are not to be missed.
Cape Town is also the setting for May’s Good Food and Wine Show. This is South Africa’s annual leading food and lifestyle event. Now in its tenth year, Cape Town will be rolling out the red carpet for famed foodies Buddy Valastro, of the hit TLC show Cake Boss, MasterChef America winner Whitney Miller and Dubai’s very own Ariana Bundy.
Everyone is familiar with the four basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour and bitter – but in recent years a new word has entered our lexicon. Meaning “pleasant savory taste” in Japanese, umami describes foods that are brothy, meaty and leave a coating sensation on the tongue. The umami sensation is usually found in foods that are high in glutamates. These include, among other things, shellfish, mushrooms, soy sauce, aged cheese and cured meats. While the inclusion of any of these ingredients in your dishes will add to the overall umami experience, a shortcut is to add umami paste, which is available at Jones the Grocer.
Nausheen Noor contributes to several food publications and is the author of the foodie website www.dubai-bites.com