Monday 28 May 2012

With Love From South Africa: Food Adventures - Final Part ......And a Giveaway

The hotel where we stayed had an 'exclusive' italian restaurant called Piccolo Mondo which looked so amazing - the decor was so so regal but reservations were required. A day before we left South Africa, we finally got a chance to have dinner there. We started out by ordering a chopped salad and after 30 minutes of waiting, we got this which was a greek salad instead which was nowhere on the menu. Should have been a sign of things to come but we soldiered on;

We then got a palate cleansing sorbet - i tasted mint and some passion fruit. We washed the palate cleansing sorbet down with water

45 minutes later, we got our main courses. At this point, we were irritated and hungry. Hubby had a good old fashioned spaghetti bolognese. Spaghetti bolognese is a staple in Italian cuisine and every italian restaurant worth its salt should be able to breeze through this right? Wrong. The dish was cold, overly tomatoey and no flavour at all. It was promptly sent back.

I had a braised lamb shank topped with foie gras on a bed of roasted vegetables and a side of potatoes. *sigh* Sounds nice right? The best thing on this plate was the foie gras. The lamb while pull apart tender was overwhelmed by the red wine and fresh thyme used to braise it. The roasted vegetables had lost all their crunch and the potatoes were stone cold. 

We left very very very disappointed.

For our last night in Johannesburg, we had dinner at Montego Bay - a seafood restaurant that a few people recommended. Hubby started  with bacon wrapped scallops which came with an asian slaw. Of course i tasted this dish. Succulent sweet fresh scallops wrapped with apple smoked bacon - delish. The asian slaw was a mix of regular cabbage and bitter red cabbage and crispy green beans with a peanut dressing. Goodness me. Delicious.

My starter was Moules Meuniere. While it was tasty it was the strangest Moules Meuniere i have ever had. What i am used to is a wine based thin broth with the fresh mussels. This was a cream based sauce which while tasty wasnt what i wanted. So i ate my mussels while gazing longingly at hubby's starter. I offered him a taste of mine and he took a small taste and wrinkled his nose and went back to his. I respected myself and faced my plate jejely

We had the same main course - succulent garlicky prawns which came with chips and rice. Talk about carb overload. We ignored the carbs and had way too much fun beheading the prawns and playing with the shells and acting out scenes from movies including making voices (don't ask). It was yummy but i think since we were having so much fun being silly, it tasted even better.

I would love to read about the most memorable meal you have ever had anywhere - the first 2 stories get a jar of Uzo's All Purpose Spice Mix  - my fabulous blend that took about a year to get right and which i am so so proud of.

Friday 18 May 2012

With Love From South Africa: Food Adventures Part 2

We decided to try Wangthai - a thai restaurant in Sandton based on a few recommendations from several locals including SuperSports' Gary Bailey.  So off we toddled off for a night of proper dining. This is a formal restaurant so I had a blast getting all dolled up for dinner and we had an amazing table with a fab view. Its a restaurant for romance too with the candles and soft music and fountains.

Anyway - to the food: We started with a seafood hot and sour soup that packed a punch. Oh wee.  It had prawns, mullet, calamari and mussels in it and lots of fresh herbs - I could identify galangal, whole mint leaves and lemongrass. But there was more. Hubby said the soup was way too 'alive' for him :-). I explained to him - Thai cuisine is known for incorporating the taste elements of sweet, sour and heat all in the same dish.

We got a little tray with condiments to adjust the meal to your taste - sugar, chilli flakes, fish sauce and vinegar

We also had shrimp rolls that came with a sweet chilli sauce for dipping. Not your regular batter heavy soggy rolls. Whole large shrimp with tails on with sliver thin strips of scallions and holy basil wrapped with a very thin sheet of wrapper and fried till golden brown. Bursting with flavour and the shrimps cooked to perfection. 

For our main meal, we had fragrant jasmine rice which came in this gorgeous silver tureen that i wanted to take home immediately; 

Chicken and cashews thai style. This was definitely different from the chinese version. This was fragrant and a depth of flavour from the holy basil and something else that i asked about and was told it was the addition of dried shrimp paste. 

And keeping with true Thai tradition, we had an unusual curry. If you are a curry person, you know that the options are usually red or green but this was neither. This was a seafood peanut curry that was creamy and sweet yet spicy. Totally moreish. I had an amazing tapioca, ginger mocktail that i will try to replicate at home. We opted not to have any dessert after such a decadent dinner. 

Day 4 was a 'fast food' day. No greasy fried stuff here. Ocean Basket had so many options on the menu, it took me half an hour to decide what to have while ignoring the heavy loud sighs of hubby. I decided to have the mussels and shrimp option with fries which i didnt eat. It came served in this silver bowl thing that was sizzling when it came to me. This meal was sumptuous. The seafood was so fresh and cooked just right and then the lemon mustard sauce was suprisingly mild and very tasty.

The final part coming up and our very first giveaway too. So so excited

Thursday 17 May 2012

With Love From South Africa - Food Adventures Part 1

One of the things i love about visiting different countries are my food adventures. I make it a part of my itinerary to visit restaurants and markets and talk to foodies if i can. I never documented my food adventures before so i just have personal notes here and there and of course my memories. Not anymoooooore :-)

My hubby and I spent a few days in Johannesburg, South Africa last month and i managed to take a few pictures of a few meals we had:

Decadent chocolate birthday cake for hubby since we got in on his birthday - suprise in cahoots with hotel. It was soft and moist and not too sweet with layers of chocolate mousse. We shared a slice and gave it away to the hotel staff.

One evening, we chose to have dinner at Trumps Steakhouse which was recommended by one of hubby's friends. We started with this calamari dish. A lot of the time, calamari appetizers are breaded and fried rings - sometimes good, sometimes awful, chewy and overdone. This dish was calamari tips seasoned with salt and white pepper and grilled very quickly so we could taste the freshness of the calamari. It came with the veggie garnish - which i ate except for the tomato(anyone who knows me, knows i dont do fresh tomatoes :-)) and their version of tartar sauce - which i thought was over worked with all sorts of veggies and herbs so i ignored that as well. 

Whenever I am faced with a lot of choices at a restaurant, i look for combination plates that allow me to sample the items i am most interested in. Which is what we did. We ordered this platter to share that had their "award winning" fresh caught prawns, wings and a half slab of ribs. The wings were grilled and tossed in a sweet/spicy barbeque sauce that was average at best. The ribs were fall of the bone soft and juicy but a little lacking in flavour. The star of the plate - the prawn. Grilled prawns with shell on simply seasoned with cracked mixed peppercorns and salt and drizzled table side with garlic butter. So yummy. The platter came with a side plate of mashed pumpkin(think baby food consistency) and creamed spinach. We tasted both and didnt bother after a bite each.

Part 2 - coming up.....