I like to think I was gazing wide-eyed around me, sweetly excited like a child in a toy shop. But I fear my behaviour may have been closer to a rolling-eyed, saliva-dripping bull in a china shop. A self-confessed foodaholic, I felt like I’d fallen down a rabbit hole, my senses spiralling out of control as I tried to work out what to eat first at the fourth annual Taste of Cape Town.
The tasty paradise has been laid out expansively on the oval of the Green Point Cricket Club, with a small village of white tents set up in an orderly fashion. Fourteen of Cape Town’s finest restaurants are represented, including Societi Bistro, Jordan, Gold, Nobu, Bistro Sixteen82 and Signal at Cape Grace. Dotted between are wine and gourmet food products to taste and buy, a Johnnie Walker Whisky Theatre, a Grolsch Beer Academy and a cocktail marquee, as well as wandering ‘Angel Hands’ masseurs and crown-sellers, crowns being the official currency for the food and wine samples.
The aromas filtering out of the various tents mingled in the fresh evening air on the opening night, driving me nuts as I tried to identify the best and let my nose lead me to the prize. Eventually the smell of fragrant curry leaves and chillies drew me closer to Taj Cape Town where I happily devoured a mouthwateringly spicy Andhra-style chicken. I then cooled off my mouth with some refreshing ginger, lemongrass and peanut-filled spinach cones from Wang Thai.
Nicely warmed up, I tucked in… Each serving is presented as a ‘taster’ portion, just enough for one to get a good grasp of what the given restaurant had to offer. A salmon and prawn lentil salad, topped with a dollop of smoked salmon fromage frais from Planet Restaurant was a clever and healthy combination of crunchy and smooth textures. The addition of dried apricots to the Cape Bokkom salad (Pierneef à La Motte) gave a delightful sweet overtone, while the strong salty taste from the fish was neatly complemented by a wild garlic dressing and crispy greens. Nobu’s offerings were a highlight, with pieces of yellowtail sashimi, so fresh it practically melted in my mouth, wrapped around a tangy jalapeno chilli and lightly drizzled in soya sauce. My taste buds were also dazzled by cubes of tuna, seared to perfection, served on a bed of cherry tomatoes, creamy avocado, olives and capers in an olive oil vinaigrette with sprigs of sweet basil.
Food demonstrations are held throughout the festival in various tents, giving the public a chance to watch prestigious chefs such as George Jardine (Jordan) and Rudi Liebenberg (Planet) in action. In the Taste of Thailand tent we learned how to cook Thai Prawn fried Rice and, one of my personal favourites, a delicious Tom Yum Goony spicy prawn soup.
I also made time to ogle the abundance of olive oils, cheeses, nuts and dried fruits, jams and preserves, coffees, cupcakes and sweet treats, organic vegetables, ciders and the most amazing stall containing exotic mushrooms. And then of course there was the vast array of wines from across the Western Cape, as well as liquors and other spirits to try. I tasted two interesting wine cocktails, one using an infusion of cinnamon, brandy and red wine and the other a tropical mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, lemon and other spirits.
With a heavy heart and a heavier stomach (not to mention a bag stuffed to the brim with goodies) I finally had to tear myself away from my land of decadency. But the flavours are still lingering on my palette, and in my dreams. I’ll be back for more. And it’s a safe bet that you will, too.
Taste of Cape Town runs at the Greenpoint Cricket Club 5 – 8 May 2011.