Just like Zanzibar, the exotic island off the coast of East Africa, close to Tanzania to be precise, Cape Town was once the stop-off for fresh produce for ships en route to the East, where Europeans sailed to get spices – hence both were ports on the “spice route”. That, after all is how Cape Town was discovered by Jan van Riebeeck in the 1600’s.
Zanzibar itself has a large variety of spice trees and gardens to tourists’ delight (as do the Grand Comoros), but spice-growing trees are a rarity in the Cape region of South Africa. Now Cape Town, or more specifically, the Cape Winelands District, has gained its very own Spice Route – a beautiful historical farm, set against the Paarl Mountains, next to Fairview Wine Estate. Fairview has been a favourite to wine-lovers and cheese connoisseurs, and a fun place to take kids, to go and see the resident goats climb the windmill towers. So not long ago, the owner of Fairview, Charles Back, acquired the farm next door too, and so our modern “spice route” was born.
My kids took me to this delightful place this past Saturday – a cool, rainy day so typical of Cape Town winters. As we were ravenously hungry, we took to the closest building to the car park immediately to find food, and what a great choice it turned out to be. I quote from the official website:
Wilderer’s Distillery & La Grapparia Restaurant
Last but not least, take a brief walk over to the Wilderer’s Distillery & La Grapparia Restaurant, opening up in mid-January 2013. See Master Distillers, Helmut Wilderer craft internationally acclaimed Grappa and Eaux de vie, which has become the brand of choice to many connoisseurs around the world. Wilderer’s Distillery uses the most advanced equipment available, which allows them to produce some of the best Grappa and Schnäpse in South Africa. Guests will be given the opportunity to view the distillation process and sample some of the products. Enjoy a selection of wood- fired, thin base pizza, flammkuchen and tapas with a glass of Grappa or Schnapps at La Grapparia situated right next-door to the distillery.
We started off our sensory experience with tasting Grappa. For R25 you get to taste 3 flavours, set on a sheet with each glass in a circle where the type and flavour is explained in detail. I had “fynbos” flavour – this being an indigenous Cape plant with distinctive smell, as well as one with a cherry nose, and a pear and apple Grappa that smelled delicious. The first sip sank into my stomach like a hot coal. 🙂 This is not everyone’s cup of tea, as it is extremely strong like cognac, but set the mood for the meal to follow.
I chose the roasted vegetable platter and Belinda had the cheese board. I cannot describe the delicious flavours on my plate – you would need to experience it yourself. From the perfect artichoke heart which my food-fundi daughter described as “bringing tears to her eyes”, to the dressing on the rocket that accompanied the expertly roasted veggies, the crisp french loaf slices, and the side plate of creamy feta (no doubt from Fairview), sun-dried tomatoes and fresh olives – each morsel was a sensation, and washed down with sips of the best Chenin Blanc I’ve tasted in a long time – Fairview of course! Belinda’s cheese platter was a feast for the eyes and palate, and Allister had a pizza as perfect as they should always be – thin-based and fresh. As our table was right next to the fireplace, we were delightfully glowing with heat from the fire, wine and fine food by the time we got up to explore more.
Next stop was the chocolate making and tasting factory. I quote:
Our resident chocolatier, DV Artisan Chocolates is crafted by the De Villiers family and is one of few ‘Bean to Bar’ micro batch chocolatiers in the world. All DV Artisan Chocolates are hand-crafted and available for tasting on the farm.
We were given a chart of the world, some blocks of chocolate and raw cocoa beans in plates. A thorough lesson in origin and tasting of beans and chocolate followed, which left us with much appreciation for un-commercialised chocolate. Cocoa beans are harvested from the equatorial regions of Africa, like Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana etc, as well as South America, for instance in Venezuela etc. And confirmation that pure chocolate is full of anti-oxidants and therefor so good for you! Yeah!
We still made space for the biltong tasting – (biltong being a South African delicacy where red meat is dried out by hanging it in airy areas after spicing it well). Same as the chocolate – a chart with a piece of biltong per source, which included Springbok and Eland – both game buck in South Africa. I quote again:
Barley & Biltong
The Barley & Biltong Emporium is a new and truly unique offering to South Africa. With one of the best view of Table Mountain, The Barley & Biltong is a beer garden with a local twist. Beer and biltong lovers can look forward to tasting a selection of beer well-complimented with Kudu, Beef and Springbok biltong. Guest can purchase and enjoy their beer and biltong in the beer garden, while enjoying the spectacular view of the Paarl Winelands and Table Mountain.
And yes, it has a beer brewing facility where you can do the whole tasting excercise. We did not, as we were rather full by now, having ended our chocolate tasting with a decadent chocolate drink too. We also walked around in the wine tasting cellar, steeped in history, as well as gasped at the talent of the glass blower’s wares on display. The views are truly spectacular, another full a-la-carte restaurant completes the picture, and I quote again:
Spice Route Restaurant
For those with an appetite, the Spice Route Restaurant takes you on a culinary journey, exploring the fusion between spice, food and wine. The restaurant interior sets a tranquil theme throughout, embracing the natural surrounds. Culinary explorers can enjoy an array of dishes discovering the fusion of traditional South African cooking with the various influences of cooking cultures along the Spice Route, all the way from Europe to the East and the places that once formed the empire of the Dutch East India Company. Each dish is carefully crafted and prepared to compliment the award-winning Spice Route wines.
So when in Cape Town, come rain or shine, this is a must for locals and tourists alike – a leisurely spent day in the most beautiful setting, great food and lots to do, see and taste. Enjoy!!!
When in Thailand I’m a spice grower. Mostly black pepper and hot peppers and I often think of hoe much trouble people went to to get these spices to Europe and the Americas. I have a list of place I must visit when I make it to SA. Beautiful pictures.