Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Mobi-kennel packed as though we were leaving town forever. The road down to Cape Town a ribbon between yellow and green canola and wheat fields that stretched between the sea and the mountains. A couple of stops to let Prince stretch and to see how, and if it’s possible, to get anything to eat as a diabetic at service stations.

Cafe Roux, for a Sessions evening of Cat Stevens. The ossabuco (beef rather than veal), definitely moreish, although the addition of peppers to the ‘sofrito’ (the slow-cooked holy trinity of onions, celery and carrot) wasn’t too my taste, and there were oodles of tomatoes that turned into a sweet dish. As there was no saffron risotto served with the meal, it probably should have been labeled as a ‘beef stew’. Journeys End Pioneer Chardonnay a great wine choice.

All sorts of squeaky bits from walking on the beach. Contortions negotiating the soft sand and rocks. Wet kelp posing a formidable challenge to remaining upright over the slippery surface.

A tad apprehensive (The diabetic thing again) about lunch at The Vine Bistro at Glenelly Estate, with a set menu that depends on what ingredients inspire Chef Christophe. He didn’t disappoint and while I had to ignore the delicious sounding dessert, the cheese board was no less decadent.

Montagu. Prince turning Mary’s garden upside down. The sprinklers of particular fascination. Sky full of stars. Smell of the mountains. Wind chimes.

Farewell dinner for Eugene, with a definite French slant. Foil-gras served on courgette bellini’s. Grilled duck breast with roasted vine tomatoes and green beans. Sage leaves fried in duck fat for that added touch of scrumptiousness. Tribaut Champagne and a smooth 2010 ‘Gentle Giant’ Bordeaux blend from Haut Espoir.

As expected, the bicycle groaned on its tortuous climb up Phantom Pass. I blame the wind for my wheezing and wobbly legs.

Felicity Cloake’s perfect osso buco.

(Serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
25g flour, to dust
4 pieces of veal shin, about 4cm thick
50g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
2 strips of lemon zest
4 sage leaves
200ml white wine
200ml good chicken stock
For the gremolata
1 unwaxed lemon, zest finely grated
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of sea salt

Set a casserole dish wide enough to hold the meat in one layer over a high heat, and add the oil. Put the flour on to a small plate and season generously, then use to coat the meat. When the oil is hot, add the meat to the pan and brown well on both sides until golden and crusted. Set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down and add three quarters of the butter to the pan. When melted, add the onion, carrot and celery, plus a sprinkle of salt, and cook until soft. Add the garlic halves, lemon zest and sage to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn up the heat then add the wine to the pan. Return the meat, standing it on top of the vegetables, and bubble until the wine has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat right down, cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours, carefully turning the meat over every 30 minutes, until it is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Meanwhile, mix together the gremolata ingredients.

Dot with the remaining butter and allow to melt into the sauce, then serve with the gremolata and risotto alla milanese or wet polenta.

“I like to encourage people to eat this with their fingers – so much easier than fiddling about with a knife and fork!”. Napkins advisable.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

In the cottage garden, the sage are in full flower. Their purple spikes above the patio wall, a magnet for sunbirds. The fuchsias have their last late summer burst of flowers. Pink lanterns in the afternoon sunlight. Double yellow hibiscus creating a corner of brilliance.

A charcoal illustration of fuchsia flowers in the garden. Simple lines with my left hand. My body contorting itself to try and get it be the right hand!
Managed the Manor House jogging route. My legs finding the hills impossible. My shoulder managing. Polly not sure of the break in her daily schedule.
Packing in the cottage is into its last week, the throwing about becoming more ruthless and our lives move inwards to only the few essentials. With the walls bare of paintings, it’s interesting to see how the sofa has become the focal point. The sweeping flow of the sofa throwing shadows like a sculpture. Something to remember for the studio apartment.
It’s olive harvesting season. Nets spread beneath the trees that are stripped by acrobatic, rake wielding, workers. The upper branches needing ladders, while the lower branches are stripped by hand. The squirrels have ensured we have no olives in our trees!
There are new sculptures on the streets of Stellenbosch. While they provide an interesting walk through the streets, it needs a misty, grey, sort of day to transform the sculptures into life. Mist moving through, and around the works. Wet, polished surfaces, light sources. Touching, irresistible.
With my concentration on the sculptures and keeping my shoulder from being trashed by Polly’s sudden movements for that ‘must stop smell’, I managed to walk into a head height broken tree branch. 
Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventure

A breath seems loud on a still morning in the vineyards. Warm tranquil days painting vineyard leaves a gazillion shades of autumn, squeezed between impatient winds, stripping trees.

Shoulder a bother. Physio working hard to ease traumatized muscles.
Packing paintings into the blue studio cupboards for the move to Knysna. Stories from a dozen years, full of energy and emotion. Brown cardboard pyramids in empty rooms. Gaps appearing as we get rid of that one extra bed, fridge, pillow, chair, rug. Still too much stuff cluttering our lives.
It means interesting food, and people combinations, as we use the left over bits from the freezer before it spoils. A buffet of left over Braai bits, brought alive by Terry’s amazing jus. Avo and crispy bacon soup, using three day chicken stock. Therrine and cucumber slices. Chicken and leak, with just a touch of pecorino. 
Architect appointed to start the drawings for the apartment and studio alterations.
An evening at Mont Marie, where its whizz kid chef, Pieter Vlok is creating food that is as exceptional as the views out to the Heldeberg. The artwork displayed on the walls compliments the stunning food presentation. There were a group of us, and it being too chilly to sit out on the terrace, we sat near one of the windows that still gave great views. It is however noisy, making conversation difficult. The service was friendly, if disappointing. Warm bubbles, unacceptable. My serving of Springbok was a tad on the small side and I would have been better going for the chefs recommendation of pork belly or fillet. It did come with an amazing beetroot and foie gras mousse. The lemon poppy soufflé scrumptious. 
Another of the small 20cmx20cm paintings sold. Will need to do more of them as soon as we get sorted in Knysna.
Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

A breezy, autumish sort of day in the vineyards. The patio covered in leaves from the grapevine. The wind unsettled, in that ‘Chocolat’ vein, driving changes. With our summer visitors over, packing has started in the cottage. A spot or too of blood not unexpected.

Something special about wrapping paintings and sending them off to their new homes. Edith agreeing to act as courier for those heading to Switzerland.

Mum’s fractured pelvis after a fall not great news. Fortunately it isn’t as severe as it could have been and she is out of hospital, but needing care for a few weeks. Does mean that I’m in Jozie for a couple of days.

Vineyards shrouded in smoke, an ash storm irritating eyes and lungs. Another surging fire, this time in the Jonkershoek valley. 

With smoke still heavy in the air. We went up to Hidden Valley, where the mountains were covered in flames. No danger where we were, the fires, a mesmerising backdrop to our dinner. The demonstration meal from the Overture head chef, Bertus Basson, was focused at autumn and winter ‘comfort’ sort of foods. 

Clean simple flavours, of which the squid wasn’t my favourite. Interestingly, to remove the salt from the duck (the salted duck is left in the fridge for 12 hours) he recommended soaking it for 25minutes. To ensure you have removed the salt, licking the duck will tell you if it’s still too salty! He also noted that when doing a confit, you should not remove the lid of the pot when it comes out of the oven, but leave it to first cool, as 10% is lost through steam by opening while it’s hot.

With my painting ‘Baobab Dual’ completed its time to pack away my oil paints for a month as nothing will dry sufficiently to be moved and stored. Charcoal smearing lies ahead.

Balboa Balcony Bar in Stellies for a Blues and Jazz evening. Open, looking down through the trees to the street, for a relaxed evening listening to seriously strange music that didn’t really fit into my idea of Jazz or Blues. An off-beat, with lots of electronic assistance that had the artist doing a crane sort of act as he fiddled with the dashboard at his feet. It did change coloured running lights with each of his dips, bobs and sways. The overuse of the reverb unit may have trashed what vocals there were, but it couldn’t hide his mastery of the harmonica. Great pizza, a decent wine list and stunning service made for an entertaining, if not my sort of music evening.

Sensationally, Craig has organized for the tenant in the apartment at the studio to end his lease early giving us access in June to start the renovations. Now all we need is to sort the plans and go through the Thesen approval hoops.
Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Theater called which required moving away from the vineyards and being out in the dark. Did our best to go in disguise to confuse the monsters lurking on the fringes of the Platteland. Socks, shoes and jacket meant that I was almost unrecognisable.

The production of MacBeth, adapted into Afrikaans, left us drained and exhilarated. The tension created through the play, particularly the last quarter, with the building of a tower of crystal wine glasses, mesmerizing.
Its a cool start to what promises to be a warm late summers day in the vineyards. Already there is that hint of autumn from the mountains, and the leaves on the grapevine are starting to turn red and litter the patio. 
Roads around the vineyards still full of tractors taking the harvest to the wineries. I wanted to show the harvest in my painting, within the context of the enormity of the task facing the pickers. Using the turning of the vines to add focus to the large canvas. I needed to tie the easel down in the courtyard studio as the buffeting wind threatened to turn it over. 
A day pottering around Stellies with Edith. Frequent chatting stops for coffee or a break from the sun. Sushi dinner under an ultramarine sky, the town bursting with life and energy. Polly happy to hide under her protea bushes for the day. A charcoal illustration, Morning Coffee, of Stellies.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

An exhibition at the cottage of the paintings I did in the Thirty Day challenge. The curved, white bench seat making a perfect exhibition space.

Dinner with Mum at the Manor House, transformed with stunning black and white photographs on the walls of life on the Zevenwacht Estate. The high ceilings give them room to breath, and intrigue dinners.

Fermenting grape skins, discards from the harvest, the morning walk in the vineyards intoxicating.

‘Morning Walk’, a large (100cmx71cm), demanding canvas of the Cedeberg. A bit like a mixed up box of smarties! The painting changing in the light, as do the mountains. Vibrant, surreal colours that transform into moody, somber shadow. While the rock formations were central to the painting, it was the tonal aspects that were the most challenging. The hiker, almost immaterial. Somehow dominant.

The fist crop of figs from the trees in the cottage garden. Well the first we have been here to enjoy, and manage to compete with the birds and gardeners for. Rich red colours of Macedonia, exploding with flavour.

The fresh figs directing the dinner menu. Weber grilled duck breast in brandy with figs, chèvre and pomegranate pearls salad. Managed to avoid the singed eyebrows this time and did a better job or rendering out the fat. Could have cooked it slowly a tad longer.

The courtyard studio sweltering on a magnificent summers day in the vineyards.

‘Wash Day’ Oil on Canvas 100cmx50cm. The wide open skies of the Overberg on the Southern Cape coast. A workers cottage, with its washing, amongst the barren wheat fields.

Weber Grilled Duck Salad with Fresh Figs
serves 4
3 duck breast, finely sliced
1/4 cup of brandy
6 ripe figs, cut in half
8 slices of prosciutto, fried or baked until crisp or fresh goats cheese
200g mixed salad leaves
75 ml of aged balsamic
150ml olive oil
juice of one lemon
1. Score the duck breasts, salt and pepper before adding the brandy. Place in the fridge for 8 hours.
2. On a warm fire, grill the duck breast skin side down for 5minutes on a direct fire, with the lid removed, until brown taking care not to burn them. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on an indirect fire with the lid on. Turn over a grill over an indirect fire for 3 minutes with the lid closed. Remove and let them rest for 20 minutes
3. Toss all ingredients together and dress with lemon and olive oil
4. Thinly slice the duck breasts
5. Arrange in a bowl
6. Finish with balsamic and season to taste

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Jumping through all the hoops for compliance for the cottage. Worse than a medical as they check gas, electricity, water, beetles, structure and whether it should actually even be here!

An overcast, moody sort of start to the day. Excellent weather for an early walk in the vineyards. Legs a tad heavy after the full moon hike up the mountain at Delvera. One of those things that we have spoken about doing for ages.

Opted for the longer route, which meant a 50 minute walk from the Estate through the vineyards and up a single-track path to the start of the climb. The route is well market, however the cross-crossing network of mountain bike trails can be confusing. The step hights are on the giant side that soon had my legs in a jellyish state.

The highlight was the last section through the old Yellow Wood forest. Quite incredible. Of concern was that we were amongst the minority who didn’t have wine or beer to celebrate the walk. The sunset. The moonrise. Or, whatever! Water being our responsible choice. The cloud obscured the moon for a good bit of the trip back down the mountain, and we found the route back challenging as there seemed to be lights from different walking groups going all over the place. Fortunately Terry had a good sense of where we needed to go. And with the moon brilliant, we managed the last incline, to find that we were also prize winners of a new pair of hiking boots!

The Chef’s dinner table at the Wild Peacock. They aren’t known for the quality of their chef, who focuses on cafe style meals, but for the quality of their food deli. They provide speciality deli foods to most of the top restaurants, and have a cellar of select wineries.

The evening weather was beautiful and we were able to sit outside, with the breeze carrying a faint chill to keep you awake. Visually the food was stunning. The pistachio nuts in the terrine, a diagonal line of green on the plate that picked up the green of the rocket leaves, contrasted with the pale yellow-green of the apple compote. A necessary flavour balance to the rich duck Pâté. The candied tomato was this brilliant spot of red, softened by the red pepper essence mash and Sea Bass. The Parmesan crisp a neutral balance that tasted yummy. A morsel of ancient cheese with fresh figs and a sprinkling of honey. The candle light creating a seamless flow of golden colours through the shimmering honey and muscadel wine. A dessert of white panna cotta across which the red berry coulis danced.

The wine selection was equally good and they made each serving size small enough that you weren’t overwhelmed. Instead excited by what was still to come. Excellent stuff.

Hydrangea’s and Day Lilies, a painting from the summer garden at Le Petit. Clever planting created the contrasting colours. The larger canvas, after a month of painting small paintings giving me more freedom. Although I did find that I needed to get back away from the canvas to the other side of the cottage to see how the various tonal aspects were working together.

Secured a lease on the house on Leisure Island for the nine months until January. Will see what we can sort with the studio in that time.

It meant a trip to the far side of the world at Hout Bay. Visited a couple of galleries with great pieces. Much larger than I have been painting, and they certainly need big spaces to be appreciated. The seascapes in particular were intriguing and pose a challenge to my approach.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Deluxe Coffee Works. A new artisanal coffee roaster in Stellies. The fixed wheel bicycle and surfboard should have been an indicator. And if not, the portraits along the wall of guys sporting various strange haircuts should have rung alarm bells. This is serious coffee that explodes your senses so they vibrate with the steel guitar music.

Wind chimes, and pine needles, as the wind turns. Bringing some relief from the hot summer days.

An unusual wine and salt pairing dinner in the underground cellars at Bergkelder. Five artesian salts (Hawaiian – red one and a black one, Australian – pale pink, and West Coast – white, and Uppington – white) paired with various food and wine combinations. Some of the salts were flaky, some round crystals, some volcanic, some from sea water, some from underground sources.

For the first time I have seen mechanical grape harvesters at work in the Zevenwacht vineyards. No more basket wielding pickers, moving between the vines. A hum and lights at first light, with the smell of fermented grapes filling the air, all the indication that the harvest is underway.

The house transfer moving quicker than expected, prompting a trip to Knysna to see what our options are, as the studio won’t be ready for another year. To keep up with the 30 painting schedule, while traveling, I needed to get a couple done in advance. An overcast morning making it easier. My hand cramping with the contortions from the additional workload.