The launch of the Franschhoek Artisan Food Route, which is first of its kind in the Cape winelands, was a brilliant way to sidestep the Monday workload. First stop on this balmy blue-skied autumn day was Babylonstoren for a garden tour (held at 10am daily), led by garden curator Liesl van der Walt, which included picking and eating biologically grown fruit en route to the tasting centre to sample freshly baked bread, made in the wood-fired oven by Karen Pretorius, who starts her baking shift at 5am each morning. These were served with the farm’s own extra virgin olive oil and various jams, including one made from shiraz grapes, which apparently works well with the Babylonstoren Shiraz, although this time it was paired with a refreshing cordial. Delicious herbed yogurt cheese and charcuterie, also made by Karen, completed the tasting. Interestingly, she’s making porcini mushroom biltong suitable for vegetarians. The garden provides constant inspiration with what’s in season, from pumpkins for pickling and roasting to olives for curing and pressing.
Then it was off to The Jam Jar where most of Jill Pienaar’s products are made from organic fruit and include an unusual berry and lavender jam as well as a yummy roasted chilli jam. Cotage Fromage Deli & Restaurant at Vrede en Lust Wine Farm was the next destination and chef Willie Mostert provided olive oils, including a stand-out smoked version, cheese, homemade free-range duck liver pate and spicy condiments, which paired well with the farm’s Artisan Chenin Blanc 2012, to taste.
Then it was back down the Simondium Road (R45) to Dalewood Fromage, owned and run by Rob and Petrina Visser. She thoughtfully partnered a selection of their pasture-to-product cheese with Villiera Starlight, a low-alcohol MCC. The tasting started with their unique Winelands camembert and culminated in a sampling of the six-month-matured Huguenot, South Africa’s Dairy Championships Product of the Year for 2013, as well as a complex and nutty version aged for 12 months. (The estate cheese shop is open Monday to Friday 9am–4pm and in season on Saturdays too, 9am–3pm.)
Last stop was American family-owned Noble Hill for a visit to their chilli garden, where a variety of peppers, from habanero to Serrano, tabasco and Thai are grown for use in the Latin-American inspired Cosecha Restaurant, and an olive oil tasting in the wine tasting room, from the pungent and peppery green-tinged unfiltered extra virgin olive oil to ones flavoured with chilli, curry and peri-peri. The day ended with a late picnic lunch at the dam which included a tasty black bean and grilled corn salad, fresh chunky avocado guacamole (with homemade tortilla chips) and a seasonal garden salad, all attractively presented in glass bottles, and a charcuterie board.
An enjoyable day spent sampling handcrafted food and tasting wine, and we’d only covered a third of the route. There are 22 producers in total featured on the map, which ends at the top of the Franschhoek Valley. You can pop in to taste what’s on offer on the day but if you want a specialised tasting it’s best to phone ahead, find out what’s available and book in advance. For more info, visit www.franschhoek.org.za.
Lindsaye Mc Gregor