|Thursday, 17 May 2012||Food of nature|
It’s a delicate balance between restaurant and supplier. Out of all the tribulations chef face, the most daunting must be hunting down the best ingredients – and then maintaining a steady flow.
Chef Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof Estate knows this dilemma all too well. “Every season there’s so much to offer,” he exclaims, “but to find it...I had this beautiful quince dessert on the menu – it didn’t last long my supplier only had two trees.”
The already biodynamic wine farm is taking steps towards sustainability for its restaurant kitchen too. The farm’s evolution, true to its principles, has been an organic process.
“We’re busy planting a vegetable garden; I’m growing all the things I can’t normally find. We have fresh eggs in the mornings from our hens, and we even have baby cows, so we’ll hopefully be producing our own diary too.”
The eggs are a good example of the biodynamic approach: the shells (calcium rich) leave the kitchen and go back into the chicken feed (or earthworm farm) and the natural cycle repeats itself.
Christiaan Loots, all-around cowboy and farm manager, interrupts our conversation to take us on a tour. Christiaan is passionate about biodynamic farming, but in the ‘practical sense’. He uses plant extracts to spray other plants for antifungal and antiseptic purposes. He points at a clump of suurvigs (sour figs), and says: “we crush them, till we have a milky liquid with which we use to spray the vines.”
Silica (chemical compound known as silicon dioxide) is used in all kinds of farming and can be extracted naturally from things like; pine needles, dandelions, and cow dung.
“What goes into the plant, goes into the food, and then goes into us.” And with those sage words we head back into the tasting room and restaurant. Our table is set up in the ‘glass box’—floor to ceiling windows that seem to hover above the Schapenberg Slopes, and we can see the town of Strand twinkling on the horizon.
We feast hungrily, our appetites heightened and inspired by the story behind the farm and its food. I won’t bore you with the entire menu, but the highlights for me were the landscaped plate of goat’s cheese mousse, pickled beetroot and coriander soil. The following dish was the sun and the earth on a plate: soft boiled biodynamic egg with porcini mushrooms and sauce poulette. Simple food, with simple origins – simply delicious.
Waterkloof Wine Estate is just outside Somerset West on Sir Lowry’s Pass Road. Another restaurant worth its salt in the area is Sofia’s on Morgenster Estate. I had an amazing salt-and-wine pairing dinner there.