Stark-Condé: Killing time in Stellenbosch

StarkIt was the second weekend in a row that we were planning our Saturday around the social life of an eleven year old, but this time we really did not mind that much. There is currently only one kind of party that interests themthem: Panitball. If it wasn’t for the age limit at most paintball courses, this craze would’ve hit them even earlier. Last week we were lucky enough to find a place open before 8am in the sleepy town of Melkbos. This weekend we found ourselves in the Stellenbosch wine lands.

En route to the paintball course I spotted Stark-Condé. I had never heard of the wine estate before but the name stuck a cord in a heart still heavy after the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones. A total stretch but I’m sure other GoT fans will get it. On our way back into town The Plus One indulged my mild fangirl tendencies by driving through the white gates. PostcardCafe

Stark-Condé turned out to be  the ideal place to kill time, especially with a child under the age of ten. Between the beautiful surroundings, a comfy spot in the sun and a delicious menu we did not switch on our tablets once. The eight year old was content with exploring everything in sight and getting more jam on his being than the croissant at their restaurant The Postcard Cafe. I had a substantial portion of fried prawn salad. Bliss! The Plus One was less happy with his lamb curry but only because there was no chutney. Curry without chutney is a sin. StarkTasting

The tasting room is on a cute island. To keep the freeloading Stellies students at bay a tasting of 6 wines goes for R30 per person. I hope every cent goes to a holiday fund for the lovely lady at the tasting room, maybe to an island with palm trees. It was not just a pretentious ramble about acidity and top notes (well not too much), she really knew the estate inside out. We cut the tasting short because we couldn’t have our dessert on the tasting island so we headed back up for apple crumble for the boys and chocolate pecan squares for me. Delicious! Paintball

Collecting the eleven year old took more effort than I had energy for after that major chill session. A sadistic sign claimed that the paintball place was just 800m away. It was uphill. It was a million kazillion km away. The Styrofoam cup of coke at the end of our trek felt like Olympic gold.

Getting over myself for the sake of forgiveness….but mostly good food

In Afrikaans there is an expression:  Ek het ‘n gly in die plek. It is human nature to remember a slight and when it is from a restaurant/hotel/winefarm there is a good chance that you will keep the grudge alive.

A few years ago, we went to the Robertson Slow Festival. First on our agenda was a safari dinner with Lord’s Winery. The traffic was slightly worse than expected so we called ahead to see if we would still make it in time. The lady on the other end assured us that they would wait for us before they headed off to the next stop.

Lord's Wines McGregor

Lord’s Wines McGregor

They didn’t.

We were pissed.

I am not the kind of person to throw a, ‘don’t you know who I think I am?’ tantrum but that day in the car, I did. Luckily we were in the Cruiser because I surely would have rolled a lighter vehicle with my pissed-offness. I had every intention of giving them the worst review that I could come up with.

When we got to the winey I decided to be more adult than I was feeling at that time and only give the organisers dirty looks when they weren’t looking. The building is quite pretty, we thought in spite of ourselves. The wine was served straight out of the barrel which we found quite charming in spite of ourselves. We found the biltong and blue cheese soup absolutely divine in spite of ourselves.  6

At that point they didn’t need to give us a bottle of MCC, and I really don’t want to come across as one of those bloggers whose opinion can be bought with a freebie, but it was nice that they did.

The evening was phenomenal. I can’t really remember what we ate that night but the perfect harmony between flavours still linger. The pairing of the wine was almost too good, everything blended together seamlessly into one amazing feeling of happiness.

The next evening we visited another wine farm where we experienced a very different kind of rocky night. Just like the main meal at Lord’s, I can’t for the life of me remember all the details other than a feeling of unease, that the food was uninspired and that the wine must have been paired by a beer drinker. They consistently succeeded in confirming our first impressions… that they sucked. So much so that I’m not going to bother with a more imaginative insult.

So now I only hold a grudge when the food is horrible. It’s the mature thing to do.

The night we became décor critics in Wellington

Two months ago I got out of the group buying industry. I did customer service/content/social media/remained civil to annoying salespeople. All those slashes got too much. To celebrate, I bought a coupon for a night at Oude Wellington from Daddy’s Deals, a competitor. I’m petty like that.

Oude Wellington

My biggest problem with group buying is that one does not always get the professed value that was promised to you. For instance they’ll discount a meal (Pay only R25, Save 50%!) but make the portions smaller. Basically a R25 portion. Not the R50 meal that you paid for.

As this was my first time using an accommodation coupon I was curious to see if we would have a R1000 experience as the coupon heading loudly promised or a night worthy of the R499 deducted from my account. GoodTaste

The décor of room number 3 at Oude Wellington was cape country cute with a dash of “Oh where can we hang this ugly butterfly print, put this super modern unplugged lamp and red triangle bedside cupboard that the 70s vomited out?” They missed the mark of fabulous country chic by only a few centimetres. The bathroom was a lot closer to this ideal (the one in my head), with only an offending canary yellow chair and their logo sandblasted on the mirror. The underfloor heating and the antique cast iron bath were sublime. I had every intention of just camping there for the night.  OudeWellingtonNight

The restaurant on the premises was closed for renovations so we headed over the road for dinner at Festa at the recommendation of our hostess. The parking lot was completely dark but we could make out a few cars so we figured that we were in the right place. This is the middle of nowhere, Wellington – there’s nothing else across the road. We were at the point of turning around when a security guard shed some light on the situation and the sign clearly pointing us in the restaurant’s direction. Piano

The revamped barn with a red piano hanging from the ceiling and other hipster paraphernalia were quite unexpected. Above all Festa really got it right. They went all out with toilet pot plants welcoming guest at the door and reigned themselves in with elegant orchids in teapots on the tables. It did not feel cluttered as this style tends to do.

For dinner Festa surprised us even further by plating up meals that satisfied our diverse tastes. The Plus One had a HUGE portion of tomato bredie. Exactly what you’d expect at a platteland restaurant. I opted for a delicate blue cheese, Parma ham and fig pizza. Delicious. Festa2

The ridiculousness of the evening came to a climax when I discovered that the manager turned out to be a classmate of mine back in Bloemfontein.

I woke up the next morning craving the left over pizza but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I started to doubt if the evening ever happened at all. Had I just passed out after a bottle of Pongracz while watching model profiles on Fashion TV? The Plus One was also happy to go with this theory as he refused to believe that there is an active hipster coven hiding in Wellington’s platteland. Not even finding the credit card slip could bust this idea.

I found some comfort in the loss of the leftovers with a proper continental spread along with a warm breakfast. Edith fried up the crispiest bacon rashers that almost caused WWIII among myself and The Plus One. We really love our crispy bacon.

We had a lovely time away but I won’t give Oude Wellington too much credit for this. Festa definitely played a big role as well as our absolute need to have 24 hours to ourselves. We knew going in that it was an “upgraded farm experience” which is what we got, complete with dogs barking through the night keeping The Plus One awake.  Yes, I suppose there is some truth to me falling asleep with a bottle of Pongracz after all.

Theatre Review: Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur is a play within a play inspired by Sacher-Masoch’s novel within a novel, Venus in Furs. The 1870 novella was a few decades ahead of its time exploring masochism – in fact it is credited for inspiring the term. Well into the twenty-first century anything hotter than vanilla between the sheets still causes a stir but is generally more broadly accepted if the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey is anything to go by.

When Vanda Jordan (Janna Ramos-Violante) walks into a New York casting office awkwardly balancing two huge bags and a broken umbrella one can see she is completely out of place. Venus-in-Fur

From the trip of her tacky peep toe stiletto boot to the dog collar around her neck and the obnoxious voice – she has absolutely nothing going for her. Not even sharing a name with the main character can convince the play’s director Thomas that she is destined to embody the legendary Vanda in Venus in Fur.

Thomas has a clear vision for his adaptation and he needs the perfect Vanda to make this a reality. By sheer determination Vanda Jordan convinces him to let her read for the part.  VIF2

But as the reading develops Thomas (Niel Coppen) becomes a mere stage prop to be wielded to Vanda’s liking. As the lines start to blur between the reading and reality not even an Inception style trinket, one that indicates reality when it stops spinning, could help him.

Initially the change of costume helps. Thomas has an exceptionally beautiful green velvet coat to transform him into Severin von Kusiemski. But the shift in power between the actress and her director goes deeper than this cosmetic change.

VIF

Like her character, Janna Ramos-Violante retains total control over her audience, enslaving them with a flick of her fur stole.  Seeing a woman with this level of power is rare in entertainment, be it theatre, film or music.  Ramos-Violante pulls it off most convincingly.

Venus in Fur is dark and disturbing. It is emotional voyeurism.

Venus in Fur runs at the Theatre on the Bay 5 – 22 June 2013.

A version of this review was featured on WhatsoninCapeTown.com

Review: Nik Rabinowitz at the Moyo Kirstenbosch Winter Concert Series

Having a picnic at the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts is as rooted in Cape Town’s culture as getting excited about hail that looks a tiny bit like snow. The end of the summer concert series in April marks the start of the great Cape  Town hibernation.
Despite hardly being the coldest city in the world, Capetonians sure do not like to go out in winter. Maybe the new Winter Concert Series at Moyo will prove to be the solution.

The concerts are hosted in the cosy Moyo at Kirstenbosch and are limited to an exclusive 100 ticket holders. Some of the acts that are lined up for the next 3 months are Three Tons of Fun, Mark Haze and Arno Carstens. We were there for the first show in the series and the first comedian to ever perform at Moyo: Nik Rabinowitz.

Nik Rabinowitz

Nik Rabinowitz

At R 85 the tickets are on par with the cheaper Summer Concert tickets but whereas on the concert lawn you have to provide your own picnic and drinks, these tickets at Moyo include a welcome drink and an appetiser. For this first show the appetiser proved to be a mini tasting platter of peanut and prawn soup with flat bread, oxtail and the delectable moyo moja with custard. As with all Moyo’s meals the food was wonderfully presented on the plate but the waiter simply plonked it down on our table with barely more than a fleeting smile. I missed Gold Restaurant’s waiters who talk through each dish mentioning its origin and ingredients. While a full introduction may have been excessive in this context, it is still nice to know what you are eating, especially if you have allergies.

After a Moyo-style traditional dance, the main act took the stage: Mr Nik Rabinowitz.
“Roses are Red, King Kong is a gorilla, I still have Nkandla, so suck it Helen Zille.” If Nik Rabinowitz had chosen political poetry as a career path, this would have been the masterpiece read by our esteemed president in his presidential speech that fell on Valentine’s Day this year. But as it is Rabinowitz is just a comedian standing in front of a crowd asking them to laugh at his inappropriate jokes. Something we were extremely happy to do.

He tested some new material that was slightly shaky but with his quick wit Rabinowitz quickly turned each wobble around. The most impressive was an Oscar Pistorius joke that I have not heard yet. I didn’t think there were any good ones left to tell.
Rabinowitz’s comedy is particularly admirable for being so current. I recognised a story that I had sniggered at in the Daily Maverick just a couple of days before and I felt an immediate bond that he, like me, had found it so funny, even though for some reason no one had laughed when I told it. But then comedy is not just about content but about delivery, and so much is down to the way that Rabinowitz delivers his material. And to top it off he is a master of impressions, switching between voices so flawlessly that it’s almost as though he does so inadvertently.

Downing a shot every time Rabinowitz makes a Jewish joke would be a very dangerous drinking game. For a man who takes the piss out of everyone, taking the piss out of his own people seems to be his favourite fallback… to the point where I doubt that he even realised when he threw in the voice of a snobby Jewish lady right in the middle of a Zuma joke.

A version of this review was featured on WhatsoninCapeTown.com

Review: Chevelle in Cape Town with Shadow Club and Woodstock Mafia

Chevelle ‘sent the pain below’ for a few fans when they cancelled their South African tour back in 2011. But the cause of the delay – recording conflicts – resulted in their sixth studio album, their most impressive yet. Hats Off to the Bull spawned such songs as ‘Piñata’ and ‘Face to the Floor’ two songs which by themselves made the sacrifice worth it. Now a torturous two years later South African fans finally got to experience the Chicago natives and their arsenal of guitars for ourselves.Woodstock Mafia

Woodstock Mafia was a perfect choice as an opening act. With solid riffs and occasional scream vocals they resonated well with Chevelle fans. Their set was meticulous with only a small judgment error of in playing their new song ‘Divided’ as their final song. ‘Divided’ is not a bad song, but the captivating ‘Electric Light’ would have been a far more memorable finale.

During the opening acts at the Chevelle concert

During the opening acts at the Chevelle concert cleaners mopped up spilled drinks in the crowd.

Shadow Club shared a few minutes of their stage time with a friend who committed the ultimate rock n roll gesture of love by proposing to his girlfriend on stage. She said yes and mentally started choreographing their first dance as man and wife to ‘Good Morning Killer’ (speculation).

Shadow Club

Shadow Club

Shadow Club

GrandWest was a welcome break from the stadium that hosted most of the major concerts of late. The sound is always of the highest quality: something Cape Town stadium rarely pulls off. Eavesdropping in the queue of the bar confirmed that my fellow concert goers were also impressed with the venue, “I can just nip in and out to the bar and the bathrooms are clean.” (The rest of this conversation was not so clean so I will spare you that.)

Chevelle Crowd

On the topic of the bar, the service is as friendly as it is slow. And while we are on the topic of staff, one driver of the mini shuttles that transport the pensioner gamblers drove like a taxi on Voortrekker Road. He was driving on the hooting like a manic on the footpath when he grazed me with the mirror. I was unharmed but still feel rather shaken by the incident.

Chevelle

Pete Loeffler of Chevelle

Chevelle got right into it with the dark ‘Sleep Apnea’. The crossover music between songs can only be described as alien opera, haunting random and surprisingly soul-stirring. And there is real emotion from the boys of Chevelle: Pete Loeffler (lead and guitarist), along with a few dudes who had been viciously head banging just a few minutes before, got quite teary when he introduced his current favourite song to perform, ‘Piñata’.

Chevelle Bass

After a scorching finale of ‘Send the Pain Below’, Chevelle encored with ‘The Red’ and ‘Face to the Floor’. ‘The Red’ is a song about rage and the way it builds up, so it was very appropriate to start the song with only Pete and his guitar on stage. As the song progressed Sam Loeffler joined on the drums and later Dean Bernadini on the bass. This was the absolute highlight of the evening, and a masterclass in everything a live show should be. Any concert goer is ultimately seeking something more than what comes out of the speakers at home. However good their sound system, they are hoping for the quintessential band experience. And this is something Chevelle offers in droves.

*Photos by Warren Talmarkes Photography

A version of this review was featured on WhatsoninCapeTown.com

Chevelle and Woodtock Mafia Cape Town set lists

1. Sleep Apnea
2. Same Old Trip
3. The Clincher
4. Jars
5. The Meddler
6. Get some
7. Still Running
8. I Get it
9. Letter from a thief
10. Forfeit
11. Vitamin R
12. Hats of the Bull
13. Envy
14. Piñata
15. Send the Pain Below
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Encore
16. The Red
17. Face to the Floor
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Woodstock Mafia’s set list for their opening performance for Chevelle in Cape Town

A special thanks to Jaco Lucas who kept track of the tracks and was kind enough to post them on the Chevelle fanpage.

Read my full review here.