#capellilavita #savourlavita #savourwithamilinda

About Amilinda Wilkinson

I’ve had a complex love-affair with food and wine for as long as I can remember

Pretty plates. Coffee art. Sourdough bread.The smooth curves of a dark glass wine bottle. Cocktails with dramatically elaborate garnishes. Daintily pleated dim-sums and perfectly cooked eggs benedict than when you cut into it, coat your breakfast in bright yellow sunshine. Gooey, chewy pistachio macarons and hand-crafted chocolate bars with just the perfect amount of snap. The smell of bacon in the morning and the taste of a cup of chamomile tea at night. The almost-holy, closed-eye experience of eating a good burger with all the trimmings. The simple pleasure of tearing into a spinach and feta croissant with the sea breeze in your face. The warm promises of red wine when you stick your nose in the glass. The pop of a cork.

And then…after many, many years, I finally discovered that I’m a writer at the core of my heart. A wordsmith, with an insatiable hunger for more. From my love of Cape Town and its plentiful abundant pantry, The Little Hedonist was borne. These days, when I’m not behind my day-job desk, I dedicate every single word I write to our dynamic and incredibly generous food and wine industry, its people and its world-class produce, conquering the beauty of our winelands one bottle and one plate at a time. Oh, and I love macarons. I’m super passionate about those!

Nothing ordinary about Coco Safar’s coffee

Wine and ice cream. Nougat and Cap Classique. Gin and pizza. Tea and biscotti. Cupcakes and cocktails. Olive oil and bread. Cheese and charcuterie. I’ve heard and done it all. Cape Town is the capital of thrilling and tantalising food pairings, aimed at satiating the appetite of even the most adventurous foodie.

But what if I told you there’s a place in Sea Point where you can turn it down a notch, slow down the palate’s hungry pursuit for the un-tastedand go on a luxurious connoisseur coffee tasting journey? Paired with hand-crafted chocolate confectionary, Coco Safar has come up with a winning recipe for an innovative tasting that will leave you craving for your next cup of speciality caffeine.

I’ve only ever seen or heard of Coco Safar on social media. It’s almost a trend; a lifestyle – the hot spot to be photographed in, to be seen at, to be Instagram’ed. I was always intrigued by the moody chocolate hues of its interior and by the all- day café experience it promises to deliver, alongside cups of couture coffee.

I received a generous invitation to experience the latest feather in their chef’s toque – Coco Safar’s coffee and chocolate pairing. Disclaimer – it’s so much more than this humble title can even begin to suggest, and will stand out in my mind as one of the best ways in Cape Town to deliberately while away a few hours.

Amilinda Wilkinson

Amilinda Wilkinson

The journey

We arrived at Coco Safar’s Capsule Emporium, welcomed by Café Gourmand, Lorna. She briefed us on our coffee journey itinerary for the afternoon, whilst we settled in at the bar and took in our surroundings. Having recently acquired my own coffee pod machine at home, I was keen to try out Coco Safar’s extensive range of beautifully packaged coffee pods. Sourcing coffee beans of only exceptional quality from across the world, it’s roasted right here in Sea Point at their roastery and packaged into Nespresso-compatible pods that are compostable. Every step of the process is transparent, accountable and eco-friendly – there’s nothing ordinary about these!

Lorna is a storyteller of note, and her enthusiasm is simply contagious. She embellished our tasting with little quizzes, anecdotes and challenges, keeping us fully engaged and submerged in excellent coffee for way longer than we should’ve.

The tasting

To elevate our tasting to extraordinary levels, Lorna arranged two different sets of confectionary treats for Tim and myself, so that we could share and double our delight as we travel through our destinations.

First, we paired the dark, moody Napoli with a very berry macaron and a hazelnut macaron. Then, for something a little lighter, we paired thedelicately floral Saint Tropez with a green tea bon bon and a coffee bon bon.

Our third coffee, and our absolute favourite with an aroma reminiscent of warm, melted chocolate, Havana, was paired with the pièce de resistance: a cocoa bean dark chocolate mousse and caramel treat for me and a mocha cheesecake for Tim.

We also snuck in a tasting of boldly fearless Manhattan; a smooth, handsome chap whose intense dark caramel aromas lingered welcomingly as we sat back for a pause.

And if that was not decadent enough, we ended our journey with Coco Safar’s two interpretations of rooibos, each with a lovely story woven through the flavours. But you’ll have to ask Lorna to tell them to you – the magic lies in a visit to Coco Safar.

Beyond the ordinary

I don’t want to give too much away about the tasting as this is something you need to experience for yourself. This is not your expected coffee tasting; instead, it’s a showcase of craftmanship, a story of how passion turned into dedication, a tale about a quest for quality and the journey beyond the ordinary.

The tasting must be booked in advance. WhatsApp on 082 055 5721 to book

#capellilavita #savourlavita #savourwithamilinda

   

My Obsession Grape Cake with Deetlefs’ Stonecross Chenin Blanc 2020

When I find something I like, I tend to mildly obsess over it for a while. I think about it endlessly and return to it as often as I can, enjoying each circling with as much joyous abundance as the last. One of these lockdown obsessions has been Deetlefs’ Stonecross range of wines, specifically the Chenin Blanc. I first encountered Deetlefs’ wines last year during one of those crazy five-week alcohol-banned lockdown sales. As I take my duty seriously, I supported South African wines with reckless abandon, funded by my petrol money allowance I was saving now working from home. That was my first taste of their Stonecross Chenin Blanc, and I’ve been fixated on it since. The other thing I’ve been returning to more often than I should is mood-dependent iterations of my grape and polenta cake. So here I am, with another grape cake at your door, but this time I’m feeling generous, and decided to share the winning recipe. I’m calling it my Obsession Grape Cake, for obvious reasons.

But before I do – I found these FVC International black seedless grapes at Food Lover’s Market. They’re called “Candy Crunch” and taste like sun-warmed cotton candy sticks from the church bazaars of my childhood. Beautifully plump and glossy black, they’re the most perfect grape candies.

Amilinda Wilkinson

Amilinda Wilkinson

My Obsession Grape Cake
Serves: 8 – 10

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ cup + 2 tbsp flour
½ cup polenta
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup vegetable oil
6 tbsp amasi
2 tbsp honey
250 – 300gr grapes, preferably black or red. I left mine whole, but you can halve and seed yours if you want. I used the black seedless Candy Crunch ones.

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line / grease a rectangular oven dish (about 20 x 20 x 5cm).
Whisk together all the flour, polenta baking powder and salt in a bowl. Put aside.
Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a larger bowl. Add oil and butter, whisk some more to blend.Whisk in the flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Stir in honey but do not over mix or fully incorporate all ingredients.
Pour into the oven dish. Toss half of the grapes with a bit more flour to coat. Scatter over the batter in the dish.Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden and it’s starting to set. Remove from oven and scatter over remaining grapes. Bake for a further 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack after cooling slightly in the pan first.

Best enjoyed warm with a glass or two of chilled Deetlefs Stonecross Chenin Blanc 2020. The gritty earthiness of the polenta breaks through the clean, crisp acidity of the wine and the slightly caramelised grapes enhance the rich, tropical notes of pineapple. Beautifully complex in the bottle, beautifully uncomplicated to drink. I’ll be right here if you’re looking for me, pouring over my Stonecross Chenin a little bit longer.

#capellilavita #savourlavita #savourwithamilinda

           Amilinda Wilkinson

Celebrating the harvest with Deetlefs Estate Chenin Blanc 2017

When I bought my house, it wasn’t so much the extra space or the open-plan kitchen or the shady garden that filled me with “first-home-owner’s excitement”. It was the prospect of grapes. Hidden away, right at the back of the house where only the toughest creepers could root in the sandy soil, was an overgrown, grossly neglected grapevine. Darkened by the sun, its bark cracked and perished, it was only when I cut into a stray branch that I realised it was full of water, filled with life, even after years of being forgotten. Somehow, it had sent roots deep into the earth, waiting, patiently waiting for something great to happen.  That day, almost four years ago, enveloped in a tangle of dead vines with drops of water clinging to the blades of my secateurs, I vowed that I would one day celebrate my own harvest from this forgotten stump.

Deetlefs Estate Chenin Blanc 2017

This year, I collected a generous armful of what I think is Crystal grapes from my vine. Now a shade-giving canopy of lush green leaves, my grapevine carries heavy under the burden of ripening bunches of fruit. I knew I couldn’t face another bottle of home-made grape jam, so I decided I’ll do something different. Something suitably celebratory.

When a bottle of Deetlefs Estate Chenin Blanc 2017 arrived at my doorstep recently, I instinctively knew how I would celebrate a long, hard year since the previous harvest – I would bake a cake, and drink wine; a small homage paid to my own grapes and to Deetlefs’.

Amilinda Wilkinson

Amilinda Wilkinson

Deetlefs Estate Chenin Blanc 2017
A Harvest Cake

In eating, as in drinking, I take great delight in a combination of different textures and flavours. The depth and complexity of this Chenin Blanc left me yearning for a recipe loaded with character, earthiness and of course, slightly tart, sun-ripened backyard grapes.

I decided on an adaptation of my polenta and olive oil cake. I plonked the grapes into the batter like little light-green glass marbles, letting them pop under the pressure of heat of the oven, keeping the cake beautifully moist inside as it bakes golden and gnarly on the outside.

It’s a simple recipe, with few ingredients, and very often a gorgeous wine like this one calls for less, rather than more. Gritty, yellow maize meal, a voluptuous amount of EVOO and as many grapes as I could fit, I slid the cake into the oven as I simultaneously opened the fridge to chill my Deetlefs Chenin.

An hour later, with my throat so parched I could hardly speak, I pulled my harvest cake from the oven. Some of the grapes on the surface burst during baking, leaving their caramelised skins behind, soaking the cake in their pre-wine juices.

Served with a chilled glass of Deetlefs Chenin Blanc and a final snowfall of icing sugar, we cut generous wedges of the still-warm cake as we cheers’ed to a harvest season that almost didn’t happen. The gorgeous fresh acidity at first sip made way for much deeper and more intense stone-fruit flavours, followed by notes of rich honey, which harmonised beautifully with the earthiness of the maize meal and that distinct pepperiness of olive oil, however much more muted when baked into a cake.

As I poured a second glass – slowly, and with intent – I couldn’t help saying a little thank-you to Dionysusfor saving not only my own grapevine, but also those of our country.  Thank you also to Deetlefs, for making this celebratory moment just that little bit more special, with glasses of Chenin that tasted like the best kind of reward.

#capellilavita #savourlavita #savourwithamilinda

           Amilinda Wilkinson

Monday Macaron

I find it slightly amusing that my first guest-post on Capelli La Vita would be about macarons. True to form, these little dainty rounds of indulgence make for the most fitting analogy to my very own hedonistic life, and how I choose to stuff it full of decadence. I’ve always had a particular affinity for a good quality macaron, and the search for “the one” is a life-long quest I’ve committed to with honour.

 

 
 

Moreish macaroons
Not to be confused with the coconut chewie called a “macaroon”, the macaron is typically sweet confection with two meringue shells sandwiched together with flavoured ganache, jam or buttercream. I’m inexplicably drawn to the texture of macarons; the smooth, slightly rounded top, perched on a characteristically ruffled crown.
It’s all in the bite; the way the almond shell crunches and give way under your teeth; the slight gooeyness in the hollow centre, and then. A creamy, soft and pillowy filling, oozing from all sides as the macaron dissolves into delectable crumbs. To me, eating a macaron is an almost hallow experience; a sweet moment that begs for all your senses to be involved in the sheer pleasure of dessert.

Amilinda Wilkinson

#capellilavita #savourlavita #savourwithamilinda

           Amilinda Wilkinson

                      A savoury sweet?
Recently, the idea of a savoury macaron was put in front of my kitchen door. My first thoughts were ones of sacrilege; of dishonour toward this century-old Parisian treat. How can one fill a macaron with anything but flavoured buttercream or layers of ganache?! However outlandish it seemed, I sat with the idea for a bit, chewing it over, for macarons are a serious subject to me.
As I released my mind to wander into this new realm of sweet and salty macaron possibilities, I began to warm ever so slightly to the idea. I started to build imaginary layers of piquant textures in my mind’s eye and enveloped them with macaron shells. I thought how it would taste to pair spicy with sweet. It was possible, I concluded, but only on one condition.

                             With wine
Only one condition would allow me to explore this almost-umami experience any further. And that was with the addition of wine.

Editor’s Note: I asked the best baker this side of the mountain to whip me up a batch of unflavoured macaron shells for this little project. Barbara from The Icing Project is my number one speed-dial for all delicious baked goods and sweets, and I could not even try to make macarons as perfect as hers!
Mac & cheese with Rosé

          Butter chicken with Chardonnay
Smoked chicken breast, curried carrot puree
One of the main reasons that Chardonnay is at the top of my favourite wine cultivars, is because of its fearlessness. Bold enough to hold against fragrant spice, yet mellow enough to enjoy with sunset.
Butter chicken is the perfect example of a Chardonnay-loving dish. With the buttery texture already captured in the macaron shells, I kept this pairing simple with only a few slivers of smoked chickenand a Malay-spiced curried carrot relish. The Chardonnay lapped up the warm aromas of the masala and presented crisply against the slight sweet of the shell. A bite of parsley to cut through the lushness of the pairing, and I could bite quite a few more of these in one sitting.
Recommended wine: Kloovenburg Unwooded Chardonnay 2020

                   Mexican with Merlot
Crispy mince, salsa verde, sundried tomato
Another great food and wine combination for me, is a robust red with Mexican inspired dishes. Nachos, tacos, enchiladas, steeped in tangy tomato goodness and fresh herbs, I tried to capture some of that flavour profile in the next macaron.
I fried lean beef mince until it became golden, gnarly and crispy, and whipped up a quick batch of salsa verde with parsley and basil fresh from my garden. A tiny morsel of oily sundried tomatoes, and it’s a Mexican feast waiting to happen.
Recommended wine: Middelvlei Rooster Merlot 2018   

                   Bold beets with Shiraz
Beetroot and apple puree, feta, beetroot crisp
I’m mad about beetroot. I love the earthy, natural goodness of slow-roasted beets, and simply had to incorporate this brightly coloured bulb into my macaron making. I puréedthe honeyed roasted beets with crisp green apple, with a pinch of black pepper. A crumble of soft feta and served on a salted beetroot crisp, this macaron gave me that sweet-salty flavour I always crave. The texture of the gooey macaron shell paired with the crisp was a delicious moment, especially when followed with the throat-coating peppery moodiness of a deep Shiraz.
Recommended wine: Zandvliet Shiraz 2017   

                           In conclusion
I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed this macaron making project. I was reminded of the sheer joy of experiencing unexpected flavours, textures and aromas on the palate, and how exciting something as humble as a little macaron can be. I most certainly think there is a space (or two!) for savoury macarons in my plate.
I’ve always viewed food and wine pairings as something incredibly personal – even more reason to play around with combinations until you find something your palate appreciates and that makes you close your eyes in that ultimate indulgent moment of enjoyment. Food is supposed to be fun, and wine, too. Next time I’m serving Chenin for sundowners, I might just quickly go whip up a batch of squid-ink and smoked haddock macarons – who knows where this sweet-savoury creativity will lead me next?