Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My favourite macaroni and cheese and a delicious home-made pastrami sandwich for lunch. And about the best restaurants in South Africa.





Back in Manila after two weeks of adventure in Morocco and some R&R in Japan, living a Travelife, my very first lunch yesterday was with the Travel Companion at his private kitchen.

I also had lunch with him today. But that's another story for another blog entry in my never-endingly delicious Travelife.

TALK ABOUT FORESIGHT

In a previous blog entry, I'd already written about how he'd decided one day to create his own dining venue out of prime commercial space in one of his buildings.

And then he'd hired a couple of consultants and four chefs to man his kitchen, which is outfitted with the kind of equipment many cooks would die to have.

When he first told me his idea last year, I remember that we were in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania. I told him he was crazy. But now his private kitchen is a reality and he doesn't let me quite forget that I once called his idea crazy.

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IT LOOKS LIKE TEST KITCHEN
IN CAPE TOWN

The dining venue itself is simple, modern and stylish.

In fact, yesterday, I realised that his private kitchen very much reminded me of Test Kitchen in Cape Town, which is considered the best restaurant on the African continent. 

It's run by a talented chef named Luke Dale Roberts.

MEMORIES OF A TRAVELIFE
TO SOUTH AFRICA



Interestingly, the Travel Companion actually took me for dinner at Test Kitchen during a very nice holiday in South Africa two years ago, and we'd had a very memorable 13-course degustation.

At that time, Test Kitchen was pretty new but Chef Luke was already well-known, and the Travel Companion had booked this restaurant for us on one of our evenings in Cape Town.

Our dinner at Test Kitchen in Cape Town

In those days, I still remember how everyone in the know whom we spoke to in Cape Town was very impressed we even knew about Test Kitchen -- and some people didn't even know about it yet.

As in, "Test...what?"

But of course, we'd done our homework and made it a point to book all the best restaurants in South Africa for our trip.


AHEAD OF PRACTICALLY EVERYONE ELSE
AT FIVE HUNDRED IN JOHANNESBURG


Aside from Test Kitchen. two of the restaurants we went to were so new that they were not on anyone's radar yet then except for the really serious foodies.

We ate at Five Hundred in Johannesburg four days before it opened.

Celebrity chef David Higgs gave us some champagne in his open kitchen and then he had to serve us dinner in a venue next door because so many things were still in boxes.

AHEAD OF PRACTICALLY EVERYONE ELSE
AT CAMPHORS AT VERGELEGEN

Then we ate at Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West just about two weeks after it opened, and this was also very lovely as well.

The executive chef of Camphors at Vergelegen

Both Five Hundred and Camphors at Vergelegen have since joined Test Kitchen in the roster of the best restaurants in South Africa.

Talk about good teamwork there, between the Travel Companion and myself.

THE GREAT TEAMWORK


The action at Test Kitchen
on the night we had dinner there.


The Travel Companion chose Test Kitchen while I chose Five Hundred and Camphors at Vergelegen.

Last year, one year after we'd been to South Africa, Test Kitchen was chosen best restaurant in Africa, Five Hundred made it to best restaurant in Johannesburg, and all three are in the top ten restaurants of South Africa, along with several others we ate at on this trip.

A REALLY NICE TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA

We were in these restaurants first, ahead of most of the pack.

And every time I think about this particular trip with the Travel Companion to South Africa, I just have to smile because we had such a good time.

That's one our courses at La Colombe

As for the others in the top ten list that we visited, these include the lovely La Colombe in Constantia, The Tasting Room in Franschhoek, and Rust en Vrede in Somerset West.

But these are already great dining institutions in the Western Cape.

Sunday lunch at Rust en Vrede,
living a Travelife.

TEST KITCHEN IN MANILA

But back to Test Kitchen in Cape Town. 

I heard it's almost impossible to book Test Kitchen these days.

But two years ago, it was difficult but not impossible with something like two months' notice. It's in an industrial suburb of Cape Town, so it's quite a distance from the CBD, but it was full when we were there.

Test Kitchen is located in
a somewhat industrial district of Cape Town


And the Travel Companion's Private Kitchen made me think of the atmosphere of Test Kitchen yesterday.

It has that same contemporary and stylish industrial feel, although I don't know whether this was his intention or not.

Dinner at The Tasting Room
in Franschhoek

WHAT A DIFFERENCE
TWO WEEKS MAKES

Meanwhile, everything else in his private kitchen had improved as well since the last time I was here, which was about two weeks ago.

I'd last been there just before flying off to Morocco, and I'd teased him about his plates with flowery designs then.

I'd said to him two weeks ago: "This is so not like you."



It turned out that these were temporary plates from his office upstairs.

But yesterday, he had proper stuff on the table, although these are temporary as well. And he even proudly showed off to me the uniform his staff will wear.

The uniform is a dark blue chef's jacket type of uniform with the words "Private Kitchen" actually embroidered on it.


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MY FAVORITE MAC 'N CHEESE

I thoroughly enjoyed lunch yesterday.

The Travel Companion even thoughtfully got his chefs to make macaroni and cheese yesterday, as he knows I like the version served at his private kitchen a lot. It's crusty on top, creamy inside, with a hint of chili.

It's terribly addicting.



When I ate here two weeks ago, he sent me the remainders we didn't eat as a take-home package and I had this for breakfast three days in a row.

Yesterday, I ate every bit of the mac 'n cheese so there were no breakfast takeaways, unfortunately.

A GREAT PASTRAMI SANDWICH

The other winner today among the half-dozen dishes we had for lunch was a pastrami sandwich

His chefs actually made their own pastrami, taking time to cure it for about ten days, and then to steam it for about ten hours.



They also made their own sauerkraut to go with it -- none of the bottled stuff from the supermarket here.

It was very good.

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"Best trip ever."

Join the next Travelife to Morocco
April 18 - 27, 2015



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HE'S BAKING HIS OWN BREAD

The Travel Companion said: "We're going to be baking our own bread as well, very soon. And making our own desserts."

Yes, he's hiring a baker to do the bread and the cakes.

AN ENTIRE RESTAURANT JUST FOR HIM

This whole set-up is just for him, by the way, as well as for his family and friends.

He doesn't like eating out much in Manila, so instead he decided to make his own restaurant -- except it's not open to the public.

The Travel Companion bought this Moroccan tea set
during our stay in Marrakech last June

But this private kitchen sure feels like a restaurant.

It's complete with chefs, waiters and even other "customers." Or at least sort of "other customers."

His nephew joined us for lunch, and we had a very merry time yesterday, back on my first day in Manila, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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The best of an exotic destination
April 18 to 27, 2015


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May 17 to 25, 2015


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The ultimate food trip
June 6 to 11, 2015


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July 3 to 8, 2015


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