One of the things I love to do in summer is to drive out to Franschhoek.  Over a year ago I was lucky enough to win a lunch at Holden Manz Wine Estate’s Franschhoek Kitchen.  Work and life commitments had prevented me from booking the lunch.  At the beginning of July I moved house, and that was when I decided that a trip into the country would be a perfect way to unwind after the move.

 

I won the prize from Whale Cottage during MasterChef SA last year, for correctly predicting an elimination.  Een se dood, is ‘n anders se brood!  The prize was originally for a tapas lunch for two and a bottle of Rosé – but it seems I was upgraded to Business Class.  I took so long to redeem my voucher, and in the interim a new chef and menu had arrived at the restaurant.

 

When we were greeted by the charming restaurant manager, Cobi, I had a moment of awkwardness because he was not sure exactly what my prize lunch entailed.  My friend and I had a giggle, because neither of us wanted to ask what the tapas menu was being replaced with.  But from the moment the delicious bread arrived at the table, I was ready to pay any difference in price without concern.

Cobi attentively attended to our table and the service was seamless and enjoyable.  He was neither aloof nor over-eager, which one finds often in service.  His knowledge of the wine list and menu was impeccable.  He was so amicable, that I couldn’t resist requesting the bottle of wine that neither of us could drink, to share the love on my blogsite (see below for details on how it could be yours).

 

I took one of my oldest friends to be my guest at the lunch (our folks were friends before we were born).  I had deliberated over whether to take a ‘foodie’ friend, or another nearest and dearest who I could just with talk about the weather and arbitrary life moments.  Often when you eat out with another foodie, you end up scrutinising every aspect of presentation, flavour, texture and all those elements that go into making or breaking a special meal.  I just wanted to eat – and enjoy it!  As a single mom, and owner of a business in it’s infancy, I rarely get the pleasure to eat in a special restaurant.  That made me appreciate this gift even more – and I secretly jotted down a few notes and not so secretly took a few pics, but on the whole I think I passed as a regular diner.

 

For our first course, my friend chose the pumpkin gnocchi and I selected the soup of the day.  The soup was Tomato Soup and I can’t believe how a simple tomato soup was turned into something so special.  The soup arrived as a heated near empty bowl containing rosa tomatoes in a homemade basil pesto around tortellini in the centre.  My friend remarked “Where’s the soup?”, just as Cobi poured the soup from a small jug into the soup bowl.  As I mentioned, I don’t get out much, and I thought that was a fantastic idea… no worrying about the waiters sloshing the soup over the rim of the soup bowl and the soup stays hot in the jug.  The next surprise was the sundried tomato pesto and ricotta filled tortellini, an addition to the contrasting flavours of tomato in the dish.  Truly memorable and very well priced.

 

Our main courses were just as enjoyable, perfectly cooked and presented with a marriage of flavours and textures.  The dishes we chose were wonderful on a cold winter’s day.  It was lovely to be out in the country on a winter’s day – Cobi mentioned that in the summer the leaves of the trees and vines cloak the view of the Franschhoek Valley.  Even when we drove through the gates, while we were giving our reason for entering, we were told that the temperature reaches uncomfortable summer highs.  We warmed ourselves with the great food and the fire burning from across the room.  Dining out in winter is very enjoyable, especially for someone like me who is not fond of crowds.

 

The highlight of my afternoon arrived with dessert, when Executive Chef Maryna Frederiksen came to chat to us at our table.  Her world-wide travels and work experience made me incredibly envious and she entertained us with snippets from her experience.  One thing I took away from our conversation, is that her food is most definitely made with love.  Her enthusiasm for cooking and ingredients, and the joy she derives of having fresh ingredients grown on the farm, is palpable and so refreshing.  I was so honoured that she would take the time to share a few moments with us, and found her conversation as irresistible as her food.  Travel and food being my passions!

The realisation that you have been welcomed at Holden Manz Wine Estate’s Franschhoek Kitchen, does not come at the beginning of the meal but at the end.  As we left we were not given cheap breath mints, but a beautiful packet of cranberry biscuits with a sweet little note.  A true reflection of their attention to detail.

 

Although my rock shandy seemed to go down very well with every course; due to me not drinking alcohol, the one thing I cannot comment on was the food and wine pairing aspect of the meal.  Lucky for you, one man’s death, really is another man’s bread, and I am giving away the wine that we could not enjoy.  The wine that Holden Manz has kindly given to me, is their beautiful flagship wine.

 

Cobi described the Big G wine as a big, robust wine named after one of the owner’s of the estate, Gerhard Holden.  The menu describes the wine as “made from a blend of 50/50 of our finest cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.  This wine has a voluptuous dark ruby centre with a sensual dark red edge.  A full, formal nose with cassis and blackberry fruit combining gentle dark chocolate and spiciness with subtle nuances of vanilla and spice.”  It sounds perfect to me!

 

To treat yourself to a taste of this superb wine (R275/bottle), please check out the Big G on the Holden Manz website – and tweet to @holdenmanz and @JoanneFoodCrew which dish you would choose to pair the wine with.  Entries close on Friday 19 July 2013 and the competition is only open to over 18s and Capetonians living within a 20km radius of the CBD – unless you collect your prize.

A very special bottle of wine from Holden Manz

Which dish from the Big G’s pairing notes would you chose?

 

Many thanks to @WhaleCottage and @holdenmanz for making this escape to utopia possible for me, it was highly appreciated and I will be sure to visit again to share the experience with other friends and family.

 

As we were leaving Franschhoek, my friend commented “Well, that was a lot better than I thought it would be!” – which in other circles, means that it was blooming marvelous.  More excitement arrived for me during the drive back home – getting the details of our first challenge of Pick n Pay’s Freshly Blogged competition!!  You can view my Freshly Blogged profile and look at my recipe entry on the Freshly Blogged website here.  I have posted a photo diary of the first challenge on my blog site, and will do so for every week’s challenge.