Modern Mexican munching

Sometimes, on-the-fly food decisions can be the best. Heading back to the office today after the last bit of admin before my visa appointment I figured a bite to eat would be a good idea. My route passed a bunch of old dependables, but it also took me past Tortilla Modern Mexican in the Icon Building down on the Foreshore. The prices looked good, the logo is pretty cool and there wasn’t a whopping queue at the counter. Win, win and win.

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As with other similar chains you pick your bits n pieces as you go along. There’s the standard burrito option, or you can go with a bowl if you’re avoiding the carbs. Then choose your protein and build it up with salads and beans and sauces. Then they wrap it all up in foil, pop it in the toaster for a moment or two and you’re good to go.

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I went with the burrito, braised beef (marinated overnight in chilli, oreganum and rosemary), lettuce, pinto beans, corn, tomato fresca, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. And because I decided to eat there, they gave me a little bowl with a handful of nachos. Good thing too – burritos are messy. Sauce, everywhere. But it was tasty and filling, and the flavours were fresh. Next time I’ll make sure to add something with a bit of a bite into it as well, I could have done with that lovely tongue tingling burn that goes along with a good Mexican dish.

Price wise it was doable for a weekday lunch as well, and the serving was big enough to keep me going through until supper. I had the “lite” option, I’m curious as to how much bigger the “large” is. Also, there’s a loyalty programme, so future visits will come with discounts – always a bonus.

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My lunch (with added guacamole) cost R49

Super quick. They whipped it up in seconds flat and I gobbled it down at an outdoor table and was on my way again within 10 minutes

Fresh ingredients, nice and saucy. Could have done with a bit more zing, but that’s totally on me for not having opted for the more spicy ingredients

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All about the bubbles

Friends, bubbles and glitter – the three essential ingredients for a fabulous day out. Add to that glorious weather and some utterly gorgeous dresses, and you have our outing to Mastercard’s Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival yesterday.

Titled “The Magic of Bubbles”, it really was a fabulous day out. The dress code was “black and white with floral flair” which was thankfully broad enough for me not to have to dash out the shops – I should, however, have found myself a hat. Firstly, it’s the kind of event to which one really should wear a hat, and secondly, I didn’t have R500 to buy one at the event (no matter how much UV protection it allegedly offered). No, it didn’t even have diamante trim or a fake frangipani glued to the side.

I love events where you need to dress up a touch, and there really were some great outfits on display. Nothing too flashy mind, but you could tell people had made a little bit of an effort. This fest feels a little like being in one of the hospitality suites at The Met – but without the horses and  drunken rabble on the outskirts. Yeah, I’ve no doubt there’ll have been a couple of guests yesterday who would have miscalculated how much bubbly they could handle in that kind of heat – but let’s be honest, some people are already drunk when they arrive at The Met.

I’ve been to enough of this kind of event to learn a few things. The most important one concerns sensible shoes. Ladies – stiletto heels and grass do not mix. Well, they do, in that you will sink right in if you forget to walk on your toes for even a moment. I’ll admit to chuckling a little at a couple of women in all their finery hobbling unevenly across the lawns. If you need a little height, go with a comfortable wedge. But considering you’ll be strolling around and adding alcohol for most of the day, a pair of flats are your best friend.

First order of the day was getting our faces painted. Like I said: Glitter is vital. And I was super impressed by the speed and skill of the artists. I wish I had them permanently on hand to add a splash of colour to my look every morning. The only reason I finally cleaned it off last night was because glitter swimming around on one’s eyeball isn’t as fun as you’d imagine.

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And then obviously, because we’re classy, our first stop was at JC Le Roux. Wait, that’s not fair – I love JC Le Roux and they have some absolutely fabulous offerings these days. I’m all about pink and fruity at the moment, and since I was designated driver and wasn’t going overboard, I limited myself to sampling just a few roses. My favourite of the day was also my last – Steenberg – it was also the most pricey bubbly I tasted, but well worth the three tokens. I also popped in at Môreson for a taste of their Miss Molly rose.

Oh, and I finally grabbed myself a Tranquille popsicle from Pierre Jourdan. “Tastes like more” indeed. The first nibble of icy goodness was startlingly sweet, but as I worked my way down the slushy tube, I decided it’s the perfect treat for a blistering day. Between those and the odd refreshing G&T, I’m ready for summer.

bubbly-popsicle

As far as value for money goes – this fest fares well compared to others. The glass you get with your ticket isn’t one of those stumpy jobs that will probably bounce if you drop it in the car park – it has a lovely thin stem and a long flute. Many of the exhibitors were a little more generous than the recommended tasting line on the glass and we ended up handing our cards over to other guests when we headed home so they could use our leftover tokens.

My one criticism was that the Vodacom network issues meant that many people found themselves unable to pay for certain things with their cards or phones. It’s a tricky situation, so I’m not sure what the organisers could have done differently, but I’ve made a mental note to at least take some cash next time, in case.

I’ll definitely be adding this event to my list of Things to Do in 2017. But next year, someone else can drive.

The (most marvelous) Mess

When you take a bite and before you’ve even had a chance to chew, you’re overwhelmed by the most sublime flavours, leaving you wide-eyed and reaching for more – that’s culinary perfection. Over the years I’ve had many good meals, and numerous great ones – but dinner at The Mess in Napier Street, Green Point, was superb from start to finish.

When Husband Person and I were invited to have a meal there I was thrilled – close to work, gorgeous location, and an online menu that’s beyond tempting – how could we refuse? Early one evening, as Green Point was slowly starting to empty and the clubs in the Village were getting ready for a night of fun, I strolled through the enchanting fairy light-draped courtyard. Pro tip: it’s going to be a marvelous spot for a cold glass of wine this summer.

All images supplied

All images supplied

I was pleased to note the new owners have kept much of the architectural design that the space featured in its previous incarnation – pillars disguised as stylised “trees” and the chic bar.  A few minutes early, I perched on a bar stool and ordered a Morello Cherry G&T. Actually – forget the glass of wine in the courtyard – this cheeky pink drink may just become my new staple. Refreshing and delicious, I sipped on it contentedly as I chatted to owner and restaurateur Carlene de Gouveia.

Her enthusiasm about the restaurant and the menu is contagious. Together with chef Luke Wonnacott of Lukefoodalways consultancy, she’s created an eclectic menu of exciting flavours and interesting ingredients. And this isn’t just a case of plonking things on the menu because they sound good. There’s a lot of tasting and discussion that goes into each dish. The lunchtime press group had polished it all off – but the pan fried gnocchi with asparagus and samphire was apparently unbelievable (I’d spent the afternoon living vicariously through everyone’s tweets and building up a pretty decent appetite). The chef’s team had initially gone the traditional gnocchi route – rich heavy sauce – it was delicious, but a little too much. And when the chef came across some samphire, a plant that grows along the shoreline, he reimagined the dish into something fresh, textured and flavoursome. It’s that kind of ingenuity that is bound to make The Mess a place you can visit often without getting bored.

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Husband Person and I decided to start with confit duck rillette and pickled beetroot served with a warm yoghurt and thyme flatbread. The mezze offering is great for communal nibbling while you decide which of the other dishes you’d like to share. That moment of wide-eyed wonder I mentioned earlier? The pork belly tacos. Bite-sized smoky perfection – BBQ layered pork belly, smoked apple and charred corn slaw. And while we were meant to be sharing the portion, I may have claimed most of them…

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While the main plates are perfect for those not keen on sharing, we ordered the pork belly, pork loin ribs and thick-cut fries with truffle mayo on the understanding that we’d be sharing those too. Because life’s too short for food envy. That said – at The Mess, I don’t think food envy is going to be a common occurrence.

The pork belly was delicious, with just the right fat to meat ratio, and the crackling was perfect (no soggy sadness, or 24 hr dentist visits needed). The succulent meat was beautifully complimented by braised red cabbage, smoked apple, fennel jus and braised baby vegetables. And the pork ribs? Well, I nudged them gently with my knife and they fell apart… heavenly.

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By the time I’d scooped up the last streaks of truffle mayo (one of my weaknesses) with the last lone chunky chip, we were both full and ready to roll home. But… I couldn’t bear to leave without at least “looking” at the dessert menu. Who was I kidding – I’d had my eye on the crème brûlée from the moment I spotted it on Twitter earlier in the day.

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I’ve had many versions of the custardy stuff before – some fantastic and others absolutely appalling (not naming names, but the worst was from a hotel who really should have known better). And I’ve even had a bash at making my own. A crème brûlée made properly is a thing of great beauty, and it starts with the delicate crack of the caramel shell. The first spoonful at The Mess had me falling back in my seat, beaming. It was smooth, light and creamy, and the portion was generous. Too good to share – so I didn’t. (Writing this, I’m seriously considering hanging around the office a little later today, just so I can pop in and treat myself to another helping before heading home… don’t judge me till you’ve tried it.)

The Mess open Monday to Saturday from 6pm, and the kitchen closes at 10pm.

 

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Our meal was comped, but would have cost R464, excluding drinks

In and out in a lazy two hours

Absolutely delicious dishes, attentive service and a cosy ambiance – perfect for a special night out