Salon58: Awaken Grace

Once again the crème le crème of Cape Town society gathered at Jackie Burger’s Salon 58 housed in the PJ Olivier Art Centre to celebrate the power of living in the now. Typically, the absolutely gorgeous weather of Stellenbosch matched both the mood and energy that surrounded the initiates of Salon 58 as they gathered in the quaint courtyard sipping on Graham Beck Brut Rosé and Beaumont Wine’s Pinotage.

“Being mindful, being kind and a deep appreciation of the beauty in even the most ordinary things, that’s what living with grace means to me,” said Jackie of this salon’s theme having drawn from her own inspirational journey that sprung from a growing desire to find balance and perspective in her own life. “We live in a progressively desensitised world where we are observers rather than participants. I, too, fell into a rut chasing the next big thing instead of living in the now and allowing myself to give and receive with grace.”

No truer words could have been spoken in this day and age when we seem to be constantly chasing emails, likes on our Instagram or twitter accounts and agonising over why no one thought that our latest Facebook status was witty or not. We are constantly looking at ways to connect ourselves with strangers whose opinions seem to be more important and relevant than our own ‘voice’. Jackie continued further explaining that the word ‘surrender’ comes to mind: to surrender to and embrace a more conscious way of living; allow ourselves to fuel our senses with the beauty of our surroundings and find solace and inspiration in our unique sense of self.

As over a hundred people gathered at the ‘temple’, the conversation session centred on the essence of mindful living and explored the concept of exploration using fashion and food (um, hello probably two of my favourite pastimes!). Together with Dr Yvette de Villiers, the consideration the need and importance of living with grace, which seemed so relevant in this day and age. “By growing our awareness of the effect our behaviour has on our environment, a conscious evolution of mindfulness takes place. We awaken a sense of grace within ourselves when consciously choosing to react to situations of stress with kindliness, and gratitude” explained Yvette to the guests who from the minute they arrived were treated to an immersive experience.

As in the tradition of Salon 58, and for those ‘not in the know’, it’s a gathering of the best in the business with its perfect setting for the relaxed, stylish event that Burger described as “a gathering of friends”. “I have been planning this day for three years,” she explained at the first soirée held last year in February. “As everyone knows, I am an admirer of Coco Chanel, not just for her fashion but because she was a woman who was not afraid to take risks. Salon 58 is the expression of one of my dreams, to create ‘some place of magic’, as she once said, where we can kick off our shoes and connect while enjoying one of  life’s ultimate pleasures, that of good company.”

And the company does not get any better than Alwijn Burger aka TheBlomBoy who together with Goeters beautifully conceptualised the immersive experience that the guests ‘surrendered’ themselves to on the day. The white room showcased a series of mood boards created by each of the collaborators to provide snapshots of their inspiration, memories and points of views whilst an installation by artist and photographer Jeandri Streicher paid homage to the strength, wisdom and beauty of women. This celebration seemed apt as August is Women’s Month in South Africa. The botanically scented beauty of Wild Olive African Artisan Apothecary products added a clever and unique sensory layer to the ambience of the setting.

As I mentioned earlier, food is a self-indulging passion of mine so when Jonny Hamman and Marius Uys of Slippery Spoon Kitchen partnered with former public relations client WoolworthsFood to create a series of simple, elegant and refined taste sensations the day couldn’t get any better (although I was wrong about that one too!). “We love serving food that makes you think. Food is life and every meal you have, whether simple or not so simple, should be a beautiful memory” explained Johnny afterwards. “Simple food and dishes with one or two flavours are the way forward. We were not designed to enjoy 15 different flavours in one meal. Simplicity and quality are what matters.” As always, coming to Salon58 makes sense of what I’ve been feeling instinctive and in line with Det nye nordiske køkkenwhich I was taught to value as a child.

But this wouldn’t be a Jackie Burger soirée without fashion and in particularly her trademark signature piece: the white shirt. The white shirt is considered one of the simplest, most stylish fashion item and Burger, who owns quite a few herself, worked with Jenny le Roux of Habits (our neighbour in Claremont) to illustrate its style possibilities. “It represents possibility, simplicity and creativity – a blank canvass to showcase one’s personal style. It is truly timed,” explained Jackie as her hands fluttered from the many that hung on rails. Her beliefs were reinforced by Le Roux, who shared the design philosophy intrinsic to a white shirt before presenting her collection consisting of classic cuts with contemporary details.

As is always part of the awaken experience, Juanita Kotze (The Librarian) created a conceptual performance piece allowing each of the cast of women featured to explore her state of grace personified by a poem, a phrase or quote. The powerful voices of Catriona Andrew, Megan Kruger, Erica Wessels, Trude Gunther, Vicky Davis Retha Erichsen and Kim Cloete delivered a ‘goose flesh’ moment as they soared up into the vaulting and reverberated back down causing a sense of meditation and reflection. I found myself reflective on a quote by Roman Payne ““You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” It’s a manifesto that has been reinforced by the AwakenGrace experience.

Though I never partook in the workshops by hairstylist Dawid Kriel of the Institute Aesthetic who showcased the return of the curl and hair colours that transcend seasons and trends whether ice-cool blonde, platinum or grey, he illustrated the why-to and how-to of wearing your style with confidence along with MAC Cosmetics team who proved that all women can wear red lipstick and that, like finding the right share of grey for your hair, it’s just a matter of finding the right share of red for your lips.

As guests reluctantly started to break away from the groups of friends, both old and new and head towards their cars to head home inspired and reflective, I couldn’t help but notice Jackie standing alone on the stairs waving her goodbyes. Rather like a High Priestess of Taste instead of being the doyenne of South African fashion that she is, she had inspired, delighted and reaffirmed our own ‘grace’ and strength we each have within.

La Reine est Morte — Vive La Reine.

Changing the lives of rural youths one chukka at a time

Poloafrica, a Laureus Sport for Good Foundation project, recently held a Winter Open Day to showcase their mission at their home base on Uitgedacht Farm, set in the foothills of the spectacular Maluti Mountains in the Eastern Free State. Poloafrica’s mission is to give economically disadvantaged adults and children the opportunity to participate in equestrian sporting activities, including polo, in a professional environment. Crucial to the success of the programmes’ outcomes are learners being taught to ride and play the game, providing they demonstrate discipline and commitment to the animal and the sport; work hard at school and at the life skills lessons provided during school holidays. Incrementally Poloafrica is also changing the perception of polo in South Africa away from being a sport enjoyed by only the wealthy and urban privileged few by making the sport more inclusive and encouraging to wealthy blacks who join in on the game. 

 

The majority of the development polo players in the country belong to the Poloafrica programme. Poloafrica teams have numerous wins to their credit in tournaments in Gauteng, Natal and the Free State. There are four adult players, three of whom coach other players and bring on young ponies and one of whom specialises in pony care” explains Catherine Cairns, Founder and Trustee of Poloafrica. “Recently the scope of equestrian activities offered by the programme has broadened, with the introduction of dressage and show jumping. Poloafrica serves 8 villages in the surrounding farming community, with a few children visiting during the holidays from across the Lesotho border. The scholars range in age from 6 to 21, all of whom benefit from Poloafrica’s educational and sporting programme. Over 60 ponies are required to make this possible. 

 

The children in the programme learn a variety of lifeskills, such as art, singing, needlework, beekeeping, carpentry/welding, acrobatics/self-defence, computer skills and spoken self-expression. They also receive extra tuition in Maths and English, two subjects which present a challenge to rurally educated children in South Africa today. The educational opportunities reach beyond the children; adults in the community also benefit, as they do from the employment opportunities offered by the programme. Poloafrica is widely known in the local community, affecting many families, and is seen as an important force for good.

 

Cairns further explains that adult players/coaches are permanent employees and take care of the ponies and the facilities on Uitgedacht Farm, the home of Poloafrica. The children come to the farm on weekends during the school term and six days a week in the holidays. They spend all day on the farm, having riding lessons, pony care tuition and polo practice. Four days a week during the holidays they receive lifeskills lessons. It is an all-absorbing programme, the children are very busy which they enjoy. All children are given transport and homework help for school attendance.

 

Conscious that the sport globally has an elitist and exclusionary image, and is therefore uninviting to many ordinary South Africans, Cairns explains that in terms of transformation, the government’s Transformation Charter for South African Sport might have been written with Poloafrica in mind. The Charter explicitly states that narrow-based efforts to shift the demographic profile of national teams are unsatisfactory short term expedients, which can bring problems in their wake. Instead the Charter encourages transformation in sport through broader community involvement, the creation of development programmes at grassroots levels to deliver facilities and infrastructure to previously deprived communities with the goal of unlocking the potential of black youth in South Africa.

 

Poloafrica’s strategy delivers against these exact objectives. The programme provides beautiful, first class riding and polo facilities in an under-served area, with extensive community involvement. With little help it has already developed a robust pipeline of promising young riders and polo players from one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country concludes Cairns.

Greyton, G’D’s Own Country

There are many things that you remember as a child. But fewer still as an adult that truly make you think about your life, goals and future. This past weekend I was grateful to spend the weekend amongst friends, old and new, who are nearest and dearest to me for many reasons other than the fact that they are super people. I know, I know … this blog is supposed to be about our Mother City, not her refined grand old aunt out in the Styx. But with only just under two hours of picturesque motoring dappled with some Tuisnywerheid selling the yummiest of odds and sods that you didn’t think you needed until you tasted them and the company of Cape Town’s finest people it really is about the city. Well sort of.

So, it should be noted that I do love road trips and with that in mind mid-Friday afternoon with weekend travelling bag in hand we made our escape from the city in the typical bourgeoisie tradition of packing up everything and everyone sans kitchen sink and heading up the N2 for the weekend which was labelled as “snooze, movie and delish food laden” by our hostess. Greyton Village owes much of its appeal to the layout of a village which was designed and set out by J.G Reitz and the modern village hasn’t changed much in the centuries since it was established. Having been devastated in the 1950’s when the mixed race community was torn apart, the legacy of which still remains to this day, this old-world village is akin to a little English county where modernity and tradition live side by side.

It is a holiday town after all, however, the abundance of shops, restaurants and drinking spots outnumber Bree Str. did surprise me although our hostess did explain the system which the residents had managed to work out so that each laid claim to the migrant moneyed class that keeps a village like this alive and thriving when the locals (mostly IT specialists or artists) hibernate for the winter months.

With so much to do, we took the road most taken (uhm … excuse the poetic pun) with an early morning walk to the renowned farmers market early Saturday morning. Though our hostess was slightly disappointed with her much-anticipated pancake (with lemon curd or cinnamon fillings) and lemonade fix wasn’t met (apparently the regular purveyor was away that weekend!) we did manage to amble around giggling amongst ourselves at the #GlutenFree, #SugarFree, #WheatFree, #SugarFree, and basically #TasteFree food selections which had popped up.

Lucky for us, there were a number of stands that sold the some of the best bacon, feta and spinach quiches; chicken, beef and vegetarian samosas and bacon and cheese and pepper steak pies I’ve tasted in a long time. But sadly with our hostess not having eaten anything we headed off to her favourite little breakfast spot along the main road.

Via’s Deli is a charming place, though I’ve only eaten the Eggs Benedict there (on both breakfast outings), the scrambled eggs and mushroom, full English breakfast and bacon and cheese tramezzini all looked delicious and clean plates were sent back to the kitchen by some pretty fussy eaters. What’s nice about the place is that even your four-legged companions can join you for breakfast or lunch outside. Even noisy screaming babies seem to be welcome at Via’s.

For dinner, other than the night we had a delicious pasta dish with roasted balsamic and olive oil Rosa tomatoes tossed with cracked black pepper feta and pesto at home, we ventured out to Searles Trading Post.

Homemade food using locally sourced produce is at the heart of this restaurant and even though the décor is a little too schizophrenic for my minimalist tastes, the method in the madness just endears the restaurant to you even more than the fact that there were roaring fires in every room on a cold, overcast evening. True to their motto, which is proudly displayed overhead, it really is a way of life out here.

We decided to split the menu up in three – with the buffet being the starter, the main course being the rump and roasted veggies and the dessert being the zig zag pizza minus the anchovy. One of my friends doesn’t like the stuff. Between the lamb, seafood and lentil curries served with poppadum’s and mince curry samosas and steamed rice we pretty much stuffed ourselves full even though this was our starter portion of the meal.

The perfectly grilled rump, unfortunately, had a dollop of anchovy sauce ladled over it, but the friendly waitrons did manage to rustle up some pepper sauce which we managed to modify with even more cracked pepper and finely chopped chilli. This mishap aside, the zig zag pizza was just as yummy as everything else that managed to be eyeballed as it steamed past our table between smoke breaks outside and topping up our glasses with some PiperHeidsieck Rosé Sauvage.

But just like the near perfect autumn weather, all good things must come to an end, and so we packed up all our clothes strewn all over the quaint cottage, packed up the hard-drive from which we gorged on movies and TV series throughout the weekend, packed up the logs of Namibian wood next to the fireplace and said our goodbyes to the sleepy, welcoming town of Greyton village grateful for the kind invitation to share this magic piece of real estate.

Through the looking glass, Clarke’s bar and dining room.

So I’ve lived in this Mother City of ours just over a year, and to be honest the one thing that really bugs me is that on Sundays there is nowhere really to go within the city bowl (even my friends roll their eyes when I suggest that other place in Sea Point which I love to frequent) and yet there was a small gem literally in my backyard. Not that I have never been to Clarkes before, I had. I just didn’t like it. Hated the service. Hated the food. Hated the people who frequented it. Basically – anything that I could latch onto and make it into a negative, I did. I would rather walk anywhere on a Sunday morning but there.

So what’s changed? That I can’t tell you. But in the past few weeks that I’ve met friends for lunch or brunch or even the occasion dinner, I have become enamoured by the charm of the place. For those of you not in the know, and like really how is that possible, Clarke’s is a little bar and dining room on Bree Str. (the original block before it exploded into what it is now) in the lap of Table Mountain. With a South African menu more a nod and wink at classic US of A diner food with delicious bits and bobs that keep with Cape Town’s obsession of fresh, local and ingredients and produce produced with artisanal hands.

Like with everything in Cape Town, location is premium – so tables outside at street level are rarer than hens teeth and seldom available – unless you’re friends with the army of seriously cute staff – but more often than not sitting at their conveniently located L-shaped bar (all the better to see the talent walking in and out of the place) means you get it all on a Sunday morning and also it’s a great place to watch the chefs furiously at work grilling bread to perfection or throwing bacon onto a juicy burger. And speaking of staff who work there – don’t be fooled by the job they work to pay for other passions. The young lady who once brought my coffee had two masters, one in political sciences and the other in economics.

I think that, like self-loathing homosexuals who hate everything about gay culture, being an urbanite made me hate Clarke’s reputation as being a melting pot of everything hip and happening, awesome and fantastic, and where the pretty young things gather before moving on to some other fabulous happening where more fabulous oozes effortlessly from their mouths. Clarke’s bar and dining room is perfect for that lazy brunch (or breakfast for those up before noon on a Sunday morning) or lunch date with your best friends. Even if you go alone, the likelihood that you’re gonna bump into someone you know is high so there’s always a table you can join.

Like the Cool Kids, the AKJP Collective

As I made my way up Kloof Street, the original epicentre of coolness, a song by Echosmith playing almost on repeat in the back of my mind and seemed so apt for the AKJP Collective (@akjpcollective) launch. For those of you not in the know, and really if you are a regular reader of my musings you should be familiar with Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen, you would know that their venture may only be seven months old but already a bastion of fashion in a highly competitive industry.

The weather outside may have been dark and gloomy for the smokers and gossipers sipping on their Krone MCC but inside was white hot with Cape Town’s “IT” fashion crowd who’s who gathered to admire the design duo’s latest reinvention. As with everything they do, every handpicked item in the store is characterised by its future-conscious creativity underpinned by solid design and craftsmanship. Since it opened seven months ago, the seven original designers, both emerging and established, have now grown to 15 and is just what quality fashion in South Africa needs: a platform to sell.

Already basking in the glow and admiration from their AW|16 collection shown at SA Menswear Week (and Pitti Uomo) in February this year, a vibrant homage to Georgina Gatrix’s art, the collective now also includes our favourite ELLE Rising Star talents Tamara Chérie Dyson and Nicholas Coutts, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Matblac, Pichulik and Waid as well as Selfi, Thalia Strates, House of Gozdawa, W35T, Steffany Roup, Drotsky, Hannah Collection, Amanda Laird Cherry, Feat. And Sock. Co.

If you were wondering what the was, it seemed so apt for the crowd and clothes, after all, if you are like me, you’d agree that “you wish that you could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.” Trust me, grabbing a few of the highly covetable scarves and coats from Nicholas (@nicholascoutts) or Mathew Nielsen’s (@Tweetmatblack) new handmade leather iPhone sleeves or anything really from this store means you won’t have to wish anymore: you’ll definitely will “be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.”

Not all treasure is silver and gold, The Larder deli and dinner club

So it’s no surprise that I love to write about hidden gems like The Larder, especially when the food is good, the coffee is even better and it’s right on your walk to and from the office in the morning and afternoon. So, it wasn’t until after a few weeks since moving to our new offices in Claremont that I grew bored with the usual choices and decided to take a chance on that café on the corner with the bright pink logo and annoyingly happy and friendly people who work there. Sonja Eldridge, the owner of both The Larder (Claremont and Diep River) restaurants, is a person that you just have to admire. After years of working as a food stylist, private chef and author Sonja packed up her life and family and moved back to South Africa from the UK, to revitalise the on-site cafe at the behest of Block & Chisel in Diep River. The success of the original has led to a second cafe in Grove Str., Claremont – the one that I have come to frequent on a daily basis.

What’s perfect about The Larder, Claremont is that like a moth it has evolved over the past few weeks now that the outside has been fully renovated making it just that much more “homely”. You don’t notice the cool little details of the place until after the second or third or even ninth visit that really shows the creativity and thought that has gone into making the place what it is. Oversized cushions that make-up the window seating areas of the inside, funky cheese grater-styled lighting and a large blackboard menu that changes on a daily basis.

Sonja sources her produce locally and has gathered a number of suppliers who she trusts to provide only the best free range and organic ingredients. And that just isn’t a marketing gimmick either – Sonja really believes what she sells and you can see that with the many books by culinary luminaries long forgotten or unheard of pre-Millennial generation and other foodies. The production of quality food with the best ingredients seems to the crackling undercurrent rather than the free WI-FI here.

Breakfast on the go is made really simple: choose from the freshly baked cinnamon buns or vegetarian-style frittatas or if you have the time to try their signature breakfast dish, the Johnny Depp which is basically a different take on the classic Eggs’ Benedict of crispy bacon, two soft poached free range eggs and silky hollandaise sauce served on artisan wood-fired breads (ironically enough our mutual friend Fritz Schoon, of our favourite breakfast spot Schoon de Companje in Stellies, first provided Sonja’s bread when she first started out).

Lunch has just as many options, however, there are two sandwiches that you cannot live without The Veggie Sarmie (think beetroot humas, camembert cheese, rocket and shavings of cucumber on sourdough) or the Chicken mayo with rocket. There’s something in the mayo … with a wide range of bottled preserves (their hot plum chutney is something you have to grab a bottle of before it hits the retail shelves *dammit that was supposed to be secret!* and everyone dolloping a healthy tablespoon over in their camembert wheels wrapped in phyllo pastry and roasted until golden brown.

Recently they have just opened for dinner, serving farm-style dinners of roast vegetables and chicken, but we’ve been so busy of late that we haven’t made it there yet. But, it is on our #LustList of things to try out this autumn so keep close for an update to this blog.

For more information, visit their website: thelardercafe.co.za or follow them on Twitter: @thelarderza or Instagram: @praisethelarder

Inspired by detail, the ROOTS exhibition

To describe my friendship with Dave would be ‘odd’ at the best of times. He’s my best friend but we’re both at the opposite ends of profession, personality, and temperament. The first day we met I confused him with a Bergie sitting on the steps of my former agency. Unkempt would be polite a word to describe my first impression of him but he was dating one of my favourite people at the time so I remained schtum and went with the flow.

Time passed. An incident at Mercury Lounge that we never speak of (it involved way too much tequila, loud rock music and drunk dancing in full abandon). Sushi at that place in Wembley Square. I mean I knew he was a cook or chef or something by profession … but it didn’t mean much to me. Give me R10 and I’ll give you 100 foodies/cooks. Cape Town is filled with foodies/cooks. And hipsters. And Creatives. And tourists. However, it was my first time to #SecretEats where he was the featured chef for the evening and he imagined and cooked course after course of the most amazing, innovative food that I have had since moving to Cape Town.

 

And I guess that is what #SecretDinners and later [spacie] came to represent to me: discovering innovation, creativity and uncovering the unexpected. So, when Dave was in town a few weeks back our diaries collided with an invitation to attend the same event at the newly launched UPSTAIRS on Bree Street by Gregory Zeleny, the genius behind both break-out concepts on the South Africa culinary/eventing space scene. So, I was very keen to see the inaugural concept that would launch UPSTAIRS to what has become a cynical and jaded audience spoilt for choice in this Mother City of ours.

And there it was: ROOTS – a first ever multi-sensory exhibition by the iconic Caro de Waal honouring ROOTS in all their forms, both literal and ancestral. “I started by looking simply at edible roots in all their forms. I found that there are hundreds of different kinds of roots – firstly you have true roots which are things like beetroot and carrot, then tubular roots – the humble potato, bulbs which are things like leeks and fennel and then the amazing rhizomes which are the ginger, wasabi and turmeric type of root. So many colourful, diverse and interesting varieties. Just like us. Humans were first ‘born’ in Africa and from this, so many wonderfully contrasting and colourful variations formed over millions of years and travelled and settled in all the corners.”  Caro explained at the beginning of the evening to the chic and knowledgeable hand-picked group.

Caro has worked with 9 outstanding creatives (most notably Hein van Tonder who photographs what I consider #FoodPorn for Taste Magazine) to curate a first of its kind, cross-disciplinary exhibition. She looked to various mediums to represent the simple but powerful subject of ROOTS in the form of installation, edible, drinkable, photography, words, illustration, sound, iPhonography and film. We were fortunate to enjoy the food and cocktail pairing (Marcelle’s ‘Wormwood’ cocktail using Absinthe as the base spirit was pure genius) and though Dave and I never stayed long it was an experience that has resonated with my current thinking of repurposing and relooking how we use more natural substrates in more commercial ways.

For those not in the know, UPSTAIRS by [spasie], an immaculate new conceptual exhibition space in the heart of Bree Street and the second space from the [spasie] team, is an interactive art gallery and premium cocktail lounge dedicated to pushing past the conventional through the use of mixed medium art. During the day, UPSTAIRS plays host as an art gallery, filling its white walls with creative, colourful and collaborative artwork from young and established artists. In the evenings, UPSTAIRS will open its doors as a premium bar and cocktail lounge, dedicated to the magic and craftsmanship of bespoke cocktails handcrafted by skilled artists.