Finally Cape Town is growing into the food worshiping place it should be, evident in the scores of people who attended the Good Food and Wine Show this year despite the hefty ticket prices. The appeal this year was no doubt driven by the possibly of seeing the foul-mouthed, straight talking but brilliant Gordon Ramsey; anyone who knows anything about food would want to be there.
The No-Gordon Show
I for one was super excited to catch a glimpse of the man; he has been my favourite chef for years, long before he became an international TV sensation. I have always appreciated his understanding of quality ingredients and his brilliant execution of even the most mundane ones. However I was utterly disappointed to discover that his public presence was entirely limited to those who could fork out the steep R950 for his cooking show. I did however see the back of him, but that was all the Gordon I would get. I have to say, shame on Good Food and Wine Show for using him as an event draw card when in fact he is not available to regular folk…not very tasteful at all.
The Usual Cookin’ Stuff
But let’s talk about what else was on offer. Being in the industry I have been exposed to many cooking innovations before they hit the mainstream market, so not much was entirely new and innovative. There were the convection cooking guys and the knife sharpening guys and obviously the non-stick cookware guys, all of these products are great and it’s good to see that almost every cooking utensil on offer was designed in a more green and eco-friendly way. It’s nice to see that big companies are starting to take notice of what the discerning buyer actually wants.
Down to the Food
The food was interesting, I don’t think that I have ever tasted so many sauces and relishes. There were the usual pestos and antipastas, really good olive oils, olives and tapenades but a couple really stood out.
There was a small company aptly named More Sauce and Relish that did a selection of all things chilli. I especially like their harrisa paste (tomato, chilli, cumin) and the ‘burn a hole” habanero relish, but I recon the smoke drops were the best. One or two drops of this sauce will change your BBQ sauce from good to rock star. Another interesting sauce was the plum sauce; it was sticky, sweet and vinegary at the same time, I can imagine it with a couple of chopped pistachios, gruyere and fresh parsley spread over a rack of lamb and grilled, until the sauce caramelises and resembles something like a brittle.
One aspect that impressed me was the selection of fresh and cured meats. There was a wide selection of fresh meat, and for once not just free-range beef and chicken, but a focus on healthier alternatives. There was a great pork stand with a selection of beautifully cut pieces of meat and sausages and the ostrich stall prepared little bite sized pieces of heaven. The cured and smoked sector was also well represented; prosciuttos, coppas and parma hams, not to forget some of the best salami’s and chorizos I’ve ever tasted.
Prepared food was abundant but very expensive. The usual burger and gourmet sausage stalls were there, Sexy Food catered for the vegan, vegetarian and chicken guys while you had other gourmet caterers and restaurants doing some seriously good meat dishes. The Tunisian stall had for me the best offering of prepared food. Although very expensive, their teriyaki glazed tuna kebabs drizzled with a dill mayonnaise and a delightful quinou salad were very tantalising.
After a full walk through the event I tried to sum up my thoughts on this year’s Good Food and Wine Show. Although everyone who was involved in the stores had done a great job of marketing their product, and you could tell that they believed in their products just like I do, I felt a bit underwhelmed. Maybe it had a lot to do with the fact that the main draw card of the event was the great Gordon Ramsey, but unless you had the big bucks you would see his back if you’re lucky. The lack of samples was also a bit disappointing – but considering the cost of the vendor stalls you can’t blame them for being conservative. Or maybe I just felt that it was like going to an expensive market and not a showcase of what Cape Town really has to offer. My gut feeling is that to really get the culinary best of our city, a food event needs to be accessible for both vendor and visitors. Improvements for next year; a headlining chef that contributes to the actual show, more artisan foods and perhaps some sizzling flambé demonstrations to turn up the heat.