Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Exploring Franschhoek, South Africa’s Food and Wine Capital

Continuing the saga of our wine and safari expedition to South Africa…
Our first stay in South Africa was in Cape Town. After three days there we were off once again, this time to the Cape Winelands, specifically Franschhoek. It was an easy drive in our rental car as the metro area disappeared and vineyards and mountains filled the vista.
Franschhoek, literally “French Corner” was settled by Huguenots, a Protestant religious group that was fleeing persecution in Catholic France.In 1688 a group of 200 Huguenots began settling in what was then called Olifantschoek (Elephant’s Corner). With them they brought their cuisine and winemaking tradition to what is now called Franschhoek. Thank goodness!
Before checking into our accommodations, we headed to the Huguenot Memorial. The memorial symbolizes freedom of religion. The central figure is a woman holding a Bible in one hand and a broken chain in the other. Its setting against the panoramic mountains is just perfect.
We were booked for two nights in the Franschhoek Country House a delightful bed and breakfast that was more like an inn. Our room was in the manor house, which dates back to 1890. It included a private balcony to view the surrounding mountains. There was also an adjacent lounge.
The grounds were idyllic, with a pool, fountains, gardens and their symbol of hospitality, baskets of lemons. Each evening the turndown service included putting hot water bottle bed warmers under the covers. What a nice surprise.
Breakfast, which was included in our stay, was served in a separate building. The cold breakfast buffet was a vast spread a fruits, bread, yogurt, cereal. As we enjoyed that, a made to order hot breakfast was prepared. The location so close to downtown Franschhoek and to numerous wineries was another bonus.

One evening as a respite from our fine dining adventure we took a short walk (although Green Dragon felt it was very long!) to the Stall, a small café near our lodging. We ordered a brick oven pizza and beer – which was a nice way to hit the reset button after a day of wine tasting.
Our last evening at Franschhoek Country House we dined in their acclaimed Monneaux restaurant. We went for their five-course tasting menu paired with five wines. Each course was a visual treat as well as scrumptious. We finished with a late harvest Rickety Bridge Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc to pair with our dessert. Smashing!
As mentioned in a previous post, the strong US dollar makes for amazing values. Our tasting menu with five wines cost us each 495R, which is about $41 US. Such exceptional cuisine would be worth it at twice the price.
There are no less than 36 wineries in and around Franschhoek and many are world-class wineries with spectacular wine, grand architecture, exceptional artwork, scenic views and well-trained staff. The village itself is filled with quaint cafes and interesting shops and is a great location for strolling.
During our visit to Franschhoek, we visited seven wineries: La Petite Ferme, La Bri, Grand Province, Boschendal, La Motte, Moreson and Chamonix. In coming days we’ll provide winery reports on each.

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