The recent ‘Taste of Joburg’ held at Monte Casino proved that the shift towards artisanal, organic and above all quality food is alive and well in South Africa. Taking its lead from Taste festivals held all over the world, this year’s Taste of Joburg featured a combination of mini ‘pop up’ restaurants offering delicious, starter size signature dishes, gourmet producers and live cooking demonstrations courtesy of some of Johannesburg’s finest chefs.
The event spanned four days which were broken up into afternoon and evening ‘sessions’ during which time visitors could sample a taste of the wares on offer in exchange for ‘crowns’, the event’s official ‘currency’. At this year’s event, 12 restaurants set up shop including amongst others, African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel, Beefcakes Burger Bar (complete with topless men and hilarious drag artistes) Coobs, The Grazing Room and Vivace at The Radisson Blu, Sandton.
It’s easy to see why Monte Casino has been selected as the venue for this event since its introduction to the city in 2006. The complex’s sun-kissed Tuscan style façade, beautifully sculpted gardens and surrounding attractions make for an incredibly appealing location which smacks of Europe.
Fans of boutique food markets and gourmet nibbles, my partner and I immediately made a beeline for Taste’s small producer market where I sampled delicious orange, chocolate and macadamia nut shortbread biscuits at the Coach House’s confectionary stand, bought chilli-mint dressing at Hannay’s Sauces and was pleasantly surprised by Helon Melon’s ‘Just add yoghurt bread’ and Daniela’s Deliciously Decadent blue coloured, peanut butter flavoured macaroons.
Organic frozen yogurt was also sold at the small producer’s market alongside products from Fine & Raw Chocolate, Lahana Olives, Pauli’s Sauces and Chlo Lo to name a few. Gourmet Fudge’s unique fudge flavours (think milk tart, Irish coffee cream, Horlicks and honey and sticky fig and ginger) struck a chord with the crowds who seemingly just couldn’t get enough of the luscious confections.
And what crowds! It proved something of a struggle to make our way through the thronging masses to our next points of call: the Bacardi tent and Asara’s Bistro Box. A friendly Bacardi barman mixed together a refreshing mojito for my partner while I tucked into a succulent beef burger topped with sundried tomato and foie gras paired with an Asara Shiraz. Delish.
If anything, the crowds seemed to swell as the session progressed. The Jägermeister tent and Pick ‘n Pay Chef’s Theatre were packed, Lindt’s Chocolate Studio was unsurprisingly, inundated and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whisky stand couldn’t keep up with demand.
My partner and I decided to head for slightly calmer ‘waters’ and ended up just outside Vivace’s. Making the most of the opportunity, I ordered the restaurant’s deboned pork riblette coupled with sweet and sour pickled carrots, crushed new potatoes and crispy onion rings. In my opinion it stole the show. That said, African Pride’s subtle, Turkish Delight flavoured crème brûlée proved equally sumptuous.
Myriad other stalls and stands including Fry’s Family Foods, Dermalogica, Cointreau, Mad Maud’s, Smack Republic, Chipembere Rhino Foundation, Amazing Thailand, the Dog & Fig Brewery, Braeside Meat Market and Consol Mixology Theatre kept us busy for hours.
Full stomachs and aching legs forced us to finish off our Taste sojourn with a coffee at Nescafe’s tent, which as it happened, lay a stone’s throw from Taste’s stage where ‘Dalliance’ kept visitors entertained. Good music, happy people and fine food? Not a bad way to spend a few hours I thought and definitely something to look forward to next year.