It was through twitter chatter that I first heard about the #SlammingBodyChallenge, direct from @LadySlam69, the twitter representative of the 69 Slam brand in South Africa. 69 Slam is probably best described as being my all-time-favourite swimwear / underwear company; partly due to the loud and colourful designs, and partly due to the wonderful array of extreme sports they support and sponsor. In case you haven’t noticed, I am an extreme sports fanatic, therefore anything to do with extreme sports will get a vote from me. Back to the challenge though; occasionally the team at 69 Slam  come up with a diet or exercise challenge to inspire their followers to get that Slamming Bikini Body, and to create a bit of a brand buzz. This particular challenge consisted of a simple task, no carbohydrates for 6 days. I kept a food diary, which you will find below, just to make sure everyone can see how it all went and check the results, which by the way, were pretty good – 2.8kg’s lighter at the end of the week. #Slamming! At the end of each day I noted the daily exercise too, since getting results is always a combination of diet and exercise I figured this would be fairly relevant. So here it is; try it some time if you can, although I don’t recommend following the diet below, it’s a bit of a mixed bag and I clearly do not always have the healthiest eating patterns.

Day 1:
1.5 x Green Smoothies, 1 x Latte
1 x Omelette (1/2 Courgette, 3 Mushrooms, 5 Slices Ham, handful of Spinach and 2 Eggs)
1 x Endamame + Broad Bean Salad with Soy sauce
1 x Italian Salad (3 Bocconcini, 2 Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes)
RAN 5.6km + 1 Hour Yoga
Day 2:
2 x Green Smoothies, 1 x Latte, 1/2 x Banana, 1/2 x Powerade
1/2 Rack of Ribs and 1/2 Chicken with Veg (saved eating most of the day to get this in – thanks to Hurricanes Grill in Sydney)
RAN 10km
Day 3:
2 x Green Smoothies, 1 x Yogurt with 1/2 Mango and 10 Raspberries
3 x Scrambled Eggs, 1/2 Avo, Endamame Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes, 3 x Bocconcini
1 x handful salted Cashews, 2 x boiled eggs
1 x Gatorade
1 x Protein Shake
RAN 5.6km + 1 Hour Yoga 

Day 4:
2 x Green Smoothies, 1 x Vanilla Latte (sugar free)
2 x Scrambled Egg w. 4 x Bocconcini, 5 x Baby Tomatoes, 1/2 Avo
1 x Protein Shake
1 x salmon terriyaki, 1 x salmon sashimi, 1 x seaweed salad 1 x California roll, 1 x beef carpaccio
RAN 9km
Day 5
2 x Eggs
2 x latte
1 x seafood platter (lobster, crab, pawn, oyster, mussels, calamari, fish, 1/2 avo) – again, I skipped lunch since I knew this would be pretty epic, and it was. Thanks to Nicks Seafood in Sydney, your fish is truly spectacular.
Day 6
2 x Green Smoothie, 1 x piccolo latte, 1 x fruit salad – large, 1 x yogurt
1/2 x gatorade and 2 x lattes
2 x poached eggs, 1 tomato, avo, spinach, mushrooms, bacon
RAN 5.6KM + 1 Hour Yoga 

All in all it was pretty good; I don’t usually eat simple carbohydrates anyway but cutting out certain high carbohydrate fruit and vegetables was a little more difficult than I expected. Not everyone realises how high in sugars and carbohydrates certain foods can be, so it’s best to check before trying a low-carb diet. Also try to at least have some type of carbohydrate in fruit or vegetable form if you are exercising as you will need the energy. I fully intend to go back to eating bananas, mangos, dates, kiwis, pineapple and carrots as none of these are bad for you and my daily Green Smoothie just doesn’t taste as good without my favourite tropical fruits. I would like to thank 69 Slam for setting the challenge, it was quite enjoyable and I’m happy to say I managed it, just.

Ken Forrester and the Chenin story

It’s no secret that I like LOVE wine, and being in Cape Town has recently opened up an entirely new world of wine to me; I’ve been slowly working my way through the local liquor store’s wine racks and going to lots of little wine-meets (wine tastings with lots of food and music). There are a lot of wines I’ve never heard of, a large array of South African wines you wouldn’t necessarily find in Europe, or at least not in regular stores, and a lot of them are pretty amazing – it’s all about smaller producers and hidden gems in my opinion, although some of the main-stream wines can knock your socks off too so don’t discount them.

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people talk, finding out what the local wine lovers think of South African wines and trying out all their favourites. I’ve also been on my own journey – an exploration into food and wine pairings, something I’ve never been good at (except the red with red meat and white with fish bit – and even that, I’ve discovered, can be wrong). I’m starting to appreciate both red and white wines in an entirely new way, in particular the whites that we make here in Cape Town, of which there are several – and so begins the story of my discovery of THE Chenin Blanc.

Ken Forrester is  an internationally acclaimed wine maker whose specialty is the Chenin Blanc and this week I was invited to his restaurant, 96 Winery Road, to have lunch with the man himself (and to taste the wines, of course)! I’d been looking forward to this lunch for quite some time; I’d been invited about two months before, but hadn’t managed to make it out until the day I was due to leave Cape Town on July 10th. I just knew there was a reason that I absolutely had to squeeze this one in before I left.

Ken and his family make both red and white wines, and the reds are pretty damn good, although the estate is known best for the ‘trio of Chenins’ they produce here. The first is the ‘Petit’ Chenin, one of 5 wines in the ‘Petit’ range (others include a Sauv Blanc, Rose, Pinotage and Cab Sav) this easy drinking white is fresh, crisp  and fruity whilst being exceptionally easy on the palate, it would go well with just about anything in summer, and is definitely priced right at around R40.00  (although in the UK it’s around £9.50 and can be bought online, along with all his other wines, from Wines Direct). The second on the list is the middle-range chenin, the Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc; a full bodied chenin with lots of distinct  flavours, most notably the apple and smooth caramel. This is definitely an evening white and it’s full flavour would be well matched with spicy seafood dishes.

The third and final wine of the trio is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the chenin blancs, the FMC. Robert Parker gives this 93 points – if you don’t know wine, that’s one of the best scores around when it comes to white wines – and is the highest score ever given to a South African chenin. This is the most surprising wine I have ever had the pleasure of drinking, it comes down to this; the wine is white, yes, but the flavour is that of a full bodied red, confusing, I know, but bear with me on this one. On first taste, the apricot and vanilla are noticeable, but there is a sense of wonderment as each time you taste this wine, the flavours change and mix and come together in an unusually delightful sensory experience. I haven’t quite figured out how best to describe this wine, I’m a little lost for words. If you like wine as much as I do, BUY this wine. It’s got a hefty price tag so save it for a special occasion, it’ll set you back around R325.00 in South Africa, and £23.95 if you’re buying it online in the UK. If you happen to be in Cape Town then I strongly recommend you take a drive out to the estate and do the full wine tasting, there is no shortage of wonderful wines here as the reds are almost as good as the whites, and if you like dessert wine then you absolutely must try the T, Noble Late Harvest (made for, and named after, his wife Teresa).

Oh I almost forgot the restaurant – 96 Winery road is fabulous, try the Duck & Cherry pie, it’s the best dish on the menu and a favourite of the regulars; the sticky date pudding is also pretty fantastic.

Ken Forrester Wine | +27 (0) 21 855 2374 | info@kenforresterwines.com | www.kenforresterwines.com

96 Winery Road | Zandberg Farm, Winery Road, Off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West  7599, South Africa – opposite the estate.

Organics are GO at the Foodbarn

Franck Dangereux has been one of my favourite chefs for many years, ever since he was showing off his refined style at the ever popular La Colombe (Constantia Uitsig) many years ago. That was before I left South Africa, and I have cooked many a meal from his cookbook (Feast) since then, which I believe is still on a shelf in my mothers kitchen.

Since being back in Cape Town I have been hearing all the wonderful news and reviews of his latest creation, The Foodbarn in Noordhoek; the brainchild of Franck’s collaboration with Pete de Bruin, the ever charming host. The two men created this restaurant from their combined passion for food and their love for their families, and it really is a place where the two come together in incredible style. The food is simple ‘French Bistro’ style food (as described by Frank), and yet it still has the flair and precision which this master chef is best known for; in addition, the restaurant has an exceptional wine menu, mostly local but perfectly matched to the seasonal produce available. There is a tasting menu available with or without wine pairings; an unconventional take on a ‘tasting’ menu, Frank chooses the dishes for you and it’s a bit of a pot-luck surprise when the meal arrives – I wouldn’t worry though, everything here tastes phenomenal, so if you’re the adventurous foodie type then this one’s for you.

I went for lunch on Sunday, which was beyond amazing; the de-shelled prawn tempura served on a confied tomato, aubergine and avo tian, finished with a chilli & red pepper syrup and basil salsa was the perfect start to the meal and I would recommend it to anyone. The second course was rack of Karoo lamb in a bread crust with an amazing chickpea flour cake or ‘panisse,’ which was finished with the most wonderful jus. My dessert was the Cocoa Millefeuille with chocolate Marquise and peanut brittle praline cream, served with vanilla sauce and salted peanut ice cream – This. Is. Amazing. I’m not normally one for peanut anything, I don’t enjoy the taste, but this combination is a sure fire winner in my books, and I hope to have it again before they take it off the menu! I might come back just for that.

The food here is locally sourced where possibly and much of the fruit and veg is grown by Frank and Pete in the restaurant garden or at home. You can taste the freshness in every meal and the flavours of each season shine through the menu as each meal is carefully crafted using the very best of the available seasonal produce available. This is taking organic, sustainable food to an entirely new height.

So, if you are in the area and looking for a really good meal, be it with family, friends, kids or your loved one, this is most certain the top of the list!

The Foodbarn Restaurant & Deli | Noordhoek Farm Village, Village Lane, Noordhoek, Cape Town, 7979 | tel: +27 (0) 21 789 1390 | www.thefoodbarn.co.za | info@thefoodbarn.co.za

Pure Luxury Breaks

Last week felt like it would never end, I was exhausted, worn out, and in desperate need of a break; by the time Thursday came knocking and the weekend was almost in sight I had already started planning my escape (some ideas were a bit extreme I’ll admit, particularly the one about hijacking a boat and sailing to Madagascar). I opted, instead, for a much safer and less complicated plan B – armed with 2 good books, 1 laptop, 1 iPod (complete with newly downloaded playlists) and 2 haphazardly thrown together outfits (1 smart-casual, 1 casual) all stuffed into a small overnight bag along with minimal toiletries, I headed for Franschhoek – a small and exceptionally beautiful town in the Cape wine region, about 75km outside Cape Town. The streets of Franschooek (French Corner) are lined with French restaurants, patisseries, small European clothing boutiques, wine shops and organic farm stores; perfect for a weekend getaway.

Perhaps I should have titled this post, ‘in search of perfection.’ I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I booked myself into La Residence, since this was my first time staying in the area and my first experience of any of the Royal Portfolio hotels. The hotel itself is situated on a private 30-acre estate in the heart of the Franschhoek valley and enjoys breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains as well as the private vineyards of the estate; once you get past the surrounding beauty you will notice that it boasts the most uniquely exquisite rooms, decadently decorated entrance way, phenomenal food cooked by their in house chef, and service on par with that of any true Royal residence (or at least what I would imagine Royal service might be like).

View from my awesome bedroom / balcony / palace

Despite the torrential rain and bitter cold outside, I felt as though I had just found my very own slice of heaven. Quietly tucked away in my palatial room with it’s underfloor heating and super king sized bed (the bed even has stairs, and even those have underfloor heating), I was as comfortable as I could possibly be and as warm as toast; with little to do except drink the complimentary bottle of bubbly, disappear into the pool sized tub and dive into a good book, I decided to do exactly that.

Everything about this unique property screams luxury – although perhaps luxury isn’t the most fitting description, it’s more than luxurious, it is a personal oasis; the entire place creates a feeling of euphoria and a sense of complete serenity, as if there isn’t really a world beyond it’s walls.

La Residence is part of a portfolio of three boutique establishments in South Africa, The Royal Portfolio, which was established and is wholly owned by Liz and Phil Biden; Liz Biden is considered a South African icon as well as a global hotelier of note. Before these properties were hotels however, they were once the family’s holiday homes, and each one has been entirely designed and decorated by Liz.

Liz has an exceptional eye for detail; from the moment you step into the entrance hall at La Residence you begin to notice the exquisite decoration, and the breathtaking interior design extends far beyond the main building as each of the 11 rooms is individually colour coordinated and decorated to specific design. The finishing touches are added on a daily basis by the hotels tireless staff who are on hand at all hours of the day to tend to your every need, and the hotel’s dining room is already famous in South Africa as one of the Wineland’s most accomplished.

From the very second you arrive, to the heartbreaking moment when you leave, this haven of luxury will put all of your worries at ease; from the mind-altering food and endless flow of drinks, to the warmth and hospitality of the staff at La Residence – it really is in a class all of it’s own.

I think this may possibly be the most exceptionally relaxing, purely indulgent, completely luxurious weekend I have ever had – a big thank you to the incredible staff who made my stay so unforgettable, you are one of a kind.

La Residence | Elandskloof Private Road, Elandskloof Farm, Franschhoek | +27 (0) 21 876 4100 | reservations@theroyalportfolio.com

Clarkes is the name. Burgers are the game.

I have been on the hunt for Cape Town’s best burger – I do this wherever I am, hunt out ‘the best’ of certain favourite meals and drinks I am partial to. It’s a nice way of getting to know a city and it often turns out to be quite pleasantly surprising, in more ways than one. This was one of those times; a rare and unique moment in time where I was faced with meaty, stodgy, perfection – and therefore rendered completely speachless (not least because of the enormity of the burger I was attempting to devour). Sitting there, watching the sun go down on the bustling streets of Cape Town, I had to pause to take it all in – the burger in question, had just made it to the top of my list.

Simplicity really is the name of the game at Bree streets buzzing hotspot Clarke’s. Their menu is something of a quiet affair, unlike the atmosphere and the crowd which it attracts; it features only cheeseburgers, a veggie sloppy joe for the non meat eaters out there, a handful of side dishes and some sweet treats as an after thought. Thinking about it, I have never eaten anything after that burger, I don’t know how anyone could possibly think of dessert after engulfing the enormous mound of meaty amazingness which is fast becoming known as the best burger in Cape Town. I am inclined to agree, it definitely gets ‘best in show’ on my burger list; the meat is cooked medium-rare and is juicy and pink, the fries are the skin-still-on, thinly sliced and fried to perfection sort, and the tiny side dish of paper thin gherkin slices in vinegar are a welcome treat as their sharp flavour gently cuts through everything else (fat, meat, bun and all). The star of the show, however, is the bun, and oh what a wonderful bun it is.

These buns, along with some of the bread on the Clarke’s daytime menu, come from the ever elusive Trevor Daly of Worcester. He recently started baking in Woodstock too, which has made things at Clarke’s just that little bit better as they now stock an assortment of his pastry treats as well (get there early in the day to avoid disappointment). But, I digress, I was talking about the buns! They are somewhere between a croissant, a brioche and a really good burger bun, buttery and heavenly, and the perfect marriage to the deliciously simple meat which is encased between the two halves. I would love to get my hands on that recipe, but at the moment, there’s only one place I know that sells these amazing burgers and the even-more-amazing buns. So if you have a burger craving, you now know where to go.

Clarke’s Dining | clarkesdining.co.za | 133 Bree street | +27 (0) 21 424 7648