Food and Restaurant Digest #17, 10 February 2017 
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Rethinking fine dining

You've probably heard about "fast casual" restaurants (something in between fast food and casual dining, or "better quality takeaway"), but what about "fast fine"? This is what a group of San Francisco restaurants are defining as a new concept which combines fine dining with a fast food set up. In practice, this means you go to a fancy restaurant where there are no waiters, and place your order at a counter. You can then seat yourself, and runners will bring your food to the table, and other floor staff will be on hand to pour drinks and so on. But there's no one to talk you through the menu, make recommendations, list daily specials, and otherwise banter with diners.

It's a model designed to cut costs for both the restaurant and diners, who of course don't need to tip for the service they won't be getting, and the restaurant doesn't need to spend time or money training people to provide that hospitality.

But how much of what we think of as fine dining depends on the (hopefully) excellent and knowledgeable service that accompanies outstanding food? Does it take some of the romance out of a special occasion if you don't get some special treatment too? Then again, there's little worse than poor or overbearing service when you're trying to enjoy a nice meal out. If you're planning a romantic rendez-vous for Valentine's Day, for example, a little privacy might be rather nice! 
Local news and events   

Gauteng: Fans of The Arbour Café and Courtyard in Illovo will be pleased to hear that chef Zané Robins is launching an all-new menu in February and the café will keep its doors open for the public during evenings. They start the month of love off with a three-course meal for Valentine's Day. For starters, choose between vol-au-vent with smoked salmon or creamy spinach, leek and feta. Then a choice of rib eye steak with smoked paprika and roasted garlic aioli or pasta shells with roasted tomato sauce, olives, capers and Parmesan, ending off with nutella and strawberry crêpes with vanilla ice cream or a brandy flambéed crêpe with orange butter sauce. R275 per person includes a glass of Villiera Tradition Brut Rosé or a gin cocktail. R375 per person includes a bottle of Villiera Tradition Brut Rosé.

Cape WinelandsGabriëlskloof is now offering Mediterranean-style tasting platters to enjoy with the estate wine. The tasters are available every day except Tuesdays and Sundays until the end of May at a cost of R250 per couple sharing. Gabriëlskloof’s normal trading hours at the tasting room are Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm and 11am-3pm on a Saturday. See our Facebook page for more details.

On Sunday, 5 March, Eikendal will celebrate the end of its harvest with with a farm-style Weintaufe Carnival. Tickets will be available at the gates on the day and cost R80 per person, which includes a free glass and tasting from the barrel plus all the entertainment on the day. Under 18s get in for free. Gates open at 10am and the official christening and tasting of the new Eikendal Chardonnay 2017 will take place at 12pm. You can contact the estate on 021 855 1422 or send an email to 
Bits and Bites
Best Female Chef: Slovenian chef Ana Roš was recently named the world's "Best Female Chef" by the World's 50 Best team. It's not an uncontroversial issue, as some claim that the title is insulting to women, and that they should simply be recognised as chefs. (If you're a fan of the documentary series Chef's Table, you will recognise chef Roš from Season 2, and no doubt also be delighted that Season 3 will be available on Netflix on February 17.)
Michelin vegan burger: In an earlier newsletter we wrote about a "bleeding" vegan burger that had been developed to create a more "meaty" vegetarian option. That "Impossible" burger has now been added to the menu at a MIchelin-starred restaurant in New York. Think the Michelin inspectors will be able to tell the difference? (And speaking of Michelin, congratulations to SA chef Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen for maintaining his Michelin star in Nice, France for the second year running!)
Convict restaurant: An interesting story about a chef who spent time in jail, and who now operates a fine dining restaurant staffed entirely by former convicts. He recently took part in an "Ask-Me-Anything" on Reddit, where people could satisfy their curiosity about questions like how the local community feels about being cooked for and served by former felons - very welcoming, apparently. 
Cooking with MSG: If you haven't managed to secure a table at your favourite restaurant for Valentine's Day, there are lots of good-looking recipes on the web to inspire a lovely home-cooked meal. Just remember to add some MSG, which is apparently good for you (and helps get your kids to eat their veggies too - just tell them it's supersalt). 
Please share this newsletter with your food-loving friends, and feel free to email us with any queries, suggestions, or eating recommendations!
Copyright © 2017 Platter's SA Wine & Rossouw's Restaurants Guides, All rights reserved.

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