Politics and Seafood, A Dinner with Siba

This June I was lucky enough to have had a wonderful dinner with South African chef extrodinaire, SIBA! Ok so she might not be the world’s most award-winning TV chef, but I love her because she’s kind, classy, pretty and makes really good food. Perhaps you’ve caught her show on the Food Network, Siba’s Table? She broadcasts from her home in Houtbay and often has friends and family over to enjoy her cuisine with her hubby and children (her son was just a baby when the show first started filming).

I first came across Siba at the Good Food and Wine Show press conference. I then ran into her at the GFWS and couldn’t resist getting a selfie. She’s such a talented lady and a proudly South African women filled with girl power, she’s a real inspiration to those of us who believe in South Africa, its future and her people. I wish the whole country would just fast forward and be hardworking, smart and cool like Siba!

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My friend is a huge fan so when I was invited to a media dinner at my 2016 favourite restaurant, On19, I had to accept and include her. On19 is on the 19th floor of the Westin and is a stunning restaurant that over looks the City of Cape Town in all her glory, from the harbour all the way to Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Signal Hill.

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Everyone was warmly welcomed as we took our places at the dining room table. I was really excited to sit with some new (to me) young South Africans. Cape Town is super cliquey which makes it tricky to meet and connect with others from a different cultural background. So I was very excited to be with such a diverse group of guests.

Siba started her speech chatting about food trends in for the year. She quite rightly said, “Food has become the new ‘fashion'”. Once upon a time, all the rage was fashion (and of course it does still exist), but food has really exploded and become a global phenomenon. Of course, Siba supports local produce and local products, in spite of her recipes. Respect for choosing ethics over flavour! It was lovely to learn about her life as a working woman, wife and mum.

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As the night went on, we ended up speaking about politics for about 4 hours. It was pretty exhausting. I had never been asked to give the land back before, so that was a good challenge for me to see how I really felt about being white in South Africa. I learnt some really good things about feminism, culture and race in South Africa – which is awesome! But on the downside, I can’t help feeling like it took away from the evening considering we were there to network, celebrate Siba and support On19. I don’t really feel like I achieved that. 🙁

None the less, the food was enjoyable, although I would have liked to have concentrated on it a lot more! Here’s what was on the On19 menu:

For starters, we had a mixture of items including a grilled calamari salad, cured salmon and prawn dumplings. I’m not into seafood but my friend agreed the calamari was very chewy. The salmon was also WAY too fishy for my liking BUT my friend (my date who I took along with me, Elisabeth), is Norwegian and she says we eat a rubbish version of Norwegian salmon in South Africa. It’s very sanitary and she says Norwegian salmon is deep and pungent so she loved this salmon. Again, the prawns weren’t for me, but that’s just because I don’t like seafood.

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The non-seafood starters included a chicken liver on waffles with sage and honeyfigs. I could see how these could work but they were waaaayyy too dry, sho! I think the fig & honey needed to be drizzled over far more or olive oil or something! Because livers are grainy by texture, it really needed that moisture to balance it out. What was tasty were the lamb and goats cheese fritters. They were enjoyable, however, the starter than absolutely SMASHED it out of the ballpark, over into the next city, was the wild mushroom and roasted garlic panacotta. WOW WOW WOW! This was unreal! Silky smooth, perfectly wobbly, delicious mushrooms and offset with a brioche crumb. This is one of the best starters I’ve ever had.

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The second course included olive crusted tuna steak and grilled Franschoek trout with citrus (this was a lovely pairing and less fishy so I could eat it quite easily).

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Mains on the evening included beef tenderloin with mushroom ragout and a honey glazed belly. The beef tenderloin was my favourite of the two.

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The desserts of the evening really brought the meal to a lovely close. I LOVE white chocolate mousse so I was in heaven when I had it with a mango jelly. We were also given the baked lemon cheesecake with red velvet cake, which was pretty as a picture as well as a Catalan custard, (I learnt Catalan was a part of Spain, kind of like Lesotho is to South Africa), with a homemade sugar-coated jelly. The white chocolate mousse was to die for though so I ate my friend’s too (she just ran the Comrades Marathon, her appetite was smaller than mine 😉 ).

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To end off the dinner we were at least able to grab a picture with Siba herself. I feel it was quite a wasted opportunity, I would have liked to have spoken to her a lot more, as well as the other guests at the restaurant, but we can’t predict life and sometimes your lesson for the day isn’t what you thought it would be.

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