A drive down Happy Valley Road in South Africa's wine town Franschhoek is bound to leave you smiling, writes Eugene Yiga.
“I love this place,” my friend said as we drove out to lunch, dodging cyclists braving the blistering heat. “I’ve only ever had good memories of Franschhoek.” It was time to add another to the list.
It turns out Môreson Family Winery has a lot to offer: a wine-blending course (you take the wine home), a bread-making course (you eat the bread there), and a two-day charcuterie course, where chef Neil Jewell teaches you the art and science of cured meats. There’s also the annual Blessing of the Harvest, where you pick grapes, stomp grapes, and collect your wine at year-end.
Our plan was to enjoy a relaxed lunch in the shaded courtyard at Bread and Wine. As the name suggests, we began with bread (sourdough and breadsticks) and then chose the wine. I had a glass of the ‘Kitchen Thief’ Sauvignon Blanc, a quirky label that speaks to the restaurant’s unpretentious atmosphere.
“Miss Molly, the Môreson Weimaraner [a dog bred for hunting in the early 19th century] is such a huge presence in our lives that we felt she deserved her own range of wines,” the menus explains of the brand that’s won several Best Value awards. “All the wines have been designed to capture the fun and good-natured naughtiness that we believe makes our Miss Molly so easy to love.”
Sounds about right, I thought, as I took a crisp and refreshing sip. But it turns out there was a better option. I’m not talking about the wine-tasting next door, although the group of British tourists seemed to be having fun. I’m talking about the ‘Flights of Fancy’: three varieties (tasting sizes) rather than one big glass.
Instead of opting for the charcuterie board, I had a salty kick from the three-year-old prosciutto with caper, parsley, and marinated aubergine. Then, since the pork rib croquettes weren’t available (“the menu changes with the seasons, according to local produce and Neil’s whims”), I had the bacon-wrapped springbok as my main course. Juicy meat, contrasted with the crunchy textures of the butternut granola and sour fig? Please sir, can I have some more!
My friend wasn’t left out of the foodie fun. They prepared a quinoa salad with roasted beetroot and burnt orange as a starter (the non-vegan option includes crispy duck skin) and risotto of chickpea parsley, pickled tomato, and mushroom à la grecque for the main meal. “I love this but I have no idea what I’m eating,” he said. “The best way to describe it is to say that it tastes green.”
For dessert, I had my heart set on the peanut butter bombe with toasted lemon marshmallow, lime curd, and Nutella. But doing so would break my month-long dairy-free experiment one week too soon. So I joined my friend in solidarity by having a thick, dark chocolate mousse with diced strawberries and peach sorbet. Each ingredient would have worked well by itself but together they were even better.
“This is joy in a jar,” I said as I took another bite. “Then again, what else would you expect to find at the end of Happy Valley Road?” Eugene Yiga was a guest of Môreson Farm, Happy Valley Road, Franschhoek, 7690. Phone +27 (0)21 876 3692, email az.oc.noserom@eniwdnadaerb, or visit www.moreson.co.za.