On my birthday this year, I was treated to a five course tasting menu at the much acclaimed La Colombe Restaurant on theConstantia Uitsig Estate. My husband made me swear on the Bible, the Koran and all other things holy, that I will NOT take my camera or cellphone near the place.
“Remember now,( was the last words I heard before we entered the restaurant) no Tweeting and no photographs!”
“Yes, Boss”, I said and turned on my internal photographic memory, I was not going to miss any of it!
Oh boy, there was a lot to take in and remember, I tried to savor every little detail, but gave up at about course 3….. To just be a proverbial fly on the wall in that kitchen would be such an adventure for me. This is not a restaurant review so I am not going to bore you with every bit of detail, but in terms of flavors and textures my desire to learn and expand my abilities in the kitchen have definitely been stimulated and although it is hardly food that I would serve my family every night, it just showed me what is possible and to sometimes just think outside the box.
La Colombe is one of Cape Town’s landmark restaurants and has been awarded 12th place on the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World in 2010.Some of the other awards this fine dining restaurant have been given, include:
-Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africaand Middle East Award.
-Winner of both Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year in the Prudential Eat Out Awards 2008
-Winner of Restaurant of the Year in the Prudential Eat Out Eat Out Awards 2009
-La Colombe achieved the highest 3 star rating in the 2009 and 2010 issues of the acclaimed Rossouw’s Restaurants guide.
-Nominated for the Eatout Restaurant Awards 2010
I read somewhere that former Executive chef, Luke Dale-Roberts’ cooking mantra is Taste, taste and taste and if I have to isolate one single factor from my eating experience at La Colombe is will be that every morsel, every bite is just so perfectly seasoned and balanced that it was truly awe-inspiring! Luke has since taken the position as Culinary Consultant for La Colombe and has started a whole new venture in his new Test Kitchen!
I must say that the course I enjoyed most was the Beetroot Tart, maybe it was the sublime taste or maybe it was because it was the first course that was do-able for me! I could identify beetroot and puff pastry…..and that was about it! The rest I had to “invent” using my taste memories. Gosh, I hope no-one at La Colombe reads this, what if I have it all wrong? At least I tried, right?
So here goes….My La Colombe Inspired Beetroot Tarts
Beetroot Tarts with Goat’s Cheese Mousse
1 roll good quality puff pastry
1 bunch beetroot
1 egg for egg wash
250gr cream cheese
1 log goat’s cheese
2 tsp gelatin dissolved in 3 Tbs cold water
fresh sprigs of thyme
For the vinaigrette
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place a pot of water on the stove and cook the beetroot until soft, but still firm. remove from the pot and let it cool slightly. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and slice in even slices. In the meantime, make the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a glass jar or bowl. Add the beetroot slices to the vinaigrette and leave it for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
To make the Goat’s cheese Mousse
In a glass bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Crumble the goat’s cheese into the cream cheese and beat vigorously. Mix the gelatin with some gold water and allow to sponge. Heat in the microwave for 25-30 seconds until the gelatin has dissolved. Allow to cool and beat into the cheese mixture. Spoon a teaspoon of cream cheese onto some clingfilm and make little cream cheese “balls” using the plastic to shape it. Allow to set for a couple of hours.
To make the tarts.
Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Roll out the puff pastry and press out 8 rounds with a cookie cutter or food stacking ring. Cut thin strips of the puff pastry so that you can make an edge for each little tart. Brush with egg wash and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and all puffed out. Allow to cool. Spoon a slice of beetroot from the glass bowl of jar and allow excess vinaigrette to drip off. Place in the little tart and top with a ball of Goat’s cheese mousse and a sprig of thyme.
I know this seems all to finicky to make, but if you make all the different elements in advance, you will not only wow your guests, but you will spend very little time in the kitchen and lots more time having fun with your guests!.