Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Mystery Tour

 Zomato. Sideways. Do you know what I'm talking about? You should. These are apps that you should be very familiar with especially if you're into food, wine and discovery.

They are an online restaurant review service that provides data on eating locations as well as wineries. It's great for reading real, honest reviews and for finding places to nosh at as its sectioning (Banting, High Tea, Sharing etc) means you can find the right place to suit any mood.

In their own words, " Sideways is the simple, but powerful, solution we created to make the winelands more accessible to everyone, to help you instantly find the perfect adventure, and to boost the winelands profile as a world class destination to local and international tourists."

A clever marketing exercise to draw attention to both apps (they are now in partnership and it's a heavenly match) came in the way of a competition to win a spot on the first ever Mystery Tour - a secret trip to discover hidden gems in the winelands.
Invited as part of the media, I was super excited to discover where we would be heading which would be revealed throughout the day via clues that the whole team, using the Sideways app, could decipher.

We started the day with breakfast at Gusto Cafeteria - a gorgeous spot along Hatfield street which serves the most scrumptious french toast, bacon, berry compote and cream cheese croissants. Their fresh juices are just what the liver needs to set you up for a big day.
After breakfast (an essential for any wine trip), we were given the first clue & silence ensured as we madly scrambled on our phones to locate the answer.

Jumping onto the Mystery bus, we headed for Swartland and A.A Badenhorst - an absolutely epic winery with an epic leading man (winemaker).
Look how happy everyone is!
It's a family affair on the farm and it's all about making great wines with what they can afford. It's the kind of place that I want to move to, a heady mix of the natural, the rustic, the loud, the vibrant and a couple of swear words and random historical facts - not too sure about the accuracies of the latter.
The best part about the day was sampling their vermouth and tonic water. FABULOUS. I'm still looking for it in Cape Town.
Hetvlock Kasteel was our second stop and then we headed into Riebeek Kasteel for something to eat.
Lunch was a Nose-to-Tail affair at Bar Bar Black Sheep - the quaintest eatery with the warmest hosts. I ate sheep's hearts. And it was nice. And I feel like I might be going to hell for saying that. 
This baked cheesecake was unbelievable!

With full stomachs we headed to the last spot, Riebeek Cellars to make our very own blends - the best would win a prize. The concentration was immense, the mess was even greater.

With a lot of wine and some of the best memories, we sadly said goodbye to the Swartland and headed home. What an absolutely magical day spent with killer people, using two apps that revolutionise the way you talk and experience food and drink. The entire day was incredibly clever and the partnership between the two is spot on. 
Now to hold thumbs that I can get on the next tour....Tulbagh or Botriver perhaps?

Join Zomato here
Join Sideways here

Friday, 27 March 2015

The art of Blegging

"I am a blogger" - this statement used to fill me with curiosity, questioning why said person thought they were so interesting that they needed to write about it. Now, this statement fills me with dread.
I guess that's why I try and blog/write more about "feelings, nothing more than feelings" and marriage and life etc - though you may have seen my Laborie review and post on Waterkloof

To make things clear, I don't believe blogging is just used for people with Wordpress or Blogger, I think it's also for people with websites that they update on a frequent level with posts pertaining to themselves and their likes. (I hope that makes sense).

Going back to why bloggers scare me a little - haven't we all seen a bit of a shift in the way bloggers behave these days...the way consumers behave has shifted dramatically and we basically all think we're entitled to the very best of everything. How many times have I gone out to a restaurant and been overtly critical because it now feels like the norm. I have to mentally slap myself or get Mr H to do it for me.

This new trend of needing the best and getting it for free has spawned the term "Blegging" - to beg and blog. Or blog to beg. Or beg so you can blog.

Here are my top tips on how to Bleg successfully. Now go forth and annoy the hell out of everyone.

1) Start a blog - let's use food as the example - get a huge following by doing some giveaways and write some decent fluffy pieces. Then get out and eat. But when you eat, document each moment and critique it as if you have a Michelin Star to give - and if it's bad, make this fact known - be thoroughly disagreeable and make sure you get a free meal out it.
It's best if you never paid in the first place.

2) Be rude to PRs. I once listened to a conversation between two bloggers who were bemoaning one of my favorite PR companies and calling them stupid because they had the audacity to send them an invite for an event in the week when obviously they are working. I've heard bleggers demand that they get a weekend time instead and write quite nasty emails/pieces if they don't.
Alternatively, suck up to PRs because they hold the key to your freebies. There are many companies out there that will burn your name off their list if you say one negative thing. "Gosh it's a little warm today at this event" - people have died for less!

3) Heard about an amazing event but didn't make the guest list...this is when you get emailing. Be diligent, be ruthless - don't stop emailing the PR company until you get invited. You're special damn it.
And when that invite does get sent to you because you threatened to kidnap their cat, turn up to the event, moan about everything and then leave early. They should have invited you in the first place.

4) Demand to bring a friend or partner with you EVERYWHERE (even day time events) even if they add nothing to the event. It's important to try every item off the menu so if you bring someone with, you don't look like a total glutton.

5) There is no such thing as shame, so if you got a freebie from a restaurant/winery/shop tweet about it until your fingers are so numb you can barely hold your phone anymore. (disclaimer - I do tweet about events and reviews I get offered but you might have seen that I am sometimes too honest for my own good. one day I will get fired. Or killed)

Truthfully, I receive a lot of freebies but that's more because of my job and position and I do tweet about them ESPECIALLY when it's absolutely awesome or when I know that the PR and the winery put a lot of effort into the media drop or the event.
I also get a lot of free press releases sent to me on events with the opening line "it would be so good if you would share this with your readership" and honestly I get so sick of it that I have started emailing back asking them to either take out a Sponsored article or send me tickets coz doing work for free ain't making anyone's day. Maybe I'm now a Blegger...I think it's actually quite a fine line.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

I don't think you'll ever see Paid-for-content on this blog because a) I'm too weird and brutal for that b) I think the only fitting advert would be for anger management 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

5 reasons to love Waterkloof

1) They are celebrating 10 years of wine making and they are a certified bio-dynamic wine farm which means that they work to create a diverse, balanced ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Everything has a purpose and there is a continual circle of life with everything giving to each other that makes this such an exciting winery.

2) They plough their fields using Draft horses. No nasty tractors, carbon emissions or noisey machine. Just the slow methodical plod of nature's finest. Isn't he a beauty!
Photo not my own

3) This is the view from their you can imagine the view from the tasting and restaurant which is above it. Sit for a wine tasting and for R40 you can pair wines with the best cheddar in SA, Healeys Cheddar. It's super yum.

4) Their restaurant has some wickedly delicious food thanks to French chef Gregory Czarnecki and he's forever pushing himself, concocting fabulously intricate and inspired dishes. He's all for local and in season produce and when I was there last, there was a suspicious lack of rabbits..."Oh they became chef's terrine". Lovely. And it really was. Sorry bunny.

5) They make an incredibly good Cinsaut which I was previously adverse to (must have been the company I was with) because tasting it this week, I have promptly ordered a case and will be very loathe to share it....sorry Mr H.
This wine has peppery, savory notes with aromas of fynbos, wild mornings and moments when the wind catches your hair.

Waterkloof's Website -
Find them on Twitter and Facebook

Thursday, 12 March 2015

{GIVEAWAY} - Get yourself a photoshoot!

To get more exposure for my on-the-side-photo-taking, I'm doing a wee little giveaway over on my Facebook page. 
Go check it out - and as I'm in England in June, it's even open for UK peeps too!
Click here to enter

"Life is like a camera; just focus on what's important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives & if things don't work out, just take another shot." 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Laborie - Summer just got awesome

I'm a woman of many needs - I need good food. I need good wine. I need a soft bed. I need all of these three things in the same place. Laborie in Paarl meets my needs and then adds in awesome staff like a craft beer bar, live music and killer views. It sorts you out one time.

Invited to stay over at the winery to enjoy the full Laborie experience, I took fellow blogger Amy Brown (from Tea With Mrs Bee) and spent the night; a girly Friday retreat away from the men folk.

Before we even got to our rooms, we started our weekend with a bubbly tasting and I have always been a fan of the Laborie Blanc de Blanc which is an award-winner and made completely of Chardonnay grapes so it has yummy yeasty/brioche notes. The other two bubblies on the list were the Brut and the Brut rose. I think all days should begin with bubbles, it's such a great mood booster.
Lunchtime beckoned and we headed to Harvest, Laborie's main restaurant that has a deck underneath sweeping oak trees. To soak up some of the bubbles, we both ordered a starter and a main.
Tempura Prawns and Avocado - delicious
Beef Carpaccio

Feeling ridiculously full, we decided that lazing by the pool was the only viable option. We checked into our room and donned our bikinis (a considerable amount of sucking in one's stomach was required after so much food).

The rooms are classic, elegant and understated and well stocked with wine. I judge a room by a) how many plug points it has, b) how good the shower is c) how comfy the beds and bedding is - I was not disappointed at all.

The sun began to creep away and we started to feel peckish again. This time we went to eat at Taste, the new Tapas restaurant on the terrace, just off of Laborie's tasting room. It's a fairly new renovation and has already become a firm favourite for locals. Every Friday they have live music and I adore picking a large amount of different items of a menu to share (or not to, I like my food).
 Tempura Hake - absolutely divine
 Chorizo and calamari

After dinner drinks happened at Bar di Bar - the new craft beer spot which oozes cool. Mr H is an avid craft beer drinker (and brewer) and so Laborie works for us both and I get my bubbly and he gets his brew, bru.

After so much food and wine, we staggered to our beds and collapsed into happy oblivion.
I'm planning to head back before Summer is over and treat the hubby - you could say that I am now obsessed with Laborie.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

All's fair in work and love...

I'm going to get an awful lot of flack for this post. I'm hesitant to write anything but my fingers are just running away from me.

I have a friend in a similar industry to me and she has noticed a theme...married (and single) women, under the age of 32, with no children get picked on. There, I said it. All the ladies with babies are going to throw me some shade so let me quickly try and explain.

Said friend works in a PR company and though she has a family (it's her and her husband and their Terrier), that doesn't seem to count towards much. Here's some examples of her plight:

- Friend notices that colleague leaves office every day to pick up child from daycare, no questions asked. On one particular day, friend had to drop husband off at garage for broken car, gets asked a million questions why he can't find someone else to do it.
- Friend attends meeting to brainstorm ideas around an event, it might be a little more work but the return will be phenomenal. Because everyone has kids, she is required to do all the work (after hours) but then the entire team takes the praise.
- Friend gets emails over the weekend that she is expected to answer...spending time with husband is not a valid excuse yet spending time with family (children) is.
There are many little niggles that have come out over a glass of truth juice (wine).

From my side; in a previous job I was bemused when people (mainly men) assumed that I wanted to hang out longer at the office (without pay) rather than go home to my husband. I would receive incredulous looks, often being called boring or not a team player.
Imagine if I left my child alone! God forbid. Why is it not the same? I sure love my husband, he's pretty much the best part of me, so why does he not factor as highly?
Furthermore, I've experienced a few moments whereby my life-experience/knowledge has been questioned because I don't have kids - it's like I don't know anything because I haven't breastfed yet.

Things are even tougher for single females because obviously they don't have a life outside of office hours.

So I leave the above here and am willing to take all criticism/maybe some agreement. Please note that I am not dismissing the hard work of mothers, that would be ridiculous seeing as I have an awesome one.

The above is subject to change should I ever have my own child and then I'll write a follow-up article.

Friday, 13 February 2015

10 wines to make Valentine’s day bearable

You could spend all your money on an expensive dinner out which will likely comprise of frozen shellfish, an over-indulgence of hearts and romantic gestures that will be long forgotten in the morning...OR, you could buy wine, get merry at home and win.
Here are my picks for some good ol' drinking.

1) Pongracz Brut Rose - I know it’s pink but it’s not sweet, sickly or gushing in an overabundance of silly, feminine metaphors. Simply, it’s rich in fruit from the addition of Pinot Noir and has a lovely black cherry essence and long finish.

2) Saronsberg MCC - Green apple, biscotti, almonds: 3 things that I need more of in my life.

3) Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - I'm not a SB fan, either too green or more fruit than a mental institution but this well-rated number has a lovely richness to it and no searing acidity from overtly green notes.

4) Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse -This white blend is something special. Layered, balanced creaminess and a killer label - you have to try it...even if it's difficult to come by.

5) Kanonkop Pinotage Rose 2013
- Very pink and full of strawberries. I feel like a fairy when I drink it, a really awesome fairy.

6) Altygedacht Pinotage 2013 -
Don't like Pinotage because it's jammy and sometimes sour? Not so with this one -this is smooth and moreish, full of red fruit and a hint of gentle oaking.

7) Alvi's Drift Chenin Blanc - Retailing at around R35-40 a bottle, this is a gem that's seriously under-priced. Though it's unwooded, it has good fullness and balanced acidity so you don't feel like your throat is melting. It's a winner for both price and taste.

8) Usana barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc - A splendid find at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival; buttered popcorn, macadamia nuts and good acidity.

9) Groot Constantia MCC Blanc de Blanc (R187 and only 1500 bottles)
- Deliciously creamy with amazing nutty characteristics. It's an absolute beauty and needs to be snapped up quick before they discontinue it.

10) Stellekaya Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - this is a serious wine for some serious wine whispering. There's no such thing as sweet nothings with this wine, rather deep, meaningful purrs as you become enveloped by dark berries and clean oak.

Need places to buy these wines?
Check out (shameless punt), the wineries themselves, the Bottelary Wine shop and some decent supermarkets.

Monday, 26 January 2015

How to be fancy

1) Drink wine from glasses that don't match but make sure you have specified tumblers for Gin.
2) Take off your makeup before bed you filthy animal - a) it's good for your skin b) you don't leave marks on your bedding and c) you don't look like an Orc.
3) Don't be early to a function, but don't be more than 10 minutes late. I'm awful with my timings so this is totally hypocritical but, if you're more than 30 minutes late I disown you and wish a plague on both your houses.
4) If you keep getting an invite to someone's house, return the favour OR, if you can't play host, take a leaf out of an awesome person I know and bring hostess gifts or offer to cook something. (That person knows who they are and they know they are fabulous).
5) Don't leave the house without shaving your legs...but if you really can't get the razor out, cover them pins up.
6) Walk tall and don't shuffle. Show authority and pride by the way you enter a room.
7) Oh you went for a jog around the houses, lifted some weights at the gym, ate sawdust as part of a "new you" diet, keep that to yourself...unless you have before and after pictures. I love those. And no one ever enjoyed cauliflower pizza. Stop it now.
8) Stop constantly whining about bad relationships or those people you had to move away from...coz it kinda looks like you still miss them. It happened. You're better off. Let go.
9) Have a signature dance move that you break out when the mood is right. Make it so awesome/hilarious that people shout "oh this party is starting ya'll, gurl just gone and bust her moves!"
10) Smile at your enemies. No, wink at them. Say with your eyes, "I've got life's balls and I'm swinging from the chandeliers with them. How's it hanging with you?"
11) Take up a hobby (such as sewing), get really good at it and make things for your friends. Perhaps even start a business. (I have one such friend who made scarves. Unexpected. Very cool)
12) Grandma was right, good underwear counts and you feel all saucy and awesome when you wear it.
13) Know your faults but don't allow others to use them to make you feel inferior.
14) Hold doors open for people and if they don't thank you state loudly, "you're welcome". Hopefully, they will remember next time.
15) Stop pouring through food accounts on Pinterest and just make some of the stuff already! Triple Nutella cookies..I think so.
16) And finally, in the words of Scott Disick...

“I’m a big star. I don’t need to be dealing with your peasants.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What the women in my life have taught me

I have been blessed with remarkably amazing women who have taught me so many wonderful (and weird) things. Here's a few top tips and tricks that have stuck in my mind (some are very random):

My Mother
1) Marriage must be worked at by both sides...and I am not perfect
2) Always save the water you use to boil vegetables and add it to your gravy
3) Leftover chocolate/fudge is for sissies
4) Always have a present drawer; collect gifts so that when it is some one's birthday, you don't need to panic or do a crazed trip to the shops
5) The telephone is for making calls, not receiving them. Both my mum and I hate answering the phone - honestly, if you call me, expect to be ignored and to receive a Whatsapp message in the next second
6) Morning people are weird
7) Buy a heavy iron, it takes out half the work
8) People who like to iron are probably aliens
9) Show off your face (for all Americans, clip your bangs up)
10) Never mix corn starch in hot water
11) Fluff your boiled potatoes in a colander to make them crispier when you roast them (best roast potatoes ever)
12) Every child is wonderfully unique no matter how their brain functions

Monday, 5 January 2015

Another year, another blog post

To sound like every other person in the world, "how fast did 2014 go by?!" - indeed, one minute I was bemoaning an influx of laughter lines, fretting about Christmas decorations and then BAM, New Years was upon us and now I'm standing eyeing, questionably, my 2015 calendar.

If last year was a hectic, swirling dervish of a year then 2015 is set to be a hurricane. But each day must be lived out to the full; this year I plan to take more time to be fulfilled rather than filling up my time just for the sake of busyness.