Cool for your conscience and kind to the cows

Mediocrity abounds, it seems. In the food we buy, the restaurants we frequent and the items we covet. All too often, there is too much emphasis on “being creative” and not enough attention devoted to the actual production process.

But people are moving away from the mass-produced and supporting talented locals, which in turn means greener living and reducing one’s carbon footprint. This is a major reason why they will be flocking to the FoodWineDesign Fair in Hyde Park Shopping Centre in Johannesburg, an annual celebration of local excellence, quality and workmanship.

Ross Douglas, director of Artlogic, the company responsible for the fair, explained: “We want to give people what they won’t come across in their usual daily meanderings — products that are not ubiquitous and where the quality also justifies the price.”

Buyers’ expectations have changed. Now we want to know where our food comes from, who makes it, the narrative that informs it.

The fair gives visitors the opportunity to meet the people behind the products, to understand how they are manufactured and what it is that makes them special.

Fashion trends are fleeting, whereas good design and excellent ­quality are not flash-in-the-pan fancies. “I’m inspired by fairly simple style, good quality, surface detailing and patterns,” said Missibaba’s Chloe Townsend. She established her brand of luxury leather accessories in Cape Town after graduating from the ­London College of Fashion.

So particular is Townsend about her colour palette that she does much of the dyeing in her Woodstock studio. “There are insane textures and rich colours available in leather,” she said.

Attention to detail

Townsend pairs traditional handmade leather-making techniques and the best craftspeople with modern contexts.

Her attention to detail, ­combined with whimsical quirks, have made the bags she produces coveted items. Jo’burgers, who may not easily find her designs, can meet Townsend at the fair and even have her customise a bag. Be sure to get hold of something from Missibaba’s latest Owl and the Pussycat collection —

Another exhibitor dedicated to using old-world techniques in creating its products is the Letterpress Company, an artisanal print shop. It is “dedicated to preserving the heritage of letterpress printing using antique, hand-operated printing equipment and traditional craftsmanship”.

Letterpress has its roots in 13th-century Asia and 15th-century Europe and has become one of the “lost arts” of printing. Husband-and-wife team Anton Visser and Gitanjali Maharaj spent years collecting the antique equipment needed to recreate an authentic letterpress print shop. The old workhorses have been restored and now produce exquisite hand-crafted printed ­articles with the ­distinctive crisp impression of ink on paper — a unique feature of letterpress printing.

This is obviously not a new technique or idea, but the extraordinary execution is what distinguishes the Letterpress Company’s work. All materials used are earth-friendly and tree-free, delivering ecoconscious luxury. Presenting one of the company’s beautiful business cards to an associate or sending a letter on one of its bespoke stationary pages will certainly make the impression you leave memorable —

Innovative twists
An Aladdin’s cave for magpies and lovers of all that sparkles, Tinsel is a treasure trove of South African jewellery individually and lovingly handmade by some of the country’s most talented designers.

Located in the Bamboo Centre in Melville, Tinsel was started by jewellery designer Geraldine Fenn and Jaci Jenkins to showcase the best of contemporary South African jewellery. The pair opened their second shop in Cape Town last year.

Conventional design it is not: think classic with an innovative twist. Philippa Green’s Perspex cuffs are worn by fashionistas nationwide, and Ida-Elsje Olivier’s bespoke rings are in high demand.

Best of all, the pieces are one of a kind and Tinsel’s team will also gladly make ­custom designs. Other designers at Tinsel include Eric Loubser and Jan Bekker. Do not leave without at least one special present for yourself or someone else —

“Suddenly, South Africa has become more food literate than ever before, more discriminating, expecting and demanding more,” Douglas said. And it is often in small towns that some of the best food in the country is unearthed.

African Relish Cooking School is based in the quaint Karoo town of Prince Albert. The school was founded by three friends, Lisa and Phillip Key and chef Jeremy Freemantle. They bring their experience from the film, design and marketing industries to create a “cook-and-stay” experience inspired by local produce. Travellers to their school care about the provenance of their food and want to know more about their culinary heritage.

Authentic flavours

“Local and international visitors to our cooking school are evidence of a growing trend in culinary tourism,” said Lisa.

The school offers cooking courses based on the Karoo’s culinary heritage, using products such as Adam’s figs, olives, grapes, award-winning Guernsey cheeses and other dairy products, locally cured hams, succulent Karoo lamb, witblits and wines. The cooking courses are often hosted by visiting chefs and have included Reuben ­Riffel and Ciro Molinaro. Also on offer is a restaurant and stylish accommodation. Visitors to the fair can sample delicious cuisine courtesy of chef ­Jeremy —

Much of the time, the labels on supermarket food are misleading in terms of descriptions such as “organic” or “free-range”. Genuine organic artisanal cheese is not that easy to get. But at Green Goose, based on the farm Uitkyk just outside Ficksburg in the Free State, the cows are fed grass and receive no hormones or antibiotics.

The health benefits of dairy products from grass-fed cows are well documented and include high levels of essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, not to mention a greater complexity of flavour.

Green Goose also emphasises ­sustainable farming methods. The owners are “committed to rebuilding the farm ecosystem and ­encourage customers to be critical about the integrity of their food supply — the taste, intrinsic healthiness, origin and environmental impact, as well as the welfare of the farm animals and the maintenance of ­biodiversity”.

Goose down from geese on the property is turned into duvets and pillows, and the farm also supplies free-range organic beef. All cheeses are handmade in the “farmhouse-style cheesery” from raw — unpasteurised — fresh milk. Take home the haloumi, which freezes well, or the Ficksburger, a French-style semisoft rind cheese —

Bar Bar Black Sheep, based in charming Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, is renowned for its rustic slow-cooked meals made with locally sourced seasonal and fresh ingredients from the Swartland area and produce grown on the property. Owner Mynhardt Joubert believes in “being able to trace products back to their source”. It is worth taking a trip to Riebeek Kasteel just to sample the deep-fried courgette roses with ­parmesan and lemon juice —

Designs for life
Koop Design is an architecture and furniture design house established in 1999 and based in Durban. ­Architect Richard Stretton wants to produce “buildings and products that are environmentally sensitive and energy ­efficient”.

Stretton started making Koop ­furniture by hand in his home, but an increase in demand eventually led to the opening of a commercial workshop and store in Morningside —

De Boerin Extra Virgin Olive Oil hails from Kleinood Estate, nestled in the Helderberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. The fruity, peppery blend is distinctive and is derived from planting a selection of five different cultivars. Once you have tried a bottle, you will be converted for life —

Dark Horse is a Cape Town-based designer furniture and “wholesome apparel” store. It was born out of Lise du Plessis’s passion for design and affordable, elegant furniture that offer easy comfort. From tables and chairs to duffel bags, light fittings and laptop covers, every item in Dark Horse’s stable offers customised colours and has been designed with a fresh approach —

The Mushroom Factory’s “grow kits” allow one to grow and maintain oyster mushrooms by simply adding water, light and some tender loving care to the fungi.

“Growing your own mushrooms is a truly extraordinary and satisfying experience and the fruits of your fun are delicious and nutritious,” says owner Carla de Freitas. Growing and eating your own food has developed a coolness factor, of course — not only is it cost efficient, it is also sustainable and healthier for you and the environment —

The second FoodWineDesign Fair will take place in Johannesburg, in the rooftop parking area of Hyde Park Shopping Centre from November 25 to 27. Ticket entry is R80 for adults and is free to children under the age of 12. There are specials for pre-event bookings online. On November 25 the event will run from 1pm to 10pm, on November 26 from 10am to 10pm and on November 27 from 10am to 5pm.

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