Feast at the farm
The dirt road leading to Kazi Farm in the Cradle of Humankind is pitted with puddles and potholes after weeks of rain, but it doesn't stop a determined line of low-slung city cars from crawling up a hilly dirt track towards the farm's old barn.
The weather is perfect and the cotton flower-blue sky and gentle autumn sunshine add to the festive mood.
The crowd is divided into two groups. The first are newcomers who've heard about the Down to Earth's pop-up farm feasts through word of mouth and are eager to get out of the city for the day.
The second are part of an ever-growing contingent of loyal supporters who wait in anticipation for news of the next epicurean outing.
Started by best friends Danielle Strydom and Dany Krynauw, the pop-up feasts make use of the best of Gauteng's natural surrounds as well as a rich variety of quality food from the province's organic and small-scale farmers.
A guest chef is invited to come up with a menu using as much produce from the host farm and its neighbours as possible.
Inspired by a United States project called Outstanding in the Field, which hosts meals in beautiful settings, the duo started their passion project a few years ago.
They found an old Mercedes-Benz army truck, had it refurbished into a beautiful green and red mobile kitchen and began approaching farmers to host their feasts.
At the time they were already firm in their conviction that the province had a wonderful variety of appealing landscapes. What they were less aware of at the time was what they had to work with in terms of food.
They hit the local food markets on the lookout for small-scale producers who are passionate about detail and keeping their food organic, or as close to organic, as possible.
"We were very surprised at how many there were and the enthusiasm they showed for our feasts," says Krynauw.
Just one by-product of this enthusiasm is evident at the latest farm feast.
The owners of Kazi Farm, Leoni and Denzel Pearce, are regular patrons of Down to Earth and on this occasion the enthusiastic hosts of the event.
The table décor is kept deliberately stark. Three long straight tables are set up in the barn, decked in white tablecloths with plain, tasteful cutlery and crockery. The idea is not to detract from the surrounds, although in this case they've set up inside the straw-strewn barn in case of rain.
On visiting chef Hennie Fisher's menu for the day are pea humus and baby watercress on chickpea crackers and smoked salmon blinis, making good use of the farm's micro greens. This is followed by an Indonesian gado gado salad, with freshly picked baby potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, edible flowers, sprouts and boiled egg, topped with a creamy peanut dressing.
For mains, tender grass-fed beef fillet is accompanied by sweet potatoes with honeycomb and full-cream Greek yoghurt. Dessert is grapefruit tart with berries and white chocolate crumbs.
With this much fabulous food on offer it's just as well that this is a slow-food experience. The courses are spread out over the afternoon with guests coming and going from their seats to top up their glasses from a selection of locally produced wines and craft beers. As the day proceeds stories are exchanged and new friendships forged.
"It's amazing," says Krynauw. "When people arrive and find themselves sitting next to a stranger they are a bit uncomfortable at first. But after the welcome cocktail and a glass or two of wine they quickly become friends."
By the time the afternoon light starts to fade, people begin to take their leave, clutching goodie bags bursting with fresh herbs and salad greens. As they drive back down the dirt track, talk centres around the fine food and fantastic company.
Who knew life could be this good?
For more information visit www.downtoearthtravel, email [email protected], or call 082 310 7480.