Saturday, 5 October 2013

Khuselo Mputa and Aubergine

Today, the 5th of October, my eldest brother will travel to France for the 2013 Wine Tasting Challenge. Becoming part of the team means that my brother, Khuselo Mputa, is part of the Top 50 Wine Tasters in South Africa.

Because my brother is one of the best wine tasters in South Africa does not mean I know much about wine, I am also quite sure I do not pronounce his job title correctly. Sommelier ... most people actually think he is telling them he is Somalian when he tells them his job title.

sommelier |sɒˈmɛljeɪ|
a wine waiter.

I have always explained a sommelier as the person who pairs wine with the food you eat at restaurant.

At the end of September, my family and I were lucky to finally witness the work my brother does and celebrate his victory. To celebrate, my mother, twin sister, cousin and I were treated to a three course meal at Aubergine in Barnett Street Cape Town, the restaurant were Khuselo is a sommelier at.

As you walk into Aubergine, you cannot help but feel at home. The menu reads: "A Warm Welcome To Aubergine" and what a warm welcome it is. As we sat down and took in our surroundings we were offered champagne and shortly told about the several menu options we could choose from.
Aubergine offers "wine pairing options and sterling sommelier service" to compliment their cuisine. As we were there for the wine pairing, we were served by my brother and patiently awaited our starters.

Amuse Bouche
Spring Rolls
Each course comes with a different wine so glasses were replaced before each course arrived on our table. We all ordered from the Degustation Menu which meant that before the starters arrived we were treated to Amuse Bouche and a variation of spring rolls. As soon as I tasted the Amuse Bouche I knew we had officially entered the world of fine dining. It was also at that same moment I knew that this would be my best dining experience to date.

One does not become one of the best wine tasters in South Africa overnight. Khuselo started working in restaurants while he was still in high school and went to London after school to work in various hotels and restaurants. Since then he has worked in India, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and North Island in the Seychelles were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent their honeymoon.

While serving us at the restaurant you could tell that he has been in the industry for over ten years as he would not even laugh out loud at our jokes.
Next we were served our starters. My mother had ordered the scallops which were on special, while I had the Composition of Foie Gras & Duck and my sister had Steamed Kabeljou. I do not claim to be a food critic or even have the richest taste palette but I can say that the food served at Aubergine is the best food served in Cape Town.

Seared Scallops
with corn puree, broccoli & almond salad and vanilla-lime vinaigrette
Steamed Kabeljou (from sustainable sources)
braised fennel and vegetable-pine kernel vinaigrette
Paired with Aubergine Chenin Blanc 2012
Composition of Foie Gras & Duck
gingerbread-crusted foie gras parfait paired with a pistachio-coated ballotin pineapple aroma and vanilla notes
The building that houses Aubergine used to be the home of the first Chief Justice of the Cape, Sir John Wylde and I can't help but feel at home while dining at the restaurant. To complete the feeling of being at home, the food has what Americans call soul.
When Aubergine opened, it's vision was to create a "gastronomic haven in an atmosphere of timeless elegance where diners could enjoy innovative and creative combinations that excite the senses and pique curiosity"*. 17 years after it's opening that vision still lives on.

gastronomy |gaˈstrɒnəmi|
noun [ mass noun ]
the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food.
• the cookery of a particular area: traditional American gastronomy.

Chalmar Beef Fillet
cured and seared, paired with beef cheek canneloni shitake and pod vegetable fondue, tarragon mustard sauce
Paired with Migliarina Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Magnum

For the main course we all ordered Chalmar Beef Fillet while my seven year old cousin had a pasta. Pasta was not on the menu but if you ask the Chef Harald Bresselschmidt to make it for you, he will gladly accept.

There are very few adjectives in the English dictionary that can describe how good the beef fillet was. It was the first time I had ever seen fillet being served with cannelloni and I do not see myself eating beef fillet any other way.
After our first few bites of the fillet, as a family we agreed that this was the best food we had ever eaten.

Chef Harald Bresselschmidt was born in Germany and has Masters in gastronomy. I would like to think he is the master of gastronomy. During service he walks around to make sure everyone is enjoying their meal, once again making all guests feel at home.
Bresselschmidt also creates recipes that are paired with flagship wines from Cape Wineland estates. You can purchase a signed copy at the restaurant.

Dessert was on the way which means it was time for dessert wine. The only thing I can tell you about dessert wine is that it comes in a slimmer bottle and it is a lot sweeter than other wine.

Dessert Variation
Surprise du Chef
For dessert we all had the Tarte au Chocolat while the seven-year-old at the table, was treated to an array of desserts which included a strawberry drink, macaroon and ice-cream. The dessert was just what one needed to end off a perfect night.

Tarte au Chocolat
'Rumtopf' ice cream and fried red figs
Paired with Pineau de Laborie
After dinner we took a short tour of the restuarant and were allowed into the wine cellar which was originally the swimming pool of the house.

Khuselo behind the bar
In the wine cellar

Being the younger sister of a wine extraordinaire, one would think that I know everything about about wine. To be honest I know very little. From a young age I always associated wine and fine dining to be the past time of adults. When I used to hear students fresh out of high school speak about how they wanted to buy themselves a bottle of wine I was puzzled because I always knew wine to be had by my parents and their friends. To make matters worse, the wine bought by my peers was not the wine I was used to seeing at home, which meant I should stay far away.
I guess you can say that Khuselo's knowledge of wine and fine dining has influenced the way I think about wine and fine dining. I have even more respect for it now than I did before I visited Aubergine.

Aubergine is a beautiful restaurant that introduced me to the art of cooking. Food is not the only factor which determines whether or not you will have a good dining experience. Food, the overall service by staff and whether or not you can share a laugh while having your meal is what determines how great your dining experience will be. Aubergine offers all of the above and it is an experience you will never forget and one you would like to repeat.

Myself with Khuselo
All the best to Khuselo Mputa and the team and thank you for the experience
Be sure to visit Aubergine and website for more details.


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