How much do you know about the wine you drink or the chef who plated your food? Do you know where your wine comes from, or what inspires the chef? Social dining experiences are growing in popularity at the moment. I recently joined Windfall Wine and Lapo’s Kitchen for a stellar night of food, drink and stories.
I love to learn new things. I like to know things. Tell me why you’re passionate about something. Tell me about your love-affair with food, and where you draw your inspiration from. Sit me down and explain to me why this beautiful white wine turns a dish into an elevated umami experience, or why this moody red reminds me of cloves and cinnamon. Teach me the language of your soul; the words of your insides. Tell me stories.
For this reason I’m completely in love with the latest movement towards intimate social dining experiences, where a handful of diners are welcomed into the homes and kitchens of brilliant chefs for a night of story-telling and exploration through food and wine. A rare opportunity where diners can interact with their wines, and learn more about it’s provenance, it’s heritage, it’s culture. A glimpse into the colourful lives of food-masters, but also a chance to meet new people, to listen to different stories, to get fresh perspectives.
I was recently invited to such a collaborative feast, hosted by Windfall Wine and Lapo’s Kitchen. My interest was immediately piqued, because both were completely new to me. An opportunity to learn! I greedily accepted this invitation, because for me, life is about grabbing hold with both hands.
Chef Lapo – a man of many stories
Lapo, winner of the Italian version of Masterchef, ‘Land of the Cook’, grew up learning the art of Tuscan cooking from his Mama. Fast forward a few decades and he finds himself calling Cape Town home for the last ten years. Settled into his brand new venue at Josephine Mill in Newlands, Lapo’s Kitchen stays true to its humble foundations. Simple, fresh and innovative food, using only the best quality ingredients, sourced responsibly and locally where possible.
Chef Lapo’s biggest inspiration is his mother, who guided him on this culinary adventure from the age of 17. Always ready to assist with advice, hints and tips, he relied on her steady hand to refine his recipes, whilst always paying homage to the “best chef he has ever worked with.”
His passion is clear; Chef Lapo’s face lights up as he tells his story from Florence to Cape Town, when he speaks of the stunning locally sourced vegetables he brings in from Philipi; when he acknowledges the beautiful people he has met along the way and the hard-working farmers he supports. His voice is filled with pride when he speaks of the olive oil he discovered in the Karoo or the delicate zucchini flowers he finally managed to source in Cape Town.
I couldn’t wait for this journey to begin – but before it did – we needed to go where the tar ends.
Good wines are made where the tar ends
Windfall Wine brand ambassador, Jared Ruttenberg, painted a verbal picture of Windfall Wine for those of us who have not visited before. Tucked into a fertile valley, at the end of the tar road, that is where good wines are made; that is where adventure really begins. Windfall Wine owes it name to the way the clouds cascade down the surrounding mountains of Robertson – a proud nod to the home of this small boutique wine farm.
For this evening, Jared carefully paired four Windfall wines with each of Chef Lapo’s dishes to showcase this uniquely exquisite range.
After a glass of beautiful Windfall Mendola MCC 2015, we were invited to take a seat at the long dining table, intimately lit by rows of bottled candles.
Chef Lapo introduced each dish to us and whilst he put the finishing touches on the plates, Jared talked us through his choice of wine for the course. I love the cosy, familiar and somewhat jovial approach to dining – there were no starched linen, crystal flutes or wait staff hovering in the wings. It was a kind of “taste my latest creation and let me top up your glass” affair.
First up was lightly fried zucchini flowers, served with a zucchini sauce, lemon and micro amaranth. Paired with this beauty was Windfall’s Sauvignon Blanc 2018. The gorgeous minerality and touch of tropical fruit of this white wine complimented the earthy dish perfectly. For someone who is not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, this one was deliciously rich without being heavy, layered with decadent flavours of ripe stone-fruit.
Next up was a firm favourite of mine – pesto linguine, paired with the Windfall Grenache Rosé 2018. In Chef Lapo’s words, the pesto was “a mouthful of green glory.” Fresh, rustic, a little bit spicy – this pesto was elevated to creamy deliciousness with the addition of root veg and legumes. Simply served with linguine, micro-greens, and lashings of parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, this was mind-blowing for all the right reasons. The Grenache Rosé delicately picked up the spice and pepperiness in the dish, balancing out the ever-so-sweet berry notes for a full mouth experience. This wine has won itself an honourary space in my wine collection.
A perfect winter warmer next: butternut velouté with beetroot powder, micro greens and dollops of goats cheese mousse. Yes. This bowl of deliciousness was served with Windfall’s Pinot Noir 2017 – a medium bodied red just right for the start of winter. It still reminisces a bit about warmer weather with floral and berry notes, but adds just enough dark moodiness to make you wish for a roaring fireplace and the pitter-patter of rain.
After a palate cleanser of a basil, lemongrass and lime popsicle, it was time to fire it up a notch. Whilst Chef Lapo grilled his kudu steaks on the braai, producing sizeable flames to keep us entertained, Jared let the next wine take a few deep breaths of cool Cape Town evening air. This is the Windfall Shiraz 2016 – my ultimate varietal when it comes to red wine.
The kudu steak was served Tagliata style – thinly sliced on a bed of rocket with a balsamic and preserved fig jus, triple cooked potatoes and tenderstem broccoli. The Windfall Shiraz took this plate in its stride and added generously to the multitude of layers and flavours presented by the char-grilled steak. The sweetness of the balsamic reduction, paired with the initial hit of luscious ripe plum flavours of the wine slowly made way for the smokiness of the meat and the peppery undertones of the Shiraz until you simply sit back with closed eyes, savouring the moment. It was a beautiful harmony, and if you listened carefully, you could hear the tale being told of Italy and Africa; about Italian culture embedded into African ingredients.
And then. Dessert. An ode to his mother, Chef Lapo presented us with a humble grape cake, served with an aniseed brittle, a white chocolate sauce and espresso reduction. We were incredibly fortunate to have a taste of Windfall’s premium potstill brandy, The Hunter. The Hunter is handpicked from selected Chenin Blanc grapes and barrel matured for six years. This incredibly smooth brandy accentuated the gorgeous honey and nut undertones from the grape cake and left you feeling warm on the inside.
Great wines are definitely made where the tar ends. There was a reluctant end to the night, as we sat by candle light in Lapo’s Kitchen, savouring our glasses of Windfall wine, exchanging stories and telling tales, long after the pass closed for the night. Around the dinner table, we all became equals; we became one – united in our passion for food and wine. And that is the wonder of these social dining experiences – for a few hours, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the demands of life, and realign yourself with the more important things in life. Share in the little moments that connect us. Revitalise your soul and mind. Nourish your body and be spoilt with the treasures of our country.
A massive thank you to Jared for guiding us through the magic that is Windfall Wines, and for Chef Lapo and his star-studded team of ladies for taking such good care of us, and for accompanying us on a culinary journey to Tuscany.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my capacity as a representative of InstaEats. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.