Wine Wasting

Let me make it quite clear. I’m no wine connoisseur, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed a taste for good wine; a real liking for this nectar of the gods.

How do I know which wine is good? I don’t. If it tastes good, it’s good wine. I generally prefer white wine to red, but recently I’ve started liking a certain brand of rosé. I also tend to stay away from the cheap plonk; which is not to say that I buy expensive wine.

A lady friend heard about a wine tasting event that is held annually at various venues along the Vaal River in South Africa, and suggested that we give it a bash. So this Sunday past, six eager wine tasting virgins drove down to the Vaal Meander and a place called Stonehaven-On-Vaal, to see what all the fuss is about.

Being a skeptic, I was well aware of the suspicions against people who claim to be wine experts. However, part of this excursion included a boat cruise on the Vaal River with lunch and wine (tasting) on board, not to mention the companionship of four beautiful women… and I was not about to miss that.

At the restaurant prior to the cruise, we were allocated an expert of sorts who served us 26 different wines to taste. I think the idea was to swirl, sniff, taste and spit out the remnants into a bucket provided, but I couldn’t be bothered with all that; I just quaffed down every portion poured into my little goblet. My companions however tried valiantly to play the part, and we all rated our wines on a score-card provided.

Wine aboard

Wine aboard

We could not complete tasting all 26 different wines, before boarding the boat for the cruise. The “expert” was kind enough to allow us to return after the cruise to complete our little wine tasting adventure, which we did. Even then we just could not go through all of them, but managed around 18 labels, including that served on the boat.

I am pleased to say that I gave 5 labels a perfect score of 20, which unsurprisingly differed wildly from my companions ratings. So I guess it all comes down to personal taste. Perhaps I was being too generous, or maybe a little drunk, but there you have it.

All in all it was an enjoyable outing, well worth the measly cost. Seems there’s going to be a beer festival at the end of the month at the same venue. Guess what? Yep, we’re in…

Pub crawling

The girls and I did a spot of pub crawling Friday night. In truth it was only two bars, and one was more of a modern cocktail bar. But the latter, which I’m glad I agreed to go to, is a genuine bar, an iconic establishment with a deliciously rich history.

The Radium Beer Hall situated in Jan Smuts Avenue, Orange Grove is touted as the oldest surviving bar and grill in Johannesburg. Established in 1929 as a tea room by the Khalil family, it sold liquor illegally to Black customers who were barred from drinking during the era of separatism. These days it serves a cosmopolitan mix of customers and has an unmistakable Portuguese character. Posters and photographs which adorn the walls, will engage any visitor for a long time, until the alcohol kicks in, and you’re trying hard to listen to your mates over the obscene din of tipsy patrons.

Undated photo from Radium's website

Undated photo from Radium’s website

On this Friday night, the place was full to bursting and made a mockery of the sign on one of the entrance doors which proclaim a capacity limited to 100 customers.  But that did not deter the live jazz quartet from vying for the customers’ attention. They were lively too, and had me tapping my foot in appreciation while trying desperately to listen to the girls regale me with tales of their past visits to this wonderful oasis in a run-down Johannesburg.

I had visited this bar before, nearly two decades earlier and had all but forgotten that the place existed. I was really glad that this watering hole had so much staying power. It’s all good, as I had an impression that the old-style bar trade was dying out, rapidly being replaced by upmarket, but characterless cocktail bars and what-not.


On the subject of bars, the 10th Anniversary edition of Sawday’s Special Places Pubs and Inns of England and Wales is out and lists the winners of this year’s competition.

Rugglestone Inn

Rugglestone Inn

The one I would kill to visit some day, and spend some quality drinking time at, is Rugglestone Inn in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon. Now that’s a truly awesome pub.

While Britain has literally thousands of pubs, according to this article, they’re slowly but surely dwindling in numbers too. What a pity.

Do you have any favorites around the world?

Cheezus Christ! Get That Cheddar Outta My Burger


Some time back I posted a blog about my peculiar eating habits. Here’s another.

I love cheese, but not on foods most people love… like burgers. I can’t stand cheese slices in my burgers. Don’t know why; just find it revolting. I prefer my cheese whole, on its own with wine or as a snack on crackers. I often cut up a block of cheese into little bite-sized cubes with a sprinkling of pepper on top to be enjoyed while watching sport; accompanied by some alcoholic beverage of course.

Th firmer the cheese, the better. I can handle anything with the consistency of a brie, but anything that spreads like mayo is a definite no-no.

I avoid any salad with sprinklings of feta in it. But on pizza, give me loads of it, with mozzarella thrown in too.

I hate omelette with cheese in it. Just the other morning I really felt bad having the girls make one separately for me without any cheese. I did assent to the avocado, although I’d never eaten it in a ommelette before. Wasn’t too bad, but I won’t be making it a habit.

I do like a steak with cheese sauce on the side, but will not touch a cheddar-melt steak. Crazy right?

Can’t think of any more aversions to cheese, so I’ll just leave it right there. Hopefully I won’t find any new ones.

Melon and the Infinite Pleasure of Parma Ham

Who doesn’t love Parma ham? Oh yes… them. Melon, I’m not so sure about, but if it comes with Parma ham, I’m sold.


I’ve tried asparagus wrapped in Parma ham before and liked it so much, that I simply had to try this recipe I found recently: sweet melon wrapped in parma ham with a ginger syrup dressing. It’s so easy that even a lazy bum like me can do it.


  • Cup of water
  • 3 tbsp castor sugar (45ml)
  • 4cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 sprigs of mint
  • 12 cubes ice-cold sweet melon
  • 6 slices Parma ham, halved
  • 12 skewers


  • Bring the water, sugar, ginger and mint to the boil
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, then cool in the fridge
  • Remove the ginger and mint from syrup
  • Wrap a piece of Parma ham around each cube of melon and secure with a cocktail stick or small skewer
  • Drizzle the ginger syrup over the skewered melon cubes and serve


My heathen Christmas

The holidays have come and gone so quickly. My annual journey to visit family is over and so it’s time to reflect on one of the highlights – my first European Christmas.

I was invited by my cousin’s Danish fiancé Klavs, to spend Christmas at their home in Durban – well Christmas eve to be more conventional. Danes celebrate on 24 December what is known as Juleaften, which literally means “Yule evening.” This pagan tradition was incorporated into Christianity centuries ago by the Germanic Peoples of Europe.


We had roast pork, duck, caramelised potatoes, red cabbage and gravy for dinner. For dessert we had rice pudding with chopped almonds. All exactly as the Danes would have back home. The rice pudding even contained a whole almond which someone is supposed to find in his or her bowl, and be rewarded with a present. All very Danish…

After dinner Santa showed up (a friend of Klavs, and known as the Julemanden in Danish) to give the kids some presents. Santa in the Danish tradition may have absorbed some elements of the god Odin who is associated with the pagan festival of Yule. Amusingly, Santa’s left knee took a bit of a pounding from the kids – all four of them.



Later we lit up the raisin sprinkled Christmas tree with real candles, not the schmaltzy electric flashing lights you see so often these days, placed many wrapped presents underneath, and danced around it in a circle hands joined, while Klavs sung some traditional Danish songs which sounded rather jolly. But there were no hymns and carols and not so much as a peep about Jesus and all that other Christianny stuff. All delightfully heathen, as it should be.

I did score some presents myself, but was rather mortified that I did not get anyone else anything in return. But I was just expecting dinner, nothing so magnificent as this. Off course there is next year and perhaps I’ll even learn a Danish song…

Bumper charity weekend ahead

The guys and I have a hectic weekend ahead of us as we take on our most ambitious charity project in the 12 or so years we’ve been doing this.

We’ve invited some of the poorest families from an economically depressed residential area South West of Johannesburg to join us for a lunch the guys will be cooking, and we’ll also be distributing food hampers to each family. We’ve secured the assistance of a local school which has kindly allowed us use of the premises, and a few classrooms and the ablution facilities.

The classrooms are for the use of a general practitioner, a dentist and an optometrist who have magnanimously donated their time and services to conduct basic medical screening and checks on all the invited folks who are in such need. The SA Blood Services (SANBS) will also be at hand to perhaps carry out some tests, present a talk, and hopefully collect some much-needed blood from willing donors.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up some last-minute shopping and spend the day putting together the food hampers which will consist of basic dry provisions, vegetables and fruits. The guys will then spend the rest of the afternoon preparing the meat, vegetables etcetera for the traditional Indian chicken briyani, we will be cooking in two huge pots over an open fire at the school.

The cooking will start very early Sunday morning. Tables and chairs will be set up for the few hundred people who are expected, and some classrooms will be prepared for the health professionals to do their thing.

I’m expecting to be exhausted by Sunday afternoon, but gratified at pulling off this mammoth [for a handful of guys] task.

And in this corner, George’s Grill & Griddle…

During the week I spotted a George Foreman Grill & Griddle (hereafter referred to as GGG) on display in a store that I frequent, and being a bachelor, I thought it looked like the perfect appliance for those quick dinners after a hard day at the office.

However, the store was temporarily out of stock, except for the one on display. The sales lady offered to put in back in the box for me to purchase, but I declined and opted to return on another occasion to check if stock was available. On Saturday, I returned to find two GGG’s in stock in somewhat battered-looking boxes, although the contents appeared untouched in their original wrappings.

I was rather eager to give this appliance a try, so I made the purchase and picked up a fairly big rump steak at a supermarket, on my way home.

After the obligatory reading of the instruction manual and recommended cleaning with a  damp cloth, I got GGG’s grill section set up and ready for cooking.

Fifteen minutes later (including standing time), I tucked into a steak that was disappointingly  tasteless. I had followed all the instructions explicitly. What the hell happened?

My initial thought was that the steak was overdone. But it certainly looked medium-to-well as I normally like it. Then it dawned on me that maybe a steak needs to be cooked in its own fat. This appliance has a fat-free system that allows the fats and oils to drain away. I may be wrong, but the lack of taste pointed to a lack of fat. This afternoon, I did some digging on the Interwebs and found the following hilarious Customer Review by Sam Gregory on Amazon which sort off confirms my suspicion:

A ring at the door abruptly disturbs my sleep. My dream? I don’t remember the exact details but it was something involving two fillet steaks, a tub of goose fat and a scantily clad Britney Spears singing into a newspaper cone filled with chips.
After performing my ‘one-two-three’ side-roll out of bed and onto the floor I dragged myself to the staircase instead of getting straight to my feet, then used my elbows to slide up and into the stair lift.
I had the man from the stair lift company come round and fit an extension to the rail last month meaning that I can get anywhere downstairs without having to flop out of the chair, because walking is just SO outdated.
The doorbell rang a second time and I scrabbled to open it, refusing to drop the half eaten Mars bar in my left hand from last night which was by now, coated in a mixture of carpet fluff and hair. I just hate waste.
A cheery young fellow passed a huge box to me which I rested on my stomach-shelf and asked me to sign his notebook which I did, smudging melted chocolate and caramel across the sheet by accident, much to his dismay.

Hugging my new present and closing the door I put my chair into gear and made my way to the living room to unpack it. Seeing Georges over-enthusiastic, smiling little face filled me with excitement as I removed the outer packaging. I noticed that this thing was indeed a healthy size, possibly big enough to cook half of a breakfast on at any one time.
After sitting it down I plugged it in next to my computer to let it warm up whilst I logged into World of Warcraft, but to my amazement, by the time I had reached the character selection screen I could feel the heat beaming up at me from the fully machine washable griddle plates. Wow, what a machine!

I whipped my chair into warp-speed and flew to the kitchen to grab a couple of sirloins, a handful of pork chops and a dozen sausages just to give my Foreman a little mid-morning test.

That was where I hit my only real problem with this little beauty.
I didn’t take much notice when I first slapped my meat-feast across the grill but the whole machine is actually on a slant. The front kind of dips downward, meaning that all the fat and grease (the good stuff) seeps out of your food and runs onto the floor.
I have found a few solutions to this design flaw and they are as follows:

1. Cut a long French baguette in half and place it beneath the front of the grill allowing it to soak up the wasted fat. This tastes great with a couple of sausages crammed inside.

2. Take two fairly thick books (I use my Linux For Dummies 8th Edition and a couple of computer game walk-through guides, I don’t use them anymore, I am too elite) and stack them underneath the front feet of the George Foreman. This keeps the fat on the grill and allows your meat selection to cook in its own juices wonderfully.

3. Last but by no means least… I noticed whilst unpacking the box there was an extra bit of packaging which at first I thought was a little excessive but now have come to think of as a real godsend. It is almost like a long plastic dish that fits perfectly to the size of the grill!
I place this underneath to catch the fat, then before it cools down to a solid state, quickly pour it into a blender with some ice cream, a tablespoon or two of sugar and a knob of butter then leave mixing whilst I remove my meat from the grill. Pour the frothy delight into a chilled glass and enjoy through a straw.
This is a real treat and highly recommended!

So what more can I say?
A superb invention I would highly recommend to anyone who like me, strives to be nothing but the best.

Thank you George you lovely little man you.

Warms up quicker than World of Warcraft
Great picture of George Foreman on the outer packaging I feel, which I have now had framed and put beside my bed

Could be bigger really. Say 3 or 4 times bigger?
The slanted grill is a minor issue which can be rectified by following my above instruction

I’m not about to give up though. Perhaps I was doing something wrong after all. Either that, or I have lost my sense of taste. So before I retire my GGG for life, I’m going to try a few other items like vegetables, fish, sausages and bacon, on the grill first. I also still need to try out the griddle section.

Well George, seems like you’re going to get another shot at the title…

Holidays FTW

I’ve been away on holiday and just got back a few hours ago. For the first time – at least the only time I can remember – I came back feeling truly rested.

Every other time – at least as far as I can remember – I returned from a holiday, whether locally or overseas, feeling very tired and wishing I could go back on holiday again.

I guess the reason for this happy turn of events is that, while away I did pretty much nothing. Nada! Zip! Zero! Or at least as close to nothing as you could possibly do. And if nothing excludes sitting on my fat ass [yes I’ve noticed it has gotten fatter] watching television and videos, eating, drinking, talking to friends and family [when I felt I had to say something], and a little reading, a little facebooking, a little blogging.

I was in Durban, mere kilometers from the beach, but I couldn’t bother going. I did visit a cousin, and I sat on my fat ass and ate good food, and drank wine, and talked and drank more wine and some Aquavit too. I visited another cousin and did more of the same, but this time whisky was our drink of choice.

My camera and camcorder stayed put in the boot of my car – the whole time I was there. I did not even bother to remove them while unpacking. So no photos this time; just vivid memories of lazing.

While there, I had a birthday and turned 47, but had to be reminded by family that I had only turned 46. That’s kind of disturbing because I’d spent a whole year telling everyone I was 46; even filled out some forms stating that as my age. Boy, was this holiday needed?

I’m going to make a point of doing more nothing on future holidays… if my friends and family will oblige. Thank you very much!

Anyway, I’m back and all ready to get fatigued again. C’mon world, give me your best shot!

Men who don’t cook

Many years ago, I cooked nearly every day. Living alone, it was a necessity. Over the last few years I stopped cooking altogether, except for the occasions when out with the guys camping, fishing or spur-of-the-moment holiday trips, when I helped out, playing second fiddle to better cooks.

Being able to buy take-away dinners and dine out has gotten so easy, one tends to become inured to its lazy charm.

Walking through the kitchen today, I stopped to gaze dissolutely at some of the utensils and gizmos I’d acquired over the years, when I actually bothered to cook for myself. Gathering some serious dust, they were.

I pulled down a Kenwood electric wok I ‘d bought many years ago and used only a few times. I don’t know why I picked this appliance, as I didn’t particularly have any ingredients to put it to proper use. But for some strange reason, I felt I had to do something with it, anything; just to experience what it felt like to cook again. I soon had that sucker washed and ready….. but for what?

Scratching around I found free range eggs, onions, a couple of chillies that had grown ripe, a piece of chorizo sausage. And in no time I was gazing at an omelette in the wok, which looked like a kings lunch. I soon wolfed that sucker down, and felt an unbelievable sense of satisfaction and achievement.

Yes, it was only an omelette this time, but next time I’m going to climb the culinary heights once again. Men who don’t cook may not be missing much, but I’m convinced they’ll never be complete men.

Peculiar Eating Habits

I reckon there are lots of people all over the world who have a strange predilection or aversion for one or more types of food. And there will of course be people who aren’t pernickety about what they eat at all.

I’m unfortunately one of those former types.


It all started when I was around 5 or 6-years old. For some reason we had run out of butter. It made me so angry that I swore to never eat the stuff again. I kept my word, and over the years developed a strong aversion for it. I can’t stand having butter as a spread on anything…but I’ll eat anything that contains it as an ingredient, so long as I don’t see it in its natural state.


I cannot eat eggs sunny-side up. They have to be fully cooked, scrambled or hard-boiled. I can however eat raw eggs.


While growing up, my mom forbade us from eating pork. She still does, even though I’ve moved out more than 20 years ago. She will not have it the house. It’s got to do with some weird archaic religious thing. What else? But having been denied pork for nearly twenty years, I love it. Ribs! Can’t get enough of it. Parma ham – love it! love it! it! love it!

Don’t tell my mum, but I still sneak it into the house every so often, when I’m visiting.


Probably hate it because it reminds me of butter. It’s kind of a pain having to explain to the counter staff every time that I’d like my burger without it. I’ve had to return a few burgers anger over the years, when they got my order all wrong.


It’s the skin! It gives me the willies. I can’t stand having the skin touch my tongue. I could however manage it, if it’s peeled.


Don’t ask me why! Probably has something to do with not getting any butter when I was around 5 or 6, and me directing my anger towards milk in vengeance. My coffee or tea is taken black, always. However I have no problem with milk in a White Russian or other cocktails.

Breakfast Cereal

Now this is an interesting one. I could never eat cereal because it required milk, and you know I can’t have milk unless it is mixed with alcohol. I tried eating corn flakes like one would eat potato crisps. It was my first and only time.

Then a few days ago I discovered vanilla-flavored fresh milk, while shopping for yoghurt [flavored only, by the way]. I thought maybe it would go well with corn flakes, so I also picked up a box of Kellogg’s – the honey coated kind, just to make sure I get more sweetness. I tried it with my vanilla-flavored milk this morning, and I’m hooked. I love it! love it! love it!

Well, that’s about all I can think off right now. I’m pretty sure I eat just about anything else.