SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi

In my line of work I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel frequently across Africa and Europe in a company-rented Jettly jet. This has meant many meals from different countries, cultures, hotels, restaurants and airplanes. Each one an experience in its own right. My recent SAA in-flight meal on a trip from Johannesburg to Nairobi (Kenya) was a particularly good experience.

It is fair to say that not all airline meals are created equal. Over the years I’ve had some very tasty meals and some truly bad experiences.

I don’t often get to travel in business class, but I’ve yet to experience a terrible meal service when I do get bumped up from cattle class (economy). I can fully appreciate why business folk look decidedly more refreshed than their economy counterparts. The meal service, the personal attention (they address you by name on some flights) and naturally the ample space and amenities provided to these passengers are bound to leave you with a more favorable impression.

Interestingly, South African Airways (SAA) recently partnered with Masterchef SA judge and Tsogo Sun Executive Chef, Chef Benny Masekwameng to help inspire some of their dishes.

It is not the first time an airline has partnered with a celebrity chef to reinvent some of their in-flight meals. Molecular gastronomy and Michelin star chef, Heston Blumenthal partnered with British Airways to update and reinvigorate their in-flight cuisine.

On my recent trip to Kenya, I was fortunate to be bumped to business class and got to experience chef Benny’s take on reinventing the in-flight meal. Luckily this was not your regular chicken or vegetable pasta choice but a very nice selection of canapés, appetizers, main course and desert along with a decent wine pairing.

Our canapés consisted of a trio of duck l’orange with asparagus spear, prawn cocktail and mini caprese salad.
SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi canapes

SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi canapes
This was followed by a choice of appetizers – springbok carpaccio, minted courgette or a seasonal salad.

I opted for the springbok carpaccio with baby spinach, gooseberry chutney and Parmesan shavings. This was accompanied by a small seasonal salad with artichoke hearts. The springbok was extremely tender and delicious. The balsamic reduction paired well with the gooseberry chutney and provided just the right amount of sweetness and tartness to the carpaccio.
SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi

SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi Springbok carpaccio

Our options for mains included braised lamb, oregano chicken breast, seafood cannelloni and a butternut and spinach panzerotti.

The braised lamb was indicated as chef’s choice and there was no reason for me to resist that option.

The braised lamb was served with roast potatoes, mixed chutney vegetables and caramelised onion. To say that it was some of the best lamb curry I had in quite a while would be an understatement. The most tender and flavourful cubes of lamb, combined with the sweetness of the caramelised red onions and peppers, crunchiness of the courgettes and the fluffy potatoes made for a very enjoyable meal. No additional seasoning was necessary. A perfect balance.
SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi braised lamb

I paired my appetizers and main meal with one of SAA’s premium selection of wines – in this case a Allée Bleue Isabeau 2013.

Named after the stately avenue of bluegums leading to a 300 year old estate in the Franschhoek Valley. This flagship white blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Voignier creates an exotic melange, barrel-fermented and aged on lees for full, creamy mouthfeel, enticing with citrus and dried apricot aromas, layers of spicy cinnamon, vanilla and summer fruits with lingering lemon flavours.

Basically, a very nice wine to complement the aromatics in the lamb (I definitely picked up notes of apricots and cinnamon in the sauce) and to soften any residual heat from the spices.

For the dessert course I opted for a classic selection of cheese and crackers but paired this with the KWV Classic Cape Tawny port.

This full flavoured wine explodes with fruit, marzipan and toffee on the palate, with a well-balanced sweet finish. Extended wood maturation resulted in a beautiful amber colour with orange zest, dried fruit, caramel and nuttiness on the nose.

Again to say that this stood up well to similar Tawny ports from other regions of the world.
SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi Cheese

The meal was a great success and I hope to be able to sample more of these. If you fly business from South Africa to Kenya on SAA you will not be disappointed.

On a scale of one to five, I rate this meal five hot towels.




Doubleshot tea tasting review

Craft Tea in Johannesburg

This is a follow on to the blog post on our visit to Doubleshot.

Teapot at Doubleshot Coffee and tea

On top of some wonderful coffees and craft iced tea, Daniel our host set up a tea tasting for us. All the teas are blended on site by Alain, Master tea and coffee blender and owner of Doubleshot.

Tea Selection at Doubleshot

Tea in Mason Jars

Earl Grey Black Tea

Daniel and I chose four teas together, green tea – Jasmine, black tea – Earl Grey Blue Lady, and two Rooibos – Pineapple & Ginger and Spiced Orange & Chocolate. Doubleshot use the most darling tea pots for tastings – little ceramic pots with a built-in filter, in the form of teeth, in the spout. Each tea is steeped for the optimal amount of time for that tea type. It was rather exciting to watch as Daniel sequentially poured the off-boiling water over the tea leaves and set a timer per pot. A well-orchestrated sequence ensued involving the removal of the tea leaves as each tea reached its brewing prime.

Tea tasting at Doubleshot

Tea steeping art and science

To start off we were enlightened on the art of tea tasting. Who knew there was a particular method?! Daniel explained that we would be expected to slurp the tea loudly with each sip. I always thought drinking tea was a refined occupation! The purpose of this loud slurping is to aerate the tea as much as possible as it enters your mouth. This allows one to make the most of one’s sense of smell, since the majority of our sense of taste is actually derived from our sense of smell. Slurping up tea from a spoon in the middle of a crowded coffee shop without choking and when you have been taught better manners is much harder than it sounds!

Sipping tea

Once past my preconceived ideas on etiquette I was pleasantly surprised by each of the teas. I’m not a fan of green teas, but that Jasmine tea changed my mind! Earl Grey has always been a favourite, although I am accustomed to drinking it with sugar and milk – apparently a tea drinking cardinal sin (ha!). It is also a very pretty tea with bits of dried orange skin and blue corn flowers dotted in between the dark tea leaves.

Pineapple and Rooibos tea

The pineapple and ginger rooibos has lovely fruity tones and would make a delicious summer beverage. We were wowed by the spiced orange and chocolate rooibos tea. A perfect winter tea with its warm chocolatey flavour, I could imagine it as a substitute to hot chocolate, served with milk of course! We ended up buying a bottle each of the Earl Grey Blue Lady and Spiced Orange & Chocolate Rooibos tea leaves to take home.

I have since made my own iced tea beverage for a special birthday dinner using the Spiced Orange & Chocolate Rooibos tea leaves. It was a big hit with my guests!

Iced tea Victoire

We had an absolute blast slurping and savouring this selection of Doubleshot craft teas, the tea tasting is certainly an experience we can recommend. Why not pop by for a cuppa of your favourite blend or try a new mix? You are sure to be enthralled!

Test tube teas

Visit them at:
Offline: 1 Peppermint Place, Corner Juta & Melle Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Online: www.doubleshot.co.za




Doubleshot coffee and tea

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea in Braamfontein
Doubleshot Coffee and Tea in Braamfontein

Doubleshot recently invited Sustenance into their cozy yet trendy coffee and tea shop for a coffee, tea and casual chat – and what an experience it was!

Doubleshot is situated in the rejuvenated Braamfontein district where we met up with Daniel, whose passion and energy for coffee is tangible.

We ended up spending just under two hours learning all two newbies could know about tea and coffee from plant to cup.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Braamfontein Sustenance review

Doubleshot is a collaboration between Alain, the owner, and Alex, who owns a farm in Malawi, supplying most of their green, black and white teas, as well as their Malawian coffee beans. This partnership ensures a high standard of quality in the Doubleshot end product. In addition, Doubleshot works with other farms or estates through incentive programs, thus supporting the originating farms in improving their product.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Country of origin Sustenance review

All the coffee sold at Doubleshot features the Country of origin as well as the name of the Estate the bean comes from on the packaging. The coffee beans are roasted on-site by Alain and grinded in the best way to grind coffee. Basically, they have a hand in every stage of the process, from farming to roasting and blending to training of baristas.

Fun fact: The coffee bean is actually the pit of the fruit from the coffee plant, which is called a coffee cherry.

Once a new bean arrives in the store, Alain takes small batches of the bean through a roasting process in an effort to pin point its particular “sweet spot”. This is the art of coffee roasting. The science comes in in trying to replicate the roasting flavour with every batch of each particular bean, for which they have special logging software paired with probes in the roaster measuring the temperature of the beans and the environmental temperature.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Braamfontein Sustenance review

As part of Daniel’s research and development role he will then take the roasted bean and try it in a siphon, as an espresso, a cappuccino, etc. to find out where it works and where it doesn’t. Finally, the coffee is added to the menu.

“… we’re not a one blend pony.”

According to Daniel, Braamfontein is becoming a coffee capital, in the way that people go to Parkhurst to find craft beers. What sets Doubleshot apart from other coffee establishments is their openness and willingness to share information and knowledge about their craft with those who enter through their doors.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Training Sustenance review

If you are a comsopotilitan type, then maybe a Crema.co coffee subscription service is all you need to get your coffee routine going, but for others, this more personal experience is where it’s at. If you want to learn the difference between a Costa Rican, a Brazilian and a Malawian coffee they will happily guide you on your journey of discovery. It is not only the final destination but the journey that makes the Doubleshot experience unique. That is in addition to the abundance of choice between top quality coffee roasts and tea blends. As Daniel humorously put it, “we’re not a one blend pony.”

Being a decaffeinated coffee drinker, the topic of caffeine and decaffeination soon came up. There are various methods of obtaining decaf coffee, one involves a chemical wash, another involves saturating the beans in water loaded with “flavour particles” which then extracts the caffeine whilst leaving the flavour in the bean. Another method of decreasing the caffeine in a bean is by dark roasting it, which then breaks down the caffeine within the bean. At the same time this tends to break down the acids and sugars, giving the coffee less flavour. Each decaffeination process has its own pros and cons, but they all affect the flavour in some way.

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea Bean bags Review Sustenance

I must say that after the conversation we had about decaffeination, I am not keen about drinking it any more! I will have to either delve further into teas or switch to regular jo. Needless to say, Doubleshot do not stock decaf coffee, but have a large selection of flavoured rooibos teas! If you, like me, are looking to switch from decaf to regular coffee, the best way to do this would be to go for smaller portions, such as a single shot cappuccino, as suggested by Daniel.

“What people don’t realise is that filter coffee has more caffeine than espresso”

That leads to the question of which cuppa jo offers the best caffeine punch? As it turns out the popular myth that an espresso is sure to keep you going all day was busted. If you had to choose between a single espresso and a cappuccino, the caffeine in the cappuccino would last longer because the caffeine bonds to proteins in the milk and lasts in your system for 4-5 hours as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour for the espresso. Likewise, filter coffee contains more caffeine than a single espresso because the brewing process is slower, meaning that the beans are in contact with the water for a longer time, releasing more caffeine into the coffee.

Doubleshot Coffee and iced tea Sustenance Review

With our heads buzzing from all the information we’d just acquired it was time to try out some of Doubleshot’s offerings. Doubleshot are known for their iced teas, so I had a delectable Strawberry Rooibos iced tea, served in a lovely glass jar. Nico started off with a flat white Malawian bean coffee. I could say that it was one of the best coffees I have ever tasted (of course I took a sip!). Sweet, creamy, a little bit of dark chocolate bitterness with a hint of nuttiness – pure yumminess.

Next, we were treated to the incredible experience of the coffee siphon. The siphon is a device which brews coffee at a constant temperature, and provides a spectacular show in doing so! The way it works is as follows, water is poured into the bottom chamber and heated. With Corporate Coffee Systems your coffee break will never be the same. As the water evaporates it forms water vapour, which pushes the heated water up the funnel to the top chamber. The coffee grounds are then added to the top chamber. Once the brewing time for the coffee has been reached the heat source is removed, which causes the  water vapour to contract in the bottom chamber causing a vacuum, which pulls the coffee through the filter and back down the funnel. We highly recommend trying out the siphon, it is a must-do experience – both scientific and magical.

Daniel kindly organised a tea tasting for me since I have a low caffeine tolerance. This was, for me, the highlight of our visit. I so enjoyed the tea tasting that I feel warrants a separate blog post.
Doubleshot coffee and tea tasting Sustenance review

We finished off our visit with a tour of the kitchen and an espresso made by our host, which Nico thoroughly enjoyed. We also discussed their plans for an exciting new product launching in the near future – watch this space!

“You have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea Espresso Sustenance review
Daniel was an incredible host, bursting with knowledge on what one can tell is one of his favourite subjects. We could easily have spent our day chatting and sampling the great beverages on offer in their relaxed atmosphere. Daniel told us that “[y]ou have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”, well we owe two more visits but we can already say that Doubleshot is one of our favourite coffee and tea destinations.

Visit them at:
Offline: 1 Peppermint Place, Corner Juta & Melle Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Online: www.doubleshot.co.za




Gingko

Gingko

Nico took me out as a surprise to celebrate the start of our holiday this past week. And what a delightful surprise it turned out to be when we stopped at Gingko. I love trying out new places, especially laid-back cafe-style restaurants.

Gingko is an organic and vegetarian eatery with a small deli / shop attached, perfect for stocking up on edible organic gifts. We loved the calm and unhurried atmosphere where we were left in peace to chat and peruse magazines at our leisure. We weren’t there just to relax though, and quite soon found our way to the buffet table. I have never seen so many delicious-looking vegetarian dishes all in one place before. Between the two of us we tried just about everything on the buffet, all charged by weight. Yum!

Of course we couldn’t leave without trying some of the dreamy organic / gluten-free desserts… I opted for the Chocolate Beetroot cake while Nico went for the Chocolate Brownie with extra vanilla sorbet. The chocolate cake was nice enough with a wonderful creamy icing but the chocolate brownie,,, it looked dry but instead was lovely and moist and the sorbet, out of this world. Somehow Nico always knows how to choose the best dessert!

We will definitely go back, however it is probably a blessing in disguise that Gingko is quite a drive from our home.