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South African Brandy rocks with style on the Cape West Coast

AH_SABF_edited-1_101436South Africa, Paternoster; THE West Coast and brandy are not exactly unacquainted; in fact, they go together like Paternoster and crayfish. What the West Coast hasn’t experienced to any significant extent, however, is a combination of fine brandy, local food and sumptuous living. And who better to present this glorious lifestyle fusion than five-star Paternoster boutique hotel Abalone House and Spa, celebrity chef Reuben Riffel (who has a signature restaurant at the hotel) and the South African Brandy Foundation?

The three partners will be launching a food and brandy pairing at Reuben’s Abalone House as well as a range of brandy-inspired cocktails on April 14. Featured cocktails include the Bojito, Brandle, Brandy Bull, Brandy in the Bos and Franklin, and will be based on some of South Africa’s top-ranked popular and artisanal potstill brandies.

The five-course South African brandy menu and the boutique brandy cocktail menu will be available to the public on an ongoing basis – just the ticket for a cold West Coast winter!

The genial Riffel admits to having “a ‘connection’ with Paternoster: “I went there often as a kid and have always found it to be a very special place … somewhere I can switch off and enjoy time with my family.”

Reuben’s Abalone House opened in October 2013 with a focus on local fresh produce with a regional twist but included favourites from his other restaurants in Franschhoek, Robertson and One&Only Cape Town.

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been introduced to some really amazing South African brandies and learned to appreciate and drink them as a connoisseur,” says Riffel. “One day I met [SA brandy ambassador] Dr Winnie Bowman and she told me how South African brandies have been winning awards all over the world. Then we started talking about pairing brandy with food …”

The brandy pairing menu consists of: (as starters) smoked hake with mussels, sweet corn crème and bisque paired with Flight of the Fish Eagle or spiced chicken-liver parfait, toasted brioche and apple chutney paired with Kingna 5-year-old; (mains) slow-braised oxtail, smoked bacon, black mushroom puree, butternut and parsnips paired with Van Ryn’s 12-year-old or grilled prawns, saffron risotto, sauce vierge  with Joseph Barry 10-year-old, and for dessert, poached pears and apples, medjool dates, orange sorbet, brandy anglaise accompanied by an Upland Organic or KWV 10-year-old.

“There are a lot of classic dishes that work fantastically with brandy and my motivation for this menu was to get people to appreciate the quality that’s out there; not just the big names but also the smaller guys who are making brandies that rival the best in the world,” adds Riffel.

“I think the West Coast – and Abalone House and Spa in particular – is the perfect place to showcase how many of the local foods, in their own simplicity, work beautifully with brandy.”

The partnership initiative kicked off in January this year when South African  Brandy Foundation general manager Danie Pretorius presented an intensive one-day training course to Abalone House and Spa restaurant and bar staff on the appreciation and presentation of brandy.

“Two of the biggest challenges the SA Brandy Foundation faces are consumer ignorance and confusion. People don’t understand brandy: it’s a complex product with a very intricate production process. “There are many classes of brandy but, to many people in South Africa, it only means one thing and that ‘thing’ unfortunately carries a very negative perception,” maintains Pretorius.

Nor, he adds, is the public generally aware that “South Africa makes the best brandies in the world … superior in many cases to the finest French cognacs”. Pretorius makes this sweeping statement in the context of South African distilleries repeatedly walking away with top honours at prestigious international brandy competitions.

“The way we go about addressing this consumer ignorance is to target specific institutions, establishments and venues, and train their service staff so they can, in turn, become excited and knowledgeable about brandy. “The return on our training investment is so much higher than if we focus our efforts on individual prospective brandy-drinkers.”

The latter, he says, are targeted at consumer-oriented events such as Fine Brandy Fusion, which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on 4 and 5 June. Themed this year, “The Spirit of Craftsmanship’, this year’s event showcases International Wine and Spirit Challenge (IWSC) winners of the World’s Best Brandy title of the past 20 years and almost all are South African, which supports Pretorius’ contention that South African brandies are in a class of their own.

Abalone House and Spa waiter / barman Paddington Madimutsa subscribes to the theory that “the more you know, the more you understand; the more you understand, the more you appreciate, and the more you appreciate, the easier the product is to sell”. “The training provided me with a wider perspective of brandy, especially the differences in producing blended and pot-distilled products. This will allow me to explain to customers not only why they should be drinking brandy – especially after a meal here at Reuben’s Abalone House – but also how they should be enjoying it.”

For the latest news and information about Fine Brandy Fusion, including live coverage at the events, ‘Like’ the Fine Brandy Fusion Facebook page, follow @BrandyFusion (#lovebrandy) on Twitter, visit www.brandyfusion.co.za or e-mail info@brandyfusion.co.za

For more information about the SA Brandy Foundation visit www.sabrandy.co.za or contact Danie Pretorius, General Manager: SA Brandy Foundation via e-mail danie@sabrandy.co.za

The South African Brandy Foundation is a member of the industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA).

Abalone House and Spa, Paternoster’s first five-star boutique hotel has 10 luxurious suites that flow off a central courtyard, where the sound of running water and wind chimes soothe the souls of jaded city travellers.

Boasting a fantastic winter spa special in conjunction with the Healing Earth Spa on the premises, guests are pampered from start to finish: accommodation, meals and a two-and-a-half hour spa treatment, employing the healing properties of massage and aromatherapy.

The package includes two nights’ accommodation, one 2.5 hour Healing Earth Spa treatment per person, and breakfast on both mornings and a 2-course dinner at the highly-acclaimed Reuben’s Abalone House each evening. Cost is R1 945.00 per person sharing per night and is valid from 1 May to 31 August 2015.

For more information on seasonal specials and to book, call Abalone House and Spa direct on +27 (0)22 – 752 2044; email info@abalonehouse.co.za or visit www.abalonehouse.co.za Alternatively, contact South of Africa’s central reservations line on 087 820 5999. Like Abalone House & Spa Facebook page and follow @abalonehouse on Twitter.

For press assistance contact Ian Manley of Manley Communications on 0861 MANLEY (626 539), email to premierbrands@publicity.co.za or visit the Press Room of Manley Communications at www.manleycommunications.co.za