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Lush Oysters from a real Pearl

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

The images I had of South Africa in my mind were heightening by the excitement because this was my very first trip, but I wasn’t prepared for the real thing. Luckily we arrived late at night, so the full impact was at sunrise the next morning walking along the waterfront – suddenly turning back and I saw Table Mountain bathed in a golden light, it was a WOW! It was so close and more impactful then any of the photos I had seen. This turned out to be the first of so many wows that this trip had lain at my feet.

The coastal scenery, like the Twelve Apostles and down to Hawk’s Bay, then inland to Constantia and the wine region closest to Cape Town. Every vineyard here has the sentinel of Table Mountain as a backdrop. We were lucky to have a private tour of Klein Constantia, where they were just punching down their bubbling Shiraz and then on to Groot Constantia for a lunch in the 250 year old chestnut alley. At Groot Constantia the vines were still heavy with lush grapes both red and white.

In the town of Stellenbosch, the real wine capital of South Africa, we found it quaint and just awakening to the real possibilities of wine tourism on a much more commercial scale. I don’t know enough to be honest to say that it’s good or bad. As a university town it has a certain layback air, but then there lots of artists galleries, studios and B & B’s. What I do know is that Ernie Els, the fabulous golfer who calls this area home has his own winery and is partners with Engelbracht at another had just opened a lovely restaurant with multiple rooms…the first chef had withered and gone, when we went a new Irish chef had just initiated a great menu. It’s the kind of menu that you say I want one of everything, but of course that was not to be for two reasons. One, the chef was over whelmed and refused to take anymore dinner guests and two, you could eat everything especially when we saw the size and complexity of the plates coming out from the kitchen.

We had taken refuge at the bar when we were given the bad news that it was impossible to have dinner. It was late and we had thought if we gave the kitchen time to catch up all would not be lost with some appetizers. The manager on duty, Wilhelm was a consummate host in being polite and saying he was so sorry to have disappointed us…but telling him we understood the business and that it was a Saturday night. He kept coming back to chat…telling him that we were happy to have an appetizer at the bar with more of their delicious wine, he seemed to waiver. It seemed that the appetizers came from a different station – there was our in…we’ll have one of each.

Each selection came to the bar and each was fantastic, but when the Pacific oysters arrived with a cabernet sauvignon reduction just dribble on them. I fell in love. These set new standards for an oyster lover, these deserved a round of applauds. Thick lush oysters full of briny sea-wildness give long moments of fulfillment. Just like a fine wine that lingers. These oysters could fill your hand with such a deep cups; what I call knife and fork oysters, as you really need to cut them to eat them! When pressed he said, they are just normal common oysters. Well after a few minutes of researching, yes Crassostrea Gigas are the most common here in South Africa. But I didn’t see a common thing about them!

It seems that the Asian markets prefer big oysters, but the smaller sizes are in demand in other global markets. South Africa has fewer than 10 oyster farms on its coastline, with most on the West Coast. It is fairly new in a long timeline to cultivating oysters, the country is insignificant, producing 500 ton per year, compared with France who produces 160, 000 ton per year. But the very good news is that Oyster farming is completely sustainable. Here farming process consumes little energy and does little harm to the natural environment farmers here use both the bag and long line methods. And sometimes oysters are grown alongside mussels as both species are bivalves and filter feeders that remove phytoplankton from seaweed and convert it to edible protein.

Back again the next day for another pearler of oysters and bubbly with a relaxed ambience – what more could you ask for?

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