Dreaming of Monet: Chef Mynhardt’s impressionist lunch

On a cool afternoon at the end of May, Chef Mynhardt welcomed us into his exquisite Stasie Street Kitchen overlooking the KWV vineyards in the Paarl. From the get-go, it was clear that Chef had a clear vision for this special event.

The Muse

For this inspired luncheon, Chef Mynhardt channelled the father of impressionism, Oscar-Claude Monet. The entire impressionist movement is focused on capturing the fleeting qualities of light, colour, and atmosphere, as well as the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience.

monet-le-jardin
Monet Le Jardin de l’artiste à Giverny (Source: wikipedia.com)

As soon as I walked into the Stasie Street Kitchen, this vision came alive with the array of colours and several different plants emphasised by the muted lightning and sunlight spilling in through the slanted roof windows. I was reminded of Monet’s The Artist’s Garden at Giverny (Le Jardin de l’artiste à Giverny) which is a feast of different colours and lighting.

The art of good food

After a glass of KWV’s Cruxland Gin, mixed with Barker & Quin’s Marula Tonic water and garnished with blueberries, cucumber and sugar beet, canapés were served in the living room. If you haven’t yet laid your hands on Barker & Quin’s Marula Tonic Water, you need to do so immediately! Because of that distinct marula taste, it feels like you are literally transported to the bushveld with every sip. We finished off the pre-drinks with a glass of Laborie Brut, served with oysters – not a bad way to kick off a gorgeous lunch in the Boland!

While Chef welcomed the party to the table, he explained his love of impressionism and how he was inspired by the colours and the brush strokes when putting together the menu. His team then served the bread course, made up out of brioche, charcoal and white rolls paired with a variety of butters. My absolute favourite was the honey nut butter that literally melts in the mouth and leaves just those delicious honey flavours. Paired with the 2011 Laborie MCC, the bread flavours came to life as the conversations around the table concentrated on the textures and tastes.

Before heading over to the main course, a savoury beetroot panna cotta with asparagus and cherries were served. Chef explained that even though it is not cherry season, he was lucky to find these and that it reminded him of his hometown, Ficksburg in the Free State, which is an area known for both cherries and asparagus. Being from the Free State myself, I felt transported to cherry festivals and asparagus picking from my younger days. The dish was paired with the 2018 KWV Cathedral Cellar Sauvignon Blanc.

When explaining the menu, Chef Mynhardt, placed emphasis on the sustainably farmed trout that he sourced from Three Streams Holdings (expert tip: they have a factory shop in Montagu Gardens where you can buy salmon, trout and other premium seafood products). By making use of the responsibly farmed trout, as well as prawns, he created a delicious bouillabaisse. These flavours were beautifully paired with the butterscotch notes on the 2018 KWV Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay.

The table setting included some discussion cards containing Monet facts and between courses, these little cards fulfilled their purpose as conversation starters. You could hear the chatter of impressionism, colours, flavours, and textures filling the room as the party was transported into Chef Mynhardt’s interpretation of his beloved Monet.

And as the final main course was served, you could feel the room delight in this climatic menu element of pork cheek bourguignon served with mushrooms and carrots on a bed of the creamiest polenta I’ve had in my entire life. When offered the choice between pairing the dish with either the 2017 KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon or the 2016 KWV Cathedral Cellar Triptych (a full-bodied red blend)  I opted for the latter and was pleasantly surprised by the pronounced aniseed taste highlighted by the creamy polenta.

A very special final treat awaited the lunch party, as Chef opened a bottle of 1949 Ruby Port. Because of its age, this bottle needs to be consumed within fifteen minutes as oxidation sets in quite quickly. Together with the mix of white chocolate cheesecake, fresh berries, macaroons and nougat, the sweets paired together perfectly without being too decadent. This final stroke on Chef Mynhardt’s Monet-inspired canvas signalled the end to an exquisitely orchestrated lunch.

Each participant was handed a Tiffany & Co coloured box filled with kitchen goodies, as well as the brand new Mademoiselle Rochas fragrance which is a fruity, floral bouquet explosion, perfect for those that love a feminine scent. And as you head down the Stasie Street Kitchen stairs back onto the streets of Paarl, you feel truly transported, and everything in the ‘real world’ seems just a bit duller than it used to be.

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