Eat Your Way Through The Franschhoek Artisan Food Route
It is no secret that Franschhoek is a bountiful place to visit for foodies and wine appreciators alike. The French corner of the Cape is home to some of the finest eateries, artisanal food producers and wine crafters in the country. It can be quite tough though to decide exactly where to go with the staggering amount of things on offer and that is where the Franschhoek Artisan Food Route steps in to help. All the work has been done for you and there is even a handy map that details exactly where to go to find the finest wines, olives, cheeses, charcuterie and artisanal breads that the town has to offer.
The term artisanal is used to describe those who are true masters of their craft. Those producers that go to the lengths and breadths of their chosen field to ensure that products are ethically and sustainably created and that this is done in the time honoured way. This is the reason these products often come with a higher price tag, but the trade off is knowing that things have been done properly and with a certain level of quality. The Franschhoek Artisan Food Route groups together those in the valley that are fall into this category, making a visit to the area so much easier (and tastier!).
We decided to test out the food route for ourselves with a first stop at La Motte Wine Estate, at the entrance to Franschhoek. The estate is set on manicured grounds with the central area home to a beautifully curated farm shop and Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant, both situated under the dappled shade of old oaks. You could spend a full day or more at La Motte visiting its gardens, museum, art gallery and historical buildings, but if you are on the food route and time is limited, make sure you set aside enough of your day to see the old stone flour mill and partake in high tea. The original mill is still in operation and mills flour used in the breads sold at the shop and served in the restaurant. Call ahead and book in for the La Motte High Tea served at the restaurant. An utterly entrancing selection of cakes and savoury treats are served on individual cloche covered platters – you may find it hard to move on after the chocolate brownie – it’s that good. They have gorgeous TWG teas on offer as well as their famous straw wine – and it is totally acceptable to forgo tea in favour of a glass or two of this, even if it is only 10am.
After La Motte we headed over Bread and Wine at Môreson Winery. This family owned farm is the home of much-loved bubbly Miss Molly and is also the place to test your bread making skills and charcuterie eating ability. We took part in a bread-making demo where we produced (to our surprise!) delicious herbed flat bread and a second loaf with a herby garlic, sundried tomato and feta filling. After a few comical missteps, such as adding yeast in the wrong place and too much water, we put our kneading skills to the test and worked that dough to a shiny, elastic state. While it was baked to golden perfection, we met resident charcuterie master Neil Jewell and enjoyed boards of his amazing cured meats, olives and fresh bread, as well as lunch at Bread & Wine. Môreson is well known for its bubbly and we couldn’t leave without tasting those too. There is a lot to see and do here and its best to plan exactly what it is that you want to do – if that includes bread making, be sure to call and book ahead (groups of 6 or more).
Feeling thoroughly full we headed off to Auberge Clermont around the corner. The farm has long been known for its idyllic accommodation offering (6 luxury suites) but is now also known for producing high quality extra virgin olive oil under the name The Franschhoek Olive Oil Company. Owner Gordon Frazer took us through a very informative olive oil tasting, which really showcased the difference between a commercially produced olive oil, and a true cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Only the best olives are handpicked and go through a very closely monitored process to produce this high quality oil, which will make a great gift or takeaway from your time in the valley. If you are planning on staying over, Auberge Clermont offers stunning luxury accommodation and if you are around during harvesting time you can watch the olive oil production as it happens.
The last stop on our tour was La Cotte Inn (Fromages de France). This unique little store could easily be missed if you are not a local or in-the-know. Tucked away in the corner of the wine shop is a cheese counter that proffers the very best in French cheeses, imported weekly and sold just as quickly. Owner and cheese guru Lodine Maske and her husband Ludwig are passionate about good quality cheese and know each one intimately. They pointed out that the dates on the cheeses – often mistaken for expiry dates, actually mark when the cheeses are ready to be eaten. This is when they have reached their optimal ripeness and flavour. Lodine is a wealth of knowledge and can tell you every region, flavour profile and even stories of the farms where the cheeses originate. Of course the adjoining wine shop is packed to the eaves with fantastic local wines of every description. The shop, with its dim lighting and dusty corners gives you that feeling that you’ve stumbled into a treasure trove and indeed you have. Select a wine that goes with your cheese purchases and home baked bread and you can look forward to an evening well spent as you enjoy them all. This store really is a little hidden gem.
The Franschhoek Artisan Food Route is dotted with so many incredible places to visit that it is doubtful that you can get through more than a few in a day. It is such a worthwhile experience though, that we recommend picking up a map and plotting the route over the course of a few days, or even a few weeks, where to can return to the town and pick up where you left off. No doubt your map will be dog eared by the end of it, but you will have experienced some of the best, lovingly crafted and curated produce available countrywide.
- Producers on this already popular route include:
- African Chocolate Dreams for exquisite handmade chocolates;
- Allée Bleue Estate for olives, olive oils, fresh herbs and delicious pesto;
- Babylonstoren is home to a well-known fruit and vegetable garden. A deli and farm shop enable visitors to stock up on fresh produce, baked breads, charcuterie, cheeses and preserves;
- Bread & Wine, renowned locally and internationally for some of the country’s finest charcuterie and breads;
- Café BonBon for olives, breads and preserves;
- Dalewood Fromage, award-winning artisanal cheese producer;
- Dutch East is all about coffee, freshly roasted and ground;
- Franschhoek Medicinal Herb Garden produces fresh medicinal herbs which is fast becoming a trend for use as an alternative form of medicine;
- Gooding’s Groves produces tasty olives and olive oil;
- Huguenot Fine Chocolates produces some of the best handmade Belgian chocolate in the country;
- The Jam Jar, a true gem, producing superb jams, preserved lemon and fruit cordial;
- La Bourgogne, a popular stopover for olives and various styles of olive oil;
- La Cotte Inn (Fromages de France), importers of fine French artisan cheese;
- La Motte Wine Estate is home to a historic water mill which is still operational, producing stone ground flour, used in some of the estate’s delicious homemade breads;
- Maison offers delicious chorizo, pickled Shiitake mushrooms, preserves, olives, prosciutto and homemade bread;
- Noble Hill, home to a beautiful chilli garden, olives and olive oil;
- The Really Interesting Food Company is the perfect stopover for delicious food gifts and imported ingredients;
- Sacred Ground is where you want to be for artisan breads, sandwiches, cakes and coffee;
- Solms-Delta is home to the Dik-Delta culinary gardens, which includes indigenous produce.
If you’re in town on a Satutrday, pop into the Franschhoek Village Market which showcases many of the above listed products.