(Alternate title: buying your baked goods and eating them too)
Okay, so a bunch of pictures of food and restaurants seems a little fru-fru after my last post about body image; but I can be all over the place, right? (And thanks for everyone who shared thoughts on the last one, I really enjoyed reading them!)
As you all probably know, I spent some time in Cape Town to enjoy the world cup and here, two months later, I am finally posting my last thing from that trip! I already got a chance to cover…
- A general recap of events…
- My crazy travel to get there
- Exploring the city
- Climbing Table Mountain
- Watching the World Cup live!
- Western Cape wine tasting
- Cape Point and penguins
And I hadn’t quite gotten to the food yet so here you go. A foodie tour of Cape Town, by someone who was a poor backpacker and didn’t eat healthy at all, full disclosure. Sometimes, vacation just has to be vacation!
First of all, I should just say that Cape Town is foodie heaven as far as Africa is concerned. Why? It has stuff! Like falafel places open all night…that explain it to you in wall-sized chalk painting form.
And “gourmet” liquor stores who preach the truth.
Can I get an amen? For that window painting but also for the cute bottles of champagne and the complimentary wine tasting before noon. It was 5 o’clock somewhere.
Another thing: real supermarkets! We went into Spar at Cape Quarter our first morning and probably spent a whole hour in there. Poor, pathetic, deprived Peace Corps Volunteers.
Then we made our way to the V&A Waterfront which is really a huge tourist trap but for good reason. It is right on the water (if you couldn’t guess…), it is full of shops and restaurants and it is awesome. PLEASE look at this “sit down menu” at one of these places.
There were also more wine shops spouting more vino wisdom.
And Haagen—Daas. I don’t think I spelled that right, but wow.
I think this cookie sundae thing my friend got cost like ten dollars but it looked like it was worth every bite. I really didn’t know it was possible to miss ice cream so much.
Good thing they had froyo, or something resembling it aka the poor man’s H-D. No huge toppings bar but hey, beggars can’t be choosers!
There was another place called Melissa’s Food Shop which had the cutest pastries and products, and tons of tables with magazines and nice lighting and open space to sit and relax and enjoy your coffee or fresh baked goods. I am a baked good fiend. If you only need to know one thing about me, that would probably be it. Oh and besides the fact that I am a nice person and everything.
Thank goodness I am broke. That is really all that needs to be said.
A whole wing of the mall was basically foodie stores. Who else wishes that they had come up with the name of this store??
My six-month old sushi craving was satiated (its my favorite food and I hadn’t gotten to eat it since my trip home in December, except for once in Maputo and once when I tried and basically failed to make it). Store bought supermarket sushi but I hadn’t tasted anything so wonderful. Spicy tuna rolls complete me.
One restaurant EVERYONE MUST GO TO is Neighborhood on Long Street. It is basically a cute old apartment/house converted into a homey-yet-hip bar and grill. The burgers were dubbed by my fellow travelers as “the best.” Nacho burger, anyone?
I opted for the falafel burger. Sorry for the horrid picture but I just had to share it anyway. Falafel with hummus and tahini. Seriously. And a crap-ton of really, REALLY delicious French Fries. I forgot how much I LOVED fries! They are everywhere here, but soggy and oily and gross. These however…
Sometimes, a burger and fries is good for the soul. The other “best burger” in the Mother City was at The Waiting Room, another super-funky Long Street establishment. It actually used to be a literal waiting room for the club downstairs and then became an awesome restaurant. With beet salad.
I was super low on money so I had to forego the burger and get an Oreo shake for dinner. You do what you have to do. : )
Perhaps my favorite restaurant that we got to visit was Addis in Cape, also on Long Street. I LOVE Ethiopian food! If anyone reading has never tried it, find a way to get it ASAP! Any restaurant for which half of the menu is veggie and vegan is an A+ in my book.
I had wanted to go the whole time I was in CT, so finally one afternoon we wandered in for one of their specials. The setting inside was awesome… we weren’t on the floor like I was assuming, but it still seemed pretty well-done inside.
And they washed our hands, which was funny. Mozambican places do this too! Although it is a little less fancy…
Ethiopian food, for newbies, is served with injera, a fascinating sponge-like, nearly-flavorless-but-still-fun-to-eat bread substance. I appreciated that they included this explanation in the menu for the uninitiated. It basically comes in these HUGE pieces that are rolled up, and you use it to scoop up the food.
My friends and I got the lunch special, which came with seven different dishes. A couple were lentils, two were chicken, one was tomatoes, all were delicious. I couldn’t have told you what ANYTHING was more specifically, but that is part of the fun.
Clearly, we hated it.
A final Long Street restaurant definitely worth checking out is Mesopotamia, a Kurdish restaurant that offers hookah and on busy nights, belly dancers. Pictures were hard to come by, as we were sitting on pillows in a dark room very up close and personal with each other and the fellow diners.
However, any awkwardness was more than compensated for by the food. One of my pet peeves with blogs is when people say anything is “OMG the best EVERRRRR!!!!!!!” but this hummus really was the best ever. Okay, scratch that. The best that I personally can ever remember having. That is a little less dramatic.
I tried to take a picture of the menu so I could remember the name of what I got but they didn’t turn out due to the “intimate” lighting… it was spicy and it was lamb. Seriously, go here if you are ever in CT. I just wish they gave me more food!
Side note: we are always talking about restaurant portions being blown out of whack but since we have this amazing invention known as take away (or I guess its “to go” for Americans? I forget…) I personally get a little sad when my meal is small, if I feel like I am paying a lot for it. That is why I love Cheesecake Factory… you get three meals for the price of one! Okay, tangent over.
After a few days in the city, I stumbled upon quite possibly the best store to grace the continent of Africa.
This is probably nothing to you all but when you keep in mind that I have been without real stores or Whole Foods for two years you can only imagine my excitement.
Bulk bins and my first trip to a salad bar in months and months and months? Definitely not in Kansas Mozambique anymore. I could have eaten every one of my meals here.
…except that I am the perpetually short-on-cash traveler. I found trail mix with cranberries and chocolate chips and splurged and tried to make that thing last as long as possible but I don’t think it made it out of South Africa. Oh well, I tried!
Popcorn is one of my favorite foods in the world. I probably have it for dinner once a week. I mean, as part of a balanced and healthy diet. (Pancakes and Popcorn was an alternative title for the blog.) I love going to movies to get popcorn. I have actually been known to go to see a movie just to get popcorn. Seriously. And it is funny because movie popcorn is not any better than the kind I make at home. It is just part of the experience for me. We went to see Sex and the City 2, my third movie in 21 months (the first being New Moon in Joburg the night before my flight home and the second being The Blind Side, the ONE movie I made it to back in the States.)
Anyway, the reason I am raving about popcorn is because I wanted to share one of my favorite things about South Africa: the theaters have popcorn toppings. Well, seasonings. Make it whatever flavor you wish! MSG included for free, woohoo! But this system did acquaint me with salt and vinegar popcorn. Try it, you will not be disappointed.
The elusive quest for the perfect chocolate baked good
As already described here, I am a baked goods junkie. I like chocolate. Especially Cadbury, produced in South Africa and also readily available in Mozambique.
And I like baked goods. Pretty much any kind, so long as they are not dry and flavorless.
But when you combine the two, we have a winner.
Actually, this donut was not very good—and I LOVE donuts. But it marked my quest to find something delicious and chocolate before the end of my week. And it was this quest which brought me to one of the most ridiculous life moments that I have experienced in recent memory.
I was eating my face off in CT but tried to get some exercise by running several of the mornings. A nice attempt, but when you take in how freezing I was, I am not sure it was doing me more good than harm. But with one day to go in the find-chocolate-yumminess battle, I decided to bring some money and stop into this bakery on my way back and find a brownie. It was as amazing inside as I thought it would be.
Except for one small problem. No brownies. But this looked like the best bakery around, I didn’t want to give up hope. So I bought this. Chocolate inside, of course.
I said I would bring it home for breakfast, but then I was right across the street from Spar which had an amazing bakery so I figured I should at least check that out too. But wandering the aisles I got hungry so I figured just a bite of my pastry. And then another bite. And another. So here I am, a sweaty girl in her running clothes, iPod still in ear, wandering a grocery store and eating a chocolate croissant thing. And then I see this.
It was a chocolate brownie. I had to buy it. So, croissant eaten, I pay for my purchase and then run the 15 minutes home with this box in my hand. I must say I have never gone for an hour run and in that time bought two chocolate pastries, consumed one and gingerly supported the other home with me on my morning exercise.
I must say, I felt very alive at that moment. (And like a complete joke of a person. You try going running with a pastry box and tell me how it goes over.)
But all my baked good desires were finally answered at the end of my trip with a visit to Kauai. Kauai is an amazing healthy fast food chain in CT with delicious sandwiches, salads, smoothies and wraps. I probably bought a little fruit smoothie every day when I was out exploring just because I could, and they were delicious and healthy. But then, I had to submit to my desires before I left the land of plenty for the land of next-to-nothing… a frappacccino-like smoothie with a cappuccino muffin.
Reading all the healthy sayings on the napkin and the “find your balance,” I felt a little like a hypocrite. I want to be a healthy traveler who doesn’t find the need to buy something like this every day but I am chalking this one up to a necessary mental health break after 20 months in the Moz and a week of healthy eating later I was fine. Moderation in moderation, I think. I need to find MY balance, but that is usually healthy. In Cape Town, it was 50-50. But I’ll take it. Balance.
After the days of indulgence I wanted to start off right for our departure day (goodbye, pastries…) so I headed to another Cape Town institution, Lola’s. Lola’s is a vegetarian café on Long Street popular with the gay crowd (Cape Town is pretty much the only city in Africa with a vibrant and relatively accepted gay scene).
They offered fresh juice and a variety of healthy vegetarian breakfast options. A couple of unknowing Americans walked in and crinkled their noses up at the menu and asked if they had bacon and sausage. The waitress, bless her heart, demurely replied that this was a vegetarian café. I probably would have laughed.
It was as good as I had expected. Fresh, delicious, and totally fun place to have my last meal in Cape Town.
So there you have it… a foodie adventure in the mother city. Not the healthiest week of my life, but I just wanted to share the FUN stuff : ) since everything else was boring… and such a big part of exploring a new place is exploring the food.
I may never go running with a baked good in hand again (please God, no!) but I WILL return to Cape Town again, mark my words. And now as I post this it is officially recapped on my blog, so I will just have to wait until the next opportunity I have to visit this absolutely amazing place.
What are your favorite indulgences when you travel?