MACAROONS are the five-star Alphen Boutique Hotel in Constantia’s signature “sweeties” and you’re sure to find one on your pillow at turndown at night.
Unfortunately I crushed mine on the way in, as I couldn’t control myself in my unbridled exuberance to dive head first into the boudoir bliss of a king-size bed draped in finest linens with thread count practically off the charts.
But there were plenty more where that “big mac” came from as they’re a speciality of La Belle Cafe and Bakery, one of three super-cool, foodie “chill spots” at the Alphen.
My gal-pal Surita and I dined at their chic (but simultaneously cheeky) 5 Rooms restaurant earlier that night and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, just as much as I relished a chance to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the vast estate with its manicured gardens and ancient oak trees.
Surita, who lives in Cape Town, is ex-PE/Willowmore, a Karoo “nooi” at heart, and of course I was thrilled to learn that the Alphen’s new head of marketing, Vanessa Nucci, was also from our neck of the woods. Okay, so maybe not quite our neck of the woods, although Knysna does feel a lot closer to home than Cape Town!
My visit last week to this historic estate which in its colourful past hosted the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Jan Smuts and Cecil John Rhodes (someone also mentioned Napoleon but I probably misheard) followed the annual Pam Golding Properties media wrap of the 2012 property year.
Lifestyle and property journalists and editors like myself were put up at the Alphen for the night, and I jumped at the chance to test-drive one of the hip hotel’s Cool Suites while also giving readers some inspiration for a visit to the beautiful Constantia Valley.
Originally part of Simon van der Stel’s Groot Constantia, the property was later bought by the Cloete family, who lived here for 150 years and still owns it today.
But the family is not involved on the hospitality side at all anymore. Instead, the 21-suite hotel, as well as La Belle, 5 Rooms and the deliciously laid-back Rose Bar and Terrace overlooking the pool are now under the umbrella of Paul Kovesky’s Kove Collection, which also includes several restaurants on the Atlantic seaboard.
For a full article about my experience at the Alphen – and thing to see and do in the Constantia Valley – see the MyWeekend supplement in Weekend Post on Saturday.
And take note there’s also a chance for one lucky reader and their partner to win a FAB, one-night stay at the Alphen!
In addition you’ll find another recipe – for their very popular seafood broth pictured left – from La Belle’s executive chef, Charl Coetzee, in the print edition.
But back to the snazzy hotel’s famous, fantastical macaroons…
I’ve heard they can be tricky to attempt in one’s own kitchen and yet it’s always been on my to-do list to try my hand at these dainty treats at least once. I’m still not quite there yet, but here, in the meantime, is a recipe Charl swears by.
I can’t wait to try out these babies although I confess a slight macaroon phobia that admittedly doesn’t extend to eating heaps and heaps of them.
This recipe yields 30 macaroons and you can also add a few drops of food colouring to give them all sorts of crazy hues.
250g ground almonds; 250g icing sugar; 250g castor sugar; 200g egg whites
Whisk the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add the castor sugar and whisk until a smooth, stiff meringue forms.
Sift the icing sugar and the ground almonds together.
Fold the almond mixture into the meringue until the mixture get a sloppy consistency; however it must not be runny.
Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe it onto baking trays.
Leave the macaroons to dry out before baking at 150 degrees (preheated) for 12 minutes.
Leave to cool before sticking together with butter-cream.