Food and Restaurants

Urban Durban Vibe at Distillery 031

The old brick foundry building sits just above the railway tracks in a commercial and industrial part of Durban. Factory buildings line busy Umgeni Road and the ubiquitous taxis zip around, horns honking as people duck through the heavy traffic. Cars are parked wherever they can find a spot. Informal traders dot the pavement, selling anything from t-shirts to big, juicy mangos and bunches of fresh lichis.

The area literally vibrates with energy.

And this is what distiller Andrew Rall of Distillery 031 is tapping into and enhancing at KwaZulu Natal's first craft distillery.

This tall (very tall) young man exudes enthusiasm equally about his business and Durban and separating the two is next to impossible. The whole mission behind Distillery 031 is the fusion of the Urban Durban vibe into the unique spirits he is creating in the big, old industrial building.

Andrew's Story

From a surfer boy who "majored in drinking" at university where quantity topped quality, to an accomplished entrepreneur with not just the distillery but a couple of other businesses, which help pay the bills, has been quite a trip.

He discovered craft distilling in Scotland and realized that there is far more to drinking than he knew. That revelation led to his exploration into rum, his favorite spirit, where he tasted Mount Gay, the rum I grew up on while in the Caribbean.

This started him thinking and wondering why South Africa didn't produce rum, with the huge sugar can industry here. On his travels, Andrew visited the United States, collecting rum along the way. On his return to South Africa, he and five friends decided to start distilling, as he recognized rum as an emerging trend in the liquor industry.

What started as AARGH! rum, originally intended as an importing venture, has turned into much more. Once his friends realized how much work is involved in distilling, they quickly fell by the wayside. But Andrew persevered, slowly graduating to bigger stills and taking up more and more space at his home, eventually taking up his garage and carport.

Then he got married and decided to provide the alcohol for the wedding, "to test it out and make sure nobody died!" Needless to say, it proved very popular and that's when it started to get too expensive to remain a home distiller. In South Africa, home distilling is permitted but the liquor cannot be sold. "It's limiting how much gifting you can do before you bankrupt yourself," Andrew declared.

Not long after that, Simone, his wife handed him an ultimatum. He must either stop or "do it properly" as she needed her carport!

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"Properly" Prevails

So he started the process of perfecting his recipes and Simone asked him to create a gin as she is not a rum fan. Initially, Andrew was against it as his idea of gin was something his grandparents drank and as he put it, "a horrible juniper forward punch you in the face kind of thing!' Until he tasted a craft gin and was converted.

During this time, he discovered the old foundry building.

“Station Drive was the perfect home for the distillery and complemented my vision for Distillery 031, which is to capture the essence of contemporary Durban in the spirits we produce … Durban Distilled.” Andrew Rall

The Vibe

For Andrew, it's not just about making great spirits; it's about building a community in The Station precinct (Distillery 031 is on Station Drive.) When he took on the building, he knew he would need to create rental spaces within it, to help pay the bills, as it took 18 months to become licensed. On the ground floor now is a thriving brewery, S43 Home to That Brewing Co. Up the concrete stairs on the first floor live the creatives - jewelry and clothing designers. Next floor is the distillery and very trendy restaurant. The top floor, which is reached via either an outside steel stairway or the inside stairs are the offices.

A neighboring building is also experiencing the benefits of urbanization and revitalization with small stores and a cafe.

Pouring a tasting at Distillery 031
Pouring a tasting at Distillery 031

The Spirits - So Uniquely KZN

When you read the names of the spirits from Distillery 031, they are so unique to this part of the world. And the ingredients included in many are indigenous to this area. All are distilled from local molasses extracted from KZN sugar cane, except the Agua Zulu Cachaca, which is distilled from the juice of freshly crushed local sugar cane.

The Durban Dry Gin, Distillery 031's signature gin, with 10 botanicals includes the indigenous African Rosehip which gives it it's distinct floral character. Pair that with 031's own tonic, created by Andrew from an old Victorian recipe, and you have a G&T like you have never had before. Simply delicious!

The two spirit aperitifs, Vanilla & Baobab, and Naartjie (similar to a tangerine) & Rooibos, both crafted from 10 times distilled 031 Vodka, impart a distinctly African experience!

Absinthe has quite a history and Ancestor Absinthe is adding to it. Using a traditional French recipe but using indigenous botanicals including impepho, which is used by traditional Zulu herbalist. As Andrew says, "In Europe you drink Absinthe and see green fairies. Drink our Absinthe and see your ancestors."

031 Vodka is named for the Durban's telephone area code. You can't get more local than that.

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[box] Distillery 031, 2nd Floor, 43 Station Drive, Durban 4001. 27 87 941 4540[/box]

And We Are LIVE - Suki & DeLuco Tour Co

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So you see, there was method to my madness with all the distillery tastings I have been doing!

It's been a bit hectic getting the site ready and the Zozi booking engine integrated, but we are actually thrilled it has come together so fast. We are hoping that the tour will be on the Zozi Marketplace today and soon on Viator, which is part of TripAdvisor.

Of course, there is still a lot to do - paperwork etc. The first tour is scheduled for June 4, the first weekend after Memorial Day, so I will be hustling to get it all done!

Ryan is coming up this weekend and we will  "run the route," right from the Bremerton ferry, so he will have the full picture. He will meet the distillery people and see the sights (and weather is predicted to be good!). We will also meet up with our, we hope, gourmet picnic lunch provider.

Then on a weekend before our planned launch and when our van is ready, I am planning to grab some friends and do a "test tour."

Want to come?    


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Hitting the Bottles

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You may be wondering about me - why am I visiting all these craft distilleries and taking such an interest in the spirits they produce? No, I haven't turned into an alcoholic although I have yet to find a gin I don't like!

But the craft distilling industry is booming in this area and around the country - and the world! So...

The other part of this is Ryan. The last few times he has come up to visit, we have done self-drive tours of the cideries and farms. And the last time was a stop at Seattle Distilling Company on Vashon Island. In our combined wisdom, we came up with the idea of a small tour company to take people to the distilleries on this side of Puget Sound, meaning west of Seattle. There are several tours operating in Seattle and surrounds, but none over here.

My part of the deal was to visit the distilleries and check out whether our idea will work. And yes, it will!  The website will be live in the next day or so, with plans to start operating the weekend after Memorial Day, and go through October. There is still a huge amount of organizing to do, but what fun!

Susan and I visited two more distilleries last weekend and what a good time we had! I even tried moonshine and it just about bit my tongue off! Not my favorite, that's for sure.

There are a total of five small batch, craft distilleries this side of the Puget Sound; Seattle Distilling Company on Vashon Island, which I went to with Ryan; The Hardware Distillery Company, which we visited a couple of weekends ago, Bainbridge Organic Distillers, Tucker Distilling and Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor. The tour will visit three of them and take about 6 hours, not counting the ferry ride if guests are coming from Seattle. So it's a whole day - tasting and sightseeing!

Research

Even though we had been out to Hoodsport the previous week, we made the drive again, this time coming from the southeast, driving a route I have never taken before. It is absolutely spectacular! Although it wasn't very warm or sunny, seeing all the blossoming trees and flowers as we drove along the Hood Canal's southern shoreline was definitely worth it. It was low tide, and the beaches were loaded with acres of oysters which this area is famous for. Houses line the waterfront and several tiny communities hang on beside the road and almost every one has an fresh oyster store!

Probably 70 percent of the houses look like they are out of the 40s and 50s. The rest are new and big and glitzy so it won't be long now before they tear down all the little character houses and replace them with MacMansions. Such a shame!

Twanoh State Park is right on the shores and that is where we will stop on the tour for a picnic lunch, which we will provide.

StillWe made a quick stop at The Hardware Distillery and headed back towards Silverdale to visit Tucker Distilling, which is very new, tiny and located in an industrial park. Jason, the young man who poured for us, gave us a quick tour and then we tasted! Moonshine aka un-aged corn whiskey! Yikes, that stuff will burn a hole through your cheeks if you aren't careful! But I did like the Corn Vodka. I am the gin queen and have never liked vodka, but as they don't make my favorite spirit, I tried the vodkas and was pleasantly surprised!

Next stop, Bainbridge Island and the distillery there.

Hipster Heaven

What a great space they have! Open and spacious with great displays of their wares. I have had their Organic Fir Gin before. I actually took a bottle to Ryan one Christmas but he didn't care for the piney flavor, but I can guarantee it didn't go to waste! So I decided to try the current award-winning, organic Madagascar vanilla infused vodka and it is very good! Olivia, our pourer, gives very healthy tastings! We toured the distilling area and could see the huge fermenting tanks - three in various stages of fermentation, which make the whole place smell like baking bread.

Two tastings in one afternoon was enough for us so I put off Heritage Distilling until another day.

Gig Harbor

Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor is impressive. It is the most award-winning distilling company for the third year in a row. Although I didn't do any tasting, as I was there in the morning and for me, it was a bit too early, it is definitely going to be one of the three stops on our tour.  Maybe next weekend, when Ryan comes up and we "run the route," we will do a little tasting!

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the new website - booking and everything will be online. Tomorrow I have training on the installing the booking engine through Zozi, a huge company that promotes tours around the world and is backed by Sir Richard Branson! Once that is in place, we will be live and hopefully, flooded with bookings!

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Ruta del Vino Getaway Part 2

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The Grand Tour

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PART 1 is ->here

 

Because we figured we'd be drinking all day, breakfast at La Fonda was the order of the day! And we shared it with the chickens! Well, not exactly! They were on the outside patio, while we sat inside where it was a bit warmer.

By 10, we were fed and ready and were pleasantly surprised to find our tour guide, Ava Nirvana Caro Perez waiting for us with a comfortable van and driver from Trans-turismo Ruta del Vino Valle de Guadalupe! Ava is a master sommelier and we had her to ourselves for the whole day.

Our driver took the old road that winds through the valleys and Ava, such a wealth of knowledge, regaled us with stories of the history, the local people...and of course the wine and the literally hundreds of wineries that have blossomed in the past decades. It seemed like every little side road in the valley had the Ruta del Vino emblem, indicating another winery.

Because Ava has personal relationships with the majority of the vineyard owners, we were, I feel, given special treatment at the three we visited. They were all so different, producing completely different styles of wine. I love wine, and way back in my youth, even took quite an extensive wine class in South Africa (personally, still my favorite wines) but I haven't retained enough of that information to be anything of an expert. So it was wonderful to have Ava telling us about the grapes and the complete wine-making process, from planting to drinking!

I took only my iPhone6+ and it did a wonderful job

Our first stop was Sol y Barro. The property is amazing, all the buildings and art work created by hand by Aime Desponds who has an intriguing history. Coming from Switzerland by way of Orange County, California, he has almost singlehandedly developed the winery buildings from the soil on his land, using the COB method of building. The walls are thick, keeping the interiors cool during the long hot summers. The raw walls of the windows show the layers of building material that are used, one on top of the other, drying in between each layer. His artwork is everywhere! Masks on the walls, glazed tiles around the doors.

And his greatest achievement is the wine! We tasted three, all of which were wonderful, one being the latest vintage that wasn't even labeled yet! When Ryan decided to buy a couple of bottles, the name and year were written on the bottle in gold marker! Talk about personal attention!

Checking out the sandbag construction at Alxmia Winery

Out next stop was a more corporate winery called Alximia. Driving up to it, in the distance it looked like a space ship resting on the hilltop. Once we arrived, we saw the eco-friendly construction - filled sandbags laid like bricks and then adobe spread over them. The interior is concrete with enormous spanned arches reaching skyward. Again, the wines were wonderful, we tasted three and Ryan bought one we love called Gaia, described as "The Goddess Earth: Regeneration of forgotten aromas, with a strong fruit balance." It's a lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah.

Next stop, Viña De Frannes. The history behind this vineyard is long and complicated, with land sales and family events that link Chateau Camou and Viña de Frannes. This is a spectacular 1,000 acres spread, with the tasting rooms in a classic mid-century building that somehow lends itself to the terrain.

A fabulous Argentinian lady named Sylvia poured and regaled us with wonderful stories of the area and families. And she told us of a tradition that I swear has changed my life - for the better!

The winery building are surrounded by gardens and in the gardens are red pepper trees. Sylvia told us that if you hug a pepper tree, you will release all the negativity and good things will happen! I leaped (well, not quite leaped but hurried) to the tree and hugged it mightily!

And since then, things and circumstances have changed dramatically!

Back to the wine tasting, Ryan once again bought a couple of bottles, we bid Sylvia adios and headed back to Alximia for a light supper before the drive back to La Mision and our Airbnb.

This is one day that will always be marked as Excellent and bring fond memories when I look at all the images stored on my new iPad Pro.

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Beginning of a Long Holiday

Iconic Burbank sign I've been lazy, just posting instagram pix and not writing posts! And it has been such a busy time, too. So I will break this down into several posts over the next few days.

With winter coming on strong in the PNW, I was extremely happy to be heading south to Southern California for the holidays. It's always a mission to get there - a lift to the shuttle, an hour and half bumping along with numerous stops, schlep to the ticketing to check in the expensive one bag carrying the gifts, security (yay Pre- check!) waiting... three hours on the flight... makes for a long day.

But being picked up at Burbank airport in a BMW convertible by Ryan, my darling son, made up for the tiring day.

Blast from the Past

The following day, we fulfilled one of the many items on my wish list!

Ryan and Bob at Bob's Big Boy

Many, many years ago, there was a Bob's Big Boy hamburger joint in Costa Mesa, right up the street from where we (Ryan and Cody's dad and I) used to live. We used to go fairly often, and then progress (?) took it away. But in Burbank, Bob's has survived and flourished, and is a great example of the old diner. It was built in 1949 (so have a great affinity with it) and is considered a classic example of that era's architecture. I've wanted to go there for ages, so we did!

There is actually a bit of story about me wanting to go there. Last Christmas Eve, as there were just the two of us, Rye an and me, we thought it would be a good chance to go to Bob's for a Christmas Eve dinner - by the time we got there around 6pm, they were closed, and we ended up at a Thai restaurant - which we went to again this Christmas!

The enormous, neon sign is visible all the way down the street, the red glow glinting off the cars in the parking lot. The street lights lit the Jetson-styled sun-shades (I can't call them umbrellas) that hovered over the outdoor seating, lining the pavement. On this evening, everyone was inside, hiding from the cold and drizzle. Under the portico, there stood a life-sized Bob, checkered outfit and all. Obviously it was picture time before heading in to the classic diner. The curving counter, the leatherette booths and many of the waitresses who looked like they might have been there since the place opened!

Everything is basic - basic menu, basic condiments, just like it used to be before it became so cool to be cool.

I ordered the Original Bobs Big Boy combo with fries, the works! I didn't do the milkshake part, but we did have onion rings!

So in this time of "plated" food and weird pairing combinations, it was refreshing to see a hamburger in a bun, with simple lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise plonked on a plate alongside a mound of real French fries. Nothing pretentious, nothing fancy, just plain old Bob's!

[box type="info"]BOB's BIG BOY

4211 W Riverside Dr

Burbank, CA 91505

(818) 843-9334[/box]

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