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Over and out

My Bloemfontein days came to an end in July when I moved to Cape Town, so I feel it’s only right to bid thee farewell. Apologies for the silence during my last month in Bloem. I have to admit that I was having too much fun in my hometown to get anything constructive done, blogging included. There was just so much going on, and too little time to spend in front of the computer. Ridiculous excuse for someone who enjoys blogging, I know, but I’ll always be back. There are Bloemfontein weddings calling my name later in the year, so perhaps I’ll fit in a post or two while there. Until then, enjoy the city and take time to smell the roses… and braaivleis.


Picnic – good, clean yum

Almarie Kleingeld, the owner of Picnic at the Loch Logan Waterfront (you may know her from her previous coffee shop Meel), was chatting away about our Oprah experience at the University of the Free State this past Friday, but I couldn’t really focus on her words. Yes, Oprah was unbelievable, but there was something distracting me from the topic of conversation that will be on every Bloemfonteiner’s lips for the next week (or lifetime!). I can’t help it that Almarie had laden her goodies table in the restaurant with such delectable treats that had my eye wandering away from her towards the cake stands to peep through the bell jars. I’m sure Oprah and her sweet tooth would understand the distraction.

Decorating the table, between Picnic’s own bottles of homemade chutneys, jams, caramelised onions, rusks muesli, bags of speciality flour and for-sale bread knives and white cake stands, were some of Bloemfontein’s most-wanted yummies (all made on the premises): millionaire shortbread, peanut-butter slices, rocky road treats, chocolate brownies, butternut-and-caramelised-onion-and-feta quiche, bacon-and-mushroom quiche, rye-flour cupcakes, and lemon-meringue cupcakes. I got a fright when I didn’t see the usual milktart, but it was standing in the fridge, above the strawberry and Manhattan cheesecakes. Thank goodness! Picnic’s milktart is the best I have ever tasted in my life. It’s high and firm, with a real farmhouse allure to it. I recommend you ditch your calorie worries and have it with Picnic’s decadent hot chocolate – brought to you with real chocolate pieces to stir in yourself. (I may just return this afternoon!)

If you manage to venture away from the goodies table, you’ll notice that Picnic has a lot more to offer. The chalkboard walls filling the space between raw facebrick display the menu, so there’s never a need for tatty pieces of paper, illustrating Picnic’s clean and simple ethos. Generous salads, such as the chicken, halloumi, sundried tomatoes and avo one, are as tempting as the sandwiches (think Picnic’s own ciabatta topped with fillet, rocket, brie and caramalised onions). All this can be enjoyed while looking out toward the water and green grass (giving the sense of a picnic perhaps?), or enjoying the buzz of the open-plan kitchen beyond the fresh basil plants and jar of chillies on the counter, watching homemade croissants come out of the oven, ready to be put on the industrial-type pastry stand in the restaurant.

There’s a real sense of old-school homeliness inside Picnic, where reels of till paper and colourful ribbons are on display through the clear-glass drawers on which the till stands. Although she’s not looking to be the face of the restaurant, Almarie is often found sitting chatting to customers, today’s conversation with everyone being Oprah of course!

A great advantage of having Picnic at the Waterfront, is that once you’re full to capacity on the good food, you have an entire shopping mall in which to walk around and work off the food. Just like a real post-picnic stroll through the ‘park’.

Q&A with Almarie

Where does the name ‘Picnic’ come from?

The same friend who named my previous coffee shop Meel came up with it. There may not be picnic baskets around here, but it’s just such a nice name. Everything else sounded so pretentious. I wanted something that illustrates the fact that this is just a nice restaurant with clean food, and not much processed stuff. Picnic is all about the way I want to eat.

Tell me about your food.

Everything has to be fresh, that’s why we can’t have a 16-page menu. I try to buy local products whenever I can, but unfortunately things like gypsy ham and brie have to come from other cities because no one makes them here. I hate wastage, so we use what we have. For instance, if a bread doesn’t get sold from the take-away section today, we’ll use it for our sandwiches tomorrow. We always have a different lunch of the day, and in winter we have great soups and quiches. Our most popular item on the menu is probably our hamburger and chips. It’s a homemade patty on our freshly baked ciabatta. All our sandwiches are on fresh bread, so I hate it when people ask for a toasted sandwich. We don’t do toasted sandwiches! I love stuff in its simplest form. You’ll notice that even the tulips on the counter are not surrounded by wit blommetjies and other crap. Everything is much nicer in its simplest form. People probably think that I’m going to splash out when I invite them to dinner at my house, but I don’t. I serve a starch, a meat and a salad with bread. Less is more. Besides, I don’t have the patience for gourmet food.

Tell me about your bakery section.

Tseko Motlhacoi is our baker. Even my mom will say that since Tseko took over the baking from my friend Nico and I everything is much nicer! He’s very precise – you have to be like that when baking. We sell rye and potato bread, as well as ciabattas. Sometimes we make French loaves too. I can’t wait to get home everyday to have some of Tseko’s bread. He just gets it! Our croissants are also made from scratch, so they really are the best in Bloem (for me they’re the best croissants in the world!) because everyone else buys them in frozen. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but they look and taste nice and it’s such a novel concept. All our products are made with stone-ground flour, so we make sure to use the best ingredients. I’ll give away all my recipes if someone asks for them – even the chocolate cake! – and I won’t secretly leave out any ingredients. I have no problem with this kind of thing if someone’s actually going to take the trouble to make it themselves.

What’s your favourite item on the goodies table?

Definitely the rye-flour cupcakes with butter icing. I can’t stop myself from eating them.

What made you choose to have an open-plan kitchen?

I don’t like closed kitchens. I want you to see what we’re doing. My staff are very well trained, so I want customers to appreciate this by seeing how clean the kitchen and processes are. It also allows a lot of interaction between clients, chefs and kitchen staff – even though it can get noisy and means I have to shout a bit sometimes.

Have you had any formal culinary training?

No, I barely passed Matric! But I have had two incredible mentors in my life. One is Ingrid Fuller, who employed me in her decor shop, allowing me to live out my creativity without even knowing I was creative. Then Lizrea Meyer employed me at Lounge Lizard and a whole new world opened up to me. I used to go overseas on buying trips, and when we went to Joburg and Cape Town for business we used to eat at the best restaurants, so I was really exposed to a lot. When I reached the top of where I wanted to be in the industry, a friend and I opened Meel, which I had for three years.

What makes Picnic uniqe in Bloemfontein?

There’s nothing like it in the city. We make all our condiments ourselves, so people mustn’t ask me for the ketchup they use at home – we have our own. I want everything to be homemade. I feel very strongly about the fact that I pay the rent here so things are done my way.

What’s next?

I’d love to build the Picnic brand by opening up a deli where people can buy nice speciality cheeses and cold meats. I love Bloemfontein, so I want to expand the brand here. I’ve lived here most of my life, so I’m a Bloemfonteiner through and through – even though I don’t watch rugby!

The details

Picnic is open Monday to Friday 8am-5pm; Saturday 8am-4pm; Sunday 8am-3pm

Call 051-4304590

One of Picnic's many blackboard menus.

The goodies table. Almarie's favourite rye-flour cupcakes are in front on the right.

The condiments used on Picnic's meals can be purchased to take home.

Dainty yummies.

Friendly Picnic staff.

Star baker Tseko brings out another tray of bread from the oven.

One Man, One Coat – warming up Bloemfontein’s winter

The Bloemfontein Blog is not meant to be a tool for me to do a ra-ra about my own personal projects, but seeing as this mission has shown me the unbelievable warmth in the hearts of Bloemfonteiners, it seems appropriate to do a little post about it. Oh, and the fact that it was splashed in today’s Volksblad makes it even more relevant for this local city blog.

One Man, One Coat… sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve seen me standing in the middle of the four-way crossing between Delta Bottle Store and Cubana (with my blue box on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Pres Reitz Street). The poster I’ve been wearing across my front and back reads: Join One Man, One Coat on Facebook. You might have been one of the people who drove past me this week and mouthed the words as you read them. If that was you, then join the Facebook page already!

If you’ve never experienced a winter in Bloemfontein, let me tell you (without scaring you away) that it’s cold (actually, make that COLD!). I’d forgotten about my hometown’s icy seasonal chill after so many years of living elsewhere, but landing here in the middle of a freezing spell, I was soon reminded of the reason why polar necks were invented. One Man, One Coat was born out of an empathy for people who live through these winters without the luxuries that I’m now finding comfort in everyday: an electric blanket, woollen slippers, hot water, airconditioned rooms…

I woke up at 4am one morning, clinging to my cushy duvet, with a little idea in my head. Within four hours, I’d planned my little project, given it a name and created a Facebook page to get it started. One Man, One Coat is a do-good community project that aims to show people that it really doesn’t take more than a few emails, a Facebook page and a few hours of ‘work’ to make a difference in people’s lives. Too often people say they want to do something good for others, but stop themselves because of the time and costs they think it will involve.

So you’re still wondering what this is all about, right? Okay, enough suspense. I’ve dedicated an hour of my day, Monday to Friday, for two weeks (okay, minus next Friday due to Oprah and her sudden appearance in Bloemfontein – but she is the mother of do-good deeds after all, so it’s a valid excuse) to stand in the street and collect clothing from people who bring me their old stuff. The idea is actually to get one item of clothing from each person, but Bloemfonteiners are so generous that I’ve been receiving bagfuls at a time! At the end of the project, these clothes will go to people who are struggling to make ends meet to buy food, let alone purchase new clothes without holes in them – from homeless street people, to those who have lost their homes and possessions due to fires (when you don’t have electricity, building a fire is your only way of keeping warm, but this is a dangerous option in many cases), to abandoned and abused kids who need an extra bit of warmth.

If, like me, you have this coat in your cupboard that is so last season, and it’s time to admit that you’re never going to wear it again, then maybe it’s time to rid yourself of the extra baggage. While clearing out your has-been wardrobe, know that you’re about to make someone’s ice-cold day a little bit warmer. Even a pair of socks could make all the difference…

Which brings me back to the first sentence in this post, about the kind Bloemfontein hearts. One week has passed since I actively started One Man, One Coat. In five hours (one hour Monday to Friday), I’ve probably received enough clothing to keep 150 people warmer this winter. The response has been incredibly overwhelming, and I am so grateful to each and every person who has opened up their heart to this project. Thank you Bloemfontein for giving me this great chance to show that I care about my city and its people.

One Man, One Coat – that’s all it takes to do something good.

The details

Before you do anything else, join the One Man, One Coat Facebook page to keep up to date with the project.

Then bring your old socks, scarves, jerseys, gloves… anything and place them in my blue box.

Place: corner of 2nd Avenue and Pres Reitz Street

Date: Monday 20 June 2011 to Thursday 23 June 2011

Time: 1pm – 2pm

The coat that's been gathering dust in my cupboard for 10 years, when it could rather have been keeping someone else warm.

The amount of clothing donated during the first week of One Man, One Coat has been amazing. Bloemfontein people are so generous.

Guess who’s coming to Bloemfontein?

The only news that is on every Bloemfonteiner’s lips today is whether or not you got  your ticket. For what, you ask? Well for Ms Oprah Winfrey’s appearance on our sands, duh!

Oprah, recently retired from presenting her talk show, after 25 years of wonderful television moments, has been invited to receive an Honourary Doctorate from the University of the Free State. Because she’s obviously been reading The Bloemfontein Blog and has seen how much Bloem has to offer, she’s accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm and will be visiting the city on Friday 24 June.

Queues around Computicket centres in Bloemfontein were filled with excited chatter as people waited for the R10 tickets (yes, I didn’t leave out a zero; it’s ten rand only) to go on sale. Because the University of the Free State students and staff had first preference, general public sales only began at 10am. Half an hour later, I had my two tickets (the limit per person). And an hour after that, they were all sold out. So, now, who wants to bribe me for my extra ticket?

The queue for Oprah Winfrey tickets at the Loch Logan Waterfront.

The Orchid House – undercover beauty

Set in a circular glass greenhouse, the Orchid House is an oasis of colourful, exotic beauty. Besides offering a quiet place in which to chill out and reflect on nature’s gorgeous offerings, it can also be an educational outing if you allow yourself time to read all the wall-mounted info about every variety of orchid. I prefer to just appreciate the bursts of colour amid the greenery. It’s the closest I could get to a tropical-island feeling. The only thing missing was a strawberry daiquiri.


The details

Address: Union Avenue

Mon-Fri 10am-4pm

Sat-Sun 10am-5pm

Free admission

To contact the Free State Orchid Society, call Andre Swanepoel (072-4761568), Fanie Vorster (072-1882784) or Suzanne Myburgh (083-2680226)

Sunday night music at House of Coffees

When Sean Dienaar left Bloem 13 years ago, there was a lot of live entertainment going on around town. So it was rather surprising for him to land back here last year only to discover that a lot of it had disappeared. Having just left his cushy job in the medical field, travelling the world, dealing with medical equipment and training surgeons on the latest technology, he was ready for a quieter life, away from Joburg where he had settled. Intending only to stay in Bloem for a few days to reconnect with family and reboot on his way down to find a home along the coast, he’s still here a year later! Kitted with his HOT matt black Ovation guitar and carry-on-your-back sound system (he’s keen to go busking around the country), Sean has become Bloemfontein’s most wanted musician (in more ways that one, judging by all the ladies batting their eyelashes at him last night).

Sunday nights are when he takes away the end-of-weekend blues with his beautiful voice at House of Coffees at Preller Square – best enjoyed with a cup of Milo and piece of cheese cake. Wraps, burgers, tramezzinis, savoury pancakes and salads are also on the menu for those wanting to dine to the music, which includes songs such as Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and Dozi’s ‘Ou Ryperd’. Last night’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ left a sweetly haunting (in a very good way) sound in my ears on the way home. He’s equally good at playing what he calls ‘doef doef Afrikaans songs that people like to sokkie to’.

Sean’s loving the laid-back vibe in Bloemfontein, and is happy to be back in the land of ‘genuine, caring and nurturing people’. He’ll be releasing a CD later in the year with some of his own compositions (he’s into soft rock, in the way of Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish – ‘songs that have nice lyrics and a feeling to them’). Sean’s great sense of humour is evident during his performance, where he jokes with tables having a drink, dedicates songs to people and makes friends during break time.

His father was also a musician, part of a Bloemfontein band called Apple. ‘It’s quite cool,’ says Sean, ‘because I’m now still performing songs that he used to sing 40 years ago.’ Even though Sean didn’t belong to the choir at school – he was told he was too individualistic! – he did already show his singing skill at a young age when a school girlfriend dared him to sing Rick Astley’s ‘When I fall in Love’ at the former Dominos in St Andrews Street, with Manie, a muso who still performs around Bloem. Nowadays, he’s more into singing the Neil Diamond tunes his father introduced him to. ‘I’m so glad I turned out to have the same crackle in my voice as my dad,’ he smiles. ‘It means that Neil Diamnond really suits me.’

You’ll have to visit House of Coffees one Sunday night to listen to Sean perform his hero’s ‘I Am, I Said’ to know that he’s actually quite right. It all suits him very, very nicely indeed!


The details

Sean performs at House of Coffees, Preller Square every Sunday from 4pm-8pm, and also plays at The Windmill Casino, The Office, Craig’s Pub and Camelot, as well as for private functions. The only place where he doesn’t sing is in his shower!

Sean Dienar  078-1334510

House of Coffees, Preller Square 051-4365794


Sean Dienar at House of Coffees (with his mega cappuccino).

Boeremark – Saturday outings

Langenhoven Park’s Boeremark is the place to see and be seen on a Saturday in Bloem. The site dedicated specifically to this weekly event was yet again abuzz yesterday morning. I arrived with a brother whom I’d dragged out of bed to join me, lost him to the boerewors rolls and pineapples (he told a friend he bumped into that he’s sure he’ll need then sometime during the week – turns out we’ll soon be experiencing Bloemfontein’s first pineapple-beer brewery!), and reconnected an hour later after having bumped into four people I knew (see, Bloem is small enough to know people wherever you go, but also big enough to not know everyone).

So there are the usual things for sale at such a market – fruit and veg and meat and eggs straight from the farm; but there are also less obvious items, like vinyl wall art, ostrich eggs on which you can have your photo placed, weight-loss pills, orchids, Mills and Boon books, and pinatas for kids’ parties.

Scottish terriers, trade-in DVDs, wool, ginger beer, bath salts, rusks, toilet paper, chutney, wooden frames, leather jackets, cheeses, dogs’ houses, wicker baskets and mock Crocs are all on sale, ready to be chosen and put into a makeshift crate-on-wheels trolley that you can hire for R10 when entering the market.

If you like playing chess, go to the pancake station, where you can enjoy a game while waiting in the queue. If you like playing with dolls, find the lady who still makes those tiny clothes for Barbie and Ken herself. If you like playing music, jam along with the students who have made one stall theirs, singing for donations. If you like playing hide and seek, go with your brother.

The details

The Boeremark is open every Saturday from 7:30am-2pm in Langenhoven Park.

Johan braais his skilpaadjies: beef liver covered in a thin sheath of fat from the stomach lining of a sheep.

My friends Celeste and Joseph (Bloem's most sought-after wedding MC, in case you're ever in need) show off their Boeremark purchases in front of the Barbie and Ken clothing stand. Celeste scored a ring for R20 and Joseph bought what he reckons is the best halloumi cheese he has ever tasted - seasoned with herbs and all! Thanks for your Boeremark expertise guys.