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Overcoming Polly

My fear of horses stems back more than 20 years.

When I was a young boy, I was encouraged to ride my uncle’s horse named Polly. She was no stallion or race horse, instead, just a humble farm horse. After much excitement, as one would imagine from a 10 year old, I hopped on thinking I would emulate an old Western film and ride Polly into the distant sunset.

Instead, after about 10m, Polly decided she was tired and tipped the 32kg youngster off her back down to the ground. I have never ridden a horse since.

This is why when I was invited to attend the Cell C Derby, I was slightly apprehensive. Not because I would need to ride a horse, but instead, simply because all of those feelings from two decades ago, came flooding back.

I decided to accept the invitation which pleased my wife, because she finds horses to be “incredibly majestic”.

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I was surprised by the massive turn out. I know I am not part of the “horse-loving community” in Joburg, but I was truly surprised at just how big an event this was, and just how seriously these fans took it.

More than 3,000 people turned up in the small venue, which is more than I have seen at many a Currie Cup or PSL match.

After being given the opportunity to walk the course, I had a new found appreciation for what these riders and horses do. Upon closer inspection, you realise that the majority of these jumps are over 3m wide and most are more than 1.7m high.

The horses are expected to negotiate steep slopes and then with the shortest build up, make three separate jumps, before climbing another hill and jumping over another and another and another. It is exhausting simply watching the effort required.

While the event won’t make me jump on a horse any time soon, it certainly has given me a new found respect for the sport of showjumping.

ML

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Morning Radio: Perpetual Jet Lag

This post involves no restaurants, no dinners or gin bars. No outings or holiday spots. Instead, it is just a little insight into my real life.

In May 2017, my role at EWN changed drastically. I moved to the Breakfast Show on Cape Talk as Kieno Kammies’ new sports anchor. The shift certainly wasn’t new to me, because I had been filling in on various breakfast shows on 567/702/947 for years… The only difference now though, was that it was permanent. And by permanent, I mean permanently waking up at 03:45 every morning.

Let me make something very clear. I love the shift, and in fact, I had begged my editor Katy Katopodis for a similar shift for years, BUT, doing breakfast radio is not for the faint-hearted. It required discipline, maturity and a exhibition of SERIOUS will power each and every morning.

A good friend of mine who works in the industry, once described it to me as being continuously jet lagged. Because you’re exhausted in the morning because of the extremely early wake up, you’re exhausted in the afternoon because you’ve already experienced a 12 hour day and you’re exhausted in the evening because you have been up for so long.

Then there is the EATING.

I eat breakfast at about 05:30. That forces me to eat lunch at around 9:30. Then Lunch 2 comes in at around 12:00. I don’t know what to call my 15:00 and 17:00 meals. Perhaps Lunch 3 and Dinner 1. Because by the time I sit down with my wife for actual dinner, it’s close to my 7th meal of the day.

Of course there are major advantages that come with the territory. You generally finish your day around lunch time, which, energy levels permitting, allow you to go to gym and cash in on empty supermarket aisles. Of course, you never have to fight the traffic either which is a major win.

I love what I do. I always have. I love how this shift tests your mental capacity before you even switch on your computer.

I’m four months into this new shift. And while you would think routine would kick in by now, waking up before 4am for work NEVER becomes routine.

I look forward to many more happy shows with my team. The banter and laughs and stories are enough to make any early shift an absolute joy. I hope to be able to entertain you further and keep you slightly informed with what is happening in the world of sport.

ML

Johan Ackermann – Destiny Beckons

It is difficult to work out how many Lions rugby matches I have attended in my almost eight years as a sports reporter for Eyewitness News.

What I do know, is that it has been a tumultuous journey for Lions fans. I can recall covering a Currie Cup match in 2010, a freezing Friday night in Johannesburg which saw the two teams kick off at 19:00. There were 3,500 people in the stadium that evening. The only thing that matched fan’s feelings towards the Lions, was the blistering cold. To try and explain how empty the stadium looked is difficult, but I will try and put it into perspective. This year’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Hurricanes saw 32,000 fans go through the turnstiles at Ellis Park, and still, the stadium looked disappointingly empty. When 3,500 fans walk through those same turnstiles? It made it feel like a training match where you could literally hear the calls from the players from the stands. Frighteningly, that wasn’t even the lowest point for this once proud union, that was still to come.

John Mitchell came to the franchise and breathed new life into a young, inexperienced group. The hard, no nonsense Kiwi somehow managed to win the 2011 Currie Cup, beating the Sharks 42-16 in the final.

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The win was so special, it even prompted then captain Josh Strauss to shave his famous beard.

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Johan Ackermann was his assistant, and would’ve definitely learnt a lot from that campaign, lessons in tenacity, belief and fight. Mitchell’s time came to end and his assistant, Ackers, as he is affectionately known, took over. Cue the beginning of one of the best comeback stories in sport.

After finishing on the bottom of the Super Rugby table for the third time in five seasons, SA Rugby voted to relegate the Lions from the competition and promote the Southern Kings. Their form was so bad, that this meme did the rounds on social media.

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In the beginning of 2013, the Golden Lions Rugby Union launched the Lions Challenge Series. It was seen as their alternative to Super Rugby, a chance to expand their brand and take the union abroad. At times, the GLRU tried to convince the media that this was an exciting new avenue for the Lions product, but deep down, we all knew, missing out on the world’s premier club rugby competition was hurting them.

A particular lowlight was covering the Lions vs Russia National team match and having to watch Lions President Kevin De Klerk parade around with a dead bear on his shoulders, a gift from his Russian counterpart.

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Several of the scheduled Lions Challenge games never took place which was a blessing in disguise for everyone. After that car wreck of a tournament, the Lions managed to beat the Kings in the all-important Super Rugby promotion matches and were promoted back into Super Rugby for 2014.

They finished 12th in 2014 and just missed out on a play-off spot in 2015 in a campaign that saw them win 9/16 matches, including 3/4 on tour to Australasia.

The upward curve continued in 2016 as the Lions topped the Africa group and were awarded with their first conference trophy. They ended 2nd on the overall log and qualified for their first knockout match since being re-branded as the Lions. In the quarter-final they beat the Crusaders and the Highlanders in the semi-final to qualify for their first final since 1996. They lost the final to the Hurricanes, going down 20-3 at a cold, wet Westpac Stadium.

That brings us to 2017. A record breaking year has seen the Lions become only the second South African franchise since the Bulls to qualify for back-to-back finals. Records tumbled and a once frightened, scarred city, is now the center of SA Rugby. There are more Lions in the Springbok team than we’ve ever seen. The Captain is a Lion. The style of play is Lion. Johan Ackermann has, with his support team, changed the face of Lions, and South African, rugby. His relationship with the players, his character, his strong faith, it has all rubbed off onto his players, who, even when setting this year’s competition alight, humbly maintain that they haven’t done anything just yet.

Ackers played for this union between 1999 and 2001. But on August 5, 2017 he will return as the coach, the leader and the glue that keeps this team together, in the hope of winning this converted title, something that pundits, fans and even stuffed bears wouldn’t have bet five cents on a few years back.

Johan Ackermann – Destiny Beckons.

Boys Night: Roller Coasters and Roulette

I’ve never really been one for a boys night out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that I’ve never understood why wives/girlfriends/kids must be left behind to have a good time? That said though, it doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy doing some manly things with a bunch of mates if given the chance.

ANYWAY…

Tsogo Sun and Gold Reef City did their damn best to change my opinion on what a boys’ night should entail. They invited a bunch of guys working on various radio stations around JHB and brought us together for #TsogoRadioBoys and gave us the opportunity to make Gold Reef City our personal playground for the day.

Here are some of my @947 colleagues:

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As with every event I attend, I was quick to find the food. It was an impressive spread of canapes, ranging from peppers, crumb chicken, goats cheese, hummus and caramilised figs.

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From there, our first activity was to pick our choice of three rides. Fear level 1, 5 or 10. Ten being the Tower of Terror. In case you don’t know, is basically an old Coco Pan that drops straight down, HEAD FIRST, into a mine shift in less than three seconds.

 

I opted to sit in the front row to get the “full experience”. Who is that guy sitting second from the right??

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It was exhilarating, frightening and heart stopping, but so much damn fun.

From there, we headed out of the Theme Park and over to the Entertainment Center for Ten Pin Bowling. I didn’t know if I was more excited by the two dozen pizzas waiting for us, or the bowling balls?

I actually really enjoy bowling and am pretty good at it. Unfortunately, my team didn’t perform well enough to win any prizes, but the amount of laughs we had made up for it.

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Then the night took a turn down a different kind of fun: The Casino.  We were taken to the casino, given cocktails and playing chips to hit the roulette tables with. Again, I enjoy my gambling, and am quite good at it. There were three qualifying rounds with the top three players from each round progressing to the final. I made the final! But didn’t win it… Unfortunately. The winning money was donated to a charity of your choice which I thought was a great touch. It’s also funny to note how brave gamblers are when they’re playing with the houses’ money.

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Afterwards we were treated to a fantastic dinner at Back O’ The Moon where the food and drinks flowed.

I was one of the unfortunate few that couldn’t check in to a room for the night because I had to be on air at 05:00 the next morning, but I felt as if I had already received enough five star treatment to not feel hard done by.

Lesson learnt: If boys’ nights are done properly and executed at THIS level, I might just change my opinion on them altogether.

Thank you @tsogosun, thank you @GoldReefCitySA, I had a fantastic time.

Polvo, Atum and Chourico: Portugal Pt.2

Far various reason, I have decided to write a second installment around the food in Portugal. But most importantly, it’s because the food is just so good that good it deserves it.

A walk through the streets of Funchal and Lisbon is a true culinary festival. What I love most about Portuguese cuisine, is that it is nothing flashy. For most parts it’s actually very basic food. There are very few fancy spices or sauces used or steaming methods utilised. More often than not, there is a flame, meat, salt, garlic and olive oil. And with those basic ingredients, you have the makings of an incredible Portuguese dish.

Take for example Chouriço Assado. The most basic of all meals. It’s a very traditional technique of flame grilling chourico using a ceramic bowl filled with some agua ardente, or high content alcohol, to cook  the sausage  right in front of you. Add to that some traditional bolo do caco and a cold beer and you have the PERFECT summer snack.

 

Another derivative of this is to actually toast the chourico inside the bolo do caco. I ate one of these EVERY SINGLE DAY while we were away. It it served with a garlic butter that melts in the toaster, add some salt and a beer and you have a magical toasted sandwich like no other.

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Another one of my favourites is polvo – octopus. It’s prepared many different ways:

polvo à jardineira – saute over a low heat with vegetables

polvo no forno com castanhas – Prepared in the oven with chestnuts

But we opted for the salada de polvo. Served at the Time Out Market in Lisbon, it was fresh, perfectly cooked and a hit of lemon over the top took it to the next level. Arguably my meal of the trip.

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Also at the market, we indulged in salt grilled sardines. It was served as an open top sandwhich of sorts on top of roasted peppers, which wasn’t what I was going for. Instead, I was hoping for a flame grilled full sardine. But the flavour was still spectacular.

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Another staple to have in Portugal is of course, Espetada. Massive chunks of rump, cooked on an open fire after being rubbed with course salt and bay leaves. There isn’t much to say about this. Simple, flavourful, delicious.

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And to wash it all down? Perhaps an array of wines? Vinho verde, tinto or branco? Or maybe, rather opt for a Poncha Maracuja.

Poncha is a traditional alcoholic drink from the island of Madeira, made with distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind and with different fruit juices according to the version of poncho, in this case maracuja – Portuguese for granadilla.

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Obrigado Portugal – See you again in 2018.

Hello Dubai & Portugal – Goodbye Healthy Diet.

Some would argue that I have a rather cool job. A rather unique job. Since I “get paid to sit and watch sport”… I do understand the argument. And trust me, my friends who all work what I describe as boring office jobs, are quick to remind me of this. But for me, the greatest job in the world, would be that of a food critic. Travel the world and sample the best, unique and most outrageous food different regions have to offer.

This past week, my wife and I returned from our honeymoon. Portugal, Madeira and Dubai were on the itinerary; and obviously, I was super excited to get away with my beautiful wife, step outside the studio and shut off my emails… But those paled in comparison to my excitement to sample what food would be on offer abroad.

First stop: Dubai.

I was told about the incredible burgers at a place called Claw. Based in downtown Dubai, on the doorstep of the Burj Khalifa, I was in a hurry to get stuck in. Delicious fries, golden and crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy inside, served as the perfect accompaniment to my wagyu beef burger, with bacon and red onions.

The second order was a deep fried seafood sub, which was slightly dry, but decent enough. Lesson learnt, stick with the beef burgers.

 

Since we were on holiday and all diet plans were out the window, we washed out meals down with gastronomy strawberry milkshakes that came with a soft serve ice cream cone shoved in. My eight weeks of EFC gym, went out in the window with that very glass.

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My greater excitement was in Madeira and Portugal. Having been fortunate to visit Madeira multiple times in my life already, the local cuisine is nothing new to me, instead, it’s more about the sheer enjoyment around knowing what was to come.

Seafood dominates most menus, with the freshest of fish available which is understandable since it’s an island that boasts an incredible variety of fish in it’s waters.

Choco – Also known as cuttlefish in English, was ordered at a small restaurant on the water in Jardim do Mar called Portinho. They serve a range of meals, but WHY would you order anything else when you are practically eating in the beachsand?

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Next: Lapas da Madeira. Lapa is a gastropod mollusc traditional in Portuguese Gastronomy. This dish is made with grilled lapas specially tempered. This starter was among the 70 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy in 2011. Cooked to perfection, with a heavy hand of lemon juice, makes this a fan favourite among almost every Porra.

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When you are going to break away from the seafood, there is only really one red meat meal to eat. Espatada. The espetada is a typical Portuguese dish made usually of large chunks of beef rubbed in garlic and salt, skewered onto a bay leaf stick cooked over hot coals. What made this one even more special, is that it was made at home with my family as we enjoyed a very rare family dinner together.

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Over in Portugal, which yes, is a different place to Madeira, we went in search of the best pasteis de nata. You will find a dozen cafes and restaurants on every street corner that promises to serve “the best”… But our research suggested that the true king of natas could be found at Pasteis de Belem. This place is so famous, it not only has constant queues coming out the door, but comes with a security guard that escorts patrons to their table to ensure that no one skips the incredibly long line. Enjoyed with a cup of coffe, Belem’s natas are out of this world. Sweet egg custard carefully baked in crisp pastry. It is a MUST if you are ever in Portugal. It is worth the drive to Belem and it is worth the standing in line, regardless of how outrageous it may seem.

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We are already planning our return trip in 2018!

Churchills: Next Gen Lounge Experience

I remember after school, and perhaps one or twice… Maybe three times DURING my matric year, frequenting the various “established” bars and pubs around my neighbourhood. They collectively all shared a similar theme: Food baskets, beer towers and old, sticky wooden benches placed in front of a large screen projector which would show whatever was the most relevant sporting fixture of the afternoon.

And whilst these stereotypical bars ticked the basic boxes, they certainly didn’t offer you anything special, out of the ordinary or remotely fancy. Sure, we all just wanted to get drunk, eat a chicken wing and shout at the referee for screwing our team, but why was it not possible to offer the same service with a bit of style?

Enter Churchills in Melrose Arch.

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The entrance alone gives you the feeling that you’re entering a Super Club in Rivonia as opposed to an upmarket lounge and bar. A red carpet? The best equivalent the wooden benched bars could offer would be a trail of tomato sauce at the door.

 

Stocked with top level brands, you’ll find far more here than just a 3L beer tower to share with your mates.

Show me another bar in Johannesburg where I can sip my drink like this?

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According to http://churchillsbar.co.za, the venue is “stylized with British décor, and commitment to quality food and service, and will attract the trendsetters and on-the-rise go getters of Johannesburg’s thriving upmarket scene.” I couldn’t agree more. For those with a unique palate, there is also an  array of the cigars, a large selection of single Malts, Premium Whisky’s and Champagnes.

 

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To relive my younger days, we opted for the Pub 16 Board which included pork loin ribs, chicken wings, sirloin cubes and potatoes wedges which we accompanied with a bottle of Graham Beck Brut.

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Was it good? Well… here is the “after” pic.

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Thank you for a fun night out Churchills. Offering a unique bar experience, one that the common bars around Johannesburg could definitely learn from.

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You can follow them on Twitter here:

@Churchills_ZA

Or check out their website here:

http://churchillsbar.co.za/

 

Yalla Yalla!

The pampering continues!

What a week it’s been for me. I am what you would call a boy’s boy. I am low maintenance, take three minute showers and am very happy to live in sweat pants.

So, for me to have a facial, as well as a Lebanese open blade shave in the same week? You must know I am moving up in the metro-sexual universe.

My friend, Ali Al Seblani, has recently opened up his own barber shop in Sandton called Barber Sultan and encouraged me to come through to experience what his team has to offer.

I opted for the Full House: Haircut, steam shave, ear and nose wax, threading and head massage. It would probably take me about 12 years to amass that amount of pampering, so to go through that all in one day was shock to my system.

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Straight out of Lebanon, the theme in the shop is very Arabic. From the lingo, to the music, to the hair gel, to Ali yelling “Yalla Yalla” to his team when a new customer walks through the door, Barber Sultan oozes Arabian culture.

I was petrified when it came time to wax. It brought tears to my eyes just watching the ear buds dip into the hot wax. The thought of that very same bud being shoved up my nose and in my ears wasn’t appealing. AT ALL. But I had agreed to the “full house” and am a man of my word. Was it enjoyable? No certainly not. Did I bleed or die? No certainly not. And after watching what frighteningly came out, I realise now that I should have probably been doing this for years.

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With Ali sitting behind me and laughing, my facial scrub and face mask was applied. Again, let me remind you, I am a boys boy. Never in my life have I ever experienced a face mask. First time for everything.

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Then, finally, came the cut. I have visited many hairdressers over the years, who all seem to just want to get you out the chair as fast as possible. ‘Quick cut, on your bicycle, off you go I have an 11:30 appointment’ was often my treatment.

What a change at Barber Sultan. I have never watched someone take so much interest in getting my hair perfect. Blade after blade for the perfect blend, I was amazed at how an attentive cut made all the difference.

 

I want to guarantee you, if you are looking for a fresh, clean cut with great lines and fades, try Barber Sultan. They’re based in Sandton just opposite the Gautrain.

You can find them on Facebook: Barber Sultan

Or on Instagram: barbersultan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manscaping 101

I love facials. There I said it.

What I find sad is that in 2017, in a time where kale, quinoa, veganism and cross fit are all so popular, more men haven’t realised that looking after your skin is actually “cool”. Most men probably don’t even know what a facial is. Don’t google that at work, your computer will think you’re looking for something else and you will get fired.

As a treat, my wife bought me a  gift voucher with the intention of me treating myself to my first facial. Over the past few years, I certainly have become more “metro” because I realised there is nothing to gain from being too manly for any of that “girly stuff”. In fact, two people that I told about my facial, described it as “so gay” which is so sad, ridiculous, offensive and revolting.

Because guess what gents:

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I’ve never been a huge fan of massages, so walking into this room was somewhat intimidating, especially with the huge amount of products standing by, you can’t help but get nervous with what may be done to you.

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Instead, I was treated like a Hollywood A-lister. My scalp was massaged while warm steamed was blown onto my face to open my pores. My face was washed, PROPERLY, unlike that usual stuff men do in the shower that involves a 20 second rub with your 5-in-1 wash which could probably serve as car shampoo as well.

The extraction process wasn’t the best, only because of the pain, but again, it’s an important part of the treatment. I also discovered that I have dehydrated skin, something I always just thought was normal because of how often I need to shave.

After the correct amount of oils, moisturisers and lots of other fancy little things in very expensive bottles were applied, I was done. I had survived!

In fact, I had more than survived, I felt fantastic. My face has never looked or felt like that before. So this is what women go on about? Why are men so naive and stupid when it comes to pampering?

I then browsed through the extensive range of products, bought myself a little something nice and have promised myself that I will actually use it as often as the bottle suggests and not one a week “because I need it to last longer”.

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I feel like an extra in an Aladdin motion picture, because I certainly have discovered a whole new world. I will return and I will start paying more attention to my skin. Welcome to 2017 gentlemen.

Disclaimer: I was not paid by Sorbet Man for this post, nor was my treatment paid for by them.

Sugar Rush 1-0 Marc

Sugar, sugar how’d you get soooo fly…

That’s all I could keep thinking whilst biting into my ice-cream sandwich.

Crumbs & Cream began as a food truck concept at the V&A Waterfront and after a very successful start up, the brand opened it’s flagship store in Sea Point. The concept of a “dessert bar” is a very European one. I have, on many an occasion whilst being in Portugal in particular, finished dinner, and gone in pursuit of something sweet to end the night. That is what Crumbs & Cream offers. Surrounded by Illovo’s many bars and restaurants, the idea of popping in for an ice-cream sandwich could be the perfect end to the night.

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The process is simple. Select your base with any two of their extensive range of cookies, fill it with whatever ice-cream you want, and then top it up with some kind of sprinkle.

 

 

My order would probably be described as “Death by Chocolate”:

Choc chip cookie

Bar-One Ice-cream

Crushed Oreos

I’m too scared to even think of the nutritional value of that order. But when it comes to dessert bars, calories/sugar content cannot be top of mind.

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And in case you weren’t quite sure what to order, you would’ve done well to just hang around the front counter and just cash in on the multiple bite size offerings on display.

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It’s the kind of place that will take you back to your youth. Make you feel like a kid again, forget about your worries and just tuck into an abundance of sweet, sugary goodness. And in case that still doesn’t do the trick, the folks at Crumbs & Cream have installed rather unique furniture, something my wife was very quick to take advantage of.

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Thank you  for the invitation. It was a great night out, one that made me feel like I was celebrating my 10th birthday all over again.

Here is what you can expect from the menu:

http://www.crumbsandcream.co.za/menu/