Last year this time, Spier had just put on one of the most talked about food events of the year. The Secret Festival was a food conference/adventure concept that combined two days of talking about the local food landscape with one night of Secret Dinners (intimate evenings where delegates were treated to dinner prepared by food bloggers and chefs at undisclosed locations) and a final afternoon of stall-hopping at The Secret Market, filled with selected purveyors of quality food and stand-up wines.
Twelve months down the line and the Secret Festival and Market are back for a second run. Though this time around it’s clear that the secret is out. In contrast to last year’s one-night-only affair, this year’s Secret Dinners have been running over various evenings for the last few months, to allow those with a penchant for mysterious dining to sign up for more than just one dinner with a famous foodie. The result has been a continuous stream of tweets from attendees, recording everything from their anticipation before the events to their post-consumption bliss as they made their way home.
All this buzz culminated earlier today in the second annual Secret Market, transforming Spier into a glowing hotspot of edible action for Cape Town’s fans of food. And their families. And their friends. And everyone they told at the office on Friday afternoon. And their friends. And anyone else they mentioned it to on Facebook. And Twitter. And their friends. Yes, really, there were that many people there. And even more arriving as we were leaving. It was nothing short of packed, flooded with the collective drool of wide-eyed visitors around every corner, of which I was an unashamed contributor.
Set out on a far bigger lawn than last year’s event, the market featured many more stalls this time around. The food trucks were on full display, including the El Burro donkey cart, Black Market Foods and Die Wors-Rol. Judging by the length of the queues, the crowd seemed to be loving the restaurants on wheels, which is an encouraging sign of support for such an exciting food trend. Speaking of which, given the long-overdue summer temperatures this afternoon, the Chenin and fruit slush drinks were an absolute hit. And The Creamery‘s homemade ice cream stall must’ve had a tough time keeping up with the endless stream of customers craving their velvety cones and tubs.
My unexpected choice for lunch was a delightfully luscious and perfectly baked beef pie from The Real Curry Pie. Though the ex-Durbanite in me could always have more heat in anything I eat, the curry’s milder flavours mix wonderfully to create a sauce that gently pulls together the cubes of beef just waiting to fall apart in your mouth. You’ll need to go a long way to find a more well-constructed piece of pastry and my only regret is that I didn’t buy a few more to keep in the freezer.
The wine choice seemed varied too. Dotted around the outside of the food stalls, various farms hosted wine barrel tasting zones, waiting for you to wonder over and order a glass of something cold and crisp. I didn’t do it personally but there were conversations happening at barrels all over, including one about a vanilla-flavoured blend. What doesn’t vanilla go well with?
In the background, a band played something soothing that blended seamlessly into the to-ing and fro-ing of people coming (mostly) and going (rarely). And while I was pleased to be escaping the growing mass of food tourists, I left munching happily on a sweet and salty rocky road bar, wondering what the guys at Spier will come up with next year. I think it goes without saying that it’ll be huge. Just don’t tell anyone else, ok? It’s a secret ;)