Cheese is a cornerstone of any JAN experience and certainly of my own culinary life and explorations. For the selection team and I, the journey of discovery of each and every aged or fresh creation is just as important as that moment when we see our guests’ eyes light up at first bite.
Between Restaurant JAN, Klein JAN and JAN Franschhoek there are over 100 cheeses that we select and serve to our guests between and after each and every meal – it’s definitely safe to say that cheese is a driving passion for me. Of course in France we have the most extraordinary heritage of cheesemaking and appreciation, which is what led us to the creation of Maria, situated directly opposite JAN itself, where diners can indulge in a tour du fromage of more than 90 plates of cheeses, condiments and our homemade preserves.
It goes without saying that this deep dive into cheese extends to Klein JAN, where we celebrate the mastery of the Kalahari’s only cheesemaker Oom Tiaan Visser, and then to South Africa’s own little corner of France in the Cape – Franschhoek. At JAN Franschhoek we celebrate a small and very considered selection of what I truly think are some of the country’s finest cheese creations – some from nearby and others from further afield, but all local. And because we are such ardent cheese lovers, we go to huge efforts to craft accompaniments and choose pairings that will do these wonderful cheeses justice – that’s where much of the magic happens. Anyone who has dined at any of the JAN restaurants will know that we like to create theatre from the cheese course – breads, nuts, fruits and all the seasonal preserves we have bottled in anticipation for the moment when guests get to browse and select what catches their eye.
In our quest to find the best cheese selection for JAN Franschhoek, we tasted over 32 different cheeses and landed on our eight current favourites, including two from Belnori because, quite honestly, Rina Belcher is one of the most gifted cheesemakers in the country and we couldn’t decide on just one. The Dalewood Languedoc is this Franschhoek local’s signature and we had to have its creaminess in the mix. And no cheeseboard that celebrates South Africa is complete without something from Klein Rivier, who consistently win a multitude of awards at international cheese competitions. It’s important we have a balance of cheeses on offer – so you will always find a mix of cow’s and goat’s milk, soft and buttery offerings plus sharp and pungent cheeses.
We are a culinary destination of course, but importantly we are also storytellers, and so much of what happens in our appreciation and sharing of each cheese starts at that tasting process – often we find that the richer the narrative, the more attached we become to a wonderful cheese and then invariably we start thinking about what will marry well with it. Many of the preserves we create have been made in my family for generations and it gives me so much joy to share them (sometimes with a tweak and a twist) with a new audience – and like the cheeses themselves, many of these will change with the seasons.
Celebrating seasonal ingredients, inspiring fellow food lovers, and sharing our love of remarkable offerings like these cheeses is our unfailing passion and a certain privilege.
Kaas en Konfyt Menu
Belnori Phantom Forest
This ash-encased mould-ripened goat’s cheese has creamy yet savoury notes.
We serve it with: fennel and ginger preserve
One of Belnori’s signature cheeses, this well-aged cheese has a sharp flavour with a satisfying finish.
We serve it with: citrus marmalade/vanilla apricots
Langbaken Karoo Blue
One of the best blue cheeses around, this intense yet creamy creation brings so much dimension to our cheese offering.
We serve it with: spiced chardonnay poached pears
Forest Hill Manchego
This lightly-aged cheese is creamy and buttery and a perennial crowd pleaser.
We serve it with: brandy stewed fruit
This semi-washed soft rind cheese has a wonderful creamy sweet-savoury complexity.
We serve it with: korrelkonfyt/tamatiekonfyt
A lovely white mould cheese with lots of character – it has a black vegetable ash sprinkle which adds to the rich flavour profile.
We serve it with: rhubarb preserve
Klein Rivier Stanford
A robust French-style four-months matured cheese with a sweetness, good tang and a lovely nutty finish.
We serve it with: bessie en laventel konfyt