Into the Woods - Taste Magazine 2017

Into the Woods – Taste Magazine 2017

28 February 2017

It’s become the stuff of legend: a 24-hour, all-inclusive music, art and artisanal food FESTIVAL IN A FOREST. And here’s the kicker, it’s real. But if this is the first you’re reading about LITTLEGIG, you’ve missed out, this time. They’ll be back.

Text: Annette Klinger
Photos: Micky Hoyle/Bureaux
Production: Sven Alberding/Bureaux

When it comes to hangovers – the other great equalizer – no remedy is too strange; no advice unsolicited. We’re as willing to try soaking in a hot bath filled with Epsom salts and baking powder (as Gwyneth is to do), as we are chasing two Panados with pickle juice. Because, whatever works, right?

If you happen to wake up in a two-man tent on the morning after Littlegig 2017, you have a couple of options to beat the babelas.

You could go the classic route and head to the coffee station among the bluegums where, at 8am, the queue of the bleary-eyed is still relatively short and the baristas are churning out flat whites faster than you can say “double shot”. Option two is another golden oldie: a bloody Mary, replete with jauntily angled celery stalk. This is obtainable from the same bar that, only the night before, ran out of tot glasses and started serving tequila shots in wine glasses.

If you prefer the holistic approach, you could stroll over to the basketball court and zen it out during a yoga sesh to a soundtrack of wistful piano music.

A brisk swim – or lazy bob-around on a swan-shaped lilo – in the cool, tea-coloured waters of the Wiesenhof dam also works wonders. Perhaps followed by a stint of sunbathing on the banks, lathered with the Lipidol you picked up at the Free Store the day before.

And then there’s sustenance served in the “food forest”. For the traditionalists, that means scrambled free-range eggs and crispy bacon wedged into soft baguettes; squeezy bottles of tomato sauce at the ready. For the virtuous, granola with berries, fruit and yoghurt. Or, if ice cream for breakfast is your bag, a choice of Las Paletas artisanal lollies in flavours from Belgian chocolate to watermelon and mint.

There’s also no rule against waiting it out in your tent, listening to Jack Mantis Band’s set in the distance while replating the previous day in all its vivid detail.

Because man, it was a trip.

If, like most reliably unreliable Capetonians, you only arrived at Littlegig a couple of hours after the official start time of 10 am, entering Wiesenhof Park through the avenue of bluegums was a bumper-to-bumper affair. And in case your aircon alone didn’t do the trick, refreshment was provided in the form of Woolies’ cold-pressed juice shots offered through your car window.

The whole festival was about these details. When you arrived your tent was ready-pitched among the tress (and should it or your air-mattresses have collapses for any reason, a helpline was provided); there was a Woolies-sponsored water bottle (in the fest’s efforts to become 100% plastic free); pasteis de natas were handed out on fairy-light-adorned trays at midnight, because, munchies; and, had your innumerable Instagram uploads depleted your battery, you could charge it at the clapboard house (the same one you Instagrammed from 20 different angles).  But all this was just the trim on the elaborate, crazy-cool outfit designed by Littlegig founder and curator Georgia Black. 

How elaborate, you ask? Try 45 musicians, 16 DJs, four headlining chefs (one of them flown in from Copenhagen), eight winemakers, 17 designers, seven artists, six music stages, six bars stocking everything from boutique wine to artisanal rum, and one fashion concept store. All for just 24 hours, for 1 500 guests.

“Most annual festivals that make it past the first few years are big, anything upwards of 10 000 people” says Georgia. “We want to remain small, so it will never be a money-spinner. But that’s not my goal. My goal is to put on the most inspiring, curated, 24-hour event, to keep it under 2 000 people, and be able to pay my artists and suppliers fairly.”

“As a group, the chefs were all chilled and funny and maverick and workaholic!”

– Georgia Black, Littlegig Founder

While 1 500 people is considered a small crowd by festival standards, for the four chefs feeding them, it was no mean feat. But Georgia didn’t pick just anyone. “Annalize Sainsbury of Escoffier, who was the supporting caterer, is a friend who understands what Littlegig is about”, she explains. “She introduced me to Chris Erasmus, from Foliage], and we just hit it off. I went foraging with him and love his philosophy. Jason [Lilley of Jason Bakery] is a different kind of brilliant – brittle on the outside, but a talented softie.

“Then farmer Angus McIntosh introduced me to PJ Vadas [of Hogshouse Brewery] who has one of the most impressive resumés of any South African chef, having worked with many of the greats, including Roger Verge and Gordon Ramsay. As a group, they’re all chilled and funny and maverick and workaholic!”

“Rasmus is used to cooking for 15 people, and here he was making lamb’s brain mousse and ashtrays for 1 500! He prepared until 4 am on the day.”

– Georgia Black, Littlegig Founder

True enough, during the chef-and-farmer tasting half between 2 and 5 pm in the food forest, the chefs seemed to hit that sweet spot between losing themselves to the vibe and churning out the plates non-stop. Chris bobbed up and down to the beat of The City as he replenished plate after plate of his kreef, lime and ginger koeksisters and wild dagga marshmallows; Jason and pal Wayde Rademeyer from Buffalo Ridge sipped Striped Horse and cracked jokes between plying the masses with Caprese focaccias; and as PJ handed out his beef brisket, truffle-mayo and ale-pickled onion sandwiches with his trademark grin, it was impossible not to grin back.

Keeping up with the locals, beat by beat, was Rasmus Munk, the 25-year-old mad-genius behind Copenhagen restaurant Alchemist. “Convincing him to come to Littlegig was surprisingly easy, though he’s in incredible demand, so getting him to reply to emails was a challenge!” says Georgia. “I think Littlegig stretched him. He is used to cooking for 15 people, and here he was making lamb’s brain mousse and ‘ashtrays’ for q 500! He prepared until 4 am on the day of the festival. He’s a complete perfectionist.”

“It was completely unexpected and mind-blowing – from the first salt-and-vinegar ‘chips’ in edible ‘cellophane’ packets, through to the three desserts”

– Abigail Donnelly

The aforementioned mousee was velvety, rich and intensely lamb flavoured, while the “ashtrays”, inspired by Rasmus’s grandmother, who had lung cancer, consisted of caramelized and charred leeks and potatoes, finished off with dehydrated tomato to resemble glowing embers.

For the serious pundits – and the lucky few who managed to bag tickets – Rasmus also served an epic nine-course dinner that was equal parts insane and ingenious, bizarre and beautiful. While the rest of the revelers raged on Rum Island, 40-odd diners in pom-pom-skirted, sequin-bombed, rainbow-furred regalia took their seats in a pine-tree shrouded clearing, letting Rasmus take them on the culinary ride of their lives.

“It was so completely unexpected and mind-blowing” says TASTE food ed Abi. “From the first dush of salt-and-vinegar ‘chips’ in edible ‘cellophane’ packets, and the sole topped with deep-fried scales and bone velouté, right through to the three desserts. They progressed from his pure white yoghurt course to an inky black liquorice dish to different textures of white chocolate that reminded me of the caramel pudding I had as a child. Truly awesome.” As pm crept into am, things started getting blurry – Rowan Smith’s otherworldly iceberg sculpture quietly standing sentinel over the electro and acoustic sets; the nightswimmers and taxi-hailing day-trippers; the “secret” after party meant for 50 ballooning to 600, and the partied-out sneaking off to their tents. During these 24 little hours, anything goes.

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