World Dinner Club

World Dinner Club
World Dinner Club

Friday, October 7, 2011

Zanzibar Food Odyssey

"Where is Zanzibar?"  people would ask me.  "Is that in the Caribbean?"

As avid readers will remember (based on unique page views, I think that’s about 11 people), a year ago, S and I were in Tanzania for our honeymoon.  We did a popular tour of the country: starting with a safari in the Ngorgoro Crater and then in the Serengeti, climbing Kilimanjaro, and finally flying to Zanzibar in a tiny prop plane. 

Zanzibar is an Island in the Indian Ocean and a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.  The name formally refers to a collection of islands.  The main one, Unguka, is commonly known as Zanzibar.

I'm not normally a beach person, but after climbing a mountain, even I needed a break. We found tranquility at Pongwe Beach far from the noise and dust of Stonetown and the rest of the city.  The service was warm, food was sensational, and the drinks ample.  

From ancient times, the island was known as a stopover on the Indian Ocean voyages that took people from the Middle East and India to Africa in search of spices, ivory, and other precious commodities.  We of course just wanted to snorkel and eat. One day we took a dhow out into the stunningly clear waters. The fish were not as plentiful as I would have hoped, but fun to see.

Our ample breakfasts ranged from the full English breakfast to continental breakfast with fresh fruit. 

Dinners showcased Swahili cuisine superbly. Swahili food is an exciting fusion of Africa, Arab, and Indian flavors incorporating the spices and ingredients from the land and sea.  This especially means delicious seafood and fruit.
My favorite dinner at the hotel must have been this Kingfish cooked in banana leaf with cumin-rich masala that was was hearty and spicy and paired remarkably well with a full-bodied South African Merlot.

On our last day we passed through Stone town.  The old quarter of town was settled by Persians in the 10th century and subsequently drew many people from around the region as traders and conquerors arrived over time.  Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is known for its Zanzibari doors; beautifully decorated heavy doors with brass decorations.  Similarly, ornate, wooden chests are decorated the same way.

We found a great restaurant in the middle of the day in Stone Town that specialized in Swahili food called Monsoon.
We had a sumptuous lunch, washed down with Serengeti beer. I had a massive plate of local langoustines with spinach, beans and rice and fruit chutney.

 The grilled tiger prawns with rice that S ordered were sweet and succulent.

After lounging around for a few days and seeing the old streets of Stone Town that remain trapped in time, we reluctantly began our trip back to Washington.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Saturday in Napa

S and I had a very nice day up in Napa last month on our anniversary.  We stopped by three wineries, including the famed Opus One, which wasn’t necessarily better than some cabernet/merlot blends at other wineries especially in light of the $200 per bottle price tag. Similar wines from Pine Ridge were just as good. In the end, we just took home a modest half bottle of fume blanc from Grgich!

Lunch at Bouchon was very nice. I had Kushi oysters from British Columbia on the half shell, a delicate lobster bisque, hearty steak frites that look just like those on the back cover of Thomas Keller's cookbook with a Remy Napa cab, and profiteroles with tea.

I like Thomas Keller's philosophy of food (above), even if he is a bit too detail oriented to replicate at home.  Nevertheless I love his sage roasted chicken recipe from the Bouchon  cookbook, as seen on "No Reservations" (below).