Londolozi Lollapalooza

Today was the final day of my amazing holiday in South Africa with Lee and Sue Flischel. I left Londolozi, the magical game reserve property in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger National Park, quite reluctantly. Truly, this is one of the most magnificent places I have ever visited. I’ve shared a small sampling of photos from the property so you can see for yourself. My proposals for kidnapping, adoption and job applications were futile!

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Then a travel miracle occurred: the middle seat in my row on the long flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was empty, and the person in the window seat was Anna, Londolozi’s executive chef! (I tried out my pitches in hopes of a return visit invitation…)

I’m inspired to use part of this 15+ hour flight to share my perspective on the quality wine and food program at Londolozi. Ingredients are fresh, pure and simply prepared. Flavors are thoughtfully balanced in ways that the essence of each dish is subtle and clean, yet deep and complex. Food is sourced from vendors with whom Londolozi has established long term relationships, echoing the family-like connections among the staff. Careful thought is given to the principles of respect for mature, conservation, preservation and sustainability that guide the lives of the people and animals who call Londolozi home.

Breakfast and lunch at the Tree Camp range of the property where I stayed are served outdoors buffet-style on the main deck. At breakfast, with a threatening slingshot at the ready, a pesky monkey is kept at bay from the gorgeous spread of fresh fruits, baked goods, Euro-style array of meats and cheeses, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. And that’s just the starter! Each day there is a special hot breakfast offering along with eggs made to preference. It’s delicious provided that you can pull yourself away from watching the parade of elephants marching along the river in single file just below the deck.

My personal favorite after sunrise safari was a delectable green juice made of mostly vegetables and herbs with a hint of sweetness. Ingredients: spinach, cucumber, celery, green apples and ginger.

The lunch buffet is a healthy and flavorful selection of salads and vegetarian options as well as simply grilled meats and fish. Two lunch favorites during our four-day visit were a crunchy carrot salad with peanuts and a chicken bowtie pasta dish, both perfectly spiced. I’m pretty sure we had more than one serving!

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Dinner is an altogether different experience. Weather permitting, the evening meal is presented under the stars, otherwise on the covered portion of the main deck, and moves location around the property. Tables are candle-lit, the perimeter of the dining area bounded by the soft glow of lanterns. As if the property weren’t already spectacular by day, evening ambience sparkled like fireflies.

My favorite experience was a five-course food and wine pairing. But my favorite meal was vegetarian: butternut ravioli in a Gorgonzola cream sauce, and coconut/coriander lentil Dahl, followed by a perfect serving of apple crumble topped with creme anglaise. At the conclusion of our final dinner last evening, we were treated to the “Landolozi choir” — the talented staff who so generously shared their talents with us in a unique cultural experience.

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I could write endlessly about our meals, but will instead commend you to Anna’s blog (including recipes) in the cuisine section at http://www.londolozi.com. Why not hear it directly from her?

Now it’s Anna’s turn: “The menu is seasonal, with 7-day plans, three meals a day. The menus comes from my head, but I key the selections to what’s in season. I make up the recipes, and about 1,500 guests each month seem quite happy! Ginger, garlic, fresh asparagus and watercress are my favorite things.”

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My story wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t at least share the names of my favorite South African wines from the thoughtfully sourced Londolozi cellar. Waterford is Londolozi’s “house” wine. My house should be so fine… All of the sparkling wine (MCC for methode cap classique) was Graham Beck, which we can get in the US. My other favorites were Hamilton-Russell and Jordan Nine Yard Chardonnay, Beaufort Chenin Blanc, and Constantia Glen “Three” (Bordeaux blend with a good share of Cabernet Franc).

Thank you Londolozi for an experience of a lifetime.

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Previous posts on the history of the wine industry in a South Arica, and tour segments for Cape Town/Constantia and the Cape Winelands:
Cape Winelands Sampler
Beyond Expectations
(Re)forming Global wine Markets: the “New” South Africa
Lost and Found? 20th Century Wine Games in South Africa
Lost: The Wine Industry in 19th Century South Africa
T-23 to South Africa

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