Le Calabash Visits North Carolina
I’ve had the opportunity to go on a Culinary Adventure with Chefs Alison and Sidney Bond of Le Calabash twice before. The first time was on their African Culinary Adventure, which I can only describe as just shy of magical.
The second time was on my whirlwind tour of Spain, France, and Belgium last year. I dropped into their culinary school in the Loire Valley for a taste of a French Culinary Adventure. My three days weren’t enough. I left craving more, regretting that I wasn’t there for the full weeklong immersion into French cuisine and culture.
The Bonds’ passion for hospitality and authentic, honest food carried across my experience on both continents. They foster an environment that not only invites a lasting friendship with the Bonds but also amongst your fellow travelers. It’s why many guests go back for more. Or, in the case of our African Culinary Adventure tour group, why three quarters are going on a second safari and culinary tour together with Le Calabash (We’re the only holdouts due to our newborn).
Recently, Alison and Sidney spent a week in North Carolina sharing their love of food and a glimpse at a Le Calabash Culinary Adventure through tailored events throughout the state.
Guest Chefs at the Gamekeeper
Their journey began as guest chefs at the infamous Gamekeeper in Boone, North Carolina. The restaurant is known throughout the state for serving up a menu that walks a little on the wild side with entrees like Osso Buco Style Venison Shank, Chicken Fried Ostrich, and Spiced Rubbed Grilled Emu Filet.
Their exotic selection is perfectly fitting given that Sidney is from South Africa. While the Bonds were guest starring at the Gamekeeper, they delighted diners with South African classics for an even more authentic culinary trip to the wild side. Highlights included Lamb Sosaties (tradition Cape Malay skewers marinated for hours in a lively, fragrant marinade), Bobotie (curry spiced ground beef baked with a rich egg topping), and Cape Malay Curry (a fruity, spicy dish typical of the region). For dessert, Alison dazzled with Madagascan Chocolate Mousse filled Profiteroles, Amarula Ice Cream, and her decadent Vanilla Bean Crème Brulèe.
The selections epitomized all that South African cuisine is – a melting pot of nationalities and flavors. Each dish contained influences that can be traced back to Dutch, French, Indian, Malaysian, and African settlers, much like the people of South Africa.
Sharing Le Calabash and Zevenwacht with Charlotte
The Bonds’ tour of North Carolina included several stops around the Charlotte region where Sidney and Alison continued to spread the gospel of cooking with fresh, authentic ingredients. Their stops included a lecture and lunch with the Dean at Johnson and Wales University’s Charlotte Campus and another guest chef appearance at the Peninsula Club.
At the Peninsula Club, Alison preformed a lunch pastry demonstration to a group of 30 ladies showing off her take on Pavlova. Together, Alison and Sidney guest starred in a five course ‘Le Calabash Wine Dinner’ preparing dishes from their upcoming cookbook, A Culinary Adventure with Le Calabash.
Then, Alison and Sidney’s close friends Pam and Todd hosted a private cocktail event that proved to resemble a Le Calabash reunion of sorts with nine attendees present who have been on a Le Calabash Culinary Adventure. It was at the cocktail party that I caught up with the Bonds.
The night wasn’t your typical North Carolina spring evening. Mother Nature delivered a drenching downpour that almost put a damper on our spirits as we set out for the hour drive in traffic across Charlotte to the cocktail party. We felt like wet, lost puppies as we knocked on the door of Pam and Todd’s house.
However, any damper the weather delivered was immediately lifted as we were warmly greeted by the Bonds with bright smiles and open arms. It was like catching up with old friends again. Of course, they had prepared an evening of hors d’oeuvres and wine pairings that only Alison and Sidney could deliver.
As we mingled with other foodies, we sampled from passed trays of salmon with an avocado mousse, fresh ahi with a tomato salsa, and beets topped with a Saint Maure Goat Cheese Crème. The selection of dishes brought a much-needed brightness to the drizzly evening.
While hosts Todd and Pam introduced the Bonds to their guests, a second round of hors d’oeuvres were passed. This time with flavors closer resembled South Africa with lamb and chicken piri-piri skewers. Both were on the spicy side but came with cooling sauces of yogurt and chutney. For dessert, Alison prepared as what my wife describes as the best chocolate mousse ever (I think she had fourths…).
Paired with the food were two wines that tied together the evening from both a culinary and Le Calabash perspective. The 2014 Zevenwacht Chenin Blanc was everything I remembered South African Chenin Blancs to be. The nose delivered peach, pineapple, and the breezy terroir of the Zevenwacht Estate. The mouth was filled with soft notes of melon, apricot, peach, guava, and a much-needed mineral backbone for complexity. The grapes themselves are harvested from 33-year-old vines. Care was taken to harvest the grapes growing in direct sunlight first, then partially shaded, and finally fully shaded. The tiered process allows the winemaker to have access to the fruit at the optimal time for ripening, flavor, and complexity.
The second wine was the 2013 Zevenwacht Tin Mine Red. The wine was recently heralded as the Best South African Red Blend by wine writer and critic Myrna Robins. The wine was deep purple in color and delivered accompanying rich aromas and flavors. The bouquet was filled with violet, black currants, and a hint of mocha and chocolate. The palate was full-flavored as expected with dark fruits, and layers of earthy terroir and spice delivered added complexity and with notes of cigar from the tannins. The blend itself consists of 46% Shiraz, 39% Grenache, and 15% Mourvedre.
Zevenwacht Wine Estate is now home to a second Le Calabash kitchen. It’s also where guests stay as they begin their journey into South Africa. Harold and Denise Johnson of Zevenwacht have worked with Alison and Sidney to craft a culinary experience on their award winning wine estate. The rolling slopes of the hills filled with lush, green vines are the perfect backdrop to all the tastes the region has to offer and that guests learn how to cook.
The evening and the week was a great experience for both the Bonds and those of us North Carolinians lucky enough to experience their hospitality and culinary skills. While Sidney admits to departing North Carolina impressed with where our gastronomical scene is headed, even more residents of the Tar Heel state were enticed to book a Culinary Adventure with Le Calabash.
This post was brought to you by my good friends at Le Calabash. It was great seeing them here in Charlotte. As always, opinions remain my own.