A Taste of The Wild

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Victoria Falls is a town where elephants stop by for a drink (out of the swimming pool), buffalo jay-walk across the road, and the rainforest is just a stone’s throw away from your local café. Zimbabwe born chef Callie-Anne Gavazzi shared her passion for cooking with an international audience when she appeared on South Africa’s MasterChef. On a recent trip to Victoria Falls we gave her a taste of the wild, and she generously returned the favour with a succulent Seared Steak Salad recipe for the Lookout Café menu. This tantalising dish marries contemporary cooking to indigenous ingredients, and the bright, fresh colours make it almost (repeat, almost) too attractive to eat.

With the lip of the Batoka gorge as her kitchen, the Zambezi river roaring below her and the African sun blazing above her, Gavazzi showed us how she made it into the top 25 MasterChef’s of South Africa. You would be doing your taste buds a great disservice if you did not treat them to her salad on your next trip to the Lookout Café.

For most people, spending an hour on the edge of a one-hundred-meter gorge would be daring enough. However, Gavazzi decided that the adventure wasn’t going to stop there. Forgoing the apron for a harness, she tackled the gorge swing cool as a cucumber (excuse the pun). This ability to take bold leaps into unknown territory is what lends this young chef’s reality cooking show such a keen sense of excitement. In an interview with The Citizen, Gavazzi described herself as a “slave to the ingredients”, and her appreciation of local produce has inspired the inception of unique dishes including pizzas made with crocodile eggs.

Anyone that has visited Africa will know that she is so much more than a destination. Once your feet have walked across her hot savannas, your lungs have filled with her clean breeze, and your skin has soaked up her gentle rays of light, these feelings remain with you forever. This part of the world is bursting with diverse flavours and Gavazzi transforms these rich ingredients into truly satisfying soul food.

Q & A with Callie

Wild Horizons: What was the most exciting part of your trip to Victoria Falls?

Gavazzi: Oh, gosh this is a hard one. Each part of the Vic Falls was just magical in its very own way. I would have to say the gorge swing! It’s out if this world …. throwing yourself off a cliff and it was an incredible feeling.

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I also LOVED the Boma. Proudly Zimbabwean food that is authentic and delicious. One cannot visit Victoria falls without eating there it’s just delicious.

WH: What item on the Lookout Café menu would you recommend to future diners?

G: Mine of course!! (Haha just kidding!) I love the crocodile skewers; they were very tasty and very creative. I am all for trying new things in beautiful destinations. Oh, and don’t forget to have an ice-cold Zambezi beer to wash it all down!

WH: Did you try Mopani worms during your dinner at the Boma?

G: Yes, I did! Yikes!!! it’s one of those things you just have to do at the Boma. They actually have this peanut butter-ish flavor! I actually used to munch them as a little girl…so it wasn’t too bad! Haha

WH: What would be the first thing on your To Do list for future trips to Victoria Falls?

G: I think between Whitewater rafting and the Zambezi express train! Those activities are at the top of my list. Adrenaline win has to be the water rafting- it’s insane! I loved it so much.

I also just think the train is so old school and beautiful. It gives you a sense of what it was like back in the day. Not to mention the view of the falls from the train is breath-taking.

WH: When can we look forward to seeing you adventure here on Callie-Anne Cooks: Into the Wild

G: I am so thrilled about this season. I still have season 2 to look forward to. But season 3 will air sometime in 2017. I will be sure to keep everyone in the loop of exact details.

Written by Jess White

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Chef Renzo

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While sitting in the stunning Lookout Café overlooking the Batoka Gorge, with a salted caramel pretzel milkshake in hand,  I was fortunate enough to catch up with Chef Renzo on his annual visit to the Wild Horizons properties . Originally born in Portugal, Chef Renzo moved to South Africa in 1994. He has spent many years working closely with and for several leading hotel chains. His varied experiences have given him different and exciting perspectives on food. He visits the Wild Horizons group annually to work with the in house chefs and to bring in creative new ideas in the menus being offered. In keeping with current trends the Wild Horizons group, incorporating The Elephant Camp, Stanley and Livingstone, Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge and the Lookout Café, like to update their menus seasonally with imaginative ideas to celebrate the move from winter into summer.

Chef Renzo stresses that a key component of a menu is the availability of ingredients and at all times there is an emphasis on quality and freshness. He told me that a current food trend at the moment is the use of herbs and this will be a key component in many of the salads gracing Wild Horizons tables. He and the team are always on the lookout for delectable bites with a difference.

Many guests of the Wild Horizons group are often lucky enough to visit at least two of the properties and as such it is important that each lodge boasts its own style of food. In keeping with the Wild Horizons mantra that every dining experience must be different Chef Renzo is planning on implementing a revolving menu at each lodge that will include a buffet, a set menu including at least 3 options and a bush braai out of camp. He plans to make even further use of our unique and glorious African settings on the doorsteps of our lodges.

Of course availability of stock can sometimes hinder the imagination but there is no shortage of fresh salad ingredients in Victoria Falls . Much to the delight of our chefs, local entrepreneur Dave Cooper has started up his own hydroponic vegetable garden within Victoria Falls. Moving away from mass market gardening Dave is growing, with unbelievable success, a wide variety of the more unusual and yet sought after salad ingredients including fancy lettuce, a variety of tomatoes, several varieties of edible flowers and a spectacular array of fresh herbs.

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Wild Horizons look forward to spoiling you with our new and creative menus that are welcoming in the summer of 2016. Written by Libby White

Black Eagles return to the Gorge

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Anyone who has visited Victoria Falls, intends to visit Victoria Falls or has an interest in visiting this seventh wonder of the world will by now probably have heard of the increasingly popular Lookout Café. It is well known and popular for a number of reasons ….. its delicious food, its stunning location above the Batoka Gorge and its friendly staff to name but a few. Diners at the Lookout Café can observe adrenaline junkies flinging themselves off the gorge on one of the many Wild Horizons High Wire activities, watch the Zambezi River surging below or take in the magnificent spectacle of the Batoka Gorge. What many people don’t realize is  that there is also a wonderful opportunity to see Verreaux’s Eagle (also known as the Black Eagle in Southern Africa). This is a great treat for anyone with even the slightest interest in ornithology. This very  large eagle (the 6th longest in the world) can often be seen swooping and gliding over the craggy rocks of the gorge in search of hapless hyraxes.

To those who are not too familiar with this magnificent bird of prey,  Verreaux’s Eagle is one of the most specialized species of raptors. These birds typically live in hilly and mountainous regions of Southern and Eastern Africa, including our very own Batoka Gorge. The distribution and life history of these birds revolve solely around its favorite food, rock hyraxes, or ‘dassies’ as they are known as locally. When hyrax populations decline Verraux’s Eagles have been known to survive with mixed results on on other species, but considering their highly specialized tastes they have survived the test of time exceptionally well in terms of keeping up their numbers! Their successful survival rate can also be attributed to the fact that they prefer to  live in rugged and remote areas. Fortunately it is difficult for humans to destroy rocks and mountains and these areas are generally not favorable to humans so the areas in which these Eagles live have stayed relatively unchanged!

Unlike other eagles with their haunting cries, Verreaux’s Eagles are largely silent, giving no clue to their prey about their whereabouts. The first indication of the presence of one of these incredible Eagles is a flash of black or an ominous shadow cruising past in your peripheral vision. These birds will often hunt in low level flight and catch the rock hyraxes in  a fast, twisting dive a few seconds after ‘surprising’ the hyrax. Interestingly, cooperative hunting has also been seen with one eagle in a pair flying past and distracting the prey while the other strikes from behind. ‘Dassies’ are so well camouflaged in their natural environment that we often all we see of them is a brief flash or fur but these Eagles can fly out and return with a kill in just a few minutes.

So the next time you are sitting and relaxing over a delicious meal at the Lookout Café bear in mind that you are in the heart of Verreaux Eagle country. Keep watch amongst the craggy rocks and in the lower levels of the gorge for this large black eagle with its trademark white ‘V’ mark on its back and listen for the silent whoosh of its enormous wings as it too seeks out its own specialized lunch! Written by Libby White