Making a Three Day Beef Daube

The weather had finally turned cold(er) here in the Virginia Piedmont and they were calling for snow over the next two days. This was the perfect time to make a Beef Daube and I was on a mission.

Daube is a French word that translates to stew. All daubes are stews, but not all stews are daubes. To me, daubes are thicker and richer, and are almost like a stew “sauce”, if that makes sense. I loved my mom’s beef stew, but this beef daube is something else.

This particular recipe is for a Three Day Beef Daube. It’s from a book my old friend Tim lent me called “Duck Season”. The book is about the Gascony region of France, and if you enjoy reading about other countries, particularly their food, drink and culture, I highly recommend it. The dish takes three days to make, although the steps are pretty easy. Day one – marinate the beef; day two – make and cook the daube for 2-3 hours and let it rest over night; and day three – gently simmer the daube for a couple of hours and then eat. That’s all there is to it.

Last Thursday, I pulled the chuck roast out of the freezer to thaw, and made up my shopping list. On Friday morning, I went shopping for the few things I still needed – a leek, some parsley and thyme. We had everything else at home. After a quick lunch, I cut up the beef and added it to a bowl which already included smashed garlic, sliced leak, a bouquet garni, and a bottle of red wine. Day one was done, with plenty of time left to take our dog Carmen for a walk, and in anticipation of the snow, to bring more firewood into the house.

Day two started grey and cold. When I went to the barn in the morning to feed the horses, there was a skim of ice on the pond and the air had that “pregnant with snow” feeling you sometimes get right before a storm. Predictions for snow amounts rose from 2-4” to 3-7”.

I continued with the daube around noon and day 2 was only a bit more work than day 1. I browned the beef; chopped up and sauté garlic, onions, celery, carrots and tomato; added the beef back to the pot with the vegetables, along with a new bouquet garni; and added the strained and reserved wine marinade to the pot. Once that was done, it simmered on low heat for about 3 hours.

I’ve found it’s best to take your dog for a walk while the stew is simmering, so you don’t drive yourself mad with the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. After returning from your walk, you are faced with the most difficult part of day 2. You don’t eat the daube on day 2, no matter how good it smells or tastes. Instead, you remove it from the heat, cool it to room temperature and let the daube rest overnight in the fridge. Remember, don’t eat the daube at this point in time.

Sunday, Day 3, greeted us with a blanket of snow. About 7 inches had fallen, with more expected over the course of the day. After feeding the horses in the morning, and then having my own breakfast, I plowed our drive and around the barn, and then plowed the drives of several elderly neighbors. I made it back inside for lunch, and then some playoff football.

During the afternoon, I started reheating the daube. After removing the congealed fat from the top of the daube, the pot went back on the stove for a gentle three hour simmer. Now the smells were truly driving me crazy and the football was barely a distraction. I took one more walk with Carmen and could see that we had another 3-4 inches of snow today. It was still snowing at dusk as we finished our walk, and I may need to plow again tomorrow, but that will wait.

About a half hour before dinner, I threw a baguette in the oven to warm up, and finally it was time. We served the daube over egg noodles and had it with the bread and a bottle of wine. I breathed in the aroma and took my first bite. What a great ending for a snowy weekend…

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Addendum: Here’s the recipe. It’s from the book “Duck Season”, by David McAninch.

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Making Horseradish Sauce

I was one of the first to arrive. I was handed a peeler, offered a beer, and told to head outside. Three or four people were already there, including my buddy Magoo. The pile on the table was huge, and the guys had already started, some with knives, some with peelers. I took a breath, grabbed my first horseradish root, and started peeling. Jim’s 2018 horseradish making party was underway…

A few of the horseradish roots we were working with and a couple of useful tools in the background.

Jim has been making horseradish sauce since the ‘90s. Before marrying his wife Janis, he ground horseradish with her Uncle George, an old Croatian from Pittsburgh. The uncle claimed to have a secret sauce and vowed he would not share the secret with Jim until he married into the family, which Jim did in 1999. It turns out Uncle George’s secret was to drink a lot while preparing the roots.

Jim started hosting his horseradish parties in 2004, and over time, it grew in size. I’d been invited for a couple of years, but always had a conflict and couldn’t make it. This year when I received the invite, I cleared my calendar and vowed I wouldn’t miss it. The date finally arrived last November, and I left home early to ensure I’d arrive on time.

Jim met me at the door and offered a beer. As I was a first-timer, he walked me through the steps required to make horseradish and told me some of the history of the party. He also encouraged me to work all of the stations, so I would understand the process. Originally he only used horseradish he grew at home, but the party became so large, he now supplements it with horseradish roots ordered through his local grocery.

After grabbing the peeler, I went outside, where the first two steps in the process were taking place. I started by peeling as much of the skin off a horseradish root as possible, and also digging out any small brown spots. After finishing, I handed the root to a cutter.

Peelers and Cutters at work.

The cutter’s job is to remove any larger brown spots remaining, and to cut the root into smaller chunks. Now with all his years of experience in making horseradish, Jim had acquired a wide range of tools to help with this task, and the team was using most of them. There were large knives, saws, small axes, and other devices I’ve since forgotten. In the past, they have also used power tools, chisels and hammers. This year’s addition was a Khashoggi-style bone saw. The thing is, the horseradish root is tough as hell, and oddly shaped – a 4 inch kitchen knife isn’t going to get the job done. While smiling, Jim told me blood has been lost in the past, but so far, no fingers (just a few finger tips that were added to the grind).

Next, the horseradish chunks are brought indoors. The large chunks are cut into smaller cubes, and everything is washed in the sink. From there, it’s loaded into the food processor. Prior to this step, the horseradish root doesn’t have any of that eye-watering aroma we associate with horseradish sauce. That’s about to change.

Providing a Quality Control Check on the horseradish grind.

The food processor step is something of a right of passage, and all newcomers are required to work it. After putting the lid on the blender, you pulse the processor a few times, turning the horseradish into a fine grind. Newbies are then encouraged to take the lid off and do a “quality control” check by smelling the horseradish and ensuring it’s OK. When I completed my first QC check, my eyes watered, my sinuses cleared, and I think there was a burn in the back of my throat. There were laughs all around of course.

Steve stirring in the wine and vinegar.

The processed horseradish is then dumped into a bowl and left to rest for five minutes or so. White wine and a bit of vinegar are then added. You want just enough to moisten the ground horseradish, but not enough to make it liquidy. The white vinegar is added as a fixer to keep the grind from turning brown and to help stop the chemical reaction that occurs during the grinding. Jim adds the wine to spike the taste.

Next, you have a choice. The horseradish is ready to “can” now, or you can add some sour cream. If using the sour cream, you add just enough to mix in, but you don’t want any liquid in the bottom of the bowl. I think over the course of the day, maybe 20% of the grind had sour cream added, with the rest just using vinegar and wine.

Magoo filling jars with the final product.

The final step is filling the canning jars and putting lids on them. We filled three or four cases of half-pint jars (24 jars to a case) and probably another case or two of quarter-pint jars. I’m told the creamed horseradish lasts a couple of weeks, and the wine cured a couple of months, if kept in the fridge. We didn’t seal the jars with a water bath or pressure cooker, although that can be done, allowing you to keep it longer.

While all of this processing was going on, the group continued to gather until there were probably 25 or so guys and the party was at a dull roar. Some people were helping to make the horseradish, while many were just standing around, talking, drinking an adult beverage, and having a good time. The event is also a potluck and almost everyone brought a dish to pass. The food items are also known as horseradish delivery devices. There were several traditional foods you think of with horseradish, such as beef, sausages, mashed potatoes, bloody Mary’s and so on, but there were also some nontraditional ones like cheese, apple pie and horseradish infused pickles. From my personal taste testing, I can tell you fresh horseradish sauce is similar to bacon – almost everything is better with it.

Jim with some of the finished product.

I finally had to leave and drive home. As I gathered up my jars of sauce, I thanked Jim for the great afternoon. He knows I enjoy cooking, and asked if I wanted to take a couple of horseradish plants home. Of course I said yes and we went to his garden and dug up a couple of tops. I’m looking forward to growing some of my own horseradish next year.

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Addendum:

1. Jim told me a great story about Billy Horseradish, a distance cousin of Johnny Appleseed’s. Instead of apples, Billy went around the countryside handing out horseradish tops, but It never caught on the same way apples did. Jim promised if I came back next year, he’d share the entire legend of Billy Horseradish. In the meantime, he did recite the Billy Horseradish prayer (sung to the tune of the Johnny Appleseed Prayer):

Oh the Lord is good to me;

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need;

The bread and the fish and the horseradish;

The Lord is good to me.

The internet is surprisingly sparse on information about Billy Horseradish, so I’m really looking forward to next year’s party. ;-).

2. Janis’ uncle came to a couple of the early parties and Jim used to call him during later parties to let him join in on a bit of what he started. Uncle George died last year two months shy of his 100th birthday. Jim gave him his last jar shortly after his 99th birthday and George pronounced it the best ever.

3. Jim explained to me the reason the party is guys only is a reaction to his wife Janis’ lady craft nights– the women got together, made crafts and drank some amount of wine. Jim was expelled from the house on craft night…

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Special thanks to Jim Overdahl for hosting the party, reviewing this blog for accuracy (so that’s what the vinegar is for!), and providing some of the photos.

Scrooge, The Grinch, and Redemption

Yep. It’s almost Christmas. Last weekend, Cath and I went to Ford’s Theater to attend the play “A Christmas Carol”. This is the 5th or 6th year in a row that we’ve watched it at Ford’s, and it never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. This wonderful story of redemption can soften even the grinchiest of hearts.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past at Ford’s Theatre. Photo by Scott Suchman

Redemption is a theme running through many of our favorite Christmas stories or movies. This is particularly true in “A Christmas Carol” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, which are remarkably similar tales.

After the Grinch’s Christmas attack on Whoville, who doesn’t love his redemption and rebirth?

“He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

And we all know how Scrooge acts after the visit of the three ghosts. At the end of “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge tell us –

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirit of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven and the Christmas Time be praised for this!”

While the stories of Scrooge and the Grinch are secular Christmas tales, their stories certainly fit the theme of redemption that runs throughout Christianity. Maybe that’s why both stories resonate so strongly with me. There is always hope for us as we go through life, no matter our mistakes and issues from the past. There is always hope.

My wish is that all of you find your Christmas and Holiday spirit this year. Maybe each of us can take a few minutes from our busy lives of work, responsibility and worry to celebrate the holiday and our fellow man. Dickens tells us at the end of “A Christmas Carol” –

“…he [Scrooge] knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us and all of us. As Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!”

May that be said of all of us. Merry Christmas friends….

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Picture from the book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

Addendum: While attending Ottawa High School back in the day, I was a part of a choral reading group called Voices. There were about 10 of us, and we would recite various poems or stories with both choral and solo parts. We performed at various hospitals, old folk homes, and the like. The two poems I remember to this day are “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Elliot, and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss. One of my solo lines in the latter was –

If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!

So he called his dog, Max. Then he took some red thread,

And he tied a big horn on the top of his head.

THEN He loaded some bags And some old empty sacks,

On a ramshackle sleigh And he hitched up old Max.

Senior members of Voices….1973.

Funny what stays with you…..

Whale Watching in Hermanus

Oh my God!”

What, are you OK?”

Oh my God! I just saw a whale!” called Cathy.

I turned towards her and saw the splash of something big hitting the water. I’d missed it. No wait! There it went again! The whale breached three more times, before disappearing. It was our first evening in Hermanus, on the Western Cape, and we’d just gone for a casual walk. The breaching whale was a perfect introduction to Hermanus.

That morning, we’d said goodby to Marty, Magoo, Bill and Jim, who we’d been traveling around Southern Africa with for the last month. We added on three days at the end of the trip for just Cathy and I, and we were going to Hermanus for some whale watching. We left Cape Town around noon in our rental car, and stopped for lunch at a neat little place called The Thirsty Oyster in Gordon’s Bay. We arrived in Hermanus in the late afternoon and that’s when we had that first whale sighting.

Hermanus is known for the best land based whale watching in the world. Every year in August or September, the Southern Right Whale travels from the waters of Antarctica to calve in Walker Bay, off of Hermanus. They stay in the area for a couple of months raising their calves, mating, and then traveling back to Antarctica. By the end of November, most of the whales are gone.

The first full day, we saw perhaps 15 whales. The best was off of Sievers Point where we spied two that were doing some kind of dance together. We watched the choreography for an hour as evening was setting. Were they playing, or getting to know each other, or mating? We don’t know. We do know that it was beautiful to watch.

The following day was even better. In the morning as we watched from Gearing’s Point, four whales with their calves paraded past where we were standing on the cliffs. They are huge animals – I’m guessing the mothers were over forty feet long. They took their time, before finally moving on.

After watching them for so long, we were hungry and walked to The Bistro, a restaurant near our lodge. As we were drinking our beers and eating our cauliflower soups with blue cheese, there was a commotion in the cove opposite the restaurant. The same four pair of whales entered the cove, and the calves started playing together. They were slapping their tails on the water, or learning to slap their tails, as some did it better than others. Some people think that the the tail slapping is a form of communications, but no one knows for sure. We watched them through out lunch. We talked with several locals, including the owner of the restaurant – everyone was enjoying the show. They said the whale watching this year was the best they’d seen in four years.

We finally left when the whales had moved on. We were walking back to our room when the four pair had one last surprise for us – they’d moved on to Fick’s Pool, directly across from our lodge and the calves were again playing together. We crossed the road and walked out on the rocks for a better view and continued to watch them for another hour. They finally left.

That night, we had a final dinner at a nearby restaurant, The Heritage Cottage. It was perhaps our best meal in town, with Cathy having mussels in a garlic cream sauce, while I went with the Kudu filet. I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to have kudu again, and didn’t want to pass up one last opportunity. The local Pinotage/Cab blend went pretty well with the meal.

The next morning, we packed and said our goodbyes at the lodge. We drove to Gearing’s Point one last time to see if there were any whales. The weather had cooled, and it was cloudy that morning. We left our car to scan the Bay for whales. After five minutes of watching, we saw none and decided to drive on to the airport in Cape Town. It was time to start our journey home.

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At the Airport

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This is the tenth (and final) in a series of short blogs about our trip to Africa in September and October of 2018. I’m not trying to be exact in detail, rather, I’m trying to give a bit of the spirit or feeling of the various parts of the trip. Read at your leisure. Or not.

Related Blogs about the trip to Africa:

Cape Town (ninth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/cape-town/

Wine Safari – Stellenbosch (eighth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/wine-safari-stellenbosch/

Rra Dinare Safari Camp (seventh blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/rra-dinare-safari-camp-in-botswana/

He was Young and Made a Mistake (Sixth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/he-was-young-and-made-a-mistake-sable-valley-in-botswana/

Vic Falls – The Smoke that Thunders (5th Blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-smoke-that-thunders/

First Safari Camp, at The Hide (Fourth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/first-safari-camp/

Fishing and Elephants (Third blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/fishing-and-elephants/

The Drive to Lake Kariba (Second Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/the-drive-to-lake-kariba/

Harare (First Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/harare-zimbabwe/

Zimbabwe (Just prior to departure) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/zimbabwe/

Pink Gins (The Genesis)- https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/pink/

Cape Town

Arriving in Cape Town was a bit of a disconnect at first, after all of the safari camps and countryside we’d been visiting. It was the first big city we were in since Harare at the start of October. The two days of wine tasting we’d just finished in Stellenbosch may have slowed us down a bit as well.

Our AirBnB was right on the edge of the Waterfront, and the views of the lights that first night were captivating. The Ferris wheel was in the center of it all. We had three days planned in Cape Town, including The Waterfront, Table Mountain, and The Cape of Good Hope.

Table Mountain is right in Cape Town. The cable car only takes five minutes to get to the top, but with the crowds, we waited in line for an hour before it was our turn. We could have walked, but age or laziness got the better of us. At the top, the views are stupendous and in every direction. Out to the Atlantic Ocean, of Cape Town itself, and Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for so long. The day was hot and after walking the trails for two hours around the perimeter of the mountain, we had a beer at the little cafe there at the top. The crowds didn’t seem so bad now. We eventually took the cable car down and made it back to our penthouse.

That night, Cath and I walked to the Waterfront and wandered among the shops, bars and restaurants. It was a fun area. We eventually stopped and had dinner at a place right on the water called Life Grand Cafe. It was our kind of place – Barrel aged Negronis, a great wine list, and all kinds of seafood. After an appetizer of roasted avocado and tomato ‘ceviche’, we had a Chenin Blanc with our Pernod lobster tail and line fish.

On the walk back to our room we crossed the waterfront and there was the Ferris Wheel. Cath said “let’s go”, and so we did. It was probably the first Ferris wheel we’d been on together since we were 17 and 16. Up we went and circled around. The lights of the harbor, the ships, and the restaurants all intermingled with the lights of the city. We were above everything and feeling young….

The Waterfront Ferris Wheeel

The next day, we drove to the Cape of Good Hope and toured, saw penguins, and again faced the crowds. It was worth the trip, and the view, but our group elected to have our picnic lunch, and as it turned out, our last meal together, away from the crowd and on the coast by ourselves. We found a piece of boat wreck and pulled out our cheese, charcuterie and wine. The meal was fine and we talked and laughed with the easy going banter that comes from spending a lot of time together.

With Cathy at the Cape of Good Hope

There was a bit more time as a group, including Hashing with the Cape Town Hash, who hosted us with grilled tuna and lagers after the trail. A bit of wandering around town the next day with some shopping, and suddenly it was the last morning.

After thirty days together, our group was breaking up. Jim and Bill were flying home later that day. Dave would leave in two days, and Marty in three. Cathy and I were taking a few more days to go up the coast to Hermanus, and hopefully, see whales.

We had a last drink together, and posed for a couple more group photos. Someone commented that, “for all the drinking we’ve done, it’s good that no one had to pull themselves across the floor with their lips.” There was more than a bit of laughter at that. Hugs and handshakes all around, and promises to have a party in January to compare photos, and maybe drink a couple of South African wines.

After 30 days together, the last morning for the group

And then it was time. I knew I would see most of these people in the next few weeks, but it was still a sad parting. We had thirty days of adventures, animals, good food and drink, and shared memories. Good friends and good times that I won’t forget.

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This is the ninth in a series of short blogs about our trip to Africa in September and October of 2018. I’m not trying to be exact in detail, rather, I’m trying to give a bit of the spirit or feeling of the various parts of the trip. Read at your leisure. Or not.

Related Blogs about the trip to Africa:

Wine Safari – Stellenbosch (eighth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/wine-safari-stellenbosch/

Rra Dinare Safari Camp (seventh blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/rra-dinare-safari-camp-in-botswana/

He was Young and Made a Mistake (Sixth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/he-was-young-and-made-a-mistake-sable-valley-in-botswana/

Vic Falls – The Smoke that Thunders (5th Blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-smoke-that-thunders/

First Safari Camp, at The Hide (Fourth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/first-safari-camp/

Fishing and Elephants (Third blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/fishing-and-elephants/

The Drive to Lake Kariba (Second Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/the-drive-to-lake-kariba/

Harare (First Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/harare-zimbabwe/

Zimbabwe (Just prior to departure) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/zimbabwe/

Pink Gins (The Genesis)- https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/pink-gins/

Wine Safari – Stellenbosch

The band at The Sir Thomas Brewery in Stellenbosch kicked in to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” as the waiter served our food. We’d stopped in for lunch and palate cleansers after tasting several wines at vineyards in South Africa.

Flying in from Botswana, we’d arrived in Stellenbosch the evening before. Our safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana were great for animal viewing, but in South Africa we were going on a different kind of safari – we were hunting wines. During our travels through Zimbabwe and Botswana, we had South African wines with dinner just about every night. Most were quite good, and we were eager to taste them at their source.

On the first day, our driver, Jonathon, picked us up at about 10AM from our AirBnB and drove us to the first winery, Tokara. Hundred mile views greeted us as we walked in. The wines were OK, the brandy even better. People were relaxing, and getting in the spirit of the day. The next winery, Warwick, was excellent, and in retrospect, had some of the best wines we tasted. We found out they shipped to a distributor in the States, and Magoo and I ordered a case to split. The day was shaping up quite nicely.

The gang listening and sipping at Warwick Vineyard

Soon it was time for lunch, and we opted for the Sir Thomas Brewery after all of the wines we’d tasted. We weren’t disappointed, as they had good lagers and wood fired pizza. The crowd was about 1/3 tourist and 2/3 locals. The tourists had come for the beer, the locals for the beer AND the band. In addition to Pink Floyd, they played Van Halen and Dire Straits among other music. They were surprisingly good. It was strange listening to “Another Brick in the Wall” in South Africa, although not as strange as I thought at first. We later heard a band play the same song in Cape Town, which spiked my interest and made me go “hmmmmm…..” Doing some research after returning home, I discovered that the song was banned in South Africa in 1980, after black school children sang it as a form of protest against the inferior apartheid era education they were receiving. “We don’t need no education, We dont need no thought control...”. I love the fact that you can discover history in a brewpub.

At the Sir Thomas Brewery in Stellenbosch

We eventually left the brewery, and after one more winery, were done tasting for the day. After relaxing at our AirBnB, we ended up at The Fat Butcher for dinner- more nice wines, including Waterford, a vineyard we intended to taste the next day.

I should talk for just a moment about wine tasting in general. It appears to me that there are three kinds of tasters – those genuinely interested in tasting a variety of wines to form an opinion about a region, or Vineyard; those who are interested in wine, but also want to have a good time, talk and have a leisurely afternoon; and those who are along for the ride. They may not even be huge wine fans, but they enjoy the day, the company, and the moving party. I think in our group of six, we had all three types, which is fine, but it also effects the pace of tasting. That is, the pace slackens as the day goes on.

With that in mind, Magoo and I decided to start tasting earlier the next day, in order to visit a couple of extra vineyards. We’d then go back and pick up the rest of the crew at 11. While the others were just getting up, or lounging around, Jonathan picked the two of us up at 9:00AM and we checked in to Waterford as they opened at 9:30. We followed that up with Dornier, which was right next door. There were excellent wines at both, although I was dumping half of each taste. Tasting wine can be a bit daunting when you start that early.

After we gathered the others at 11, it was on to three more wineries with plenty of fruit of the vine. We also combined various food with the wines we were tasting, and while I’d like to tell you we were doing so to be prudent in our alcohol consumption, the real reason is that it all just tasted so damned good together. For lunch, we had a cheeseboard and charcuterie plate with our tasting. Later, the Wagner brothers did a set of Port and chocolate pairings at one of the vineyards, and at the last winery of the day, we all tasted six cheeses with accompanying wines. It was a full day.

In the late afternoon, we were on the road to Cape Town and city life. It had been a great couple of days in Stellenbosch. The Chenin Blancs, Sauv Blancs, and Bordeaux Blends were concensus favorites. We were divided on the Pinotages. One thing I know for sure is that I will look for more wines from South Africa in the States.

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Addendum: Here are my ranking of the wineries. You can find wines from most of these vineyards in the U.S.

1. Waterford – excellent

2. Warwick – excellent

3. Dornier – Very Good

4. Neil Ellis – Very Good

5. Muratie – Good; also had a nice port

6. Fairview – Good (with excellent cheeses)

7. Tokara – OK, with excellent views, and a nice 10 year old brandy

8. Slaley – Not nearly as good as any of the others

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This is the eighth in a series of short blogs about our trip to Africa in September and October of 2018. I’m not trying to be exact in detail, rather, I’m trying to give a bit of the spirit or feeling of the various parts of the trip. Read at your leisure. Or not.

Related Blogs about the trip to Africa:

Rra Dinare Safari Camp (seventh blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/rra-dinare-safari-camp-in-botswana/

He was Young and Made a Mistake (Sixth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/he-was-young-and-made-a-mistake-sable-valley-in-botswana/

Vic Falls – The Smoke that Thunders (5th Blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-smoke-that-thunders/

First Safari Camp, at The Hide (Fourth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/first-safari-camp/

Fishing and Elephants (Third blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/fishing-and-elephants/

The Drive to Lake Kariba (Second Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/the-drive-to-lake-kariba/

Harare (First Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/harare-zimbabwe/

Zimbabwe (Just prior to departure) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/zimbabwe/

Pink Gins (The Genesis)- https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/pink-gins/

Rra Dinare Safari Camp in Botswana

The puddle jumper flew us from Sable Valley to Rra Dinare (Father Buffalo), which was further into the Okevango Delta. Our next guide, Amos, met us at the plane and drove to what was now our third safari camp. It was both more remote and primitive, but also more luxurious than the others. It was hard to get my head around the contrast. All the wildness around you, and then great comfort in your tent and the dining area.

As we drove on safari that afternoon, we now found our eyes more capable of observing wildlife. We often saw animals before, or at the same time as our guide – a Lion, Cape Buffalo, Kudu, Jackal, warthogs, and always Impala. We came across a herd of elephants with several young ones. One in particular was tiny. Our guide said it was the youngest he had ever seen – perhaps two weeks old. It stumbled some, while trying to keep up with it’s mother. We stayed well away from them, as we didn’t want to spook mom.

Two week old Baby Elephant

Late in the day as sundown was approaching, our guide heard on his radio about the appearance of three Cheetahs, but quite a distance from where we were. Amos asked if we were up for a race, and of course we said yes. We spent the next half hour speeding and bumping across the dusty tracks in the sand and clay, and arrived at our destination close to sunset. There they were, a mother and her two daughters, laying in the shade. We were, perhaps, within 25 feet of them and watched for the next fifteen minutes or so. They finally roused themselves, and quietly walked away in the coming darkness. Their movements were graceful and elegant, and achingly beautiful to watch.

Mother and Daughters

There were only ten of us in camp that night. Our six, an Italian couple, and a French/Belgique couple. As a special treat, the dinner table was set up al fresco under the stars with candles and candelabras. The food and drink were excellent as always. GT’s before dinner, a Chenin Blanc with our first course, and a Shiraz/Cab blend with dinner. Later, when it was time to go to bed, our escort guided us to our tent. In this case, we were on an elevated walkway. We suddenly heard noise below us and our guide shined his light under the walkway. Huge Cape Buffalo were laying down and settling in for the night. Their heads and horns were maybe five feet below us.

The next morning, we walked to the dining area for a quick breakfast before our early morning safari. The sun was just rising. Greeting us during breakfast was an elephant munching on a tree that was just a few feet from the dining area. When they are that close, you see how huge they truly are.

More and varied animals were seen in the next day and a half. We saw the three Cheetahs again, this time on the move. Elly’s again, and for the first time, lots of giraffe. We’d seen giraffe before, but never this many and never this close. The word stately comes to mind, when trying to describe the way they walk.

On a canoe trip, we saw birds and frogs and other small life. Remember, don’t put your hands in the water – you never know for sure what is below the surface.

The last morning, we came across a pride of hyenas with an antelope kill that our guide thought they’d taken from a pack of painted dogs. There were probably about 12 hyenas including some young pups. We watched them eat, and then noticed that the matriarch was limping. She was favoring her right front leg. Did something happen in the confrontation with the dogs? We didn’t know, but perhaps it was broken, or otherwise hurt. If it doesn’t heal quickly, she probably wouldn’t last, and another hyena will take over the pride. It only takes one mistake.

Breakfast time

We returned to camp and packed. Amos drove us to meet our plane, which flew us to Maun. There we transferred to a larger plane and our flight to Cape Town, where we would be going on a different kind of safari – wine hunting.

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I’d like to do a call-out to Karen Dewhurst of Sikelieli African Safaris (a family owned business). Karen was our travel consultant and arranged the middle part of our itinerary during our time in Africa. She did all of the work to coordinate our trips to: The Hide, Victoria Falls and the Ilala Hotel in Zimbabwe, and Sable Alley and Rra Dinare Safari camps in Botswana. All accommodations were amazing, the food and wine excellent, and the animal viewing exceeded all expectations. Additionally, I can’t quite imagine coordinating all of the travel arrangements themselves during this portion of the trip – the vans, puddle jumpers, planes, pick ups and drop offs. It all worked perfectly. If you are coming to this part of the world, I highly recommend them. You can reach Karen, and Sikeleli African Safaris at:

Karen Dewhurst

karen@sikelelisafaris.com / (+263) 78 310 6561 (Zimbabwe)

Sikeleli Africa Safaris Ltd.
(+1) 604 281 3274 / Toll Free: 1-844-972-3274 (North America)
https://sikelelisafaris.com

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This is the seventh in a series of short blogs about our trip to Africa in September and October of 2018. I’m not trying to be exact in detail, rather, I’m trying to give a bit of the spirit or feeling of the various parts of the trip. Read at your leisure. Or not.

Related Blogs about the trip to Africa:

He was Young and Made a Mistake (Sixth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/he-was-young-and-made-a-mistake-sable-valley-in-botswana/

Vic Falls – The Smoke that Thunders (5th Blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-smoke-that-thunders/

First Safari Camp, at The Hide (Fourth blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/first-safari-camp/

Fishing and Elephants (Third blog about the trip) https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/fishing-and-elephants/

The Drive to Lake Kariba (Second Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/the-drive-to-lake-kariba/

Harare (First Blog about the trip) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/harare-zimbabwe/

Zimbabwe (Just prior to departure) – https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/zimbabwe/

Pink Gins (The Genesis)- https://mnhallblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/pink-gins/