Just Back From...Zurich, a risotto recipe for citrus season, and one of our favorite safari operators
I’m feeling a little behind—our Italy Travel Planners have been so much fun to produce, but they’re beasts! We have two more to go—central and northern Italy are up next…and then we tackle France. Let’s start getting your questions on France now, so we can get to work on them and come back to you in a few weeks with answers! (You can pose them in the comments section, below.) An update on our Pack Like A Pro Q&A with Margherita Missoni—that post will go up on March 16, as she is getting her answers ready for all of your packing questions. And lastly, we know we serve as an escape here, but we are also citizens of the world, and want to figure out how to be of some help in this very helpless-feeling global situation. My friend Pia posted about making a donation to AirBnB as a way to send money directly to Ukrainians, and I just did that. Airbnb is waiving its fees and the money goes directly to the host.
JUST BACK FROM…ZURICH
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I was recently at a fasting clinic in Germany for two weeks (a big post coming this spring about that!). In anticipation of it, Matt and I had the terrible (but fun) idea to treat pretty much every meal leading up to it as a “last meal.” We decided that our very last dinner should be at the Kronenhalle in Zurich—not just because it’s one of our favorite restaurants in the world, but also because Zurich is only an hour away from the clinic, and we hadn’t been to the city in quite a while. We stayed at the lovely La Reserve Eden au Lac—our first time there. The scale of the place is quite intimate, and the location is great, just next to the thick of things, but not in the middle. Our room looked out over the lake, with a sweet little balcony and a huge bathroom. There’s a lovely rooftop bar that our friends who are locals say is super cool, and where they like to go in warmer weather.
Just a five-minute walk from our hotel, we spent a chunk of time at two places owned by dear friends, Monocle Café and Trunk Clothiers. Trunk has the best edit of men’s clothes and accessories (we got a canvas tote that we ended up using throughout the trip), and we picked up lots of great reading material at Monocle. The cafe makes great drinks (we taste-tested the Negronis one night, and the coffees the next morning), and is a perfect spot to come if you want current intel on where to go in town.
Some of our favorites we discovered or revisited in our very short time there: Fabrikat was a real highlight, a very cool shop with a general store-ish vibe, for desk supplies, hooks, stationary, cleaning tools and displays of vintage ephemera. H. Schwarzenbach is a specialty food store with beautiful teas and dried fruits—it has been around over 100 years, and is still in the same family. It used to have a cafe, which has now been transformed into very well-curated chocolate store with an espresso bar. VMC has a great selection of men’s (and some women’s) clothes—mostly workwear. Antik Marangoni had a fantastic selection of Thonet. Kantorei is just next door—it’s classic Swiss food (we had a delicious leberkase with a sunnyside egg on top) with really beautiful period interiors. On the other side of the Limmat River, Matt stopped by the Davidoff store for cigars (one of the only deals to be had here), while I spent at least an hour in Spitzenhouse, a perfume and beauty shop my friend Cristina had raved about. Every time I’m with her I ask her what perfume she is wearing, and she told she’d brought back three amazing perfumes from here. When you go—and hopefully Christophe is working—you tell him what kind of scents or places you’re attracted to, and he pulls a few perfumes, all from very small makers, for you to test and narrow down. I brought home a couple of samples to see what was a fit for me—it’s that kind of place where they don’t want you to feel pressured into buying anything. Finally, we had our last meal at the Kronenhalle: martinis with friends in the beautiful bar lit by lamps made by Giacometti, a schnitzel underneath a Mirò…what more can you ask for?!
Sophia Massarella is a soulful photographer who came to me a couple of years ago with a beautiful story she had shot on Lulu Peyraud from Domaine Tempier in Provence. I loved her work, we ran the story in our third issue, and over lockdown we did a couple of IG Stories with her around her Citrus Archive, a body of work she’d done in a couple of areas within Italy. When she reached out to let me know that she had opened a small restaurant in London, Polentina, I told her I’d love to get a recipe for citrus season. While bergamot (a Southern Italian citrus fruit) isn’t readily available to many of us, you can substitute lemon, but I also just found this California resource for bergamot!
Romanesco Cauliflower Risotto with Clams and Bergamot
Cauliflower Puree: 1 Head Romanesco cauliflower; 1 clove garlic; Parmigiano Reggiano to taste; sea salt to taste
Clams: 500g clams; 2 cloves garlic; olive oil; 1 small glass of white wine
Risotto: 1.2 Liters vegetable broth; 300g risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano); 1 small onion; 100g butter; 75g Parmigiano Reggiano; 1 Calabrian bergamot
Firstly, you’ll want to soak the clams in cold water, changing the water 2-3 times over an hour or so to filter out the sand from their shells.
Chop the Romanesco cauliflower into florets and then boil for five to eight minutes to soften. While the cauliflower is boiling, squash a clove of garlic and cook on low heat with a generous amount of olive oil; be careful not to brown the garlic.
Add cauliflower to the pan and cook on medium to low heat until it starts to collapse (about 15-20 minutes, adding a spoonful of water from time to time if needed). Puree the cauliflower in a blender with Parmigiano Reggiano and sea salt to taste; add some more olive oil if the mixture is too thick to blend.
Now for the clams: squash one or two pieces of garlic, depending on your preference, and cook on medium-to-low heat in a pan with a generous amount of olive oil. After a few minutes, pour in the clams followed by the white wine, then cover and cook over medium-to-high heat just until the clams open. Discard any that refuse to open.
Strain the cooking juices from the clams and set aside; you’ll need it for the risotto. I always shell half the clams and stir these in at the end, saving about 4 clams in their shell per person to plate with. Keep the clams warm and covered in the pan.
To start the risotto, dice your onion and cook with a generous amount of olive oil and pinch of salt over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cook until the onion has softened and becomes translucent; then add the risotto rice and toast for a couple of minutes until slightly translucent as well. Pour in the reserved clam juices and cook on medium-to-high heat until evaporated.
Once evaporated, add one ladle of warmed vegetable stock; stir the risotto consistently and as the broth evaporates, and pour another ladle in. Continue this until the rice is halfway cooked, about 10 minutes. At this point, you can add the Romanesco cauliflower puree and continue with the vegetable broth until the rice is done cooking.
Keep in mind that even when you take your risotto off the heat, it will still continue to absorb liquid, so end your risotto on a more liquid note. The risotto is done when there’s still some texture and bite to the rice—be careful not to overcook it (the whole process should take about 20 minutes).
One of the most important steps in making a risotto is the final one, the mantecare—the act of stirring in very cold, chopped butter and grated cheese once your risotto is off the burner. This creates an incredibly luxurious creaminess that everyone craves in a risotto, and at this time you can also add in your shelled clams.
You’re now ready to plate, which is where the fragrant bergamot zest comes in. Ladle your risotto onto flat dishes, smacking the bottom of the plate with the palm of your hand to smooth it out. If your clams have cooled down too much, you can always pour a little bit of warm vegetable broth into the pan they’re sitting in to warm through. Place the clams in their shells onto the risotto and grate some bergamot onto each plate. Now you’re ready to eat!
Deborah Calmeyer, CEO & founder, ROAR Africa
We’ve known Deb Calmeyer for years, from back when she helped us on our Africa issue at Condé Nast Traveler, and many more stories after that. Born in Zimbabwe (where she grew up with a lion for a pet!), she has a passion for the continent and a knowledge of safari travel that is pretty unparalleled. Though always polished, Deb is gritty and tough as nails, and can pull off the seeming impossible (like helping you skirt the epic immigration lines at airports!). She hardly slowed down during Covid, arranging tons of private, immersive trips across sub-Saharan Africa—she also is known for her women’s empowerment retreats, an unusual focus in the male-dominated safari world. As lodges and camps tend to book up months (and even years) in advance, it’s good to start dreaming about it now!
Tell us about you and your company.
ROAR Africa is an ultra-luxe South and East African travel specialist. Based in New York and Cape Town, our company is run primarily by women, supported by native-born guides and a curated network of experts based predominantly in Africa. We are known for providing exceptional and exclusive insider access coupled with an extraordinary dedication to making every detail perfect. This ensures a seamless and uncomplicated experience from the moment clients step off the plane. Thinking ahead, we consistently create new, cultivated, and unusual offerings for our international clientele, all in service of preserving the people, animals, and environment of our fragile and extraordinary land.
Over 20 years ago, I moved from South Africa to New York. People would hear my accent and tell me they always dreamed of going there. They would inevitably ask for my help and wanted me to look at their travel itineraries. As I was organizing their trips, I started to sense the value I brought as a South African was much greater than someone who was just selling the destination. It made me one hundred times more dialed in and connected. I also came to understand how hard Americans work and saw that their vacations were extremely precious to them. It was these realizations and experiences that led me to start ROAR Africa.
What’s the entry level to talk to you?
There is a one-time $500 consulting fee, which is refunded if the trip is booked. Our trips average $2,000 per person, per day, exclusive of international air travel to and from Africa.
What is the sweet spot of your expertise?
As an 11th-generation African, Africa is in my DNA. To truly know Africa and be able to share it the way I do comes from my family steeped in history with a tremendous attachment to this land. I am sharing Africa from its roots—a culmination of over 300 years of my family traversing this land—and the way I know it and love it. My ability to curate indelible moments comes from spending time in places I have loved all my life and live in today. I am not just selling a destination but am sharing my home.
A favorite experience/trip you’ve planned that best represents you and your philosophy...
As the female founder of a predominantly female-led company, my mission has always been as much about crafting exceptional experiential journeys that edify Africa for our guests as it is about supporting and empowering women within the safari industry. “If African women rise, wildlife will thrive.” It was this ethos that prompted the creation of our annual Women’s Empowerment trips, which celebrate pioneering female change agents shattering western and tribal glass ceilings. The vision behind these first-of-their-kind journeys and safaris was to create a learning experience that would bring gender equity into the front lines and pioneer a change throughout the safari industry. African women as well as global female thought leaders are among the guest speaker participants. Our most recent journey took place in Rwanda last month; we’ll do another one in Zimbabwe in February, 2023.
A favorite hotel/lodge/house you love and go back to again and again?
Segera Retreat in Kenya
A not-to-be-missed experience in Africa?
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Underrated location that could use our travel dollars?
At the top of the list is my homeland, Zimbabwe. This is where we everyone should be going. More specifically, Lake Kariba.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.
How do we become better travelers, clients, citizens of the world?
Broadly speaking, I hope [these last two years] will make us more considerate, more sensitive, more aware. Perhaps we will learn a new rhythm, something a little slower that has us taking the time to observe and absorb. I hope we will consider where we go, how we get there, and what impact we have when we arrive. After all, who we are is shaped by where we have been and who we have met along the way.
In this vein, and on a more micro level, I encourage clients to:
Choose lodges that support community as well as wildlife.
Become informed about a destination before they travel.
Support lodges that have women’s empowerment programs in place.
Support lodges that have anti-poaching units, know their success rates, and understand why this is so important.
Visit lesser-known areas and slow down; spend longer in places and take the time to discover the entire ecosystem rather than just ticking off the Big Five.
Do a walking safari to become immersed in the bush and rediscover your instinctual relationship with nature.
Be sure the person you choose to plan your trip to Africa doesn’t just sell it as another destination on their global list, but instead work with someone who is African and connected to the land and its people. This ensures an authentic experience that will have you giving back just by traveling there.
Understand the importance of sharing what you have learned when you return home.
A “why it’s all worth it” moment
Whether we realize it or not, every time a species goes extinct, we lose a part of ourselves. We are all interconnected and perhaps the greatest gift that COVID has given us is the hopeful end to irresponsible travel as it relates to conservation issues. The challenges Africa faces in this regard, from the loss of habitat to trophy hunters to the illegal trade of wildlife, is a problem for the entire world. It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect our wildlife because if we don’t, we all know the global health and financial crisis that can result from the passive ignorance that drives this.
How do you want people to reach out to you?