Swahili Surprise: Culinary Adventures on Safari

Our founder and President – Wendy Pashman – loves travel. Travel has powered Entertaining Company’s brand since its inception, and is the foundational element that our ethos and inspirations grows from, from menu planning to visual design to ambiance. Wendy herself is an avid adventurer, and has gone to Thailand, Europe, and India, roamed around the plains of Sante Fe, and traversed the wild mountain ranges of West Virginia. No trip is too outlandish, and no destination too far. Her airline miles are extensive.

She recently returned from a two week safari to Tanzania, which we’re now in the process of channeling into an entire new suite of dishes, bar and cocktail setups, and visual design landscapes for our EC clients.

Take a look at her impressions of the trip (below).

Anticipation & Surprise

East Africa. Little did I know that my recent trip to Tanzania would be full of tasty treats and that I’d have so many eye opening dining experiences to share back at EC. Indian cuisine rocked my world back at my first trip in 2001 leading to a way to a Modern Indian cuisine~ a blend of authentic South Asian flavors with elevated Western presentation. Now, traveling south along the Indian Ocean, Tanzania is inspiring me in the same way~ electrified with the amazing flavors of the region. Now, upon my return back to Chicago, thinking about how to offer the flavors to our catering clients in a dazzling way.

As anyone who contemplates traveling to Africa, we came for the animals, the graceful and elegant giraffes, elephant families, Wildebeest Migration, Impalas and Big Cats and we saw that and more and loved every bit of the wildlife Safari experience. 

What surprised us greatly, beyond the animal extravaganza, was the cultural passion for celebration melded with the exciting intense local flavors of fruit (Baobob, green banana, oranges, etc etc ); spices and herbs (cloves, fresh ginger, turmeric, pepper, cilantro, parsley, chilis); vegetables and sometimes meat; and how they were used to such great advantage. 

Swahili Hospitality

First, we loved the local “Swahili Plates”. At EC we always love to offer morsels of potentially new foods that a guest may want to sample but not to commit to as an entree. Our camp chefs had the same idea of offering us a bit of culinary culture bit by bit. At lunch, we were offered small tasting samplings of Ugali ( baked maize and water), Mchicha (spicy tomato and fresh chili relish), Kofta Kabos (lamb skewers), Chipattis and Pilau (basmati rice with spices), all accompanied by South African wines. When wine was too much (not too often) we switched to Kwihala (the name of our camp) Shandys which were refreshing mixtures of local ginger beer, bubbly lemon soda and a touch of Angostura bitters. Hit your glass and say “Gonga“!

What we at EC call “Surprise and Delights”, that is, unexpected touches that take you by surprise and spark delight…popped up continuously. Here are some of my favorites…driving along for a morning game drive and coming around a bend and finding the staff from the camp had set up a complete alfresco breakfast buffet complete with layers and layers of of African Kanga fabric table coverings and Baobob tree fruit edible centerpiece, full omelette station and sunflower and pumpkin seed, coconut and cashew nut Muesli. 

 Cocktail hours that popped up, literally, on the hood, or “bonnet” of the Jeep were also surprising and delightful. Who needs a room when your Safari guide can stop under a tree, open a cooler filled with ice,  complete with every liquor and mixer, fresh fruit and various styles and sizes of glassware. PS. the guides always remembered what you drank the day before so unless you wanted to change your order, you didn’t have to even extend the energy to place your order. What is more luxurious than having an impromptu private couples cocktail in one of the most gloriously beautiful places on earth? Yes, surprising and delightful.

Inspirations for EC Clients

So, what am I bringing back to my EC home from Africa? Not anything store bought. I am, though, sharing pictures and inspirational memories of continuously appearing delicious local snacks, cocktails, surprising meals and cocktails, all at unexpected times, served with a level of passion for life and hospitality that was really mind blowing. Can’t wait to share some of this glorious East African spirit and cuisine with you at your next soiree.