Monday, April 9, 2012

Into Africa – Part I: Too Many Shoes
What’s cooking? Avocado Ritz with Marie Rose Sauce

We went to South Africa in February, and I think the hardest part of the trip was the packing.

Normally, when we go to another country, my modus operandi is to pack all black and white, on the theory that you can mix and match it to your heart’s content. It’s efficient, and it leaves me more room for shoes.

I know, I know, how many pairs of shoes does a person need for a two-week trip? For me, the answer is: about 10.

Making matters worse (and yet, also the highlight of the trip), we‘d be spending almost five days in the bush, where the recommendation is to wear primarily “safari” colors: beige, olive, brown, khaki. According to the travel agent, “white, black, dark blue, and grey are to be avoided,” as apparently they attract the Tsetse flies. All of which friendly advice had me throwing up my hands in despair.

Did I mention that we were spending two days on a train that required us to “dress” (i.e. cocktail clothes) for dinner? Or that we could take only one suitcase, weighing no more than 20 kg (44lb)?

My husband had no problems. He headed to the biggest discount stores around, on the theory that if he didn’t spend any money on what he wore, he wouldn’t care if he never wore them again. I can’t think that way, so I set out frantically looking for “safari” colors, of which I already had none – or at least none in summer-weight fabrics.

“Lee, you’re the only person I know who goes to Nordstrom’s to shop for a trip to Africa,” he said. Well, that’s just wrong, I told him. I also went to Bloomingdale’s.

And in the end, with careful planning, I worked my way down to only 8 pairs of shoes. Whew – that was hard.

* * *

The harbor at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Harbour House Restaurant
We spent the entire trip in South Africa, which is more beautiful and diverse in its geography than any other place I’ve been. And while the food wasn’t really exotic, I focused on dishes that were fresh and native. Our first stop was Cape Town, where the first night we ate at Harbour House, a restaurant focused on clean, contemporary style, on the waterfront. I started with a classic South African dish: Avocado Ritz. Easy to set up, and with a perky sauce that’s a snap to make. In South Africa, the sauce is called Marie Rose dressing, and it’s sort of a cross between Thousand Island dressing and French dressing.

The photo here is of the restaurant’s version, but the dish lends itself to many different presentations. I’ve seen the avocado and shrimp cut in a medium dice and tossed together for serving in a stemmed glass with the sauce drizzled on top; or with the shrimp laid out on a bed of sliced avocado with the sauce on top; or with the shrimp tossed in the sauce then spooned into the avocado halves. All simple yet attractive.

Avocado Ritz (serves 4)

2 avocados (ripe but firm)
1 lemon
16-20 cooked shrimp (of the size that’s 21-25/pound)
shredded iceberg lettuce or whole leaves of Bibb lettuce

Marie Rose sauce:
4 rounded Tbl mayonnaise (can use light mayo if you’re trying to keep the calories down, or substitute half of the mayo for Greek yogurt)
2 Tbl ketchup
juice of one lemon
a pinch of cayenne pepper (or a dash of Tabasco if you like more heat)
1 Tbl creme fraiche (or sour cream or light sour cream or plain yogurt)
¼ tsp salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients, adding lemon juice to taste.

Halve the avocados and remove the seeds and peel. If you’ll be serving the avocados sliced or diced, now is the time to do that. Squeeze the lemon juice over the cut face of the avocados to keep them from turning brown.

Place each avocado half (or arrange the slices) on the lettuce, pile the shrimp in the seed cavity, and drizzle on the Marie Rose sauce.


  1. Yowee -->that includes the wardrobe(s), meals & accommodations. And I want a guest blog from your husband (no accidental tourist) "Throw as You Go."

  2. I can relate to your packing issues, although I tend to think lots of shoes are too heavy to fool with. The trip sounds fabulous. I love the food photos; now how about some safari ones?

    1. Safari photos coming up. Probably part 3 or 4. First, I have to cover the wine country and the luxurious Rovos Rail "Pride of South Africa" train. It was truly a fabulous trip.

  3. I've heard of people who do that -- take really old clothes and leave the old stuff in the wastebasket of the hotel so they can pack souvenirs. Not sure I have that much stuff I want to toss. And of course, my hubby didn't actually throw any of it away. So now he has a stash of questionable wardrobe pieces....

  4. I'm so sharing with Jay. I usually pack two pair of shoes, bragging that my friends and family can't believe how light I can pack. He thinks everybody travels like we do. One bag, carry-on. Minimal shoes.

    Love this. Food looks yummy, too.