Tag Archives: food

At the local market

Standard

Grocery shopping here is different from what I was accustomed to in the US – not a HUGE change, but different.  There are no “Super WalMart” stores here, but there are grocery store chains as well as smaller, privately-owned shops.  In order to find what our family enjoys in terms of food often requires several shops and multiple trips, as well as a bit of sleuthing on your part, or an extremely helpful store clerk.

Produce here is widely available, and from all countries you can imagine.  We routinely eat nectarines from South Africa, garlic from China, limes from Brazil, grapes from Cyprus, zucchini (called courgettes here!), tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers are often grown locally, and have excellent flavor.  Check out these tomatoes I saw at the local Spinney’s grocery store this weekend, aren’t they luscious looking??

gates 020 gates 019

Herbs and spices are abundant as well, and are used in a myriad of dishes.  Catering to the extensive expat community here, the groceries carry an amazing array of vegetables and fruits – there’s always something new to try!

dunno 862

OOhh…. something *brilliant* that is common here that I lovelovelove….. you get your produce weighed and priced IN THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT! By people that actually know what a white radish is…. and don’t charge you for a “carrot” at the checkout. Only one set of scales, and the checkout clerks simply scan and bag. Brilliant!

dunno 860

I get tickled at some of the labels on foods here – they’re generally a literal or phonetic interpretation of some sort, but always good for a smile….

Taste of Dubai 014 Taste of Dubai 023

Check out these amazing looking cabbages – they’re quite flat, very dense, and have a “sharper” taste than the round ball-shaped cabbages I’m accustomed to in the US.  Pretty cool-looking aren’t they??

IMG_1932 IMG_1933

Many times, I’ve not known what a specific vegetable fruit or spice is used for, or how to prepare it…. but I’ve found that simply asking another woman that’s choosing that item will generally end up in some sort of idea, or at least an attempt to communicate how to cook it.  Thank goodness a fellow shopper steered me away from those tiny cute little peppers, and suggested the larger, milder ones – that dish would have been inedible!

There are some awesome and quite artful displays of food here, and none less colorful than the seafood – rainbow-glistening fish, brightly-striped prawns, and hard shells just daring you to open them and see how pretty they are just inside!

IMG_1627Taste of Dubai 015 Taste of Dubai 016

I’ve come to understand that my expectations are not common to this area… for example – what a local meat counter looks like here.  My western eyes were expecting some small packages with portion-sized bits of meats….lol… not at this store!  Take a look at the size of these!  Now granted, *all* meat counters are not like this, but some are.  These gents were hard at work back behind this meat counter….. see how nicely all the various cuts are displayed?  And they’re labeled with country of origin, price, etc.

Taste of Dubai 018 Taste of Dubai 017

But how did they get into that display counter?  Well, take a look behind the scenes…..  I had noticed a large rack being wheeled into the sawing/cutting area of this meat section…..  filled with carcasses of critters that Ididnotknowwhatthehecktheywere.

Taste of Dubai 019 marketing 005 marketing 004

I gestured to the gents “could I take your photos?”  And one began posing, one began covering the carcasses with their original burlap bags, another said “nah, she wants a photo of the critter” (my guessterpation of his native-language comment) and they removed the bags.  And knocked a carcass off its hanging hook to the floor.  And picked it back up and hung it again.

Like I’ve said….. things are different here.

Broke Fork? Nah…… video inside

Standard

So, I had a fruit salad from either a local grocery store or a delivery guy – can’t recall which it was.  But, incorporated in the lid was a utensil that entertained me for a bit….. watch…..

Now, I know that it probably seems like I’m easily entertained…. and I really am.  But I thought that this was a pretty cool way to include a reasonable-sized spork in a very small space.  Thought you might enjoy seeing what I’m seeing here in Dubai!

2013 Taste of Dubai Festival

Standard

Held downtown in media city, just behind the CNN building, Taste of Dubai was held in the same location as the Dubai Christmas Festival had been.  We went on Friday, the second day, and arrived about an hour after it opened.  There was the oddest fog that was rolling in and out, I took some photos of it as we drove in.  Frankly, I didn’t know *what* it was –  clouds, fog, smoke, sandstorm, or what.  Crazy looking to watch the Burj Al Arab simply disappear!  But as we got closer to the coast, we realized it was fog rolling in.  Pretty amazing looking.

ImageImageImage

Image

Now, before the event, parking information wasn’t listed on their website, and I’d heard it was a big challenge.  I think had we waited much later to arrive, it would have been a big problem, but we found a spot in the lot at the end of the festival area, opposite the single entrance.  Which meant we had to walk all the way around the event to get inside.  The good news is that parking’s free on Friday!

As a huge fan of Disney’s Food and Wine Festival, I was quite eager to attend this event.  TBG got us tickets online at a discount, and bought us the VIP ticket package.  Now, what the VIP ticket package got us extra was 4x drinks and 3x signature dishes from our choice of chefs.  Oh, and entry into the British Airways VIP lounge area.  That last turned out to be the truly valuable aspect of this package, because seating was hard to come by!  Especially shaded seating.

Image

There were tons and tons and tons of food and drink samples.  I ate things that I wasn’t quite certain what they were, even after I’d asked!  One thing that was truly tasty was the fried prawns with sweet chili sauce from Royal Orchid restaurant.  And an incredibly wonderful staff was manning their booth – one of the women there noticed that my hands were quite full, and she actually placed it on my plate and then proceeded to add the sweet chili sauce too!  Such a level of service rarely exists here – I was grateful.  And, it was some killer stuff, too!

Image

DJs were playing music in some areas, some places had drummers, some had live music, there was quite a variety of things to listen to – and, save for the big stage, none of it was annoyingly loud.  Sadly, the VIP seating area was RIGHT NEXT to the big stage.  And it was loud.  Word to the wise, don’t sit too close if you’re looking for any conversation.

Image

There were fun things, a couple of folks in the Maggi booth were cooking up a storm, and one of the local radio stations was there doing a live remote with them.  It had drawn quite a crowd, as the pair were playing well off one another, and the crowd was enjoying their energy immensely.

Image

Shortly, along came one of the TOD celebrity chefs,  Gary Rhodes from the Grosvenor House’s Rhodes Mezzanine restaurant.  He brought some beverages for the Maggi booth folks, and things really started rocking from there – it was a good time.

Image

The individual restaurant booths were arranged in a semi-circle, all in the same area.  Consequently, the people traffic in that area was thick, and lots of people spilling food and drinks because they had to step up onto a platform to get into the booth, then step back down into the moving sea of people after negotiating all the other people trying to order, pay for, or see the tiny menus.  Word to the organizers, make the menus visible from the walkways, and put them all in the same general area, so folks know where to look.  And make clearly-marked queues!

But the food?  Oh my goodness…. It was exquisite…..  The Noodle House’s signature dish of chicken and prawns was pretty good, too spicy for my tender palate, but TBG enjoyed it.  Fogo Vivo’s Churrasco Selection of a beef cube, filet mignon wrapped In bacon, and a chicken drumstick left us both hungry – left most of it on the plate as well, I suppose we’re not fans of the particular spices used.  ThipTara’s Thai Ped Nam Ma Kam (BBQ Duck breast in tamarind sauce on top with crispy fried onion) got mixed reviews from us… we both loved the flavor of the duck, but the texture left us reminiscent of overcooked calamari.  We’re not fans of the layer of fat left on the duck, apparently.  But that onion ring?  It was one of the VERYVERYVERY best we’ve ever eaten.

Image

The Dynamite Shrimp at PF Chang’s was exactly what we wanted – perfect.

Image

We were both looking forward to Gaucho’s  Churrasco de Chorizo, spiral cut sirloin – we’re both fans of red meat.  Sadly, it was far too tough to cut with the plastic utensils given but the flavor was good.  My favorite?  No. 5 Lounge and Bar’s Mini Waygu burgers.  Oh my.  Perfectly done, perfect condiments, perfect flavor, easy to eat, yummy all the way around!  Lots of cold beverages served with a smile, great music, and grateful for the shady spots that the VIP Lounge provided!  As well as the cold beverages available….

ImageImage

Lovely location, and a wonderful day!

Image

ImageImageImageImage

And there were goodies there, too…. see what I ended up bringing home?

Image

Food Review – Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe

Standard

You know how sometimes, you luck up on one of those little gem of a cafe?  This is one!  We stopped at the Al Barsha Mall here in Dubai to go to the Union Coop for salted almonds.  TBG swears that they’re the best ones in town, freshest and saltiest.  And, we were both hungry, since lunch had been many hours earlier.

I checked The Entertainer books to see if they had vouchers for anyplace in this mall and they did, Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe http://www.sandellas.com.  Buy one, get one free entrees.  Yanked that one right out of the book and off we went!

We were the only ones in the place, of course, it *was* 9 pm after all.  And, there’s a Lebanese cafe that shares the space with Sandella’s, it’s called Abela & Co. http://www.abelaandco.com  We ordered the Apple, Celery and Walnut salad AED24 (Romaine, walnuts, apple, celery, orange peel with a citrus yogurt and mayo dressing) and the Turkey and Mozzarella Panini AED27 (Smoked turkey breast, mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper basil sauce topped with fresh basil leaves in their flatbread).

While we were waiting for our food, I noticed that the server there was very attentive without being annoying, a rare find at local eateries.  He placed our dishes without fanfare or clatter, and removed papers, wrappers, quickly but not obtrusively.  Does that make sense??

Anyway, while waiting, I decided to check out the display case of foods on the Lebanese side and see if I could identify any of the dishes on display to their menu.  I could not.  But the server walked up to me and asked if he could help – I told him I was new to Lebanese foods, and wanted to learn what these were.  At that point, he graciously matched back each of the items on display to the menu, explained what they were, preparation if it was unusual, and any interesting information about them, like the group of Cold Mezzeh (snacks) and Hot Mezzeh were plenty for two, and the Platter would serve 4 easily.

It was really interesting, and when I asked questions like “What are the “Vine Leaves” stuffed with?”  He replied “Ah, grape leaves, madame, stuffed with rice.”  I thought about this for a few seconds, and asked “Rice?  That sounds a bit bland, is it seasoned any special way?”  He replied “Yes, madame, with lemon and peppers, cool and refreshing.”  Not a one of his comments were condescending or making light of my ignorance, and I appreciated that.  Plus, guess what?  THEY DELIVER!!  🙂

Food arrived.  Looky here…..

ImageImage

TBG’s panini looked yummylicious….. fresh, wonderful looking flatbread, and chock full of chickeny-goodness and greens.  And HUGE.  Really.  I thought for sure he’d be taking half of it home for my lunch the next day (hoping).  Didn’t happen, he  pronounced it “Great” and offered me a bite.

Flatbread was crispy outside, but soft inside, a welcome distinction from most thin pliable flatbreads I’ve eaten.  Chicken was moist, well-seasoned for the average taste – a bit on the “hot” side for me, but I’m a wimp when it comes to hot things.  Plenty of cheese, and a nice balance of pesto sauce to meat/cheese.  Not a morsel remained on his plate.

And my salad?

Image

Well… hello apples!!  Great combination of crispy tart granny smith apples and savory roasted walnuts.  The candied citrus peel was a pleasant find in there, too – I’m a big fan of fruit in my salads.  I had some doubt about the citrus-yogurt dressing, and had asked for it on the side in case I hated it….lol.  It was light, more yogurt than mayo, and barely citrusy at all.  OK, but I would have enjoyed a bit more citrus taste in it as well.  HUGE serving here as well, and I did end up taking about half of it home with me.  Very tasty and I’d order it again.

We also ordered a Family Style Italian Salad (2-3 servings, mixed greens, tomato, olives, cucumber, capsicum and carrot with italian dressing) to takeaway for lunch the next day.  TBG had bought this salad in the past and enjoyed it tremendously, so this was a “known” food to him.

As we finished our meal, the server arrived with a slice of carrot cake and two forks (man after my own heart!) compliments of the house.  He said it was their specialty and was really tasty.

Image

Lovely, isn’t it?  I asked what the small orange thing was on top, and he told me the name, but I’ve forgotten.  It’s a fruit, sweet, reminds me of an orange kiwi taste, and texture of a grape but looked like a tomatoe inside.  Interesting, and I’ll look for them.

Image

The cake layers were surprisingly tender and moist, with lovely bits of grated carrot distributed throughout.  Well-spiced, with nothing too exotic to overpower any other one, just a really enjoyable cake.

But that frosting….. man.  I’m a big fan of cream cheese frosting, but it can sometimes be REALLY too much, thick and gooey and just covers up whatever it’s on… but not this.  Light, almost a whipped texture, smooth as silk, and not too sweet – tremendous.  Truly.  The server asked if we were enjoying it, and between mouthfuls and calculating if there were still bites left for me, I told him “Very much, do you make it here??”  He said no, that it was made in their central bakery just a few miles away.

Excellent meal, excellent service, loved the buy-one-get-one-free voucher, and we’ll DEFINITELY be back.  Oh, and guess what?  According to the back of their takeaway menu, Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe is “The largest growing American Flatbread Franchise in the World.”