Tag Archives: restaurants

2013 Taste of Dubai Festival

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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….

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Lovely location, and a wonderful day!

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

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Food Review – Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe

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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…..

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

Free Delivery Anything Anytime Anywhere

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When I was in the truck with TBG coming to my new home from the airport, I recall one of the things that struck me as odd – tiny little motorcycles with big boxes on the back – each box was advertising a different food place. Subway, Burger King, Naked Pizza, Pizza by the Meter, Curry Box, Chin Chin, Pizza Hut, Lucky’s Pizza, Hanoi Vietnamese, Pizza Connection, EmlyChilli,Chinese Palace, Panda Chinese, Yo! Sushi, and some place called Blends.
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I thought it interesting that they were being innovative and making some money by driving around with advertising boxes on the back of their motorcycles. When I told TBG this, he did that “pause” thing that he does – it means he’s trying to say something with either some compassion or tact, neither of which come easily to him.

Finally he said “Honey, they’re delivery guys. They are delivering food in those boxes.”

I swear to you that the heavens opened up and the angels sang to me at that exact moment.
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I realized that I could have pretty much anything I wanted delivered to me just about any time. Oh. My. Goodness. I smiled all the way home.

Since then, I’ve discovered that it’s not only food, but just about anything. Big plants, doggie grooming, laundry, groceries, artwork, you name it.

Example, we wanted another office chair, hadn’t seen what we wanted on Dubizzle.com (kinda like Craig’s list) so we stopped in at Office Depot in one of the malls. They had EXACTLY the chair I wanted, and it was on sale for surprisingly only $65 USD. Very good price. Of course, this was sort of a “display only” store – tiny little sliver of a shop in some really expensive mall real estate. I was disappointed, and said “OK, thanks” and started to leave, but the salesperson said “But we will deliver it to you for free two days”. I handed over the credit card and filled out the delivery information. Then, the salesperson handed me this bag full of merchandise, markers, pens, clips, note pads, mechanical pencils and leads, a BUNCH of office supplies…. And said “free for you madam”. Can you tell I’m liking Dubai so far??

True to form two days later, someone called to confirm delivery, then the driver called for directions, seein as how we have no dang street addresses and all. Showed up with the chair in a box, rang the bell, told us they were here, and were going to begin ASSEMBLY….. I thought I’d swoon. So, lemme clarify for you-not only did they deliver a $65 office chair that wasn’t in stock, they assembled it, then carried it upstairs for me…. No charge. Well, I tipped them, but wasn’t that cool?

There are water guys that deliver the big five-gallon jugs of water that are in everyone’s house. And they will pick up your empty bottle, and bring the new full bottle inside if you’d like. Or, if you’re not home, they’ll leave it on your carport steps. Or put it inside the door if you’ve left it unlocked.

Oh, and personal services…. Manicures? Pedicures? Massages? Haircuts? All done at your home. I just bought two 1-hour massages, DELIVERED for 138 AED…. That’s about $37.50 USD, so I paid less than $20 for an hour-long massage, done in my home. Amazing.

I love delivery. 🙂