A big appetite for small food
A few weeks ago I made 300 canapes. All in a good cause (to help raise funds for my daughters’ school) but it did take me and my sister the best part of a day. My mass catering exploits have over the years included making chilli con carne for 50, a barbecue for 30 and sausage and mash for 20 (the latter from a tiny kitchen with only 2 saucepans).
People in Dubai who haven’t taken leave of their senses usually ring the caterers. Time Out Dubai lists over 900 restaurants (there are many more) and the majority have some sort of home-delivery or outside catering service. It doesn’t have to be grand, and with much of the year being perfect for holding a party outdoors, some of my favourite evenings have been fuelled by a cheap and cheerful curry or a shawarma stand in a friend’s garden.
KP has an aversion to small food and starts to get twitchy if we are off to a party where there is the promise of canapés (or is it canapé?). But Eggs on the Roof sums up the opposing view (which I share) quite perfectly:
I love the concept of the canape. All the flavours of an entire plateful, heaped extravagantly into one perfect mouthful.
Has the canapé reached a new standard of sophistication and creativity in Dubai of late? I hovered (and hoovered) at the blini stand at Traiteur, Park Hyatt recently, part of a range of exquisite morsels brought out that evening including minute lemon meringue pies. The Cavalli Club served spoons (in the shape of high-heeled shoes) containing confit of duck and Dish delivered old favourites like mini fish gougons and chips and Aberdeen angus burger with truffle mayonnaise prepared with panache at a private party. New entrants to the events catering arena, Lafayette Gourmet, invited Fooderati Arabia to sample their new menu last week.
You get to Lafayette Gourmet by threading through expensive fashion, displayed like art in a post-modernist gallery, rounding the corner into banks of fresh produce from chillies to quinces and seried rows of gleaming jars. It’s an emporium of a huge range of fresh foods and ingredients plus you can eat at various places dotted around the food hall from an extensive menu.
A blackboard announced us, a nice touch, and coloured drinks welcomed us; we then embarked on what might easily be called a marathon of appetiser eating.
A ceviche adorned with an edible pansy tasted as good as it looked and a tuna/miso concoction beautifully decorated with edible gold leaf and a squid ink wafer was also excellent. My head was turned by the foie gras bon bons with crushed brioche and walnut (see picture at the top); this was cold in contrast to a hot breadcrumbed duck liver parcel teamed with cranberry, both were sublime. Prising myself away to the pork room, I spent a very happy time there making very good friends with the sweet, salty, addictive Jamón ibérico which was expertly carved on the bone (not easy).
I returned via the cheese room and a sample of some very ripe Brie which was oozingly good, from the huge selection of, mainly French, cheeses.
Wagyu Beef Wellington could have been a fraction pinker but this is quibbling as the yielding texture of the meat and layering of tastes meant they disappeared rapidly. Cute cartons of noodles were brought (tasty but could have been spicier).
When it seemed we could eat no more, dishes of paella arrived; a Spanish tapas bar will be added to the already extensive eating-in options very soon (the only small food KP really likes).
The soundtrack to the evening had been ‘oooh’, ‘mmmm’, and ‘mmmMMMMmm’. The waiting staff had finally become accustomed to cries of delight followed by instructions not to move a muscle while we all took photographs from every angle before diving in.
A crescendo was reached when the desserts appeared, ‘oooooooooooh!’; cute little cones topped with mini-marshmallows or caramel popcorn, chocolate-coated ice-cream pops shrouded in a mini ice palace, dainty petit fours and tartlets, double chocolate brownies, chocolate fondants with vanilla sauce, salty churros with dark chocolate for dipping and cubes of excellent panettone.
Who wouldn’t be in foodie heaven after this Brobdingnagian feast of Lilliputian delights?* However what really set the Lafayette Gourmet food apart from other caterers in my opinion was the quality of the ingredients and the personal involvement of the ‘Gourmet Culinary Director’ and very, creative chef, Russell Impiazzi. Lafayette Gourmet only use ingredients from the food hall meaning that, for instance, the simple looking buffalo mozzarella and tomato,basil gazpacho was soft, melting and creamy due to the quality of the cheese. Russell orchestrated the constant flow of delicacies and was positively glowing with our reaction. He admitted that he loved our enthusiasm and the interest that so many of the group showed in how the dishes were made.
If this has got you thinking about your next event, Harriet from Lafayette Gourmet was keen to point out that they can cater for large parties, wedding, corporate events, with live cooking stations and the like, to gourmet sandwiches for a meeting, to dinner for a select few (about 10 as a minimum). The large range of event menus is in the brochure here. As the team took such good care of us I’m betting they extend that kind of attention to detail to their outside catering.
*This is going to qualify for Tangerine and Cinnamon’s Foodie Pseudery if I’m not careful!
I’m already planning my next date with Lafayette Gourmet and yes it may involve something from France and something from Spain. And who knows, next time you might not ‘always find me in the kitchen at parties’.
Disclosure: I enjoyed this evening as a guest of Galeries Lafayette, Dubai Mall, Dubai
P.S. It’s a month until Meeta K Wolff arrives at Nasimi Beach, Atlantis, The Palm for a 2-day Workshop, focusing exclusively on food photography and styling. The course is limited to a maximum of 10 people and is nearly full – more details here if you’d like to register.