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The merry, merry month of May – by mouth

June 1, 2013

Raspberry mocktail “Girls. This is your Mother.” KP dropped this phrase into the conversation over the breakfast table several times this month. Meals cooked at home are the heart of my life, my family and this blog. However, I live in a city that is teeming with restaurants from the most lavish to very humble. The month of May threw so many interesting events my way it’s impossible to dedicate an article to each, as much as I’d like to, so I thought I’d share my food diary with you (click on the pics to enlarge). Here’s the top line of an incredible month of munching….

1st May

Rivington Grill Lunch is usually a cheese sandwich as my desk so popping over to Rivington Grill at the Madinat for the launch of their new summer menu was a rare treat. It’s one of the places we visit fairly often as a family, especially with visitors in town. RG at Souk al Bahar has a great view of the fountains but our favourite spot is the terrace at RG Souk Madinat overlooking the waterways, watching abras (boats) lazily drift by among the sparkly palm trees and distant view of the Burj al Arab.

I chatted with fellow Gloucestershire-native chef Chris Lester about the British style menu and bemoaned the lack of more vegetarian options for my daughter. Good to hear that RG are willing to cook something from their extensive specials menu if given notice (phone in advance). I missed tasting the savoury stuff as I was taking part in their blindfold taste test (competitive? moi?) – I failed to identify fresh horseradish (but now know that it’s available in supermarkets here). Eton mess and Bailey’s Irish Cream baked cheesecake went down well, but the real star attraction was the homemade honeycomb made expertly before our eyes. *

2nd May

Zaroob was the venue for a catch- up with Arva, co-founder of Fooderati Arabia and queen of the cheap eats extraordinaire with Frying Pan Tours. Decent affordable food and funky interior – very different for Dubai and well worth a visit.

4th May

Asha’s My vegetarian daughter requested a visit to Asha’s for her birthday. It’s our ‘go to’ dine out curry house. Relaxed atmosphere, great cocktails, good food (the concept and menu masterminded by Indian music icon Asha Bhosle). The first restaurant to open was in Wafi Pyramids and it’s our favourite.  I dined at the Kuwait branch several years ago which is a lovely location on the Marina. I recommend the chicken vindaloo and the pomegranate cocktails (Deli Devils).

7th May

Barracuda We took a friend visiting Dubai to Barracuda on Jumeirah Beach Road (Bu Qtair was too packed to contemplate). Maybe my expectations were too high but I thought it was so-so. Good fresh fish but really uninformed service. The rice was really stodgy and my fatoush was lacklustre. The tables outside are very near the roaring traffic too. Others rave about it so maybe I should give it another chance  (guest and KP thought it was fine).

8th May

Lafayette Gourmet Food Festival Artisan food producers are rare in Dubai but the ball of energy and enthusiasm known as Chef Russell Impiazzi brought many suppliers of excellent ingredients together in the first Lafayette Gourmet food festival. I bought some oozing Irish Cooleeney cheese and Cabra al Romero hard Spanish ewe’s milk cheese coated in rosemary from the range of 180 cheeses available. The latter went spectacularly well with Balqees raw wild flower honey from Yemen – but there again everything does and we now don’t buy any other honey.

We tasted stripy beetroot, oven-baked (with Balqees honey) and watermelon radish, morsels from Spanish specialists Tapeo and from the dim sum counter. Harriet (another whirlwind) who heads up the outside catering division (highly recommended) pointed me to a display of apples and pears from her parent’s farm. More tastes of delicious steak from cattle who roam across the prairies of Canada (Canadian Heritage Angus Beef from Simply Gourmet), locally maple smoked salmon and divine chocolate truffles. I hope this will be an annual event. *

The Whistler More cheese was eaten later at The Whistler where I joined Sarah and Dima at their regular Wednesday night cheese and wine education session (more in next post).

9th May

Gaucho Steak restaurants are bottom of my list when choosing where to go out for a meal. I can easily buy a good piece of steak and cook it to my liking at home. Global executive chef Mike Reid of Gaucho changed my view completely. He talked us through the different cuts of beef (from an Argentinian perspective), what they are good for and how to cook them. Then we were armed with knives, presented with huge slabs of prime beef and we got butchering. We cooked and ate the spoils too; it was fantastic. So much more to follow about this experience…. *

Lalezar, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray A few hours later KP and I were navigating the out reaches of The Palm to reach Jumeirah Zabeel Saray – a spectacular Turkish-inspired hotel as dazzling at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul in a 5 star Dubai way. As a preview for the excellent annual Jumeirah Restaurant week we visited Lalezar and were feted by enthusiastic and charming Turkish waiters on a very pleasant outdoor terrace (with glimpses of the lavish tiled interior). *

10th May

Prime Gourmet With a crowd round for a barbecue (my oven is broken), Mike Reid’s tuition still ringing in my head, I stopped at Prime Gourmet and bought a four kilo piece of grass-fed rib eye. Buying in bulk means you get it at wholesale rates which makes a very cost effective way of buying really good quality meat for a crowd. A scant slick of oil, salting it liberally while on the grill, turning it only once and it was cooked to perfection.

12th May

Pressure Cooking Class with Tavola Although I have ever gadget known to man in my kitchen, I’m scared stiff of having a pressure cooker. I popped into the Miele Gallery where there was a cooking session for Tavola (fab kitchenware shop) customers led by Marta Yanci. I tasted the three courses that were cooked – stuffed courgettes in a tomato sauce, lamb casserole and lemon pot de creme – all delicious. Fear conquered thanks to Marta and something else added to kitchen wish list.

15th May

Vantage and Champagne Two wine tasting sessions on a school night meant I had to keep my head. Had such a fun time at Sheraton Mall of the Emirate‘s inaugural #socialhour that it was hard to tear myself away *. However a private Champagne tutorial with Champagne Jayne in the company of Dima Sharif and Foodiva was not to be missed. Dima cooked exquisite sea bass in a galley kitchen and we compared Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Armand de Brignac and Krug NV Champagne.

16th May

Blind tasting at Dubai Wine Club

Dubai Wine Club Blind tasting six wines and then voting for your favourite before revealing their identity is the premise of the Dubai Wine Club Meet Up Group. Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2009 was the clear favourite by far in a range that included Folonari Soave 2010, Folonari Valpolicella 2011, Chemin des Sables Rose 2011, Italia Pinot Grigio Rose 2011 and Antares Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

17th May

Farmers’ Market There was a palpable sense of regret at the last Farmers’ Market of the current season. I went early but temperatures were already climbing steadily. My menu-planning is focussed around what I buy for the week there so it’ll be a sea-change for the next few months. There are veg box options still available from Greenheart (plus a new shop), Go Organic and Ripe for the next few weeks.  Foodiva, proved later that evening, that pizza and Champagne are a very good match.

18th May

Chez Sushi

Chez Sushi Do you ever get cravings for sushi? Here in Dubai my favourite home-delivery sushi option is Chez Sushi, where I learned how to make three types of maki. I felt an enormous sense of achievement as I looked at and then devoured my rolls (even if they weren’t as pristine as the chef’s). Highly recommended.  * More to follow…

Kabab BQ We ordered in that evening as we had another visitor from the UK, our usual chicken achari, chicken ginger, vegetable of the day, dhal and naan from Kabab BQ where the food is like home-cooking; the most delicious Pakistani curries around. Dining there (Umm al Sheif street) is a pleasant option too.

19th May

19 BBQ

A smaller group for a barbecue this time so I chose individual steaks from Prime Gourmet. Since my oven broke I have cooked rosemary roast potatoes on the grill several times and don’t think I will ever go back to the normal way. Stunningly good.

21st May

Jones the Grocer Cheese Club The email landed in my inbox announcing the new Jones the Grocer cheese club and I couldn’t hit the ‘sign me up now’ button fast enough. A fantastic evening of wine and cheese matching conducted by cheese supremo Patricia Michelson with some good wines (and a craft beer) from A+E at their industrial chic offices. Despite having spent two hours in the Jones’ cheese room when it opened and being a regular visitor,  there were plenty of cheesy surprises. *

22nd May

Chocolate berry cake

Food and friends The generosity of food bloggers never fails to impress me. May from Eat Cook Explore stopped over in Dubai on her way to Malaysia. I first met May at Food Blogger Connect 2011 and one of the highlights was the Malaysian student café that she took a group of us to. Due to my workload, I only managed a quick lunch with May at Baker & Spice (on the shady terrace looking out at the Burj Khalifa). Having abandoned her for the cheese evening the night before I was keen to share some Dubai food blogger hospitality. Sarah kindly extended an invite and we tucked into Salmontini smoked salmon, tomato tartlets and a beautiful cake laden with berries brought by Stacy from Food Lust People Love (as food bloggers we were not phased at all that a slice had been cut out and reinserted!). Sukaina from Sips and Spoonfuls joined us and we all nattered so enthusiastically that I got May to her coach to Abu Dhabi with only five minutes to spare. Phew!

23rd May

Le Clos En Primeur One of my wine highlights of the year is a special en primeur presentation from Le Clos combined with tasting a selection of previous vintages. Favourites of the evening (held at Mina A’Salam) included Chateau Canon 2007,  Chateau Belair Monange 2008 Chateau Giscours 2007 and Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande 2006. More about buying en primeur in Dubai here and here. *

Voi, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray After enjoying our preview, KP and I returned to this opulent, tiled extravaganza of a hotel to dine at Voi. For Jumeirah Restaurant Week you choose from a set price menu which is a great way to try some different restaurants without blowing the budget. Voi’s white embossed walls and crystal chandelier made for elegant dining. The service was good, the menu interesting and most dishes good to excellent. One downside, the fish main course was severely overcooked but the restaurant handled this very well and reduced our bill. We peeped into Musical Hall on the way out – packed, smoky, vibrant – an experience for another evening.

24th May

Brunch at a friends made me realise what an excellent match a full English breakfast and rosé Champagne can be.

25th May

Birthday party A lively party with good friends; a sumptuous spread ended with a truly show-stopping trifle. Clever Lee.

26th May

Ravi A visit to Ravis in Satwa; revelling in the late arrival of summer temperatures, we sat out on the pavement and ate Pakistani food. I ordered my usual chicken tikki (cooked on an outside grill) and aloo paratha. The bill for eight of us (with tip) was 200 AED (35 GBP, 54 USD).

28th May

Candian wine tasting

Canadian cheese and wine tasting My experience of Canadian wine is limited to ice wine and WSET theory. Seizing the chance to widen my knowledge, I jumped at the chance to go to a wine and cheese evening at The Agency extended by the Canadian Embassy no less. There was a strong French influence to the cheese making and the grape varieties used in the wine ranged from Chardonnay, Gamay to a very well-made Pinot Noir. Ice cider was like drinking a tarte tatin. *

29th May

Gaucho food and wine matching I can’t wait to tell you in full about my afternoon at Gaucho matching Argentinian wine and steak under the guidance of Marina Diaz, one of the nicest and most enthusiastic sommeliers I have ever met. Soon, soon… *

Al Iwan, Burj Al Arab This was followed by a preview of the incredible spread that the Burj Al Arab will serve throughout the Holy Month of Ramadan for Iftar. To say I waddled home that night may have been an understatement. *

3oth May

Top of the Pops party Fish and chips eaten out of the paper (delivered hot by Rock n Sole) at a fab Top of the Pops party was a stroke of culinary genius. Which pop star did I go as? See here.

31st May

Asha’s Another trip to Asha’s for a relaxed night out with good friends rounded off the month. Special thanks to Smart Drive whose services I have used rather a lot of late and have never let me down.

Hello June – they’ll be a lot of salad-eating in my house this month.

So what did you get up to in May? I’d love to hear about your culinary highlights.

* Disclosure. Items starred mean that I was a guest. All opinions my own.

43 Comments
  1. sarahhedonista permalink
    June 1, 2013 4:47 pm

    Holy crap. When you put it like that, I really have no idea how you fit into that dress at the end of the month. Pleasure as always being your munching (and slurping) buddy at various points.

    • June 1, 2013 6:56 pm

      Spare tyre increased considerably by the end of the month 🙂 Thanks for everything – such a pleasure to spend many of these munching moments with you too.

  2. June 1, 2013 5:10 pm

    Wow, what a vicarious food journey. My food highlights for this month are munching on pippin apples and after work drinks in the workplace kitchenette (the wine was decent at least). Not quite on the same level!

    • June 1, 2013 6:57 pm

      You don’t know how appealing a simple apple sounds right now!

  3. June 1, 2013 5:28 pm

    Amazing!! we all lead busy lives don’t we, never enough hours in the day. Sorry you didn’t like Barracuda as much as I do, it’s one of my favourite seafood places, give it another chance 🙂

    • June 2, 2013 8:31 am

      I will do – and KP and I prefer the informal down-to-earth restaurants so it’s good to add another to the list.

  4. June 1, 2013 5:49 pm

    wow!!! I got tired just by reading! 🙂
    What a great month of May!
    Marina from Gaucho is absolutely fantastic! thumbs up

    and thank you for the mention.
    Let’s hope June is as productive!

    • June 2, 2013 10:19 am

      Yes – Marina is fantastic! Your class was fantastic too.

  5. June 1, 2013 6:20 pm

    Think you did well to catch Patricia Michelson at A&E. The previous evening at jones the grocer was not good – inaudible presentation thanks to mike problems, cheese plates wrongly presented so we kept eating the cheeses in the wrong order, screaming baby at our table and, at best, lacklustre service. Have just finished her first book, The Cheese Room, which is full of intriguing recipes and I managed an interesting interview with her for the magazine. Plus a look into Gaucho’s Mike Reid’s personal fridge which, intriguingly, has more cheese than meat!

    • June 1, 2013 7:00 pm

      What a shame – she really knows her cheese. I wish I’d picked up a copy of the book – must check if Jones still has a copy. Mike Reid was fab wasn’t he… admitted to not eating much steak these days… you can have too much of a good thing.

  6. June 1, 2013 6:43 pm

    Sally! Amazing post. I did smile at the hedonista’s comment. As you look beautifully slim:)
    Great references. Thank you!
    Lara

    • June 1, 2013 7:01 pm

      Stick-like arms and legs combined with a spreading middle these days. How attractive!

  7. June 1, 2013 9:02 pm

    It looks like you had a wonderful time in May! That trifle is stunning. I wish my life was as exciting as yours. ;-D

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • June 2, 2013 8:12 am

      I’m sure it is Rosa – just different!

  8. June 1, 2013 10:26 pm

    I am exhausted reading this Sally! Wowzer, girl, right now Dubai seems to outshine London (everything in London seems to be centred around barbecue and hot dogs!), and lucky you to be so immersed in it. Although all the restaurant dishes sound and look amazing, I must say that strawberry trifle your friend prepared looks stunning. And I don’t believe for a minute that you have a spare tyre!

    • June 2, 2013 8:11 am

      I don’t know about outshining London, but it’s certainly a vibrant and varied food scene. I need to eat a bit more moderately this month as I can’t wait to taste the street food at Food Blogger Connect in July. All those fantastic stalls were a highlight last year – local legislation means this sort of thing is impossible in Dubai.

  9. June 2, 2013 12:50 am

    Wow, what a great month of eating. And I thought I’d eaten well with a PSB glut in the garden, takeaway fish & chips from the local pub and a Sunday lunch at the Horse & Groom, Bourton on the Hill! You have an amazing range of exciting restaurants, lovely to read about it.

    • June 2, 2013 8:09 am

      Ah, you know how to make me wistful – I adore purple sprouting broccoli… something we don’t see here. Can’t wait to return to the Horse and Groom this year. Fingers crossed for some good weather and late summer evenings to sit in their lovely garden.

  10. June 2, 2013 3:14 am

    Goodness, you HAVE been busy! What a month of feasting! Hope June is equally as enjoyable, but maybe less hectic for you.. 🙂

    • June 2, 2013 8:07 am

      I need to be a bit more abstemious Celia!

  11. June 2, 2013 8:07 am

    Reeling!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I did a mistake by opening this post early in the morning… ‘merry, merry, merry…’ and I thought it’s going to be a nice recipe. Will have to come back to the post… the links from this post remains un-clicked!

    • June 2, 2013 8:32 am

      I realise that there has been a dearth of nice recipes on this blog recently. Something I must rectify.

      • June 2, 2013 8:37 am

        Please, I loved reading the post… all my resolution to squeeze myself into some pre-holiday dieting gone for a toss. LOL!

  12. forkitoverdubai permalink
    June 2, 2013 8:45 am

    Wow, super impressed Sally!! The cheese club really caught my eye, maybe will join their next session. Hope you enjoy june as well!!! 🙂

    • June 2, 2013 10:20 am

      It was a great way to launch the cheese club. They will do other events I believe (not sure if it involves wine) and there is discount on cheese too.

  13. June 2, 2013 8:54 am

    Wow, that all sounds delicious and very busy!!
    My highlight was La Petite Maison – not a thing like the original one in Nice, but the pissaladiere was to die for and there was some very nice vin de Bellet..

    • June 2, 2013 10:21 am

      LPM has a consistently good reputation – how nice to be able to compare the original 🙂

      • June 2, 2013 10:36 am

        Much as LPM in Dubai delivers consistently, I think there’s a debate worth having whether it really belongs on the S.Pellegrino list of `100 top restaurants globally… I should declare an interest as I’m on the regional judging panel. However, in a world where France and Japan are graced with 58 3-star Michelin restaurants between them, does a very pleasant bistro fit? No offence to LPM…

      • June 2, 2013 10:45 am

        I’d like to see more ‘very pleasant bistros’ as this is the type of food and atmosphere I like best. However, it’s a shame LPM doesn’t charge vpb prices.

  14. June 2, 2013 10:24 am

    Hi Sally, there are so many good things to be discovered on your blog! I’m stopping in to say hello from Downunder!

    • June 2, 2013 10:44 am

      Thanks Lizzy – I’ve grabbed your RSS feed so will be stopping by more often.

  15. June 2, 2013 1:22 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot in one month! I also wasn’t very impressed with Barracuda. I went once and have never had the urge to go again.

  16. June 2, 2013 5:51 pm

    Fabulous re cap Sally…I love the way you have each wonderful food event down date wise…Gaucho is on the to do list and now counting down to the class at Chez sushi on sat…cheers!!!

  17. gillthepainter permalink
    June 2, 2013 9:43 pm

    Look at all that beautiful food and drinking photography. Haven’t you got the perfect life, Sally.
    I’m so pleased I found you, especially now I know what to do with my next trifle to make in Zing!

  18. glamorous glutton permalink
    June 4, 2013 11:09 am

    What an amazing month! How fabulous to have a one to one with champagne Jayne and great to get a feel for the sumptuous and the more affordable that Dubai has to offer. GG

  19. June 6, 2013 10:47 am

    wow what a month Sally! You really had a fabulous month, how wonderful! Great recap x

  20. June 6, 2013 1:11 pm

    Sally most people would do all this in a year! What a whirlwind month! So lovely that you got to see May and Sukaina – sounds like a perfect way to spend a lunchtime so that would be my favourite of the month!

  21. June 18, 2013 1:06 pm

    Wow! What a month. I’d be happy sat at home with that trifle and a big spoon!

    • June 18, 2013 1:26 pm

      Yes, I never say no to trifle. It’s my guilty pleasure for breakfast after the night before to lessen the burden of all the washing up.

  22. July 19, 2013 6:31 pm

    Holy moly – what a month!! And I thought *I* was busy :o) I sat on a table with Patricia at a dinner in London last year – a real lady, and so knowledgeable!

    • July 20, 2013 1:34 pm

      I hasten to add that not every month is like this – I’d be in an early grave! Patricia is a such a fount of knowledge about cheese.

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