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A frenzy of cheese, wine, cook books and foodie friends. Farewell 2013

January 2, 2014

Burj al arab fireworksWhat do you feel about looking back on 2013? My year had a certain amount of craziness about it. Lots achieved but perhaps not always the things that are most important. I’m going to try to slow things down a bit. As it is my elder teen’s last year before she goes off to university this Autumn I’m going to make the most of her being here. I cooked a lot as usual last year but not much ended up on this page. More recipes using local, fresh, simple ingredients are on the way and getting back to bread making for sure. Travel plans include Jaipur, Georgia and Lebanon so I hope you’ll join me for those visits. So here’s another quick look back before I seize knife, fork and pen and face the challenges of the new year.


I woke up to the New Year with a house full of friends and family.   Big projects frighten me into ridiculous perfectionism and procrastination but finally I pressed the publish button on a Desert Island Discs-style food article which quoted some of my favourite foodie friends and most revered food heroes.

In retrospect the culinary bucket list I set myself was over ambitious; eating oysters and truffles was not on it but both accomplished with gusto – and I made a lovely loaf. Some wonderful women in wine gazed into a glass that was crystal ball shaped (part 1 and part 2). The annual Jack Daniel’s golf dinner was held on a beautiful beach, one of my best travelling buddies left Dubai for Canada and The Hedonista showed us what we should be nosing, swishing and tasting at my house. I escaped to a hidden, candlelit corner of Desert Palm with Lime and Tonic for a private dinner experience and lots of fine wine.


More visitors arrived and loved every minute of the Dubai Desert Classic especially meeting Lee Westwood in the club house. Taking 20 good friends on a food tour of Bur Dubai and Deira led by Frying Pan Food Adventures, I celebrated a milestone birthday. Nigella’s How to eat has been parallel to our lives and was the first to kick off reviews of the cook books on my shelf.  My sister and I always have a good time but a Secret Venetian supper club with Lime and Tonic, a superb but surreal evening of cocktails at Asha’s, a visit to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and another wine tasting session with The Hedonista made it extra special. Chilled Champagne sipped on a sand dune while watching the sun go down was the prelude to my birthday dinner in a tented village at Al Maha.  Somehow I squeezed in a visit to Taste of Abu Dhabi, a Taste of Dubai preview at Carluccios, dinner at the D Bar and Grill and a fantastic concert by the Stone Roses.  And then there was the horse meat scandal.


Taste of Dubai is beginning to dull the senses whereas blind tasting seems to sharpen them. All those visitors in Jan and Feb (and since 2000) prompted my most visited post of the year. Every speaker about food at The Emirates Festival of Literature could be described as charming including the incomparable Anissa Helou, Ken Hom, Willie Harcourt Cooze and lovely Rachel Allen (again). My weekly shop got fresher, tastier and cheaper as the original farmers’ market reopened again in a new venue (Emirates Towers).


Making tarts is an art which I’d like to master (elusive pastry) but when time is short roast tomato soup whizzed up in a Vitamix is more likely to be lunch.  Fiona Beckett has inspired me since I first met her at Food Blogger Connect and my first ever guest post was for her brilliant site on food and wine matching.

Not all smoked salmon is the same, and neither is Chardonnay. I went for afternoon tea with the founder of Dilmah tea and discovered a true philanthropist. I learned to make cocktails at OKKU and had a blast – more on this I promise.


Temperatures started to rise and another month of a photo a day got more challenging, I shared my kitchen with Annie Bell (from the pages of a book) and raised a glass along with many others around the world and much more merriment.


I learned more about matching cheese and wine, Robert Mondavi, and I started to prepare for my annual visit to the UK.


London was a wonderful place to be in the sunshine and to meet old friends and new at Food Blogger Connect with a fabulous cook book launch too. The first thing I asked my vegetarian daughter when she came back from Mongolia was ‘what did you eat?’.  While missing the calm that descends on Dubai during Ramadan there were many things to keep me occupied like the Foodies Festival in Bristol.


An invite to Fifteen gave me an excuse to go back to London and I finally visited Borough Market. I entered my first Wine Writing Challenge and won so set the next theme of Possession. My favourite walks on Dartmoor helped me work up an appetite.


I unpacked rather a lot of cheese from my suitcase as well as a clutch of cook books. And packed lunches of Spanish omelette, lentil soup and keftedes for UAE Saves Week. Eating in the dark was an interesting experience. The whole month was pretty crazy but amazing (especially dinner with Shannon Bennett).


After the craziness of September cooling weather and a pink lunch provided a relaxing escape, an irresistible new icing came out of a cake baking session, and my third annual Blog Action Day post was about taking back control of our food. Two whirlwinds and a great bunch of people met at the Miele Gallery for two days of photography and food.


Rib bones for a Vincent Price Halloween cookalong and a vegetarian mushroom pate marked a much quieter month. The Farmers Market was back – hooray…


my kitchen was filled with good things for the festive season. Two highlights from this busy month were a Guns + Butter pop up at Baker and Spice and a festive cocktail masterclass at Gaucho. Just in time to raise a glass to toast the end of another fun and food-filled year round a camp fire on a beach in Fujairah.

As we start a New Year I just want to thank you all – whether you’ve read a single sentence or kept coming back. I’m truly grateful when I know someone has read something I’ve written and pushed the button to send it into the blogosphere. My own box is packed, there are never enough hours in the day and the internet is crowded with so much content that I really appreciate when you stop by my own little corner of the web. I’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed most and what you’d like to see more of. Wishing everyone a fantastic 2014.

Happy New Year

  1. January 2, 2014 12:07 pm

    What a great year you had and very best wishes for a happy 2014!!

  2. acanadianfoodie permalink
    January 2, 2014 12:38 pm

    What an amazing year! Happy 2014! Valerie

  3. January 2, 2014 4:32 pm

    Happy New Year Sally!

  4. aBs permalink
    January 2, 2014 4:51 pm

    What a year you had! Cheers!

  5. January 2, 2014 7:12 pm

    What a busy year you had! I look forward to your posts on Jaipur. Really must write up my own. Georgia and the Lebanon sound fabulous too. I’m envious of your planning those already. I haven’t sat to even think about holidays yet. I hope we get a chance to meet again in 2014 perhaps FBC? In any case, please do write more. I love reading your posts – brighten up my commute home 🙂

  6. January 2, 2014 7:20 pm

    A wonderful year. May 2014 be even more fruitful and exciting!



  7. Helen Price permalink
    January 2, 2014 8:20 pm

    Thank you for keeping me in touch with your corner of the world in 2013. Wishing you all of Life’s wonderful blessings throughout the New Year — and always!!!!
    P.S. I’m in Oklahoma!!

    • January 2, 2014 10:04 pm

      Thank you Helen. Have a wonderful new year in your corner if the world too

  8. January 2, 2014 9:01 pm

    Wow what a great year! Here’s to a smashing 2014 too 🙂

    • January 2, 2014 10:01 pm

      And to you Julia. Looking forward to reading more from your fascinating blog.

  9. January 2, 2014 9:50 pm

    Your 2013 sounds like one that would open the mind, palate and heart even further. I too look forward to reading your posts on Jaipur, I have been there three times now and loved it more each time, x

    • January 2, 2014 10:02 pm

      It’s my first trip to India. Really excited.

  10. andreamynard permalink
    January 3, 2014 2:07 am

    What a wonderful year of eating, drinking and generally enjoying life! Very glad that you share some of it with us. Love reading all your posts, the eclectic subjects you cover are always so interesting and written about thoughtfully but with a lovely humour. Look forward to lots more.

  11. January 3, 2014 10:18 am

    Your year was very busy indeed. Take time this year to enjoy all it has to offer 🙂

  12. January 3, 2014 8:55 pm

    What a fabulous year you have had. I also loved reading all of your tasty & fun posts this past year,….yeahhhhhh!!!! 😊😊🎅🎅

  13. January 3, 2014 11:44 pm

    Happy New Year, Sally! 🙂

  14. January 4, 2014 9:02 pm

    How in hell do you all of this? Traveling, eating? I thought I took a lot of trips. YIKES!!! Thank you for sharing – it was a wonderful year.

  15. January 5, 2014 3:19 am

    What a stellar year! I cannot even remember what I did yesterday let alone all last year. Impressive and invigorating and Happy New Year.

  16. petra08 permalink
    January 7, 2014 1:34 am

    It was a wonderful round up of what sounds like a great year! I can’t wait to read more of your posts this year 🙂

  17. January 9, 2014 4:18 pm

    Wow wow wow! What a year, Sally! I love your comment on “lots achieved but not always the most important” – sounds a lot like my year 😉 But the important thing is that we had a good time, right?? All the very best for 2014 and I look forward to meeting up again (I hope!) xx

    • January 9, 2014 8:13 pm

      However, I did get the time for some fab meet ups. The lunch at Vinoteca really was a highlight (which WILL be mentioned in a post v soon 🙂 )

  18. January 10, 2014 5:43 pm

    Such gorgeous photos from the last year!

  19. January 10, 2014 10:50 pm

    Thank you Sally for writing your lovely blog – I have been reading for a year now and always look forward to seeing a post from you in my in box!

  20. January 16, 2014 10:47 pm

    What an awesome and inspiring year Sally!

    Truly wonderful! So much accomplished too!!


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