Monday, November 30, 2009

With a Name Like Haggis, It Has to be Good...

This past week was full of heart-stopping feasts. In addition to two Thanksgivings, our friend and resident Scot (Emma) made a home cooked Scottish feast for St. Andrew's Day. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and it's the Scottish national day and it is a time for traditional foods and getting together with families. Although there is a lot of lore about the significance of this day worldwide, it is also considered to be the day where women-in-waiting anticipate mythical signs regarding their future husbands. Read more about it here.

Emma put out a beautiful, yet mysterious spread. She also refused to tell us what any of the items were until we tried them...yikes! I thought cafeteria mystery meat was suspicious, but Scottish mystery meat is just plain scary. A number of the dishes included the infamous haggis, which I tried for the first time. I figured that coming from a girl who eats scrapple with no qualms, I shouldn't be picky! The haggis pie was actually really good, although after my first round I wasn't brave enough for seconds.
Fiona and I didn't make the food but it looked great!
The dish of the day was the yummy cock-a-leekie soup. In addition to having a fun name to say it was a delicious savory soup that takes about four hours to make from scratch consisting of chicken stock and meat, and a cinnamon and prune garnish.

My bravery only lasted for so long, and I stopped short of trying the black pudding. I think that is a dish more suited for vampire friends!

Matt topped off the evening by bringing mulled wine packets back from his trip to the UK. You drop these satchels with spices and sugar into about two liters of red wine heated over the stove and it makes a delicious fruity, spicy warm drink. It tastes like Christmas in a cup - maybe next year I'll have a mug to wash down that black pudding!

Brewing up some mulled wine!

Trying haggis for the first time, a sisterly bonding activity.
Yum! The cock-a-leekie soup is finger-licking good!

Thanksgiving in the Desert

This year we were so distraught about not being home for Thanksgiving that we decided to have two celebrations. When in doubt...over compensate! On Thursday we joined a caravan of Americans and expat friends and journeyed into Dubai's desert terrain. Our dining room was a bit unusual (seen below from a cliff) but this ravine was a great spot for our potluck themed dinner in the desert. We arrived just before the sunset with firewood, candles, furniture and of course turkey with all the fixings. It was a shame Matt was traveling for work at had to miss out on our second holiday celebration. He was even more remiss when I told him that we incorporated a non-traditional dessert, but an American treat nonetheless. Smores!
An unlikely dining room.
Relaxing in the wadi.SMORES!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our 2nd Thanksgiving in Dubai

Although living in Dubai has it's challenges, as proud Americans we are hard pressed to let any American holidays go by unobserved. Luckily we've got a solid group of American expat friends and a few willing Brits who can make these traditions happen. We had a an early Thanksgiving this weekend when our friends Amer and Maya hosted their 2nd Annual Thanksgiving in Dubai. (The real Tday is going to clash with the Muslim holiday Eid al Adha and therefore most people will be out of town taking advantage of our day off work).

Regardless of the date change we couldn't be stopped in our quest for all turkey day foods! Maya and Amer did a great job hosting and made a delicious meal with a yummy turkey and all the trimmings. Matt and I supplied the appetizers which were a caramelized onion dip, parma ham and cantaloupe wraps and smoked salmon, boursin and fresh herbs 'roll ups'. We concluded dinner with individualized giving-of-thanks speeches that all 13 attendees participated in - our Mom's would be so proud!

We had one extra surprise guest at the end. We were all introduced to Lord Cluckington (I think it should be Gobbleton, but hey...). John and Lynze introduced this fowl dressed in finery and gifted him to Amer and Maya with the stipulation that he must always stay in Dubai for Thanksgiving, even if he must be passed down. Hmm...I wonder where and who he'll be with in 10 years!?
Introducing Lord Cluckington!

With the hostess before dinner.
Check out that bird!

Yum, Yum, Yum

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Parlez-Vous Francais?

What's the best way to get grown adults to attend French class? Host it at Ruth's Chris steakhouse and offer a French wine tasting and canapes to boot! The Eton Institute has pared up with the international steak house to offer weekly French language lessons for the next month on topics like: how to order at a restaurant, French etiquette, and basic greetings.

It was just like how French class used to be! We were each made to pick a part in a dialogue and play out the parts. Pretty funny when you are all adults. (I won't name names, but I must say spoken French by a native Scot was pretty...interesting)

Our sweet teacher was a former dancer and choreographer at Ledo in Paris, so when we were finally we able to use our English language skills she shared with us some great back stage stories.

Matt and I had a great time meeting a few new people and enjoying the featured Bordeaux of the night. We left happy and full and knowing how to order frog legs in French - a key skill!

Learning about the wine

Matt after he just read the 'Garcon' part out loud.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Weekend In Muscat

The first challenge in visiting Muscat for me was learning how to pronounce it. If you not 'in the know' like I wasn't then here's a little hint. It's not Mus - Cat but more like a Revolutionary War 'musket'. Just say it like that and you'll look like a pro. Once I got over my phenotic difficulties we were off! Matt was speaking at a health care IT conference in Oman and I was lucky enough to join for the weekend.

It was great! The people were very warm and welcoming and the scenery definitely had that old Gulf feel. I imagine it must have been what Dubai looked like 30 years ago. Muscat was a sleepy little city with not a whole lot sites, but it has alot to offer in terms of outdoor adventure. In two days we just had time to take in the view. The Shangri-la hotel was a great place to start! They had a beautiful beach front with natural cliffs on the side, and at night - stars! We aren't used to those any more.

We visted the famous Muttrah souk and spent the time wandering between the shops where you can buy almost anything but the real challenge is trying to find something that isn't made in China! Just because it looks authentic, doesn't mean it is -beware. One last word of caution when bargarning, the Oman Riyal is one of those few currencies were you have to multiply instead of divide. In a move that I think was just to confuse tourists they have pegged their currency to the UAE dirham 1 to 10. So you have to multipy everything by 10 which makes it alot more expensive than you realize. The numbers 'sound low' but 20 riyals is 200 dirhams with is nearly $60 so watch out!

But that's all easy to forget about when you have views like this one:The Shangri-la hotel were the conference was hosted.Oh my stars - Stars!
In continuing our traditon of posting bizarely worded signs...
These guys were everywhere in the Ocean. Apparently they actually use those front appendages to dig for crabs in the sand for lunch!
When Matt wasn't behind a podium...
At one point we looked off our balcony and saw this...I have no idea why.

Made in, Oman.
This is Sultan Qaboos bin Said's palace (head of the monarchy). I think that it looks like four goft tees holding up a roof. Also, sometimes I get a bit board waiting for the self timer so a little dance is in order, which results in photos like this...Traditonal boats on the shore.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life is a Highway, But We're Still Taking Taxis

We couldn't hold out forever. After two years of periodically renting cars like the amazing Toyota Yaris (built for children under 14), Nissan Tiida (size of a small rodent), and taking taxiis to and from work every day, we finally bought a car! The process was pretty painless for Dubai - one test drive, a couple Google searches, and voila, we're driving home in our new roadster! Yes, we felt at home with our Dubai brethren - no longer were we being passed by Bentleys and Ferraris (okay, still passed by the Ferraris).

Fast forward one week, when Katie has the car brought around after an event at a nearby hotel. It's a speedy little thing, so the fact that the emergency break was on (thanks Mr. Valet) didn't really present itself until 5 miles later. Unfortunately, once Katie took the handbrake off, the regular brakes failed! She managed to get all green lights until just before our building, and yanked the car off the road before hitting anyone.

And right now, we have a nice, sporty roadster that lives a comfortable life in our garage parking space. Does anyone out there know anything about brake line servo repair?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

30 ans en 30 plats

As some of you know, I'm not a kid anymore. Father time just made it official back on the 25th, marking 30 years that I've been running amock on the planet. To celebrate, Katie tried to slow me down a bit with a surprise dinner at Reflett here in Dubai. Definitely my favorite restaurant worldwide, only she'd setup a bit of a surprise.

She wanted to do something special, so she literally "dared" the head chef and manager cut their team loose and try a new concept -30 courses for 30 years. Every bite was indeed amazing -but after 2 hours and 10 courses in, we were already tanked. We DID finish everything, and barely made it home - woozy, and 6 hours later.

My body hasn't really recovered yet, and despite the fact that those were the best 30 plates I've ever eaten in my life ("Scallop mousseline with turmeric, Machego risotto, and chilled pulp of pear" was just one of them), my back-of-envelope-calculation has us eating 6-7 pounds of food EACH. Here's the full menu, with photos to boot!

Also, a HUGE thank you to the team at Reflett - you never, ever cease to amaze us, but please don't try to out-do yourselves on this one!

1) Crab from Brittany Richelandière

2) Terrine of foie gras, beetroot carpaccio, crapaudine and raspberry ice cream

3) Langoustine in a mild curry, coriander (So good I forgot to take a picture!)

4) Grilled langoustine, peppered olive oil, turnip Shitao

5) Langoustine tartare, tandoori paste

6) Ratatouille, fenneal jelly, mozzarella ice cream

7) Toast Zézette, salad of Thai grapefruit and French beans

) Tarte amandine and white beetroot, acidic beetroot syrup

9) Seared scallop, celeriac and chicory with Sake

10) Scallop mousseline with turmeric, Manchego risotto, chilled pulp of pear

11) Scallop tartare on bitterness, soup of raw vegetables Hudson

12) Tuna belly from Spain, pan-fried girolles with turnip; goose liver, fresh dates and dried apricots

13) Salmon Salma, a slice of tomato coated in chickpea flour, melted sorrel and rhubarb mousse

14) John Dory flavoured with espelette pepper, julienne of avocado; infusion

15) Braised turnip with Port, green velouté, lard from Colonatta

16) Saffron cake with mascarpone, lamb sweetbreads, chilled and bitter

17) Artichoke granite with truffle

18) Pomme Anna, roe deer with ceps, sauce Grand Veneur

19) Pigeon, sauerkraut cream, confit tomato and ratte potato; roasted flour shortbread

20) Roquefort soufflé with fresh walnuts (also too good to photograph!)

21) Indian jelly

22) Tarte Linzer

23) Lemon baba

24) Pear, curry, carvi

25) Roasted fig, nougat

26) Rhubarb 3 ways

27) Coffee parfait, hazelnut cream

28) Small chocolate cake, praline

29) Mini clafoutis soufflé

30) Pistachio parfait, marzipan and frozen olive oil

31) Lots of little chocolate cookies, and more, and more...

Ending with ice cream (#31, in fact) reminded me of another 31 that makes a good analogy. If you're anything like most children, you always wanted to go into Baskin Robbins and try all 31 flavors. "If only they'd let me into the store when nobody was around!" I used think. Well, I've learned my lesson! Imagine having two scoops (and a cone) of EVERY FLAVOR in a Baskin Robbins store then rolling yourself out of there, and you'll have some idea of how I felt on the cab ride home (and for the next few days!)