Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chaine des Rotisseurs in Dubai!

You know how it is, you rummaging around in the kitchen for looking for dinner and you don't like your options - grilled cheese, pasta and pesto or maybe grilled chicken.  You think if only there was a society of people who understand my need for delicious, avant garde, and exotic foods...

It turns out they exist!  Last week our friends Sarah and Guy invited us as their guests to a very special meal with the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950, but with a much longer history.  The name which literally means the brotherhood of the goose roasters, has an amazing story.

The written history of the guild of "Les Oyers" or "Goose Roasters" has been traced back to the year 1248. At that time King Louis IX, assigned the Provost of Paris, with the task of bringing order into the organization of trades and guilds, developing young apprentices and improving the technical knowledge of guild members. He gathered together the charters of more than 100 of these trades, among them the Goose Roasters.  Over the years, the activities and privileges of the Goose Roasters Guild were extended to preparing and selling all kinds of meat, including poultry and venison.  Go Goose Roasters!

In 1610, under King Louis XIII, the guild was granted a royal charter and its own coat of arms.
For over four centuries, the "Confrérie" or brotherhood of the Roasters cultivated and developed culinary art and high standards of professionalism and quality until the guild system was disbanded, together with all others, in 1793 during the French Revolution. The Rôtisseurs were almost forgotten until 1950 the Society was resurrected and created La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseur.

An invitation to dine with a society that's 763 years old after a French Revolution revival?  Just tell me what I have to do!  Matt was told to don a tux and escort me to the Cavalli Club at 8,check.

When we entered into the dining room we were transported to the magical world of Alice in Wonderland, with teapots and goldfish swimming in the center pieces and toadstools growing next to tables and Alice flitting between the diners.  The culinary specialist at Cavalli club urged us to approach the evening with all senses.

To start the menu actually engraved on the plate, nice touch!

Here's what we were to enjoy:
The officers of the Chaine opened with a toast to the founders of society and reminded us of the conversation rules for dinner: no religion, no politics, and no business.  You might ask, what is left?  Well, the star of the show is the food and wine, so there is a lot there is a lot to take in!  Here were a few of my favorites.
The spray bottle of orange essence to be enjoyed with the Duck.
Alice's surprise...
For dessert the Queen of Hearts, the grande finale!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Home Sweet Home.

When your current landlord tells you that he's not going to renew your lease at the beginning of May, because he wants to sell the place (his liquid is little low in Dubai) and you have two weeks to find a new place and have 3 years of life moved - you begin cursing the Real Estate Gods.  You continue you cursing them as you look for an apartment on the local sites and find a few great matches.  You make a list of 10 places, put in your calls to the agents and hope for the best.  One by one they return your call and by call 3 you realize they are all talking about the same one apartment.  There is no exclusivity required and landlords will list their property with as many agents as they want.  So, list of 10 options is cut to 1 and an entire afternoon is wasted.  Curses!

Then when you finally find a few places you actually might want to see after a long day at work, the agent is 45 minutes late (naturally) and neglects to mention that there is no electricity hooked up in the apartment - that we are seeing at 8:00pm, so Matt and I attempt to view what could be our new home by the dim greenish glowing light of our Blackberry and iPhone.  We still can't see anything, and at the end she goes "so are you ready to sign a lease, this one is going to go quick."  Yeah.  Maybe for people who can SEE it!  Curses again!

Counting down the days to our homelessness we became more bold.  We approached the door man of the building we wanted to move into and asked if he knew of anyone who was moving out.  He hesitated and then Matt bribed him with a portable DVD player for the name of the landlord.  I so wish I was joking about this!  One DVD player lighter, but with number in hand we called the current tenet/landlord out of the blue and he agreed to rent his apartment to us.  Such is life in Dubai!

Finally, we have moved and gotten settled in our new home.  After moving in to a new floor plan and realizing that none of our furniture fit, we spent the next few weeks selling our world possessions online and buying and building new furniture.  If I never see another Allen wrench or roll of bubble wrap I will be happy!  Of course, we made sure we still have a second bedroom available - so come on over!
The new living room, we get a lot of great afternoon sun.  Pin spotting was already installed, our Vietnam painting is very happy here (she told me).
The piece I'm most proud of.  When life gives you a blank wall (with seemingly no purpose) and a 9 inch recess - you build custom cabinetry!  Ikea rocked this space.  Only 9 inches deep this cabinet solution is one of my favorite items in the house.  The small bookcase on the end didn't fit - we were ONE inch off.  After screaming about how I knew the metric system was some how to blame for this, Matt quietly went out to our balcony sawed off the one inch side of the book case (thereby ruining it for any other purpose but this one), shimmed it in there and bracketed it to the larger piece.  I was left wondering - we own a saw?
The kitchen.  I love the hanging installment in the front.  I've always struggled where where to put my Kochin carved drum and cast iron tea pot - seriously.

The view from the balcony - Jumeirah and the Arabian Gulf.
 The view zoomed.  We get this sunset pretty much every day.  Put enough sand *cough, cough* in your air and you can have one too!
You already know we can't live without the fountain!  With ten shows every night, we are addicted to the music and the display.  So now we put it in our living room (as close as we can get)!

We now have a foyer!  (I'd prefer a walk-in closet, but hey).  My new favorite company in Dubai, Wallcravings.com, create these beautiful wall decals so you can spice up your blank spaces.  I love the result!  Think it's cheesy?  Maybe.  But I feel better every time I walk in my front door.
The piece de resistance.  We have a breakfast nook.  This is unfamiliar territory for me.  What does one do with a "nook".  With no game plan in mind we went to Ikea to search for solutions.  An office desk?  A storage closet?  A bistro table?  After a defeating two hours in Ikea, we were about to leave empty handed, when Matt wandered over to the "As Is" section and procured a solid oak cutting board-esque piece of wood (and what was it doing there, isn't Ikea only particle board?).  The measurements were perfect to fit against the wall, but what to do with a piece of wood?  Matt suggests a wine bar.  When others think breakfast nook we think wine nook.  I liked it!  Inspiration had struck and another hour later our cart is full of 12 wine racks to form a base, a few oak frames, and a chalk board I found in the Kids section! 
Then Matt found a table top wine opener at the new Pottery Barn and the "nook's" fate was sealed.
As digital pack rat, Matt was able to procure some great photos he took years ago when he was working for a Virgina winery.

The only thing missing is you!  Come on over!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scooped: Aladdin's Magic Carpet Found in Sharjah's Blue Souq

"Welcome to Agrabah Sharjah. City of mystery, of enchantment...and the finest merchandise this side of the river Jordan, on sale today, come on down! Heh, heh. Look at this!"

And browse we did!  After several near-dear experiences on the roads of Sharjah (the emirate to the north), we arrived at the Central Souq, also known as the Blue Souq, also known as the largest, shadiest rug bazaar outside of Qom, Iran.  Our quest: find a rug that will fit our new apartment perfectly, but also last a lifetime (and fit every new home we'll ever have).  In short, a magic carpet!
(but not this one - how do you say "tacky" in Arabic?)
The Souq probably has hundreds of dealers, but we were turned on to Tabriz Carpets by an American rug aficionado, and were not disappointed - these guys had everything.  Attif, the head honcho, put my Princess Jasmine in the driver's seat:

Shrewd move, Attif.  But now shrewd enough.  In just a scant two hours, we had narrowed down the selection to these three:
 Another another hour tough, nail-biting negotiating (and tea - always had a prop when negotiating), I got him down 45% and left with...the rug that was hanging on the wall when we walked in (we're suckers for good advertising).

And the final product - six years of hand labor and silk wrapped up in a neat, smuggling-friendly package!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Moving In Dubai

How do you go - in just a few hours - from this:

To this:

Answer?  These guys:
(quick shout-out - if you like movers who stage photo shoots on your balcony, call GCP Movers)

After three years of love, it was time to throw our apartment back into the sea to find another (or, more accurately, our landlord was way overextended and needed to sell our apartment for ca$h!).  So, after an exhaustive search of every available apartment within a 200 yard radius, we moved a few doors down.
Now we see the Burj from the other side!
Moving is SO MUCH FUN! 

Lucky, too - our new doorman actually told us about the apartment for rent, and earned himself a cool referral fee of a portable DVD player.  The big winners, however, were the box suppliers, our maid Jocelyn (who basically got a new apartment's worth of stuff), and the good consumers on Dubizzle. 
Tetris is a lot easier when every piece is a cube...

Turns out that while we upgraded our square footage, it went directly into wider hallways, an extra bathroom, and a "breakfast nook".  We don't need a breakfast nook.
However, thanks to the new room configuration, we did need new furniture, so have had a fire sale for the past week.  New sofas, new cabinets, and a new wine bar (knew we could do something with that nook!) are all in the work.  Pictures shortly!

By the way, anybody need a second bedroom set?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cinco de Mayo in Dubaio

When I walked into work on Thursday and announced that it was Cinco de Mayo, I got a lot of "huhs"?  In a city this mulicultural you come across more national days, celebrations and commerations than you can shake a stick at, but the 5th of May is defintely one of the lesser known holidays.

So I attempted to explain how on this day in 1862 Mexico's army scored an  unlikely victory over French  forces at the Battle of Puebla.  And how without their invention the French would have likely had more influence over the state of the US union, and it was suspected that they were supporting Confederacy in an attempt to fracture the country.  Not to mention, based on this victory, to this day no country in the Americas has been invaded by a European military force.  Their blank eyes stared back at me...  Okay fine, it's a great reason to nosh on guacamole and margaritas (not that I ever need one)!  Is that what you wanted to hear!?

Thankfully the American, Mexican and Canadian business councils decided to make sure that this great day didn't pass without the desired amount of Mexican food and drinks and hosted a inter-council networking event at the fabulous Maya restaurant at the Royal Meridien.  Each of the Consul Generals were in attendance and participated in a ceremonial gift exchange.  In keeping with being the celebrants of the day, CG Alonso definitely took the cake with his gift.  Naturally, the Mexican CG thrust two premium bottles of Cuervo towards his peers and all was right with the North American alliance!

John, Browning, and Matt raise a glass of tequila to our Mexican friends!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Rake Magazine Launch

The Rake only means one thing to a Pennsylvania farm-raised lady like myself. So, when I was first invited to the launch party of the The Rake - I thought we were going to be feting my favorite garden tool. Which, of course, seemed strange because there was such a stylish young man on my invitation. Then a friend told me that the rake is also the cut that a casino takes when hosting a poker game. Hmmm. It seemed my handsome friend would be more at home at a swanky poker game instead of raking up leaves in my yard. Still not sure of the meaning of the name, but delighted nonetheless, I was happy to be invited to the launch of The Rake magazine. It's the "modern voice of classic elegance" for men. A fashion magazine who appreciates and upholds men who dress to a certain standard - nice!

According to them they are "aimed at the mature-minded gent who draws his sartorial inspiration from icons such as Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, and the Duke of Windsor..."

Well said gentlemen.  Welcome to Dubai!

The fabulous venue at the new Royal Mirage on the Palm.

Must have this hanging sculpture...

With my pink gals Lucy and Fiona.
Looking back on to the Dubai coastline from the reclaimed land of the Palm.