Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Sunsets Bring December Showers

So, it's finally getting nice outside - and by nice, I mean "not sweaty".   Sure, it's snowed a few inches just about everywhere else already, but now is the time in Dubai when most people come out of their air-conditioned hibernation, and the rich folk fly back for the winter.  We've even had a drizzle ourselves already, but with only two seasons a year (Summer, and REALLY HOT Summer), it's hard to remember what it's like when it's nice out.
Some people watch the thermometer, but I tend to wait for the clouds - and lately, we've started to get a couple:
Beyond morning fog from The Day After Tomorrow (that's actually a photo from Abu Dhabi yesterday by Pavel Janosik), you can tell because the sky is suddenly clear (read: not full of sand) and you the great sunsets start.  Katie and I recently brought along a camera on our evening walks, and snapped a couple good ones.  Enjoy!

Time Out Dubai Crowns Young Chef of the Year

If the world of culinary arts has a caste system, then its young chefs are well on their way to being Masters of their craft and our tummies, of course, our happy to help contribute to their success.

Last week, Matt and I joined a group of friends to help Time Out magazine judge which one of four chefs, all under the age of 30, would be crowned the Top Young Chef in Dubai. It was grueling work, and a thankless task to serve as a judge - it was all we could do to eat delicious food for a few hours and offer our humble critiques (what a strain)!

All the ingredients were standardized across the chefs and provided by sponsor Galleries Lafayette, but chefs could use them for any course that they wished. We saw some really fantastic showmanship, beautiful presentation, and had our taste buds tickled while we watched the chefs perform in a shared open kitchen.

At the end of it all, there was just one point separating first and second place, and just four points between first and four - talk about by the skin of your teeth!

All said and done it was Chef de Cuisine Wesley Berghoff who won the night (third from left above).

Wesley did it with a starter of slow-cooked salmon and cured red snapper, a beef consommé soup with braised topside, a main course featuring sous vide lamb and saffron lamb jus, and a dessert of roasted white chocolate, pandan parfait spiced berry jelly and coconut cream.

Here's just a few of the courses the competitors whipped up.  There may have been only one chef that could take the prize, but all the diners definitely left winners!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

USS Stennis: Not Your Average Cruise Ship

Dubai is a pretty nautical town, so it's not uncommon to be invited out on a boat for the day by friends and colleagues, but when the US Embassy asks you if you want to join them for a reception on a boat - and you find out that that "boat" is the aircraft carrier USS Stennis, you definitely say yes!

In honor of the Dubai Airshow being in town (check out "Boeing Secures Record Emirates Deal") there are a lot of government officials and current and ex military folks who have all converged upon our little city for the next week for all things - flight!  So Matt and I were pretty delighted to keep them company while we hung out on floating city that's over three football fields in length.  USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is the seventh Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier in the United States Navy, named for Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi. She was commissioned on 9 December 1995.

Supercarrier?  I'd say so.  The experience of being on the carrier was like none other, because, of course, I have nothing to compare it too!  We had a great evening exploring the boat with our Navy escorts, who gave up their leave to attend as staff for the event.  It was all fun and games for us, but I have to say it really gave me pause to think about the men and women who live aboard that ship and the time they sacrifice with their family and friends to sail around the world doing good work for the US.  It made me very proud.

The ship wasn't too hard to identify in port - oh yeah, it was 10 times the size of anything around it!
Matt thinks is this funny.  I didn't realize that I'd have to go below deck for the ladies room, and let's just say a pencil skirt and heels didn't make the ship too easy to navigate.  I wonder if they have any standard issue stilettos?

 There were a lot of impressive guest in attendance including our own Ambassador and Consul General, and foreign defense ministers from the UAE and Italy (to name a few).  As an aside, I've never been called "ma'am" so much in my life.  A gal could get used to that kind of thing.
And there was cake.  Every hear the phrase "it's enough to feed an army?"  This was the Navy, but you get the idea.
The Stennis broadcasts her identifying number for all to see.  Imagine my surprise when I thought carriers had around five to ten aircraft on board.  Yeah, it's a plane parking lot and I had no clue.  In this case it's the boat that make the planes look small.
Big boy toys.
I asked Matt what this plane does, and twenty minutes later I was still learning about the nuances of radar.
It was really cool to be able to go on deck to get up close and personal with the planes.  It was every thing I hoped it would be after seeing Top Gun.
You can't see it in the picture but I'm humming Kenny Loggin's "Highway to the Danger Zone".

Go on you know you want to:

Now you enjoyed that, didn't you?

Oh yeah, the cool kids get to park inside of course, a dozen planes and 500 guests - no problem for a boat that can double as a basketball arena ("Hoop Deck").
You never know when you are going to meet a hero.  (Check out Matt's grin!)  I was standing at the end of the gangplank thanking the sailors for a great evening when Matt took off from my side and ran, literally, after a side-burned man in leather jacket.  One minute later he reappeared and yelled "Katie come quick!"  He looked like a kid on Christmas morning and I couldn't imagine what had him so enthralled.  That's when I was introduced to Burt Rutan.  I can't say that I knew exactly who he was, so here's the wiki brief:

Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He is famous for his design of the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two week period. He has five aircraft on display in the National Air and Space Museum: SpaceShipOne, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, Voyager, Quickie, and the VariEze.

Geez, why is this guy such an under-achiever? Matt's idolized him for a long time and this was an extra, extra, special treat.  He was a very friendly guy, for a total genius, and Matt was delighted.

Moral of the story, when someone invites on to an aircraft carrier, you say yes!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

HGTV: Living Abroad!

Lights, camera, action!  When I visions of being on TV as a little girl I pictured delivering a line like, "I'm ready for my close up Mr. Deville." and not "I really love our granite counter tops!"  Alas, when the small screen came calling we decided not to be picky.

Back in August we were approached by a casting agent who contacted Matt and I through the American Business Council, to see if we might want to participate in a program that showed how Americans live abroad, how we make homes in far away places and adjust to different cultures.  Any follower of this blog knows that we don't miss a beat to share our experiences however weird or wacky, so of course we were happy to oblige.

After two months passed and we survived several casting rounds but hadn't heard anything more, we weren't counting on the call that happened at the beginning of last week when HGTV called and asked if we were ready to shoot at 7:00am in four days time!  Well...that pretty much put a stop to our weekend - let's put it this way, there is clean and then there is ohmygosh there is a camera crew coming to my house "clean".  After making sure you could eat off our floors, and stocking up on some fresh flower we were ready for our close up!

A crew of 10 arrived bright and early to set up all the equipment necessary for the shoot.  I have a new respect for how much work it must be to produce these shows.
All the additional lighting was great around the house, I was sad to see it go!
Cameras and crew everywhere!
Matt getting mic'ed up for his interview.
Apparently the mic gets clipped to your ankle - clever.
With the host Chi-Lan Lieu.
Cool big boy toy alert - get a dolly to roll through your living room!
Trying to look natural (and not 10 pounds heavier) on camera!
The crew asked if we could show them the conveniences available in high rise living in Dubai.  I told them I could order a cup of coffee at Starbucks and their eyes lit up!  Not only did they want to see us make it happen they decided to film a segment on it - 45 minutes later we had Starbucks, Burger King and Tasti d-Lite delivered to our door.

We had a blast with the filming and are looking forward to seeing how the 30 minute show turns out.  It's set to air around March so be sure to keep an eye out on your basic cable channel and hopefully we didn't say or do anything too embarrassing!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Burj Residences Block Party

Welcome to the first annual Burj Residences block party!  We've been residences in the Burj Khalifa/Downtown area for four years now (spanning two decades!), but this is the first time that we've been able to get the neighborhood together.

Credit goes to our new homeowners association, one of the first in the area that can actually stand up to the all-powerful developers!  Of course, as with all things Dubai, it wouldn't be an event without merchandising, merchandising, merchandising!  Burj cupcakes and pizza (thank you Marzano), Burj moon bounce (thank you MoveOne), and my personal favorite, Burj cholestorol and blood sugar tests (thank you Burj Dubai Medical Center!).  It's been a while since I went to a neighborhood block party as a kid, but I definitely don't remember needles!

If you're wondering, we passed with flying colors (but I would recommend against having two cupcakes right before a blood test).
The kids seemed to love the party, with balloons flying away every few seconds, bingo for the adults, and of course, great weather.  Now we just need to make sure that Tasti d Lite sponsors the next event...