Category Archives: Foodies
I don’t know if it is just me, but when I go grocery shopping it is because our fridge is bare.
And I am usually mighty hungry too.
I also tend to make grandiose cooking plans for the week (Sunday: filet mignon, Tuesday: beef wellington, Friday: baked alaska…) and if you pair that with the fact that I tend to overestimate my cooking skills, it is easy to see why a week’s worth of groceries regularly ends up rotting in the fridge.
I really love cooking, but let’s be honest: sometimes it is a bit of a long winded process.
The worst thing? That sudden, horrible realisation, half-way through, that you are missing that one essential ingredient that will ruin the whole thing. (What? No ice cream left?! Goodbye, baked alaska).
Recently, however, I discovered Dinner Time.
Dinner Time is a service that delivers fresh groceries to your door, in enough quantity to cook four dinners (one vegetarian, one meat, one chicken, and one fish) for either two or four people. They also have a gluten-free version, and all the meals are prepared by experts nutritionists so they are healthy and well balanced.
(Here are their FAQ and dinner packages types) (Also: Facebook and Twitter pages)
The main difference with other companies is that they don’t deliver the food already cooked: they give you all the ingredients you need – in the quantity you need – together with four recipes which take less than 30 minutes to cook.
I ordered a 2 people box, which included four dinner meals.
What was delivered to me on the first day was a cardboard box full of vegetables and dry ingredients (plus a complimentary set of measuring spoons, which was a nice touch!), and a cold bag (with two ice packs) with the fresh meat, fish and cheeses.
My first impression was very good, as all the ingredients delivered were of great quality – even the pasta, for instance, which could have easily been a supermarket brand and I would not have complained, was instead an Italian gourmet brand.
The first meal we cooked was the Mexican rice salad.
Let me tell you: this is the best rice salad we have ever eaten in our life. It was SO nice that we told everyone we knew and passed the recipe to friends and colleagues. And W does not even like rice!!
With a mix of honey-covered hazelnuts, caramelised cherry tomatoes, spring onions, coriander, rocket salad and a squeeze of lime juice, it is basically heaven on a plate. I must confess, we re-cooked it just yesterday!
It mixed a lot of flavours we would have not necessarily though about mixing, but once all together… well, it was mouthwatering.
The second evening’s recipe was Spaghetti Bolognese with chard.
As on the previous day, the recipe was very straight-forward to follow, and the result really healthy and yummy.
W said the sauce was lovely because it was a different take on the classic dish, with more aromatic and fresh notes. It worked well with the spring onions and the mushrooms.
The third evening was time for chicken, paired with a grain we never tried before: bulgur.
We loved trying a new kind of grain which we had never really used before: it was very easy to cook, similar to cous-cous, and W loved the combination of cranberries, pumpkin, orange, honey, pumpkin seeds and chicken, for a yummy sweet and savoury combination.
The last evening, we cooked the salmon, mushroom and broccoli soup.
The combination of the fresh vegetables, the fresh salmon and the cream cheese worked really well. They even provided a garlic bread baguette to go with it!
To make a long story short, we just totally loved it. We got to cook new recipes without the hassle of going grocery shopping, we ate really yummy and healthy meals prepared in less than 30 minutes, and … nothing ended up rotting in the fridge, so no waste was made!!
We really loved this service, and we are planning to subscribe regularly. Especially in the summer, when the temperatures rise and we don’t really fancy spending too much time carrying heavy grocery bags, I think this will be a real treat.
Even better, if we subscribe for more than one box, it will cost less, going down to approximately £45 (British Pounds) a week, which considering that it includes 4 complete meals for the two of us, it is not only an easy and yummy solution, it is also very convenient.
Plus, we can check the menu in advance on the website, and if we don’t like what is planned next, we can skip a week and bring our credit forward.
In conclusion, we would totally recommend Dinner Time to anyone who loves eating well and would gladly do without the hassle of grocery shopping!
Unless you have a gourmet deli under your office, most work cafeterias – let’s face it – are kinda awful. I definitely prefer to cook at home and bring a packed lunch!
Shame is that I don’t always have the energy and the time to do it… so I often end up shoving into my work bag a sad, lonely banana while I am rushing through the door… and this always leaves me with a grumbling stomach and a grumpy face!
This is why I decided to try Right Bite (official website – official facebook).
This company promises to prepare gourmet lunches based on your dietary needs, and to deliver them fresh to your work place every day. All you have to do is to open the package, warm up in the microwave, and that’s it: a complete, nutricious (and yummy) meal.
I decided to try it for three days, just to see what kind of food they would deliver.
Upon booking, I had to fill in a form asking me about my details (weight, height, etc) and what kind of lifestyle I have (they did not have the option ‘couch potato’ so I had to go with ‘sedentary’). It felt straight away very professional, as they asked many medical history questions, to prepare a menu tailored to my needs.
Once I sent off the form, one of the very friendly company’s nutritionists called me to have a quick chat and explain me all the details.
Basically here is how it works: based on the information provided, they tailor a menu for you, then you get given several food options. You then log in into your account every week and choose what you want to eat for your next few days of delivery.
My lunches arrived in handy bags, delivered to the office early in the morning: all I had to do was to put them in the fridge until lunch time.
So, what did I eat?
Well, I need to specify that I am a vegetarian, so all my meals were meat-free and fish-free.
The first day I had a vegetarian nacho pizza as a main, and a side dish made with roasted eggplant, tomatoes and low-fat feta cheese. As a dessert I chose to try an Arabic delicacy: a wholemeal labneh fatayer.
The pizza was very tasty, especially because it mixed flavours I had not eaten on a pizza before, such as the Mexican beans. It was very filling and I really enjoyed it.
The eggplant salad was really lovely – I love eggplant, so I might be biased, but the combination with the fresh salad tomatoes and Greek cheese worked really well for me.
I had never tried a sweet fatayer before, but it was really nice, sweet but not too much, with a spicy kick. I am surely not going to limit myself to the savoury ones from now on!
The second day I had a spinach and chickpea stew served with brown rice. As a side dish I had a beetroot salad and as a dessert I had a chocolate brownie.
The rice was really well cooked and full of flavour, and also the spinach were really yummy. I am not a big fan of beetroot, I must admit, but this salad had it mixed with lettuce, so I surprisingly really liked the combination. The chocolate brownie was delicious, obviously!
The third day has been my favourite out of all the three. I had a veggie burger as a main, cucumber and fennel as a side salad and a raspberry cheesecake as a dessert.
It is really hard to get a good veggie burger, but this one was really tasty, had lovely potatoes on the side and even a container with fresh salad and sauces to add once warmed up. I really liked it!
The fennel side salad had a lovely seasoning, but again, I love fennel and cucumbers! It came with a creamy dressing that was very nice.
The raspberry cheesecake had a bit which was slightly broken, so obviously I had to eat it quickly to put it out of its misery… and it was so delicious that I could have eaten another two of them.
In conclusion, I was very happy with my trial.
This seems such a great idea to me. It is easy, yummy, and nutritionally balanced, so even if you have a cake, or chocolate, you don’t feel guilty because you know that the calories have been counted for you!
If this is not good enough, until the end of June part of the money you pay will go to charity!
I would really recommend this service to anyone which has a busy routine but still wants to eat properly, or to anyone who is keen to get in shape: who said that to be healthy you need to eat salad only? I am counting on cheesecakes from now on!
Where in Abu Dhabi:
at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
We really like to go to The Collection, next to the St Regis Hotel on Saadiyat Island, as there are so many lovely restaurants and cafes there, and the whole place has this kind of ‘piazza’ feeling, almost like being in a vibrant Italian square.
Our latest discovery there is Caramel, which is both a restaurant and a lounge. They serve American food, so yes, think burgers and Mac N’ Cheese – BUT all revisited with a fine dining approach, which makes for a really unique foodie experience – different from anything we had tried before in Abu Dhabi.
We actually went there twice, first on an evening out and then again for lunch, and both times we just loved the place.
In the evening the lounge area has a very elegant and stylish vibe, and during the day the restaurant feels very relaxed, thanks to the mellow light filtering through the curtains. They also have an outdoor terrace, but we decided to eat inside.
As a starter, I ordered Mac and Cheese, whilst W ordered the ‘Signature Chicken Lollipops’ with blue cheese sauce.
I thought I knew what Mac and Cheese looks like, so when four stylish breaded sticks arrived at our table, I had to make a fool of myself and double-check with the server that my order was right.
Well, it was right! They were Mac and Cheese, just a thousand times more elegant – and delicious, as every crunchy bite opened up a heart of mouth-watering gooey-ness.
From now on, I know I will be sorely disappointed whenever ordering Mac and Cheese elsewhere.
(I also realise I should probably have taken a photo of the melted centre, but they were just too nice and vanished before I could think of it!)
W also loved his chicken, especially dipped in the blue cheese sauce, even though I have to sadly report that I ate all of his carrots.
The portions are really generous at this restaurant, but we realised it too late.
We had decided to order a side to share, specifically the Tater Tots with brie cheese, but our really friendly server convinced us that we had to try the Roasted Mini Bakers, so we ended up ordering both.
The Tater Tots were once again a triumph of yummy gooey-tude, but the real surprise was in the Roasted Mini Bakers.
They were basically mini Jacket Potatoes (how they call them in the UK), served with not one, but four fillings: creme fraiche, chopped spring onion, aged cheddar cheese and veal bacon.
I don’t think I need to say again how delicious they were! We almost regretted ordering mains, after that, as they were really yummy and filling.
As a main, I ordered Truffled Penne Pasta, and W ordered Kobe Beef Sliders. Once again, everything was just perfect: the pasta was ‘al dente’ and the sauce creamy and mouth-watering, and W said that the mini-burgers were perfectly cooked and covered in yummy cheddar.
We were absolutely stuffed after all this, but we decided to skip dinner and share a dessert: we were suggested the Brownie, which they say is among their best-sellers. And we quickly learned why!
Served warm, and covered in lovely ice cream, we quickly scooped it up without regrets.
Aside from the really delicious (and surprising!) food, we must point out how the super-friendly staff, everyone – from the servers to the manager, went the extra mile to make us feel welcome and well looked after, which is always something we really appreciate.
After these two visits, Caramel has quickly become top on our favourites list. From the lovely relaxed atmosphere during the day to the funky and vibrant one in the evenings, we can see ourselves spending a lot of great times there, and we can’t wait to go back with our friends to show off this ‘gem’ we have found!
Let’s face it: meeting new people in your adult years is always a bit awkward.
Gone are the days where you could just walk up to someone at the park and ask if they want to play with you!
I mean, you can still do it, but either you get a friend for life, or you get murdered – 50/50 chance.
If approaching strangers in Khalifa park is not your idea of fun, you might want to take a look at Restronaut, a social dining website that aims to connect people with similar interests over dinner.
It is easy enough: someone starts a table in a nice restaurant, shares the menu and a theme to the evening, such as an obsession for Twitter (no, I am not making this up) or a passion for Jessica Fletcher’s fashion (yes, I am making this up – but I wish I wasn’t).
If you think that you might enjoy the conversation, you join the table, pre-pay your dinner through a safe online payment method, and voilà: you are good to go, ready to meet new friends.
Now, before y’all start screaming and say “but it is in Dubai!”, hear me out: yes, most of their dinners are based in Dubai, but tomorrow night – Tuesday 20th May – they have one in Abu Dhabi, even though it is for ladies only, and apparently they are planning to expand over here, so hopefully more dinners will come soon.
Tomorrow night’s dinner calls for business ladies in the UAE: there are still a few places left as we write, and it is at Koi, which is a really lovely restaurant. (Note to self: write review for Koi).
Restronaut seems like a fun idea to me, so I hope to see more of their dinners in the capital!
Click HERE to read more about MEETING PEOPLE in Abu Dhabi
There is something really joyous in the sound of the ice cream trucks coming to your neighbourhood during the hot summer months.
Imagine my excitement when I realised that they have ice cream trucks in Abu Dhabi too, thanks to a company called Desert Chill (also on Facebook).
They are slightly different from the ice cream vans in the UK, as they don’t serve soft cones but they sell Algida ice creams (which is known as Wall’s in the UK). Think cornetto, magnum and so on. Yum.
It took me a little while to work out how it all goes down, but they answered all my questions with incredible patience!
So, basically: the Desert Chill company has a fleet of vans roaming around Abu Dhabi. If we fancy an ice cream, we email/call them and say: “Can one of your vans come to (example: my street) at (11am?) on (Saturday?). This is my name and phone number.”
And they will tell you: “YES, we will have a van coming to see you at your preferred time and place!”
Now, this is going to cost an arm and a leg, right? Having a van coming to your house, just because you fancy an ice cream!?
Well, this is the best part: it does not. If you call the van and then just want to buy one single ice cream, that’s fine. There is no minimum spending limit, and you literally just get what you want and then bid goodbye!
We bought a cornetto and a twister (19 AED in total) and we were not charged a penny more!
The reason for this is that they have a lot of vans going around the city anyway, so to make a slight detour it does not change their routine much, hence they don’t have to charge you extra and you don’t have to go around looking for them! Is this not great?
Of course, if you have a party and you want the van to hang around for a while, then you have to spend at least 150 AED.
They have a general schedule with areas/routes (see image below) and some kind-of fixed appointments (such as on Thursdays lunch time next to the TwoFour54 building) but mostly they are happy to come to you if you call them.
We tried to call a van this morning, and the driver was bang on time, very polite and friendly and we left happy and with a yummy ice cream in our hand!
With the hot months coming, this definitely won’t be the last time we call them in!
Where in Abu Dhabi:
Manarat Al Saadiyat,
Saadiyat Cultural District
Tel: +9712 657 5888
Opening times: Sun-Wed 10AM-11PM; Thur-Sat 10AM to midnight.
I remember it clearly: it was our very first weekend in Abu Dhabi and we wanted to ‘see a museum’ (sic). We decided to visit Saadiyat Island, the future location of the Louvre, Zayed Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, where friends told us there was already a great museum open. “And don’t forget to try the restaurant,” they added.
After arriving at Manarat Al Saadiyat and having enjoyed the interesting exhibition (I particularly love the room made of chairs!) we followed our friends’ advice and tried the in-house restaurant.
Fanr has an airy and spacious setting, with both indoors and outdoors seating, and a very contemporary feel, with floor-to-ceiling windows and several art pieces around – of course.
Restaurants inside museums more often resemble university canteens, as they are busy and somehow push you to eat quickly and move along. Fanr is different, because it makes you feel very relaxed and at ease, with no need to hurry up. It is also quite stylish, even though most of the people in it wear casual clothes and big cameras around their neck.
Since that very first time, we have been back many, many times, enjoying both the a/c in the glass-cladded restaurant and the breeze and sound of the water in the Arabic-inspired courtyard.
We did not take photos every single time we went, but my absolute favourite on the menu is the watermelon and feta salad. I can’t even begin to explain how much these two things are delicious together – and I had never thought about it before!
Here W tried his first camel burger (“It kind-of tastes like beef,” he says) and here we brought family and friends when they came to visit. We really like it!
Adding one more reason to visit, they now have weekly Yoga classes (they started them last month).
Every Wednesday the association Yoga Retreats offers two one-hour classes (at 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM), held in the restaurant grounds.
Costs are: 80 AED per session or 700 AED for a series of ten. (To book: Yoga Retreats website).
All the participants in the classes also receive a 20% discount to use at Fanr.
Fanr is really a delightful place. It might be slightly off the beaten track, but its relaxing atmosphere, absolutely delicious food and attentive staff certainly puts it up there, among our favourite eateries in the city.
The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (adach.ae) published some very interesting leaflets about Emirati customs and culture, so I thought it would be interesting to share them on the blog. All the data below has been taken from these pamphlets.
Much of the Arabian Peninsula, an area of more than 3 million square kilometres, has been occupied for millennia. In some areas, settlements developed into cities, and along the coast fishing villages and busy ports grew. However, the vast desert regions were populated by nomadic Bedouin herdsmen who moved between the oases scattered throughout the interior.
Although vegetables such as cucumbers, pumpkins and onions were cultivated, together with lemons, pomegranates and melons, it was the wheat and dates grown in the oases that formed the staples of Bedouin diet. Dates keep well, can be eaten fresh or dried, are easily transported and have excellent nutritional value: there are over a hundred different varieties of dates.
For thousand of years, wheat was used to make gruel or porridge, or ground into flour for bread which was baked over coals, or even directly in the intensely hot sands.
Some of the many wheat-based dishes include the harees, a mixture of ground wheat and meat, and the bathitha, a sweet made of wheat flour dates and ghee.
The harees is one of the most famous meals in the Arab world and has been cooked for centuries. It is usually served in a deep dish at weddings, during Ramadan and at the religious feasts Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. It is also served to new and nursing mothers since it is believed to have restorative properties: ground wheat and meat are cooked together over a low heat until the texture becomes creamy.
Rice is eaten either alone, or with meat or fish, using the right hand only. Popular rice dishes include the makbous and the.mashkhoul.
The makbous recipe has been passed down through the generations and it is a very popular dish in Abu Dhabi: meat, chicken or fish is cooked with onions, dried lime and spices such as turmeric, cardamom and nutmeg. When tender, the meat is removed and rice is cooked in the remaining stock. The meat is then mixed back with the rice, the dish covered and hot coals heaped upon the lid to complete the cooking process. The meat and rice are served on a large dish or tray, garnished with nuts, raisins and fried onions.
Fish is still very popular, and a wide range is available even inland. The fish market (Suq As Samak) in Al Ain sells around thirty species such as barracuda, prawns, shark and anchovies.
Milk from camels, goats and sheep provided a healthy supplement to the diet. It could also be churned into butter, or used to make yoghurt and cheese. Honey, various salad leaves and occasionally fish eggs, truffles or mushrooms were also eaten by the Bedouins.
However, the most important element of the diet was – and still remains, meat.
Nowadays camel meat is often served, but it was a rarer commodity to the Bedouin, who prized his camel above all else. Meat usually came from goats and bull calves, as well as quails, pigeons and houbara bustards, brought down by trained falcons, or rabbit and foxes, hunted by the fast Saluki dogs.
Archaeological excavations have unearthed the remains of darts, spears and other hunting gear, and pictures on the walls of some of the Hili tombs depict many different kinds of game: large animals such as gazelles and oryx abounded, but domestic cattle, sheep and goat were all kept by the earliest inhabitants of the UAE around seven thousand years ago.
In the last few decades, the range of food available locally has increased enormously. Various expatriate communities have introduced new dishes and the Asian communities exert one of the most powerful culinary influences, as there are many variations on popular Indian dishes, such as biryani.
The traditional local values of hospitality, generosity and courtesy to guests are still upheld. Family meals at home are informal, but at large gatherings time-honoured etiquette is observed, and the social intercourse is invariably accompanied by coffee.
In the past, the coffee was frequently prepared by the host and served to those who had gathered to exchange news or tell stories.
The beans were roasted in a pan (mehmas) then cooled in a wooden tray, known as mabradah.
They were then ground in a mihbash – a form of pestle and mortar, made of wood, iron or brass, and brewed in a clay pot (malkama).
The coffee was then poured into the classic beaked Arabian pot (dallah) and served in small ceramic cups (finjan), exactly as it is today.
Tradition dictates that the cup must be filled only a quarter full, and frequently refilled. When no more coffee is required, you need to rock the finjan to and from as the pourer approaches.
Le Méridien hotel in Abu Dhabi is organising a ‘Village festival’ on the 28th of March, starting at 1pm. The theme of the festival is Africa: its diverse culture, traditions and cuisine. (Directions here).
For those who are new to the city and might not know many people as yet, this Internations group is planning on going, and new faces are always welcome.
African delicacies will be on sale at the many food stalls, with particular focus on Ethiopian, Moroccan and South African cuisine: couscous and bastilla, Injera bread, Azifa, Alecha, Malva pudding, as well as a barbecue and a specially brewed coffee.
There will be live music, by the band Dubai Drums, the in-house South African band Trio del Sol, and DJ Badu (also on facebook).
Various activities will include children’s face painting and a bouncy castle, and the chance for all to get a makeover thanks to expert hairstylists ready to create beautiful braids.
There will also be a raffle, and the winning ticket will win two return flights to Nairobi, in Kenya.
Mina port is probably one of the most charming areas of Abu Dhabi, and a personal favourite of mine. From the dhow harbour to the Mina centre, here is where we go if we want to feel as we are somehow off the beaten track, even if ever so slightly.
On a sunny Saturday, around 12pm, we visited the fish souk, as our friend M had heard that you can have lunch there.
It was reasonably busy, buzzing with vendors and customers, haggling for the best prices.
I was impressed by how clean and well organised the stalls looked: all vendors wore gloves, aprons, nets and name badges, which gave me the feeling of a very professional environment.
And yes, it smells fishy, but it is fresh fish smell, not a miasma, hence it is not unpleasant (and it is a vegetarian talking!!) and soon you get used to it.
So, here is how it goes down, if someone wants to have lunch at the fish souk:
1) Choose the fish.
The fish is caught fresh the previous night, so the choice is different every day but also very diverse. Official prices are written on boards all around the market, but you can haggle with single vendors to get the best price.
Our friends decided to buy some shrimps and shark, and got them from two different stalls.
In general, the stalls further away from the main entrance door seemed to have slightly better deals, but the difference between prices is anyway minimal.
2) Get the fish cleaned.
At the back of the market area there is a big group of men dressed in red: those are the fish cleaners, both for people who want to eat there or just get their purchases cleaned before bringing them home. Apparently, if you buy shellfish for lunch, you can get it cleaned directly at the kitchens, but for other fishes, you need to get it prepared here. Our friends had the shark cleaned and cut in fillets and they paid 10 AED.
3) Get the fish cooked.
After the fish is ready (and we were invited to look at the cleaning process), we brought it to the opposite side of the room, inside a daedalus of small rooms and corridors. In this area there are small individual shops selling dried fish, fruit, salads, drinks, and anything else you might need.
The kitchen is quite close to one of the entrances: you speak to the cook, tell him how do you want your fish prepared, if you want it spicy or not, and he tells you when to come back to pick up your lunch.
For shark fillets battered and fried and 1 Kg of shrimps, our friends paid 20 AED.
It was very busy when we went there so they asked us to come back in one hour to pick up the cooked fish.
In the same area where the kitchen is, there is a very simple restaurant with tables and chairs, where you can seat to have your lunch.
I have not tried the fish, but our friends said it was absolutely delicious and full of flavour.
The fish market is a very interesting and bustling place, with also other foods been sold: a coconut milk seller attracted our attention. We could choose between two different types of coconut, and he would cut it for us, make a hole on the top, and then give it to us with a straw. It was fresh and really tasty. And coconut milk is supposed to be very good for your health too!
At the back of the fish market, towards the dhow port, you can find people renting jet skis and offering boat tours, and a series of charming restaurants on dhows.
The whole experience is very interesting: if you like fish, this is something you don’t want to miss.