I need a stop sign in my food lane. A traffic light that flares "red" when gluttony is driving. Last week, I really should have put the brakes on. Instead I found myself speeding ever faster down a food lane where - quite literally - my plate nor wine glass was ever empty.
It started on Monday with a morning of Italian cheese tasting at Marta's Kitchen. An inspirational culinary studio in the Jumeirah Lake Towers, Marta teamed up with Eatalia to present mozzarella and ricotta in a wide variety: burrata , sfoglia, stracciatella, ricotta made from buffalo milk, cow's milk ricotta, burrata infused with black truffle, smoked mozzarella. The kitchen studio's counter was filled with cheeses and an assortment of condiments, from cherry balsamic glaze to rucola pesto. The guest chef made crostini with stracciatella topped with caramelized peaches. He rolled the sfoglia di mozzarella with anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, and rocket. Tasting plates kept going around, increasingly well-dressed with drizzles of a rich balsamic glaze, marinated olives, cherry tomatoes, or candied walnuts. It was a dynamic and delicious morning, and I left with a purchase of truffle burrata and sfoglia di mozzarella. A simple dinner that evening? Not quite: 7pm I sat down for fritto misto followed by fresh papparedelle at Ronda Locatelli.
Tuesday landed me in the French colonial ambience of fine dining Vietnamese restaurant Voi in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, at the tip of the crescent on the Palm. It was FooDiva's suggestion. As part of Jumeirah Restaurant Week, Voi offered a special menu at a promotional price. I settled on the spicy banana flower salad with marinated quail, followed by the steamed salmon with baby octopus and lime-clam sauce. All pleasurably washed down with a Navajas Rosado Rioja. For dessert a lemongrass crème brûlée. Not so sensible but all the more fun, we ended the evening way past midnight, after polishing off a bottle of bubbly. A small one, thank god.
Wednesday had me cooking Alsacian style sauerkraut. I braised sauerkraut slowly with caramelised onions, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and a little beef stock. After half an hour, I added quartered potatoes and pork chops. Another half hour later, I rearranged the (now steamed) potatoes to make room for boudin blanc (white sausage), Frankfurter, and bratwurst. Some 15 minutes more and my version of choucroute garnie was ready.
It was not for me though. I was going out for a food bloggers event at Mango Tree in the Souq al Bahar. We were invited to sample a few items from the menu. "Sampling" translated in an abundance of beautiful food: appetizers of spicy green papaya salad, seafood ceviche, mixed satay, prawn tom yam, and Northeastern style grilled beef salad. The main course included marinated chicken, green curry prawns, char-grilled ribeye, steamed seabass, and a gorgeous stir-fried chili lobster. Desserts of sticky rice and mango, fresh fruit platters, banana brownies, and mango cheesecake. Chef Paul Kennedy clearly enjoyed our enthusiasm, and happily shared tales of cooking Thai food. The next day, he was on Dubai One cooking his "jubilee chicken". A chef's life never slows down.
And the weekend had yet to start! It kicked off well on Thursday with a barrel sample tasting of Bordeaux 2011 wines, organised by Le Clos in the One & Only Royal Mirage. An evening of swirling promising wines with stern tannins around my tastebuds. Tannins - as I asked my husband and wine enthusiast (Barolo Raymond) to explain - are natural extracts from the grape's skin, stem and seeds that affect the wine's color, aging ability and texture. Tannins (a natural preservative) evolve over time and contribute to the aging process. When I asked him how to assess the tannins in these young Bordeaux wines, he added that tannins indicate if a wine has cellar potential, yet it depends on the fruit-acidity balance and structure if a wine is going to be good. When a (young) wine is harsh, puckering, mouth-drying and bitter, it is not nor will be good. And it will stain your teeth, he said. I resisted the urge to check in the mirror if the tannic wine had left a purple film on the pearly whites. But it had not.
Friday afternoon brought a slice of paradise and a cherished wine travel memory. This memory relates to the Life in the Food Lane cover photo of half-eaten stuffed zucchini flowers (at the top). It was taken just outside a little wine village in the Barolo region of Piemonte. The zucchini flowers (a family recipe with a stuffing of rabbit and fresh herbs from the garden) were part of a lunch we had on the terrace overlooking the vineyards of Serralunga d'Alba. It was late summer 2003, and the vines we looked out on were heavy with plump, dark grapes. Nebbiolo (the "Barolo grape") ripens late. It had been a hot summer and wine makers in the region were confident it would be a "good year". We opened one such a "good year" Barolo last Friday. One where the wine had matured, the tannins had softened and fruit and acidity had reached a beautiful balance. "Those grapes we saw that day are now in your glass," my husband - passionate about Barolo - exclaimed, super happy with his unbeatable slice of paradise: his 2003 Conterno Barolo and the truffle burrata we finally ate (it had been tempting me in the fridge all week).
That was not the end of the gluttonous week. There was the orange cake with meringue top, date caramel and chocolate custard I made for a farewell get together on Friday night. And the lamb I marinated in lime leaf, ginger, soy sauce, tamarind, a little chili, onion, and garlic for Saturday. It would go on the spit over the barbecue, the marinade reduced with tomato puree to bring more acidity into the sauce. But first on Saturday we had a "recover from Friday night" lunch of Hong Kong noodles, baby kailan, crispy five spice quail, and steamed pomfret at Sun Tour Restaurant at the Dragon Mart.
The lamb was part of a last wine dinner on Saturday with friends who are sadly leaving Dubai. When wine enthusiasts join forces in what they know will be a last one for a while to come, it culminates in a showdown of top wines. On the wine table appeared a Felton Road 2009 (Pinot Noir), a Chateaux Beychevelle Grand Vin 2005 (Saint Julien), and matching the spit-grilled lamb to perfection: a Clos Martinet 1998 Priorat.
Needless to say, I'm on the green tea and fresh juice this week. Although we did just finish the leftover bit of the Charming Grüner Veltliner.
Marta's Kitchen is the catering company of chef Marta Yanci. She also offers culinary forums: a series of cooking demonstrations and culinary events in her new location in Jumeirah Lake Towers.
Foodiva is Dubai's leading lady in restaurant reviews. She had been to Voi before, and bien sûr she wrote a review (here)
Le Clos Dubai has a great selection of fine wines, and is located in Terminal 3. You can go in before your flight, order the five wines you are allowed to import, and pick them up after you come back from your trip. At least, that is what my husband does to save time coming back into Dubai. All wines with the exception of the Priorat were purchased at Le Clos.
Mango Tree's chef Paul Kennedy was one of the participating chefs at the last Taste of Dubai (March 2012). The Mango Tree in Souk al Bahar is in a prime location to watch the Dubai Fountains, especially from their spacious outside the terrace.
Take a look at the Bordeaux-event wine notes taken by Barolo Raymond (here).