Posts Tagged ‘food blogger

25
Oct
14

5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL TO CHEFCHAOUEN, MOROCCO

In my recent brief but memorable first time trip to Northern Africa from my current home-base in Dubai, UAE, I only chose to experience three places in Morocco. Because of limited time and restricted budget, I only went to Rabat, Fes and Chefchaouen. That practical decision left me with an unfinished business with Morocco to go back and visit Casablanca, Essaouira, Tanger, Meknes, Volubilis, Marrakech, the Sahara desert and other fascinating places, in the near future.

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Chefchaouen, Morocco.

While everyone who have been to Chefchaouen, or Chaouen have published, posted and uploaded something about it on YouTube, travel blogs, books and magazines, I decided to share in a slightly different perspective, what I realized about this town that has been fast becoming favorite travel destination.

FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL TO CHEFCHAOUEN, MOROCCO

(1) If you have an aversion to long travel time, or particularly hate waiting for public buses or trains that only take passengers and ply the indirect routes in very few trips per day; worse, if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for an alternative solo-trip via grand taxi (read : vintage Mercedes sedans) to take you from point A in Morocco to Chefchaouen, then don’t even attempt to visit it. In other words, if you’re not adventurous, or if you’re not willing to take risks in the name of passion for travel, you may simply remain in your own comfort zone.

Chefchaouen is nestled beneath two mountain peaks, called Ech-Chaoua (the horns) of Rif Mountains in Northwest Morocco. It took me 4-hour-road-trip from my riad in Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, which I enjoyed immensely. The bilateral views by the windows of my grand taxi were awe-inspiring! Clear and blue sky, feathery clouds, gorgeous weather in October, crisp and fresh mountain breeze. I felt Mother Nature was smiling her sweetest to welcome my arrival. All worries and stress from hassles and challenges disappeared in a blink. It was pure bliss!

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I requested the taxi driver to park for few minutes, et voila! My first glimpse of that blue town at foot of Rif Mountain.

I left my riad in Rabat at 12 noon and reached Atlas Hotel in Chefchaouen at almost 4PM. Immediately after checking in, I went to the hotel’s balcony and savored the view of this charming Blue Pearl of Morocco.

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Chefchaouen viewed from Atlas Hotel.

(2) If you’re someone who’s meticulous with hotels or someone who prefers contemporary accommodation, Chefchaouen isn’t for you. Since the place is located high up on the mountains, most, if not all bed and breakfast, riads and inns are far from having complete amenities and facilities that could irk easily the picky tourist in you.

The most modern accomodation in Chefchaouen, the Atlas Hotel that I found online via the famous fashion blog of Bryan Boy, reminded me that being detached from reality and disconnected from urban necessities, specifically wifi access (because wifi-connection was only accessible at the lobby and not in the rooms of Atlas Hotel), is healthy for the soul and our entire being. The silence that lorded the entire hotel was ultimately relaxing and gave me irresistible opportunity to appreciate nature and casually commune with solitude.

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Where famous fashion blogger, Bryan Boy sat when he stayed in Atlas Hotel. End of story. :)
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Loneliest hotel room. Why? No wifi, lah! :(

(3) If for any reason you despise the color blue, you must not visit Chefchaouen. In case the place is new to your vocabulary and knowledge of geography and history, as it was to mine prior planning my trip to Morocco, you must know that this extraordinary town is washed in powder blue. According to historians, the blue-rinsed abodes and buildings came from the tradition of the town’s previous Jewish population.

The  Berbers, or the indigenous people of North Africa, had deep roots of resistance and rebellion against Spanish and French colonial forces. Several attempts were made in order to keep their independence and prevent assimilation until they were defeated in 1926. One Moroccan man personally told me that blue was painted over traditionally white houses (the place, Casablanca in south of Chefchaouen is called as such because- casa means house, and blanca, white) as a form of acceptance.

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I breathe for these touristy shots, worthy to be my Facebook cover photo! *insert silly laughs*

Let’s get down to business, shall we?

So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you,

*drum roll, please!*

the otherworldly, Chefchaouen, Morocco.

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Postcard-heaven! I’m into Postcrossing so finding these pretty postcards spelled bliss!

(4) If you have fear of something that you haven’t experienced yet, like becoming terribly worried of being offered by touts of illegal drugs, then don’t dare travel to Chefchaouen.

Hashish or marijuana that is locally produced and grown by farmers in industrial scale could be offered to you insistently by local and foreign touts around the medina. I read it from the National Geographic Traveler Morocco guide book that I purchased months before my trip, and I personally experienced it immediately upon arrival at my hotel.  A man approached me discreetly as I alight from my grand taxi, asked me if I’m interested with hashish. I just shook my head and said, No then I walked towards the lobby.

Hashish is still considered illegal in Chefchaouen, however it’s being frequently smuggled in compressed resin via fast boats to neighboring Italy, Spain and France. Apparently, I did go to Chaouen to experience a different kind of ecstasy from travel adventures, and still lucid never to experience being euphoric with illegal drugs.

I’d like to emphasize that traveling to Chefchaouen and entire Morocco is very safe even for solo-travelers like me, unless perhaps, you forgot to leave your anxiety at home.

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Some travel treasures to keep for a lifetime!
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Exposing Moroccan kids to selfie. Sue me now! :)
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Traditional Berber hand-woven masterpieces. From table runners to scarves and whatnot.

(5) If you prioritize dining in your favorite commercial coffee shops and fast-food joints like Starbucks Coffee, Mcdonald’s or KFC, I’m afraid Chefchaouen isn’t the travel destination for you.

While it’s been mandatory for me to treat my very own palates to local dishes in every places I go to, I found myself lured and enticed to the colors, flavors, the casual and laid-back atmosphere by the outdoor dining shops and sidewalk cafes in Chefchaouen. Not to forget the menu at Paloma Restaurant was absolutely affordable but satisfyingly good! Wifi was fast and free too!

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I tried the very Moroccan, Chicken tagine served with potato fries, free side dishes of aubergine and lentils, that I paired with piping hot Moroccan bread; I also sampled Paloma Restaurant’s Grilled prawns with spiced rice and fries. Everything on my table, including that 2 bottles of Coke, only cost 100 MAD (11.50 USD or 42 AED). That’s reasonably delicious!

The view from where I sat for dinner…

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I took my time and spent almost an hour and a half  having my early dinner at Paloma Restaurant, that’s only a stone’s throw away from the town square…

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Chefchaouen’s town square.

Before having breakfast the following day, I initially went to the balcony of Atlas Hotel again and treasured the freshest air to my lungs’ delight for the last time.

Then I confirmed from the staff at the concierge, my pre-arranged grand taxi and driver that took me to another 4-hour-road trip to Fes.
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That priceless smile from Mother Nature viewed from my 4-hour-road-trip from Chaouen to Fes.

Despite it’s physically challenging to explore Chefchaouen’s steep and cobbled alleys, that undoubtedly required comfortable shoes, extra patience, and proper breathing; in spite of its uphill roads to and from the hotel that demanded taking petit taxi for 10 Moroccan dirhams per tripconsidering the challenging and slow-paced transportation in and out of various places in Morocco, the experience of savoring cool mountain breeze while giving high regard to warm and welcoming smiles from the locals, the sight of those uniquely blue-tinted houses, were definitely one for the books!
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I’m glad I gave my plan to travel to this blue town of Chefchaouen a green light!

Have you been to Chefchaouen, Morocco? How was your experience?

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 *This Morocco Blog Series includes :

*All photos on this blog post were taken using Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

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20
Jul
14

IFTAR BUFFET AT DUSIT THANI DUBAI

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If you must know, Iftar is the break of the fast at around sunset during the Islamic month of Ramadan. And if in case you’re in Dubai or nearby emirates, why not celebrate Iftar at Dusit Thani Dubai?

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Imagine the exquisite fusion of Arabian luxury and Asian hospitality.  The Emirati sophistication and Thai elegance.  Fascinating qualities combined under one roof, in a remarkable twin-skyscrapers that physically resemble two-palms-put-together greeting everyone, Sawasdee!

Conveniently located along Sheikh Zayed Road, Dusit Thani Dubai is only a stone-throw-away from the world’s tallest man-made structure, the iconic – Burj Khalifa, the massively impressive, Dubai Mall and Dubai’s World Trade Center and the rest of establishments comprising its commercial and financial district; not to forget its proximity to Dubai Metro Station – that defines accessibility in truest sense of the word.

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Dusit Thani Dubai.  A glimpse of Asia in the heart of Dubai, UAE (photo sourced from its website).

One will not only savor a sumptuous buffet spread at Dusit Thani Dubai while enjoying  Asian-Arabian ambiance, but would also make Ramadan more meaningful, as a percentage of proceeds from the dinner buffet goes to Operation Smile.
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Although I have an idea of the Fasting month, as a Non-Muslim-Overseas Filipino Worker who came from a 3-year-work-stint in Malaysia that’s also predominantly believer of Islamic faith, where I had a chance to partake in Berbuka Puasa (breaking of the fast in Malay) and go to Ramadan Night Markets, there’s still a bit of curiosity for me to experience Ramadan (and summer) here in UAE for the first time.

About 2 weeks after our company threw an Iftar buffet party at a different premier hotel, I was blessed to try the Iftar offerings at Dusit Thani Dubai with one of our young colleagues who generously accompanied me on the eve of Friday, 18th July 2014.

Together with Jessica, my taste buds were challenged by not one but three restaurants in Dusit, participating in its Iftar – The Californian (Continental cuisine), PAX (Italian cuisine) and Benjarong (Thai).

The Californian

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Benjarong

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PAX

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Because the three restaurants are located at the 24th floor of Dusit Thani, the view from where we sat at PAX gave us a breathtaking visual feast of the stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road and the magnificent, Burj Khalifa at another corner. The dining experience was heightened as the sky dramatically turned into dusk.

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Jessica, one of my young and brilliant colleagues at work in Dubai.

With fresh orange juice and Arabic beverages and tea inclusive in the buffet, dishes of 60% Arabic and 40% Asian-Continental were on the spread located at the middle of  the 3 particpating restaurants. Although the volume wasn’t as great as our expectations, I honestly found some of my favorites (Shawarma, Hummus, Babanoush, Tabouleh, Greek Salad with feta cheese, Caesar salad, Chicken Biryani, Chicken ala Kiev, various pasta dishes cooked on the spot and others) appetizingly good!  What I did was random sampling of little portions of what I fancied.
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Dates and tea.

Why dates at Iftar? A quick glance at Wiki states, “Traditionally but not mandatory, three dates are eaten to break the fast in emulation of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who broke his fast in this manner. Many Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and that such was practised by the Prophet Muhammad.”

*photos below are only a fraction of the entire Iftar offerings at Dusit Thani Dubai.

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What’s dining in Dubai without Shawarma? Unlimited Chicken Shawarma, anyone? :)

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Traditional Roasted Lamb Ouzi, served with Oriental rice and toasted nuts.

No meal is complete without sweet endings… Here are some of the desserts in the middle of the desert! :)
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Good food, good company, good times… Thank you, Dusit!

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I love that Pasta! Go figure why. Troop to Dusit Thani for your Iftar if you’re in Dubai!
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Special thanks goes to Ms. Danelle of Dusit Thani Dubai for the invitation to this Iftar.

Dusit Thani Dubai | 133 Sheikh Zayed Road, P.O. Box 23335 Dubai | Tel: +971 (4) 343 3333+971 (4) 343 3333 | Fax: :+971 (4) 343 4222+971 (4) 343 4222 | website : http://www.dusit.com/dusitthani/dubai/default-en.html

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12
May
14

BOARDWALK, DUBAI CREEK MARINA | UNFORGETTABLE DINING EXPERIENCE

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Dining without prejudice. That’s what I had in mind when I brought my appetite and my relatives from Deira to Boardwalk Dubai to sample their menu for lunch last weekend. I never entertained the unjust concept that such place is only for people who live in huge villas or tourists with plenty of pocket money to burn. Some people develop an aversion to what they casually perceived as “intimidating places” even without being there yet. Wrong. Unfair. Imperfect impression. Just because Boardwalk Dubai is beautifully tucked within the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and offers a Mediterranean menu doesn’t mean it’s not affordable. It’s one of the must-try fantastic restaurants when you’re in Dubai!

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Interiors of immaculate white and  powder blue that’s apparently inspired by the waters, renders a fresh and welcoming atmosphere. The indoor restaurant’s spacious, fit for large groups of friends and families, even for business meetings. For people who prefer outdoor dining and those who are worshipers of sunset and sea  breeze,  Boardwalk’s famous terrace provides a spectacular view of Dubai Creek and skyline that’s even more breathtaking at sundown.

I and my relatives enjoyed our lunch inside Boardwalk’s air-conditioned dining area, and promised ourselves to come back  to sip refreshments while savoring the red and yellow sunset hues at the terrace soon.
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Reminiscent of Mediterranean market, Boardwalk has a minimalist yet striking seafood display where diners have the liberty of selecting the fish and/or seafood of wide variety from king fish, sherry, sweet lip, red snapper, seabream, hammour, salmon, seabass, tuna, cod, clams, prawns, cuttlefish, welks, scallops, lobster, to how they want the dishes to be seasoned, cooked, served with side dishes and sauces.
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I could not think of any people but them to share my dining experience at Boardwalk and the lovely weekend afternoon. Meet my relatives family in Deira, Dubai. My cousins, Ate Arlene and Kuya Orvil, and 2 of their kids, Ian and Mark.
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I always consider brief encounters and conversations with people who prepare my food a special opportunity to understand every flavor, every seasoning, every effort they put on my plate. And for that, I am grateful!  We had the pleasure of meeting Boardwalk’s Chef De Cuisine, Chef Stefano Andreoni. He spontaneously explained what Boardwalk and his dishes are all about.

I appreciate the fact that the Mediterranean theme of Boardwalk is infused with his Italian expertise. The moment he mentioned the use of olive oil in his cooking, I knew we’re in for some great dining.

At Boardwalk, diners have option to select their own seasoning. When having Greek cuisine, lemon, fennel, and thyme may be used. If Sicilian, there’s oregano, chilli and garlic. Levant dishes calls for zaatar, coriander and sumac, while Italian dishes commonly have tomato and olive, and for Piqant, mostly with chilli and five peppers. The freshest pick from Boardwalk’s seafood display may also be cooked upon diners’ request, either oven baked, fried, grilled or steamed. Side dishes also vary from fried, roasted, or olive mashed potato; for vegetable side dishes – one may opt to have ratatouille, steamed, roasted medley, root veggies or mixed green leaves, and for rice, diner may choose to have it with saffron, lemon, or star anise. Meals are already delicious sans sauces but to add more flavors and complete the dining experience, Chef Stefano offers lemon butter, salmoriglio and salsa verde.
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Thank You to Boardwalk’s Chef De Cuisine, Chef Stefano, our fellow Kabayan Outlet Supervisor, Ms. Juliana Tuazon, and Restaurant Manager, Ms. Ines Fourquet (not in photo)

Apart from its priceless location, lovely ambiance, quick, efficient and friendly service, the main reason why people must try Boardwalk is of course, the food.  We surrendered our options and allowed Chef Stefano to surprise us with his dishes, from starters to entrees.

From appetizers, mezzeh and antipasti, we’re almost satiated; it’s a sensory feast! The starters weren’t that overwhelming but just the right flavors and textures to stimulate our senses as a prelude to a wonderful dining experience.

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King Fish Carpaccio.

We had butter and high fiber bread, King Fish Carpaccio. That plate of thin slices of king fish topped with insalata siciliana and orange vinaigrette is such a textured goodness!
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Mezzeh and Antipasti to share.

The flavored Hummus with black olives, basil and pesto are perfect dips for the Arabic bread served in tiny but piping hot portions. We also loved the Tzatziki, prepared with cool yoghurt and cucumbers fused with tangy Greek recipe, and we’re all hands down to the Eggplant Caponata – an antipasti of diced eggplant cooked with onion, garlic, tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, capers and parsely. Ahhhhhh Heavenly!!!
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Forgive me as the name of this prawn dish slipped my memory. It’s that delicious that numbed my cerebrum, hahaha! What I recall from what Chef Stefano had shared, it’s a dish inspired by sailors docking on shores, enjoying freshest catch from the sea.

Moving on, the classic Calamari landed on our table. I’ve tasted a lot of versions of this fried squid dish from a few countries I’ve been to but Boardwalk’s isn’t oily, lightly battered, and the freshly tasting Calamari ever! Highly recommended!

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Then a black cookware with mussels was brought to our table. Mussels Al Podomorro. A very tasteful rendition of the common mussels however, cooked extraordinarily in tomato sauce, black pepper, parsley, and white wine. Thumbs up!
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Since summer officially kicked in, we opted to cool and wash down everything with fibrous fresh fruit juices.
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Obviously, Boardwalk’s appetizers served its function of prepping our palates so well. But like what Chef Stefano did on the antipasti, we’re all surprised and amazed of his choices for our entrees. Thank you so much, Chef! 

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From the Sweet Lip fish dish served with roasted vegetables, olive mashed and fried potatoes, to the Grilled Prawns that tasted extra-delicious sans sauces, as the prawns according to Chef were imported from our country, The Philippines, to the sweetest and freshest tasting clams that ever laid on my taste buds, to the Risotto Porcini – made of Carnaroli rice with porcini mushrooms and parmesan cheese (that made it sooooo good!),  trust and believe me, these plates tasted more gorgeous than they look on photos!  Amazing! Everything’s sublime.
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Chef Stefano choosing the freshest ingredients personally. Good job, Chef! Well done!

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Glad my relatives enjoyed it!

Chef’s culinary masterpiece at Boardwalk gloriously ended with caffeine dose and divine desserts.  Ate Arlene had the Waffle served with raspberries and chocolate trimmings, Ian chose Banana Split, his brother Mark had Chocolate Mushroom, dramatically topped with chocolate meringue, hazelnut and chocolate sauce, Kuya Orvil opted for Coffee Liegeois; it’s a coffee ice cream served with warm sauce topped with chantilly cream and coffee beans, and I enjoyed Peach Melba, poached peaches served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.
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Cappuccino, anyone?

After that wonderful weekend lunch at Boardwalk, we were graciously ushered to the other levels of the building by Boardwalk’s staff, Juliana upon our request. The view’s fantastic!  We also strolled a bit at the marina, and marveled at the expensive yachts. What a relaxing  and pretty weekend it was!

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With my family in Dubai, cousins -Ate Arlene and her husband, Kuya Orvil. Thank you so much!

We certainly enjoyed our weekend indulgence at Boardwalk. I was telling my relatives that I was trying my best to find fault at the food, service and everything in Boardwalk but I failed. Needless to say, I highly recommend this gastronomic institution in Deira, Dubai to everyone who seek special dining experiences. Every minute and every dirham’s worth it!

BOARDWALK | Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira, Dubai | website : http://www.dubaigolf.com

Boardwalk’s conveniently located just across Deira City Centre.

“Boardwalk is open for Lunch and Dinner every day and for breakfast on weekends and is ideal for families, couples, groups of friends or even a business lunch.

Opening Times
12 noon to midnight from Sunday to Thursday
8am to midnight from Friday and Saturday”

For reservations please contact Boardwalk on +971 4 295 6000 or email creekdining@dubaigolf.com.  -Sourced from its website.

*Special THANKS goes out to Boardwalk Dubai, Chef Stefano Andreoni, Ms. Ines Fouruet, Ms. Juliana Tuazon, all the wait staff of Boardwalk and Mr. Tom Watterson for the invitation!

*Some of the photos published on this post were taken by my relatives, Ate Arlene, Ian and Mark. Thank you for allowing me to use them!

*Although the meals on this blog post were sponsored, the words, opinion, and insights of the blogger were never influenced and remain 100% his own.

>><<

05
Apr
14

BASTAKIYA, AL FAHIDI | MY FAVORITE PLACE IN DUBAI TO DATE

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In my first few weeks in Dubai, I was fortunate to discover what I reckon as my favorite place to date.  A totally different space from the sight of stunning skyscrapers along the Sheikh Zayed Road.  An incredibly pleasant respite from the busy, cosmopolitan and future-forward city. A very quaint heritage site that made me more interested in the region where I am now.

Al Bastakiya in Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai.

The Old Dubai district.

It took me only less than half an hour to reach Dubai Metro Al Fahidi Station from my current flat in Muraqqabat, in Deira. After alighting the train that runs along the Dubai Metro Green Line, I asked the Information Officer of the specific exit point that took me to the Al Musalla Road down to the Al Fahidi roundabout, and I engaged myself  in approximately 700 meters of leisurely stroll.

 

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The roundabout at the junction of Al Fahidi Street and Al Musalla Road.

Akin to a step back in time, this charming and enigmatic quarter in Bur Dubai fronting Dubai Creek, features classic Arabian architecture of traditional houses, with amazingly vast courtyards, narrow alleys  and tall wind catchers. Typical in arabesque abodes, wind catchers or more commonly called, wind towers, had been greatly used to make ventilation cooler and climate more bearable particularly during the early years of Dubai prior to the invention of air-conditioning units. At present, even the most modern dining places and notable souks have kept wind catchers as part of the structure of their establishments, giving their patrons an atmosphere of Dubai’s historic past.

 

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Bastakiya neighborhood is named after the place where migrants from Iranian region, Bastak, resided. Glad it was preserved, restored and maintained for every tourist, foreigner or otherwise.

Bastakiya is conveniently located just across the roundabout at the junction of Al Fahidi Street and Al Musalla Road in Bur Dubai. It’s a stone’s throw away from Dubai Museum, another must-visit-attraction in this side of UAE.

Before my first Do-It-Yourself-Dubai art and heritage appreciation, I was effortlessly seduced by Arabian Tea House Cafe. I never thought I’d fall in love with the place in an instant.
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The entrance is so modest yet very welcoming.
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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Tucked within a traditional Arabian house, an expansive courtyard was transformed into a relaxing and attractive tea house and restaurant that was previously called, Basta Art Cafe. Arabian Tea House Cafe offered me not only a taste of having Arabic afternoon tea but an entirely priceless sensory feast!

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This is where I sat with my old reliable black backpack and spent more than a couple of hours savoring time and absorbing everything in. All negativity that’s clouding my head evaporated in a blink. I must go here frequently.  

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And why not. Al Fahidi (despite I’d walk a couple of yards to Arabian Tea House from Dubai Metro Station), is only a station away from Oud Metha, where St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the place where I find peace, blessings, forgiveness, solace is. It has been a month and a week in Dubai and never a Wednesday evening that I missed going to church. I’m not that religious but if you don’t have anyone else, or at least you only have only a few people to depend on, in a place so foreign to you, it’s only faith, plus good food and great place that assure me. 

I was happy to see that most staff in Arabian Tea House Cafe are Kabayan. The friendliest and the most efficient workers in the Gulf and perhaps all over the globe are of course, Filipinos, bar none (I know, it’s a different topic! I digress). So when Kabayan staff, Vanessa handed me the menu with a smile, I asked of their house specialty drinks. She mentioned Mint and Lime and as for the tea, it’s 1001 Nights from Sri Lanka.

1001 Arabian Nights tea served with dates for only 18 dirhams per pot. I’m sold! Bring it on! :)
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One Thousand and One Nights Tea served with dates. Fruity, tasteful, an instant favorite!

They have Green Tea and Jasmine, White Tea Jasmine and Marigold, English Breakfast, Early Grey, Fairytale, Turkish Delight, Ceylon Sencha, Exotic Paradise, Milk Oolong, Raspberry and Mint, Mysterious Passion and a whole lot more teas!

Then from the menu, I opted to have freshest salad without knowing their servings are huge! I chose Exotic Chicken Salad.  Mixed lettuce, mango, avocado, tomato, cucumber and chicken marinated in lemon and BBQ dressing. YUMMY!

 

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Exotic Chicken Salad. Hallelujah!
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Served with complimentary Arabic bread, the salad is the most delicious and freshest I’ve had! The fusion of textures and flavors of ripe mango and avocado, cucumber and lettuce was simply sublime! The BBQ-flavored chicken also doesn’t disappoint. I can have this simple all-in-one-meal plus that 1001 Nights tea as my last meal when I die. I kid you not.
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Apparently, my worries and stress were melted by the entire dining experience!
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Arabian House Tea Cafe, I’ll see you more frequently, I promise!

Following my 2-hour-afternoon-tea-time, I stepped outside its walls and went to Bastakiya proper. Al Bastakiya houses Sikka, the annual art fair conducted by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, supporting Emirati and Dubai-based artists. Who would not be drawn and enticed to stroll around Sikka at Bastakiya for FREE?
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Arabic Calligraphy House.

Art Galleries…

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Art galleries, Coin Museum, Arabic Calligraphy House, a mosque, and a lot more are all within Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood or Bastakiya where they highlight Sikka. The most lovely quarters in Dubai are parted by narrowest lanes and alleys.
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Describing it as narrow is no longer necessary.
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Handsome arabesque architecture.
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Camel ride, anyone?

On the other side of Bastakiya is Dubai Creek where abra, or traditional wooden water taxis that transport people for 2 dirhams each and big dhow cruise vessels lord the waters. The multiple Dhow Cruise vessels operate at night, providing local entertainment and sumptuous dinner buffets while cruising Dubai Creek, and are remarkably adorned with colorful lights.
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Abra or traditional wooden water taxi.

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Dubai Dhow Cruise.
Back within Bastakiya, another fascinating attraction are the local shops. Textures, colors, aroma, variety and everything magnetic to the senses pulled me to stay a little longer.
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As I write this, I only went to Bastakiya twice and I’m already thrilled to find a chance in between my new work to revisit Arabian Tea House and the entire Bastakiya. I cannot wait to sip another dose of 1001 Nights!

>><<

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe | Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE | Tel # +971 43535071+971 43535071 | website : www.arabianteahouse.co

30
Mar
14

GOZO GARDEN RESTAURANT AT MILLENIUM AIRPORT HOTEL, DUBAI

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When you’re in Dubai either for a brief stopover or a longer stay, you may want to drop by at one of the interesting and delicious hotel food and beverage outlets around – the Gozo Garden located at Millenium Airport Hotel.  I was lucky enough to be invited to experience their BBQ Themed Dinner Buffet followed by a Phil Collins Tribute Show that made one of my first few weekend nights in UAE less ordinary.

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Lobby of Millenium Airport Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Upon the thoughtful recommendation of a fellow Filipino UAE-based blogger, Carla of  My Yellow Bells @ www.myyellowbells.blogspot.ae, whose blog I follow long before I came to Dubai, and with the generous invitation of Mr. Ben Hipolito, the hotel’s  Food and Beverage Administrator,  Gozo Garden  Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel, I’m grateful to be there that Thursday night, savored the food and music, and finally got a chance to meet Carla and another Filipino blogger based in Dubai, Rosell of  Kero’s Celebration @ www.mrspinkihan.com. It was nothing but fun evening that ushered our weekend in UAE!

For someone like me who’s so new to Dubai, finding the location of  Millenium Airport Hotel and getting there were not an issue.  I left my flat in Deira at around half an hour past 6 in the evening ; walked my way to take the ever reliable, Dubai Metro from Abu Bakar Al Siddique Station. After swiftly transferring to Red Line at Union Station, I alighted at GGICO Station and strolled to the venue. It only took me less than 20 minutes to reach the Millenium Airport Hotel from Deira via the Dubai Metro. Of course, getting there through private cars, taxi cabs and buses are also an option. It’s that accessible.

Thankfully, the sky and the stars were cooperative that evening; the seemingly odd downpour in Dubai for two consecutive days prior to that night halted on our favor.
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The view from where we sat.

The simple outdoor set up for that Thursday evening highlighted the impressive space of the hotel. The buffet spread was truly enticing!
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The delicious Gozo Garden BBQ themed dinner buffet outdoor.

Assorted slices of cheese, cold cuts and biscuits, a variety of salads, sushi, seafood, baked goodies and soups, plus a few more hors d’ oeuvres, main entrees that include Salmon wrapped in Banana Leaves, Stir Fried Seafoods, Pan Roasted Vegetables in Pesto, Roasted Rack of Lamb with Moroccan Spices, Grilled Hamour with Citrus Sauce and Basil, Roasted Beef and a lot more!  Desserts spread wasn’t overwhelming but a satisfying selection of sweets and fresh fruit slices.  A choice of beverages from wines and beers to fruit juices, coffee and tea were available too to complement everything that evening.

Let my few captures give you a glimpse of how modest but tasteful the spread was.
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Desserts…

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My plates…

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There were a couple of cover artists who were playing good music during the dinner. Their songs from late 80s to early 90s while we’re indulging were so apt to introduce the main show that night.  A Phil Collins Tribute by Andrew James.

His voice did justice to Phil Collins’ hits and I must state, I caught myself clapping frequently. However, it could’ve been better if his repertoire included the classics,  “Against All Odds” and “Separate Lives.” You know how Filipinos can get so sentimental at any given place and time! ;)
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Upcoming shows at Gozo Garden include, Tom Jones Tribute Show on May 1st, and another Tribute Show featuring hits of Lionel Richie on May 29th. You better mark those dates and troop to Gozo Garden if you’re in Dubai!

As for the gastronomic feasts nightly, Gozo Garden offers Latino Samba on Sundays, Mediterranean on Mondays, Oriental on Tuesdays, Out of Africa-themed night on Wednesdays, BBQ every Thursdays, Seafood Galore on Fridays and Arabian Night on Saturdays.  At AED 195 per person with selected house beverages, and AED 250 every Thursday with Tribute Shows, you’re definitely in for something fun and a delightful night!

It was a pleasure finally meeting my fellow bloggers at UAE, Carla and Rosell! Here’s hoping for more meet ups soon! Until next time!

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Happy to meet fellow Filipino UAE-based bloggers, Carla (middle) and Rosell (seated).

Many thanks to Gozo Garden Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel for inviting us!

Gozo Garden | Millenium Airport Road Dubai, Airport Road, Casablanca Street, Al Garhoud, PO Box 13018
Dubai, 13018, United Arab Emirates | Telephone : +971 4 702 8888+971 4 702 8888 Fax : +971 4 282 0627 |
website : www.millenniumhotels.ae/millenniumdubai/dining/gozo-garden

>><<

31
Jan
14

SAN JUAN CITY | PUNLAAN SCHOOL’S FUNDRAISING DINNER

I considered it as a special blessing to be invited to a humble place filled with inspiring and encouraging people. Few days before 25th January 2014, I received the invitation via phone call and email, and despite the short notice, I’m glad I never hesitated and gave it an instant green light. The event was called, Heart For A Cause, A Fundraising Dinner for Punlaan School in San Juan, Metro Manila and its young scholars. The Five-Thousand-Pesos-per-plate invitation to the fine dining dinner spearheaded by Chef Babes Austria, a former Executive chef of Malacanan Palace and Taal Vista Hotel, for the Punlaan School was already enticing, and the fact that my only contribution to the event was not financial but rather small deed by capturing the moments on my amateur photos; the event itself was surprisingly meaningful as it moved me, as well as the rest of the esteemed guests to tears.

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Herb Garden of Punlaan School.

The area of Punlaan School, M. Paterno Street in San Juan, isn’t new to me. I passed that street a countless times but I am not aware that there’s a productive school until I attended their Fundraising Dinner. Established in 1975, Punlaan School is offering a Two-Year-Dual Training Scholarship Program in Food and Beverage Services, that provides valuable training exclusively for young women who come from lower-income-sector. It’s very uplifting to note that a former school for helpers has evolved into a vocational-technical institution and tourism training center accredited by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT).  While it’s not difficult to appreciate that Punlaan School grows not only their very own herb garden that produces important ingredients to every meal they prepare, it is more significant to know that they breed students whose poor lives are transformed gradually as they undergo life-changing studies.

What made the event extraordinary, the scholars of Punlaan School prepared everything from cocktails, main entrees and desserts. The students were all involved from ushering of guests, to serving of meals respectively. And from every inch, they looked and moved professionally!

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Tempura Scallop Mesclun on Sweet Spicy Fresh Mango Sauce.

I was warmly welcomed to the cocktails by Ms. Anne Marie Jacinto, Punlaan School’s Director.

Hors de’oevre with Beringer (yes, my favorite California wines distributed by Happy Living was there to support too!) Sparkling White Zinfandel were served at the cocktails held at the school’s Multi-Purpose Hall. Everything was tasteful.

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Crisp Pawpaw Smoked Fish Cheesy Triangle with Pineapple Moringa Honey Sauce.

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Oven Roasted California Herb Mixed Nuts and Fresh Root Crop Chips with Punlaan Homemade Dip.
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Beringer Sparkling White Zifandel and my plate of bite-sized goodies.

As everyone were ushered in to the dining area at the second floor of the school, I got a chance to sneak inside the school’s chapel to utter some prayers.

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The lobby and the narrow wooden staircase gave me a Malacanan Palace-like vibe enough to heighten my curiosity and fascination with the school, its cause and of course, the dinner itself. The mood was casual, yet I had some hints that there’s a deeper purpose for my attendance.
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Here’s the hallway en route to the classrooms that were transformed to the evening’s dining area.
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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here are the faces of students who need your support and unconditional assistance, for them to pursue their studies in Punlaan School and fulfill their dreams of helping their own families eventually.

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One of the highlights of my experience was getting a chance to witness how our feast is prepared. I was ushered into the kitchen, et voila! It was so nice to see everyone was working in the chef’s Operating Room efficiently.

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Here’s Chef Babes Austria in her best element! I bet it’s a privilege and so motivating to be under her tutelage.
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It’s beautiful to see young chef-in-the-making, painstakingly setting our salad plates…
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Everyone seemed enjoying their work, and there was no trace of fatigue in spite of the fact that their call time to be in school for the event was 12 hours earlier.
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The dinner started officially as they opened the accordion divider to intentionally expose & introduce the kitchen and the people behind it.

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Introductory speeches from the school authorities were delivered and love songs were rendered by Ms. Roxy Abueg from UP Conservatory of Music. Her voice and renditions of popular and classic hits brought everyone in a more positive mood.

Dinner was served by the scholars themselves. My palates and taste buds sensed nothing but delicious!

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Flowers and Greens on a Bed of Home-made Curved Slivered Atlantic Wild Salmon-Gravlax lightly drizzled with Limoncello Vinaigrette.
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Asian Symphony of Flavors. Clear Broth served with puff twisted bread stick.
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Not on the menu but Soft Shell Crab was served too!  Yummy!

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Poached Baked Fresh Bacalao in spiced milk served with asparagus and foamy Dayap French Vanilla white wine sauce.

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Slow-cooked Roast US Pork Belly stuffed with California Walnuts, with Guava Java Mint Sauce.

I guess everyone, including myself, was not prepared to shed tears on a lovely dinner like this. One by one, while all of us were savoring the meal plate by plate, three remarkable alumni of Punlaan School took the podium and microphone and spoke from their hearts. Michelle Pacheco, who’s  a pioneer and still working with Resorts World Manila, Hazel Berbano, who’s working with Intercontinental Hotel Makati, and Rossel Dequito, who’s working with UCC Coffee, proudly shared their heartwarming and humble beginnings with Punlaan School. All their testimonials proved that despite they all came from poorest of the poor families in Metro Manila, their commitment to rise from their marginalized state by going through their studies successfully, to their hardworking efforts employed at their current work now, are all worth-sharing.

punlaan school alumni
From left to right : Punlaan School’s Alumni – Michelle Pacheco, Hazel Berbano, and Rossel Dequito.

Rossel, the last of the three speaker-alumni from Punlaan School moved everyone to tears. Her words about how she and her family survived and thrived on their house built on stilts by the sea, swaying with the waves and breeze, made us all realize our blessings – big and small.  She and the other girls from Punlaan School are truly inspiring!

Moving on with the dinner… A uniquely tasting sorbet called, California Raisin Lime (not in photo) was served as palate cleanser in between two courses.

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Grilled US Angus Steak.

Second course was a handsome fillet of prime beef with duet of sauce, au jus and quenelle pistachio cream pomerry mustard, served with baked potato, glazed baby carrot and French beans. The incredibly tasteful slab was paired with Beringer Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Tasted like a match truly made in Heaven! :)
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The steak was so gorgeous and delicious, I’m glad I immortalized it on this shot… hehehe! 
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Finally but not the least, decadent dessert!
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Sweet Punlaan Harmony Banana-Carrot Pudding with warm Ganache, Lavander infused Creme Anglaise and fresh fruit.

From cocktails, to entrees and dessert, to the morally-uplifting words of the almuni, I came home not only satiated but was reminded to be more grateful for everything and to everyone, to always count my blessings and to share whatever I can to those in need.
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“Heart for a Cause was sponsored by Beringer Wines courtesy of Happy Living, and Schott Zwiesel Stemware courtesy of Garden Barn,Down To Earth, Villa Ignacio Farms Inc., Mida Food Distributor Inc., Dane International Commodities Inc. and PTC.

Punlaan School is funded by voluntary government donations as well as private institutions and individuals. You can help by donating, accommodating women for training, or recruiting school graduates. For more information, log on to www.punlaan.com or call (63-2) 727-0581/82.”

*Special thanks goes out to Ms. Nana Nadal for the invitation.

>><<

27
Jan
14

KETTLE AT SHANGRI-LA PLAZA EAST WING : INSPIRING COMFORT FOOD

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My recent (food) trip to East Wing of Shangri-la Plaza proved that it has become one of the best dining districts not only in Mandaluyong City, but in entire Metro Manila. It’s fertile with upscale and creative restaurants that mostly offer gastronomic treats and joy particularly to those with discriminating taste. I’m glad that I finally got the chance to understand the reason behind why Kettle, a fresh comfort food place, located at its 5th level, continues to draw attention from foodies and casual diners.

While it is easy to appreciate Kettle’s friendly ambiance, relaxed interiors and attentive and efficient service, for they are a perfect combination and an attractive stimuli to the eyes and the palates, it is Chef Chiloy’s culinary expertise that turned Kettle in one corner of East Wing into a sensational restaurant. Every muted ingredient from the plates that we sampled was apparently transformed into an impressive dish!
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Water, Lemon Iced Tea, Green Iced Tea, Peach Iced Tea. Thirst-quenchers!

In a tropical and at times humid Manila atmosphere, Kettle’s beverage menu is absolutely refreshing! My vote goes with Green Iced Tea and Peach Iced Tea (PhP 149+/carafe). Young and kiddie diners, as well as the health conscious ones, will surely be biased with Kettle’s Fresh Fruit Shake; while those with matured preference will certainly be interested with the restaurant’s wine and beer list.

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Pork and Potato Strips.

Pork and Potato Strips (PhP 339+) from the appetizer choices won me in a heart beat. I lost for superlatives to describe those bite-sized and  crunchy pork belly tossed with fresh potato strips, fried without grease miraculously and flavored with fried herbs and red pepper aioli, but it’s actually addictive! It kept us nibbling almost incessantly. I repeat, ADDICTIVE! Go figure.

Here’s a macroscopic shot of that genius potato fries. Believe me, it tastes far better than it looks!

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Another appetizer we had was Baked Brie (PhP 389+).

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Baked Brie.

Served with side salad and balsamic syrup, this puff pastry with forest berries jam appeared really light and interesting but not at par with Pork and Potato Strips as being Kettle’s best appetizer on my book.

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

Kettle’s brilliant expression of the usual comfort food, fried chicken left all of us in awe and wonder. From its crispy and lightly battered skin (Sinful. Spells HYPERLIPIDEMIA, I know!), the tender chicken fillets in huge fractions were gloriously seasoned to perfection! They’re beautiful and ultimately delicious sans condiments! However, for complete Kettle experience, you need to dip a chunk of that happiness to its country gravy and drizzle it with cajun honey, toy it in your mouth, swallow smoothly then dunk your fork to those equally tasteful honey glazed cornbread muffins. Bliss! :) For that moment, Kettle’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken (PhP 519+)  melted my worries and stress away and made me forget all the fried chicken versions (including my favorites!) that I’ve tasted from other restaurants and fast food joints here and abroad. It was that sublime!

Hallelujah!

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If Buttermilk Fried Chicken victoriously convinced my heart and soul that there’s logic behind its being famous from Kettle’s menu, Miso Glazed Salmon (PhP 559+) from the menu of entrees placed second on my list.

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Miso Glazed Salmon.

This warm and cold dish of Pan fried Norwegian salmon, marinated cold soba noodles, mango cilantro salsa reminded me silently of my weeks in Tokyo; it must be because of the soba and my undying love for salmon.

I love how Kettle incorporates sandwiches on their menu. Although I understand that it’s neither an economic nor a social priority, it gives the Filipino taste buds that live and thrive on rice meals, a chance to sample Western favorites like Reuben, Angus Beef Burger and more. Indirectly, eating such foreign sandwiches once in a while, may inspire and stimulate the wanderlust in us to dream and travel more and explore the other parts of the globe!

Talking about sandwiches, if you’re into grilled cheese, this one’s for you…

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Kettle Grilled Four Cheese.

It may not look much but this Grilled Four Cheese (PhP 329+) sandwich made of English loaf, Gruyere, Fontina, Cheddar, Parmesan, Sweet Totato Jam, Basil Crunch may seem delightful for those who favor grilled cheese. Best part of it, they served it with Sweet Potato Fries that’s not oily too.

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Shrimp Po’Boy.

It was my first time to take a bite at a Louisiana classic, Shrimp Po’Boy (PhP 419+). This sandwich made of soft Ciabatta roll, Cajun breaded shrimps with remoulade, served with simple but heavenly sweet potato fries was satisfyingly good if you like your food textured with a kick of spice and a subtle play of flavors.

If Miso Glazed Soba from Kettle magically reminded me of my 2 weeks in Tokyo, and Shrimp Po’Boy made me want to explore the ports and restaurants in New Orleans someday, Corned Beef Hash (PhP 519+) is a reminiscence of our days in Las Vegas where we indulged in fantastic breakfast buffets.

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Corned Beef Hash.

What made Kettle’s version of Corned Beef Hash different from those I had in USA ages ago was the fact that it’s loaded with chunky and house-made corned beef and not merely the usual shredded beef strips. One may find it a bit salty, but to people like me who prefer saltiness on food (oops!), this meal served with fried potatoes, fried egg and gravy, with a choice of rice or toasted bread, is another comfort-food-hit!

On the sweets department, Kettle offers a short but effective dessert menu, just enough to satisfy some toothsome craving and end a unforgettable dining experience.

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Banana Cream Pie (PhP 149+).

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake (PhP 189+).

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Caramel Cake (PhP 189+).

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Checkered Cake (PhP 209+).

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Peach Trifle (PhP 269+).

Of the five desserts that we tasted, Checkered Cake and Peach Trifle stood out for me. I found that clever marriage of Red Velvet and Chocolate united in one cake in a checkered fashion a sure winner! It’s very light and far from being irritatingly sweet. Excellent! And I am partial too with Peach Trifle simply because of my preference with peaches. It is noteworthy that Chef Chiloy’s beloved mom, Ms. Vilma Santos (not the famous local actress), employs her very own creative culinary prowess on each dessert-masterpieces at Kettle. Inspiring, isn’t it?

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More than an indulgent meal, I enjoyed common comfort foods made extra-remarkable from Kettle (read : Buttermilk Fried Chicken!); dishes reminiscent of my few travels and those favorites that appeal sensibly to the palates as well as the heart.

When you have a chance, go pamper your taste buds at Kettle!

Have you tried dining at Kettle? How’s your experience? What are your favorites from Kettle?

*Special thanks goes to Chef Chiloy Santos of Kettle and Richard of Tales From The Tummy  for the invitation.

Kettle | 5th Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall -East Wing | Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM to 9:30PM | Phone No. : (+632) 6547077 | website : http://kettleph.com/

>><<




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