Cooking up a storm
This weekend food lovers will swap their well-worn seats at favoured feeding spots for the warm and gentle inclines of Dubai Media City's amphitheatre.
Seen regularly frequenting the likes of Indego by Vineet or Toro Toro, they have spent the year training for this al fresco dining get-together. They are ready to riffle through their token packs faster than you can say ‘Confit de canard aux lentilles’.
The festival starts tomorrow, so 7DAYS talked to Lauren Hills, editor of BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine – and Queen bee of Dubai’s epicurean set – to get her pick of the top-notch nibbles and food-based frolics on offer at this year’s ‘Taste’:
One of the main reasons for any aspiring chef’s visit to Taste is the chance to meet a real masterchef. If you’re brave enough you can even have a go at cooking with them at the Miele Cookery School. Names include world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Aarti Sequeira. But Aldo Zilli is the chef Lauren’s most excited about seeing.
“They have got a bigger line-up than ever before for this year’s festival,” says Lauren. “I am really looking forward to seeing Aldo Zilli. He has written about 10 cookbooks on Italian cuisine and is a really exuberant character. It is the first time he is coming to Taste and I think even a lot of chefs are looking forward to learning from him.” Aldo’s first class is tomorrow at 4.40pm.
Lauren is also looking forward to taking inspiration from celebrity food fest regulars such as Gary Rhodes or Vineet Bhatia. “(Vineet) is a Michelin-starred chef and is so humble and a lovely character,” says Lauren. “But most of all his food is really interesting. It is ‘evolved’ Indian cuisine – all of the amazing flavours of traditional Indian cooking but the presentation is very modern and cutting edge. It is a fantastic mix.” Vineet takes to the stage at 6.40pm tomorrow.
Top-class restaurants pop up in Dubai as often as skyscrapers did before the financial crisis. Taste of Dubai is a great way to sample their fare before committing your cash, says Lauren. And this year there is a long list of noteworthy newcomers including The Ivy, Saffron and Gautcho. “A new restaurant to the festival that you definitely have to try is Nobu with its Black Cod with Niso – one of their classic dishes,” says Lauren.
“There are a lot of other restaurants that have copied it.” Lauren also advises swinging by the stand of fellow newbie, Sonamu restaurant. “That sounds really interesting and it will be great to try their Korean grill and see what they will have on the menu there.” Meanwhile, with Mardi Gras just passed, you may still be in the mood for New Orleans-style grub.
“Andrew Paderes from The Gramercy has done some Food Club masterclasses with us. He did a tasty American New Orleans-style menu including Wagyu Steaks and spicy prawns,” says Lauren, hinting from the sort of thing that might be expected from the DIFC-based chef.
If you’re jaws are getting tired from all that chewing, there’s more than food on offer:
On the tipple of the tongue
A good drop and a good bite go together like, erm, cheese and crackers. The MMI Beverage Theatre tastings sessions are popular at Taste of Dubai. While beers of the world and the opportunity to learn a few mixology skills will be well worth a visit, the most exciting session is first up at the Beverage Theatre – a tasting of fine tipples, hosted by Pascal Jolivet. Festival early birds will be transported to the sunny hillsides of France’s Sancerre-Loire Valley. Book your place to hear about one of the youngest but most dynamic vineyards of that region.
A bite out of boredom
You may have your heart set on catching a glimpse of Gary Rhodes or Aldo Zilli in action. But the little ones might not share your foodie fantasies. Don’t worry though, a compromise can be agreed, with the help of the Favourite Things Kids Zone. There is a free bouncy castle, an arts and crafts station and a clown show. Face painting, as below, and hair braiding are also paid options.