A taste of Taste of Dubai, plus a snippet from Antonio Carluccio

A Carluccio's dish for Taste of Dubai - crispy saffron risotto balls oozing with mozarella

A Carluccio’s dish for Taste of Dubai – crispy saffron risotto balls oozing with mozarella

One of my favourite events of the year is round the corner. One where you can sample tasting dishes from Dubai’s top end restaurants all in one al fresco venue without forking out stashes of cash, and that’s with vino. Mind you, if you eat and drink like I do, you’ll still pay a small fortune. Yep it’s Taste of Dubai this weekend (March 14-16th). Sadly for the first time since its inception six years ago, I will miss it, but more on that later. In the meantime, here’s FooDiva’s preview…

Celeb chefs

The usual celebrity chef suspects are in town from Giorgio Locatelli and Gary Rhodes who now lives here, to Richard Sandoval showing off his relaunched restaurant Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen, Vineet Bhatia and Atul Kochhar. New international chefs participating this year are Gizzi Erskine, often credited with championing London’s pop-up restaurant trend, along with Food Network presenters, Reza Mahammad and Jenny Morris. You will find them on their respective restaurant booths if they have one, or cooking at either the Philips Chefs’ Theatre or Kenwood Cookery School - the latter you can join in like I did last year (when Miele sponsored the school).

Chef for hire Andy Campbell will keep you in the dark literally with a new ‘Dine in the Dark’  concept where you are blindfolded, given three canapes to eat and asked to choose 20 ingredients from a list of 100 to be up for a chance to win an AED 5,000 dinner experience at your home. Having tried this concept a couple of years ago at the Address Montgomerie, personally I need to see my food to appreciate it. Presentation AND colour are integral to the dining experience, but that’s just FooDiva.

Restaurants new to Taste of Dubai

Pomelo salad - Thiptara - Taste of DubaiBarbeque duck - Thiptara - Taste of DubaiBeef Sausage sandwich - Asado - Taste of Dubai

Baby Goat with Purple Potato - Asado - Taste of DubaiThe Palace hotel’s two restaurants Thai, Thiptara and Argentinian, Asado join the 30-strong restaurant billing this year for the first time – each offering six tasting dishes. From a recent tasting preview (dishes pictured here), FooDiva’s Thiptara vote goes to the refreshing pomelo salad with minced chicken and prawns in a coconut dressing, and the barbeque duck breast in tamarind sauce on a giant crispy fried onion. As for Asado, the beef sausage ciabatta sandwich with pepper-based Criolla sauce makes for easy munching whilst meandering around, and its signature baby goat with purple potatoes lines your stomach as you knock back glasses of vino, Argentine hopefully.

Other restaurant newbies on board this year:

  • Prime 68 (steakhouse), Atul Kochhar’s Rang Mahal (Indian) and Izakaya (Japanese gastro-pub) – all at the world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.
  • Frevo, the Brazilian churasscaria where meat is served on skewers straight at the table – Fairmont The Palm.
  • The Burger Joint, otherwise known as TBJ serving up mini wagyu beef and chicken-fillet burgers – Atlantis The Palm.
  • Amal (Indian) and Ristorante (Italian) – Armani Dubai.
  • The Noodle House – everywhere!
  • No 5 Bar & Lounge – Ritz-Carlton DIFC.

Last but not least

Penne Giardinara - Carluccio's - Taste of DubaiItalian restaurant-cum-deli Carluccio’s returns this year offering six dishes including its signature and UK best-seller Penne Giardiniera – Pugliese penne with courgette, chilli and garlic topped with deep-fried spinach and parmesan balls. Moreishly good soul food. I caught up with Antonio Carluccio in Dubai this week for the LitFest and asked him to explain the origin of this dish. Worth noting that even though he sold Carluccio’s to Dubai-based Landmark Group in 2010 – all after an IPO, Antonio does play a consultancy role.

“I was in our Ealing branch and the team asked me could we have another vegetarian dish. So I asked them, do we have in the kitchen some spinach, penne pasta and courgettes? [Yes]. Well that’s all I need. So I went into the kitchen and I made a basic sauce of grated courgettes, a bit of garlic and chilli. Then separately I made those spinach balls which are fantastic – cook some spinach, squeeze it, add some parmesan, eggs, nutmeg and a few breadcrumbs. I made them into balls and fried them. I mixed the penne with the courgette sauce and added the spinach balls on top. Later on, we donated 50 pence per portion of this dish to the charity Action Against Hunger raising [GBP] 750,000.”

Now don’t believe the PR claim that Antonio created this dish because the Ealing store ran out of risotto on its media opening night. Antonio outrightly refuted this…with a giggle and a good dose of Italian humour. More from him when I write up my interview.

Philips Taste of Dubai Festival runs from March 14th to 16th at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Ticket prices start at AED 60 if booked in advance. Kids under 12 go free. Dishes are priced from AED 15 – 30. And if you fancy a showaround, Lime & Tonic has a VIP tour experience on Thursday 14th March at 7.30pm for AED 220 which includes access to the VIP lounge, two complimentary house beverages/ vino, one glass of bubbly, three dishes from any of the restaurants, and a private tour with Chef Paul Frangie. If you’ve not yet registered on the L&T site, do so here for an exclusive AED 50 credit towards any of their experiences, Taste included.

Philips will preview its new all singing and dancing Homecooker designed by Jamie Oliver which stirs, sautes, steams, boils and fries. From what I can tell, the only thing it does not do is grill ;) .

I do have a good excuse for missing much-loved Taste, or at least I think so. I’ll be in London and Oxfordshire on a ‘Food is Great’ press trip organised by Visit Britain, so stay tuned as I return with many a culinary tale. Or in the meantime, follow my tweets and Instagram.  I am trying to blag an interview with Raymond Blanc as we’re dining and cooking at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons…please keep your fingers crossed for moi and feel free to send through any questions you may have for him.

If you are heading to Taste, which you should, do drop me a line with your feedback. I’d love to hear from you.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – For more on Taste of Dubai, check out fellow food bloggers’ previews The Hedonista, Pear Tree Diaries, and Ishita Unblogged.

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15 Responses to “A taste of Taste of Dubai, plus a snippet from Antonio Carluccio”

  1. Geordie Armani March 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

    You must as Raymond what he really thinks of Greg and John, that would make interesting reading :)

    • FooDiva March 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      I shall leave that question last :)

  2. Kelly W March 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

    What an interesting event!!! But you must be more excited to participate to an even more exhilarating gourmet event in England…Good luck!!!!!!!

    • FooDiva March 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      It wasn’t a hard decision Kelly ;)

  3. OB March 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I wasn’t too impressed with Taste of Dubai last year (quelle surprise) and I felt that a lot of restaurants were harming themselves by presenting dishes that were nowhere near as good as some of the other offerings on their menus. The only exception to that was the Israeli owned Gaucho (thank you for that tidbit Timeout London) whose sirloin steak was far superior to the more expensive rib-eye on their menu!?!? I sank a small fortune into last year’s event and walked out feeling that perhaps a name like Tasteless Dubai would have been more fitting. This year’s line-up looks a tad better with Asado (have you tried their empanadas???), Thiptara (great Papaya salad) and Armani Amal (I so enjoyed that and I’m not even a big fan of Indian) but what is The Burger Joint doing here (glorified McDonald’s)????

    • FooDiva March 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      Interesting feedback so I hope Taste takes this on board. With limited cooking facilities, it’s up to each restaurant to serve dishes they can replicate easily in that set-up and some do it better than others. I think simple comfort food works better than fine dining dishes here. Excuse the name dropping, but Giorgio Locatelli spontaneously joined our lunch at Ronda today and they will for the first time have a wood-fired oven to serve pizza.

      Agree with you on Gaucho’s sirloin, a highlight for me last year too. Asado’s empanadas are moreishly good – but sadly they are not serving them at Taste this year. TBJ will work very well in that environment given it’s easy to eat whilst walking around – and the beef will be Wagyu ;)

      As always appreciate your comments.

  4. Swati Bansal Rao March 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I absolutely love Taste of Dubai and like you, it will be my first time that I would have to miss it. The preview does look good.

    • FooDiva March 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      Agh Swati we’ll have to settle for reading everyone else’s blog posts :)

  5. IshitaUnblogged March 11, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I am so looking forward to Taste of Dubai, specially with Fooderati company. And even more looking forward to your British trip! Will be following your tweets for sure:)

    • FooDiva March 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Ishita. At least I still get my foodie fix! I am going to link into your blog posts now.

  6. Tony C W March 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I look forward to reading what Raymond Blanc says – he is one of the all time greats. Have a great trip to UK

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