Indulge in Caramel

Abu Dhabi’s islands are a hub of resorts, hotels, and restaurants. Amidst these, lies a gem of culinary goodness, in Saadiyat Island at St. Regis Hotel, you have the glorious Caramel. As the name itself would imply, prepare yourself for an oozing and tantalizing assault on your taste buds when visiting Caramel.  My husband and I had heard a great deal about Caramel, and so we decided to go on a road trip and embark on the drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. Once there, the hotel was simple to reach, and totally worth the drive—the hotel boasts of Mediterranean-style architecture; warm, neutral, inviting, and overlooking the sea. Caramel is perfectly located in the midst of the hotel at a perfect proximity for you to enjoy the salty sea air, while also plenty of parking space for the valet that will greet you at the entrance with a smile. After walking in, we were greeted by the restaurant manager and the hostess, who both warmly and enthusiastically welcomed, and seated us. At this point I was already satisfied enough to leave with a smile on my face—I was completely oblivious to the heaven (yes, heaven) that was yet to come.

Upon walking in, the venue was dimly lit which enabled each and every table to enjoy a romantic candle lit dinner.  The moment I walked in I realized that Caramel was most probably the ideal venue for any romantic occasion—wedding anniversaries, first dates, or just a scrumptious meal for two; on the other hand, I do not think it would be the most comfortable place to have dinner with, say…your father? Although in the beginning I felt the dim lighting made the décor less visible; I quickly realized that the dimness offered maximum intimacy, comfort, and ease as I was able to concentrate more on my meal and husband than be distracted by a neighboring table. Having said that, I must say that the bathroom was also dimly lit which proved to be quite the dilemma for a self-proclaimed klutz like myself.

Once my husband and I were comfortably seated our waiter, Chameed, gave us our menus. The menu was a medium-lengthed, international-flavored, eclectic work of art that painted a masterpiece in your head as each ingredient was read. The array of choices was enough to make my head spin and so Chameed who was a wealth of knowledge to anything Caramel related, recommended starters, mains, and desserts after asking about our food preferences. He was very familiar with every nook and cranny of the menu—every ingredient, flavor, cooking method—and his recommendations did not disappoint. With Chameed’s help my husband and I were able to order a spread of both Asian and Italian flavors, our favorites. 

image

For starters we ordered TNT Shrimps and the Chinese Chicken Salad. Oh me, oh my! The TNT Shrimps arrived straight from the fryer—hot, crisp, and slathered in a Japanese mayo. The light and airy batter that coated the shrimps along with the creamy and spicy mayonnaise was the absolute perfect combination; they were exquisite. The Chinese Chicken Salad arrived in the shape of a tall tower of numerous ingredients attentively selected to balance each other. Chameed later informed me that the salad was constructed of over 15 ingredients, and the dressing alone was made up of 16 ingredients. It was a salad served cold that combined crunchy wantons, bean sprouts, and red cabbage, juicy clementines, and perfectly cooked chicken cubes to name the absolute least. This salad combined the sweet and savory, the crunchy and soft, the zing and tang—it was a Japanese geisha dancing gracefully and skillfully on my tongue.

image

As for the main dishes: based on Chameed’s recommendations, I ordered the Seared Chilean Sea Bass. The perfectly seared sea bass with its simply seasoned crust on the outside, and flaky, moist flesh on the inside was only made even better with the creamy and gooey rock shrimp risotto underneath it. The risotto was set in the middle of a pool of rich and flavorful lobster broth, and topped with a basil and sun-dried tomato tapenade.  The slight tart of the tapenade along with the meaty crunch and flake of the sea bass cut through the decadence of both the risotto and the lobster broth. Every mouthful was a festival of wonderful flavors dancing hand in hand—it was absolutely heavenly.

image

My husband chose a lighter main course than mine, but equally as satisfying. He chose the Marinated Grilled Chicken that was set on a bed of pureed parsnip and topped with a generous dollop of cooked baby spinach. The grilled chicken was deboned and cooked two ways; the thigh was grilled until the skin was caramelized and crunchy and the meat was moist and just falling apart, and the chicken breast was valentined and then wrapped in the skin and pan fried for a little extra flavor and crunch—delish! My husband devoured the dish faster than I could get two bites in, but from what I did taste, I could not yet tell which of us had made the better choice.

image

As if these wonderful dishes were not enough of an assault on our taste buds, Chameed recommended two desserts of which we thought sharing one may be for the best. We ordered the Chocolate Chunk Brownie and it was indeed “euphoric” as their Facebook page mentions. A fluffy warm brownie drenched in chocolate sauce and topped with a fresh vanilla bean scoop of ice cream just oozing off the sides! And if that wasn’t enough, two giant dollops of whipped cream on the side, and toasted almonds for extra crunch. Oh my God!  It was quite honestly too delicious looking to photograph—meaning my husband and I stuffed our faces before we realized that we had forgotten to take pictures (I’ll see if I could borrow one off their page just so you could see how heavenly it looked). A waft of chocolate and freshly brewed coffee filled the room the second our dessert left the kitchen, and when it reached our table I was almost in tears. The dessert is an absolute MUST try; although, I must warn you, the portion is rather large and could quite easily be enough for two—but that depends on you and how much you could get away with opening the zipper to your pants in public. I feel like one can tell a lot about the standards at which a restaurant holds itself through the thought put into each and every element on their menu. Having said that, their coffee was the best coffee I have had in all of Dubai—NAY—ever!  I would seriously consider driving an hour and a half for the coffee alone. It was the cherry on top of the delicious meal we indulged in.

The attentive and warm staff, the ridiculously scrumptious food, and the comforting and laid back ambiance of Caramel would definitely drive me back in a heartbeat. For anyone who is searching for a place to indulge in comfort and romance, Caramel is positively for you—if you and that someone special do not bond over a meal there, I’m sorry to say you probably won’t anywhere else. Make a reservation tonight, and let me know how much you enjoyed it in the comment section below! If you should need any information, check out their website http://caramelgroup.com/?page_id=774

Go straight up bananas and give Caramel a shot!

Grilled avocado, lolo rosa, and tomato salad with a garlic, thyme, and balsamic vinaigrette

Www.straight-upbananas.com

What are you having tonight to break your fast?

#healthy #healthyliving #diet #dubai #foodie #foodgasm #foodporn #nomnomnom #tumblrfood #dubaifood #dubaiblogger #ramadan2014 #ramadhan #breakfast #ramadan #muslim #uae #ksa #saudi #salad #saladbar #halfAdate #middleeastern #healthyeating #Mediterranean #healthyeating #rawtill4

Bulgar-stuffed red and yellow bell pepper, zucchini, and tomato with a thick tomato and mint sauce! Yum!

What are you having tonight?

For this recipe I grabbed whatever veggies I had on hand that could be hollowed and..well…did just that! I halved the zucchinis, grabbed a spoon and carefully made circles through the flesh and scooped out the seeds; also, I removed the seeds from the tomato and bell peppers after halving them.

I then put the bulgar wheat to boil in salted water and olive oil. Once the liquid evaporated, I spiced the bulgar by adding a pinch of cinnamon, cumin, pepper flakes, and black pepper.

After that, I drizzled a little bit of olive oil on an oven proof tray, placed the veggies and drizzled a bit more oil and lightly seasoned the veggies with salt and pepper. Then I stuffed the peppers with the bulgar wheat.

After feeling like there was something missing, I decided to make a quick tomato and mint sauce to go with it (I didn’t want it to be too dry). So I just basically fried off some garlic until golden brown and added a can of peeled and chopped tomatoes. A sprinkle of chopped mint and parsley, some salt&pepper and you’re good to go.

I baked the veggies on high heat for about 30 minutes until they were just blistering from the sides. Oh me, oh my!

You will love this recipe, it is delicious and filling. It was a win with my husband and my brother in law! Give it a go, and let me know how it goes! ❤

Frozen Yogurt and Berry Bites

Once again on my journey to salvage things that may soon be going bad in my fridge, I have came up with an easy recipe for a healthy snack.

I cleaned out and dried an ice tray that was lying in the freezer and placed blueberries and cherries in each cube and squished them just a tad (only to create that marbling affect in the pristine white yogurt).  I then filled each cube with a spoonful of yogurt and banged the entire tray on the counter top–half to get rid of all the aggression inside of me from all the turmoil on the news in my region, and half because that is the way the recipe goes. After that, I put the tray in the freezer and let the yogurt set.

Finally, whenever you’re cravin’ a lil’ somethin, somethin’ pop them out of the tray and serve with whatever goodies you have at hand. I chose some fresh blueberries I had in the fridge with some almonds and walnuts! Yum!

Today’s iftar is:
– stuffed vine leaves with lemon
– a hearty vegetable and quinoa soup
– Mediterranean salad with feta cheese, rocca, and avocado

What are you having tonight to break your fast?

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Orange Segments, Walnuts, and a Balsamic Reduction

 image

During Ramadan, it is absolutely vital that one eats healthy. Foods rich in fiber, vitamins, and water are truly a necessity if you want to stay full and hydrated. Keeping that mantra playing in the back of my head, I decided to rustle up a good nutritious salad and hearty soup to break my 15-hour fast.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

– A handful of crunchy leafy greens (I used different kinds of lettuce)

– An orange

– A handful of walnuts

– Cooked black quinoa 

– A beautiful ripe avocado

– Half a medium sized red onion (sliced thinly)

– Red pepper flakes

– Balsamic vinegar (reduction)

– Extra virgin olive oil

– A squeeze of lemon

– A sprig of thyme 

Awesome. Now for the assembly.

Now prepare you ingredients.

First, cook the quinoa for fifteen minutes in some salted water. While the quinoa cooks, slice your onion as thin as humanly possible and make the dressing. Combine the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, salt, and onions and let sit. The reason I put the onions with the vinaigrette is that I want the acidity from the vinegar and lemon to cook the onions just enough to take away the edge that raw onions tend to have.

Then,  tear up the lettuce in a bowl, cut the orange into segments, slice up the avocado, and add the cooled quinoa to the bowl with a handful of walnuts.

Toss the salad with the vinaigrette. lol

Oh happy days!

This salad is delish! You’re going to love it, I assure you. I mean, what’s not to love, right? You’ve got your crunch from the nuts and the lettuce, your buttery avocado, your sweet orange; I mean COME ON!

Give it a go, and let me know how much you loved it!