Tuesday, 16 December 2014

#Market Review: Renegade Craft Fair, #USA

It was pure luck that one of the Instagram accounts I follow mentioned the Renegade Craft Fair being in New York at the time that I was there, and when I looked it up it sounded interesting.  Held in different cities in the US(as well as in London), the Fair was being held at the Metropolitan Pavillion which is a large hall in the Chelsea area, over two days during the weekend.
I hadn't ever been to an independent craftist fair in the US, and being a huge fan of markets, I couldn't wait to visit. 
With what seemed like hundreds of exhibitors, the fair hosts artists and artisans, mainly from the New York area (high Brooklyn concentration), with products ranging from paintings to organic baby clothes. 

A lot of the stalls' products had a very rustic and earthy feel, made with natural materials and promoting sustainability.  Beauty products with natural ingredients, candles, several stalls with products made of wood, and a number of clothing and fabric-based products.
With Christmas just around the corner, many of the fair visitors were shopping for the holidays, and there were loads of suitable items- mainly for the home, like natural wood cutting boards, pottery dishware, throws and more. 
Clothing and jewelry stands were also quite prominent; a lot of handmade gold plated jewelry, and a few stands selling lovely shawls and knitted clothing. 
I went on the first day just a couple of hours after the opening, and Martha Stewart was making an appearance (long line to see her though so I didn't wait).  In the middle of the hall they also had a crafting area where kids (and adults) could have their go at different stations to make things.
There were also a few food stalls- selling everything from soup to apple cider doughnuts, but with a long list of places to eat in the city, I couldn't try anything here :(
I loved the atmosphere at the fair- as crowded and tight as it was, the business owners were all really friendly and happy to just talk about their trade whether you were buying or not- it was a very homey environment with holiday shoppers looking to buy products that they couldn't find anywhere else from small businesses.
Information: Follow @renegadecraft on instagram or check out the Fair website for details on where they will be next!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

#Restaurant Review: New York Landmark for Brunch- #Sarabeth's

It's a New York landmark stop for brunch, and I hadn't been in quite a long time so during my last visit I made it a point to go. 
I got there around 8:20am for breakfast on a weekday, as I thought weekends would be too crowded and any later in the day I would need to wait for a table. 
I was seated immediately overlooking a small garden but in a tiny corridor next to the kitchen so the area around my table was a bit too busy for that early in the morning. Within 20 minutes there was a line at the door of customers waiting for tables so I guess I was lucky with my timing.
As I was dining alone, I wistfully looked at all the menu options I wanted to try, and then settled for the lemon ricotta pancakes served with fresh berries. These were absolutely sublime- there's no taste of ricotta but the the level of zestiness works just right. I'm more of a waffle person than a pancake person, but I enjoyed these so much that the huge portion didn't look that enormous (still can't be finished, but I really don't believe that US portion sizes are meant to be finished by one person anyway).
Service was rushed which is what I expect from Sarabeth's, and it took quite some time once I was finished to get the check... by which time the restaurant was packed full. 
I would definitely recommend a visit to Sarabeths, not only because of its legendary status, but the food is worth it.  I've only ever been for brunch but the restaurant serves lunch and dinner too, and offers special prix fixe menus for holidays and occasions.  
Information: Sarabeth's has a few locations in NYC.  I went to the one on Central Park South which is located in a tourist-central area, but if you go right when they open then you can beat the morning rush. 

Price: Expect to pay around $30 per person- my pancakes were $18 and my total check was around $30.  Prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner was for $65 per person and $35 for kids under 12.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

#Beauty Review: DermaOne curative pedicure, Nakheel Center, #Bahrain

I'm usually a frequent traveller to London and when I'm there I do my specialty beauty treatments, including my medical pedicure at Margaret Dabbs. But with few trips this year, when I voiced my frustration I was informed by friends that the DermaOne clinic in Nakheel Center offers a treatment that is can provide me with an alternative if I don't insist on being a diva. 
And lo and behold, at the kind mercy of a friend who gave me gift voucher, I made my way to the clinic with an open mind and heart, expecting to be disappointed but willing to be wowed (ok- maybe not such an open mind and heart). 
Being shown into the treatment room, I inspected the equipment and to the amateur eye, it seemed that all was well. I was seated and my feet placed into a footbath... umm... so what I had understood from the Margaret Dabbs school of thought was that the treatment on feet needs to be done on dry feet.  
The thinking behind this is that when they are dry, the dead skin is more evident and the pedicure can be more effective. If your feet are wet, the skin will look softer immediately so the therapist will tend not to file as effectively as needed.  So this was the first no-no.
Once my feet were dried, the pedicure started and pretty much was done in the same way as I had had before.  The nails are cleaned and filed with a drill like machine, leaving them shiny and perfectly groomed. The heels are then filed manually before also applying a machine to smoothen the heel.
The treatment is then completed by applying a kind of wax to your feet, which smoothens and seals in the moisture. All in all, I found the treatment to be very thorough (it is around 60 minutes long) and the result was just as good as my London pedicures.  Since I have cracked heels, I was advised to have regular pedicures and to file once a week, which is easy enough as a maintenance program.  
If you haven't ever had a medical pedicure, I highly recommend it, no matter what shape your feet are in.  It is recommended that you have one every 6-8 weeks for regular maintenance. My first choice would still be Margaret Dabbs (they've opened a branch in Dubai Mall Level Shoe District), but if I'm not in Dubai often enough than DermaOne is a very good second best :) 

The clinic specialises in medical as well as beauty treatments, and offers a range of treatments for skin, hair and body. 

Information: DermaOne is located on the first floor of Al Nakheel Center in Saar (opposite St Christophers Junior School).

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

#Restaurant Review: Cafe Bazza, #Kuwait

Bazza Cafe in Kuwait is the equivalent of Al Basta in Bahrain... with very similar interiors and concept, as well as menus. Bazza's menu is significantly larger, and has a wide range of retro Gulf and Arab dishes, and the restaurant has become quite a staple in Kuwait. I've tried a couple of branches, at different times, and the place is always busy! Serving rice dishes as well as starters and lighter fare, Bazza is popular amongst families and singles alike, with weekends packed to the brim.

The decor is dominated by retro pop culture items (think Vimto!), with seating that is a contemporary twist on old-style gahwa benches. Entertainment is provided via tv screens playing old Kuwaiti drama series and songs-- again, very similar to Al Basta. 
But the food... well it is quite lacklustre to be honest... I haven't tried the rice dishes which may be better, but the items I had were oily, bland, and more Indian cafeteria style than traditional Gulf. 
Tanoor potatos
We tried the omelette (we had asked for traditional eggs and tomato, but it wasn't quite), the tanoor halloumi (basically tanoor bread with haloumi cheese, green peppers and olives, pizza style), the tanoor potato... not recommended at all- it was just ultra fried potato cubes, the muhallabiya (fantastic) the kunafa (also very good).   
Tanoor haloumi
We had the white coffee to end- a great way to finish off all that grease...
I was really disappointed with the quality of food- there was nothing in there that was like what Mom used to make, but again, maybe the rice dishes make up for the rest.
In terms of atmosphere, it does have lots of character, and the clientele are mainly Kuwaitis-- not tourists. Prices are relatively cheap, but again for the quality of food we got it was still more than I would have wanted to pay!

Kunafa- a great dessert

Price: Dinner for two cost us KD 15.750.
Information: There are several branches across Kuwait, including one at the Avenues- we tried the one in Shamiya co-op (tel: +965 2482 0184) which was very close to where we were staying. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

#Restaurant Review: Clinton St Baking Company, Dubai

When the wifi password is 'pecanpie' you know that you've stumbled upon a winner. The Clinton St Baking Company is originally a New York based cafe, and has recently opened a branch in Dubai.  Having looked up the menu online before I went, I was torn between what I was going to order, as I was going on my own and wanted to try at least 4 items on the menu.
I went on a Sunday for a late brunch, and was lucky that it wasn't very busy as I understand there's a wait on weekends. Although I was curious about the savory dishes, I finally settled on the brioche French toast, which came with caramelised bananas, roasted pecans and warm muple butter (not syrup!).  I had wanted to try the house granola, the sweet pancakes, the crispy potato pancakes, and the special black cod fish tacos also looked very interesting but .... more reasons to go back I guess..
The French toast was exactly what I would have expected a New York portion of colossal toast to look like, very similar to what I had tried previously at Normas in New York. The caramelised bananas were fluffy nugget-like pieces... a total mystery how they were made. Although I could only finish one piece of toast, I hadn't really expected to be able to conquer the portion so I was happy just having tried it. 
The toast is served with maple butter which looks like it's their signature, but to be honest I would have preferred syrup as once the butter got cold it had a runny consistency. 
They have a take-out dessert bar from which I bought a slice of their pecan pie (yes, I couldn't resist), and this was a true American style pecan pie oozing with a lovely soft pecan filling, loaded with pecans and a just-right crust.
The take-out muffin and dessert bar
I can imagine that this is a buzzing place on the weekend, but it was really just a bit quiet and lacking character during the time I was there. I am definitely curious to go back maybe with friends so we can order stuff to share.  

Open windows to the kitchen under a board displaying the specials of the day
Price: Breakfast for one was around AED 120 (french toast, orange juice and coffee).
Information: Clinton St Baking Company  is located at Burj Views, Downtown GF01 (At the Address Downtown Hotel traffic light, turn in the direction opposite to the hotel.You will come to a roundabout, where you need to take a right. Then take your first left and you will arrive at the Burj Views Towers. Our restaurant is the last place on the right, next to Flywheel). +9714-428-1331

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Zeri Crafts- Architectured Elegance

I had planned on visiting Zeri Crafts on a couple of different trips to Kuwait but because of timings (closed on weekends or by appointment only) it just never happened. With a couple of hours to spare and a driver who could find his way around, I finally called for an appointment and was given one at a time that I could make it. 
Zeri Crafts sells exquisite pieces designed with inspiration from Gulf heritage. Selling a range of items from cushions to mubkhars, notebooks to shawls, the showroon is a converted bungalow that exudes light in a contemporary atmosphere. 
With a display that is inviting and interesting, Arabian inspired shapes and fabrics draw you into the main showroom where items are displayed in the most innovatively artistic way. Colors of camel, mahogany, beige and red  welcome you into what I would call a gallery more than a shop.
Although by no means cheap, quality craftmanship is evident in the pieces sold at Zeri Crafts- you won't find an endless range of products which makes it clear that the products which are being sold have been carefully thought out and created.  
Among my favorites were the camel leather notebooks (around KD 30) and the mubkhars (incense burners) (KD 90).  Beautiful as souvenir gifts for non-Arabs but honestly at these prices if I'm buying them I would not want to let them go!

My favorite item- the mubkhar collection... the black and white ones now come in more colors!
The owner of the shop, Laila Al Hamad (whose sister Sarah Al Hamad is the famed author of Arabian cookbooks including Cardamom and Lime), was lovely to talk to and extremely helpful in organising the appointment for me, and if her shop is anything to go by, her taste is exquisite!
Information:  Not the easiest place to get to if you aren't a Kuwaiti resident, but Laila was very helpful in helping us find the way with the assistance of our driver... Call +965 9940 2406 for appointments and directions. Instagram: @zericrafts

Prices: You can get smaller items such as leather bookmarks and notepads within the KD 5-20 range, with shawls ranging around KD 80-100. Plan on buying something if you're going as the pieces really are special :)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Posher than Posh: Afternoon Tea at The #Claridges, #London

What could be posher than afternoon tea at The Claridge's? Quite simply.. nothing. 

I booked a table through my hotel's concierge, and there were time slots to choose from - I was later told that we were very lucky to find a table on relatively short notice. 
For those familiar with my blog you'll know I'm a total sucker for afternoon tea - not so much the food but the whole affair (ok, so the food is a major factor too).  Two places I had always wanted to try were Fortnum and Mason and The Claridge's, so it was all or nothing during my last trip. 

Whereas F+M is large and very English with turquoises and whites, the Claridge's is more of an old estate type set up, with lavish furnishings and side rooms.. very fussy and extravagant. 
The afternoon tea menu is quite creative, with a sandwich selection of organic chicken, smoked salmon with brown shrimp butter and rock samphire, and cucumber with creme fraiche.  The scones, including raisin and plain, come with the signature Marco Polo gelee- hands down the best jam for scones I've ever had.. and believe me, I've tried a few.  For dessert, our favorite was the mille feuille. 

Service is slightly snooty which is no less than what is expected, but they were very responsive to our requests. It took some time to find a waiter at times, as the dining area was a full-house the whole time we were there- and we had booked a time in the later slots.

I hadn't expected it to be as touristy as it was- there were some groups there who were obviously just there to see and be seen which I didn't really like but I guess in London that's unavoidable. 

If you've been to The Plaza in NYC for tea, this is a bit similar in terms of set up and style.  In terms of afternoon tea, the scones were by far the best -- probably because of the jam used. 
Highly recommended. No flash or intrusive photography allowed so please excuse the quality of my pictures :)

Price: Very expensive (50 pounds a head!!) + tax. 

Information: By appointment only! Bookings are made in slots-- call The Claridges +44 (0)20 7629 8860.

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