Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Open Letter to Jennifer Aniston c/o #Emirates #Airlines

Dear Jen,

Congratulations on your new gig at Emirates Airlines! I'm so glad you seem to be enjoying it.
I wanted to ask you how your experience has been so far? Looks like you have been travelling on board the A380 First class suites..

So just wondering, have you been on the EK from Dubai to JFK?  Perhaps you were on my flight on August 26 EK 203, scheduled to depart at 2:50 am from Dubai and reach JFK at 08:50am? 

You know, the one that we boarded on time, but then were asked to disembark 4 hours or so later due to technical problems which could not be fixed? The new departure time was given as 10am, and we were accommodated in the lounge waiting for the confirmed departure time (poor economy passengers.. nowhere to go).

You may remember the lounge personnel telling us that they would call our flight even though no announcements are normally made in the lounge?
So several croissants later, around 9:15, I asked the desk if we were boarding. They said yes, within 20 minutes and they would call our flight in the lounge. And then by chance I heard the announcement being made in the general airport area for the last call, with 15 minutes left to make it to the gate? You may have been one of the people running to make it.. I'm so sorry if I passed you and didn't say hi, but you know, I really didn't want to miss this flight!

So they had changed our aircraft and were getting us to depart as they had correctly informed us at around 10am- so around 7 hours' delay. Couldn't have been helped, better safe than sorry, etc... all understandable.

So we take off- you were probably in your suite at this point -- hello from J class! Was it a squeeze for you to get into your seat? Access to the aisle from the seats is blocked by some huge @@@ console- the only way to get in is to hug the seat in front of you, and for us short people, to position your rearend above the console and move sideways?  No? Oh, ok.

Your access to your seat!
Given the lack of sleep due to the flight delay, I needed to fall asleep straight away. They were serving the meal -- 7 hours later, it was the same menu that it had been the night before. Served in the same sequence. Dinner at 11am. No thank you.   Perhaps I could eat it when I woke up? You know, like they do on Qatar Airways- dine on demand? Hmmm, good luck with that. So I decided to sleep instead.

Tossed and turned- in quite a comfortable seat, I should add.  To be fair and all. Couldn't sleep. So a couple of hours into the flight, I pull out the menu and ask for soup.  Flight attendant slash pouting wannabe model looks at me smugly and says she has to check if it's still hot. What? Showers, but no microwave? Hello tomorrow!

So then I get my soup. Lukewarm.  Should have stuck with the bread basket.

I did manage to sleep eventually. And the inflight entertainment was pretty good too. That's pretty much all the things I can list that are positive.
I see you seem to enjoy yourself at the bar in the back.  Right behind you you may have seen the toilets.  How was that for you, 8 hours into the flight? Dirty? Stinky? Sinks clogged? Wet floor? Better hold it in than go in there right?

But I digress.  So the bar... I see you got a relatively pleasant bartender. Given their incompetence with serving hot food, I asked for vegetarian sandwiches.   The woman behind the bar waved me to the pastries and ignored me.  Her colleague told me yes they have cheese and chutney sandwiches and when she couldn't find them on the counter she told Bitch Woman that they were stored inside and to pull them out.  Bitch Woman wasn't happy about this at all, and with her begrudging pout knelt down to find them. Eventually I got a sandwich. But that attitude... a commonality across all their female cabin crew, made it not worth asking.

So Jen, I won't bore you with more details. We reached NYC at around 4:30pm.  

I dreaded the flight back and when I finished my trip I unsubscribed from their emails, and disposed of my frequent flyer card. I won't be flying with them again.. and if it's a destination that only they fly to, I will cross it off my list. 

Personal mini bar at each seat, includes water, soft drinks and a glass. 
Because I may not be a celebrity, and they may not need me to endorse their sub-par product. But what they are effectively doing when they lose someone like me is losing me to their competitors. The hype, the fanfare, the 'we do everything bigger'- doesn't hold up against the substance- the factor that makes me decide to fly Qatar Airways or Gulf Air could be as simple as a smiling cabin crew, a bit of heart in the way that my tray is placed on my table, someone making eye contact with me when they hand me something.  
Not a crew that are more concerned with looking like a celebrity than doing their job. walking the aisle like they're on a catwalk, most likely to jump off first in an emergency.
Trivial, maybe, but at the end of the day, a BD 2000 decision...

But Jen, maybe you won't see this side of them... you could be their ticket to Hollywood... for me, I experienced it all as it is.. a class act.

Thanks Emirates, but no thanks.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

#Restaurant Review: Maman Bakery Cafe, #NYC

What a charming little place! A Michelin star bakery/ cafe by Armand Arnal located in the heart of SoHo in NYC, you would easily miss this if you didn't know it was there. And a good thing too, because it's too great of a tiny hidden gem and way too limited in seating for a whole lot of people to find it!
The interior, though very narrow, is a true delight- with a very country feel- wood panel flooring, a tree branch installation and wood furniture. The counter with the food display is at the front of the cafe, then you walk through a short narrow corridor and get to the slightly larger seating area in the back- with around 4 pinewood tables, including a large communal one. 
Frequented mainly by students, this charming cafe serves fantastic coffee, nice fresh salads and simple brunch items, including sandwiches and croissants.  We ordered the quinoa salad, tomato mozzarella sandwich, a croissant, hot chocolate and a latte.
The blue and white brand features prominently in the cafe, and small touches like the handwritten labels on the milk containers and messages written by hand on the cafe's glass window, makes it feel like you are in someone's cottage in the middle of the city.  

Information: Maman is very easy to miss so if you're going for the first time keep your eyes wide open! They are located at 239 Center Street between Grand and Broome. Tel: 212 226 0700. 
Social media: instagram: @_mamannyc_ #mamannyc.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

#Restaurant Review: Schnippers, #NYC

Looking for a fun place for lunch and dinner? Its name alone will catch your attention... 
Schnippers is a contemporary diner in NYC that serves a range of healthy and not so healthy food options, in a diner setting but with a fast food service set up. 

The menu is a huge wall board behind the counter, you order, take a buzzer and then a waiter will find you and bring your food.  

We were in awe of this tracking device from the outset, but we were there for an early lunch before it got busy, and once it did get busy the tracking system seemed to go haywire and waiters were not able to locate the correct tables for the food!

Mac and cheese was disappointing

We ordered a tomato mozzarella sandwich, mac and cheese, fish and chips and sweet potato fries. Although it didn't look very appetizing and resembled chicken fingers more than fish, the fish and chips actually tasted quite good, as did the sandwich.   
The sweet potato fries were also nice and crunchy, but the mac and cheese was a disappointment (too creamy, not much taste).

Fish and chips was good, side of sweet potato fries also good
The branch we went to on Lexington Ave was very spacious but like all places, during lunch it was packed full and the queues to order were long with people waiting sometime for takeout orders.  I recommend that you try to avoid lunch hour as it was nice and quiet when we first sat.

The tracking device!

Price:  Our lunch for 2 cost $35.
Information: Schnippers has numerous locations; we went to the one on 570 Lexington Ave. Tel: +212 826 8100.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Biscoffs fit for Her Majesty at Majestea Tea Room, Seef Mall, #Bahrain

You've probably heard of the biscoff pancakes at Majestea by now, and if you haven't tried them yet then this is a personal plea to you that you go like NOW.

During a week of breakfast hopping, we put Majestea on the list as none of us had been before. We went just after 9am, before Seef Mall opened, and it was a real pain to access the cafe as the mall only opens one gate at that time and wherever you park you can only enter from that one door. 
After a bit of directions swapping we were all seated and had the place to ourselves.  We got the menus from the very attentive staff, and were surprised as we hadn't been aware that the cafe offers quite a selection of food options. We ordered the grilled cheese, the croissant with scrambled egg, and the Arabic breakfast.  
To be honest the salty dishes were not refined like what you would expect at Lilos, for example, and were quite homestyle in both their taste and presentation. Not a bad thing, just nothing out of the ordinary.   The size of the Arabic breakfast tray was quite generous and we all shared it with enough to go around to all as a taster.
But the attraction at Majestea isn't really the salty dishes anyway, so we were kind of just pretending to have breakfast so we could order dessert. 
Although there were several items we would have liked to try, we went for the biscoff pancakes, which are served with vanilla icecream (icecream for breakfast? yes please). Extremely sweet and gooey, as one would expect from the name, these really did live up to our expectations. Coupled with rounds and rounds of karak tea (don't judge me!), the meal was really enjoyable.
The cafe itself is decorated really nicely, exactly how you would imagine a tea room to be. With lovely white porcelain teaware decorating the floral wallpaper, lots of light and airiness, it is a wonderfully relaxing place to take one's tea.  
Really the only negative about it is access in the morning... I wouldn't go again at a time that was earlier than the mall opening.. not because I'm too lazy to walk, but really because it should not be that inconvenient to access a breakfast place at breakfast time. 

Information: Majestea is open from 9am to 10 pm Saturday- Wednesday, and from 9am to 12am on Thursday and Fridays.  Tel: +973 7737 7770, and follow them on instagram @majesteabh

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The mother of organic markets.... #Ripemarket, #UAE #Dubai

Of all homegrown organic markets, Ripe Market is probably the one I have visited that does it best. With markets held in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, organic locally grown food and locally-produced products are showcased in an environment designed to provide families with a full outdoor day of activities.
I went to Dubai market which is held at Zaabeel Park.  As a venue, the park is a beautiful green landscape with lots of space, a kids' play area, and other facilities.

I went around noon and it was very busy- the parking lot was completely full with cars parked on the pavements, but there wasn't a long line at the ticket office for the entry tickets so I wasn't delayed.

The anchor tenant at this market is Ripe, a local organic shop for produce, which sets up a pop up shop as big as your grocer's produce section and offering produce that looks a whole lot fresher than what you would find there! Past Ripe, the stalls seem to go on forever.  With most of the stall owners expats (Arab, Asian and Western), as most people in Dubai are, what was interesting was that I saw more Emaratis here than you normally do in other places in Dubai.
Shirley Conlon Organics for organic skincare

There were lots of really nice stalls and unlike the trend of other markets (tshirts, cupcakes, shabby chic), these were actually products that show significant effort in design and production.  Organic skincare, natural soaps, hand sewn bags, organic babywear, kaftans, handmade beanies (made in front of you)... a good range of products - not cheaply priced, but with a proudly made in UAE label, worth their price.

Handmade beanies
Alternatives to plant pots

Tribal, ethnic and vintage bags designed and made by @ragmatazzrohini
Bucket bags by @salehsarah
And then come the food stalls.  Stall after stall selling freshly cooked and in many cases organically sourced ingredients, covering just about every cuisine. Indian, Mexican, Lebanese, healthy, juices, doughnuts, hard candy (made right there in front of you), Raw coffee (a must try!) and everywhere around you families sitting and having picnics with live musicians scattered around the area singing classics.
The atmosphere was really nice, and the space is large enough so that you can spend a good half day here and be entertained and interested throughout. A couple of the stalls I went to were selling out fast so clearly as a commercial venture the market has added value to the stall-owners.

Ripe Fresh's  pop up store

@faitmaisoncuisine provides daily gourmet meal plans as well as catering

Information: For more information on dates, cities and timings, follow @ripefresh on instagram or check out the website

Price: An entry fee of 5Dh is paid at the gate.

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