I was just thumbing through the cookbook Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. In the intro Ina Garten talks about how she’s not a fan of food trends and prefers simple ingredients cooked well. I couldn’t agree more. She then goes on to list a few of said annoying food trends, one of which was foam. But more on that in a bit.
We’ve been lucky enough to have several friends and family come here even though we are so far from home. I love having people stay with us. I enjoy seeing the city as new again and showing people the good, the bad and the ugly of Dubai. Plus it’s a great excuse for me to do the touristy things I’ve put off. I love mapping out itineraries and options and making people feel at home. Everyone will say, “but we came to see you, not the city.” C’mon. For many of us, seeing this part of the world is an opportunity that isn’t easy to come by, so I really want people to experience all the different parts of the city and scratch off all items on their to-do list. When things go wrong? It really annoys me; after all, this person just flew umpteen hours and spent a lot of money to come here.
A friend of mine from university came to visit in November. (hi Jenny! :)) Things got off to a rocky start. After flying from New York and arriving late due to a delayed flight, I brilliantly decided to take her to the Madinat for “a quick drink/snack” on a Friday night. We pulled into the parking garage, happily catching up. As we chatted, I lost track of time but soon realized I’d seen red brake lights and big cement barriers one too many times. We just could not find parking. I clearly do not get out enough, who knew it would be so crowded? Sixty minutes later I finally inched my way out of the garage and found parking on the street. Welcome to Dubai! Please enjoy your one hour tour of a claustrophobic parking garage sitting in a cramped car after your claustrophobic trans-Atlantic flight sitting on a cramped plane. Sigh.
Other highlights included a 30 minute scream fest by my normally easy-going baby. Usually she will just go to sleep in her car seat without a peep when she’s tired. Not this time, nope. She wanted us to know that all that sight-seeing at the marina was just not intended for a four-month old, so she let it rip on Sheikh Zayed Road (a freeway) when we were trapped in a bunch of traffic. With no exits within reach and no ability to soothe her, the shrill crying culminated in hysteria-induced vomit. (Poor little thing!) Hope you enjoyed the marina! Please remember your ear plugs and barf bag next time. Ugh.
In addition to the little one getting upset, my 4 year-old began feeling flu-ish while at the marina. A stubborn fever and nasty sounding phlegmy cough set it, and then it spread to the rest of the family. (the silver lining is that Jenny never caught it, thank goodness.) I hope you are comfortable in our germ-infested home. Try to ignore the constant hacking and irritable family members, including your hostess. P.S. You’ve just lost your tour guide. Grrr.
The fun doesn’t stop there. I wanted her to see one of the glamorous five-star hotels and chose the Palace Hotel near Dubai Mall because the restaurants have amazing views of the Burj Khalifa and the dancing fountains. The delicious Thai restaurant I had planned to take her to was booked for a private party, so I mentioned the other option there was Asado, an Argentinian steakhouse. Who takes a vegetarian to a steakhouse? Apparently, me. Let’s just say I wasn’t on my A-game. This place has antlers on the light fixtures and parades around its large, raw cuts of beef to each table like a desert tray, yet there we sat. Jenny was gracious enough to look enthusiastic, suggesting that she could order fish or other non-meat dish.
Back to Ina. As soon as I read the word ‘foam’ I envisioned this, immediate and clear like a flashback from a traumatic experience:
You guessed it. This was Jenny’s meal. We were horrified and amused at the same time and could not stop laughing. Part of the reason we found it so funny was that we ordered an appetizer of scallops and they were doused in a very unappealing cream-colored foam. We were disgusted by this unappetizing addition to our innocent little scallops. So when her entrée came out with foam, again, we couldn’t believe our luck! I’m tempted to play a game of “guess that meal” in the comment section, but I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you it was a quinoa mushroom risotto. The menu made no mention of the mysterious foam. When we asked, we were told this was parsley foam. Why on earth would anyone want to foamify parsley? And this is a trend? As in, more than one restaurant puts this on a plate? Again, I must not get out enough because I thought this was anything but intentional. This looks like our waiter mistakenly served us something a displeased customer regurgitated. Or an experiment with slimy sea creatures gone terribly wrong. I’d like to refer the chef to Ina’s cookbook and suggest getting back to basics. Enjoy your “five-star” meal. Use a blindfold because no one looking at that could actually eat it and only peek out if you want to see the pretty fountains. Sigh, again.
Despite all the snags in my plan, Jenny was so sweet and understanding. It obviously was not the visit I had envisioned, but I so enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect, laugh, and reminisce with my old friend and I think she was still able to accomplish most things on her to-do list. By the way, I appreciate visitors very much, so I hope this post doesn’t dissuade anyone from coming! 🙂