Up in My Grill – How Much is Too Much for a Sandwich?

I have been known to pay a pretty penny for some good food.

And usually, I’m happy to do so (with the exception of a certain South American fusion restaurant in Doha who charged me five bucks for three small bread rolls recently – review coming).

But when this story popped up on my Twitter feed today, I did a double take.

Peter Gilmore is perhaps the best chef in Australia and his Snow egg has passed into culinary legend.

But AUD$22 for a grilled cheese sandwich? Well, that’s another matter.

$22 in other terms is QR57 or USD$15 or 10 quid in UK terms.

According to Gourmet Traveller it has five Australian cheeses: “C2 cheddar and Heidi Gruyère in there for bite, ricotta and mozzarella for texture, and l’Artisan Mountain Man, a washed-rind cheese from Timboon, in Victoria, for pungency. Oh, and there’s some black truffle thrown in for good measure, too.”

That’s a lot of cheese and a bit of truffle. The bread is brioche made from scratch and of course, it’s served (at the bar) of perhaps the most spectacular dining location in the world, Bennelong.

The sandwich (image from Gourmet Traveler Australia)

The sandwich (image from Gourmet Traveler Australia)

But this isn’t the most expensive sandwich in the world by any means – that honor goes to The Quintessential Grilled Cheese at Serendpity 3 in New York.

Edged in gold leaf, it is created from brie, champagne, lobster and truffle oil and costs a whopping US$214.

Chef Joe Calderoni said he had created the unique sandwich as a way of adding a little luxury into everyone’s favorite snack, he told The Daily Mail

‘We came up with grilled cheese because that’s the ultimate in comfort food. What better way to celebrate that sandwich than with the quintessential version of that sandwich?’ he siad.

Chef Joe Calderoni said he had created the unique sandwich as a way of adding a little luxury into everyone’s favorite snack.

‘We came up with grilled cheese because that’s the ultimate in comfort food. What better way to celebrate that sandwich than with the quintessential version of that sandwich?’ he said.

So extravagant is this delight, that it must be ordered 48 hours in advance.

Now I love cheese and I love a sandwich, but I’m a spur of the moment kinda cheese gal.

At a push I may be tempted to try the Gilmore Grilled Cheese, but I have one that I would choose above all.

My own.

Best in my view

Best in my view

Good grainy bread. Some Irish ham. Cheddar cheese slices, dijon mustard and finally some fresh pineapple, grilled French-style in a fry pan. The extra special secret? A slick of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread before frying in a non-stick fry pan.

And all in all…probably around USD$4.

And yes, I’m taking orders.

The Missing Link – Review of BBaba Sausage Sizzle

In Australia you would be hard pressed not to come face-to-face with a sizzling sausage.

At any given time, BBQs and grills are being fired up in car parks, sports grounds and even at high end events and links of sausages being prodded and poked all in the name of fundraising.

Yes, we Aussies love a sizzling sausage.

Sausage sizzles are a fundraising and community event. Consisting of a gathering where a barbequed sausage is served on a slice of white bread or on a bread roll, and may be accompanied by tomato sauce, mustard, and sometimes barbecued onions. All ingredients are usually purchased as cheaply (or donated) as possible, so as to maximise fundraising.

It’s a right of passage.

So when I heard about an “Australian Hotdog Place” opening in Doha, I knew two things. A. I must go there and B. they really meant sausages.

I was right. BBaba Sausage Sizzle plays on that Australia love of a sausage. The family run place tucked away in Abu Hamour also serves up other Australian delicacies including sausage rolls (that’s another post), chips with chicken salt and the much contested potato scallop.

Sausage stuffed roll

Sausage stuffed roll

My visit with the ever-willing Brooke on a hot Saturday in August saw us restrain ourselves from ordering everything on the menu. I settled for The Sizzler which pressed all my umami buttons – pickles, onions, mustard, cheese with a beef sausage. You can choose from lamb, beef or chicken.

The sausages are home made and you can tell – no extra filling just pure meat and spices.

Before I smashed both

Before I smashed both

While the bread is still very Doha (a little sweet), the resulting taste took me right back to those 1st Mays Hill Brownies sausage sizzles held in god forsaken supermarket carparks on a Saturday morning. That’s a good memory.

Other options include sausage and rolls filled with smokey BBQ bacon, chilli cheese or basically anything you want.

The chips were also excellent – hand cut and dusted with chicken salt. How to describe chicken salt other than “Chicldren’s Crack”. It contains chicken extract…and crack.

Fries with a side of crack

Fries with a side of crack

They make their own chicken salt at BBaba and I dare not ask the secret. The above photo also reveals they had pineapple fritters – a strange Australian tradition made from tinned pineapple which has been battered and fried.These were dusted with sugar and cinnamon.

Where I really had a childhood flashback was their potato scallops. The name differs depending on your state of birth – scallops, potato fritters or potato cakes. There has been an ongoing Twitter war

Essentially they are slices of potatoes, battered, deepfried and dusted in salt. I like mine with tomato sauce (ketchup to peasants) on white bread.

Heaven in potato form

Heaven in potato form

I have challenged the team to make a Doha version of the epic Australian delicacy Chiko Roll and await their response.

Verdict: while it’s great to see a little slice of Australia in Doha, I’m also pleased to see a unique, family owned concept developed here. As a foodie and blogger, I’m also excited to see fresh, hand made food being served up at reasonable prices. BBaba Sausage Sizzle maybe firmly rooted in their Australian heritage, but this is a concept everyone can enjoy. Who doesn’t love a sizzling sausage?

The details:

BBaba Sausage Sizzle

Shop 22

01 Mall (AKA Megamart)

Ain Khaled

You can find them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.combbabasausagesizzle or Twitter @SoSizzled

afternoon delight

Stringing Me Along – When String Cheese Goes Gourmet

String cheese as it is known to most of us, is a fairly new revelation to me.

Most Australians my age (cough) are unfamilar with the commercial string cheese we see in supermarkets now. When I was a kid, we did have Kraft cheese sticks, which were a different texture entirely. They were processed cheddar cheese, extruded into plastic and sealed with tiny metal rings. In hindsight, those metal rings were a choking hazard. Speaking of hazard, after four hours in the lunch box, these sticks had also turned nuclear, or mushy.

Moving to the Middle East I discovered the commercial American string cheese, as well as the local variety which is known generally as Shelal Cheese which hails from the Levant.

I’m always a fan of trying an old favorite in a new way and when I came across Karoun Cheese from California at my local Lulu Hypermarket recently, I couldn’t resist.

afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Marinated in olive oil, garlic and herbs, the cheese is made from part-skim milk. It’s mild and with a firm but chewy texture and has just enough zing to elevate it above the usual “string cheese”. Perfect for an afternoon snack.

A long way from the cheese sticks that blighted my childhood. For a look back, I found a photo. Nostalgic? Traumatic? You have been warned.

I just can't even...

I just can’t even…

Southern Comfort – A Cheese Driven Trip to NSW Southern Highlands

My father taught me to drive in our old brown 1984 Commodore which was without the benefit of power steering.

I remember once taking a corner rather sharply while on a practice drive with Dad. He still claims to see the look of horror on a fellow driver’s face as I tried to control the brown rank on the Great Western Highway.

My father claims my driving has actually regressed since living overseas, yet he sometimes has no choice.

While home recently I took my father on a day trip to Robertson on the South Coast of NSW. Well Dad actually wanted to visit nearby Bowral, but I heard the cheese was better in Roberston.

Which was true.

Our first stop was the Roberston Cheese Factory where I picked up an excellent chilli cheddar which wound up traveling back to Doha with me. The climate and lush fields around this area are perfect for dairy farming.

We stopped for lunch at the hipster meets retro Rockabellas cafe where Dad was coerced into a burger and I had the pumpkin and feta enchiladas.

Pop art and burgers

Pop art and burgers

Dad gritting his teeth for the return journey

Dad gritting his teeth for the return journey

I did enjoy the man-bunned waiter trash talking my Dad for ordering a soy decaf cappuccino (I am adopted).

“It’s dairy flavored bean water Dude,” he told my Dad.

The man-bun had a point.

Pumpkin and feta enchilada

Pumpkin and feta enchiladas

Preparing to scare the crap out of my dad

Preparing to scare the crap out of my dad

I picked up this amazing chilli flavored cheddar while on the trip. With two kinds of bite – from the cheddar and the chilli, I may have changed my view on non traditional cheese.

Bite me

Bite me

Dad exacted revenge on me for comandeering his drive by instructing me to take the “scenic” route back to Sydney. By “scenic” please read “terrifying hair pin turn and steep descents”.

He always wins.

Dining in the Dark – Preview of W Doha’s Sensory Journey

They say that dimming the lights can heighten your other senses like taste and smell. As a woman of a certain age (cough), I find it also hides a multitude of sins.

When the team from W Doha invited me to try their own version of dining in the dark, I was very quick to confirm. Excellent food, mood lighting…what’s not to love.

While it wasn’t conducted in complete darkness (rather the stunning Extreme Wow Suite), the experience was still unique.

The seven course menu, presented by their executive chef Kim and developed for the evening, took us on a journey of the hotel’s culinary strengths.

Arancini ball with parmesan

Arancini ball with parmesan

Each course a different couple was blind folded and had a chance to guess the dish and the ingredients.

Blindfolded bandit

Blindfolded bandit

The seven courses were five savory and to sweets with wines to match. I competed in two courses and was worried frankly for my reputation. Luckily I was better than I expected, guessing the cheese in the arancini and two kinds of beef preparations in the meat course. Withe the meat I have to say that having no visual cues, rather the smell and taste really heightened the experience. The richness of the beef, especially the fillet, really shined.

A delicate salon and yuzu

A delicate salmon and yuzu

This delicate salmon carpaccio with yuzu (a Japanese citrus that is a meld of orange and lemon) was almost too pretty to eat.

Hamour and peas

Hamour and peas

I know my meats

I know my meats – Blindfolded I guessed this dish but the carrots foxed me

This concept enables you to actually focus on the food rather than other distractions. the conversation around the table was focussed on the flavors and the preparations (and some gossip but that’s another story). And of course, dining in the stunning suite with the company of the chef is an experience in itself. I can imagine it being a special occasion dinner (birthday maybe – hint hint).

The Sensory Journey starts in September and will be held every third Wednesday. It costs QR990 per head which includes seven courses, matching wines. The menu will change each month.

For more information contact W Doha on +974 4453 5000 or tweet them @wdoha

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of W Doha

Going Bananas – A Staycation at Banana Island by Anantara

When I first arrived in Doha more than eight years ago, Banana Island was a well worn stop on the show boat route for jet skiers and partiers.

But a lot can happen in eight years (leaving my 30s is one of those things) and now the island has been redeveloped into an exquisite resort – Banana Island by Anantara

Where's Doha?

Where’s Doha?

The island is a a 25 minute luxury ferry ride away (QR200 with QR100 credit for dining or free if you are an in house guest) from the Doha port. With a check in area and valet parking, the feeling of taking a trip starts here.

Once on the island, you can see from parts the new Doha airport, but there is little aircraft noise and frankly, you could be anywhere (save for the rampant humidity).

Greeted off the ferry, you are checked in and whisked to your room. I had been upgraded to an Anantara suite which was larger than my actual apartment. It also had direct access to the beach, a bathroom to covet and a huge amount of privacy.

Luxe touches

Luxe touches

Love is in the air

Love is in the air

I have been asked by many about the lack of alcohol on the Island. Yes, it’s dry but for two days and considering the amount of activities and good food available, it’s not really missed.

Activity wise, there is a bowling alley, a wave pool, water sports, a putting green, a beach and two pools plus a movie theater. So little time to think about the lack of a margarita.

With eight restaurants on the Island including an Italian, an Arabic family restaurant, a juice bar and a grill so you also won’t go hungry.

We dined at Teds, the American style diner for our first meal. With cheerful staff and a menu focussing on salads, burgers, shakes and hot dogs, I was always going to be a fan. My hot dog came with coleslaw on the side and  juicy (beef) sausage.

Hotdog!

Hotdog!

Over the two days we returned several times to Q Lounge which is a fusion restaurant featuring a menu of mediterranean, Arabic and Indian classics.

Ceviche Doha style

Ceviche Doha style

A highlight for me was a mixed seafood ceviche that had the right amount of heat. Special mention must go to their breakfast buffet – much quieter than the main restaurant and with quirky touches like a honey bar and a selection of international salts.

Sensational salts

Sensational salts

All the fruits

All the fruits

It wouldn’t have been a staycation without some spa action, and this is where the Anantara brand excels. A huge spa with over water treatment rooms, a hammam and well trained staff, I floated away during my 90 minute treatment and had to be brought back to earth.

2015-08-07 17.14.41

Spa time

Spa time

A gem of a spa

A gem of a spa

Where is Doha?

Where is Doha?

This was my first time at an Anantara resort and I suspect that the friendliness of the staff is a reflection on the brand. Without fail staff were helpful, polite, greeted us by name and dare I say, genuinely happy. This is rare.

It was a wrench to leave the Island, but my day job beckoned. I returned refreshed, relaxed and I didn’t even have to book a plane fare.

The Details:

Banana Island, Qatar

Tel: +974 4040 5050
doha@anantara.com

Tapas Bravos – Restaurant Review of Aceite at the Melia Doha

There are few things that can make the world better again than fried cheese and copious amounts of sangria. Which is why when the invite came to try this new restaurant, I literally ran towards it screaming.

Soothing sangria

Soothing sangria

Spanish food is literally surging in Doha right now. With the excellent El Faro at the Marsa Malasz and now this gem, Aceite at the new Melia Doha.

On a Thursday night in July, it was busy with big groups of work people enjoying the tapas and a drink as well as couple and of course two hungry Australian sheilas.

Plied with a very hypnotic sangria tapas style starters of cheese and chicken croquettas along with fried calamari set the scene.

You had me at cheese

You had me at cheese

The croquettas were parmesan and apple – a moorish (see what I did there) melange of sweet and savory and fried to perfection.

Grabbed by the tentacles

Grabbed by the tentacles

Lightly crumbed and fried, the calamari was served with its own ink. Unctious yet also just oily enough.

Trust me it was good

Trust me it was good

Between courses we were brought something described as “Squid Cappuccino”. This did not fill me with excitement. I have been known to be wrong. Topped with a creamy foam, deep inside was a salad of squid and peppers dressed with oil. It was a stand out amongst a meal of excellent dishes – not too fishy yet also not oily.

Tomato bread

Tomato bread

Paella but not as we know it

Paella but not as we know it

A seafood paella from Valencia of vermicelli noodles, clams, mussels and prawns was a salty seafood sensation. It had all the familiar smells of a paella but the textures were new and exciting. Also, I haven’t had a decent clam in Doha for some time (so many jokes there)

Excuse me I must be alone with these churros

Excuse me I must be alone with these churros

Those who know me know I don’t like sweets. Except for icecream. And cupcakes. And donuts. These churros ended the meal with a bang – deep fried and dusted in sugar and cinnamon, I didn’t even stop to dip them in the chocolate. The same can’t be said of my dining companion who drank it direct from the cup. #nojudgement

A large, bright space with a TV showing Spanish tourism videos, the bar area was almost raucus and gave the restaurant a fun and dynmanic atmosphere many would be envious of in this city’s competitive dining scene.

While the atmosphere is casual, the food is very definitely five star.This is fine dining with a populist edge.

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Melia Doha, but view are my own.

The Details:

Aceite

The Melia Doha

West Bay

Tel: (974) 401 99999

PS

Many thanks to my readers for the kind words about my mother’s passing last month. The last few weeks have been harder than I ever imagined. Your support and that of my friends and loved ones meant more than I can ever articulate.

When the Words Just Won’t Come

As many regular readers know, I generally take a little break from my blog every northern Summer. I get blog fatigue.

This year’s has been longer than usual because, I just couldn’t find the words to write. Every time I opened the site to start, the words just wouldn’t come.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my greatest supporter, the first reader of my blog, my Mum, passed away after brief and brutal battle with cancer. I still can’t believe those words even as I lived and wrote them. I’m not completely sure how I have been functioning the last few weeks, except for the love and support of family and friends.

Thanks to those friends/extended family who texted to check on me, those who attended Mum’s funeral, who just called to say hi, who took me for meals, showered me with love and generally were just there when I needed them.

Thanks to a special person in my life, who although he couldn’t be with me, drove me to the airport on that final trip back home, checked on me repeatedly, made me feel cared for and was there when I returned to Doha, a numb and sodden mess.

I considered the idea that this post would just be another review, or about a new cheese, skim over it like everything was normal. But that wouldn’t have been right.

I also considered taking a longer break from the blog, but Mum would have hated that. she was quite good at reading me the riot act when I needed it.

As my friend Alicia said, I would know when the time was right to start writing again. It’s almost right.

Normal transmission will be resumed in coming days. There is a fridge full of cheese at my house for God’s sake!

I will leave you with this ditty from the Life of Brian, my mother’s favorite film.

Seoul Food – Review of Yee Hwa Restaurant

You know those moments. Where you have been living in a city for a long time (let’s say eight years) and you think you know everything about it. Every nook and cranny. Then, you discover something new and you shout it from the rooftops and everyone else is like “Um yeah. Thanks Scoop.”

That happened twice this month. The first time when I discovered Chillis did home delivery. When the delivery guy came to my door with a bag of deliciousness, I commented on how I was surprised he found my building. The delivery guy shot me a withering look and said: “Yes Madam. Everyone orders from us here.” Boom.

The second time was with the discovery of Yee Hwa Korean Japanese Restaurant.

This was borne out of a craving for sushi and ramen and a desire not to venture too far from my hood. I hit the Zomato Doha app and it literally led my direct to their doorstep via their google maps integration.

I arrived just after 12pm and there was already a scrum for tables. The clientele was predominately Korean, which made me happy and relieved.

The extensive menu run the full range of sushi, sashimi and Korean and Japanese favorites including noodles, tempura and bulgogi.

I settled on tempura maki rolls, the kimchi pancake and the spicy seafood soup.

Settling in

Settling in

My adventure that day was a solo one and big thanks to the waiter for handling this well. When I looked around the restaurant I saw several other lone diners happily slurping away.

Like all Korean restaurants I was served up a selection of freebie side dishes including the ubiquitous kim chi (spicy fermented cabbage). Now I love a side dish so I had to restrain myself.

The restaurant has it’s own sushi chefs and everything is prepared to order, so be prepared to wait between dishes.

You had me at side dish

You had me at side dish

My sushi rolls were fresh and as promised, crispy inside. I wanted to take home a vat of the special sauce they were served with but it wouldn’t fit in my purse.

Note the sauce

Note the sauce

When the kimchi pancake arrived, it was the size of a large pizza. I looked around the room and no one was judging me for this. I managed two pieces before asking them to pack it up to take it home with me for dinner. It was a little greasy as I expected, but was also tasty, with the sour tang of the kimchi offset by the added vegetables.

The  spicy seafood soup was the recommendation of the waiter, who knew his audience. It was more a vat than a bowl of soup. I regretted instantly wearing white that day, but it was filled with noodles, prawns and squid and soon had me wanting to drink from the bowl. It also cleared my sinuses.

The soup of my dreams

The soup of my dreams

I was done within an hour and as I was leaving, I noticed the restaurant was heaving and there was a line of hungry patrons waiting.

Everyone in that restaurant was in on the secret. And finally, I can say that I am too.

Finally.

The Details:

Yee Hwa

Ground Floor, Doha Downtown Hotel Apartment,

Al Kinana Street

Al Nasr, Doha

Phone: +974 44419898

The Goan Rate – 48 Hours in Goa

A trio of chaat at Grand Hyatt Goa

A trio of chaat at Grand Hyatt Goa

Sometimes a gal just has to get out of the city. And at just three hours away from Doha, with its European heritage, spectacular beaches and yes, tasty food Goa is the perfect quickie escape.

I gathered up the gang and headed to Goa last weekend, in search of good food, cheap spa treatments and a dust free environment. Goa is one of those destinations that can truly surprise you. It’s kind of India Lite.

This was my fourth trip to Goa and unbelievably my 12th to India. They should give me residency or a lifetime supply of dosa anyway. Fresh off a 5am flight and a sprint to Immigration to avoid a charter flight of Russian package tourists, the first thought in our minds was food. And lots of it.

Mum's Kitchen

Mum’s Kitchen

Goa is unique in an already cosmopolitan country. The sole Portuguese outpost in India for 500 years, you can still see the European influence in its food and architecture. Our initial culinary stop was Mum’s Kitchen, famous amongst locals and visitors. The helpful waiter lured us into trying the firey Goan version of the Vindaloo (spelt Vindhalo in Goa).

Quite often hot and spicy dishes find their actual taste overwhelmed by the heat. But this was different. You could taste the layers of flavors including the smokey paprika.

Fried cauliflower at Mum's Kitchen

Fried cauliflower at Mum’s Kitchen

Goan cuisine take its influences from its history and location. Unlike other areas of India, you will find beef and pork but also seafood, coconut and fruit like pineapple.

Beef croquettes

Beef croquettes

Roadtrip

Roadtrip Goan Style

Goa is so laid back it’s almost horizontal and is one of the country’s most tourist friendly areas. The Portuguese influence is everywhere – from the food to the crumbling churches and street names.

Of course there was samosa

Of course there was samosa

It can be hard believe you are in India…

Panjim

Panjim

We missed a trick and visited on the edge of the monsoon, the weather was humid and we even saw rain. But this didn’t detract from the fecund beauty of the place.

Our hotel, Grand Hyatt Goa ensured we were well fed, watered and ferried around the city in good time. We were invited to dinner at the pan Indian restaurant Chulha on our first night. With a menu that spans the length and breadth of the country, our instructions were “bring us everything”.

Chicken and cashew in gravy

Chicken and cashew in gravy

And they did. Highlights of the feast included a chicken braised with cashew nuts and figs, which was moreish and creamy.

Chicken marinated in cream

Chicken marinated in cream

A grilled chicken dish, marinated in cream was also a favorite. Perfectly cooked and highlighting everything that is great about Indian food – fresh, clean and full of flavor.

Tandoori Jingha

Tandoori Jingha

The heaving table

The heaving table

Silenced by the food, the table also unanimously endorsed the tandoori jingha – or tandoor prawns spiced with cardomon, the selection of breads and the daahl.

Sev Puri

Sev Puri

And of course, there was cheese or more specifically, paneer done tandoori style with yoghurt and spices.

Paneer to my heart

Paneer to my heart

Sweet silver lining

Sweet silver lining

A table of savory fiends, we were even tempted by the selection of Indian desserts.

The view from here

The view from here

I haven’t traveled much this year for many reasons. I did feel myself missing home or Doha on several occasions. But I was glad to get out of the city for a couple of days with good friends. Who can ask for more than that?

History in my hotel

History in my hotel

Street art in Panjim

Street art in Panjim

Shisha, cocktail and a view

Shisha, cocktail and a view