Breaking the Fast at Eatopia

Let’s be honest, breakfast for me is usually some toast, topped with maybe a slice of cheese or Vegemite scoffed down at 530am as I rush out the door, praying my car will start that morning.

This is why I love weekends, when I can indulge in a decent breakfast, cooked by an expert and also catch up on all the gossip.

Eatopia, which opened recently in The Gate Mall in Doha, seems to be all things to all people. Offering different cooking stations as well as a cafe, deli, fresh produce counters and a supermarket, they recently launched a new breakfast buffet and invited me along to test it.

The full monty

The full monty

With fellow breakfast love Brooke in tow, we took the vast dining room by storm one recent Saturday.

Eatopia now offers a hotel-worthy continental buffet on weekends for QR75 which includes juices,a huge selection of cereals, fresh fruit, cold cuts and cheeses as well as breads.

Part of the drool-worthy buffet

Part of the drool-worthy buffet

Arabic items on the buffet

Arabic items on the buffet

Cold cuts as far as the eye can see including house smoked salmon

Cold cuts as far as the eye can see including house smoked salmon

This included one of my favorite cheeses – shanklish – an arabic style white hard cheese which is mixed with other ingredients like oregano. Served with bread and fresh tomato, it has kept me fuelled on my a trip in the Middle East.

Shanklish

Shanklish

If you are after something more substantial, for QR105 you can get the buffet plus one egg dish from their menu. This is where the breakfast comes into its own. Eggs on offer include a Tunisian style tagine with meatballs and a spicy tomato sauce.

Tunisian style

Tunisian style

An Arabic style breakfast with a three cheese omelette and zataar dusted bread.

Arabic style

Arabic style

And also the healthy version which are eggwhites with quinoa and a tomato sauce.

Egg whites and quinoa

Egg whites and quinoa

All dishes were fresh, well prepared and served piping hot. Special mention to the coffee (which is extra) which has won plaudits from coffee snobs around the city.

We must also mention the staff, who were well trained, had personality and didn’t bat an eyelid to the wide ranging, sometimes eye opening conversation between Brooke and I that morning.

The buffet has enough to keep adults and kids happy and the eggs are a must-try. Breakfast has a new home in Doha.

The Details

Eatopia at The Gate Mall

West Bay, Doha

Served from 830m

QR75 for the buffet and QR105 for buffet plus one egg dish

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Eatopia but views are my own

You had me at cheese

Fine Dining With a View – Review of La Mer’s Blind Tasting Menu

I’m about to clock up eight years in Doha. I’m not going to bore you with the expat habit of saying how fast it’s gone, how things have changed etc.

What I will talk about are the things that have become a constant. The irritating being the sandstorms, the whingeing expats and the bad driving. The good constants being friends, special people in my life, my job, this blog and the opportunities.

There are also the physical constants – those places you have been going to for years, that are a part of your life. One of those places is the Ritz Carlton Doha. Always elegant and welcoming, I have always enjoyed visiting there. The property is about to start a renovation which will see this landmark transformed.

I recently returned to the Ritz to try the new “Blind Tasting Menu” at La Mer, which was one of the first fine dining restaurants I visited in Doha all those years ago. Now helmed by Canadian chef William Khala, the restaurant has revamped its menu.

Table with a view

Table with a view

The idea behind the “Blind Tasting” is for the chef to discuss with each diner their preferences, likes and dislikes and he then prepares a seven course tasting menu to match that. I was thinking it’s probably quite hard when someone like me says they “LOVE everything”.

Our menu encompassed the familiar including a starter of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese with pumpkin seeds and powdered olive oil.

You had me at cheese

You had me at cheese

To the familiar remixed – like a dish of seared sea bass as well as this east meets west dish of delicate scallops with dukkah, raw cauliflower-couscous, cauliflower yogurt, roasted almonds and hibiscus.

stunning scallops

Stunning scallops

And the challenging like a foie gras terrine that made me reassess my complicated relationship with the ingredient.

2015-04-08 21.47.29

And a slow cooked Wagyu short rib that literally melted in my mouth. I may have wanted to lick the plate, but you know, I was in public. It was accompanied by a kale chip (possibly the first time in my life I admitted to liking kale), pistachio puree, charred leek  and yes, an onion ring.

Achingly good beef

Achingly good beef

Often with a tasting menu, you lose each dish because of the volume of food. With this menu, each dish had it’s own personality and distinct flavor. I often find in Qatar’s dining scene, some chefs feel the need to pile on ingredient upon ingredient, sometimes over complicating a dish and losing its integrity.

This wasn’t the case with this menu.The menu was thoughtful yet also a little adventurous. Like this single oyster served on salt snow, with caviar served with a slither of radish and yuzu (Japanese citrus)  and some caviar pearls, almost challenging the diner to enjoy the unobscured flavors.

Not just an oyster

Not just an oyster

Service was the usual Ritz Carlton flawless style – staff learned our names and were attentive yet unobtrusive – no wonder this is a favorite date restaurant. We chose the option of having each dish with a paired wine and our waiter was knowledgeable and understanding of our preferences. Chef William also visits and presents each dish, describes his method and reasoning for serving it.

To be honest, the actual dining room of La Mer is a little old school, but I hear new decor will be part of the revamp.

Whether you are a serious foodie, or just serious about having a great dining experience, this should be on your list.

The Details

La Mer, Ritz Carlton Doha

West Bay Lagoon, Doha

It’s QR500 per head for the seven course tasting menu.

To book call +974 4484 8000 or go to http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Doha/Dining/LaMer/Default.htm

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Ritz Carlton Doha.

Direct from the valleys

Caerphilly Does It

Last year, my friend Alicia and I thought it would be a great idea to go and see Tom Jones, one of Wales’ greatest exports, perform in Doha. It’s all very well and good until we realized the performance (which incidentally was incredible) was outside, on a beach in 40 plus degree temperatures and high humidity.

This is all because I desperately wanted to hear him sing one of my favorite songs, the Green Green Grass of Home.

Don’t even get me started on why I like this song, except to say that I should never listen to it when I have been drinking gin.

Wales has given us many things apart from Tom Jones (who incidentally wore a turtleneck and jack for the entire one hour performance in the sweaty bearpit). The list is quite extensive – Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl, Catherine Zeta Jones and a whole bunch of rugby players. It also gave us my friend Claire, who on a recent visit back to the valleys of her homeland, brought me their other great export – cheese.

Direct from the valleys

Direct from the valleys

Wales has a long history of cheese making. Their cheeses are so good they were once used as part of divorce settlements. Under the laws of Welsh ruler Hywel Dda cheeses that were washed in brine went to the wife and cheeses that were hung up went to the husband.

Claire schlepped me back a range of cheeses and these were among the best. One was an organic blue cheese, creamy, a little salty and just stinky enough. Served with some truffled honey, it was a perfect balance.

The star of the show for me was another organic milk product and the most famous cheese from Wales – Caerphilly.

Caerphilly does it now

Caerphilly does it now

Caerphilly is a hard, white cheese at originates in the area around the town of Caerphilly although it is now also made in England particularly in the south west and on the English border with Wales. It is rumoured that the cheese was developed over time to provide the coal miners of the area with a convenient way of replenishing the salt lost through hard work over ten hour shifts underground and so was a staple of the diet of the coal-miners.

This organic cow’s milk version was smooth with a slightly sour tang but still mild enough to enjoy. This would make a greta cheese for cheese toasties or even a Rarebit!

Pride of Wales

Pride of Wales

Since I started this post with a Tom Jones reference, I will also end it with one. You know you want one…

Cheese...changed the course of history

Cheese Really Did Change the Course of Western Civilization

I don’t want to say I told you so, but this piece on the fabulous Quartz blog has confirmed what I have been banging on about for many, many years.

That is…cheese changed the course of civilization.

Cheese...changed the course of history

Not the actual cheese that changed the course of history, but an artist’s impression

Long story short, the dawn of cheese apparently happened 8500 years ago less than a three hour plane journey from where I am sitting writing this post.

In the Fertile Crescent (which stretched from Egypt to what we now know as Iraq and parts of Iran) over production of agriculture had depleted the  soil, meaning our Neolithic ancestors turned to raising sheep and goats. Meanwhile, some smart cookie also invented pottery. Throw into the mix the balmy conditions (which in this part of the world can hit 50 degrees in the Summer) and that milk being stored in those pottery urn can turn to whey pretty quickly.

And a hungry lady (or man) may have tried it and thought…hmmmm that’s not half bad.

Soon, the cult of cheese was born.

Listen the article and podcast I have linked to explain it in a much more scholarly way, but you get my point.

And because of these adventurous souls. We now have…grilled cheese.

Cheese...the only answer

Cheese…the only answer

You thought this was going to be another post where I vainly tried to link my real life antics to some kind of cheese.

Ha! WRONG!

So really, there is nothing more to debate.

*Drops mike and leaves the stage*

Hmmmmmmmm

Ricotta Get Outta This Place

There comes a time in a woman’s life, when she makes the rookie error of mixing her dark and clear drinks and ends up with a banging headache and vague recollections of dancing to Canadian soft rock.

This may or may not have happened to me recently. I may also have woken up in a cold sweat realising I promise to bring cheese of some description to a weekend brunch gathering.

My options were these:

1. Plead hormonal imbalances and dust off a bottle of vino from the rack

2. Do smash and grab at the local supermarket and lob up with a slab of cheddar and something resembling crackers or

3. Put on my big girls panties and make something.

Number 3 it was and surveying the damage that is also know as my fridge, I hunted and gathered a tub of ricotta, some goat cheese, parmesan, red pepper flakes and some rosemary still living in my garden. Mixed them together, scooped into an oven proof greased bowl and baked for 30 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.

I'm in truffle!

I’m in truffle!

To finish off, I drizzled some truffle oil I procured on my Italian adventure last year.

Ricotta literally means “recooked” and is an Italian whey cheese that can be made from cow, goat or sheep cheese. This was a pretty commercial cow’s milk variety. Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and contain around 13 percent fat.

It can taste rather sweet and I find most commercial ricottas a little bland, hence the hers, spices and a little help from goat and parmesan.

Hmmmmmmmm

Hmmmmmmmm

In all this recipe took less than five minutes to make plus baking time. I really do have no excuse.

As for the mixing of alcohols, that I have many excuses for.

Doha dhow cruise at sunset

Win Dinner for 2 on the Delicious Dhow Cruise at the Qatar International Food Festival

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Qatar International Food Festival is one of my favorite events in Doha.

This year Life on the Wedge has teamed with Qatar Tourism Authority (the organizers) to bring you a fabulous competition to win dinner for two on the delicious Dinner on a Dhow which is an evening cruise catered by Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels.

The Dinner on a Dhow is a perfect mixture of fine dining and a touch of local and regional culture. A traditional Dhow will be fitted out with tables, seating and buffet sections as well as barbeque and cooking facilities.

The Dhow cruise is one of the truly quintessential Qatar experiences.

Doha dhow cruise at sunset

Doha dhow cruise at sunset

Win Dinner on a Dhow

Win Dinner on a Dhow

How to enter? It’s easy (but not too easy!):

1. Follow @lifeonthewedge and @QIFF_ on Twitter

2. Answer the following question in the comments section below:

Where will the 2015 edition of the Qatar International Food Festival be held?

You can find a full listing of special zones and activities for the event here and maybe even the answer to the question.

Competition closes 6pm Monday 23 March, 2015.

Good luck!

Event sponsors Qatar Tourism Authority

Event sponsors Qatar Tourism Authority

Also brought to you by Qatar Airways

Also brought to you by Qatar Airways

Get Your Gourmet on at the Qatar International Food Festival 2015

It started very small a few years ago, but the Qatar international Food Festival has grown in stature each year.It’s now one of the best organized and most anticipated events in Doha.

It’s back again for 2015 from 24 to 28 March at the Museum of Islamic Art Park again and looks set to be equally as good as last year. you can find out information about the various activities on offer here.

But I’m pretty excited about the Dinner in the Sky concept this year which is offering a “Taste of Business Class” from Qatar Airways premium menu.

I will be posting updates as they come, but you can keep up to date with it here as well.

It's back for 2015

It’s back for 2015

Not easy being green

It’s Not Easy Being Green Cheese – Wasabi Cheese

Let’s be honest, cheese and Japanese food aren’t the most obvious bedfellows.

But horseradish and cheese are a actually match made in heaven, so why not wasabi and cheese?

I spied this cheese in the dairy section of my local Lulu Hypermarket already sliced (it was the last of the lot apparently).

Not the prettiest cheese to photograph, being green and sliced and all.

Not easy being green

Not easy being green

Not actually from Japan, this wasabi cheese hails from Holland. Made by Basiron it claims to be extra strong, but is actually kinda mild. I like my wasabi to blow my head off and cure the sinus allergy caused by our regular dust storms. This gouda was actually quite mild. It had the sharpness of an aged Gouda and a kick from the wasabi, but still pretty mild.

Jaapan via Holland

Japan via Holland

Japanese flavor. Dutch ingenuity. Consumed in Qatar.

Tiny cheesy morsels

Tapa the World – Brunch Without the Big Buffet

I used to be a prolific bruncher. Fridays would always consist of a jug of margaritas and a lush buffet. Brunch in the Middle East is an art and I was an old master.

But something changed, maybe a desire to get healthier or a realization that I would end up spending Friday nights napping. Maybe I just got old.

Last week the Oryx Rotana asked me to come our of my Brunch Exile to try their new “Tap Brunch” at their popular Cellar restaurant. I was glad I came our of retirement.

The cold tapas starter buffet

The cold tapas starter buffet

This hotel is actually my “local” and to my great detriment I always forget about it and literally drive past it. This brunch told me I should recalibrate my GPS.

Different to other brunches in town, this one doesn’t offer a vast buffet selection.

instead there is a small selection of beautifully presented cold tapas including cheeses, cold meats and seafood (prawns, mussels and crab).

Show me your mussels

Show me your mussels

Each dish had a Spanish tinge and was clearly freshly prepared.

Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

Of course I had a vested interest in the cheese selection and wasn’t disappointed with the usual suspects plus a cheeky Machego making up the numbers.

Tiny cheesy morsels

Tiny cheesy morsels

Manchego Madness

Manchego Madness

But this is is just the start, each are then offered individual hot tapas. But for me, the real star of the brunch was the main courses, which are meant to be shared. We ordered the paella. I had fully prepared myself for this to be disappointing. This will teach me to pre-judge.

Perfect paella

Perfect paella.

It was stunning – cooked with still a little crunch, the seafood was perfectly cooked. And it even had the “crust” all good paella should have. I stand corrected.

Dessert was a forgone conclusion – churros. Basically Spanish donuts with a chocolate cooking sauce. Made to order, it was the perfect combination of sugar, spice and carbs.

Hmmmm donuts

Hmmmm donuts

As I have promised to be transparent, I was a guest of the Oryx Rotana and did not pay for this brunch. However, the quality of the food and the exceptional service led by manager Elsa spoke for themselves.

Proof that good things come in small packages.

The details:

Tapbrunch, The Cellar, Oryx Rotana

CostL QR 175 (food only) per person and with Unlimited Sangria or Agua de Valencia forQR 275 per person

When: every Friday 12:30PM – 4PM.

Life on the Blogging Wedge

When I started this blog what seems like an eternity ago, my main motivation was to channel my love of food into something more productive than sitting around and talking crap with friends.

That someone other than my mum and my friends (to be polite) would read it is still shocking to me.

Today I have readers all over the world and many in my home city of Doha, Qatar.

There has been some discussion in Doha social media circles recently about the relationship between bloggers and social media “influencers” and brands.

In a smaller market like Doha, this is inevitable. I see it every day on Twitter and on blogs, I even do it myself.

I’m very fortunate that living in a smaller yet outward facing city, brands and companies are starting to awaken to the value of bloggers and the approaches are becoming more sophisticated than just a press release. They are starting to understand the value of partnerships.

A 2011 survey found that consumers would rather receive marketing messages from bloggers or influencers that they are familiar with than a celebrity. Moreover, this preference ultimately affects their purchasing behavior (53 percent of female readers have bought a product based on a recommendation from a blogger).

I don’t want to let too many cats our of the bag (disclaimer – I work in PR), but almost every public relations practitioner on the block knows that bloggers (and tweeters and Instagrammers) can wiled a lot of influence in their markets and they use this to leverage coverage and publicity. It’s a two way street.

For example, some brands will use bloggers as their “ambassadors”, using them in campaigns as well as driving dialogue between their readers and the brand. This drives traffic to their site and in turn they drive traffic back to the bloggers.

It is true, as a blogger I get invited to a lot of cool things,  get to travel and also and get to eat some amazing food. Some of it is gifted. It is also true that at times there is an expectation of positive feedback or coverage. I also pay for a lot of what I do.

I am fortunate that I have been able to develop my blog to the point where I have good relationships with brands here and abroad and also in the very near future some advertising and partnerships including consultancy roles. I even get asked to speak at events about blogging and social media.

Anyone who starts a blog with the express purpose of making money or getting free stuff will find themselves sorely disappointed.

I half jokingly call this blog my “Night Job” (stop snickering) as most my work happens at night (both writing and attending events etc) and on weekends (travel etc). I have an intense and fabulosity rewarding career in communications in healthcare (hi Boss!) but this keeps me sane. That it has been moderately successful, has touched people in some way is both exciting and a bonus.

The point of this unusually cheese-free post is to say that where applicable, I will be clear about any arrangements (commercial or otherwise) I have in the course of my blogging. you can read my policy here.

Now, enough of the serious analysis, here is some awesome cheese I ate recently!

Unsponsored cheese

Unsponsored cheese