Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar

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If you have a sweet tooth, this is the perfect spot. (Photo courtesy: Shaistha Khan)
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The lounge offers a wide array of treats.
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The food and service are impressive.
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From sweet treats to savory delights, this lounge has it all.
Updated 05 November 2017
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Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar

DAMMAM: As you walk into the five-star Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel in Alkhobar, you know it will be a memorable affair. A sweet smell of hydrangeas and soothing music welcome you as you step into the foyer. As you head up to the second floor, toward the Sky Lounge and Sky Bridge, you are greeted with stunning views of the Alkhobar skyline.
Once you are comfortably seated in the plush French Bergère-style arm chairs, you can fully admire the passion for European luxury that the Kempinski brand embodies. With its high ceilings and chandeliers, the Sky Lounge is reminiscent of the many upscale cafés of Europe. What is particular to this one is that amidst the art and chandeliers are larger-than-life date trees that add a lit bit of Saudi Arabia to the European aesthetic.
The words “high tea” conjure up images of aristocrats dressed in their finery, discussing their affairs over a cup of tea and dainty food — all following very specific etiquette, much like the qahwa culture of Saudi Arabia. In modern times, high tea has become so synonymous with British culture that it is obligatory to visit the likes of Claridge’s in London to experience this British affair in its entirety.
The high tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman comes very close in my opinion. The server is discreet in bringing out the spread and even explains everything that is on the three-tiered platter. Starting at the top, there were dense chocolate and raisin scones served with whipped cream, strawberry jam and apricot jam. Then, we worked our way down to the last tier, which was reserved for canapés, including avocado and chicken, egg and mayonnaise, tomato with mozzarella and pesto bruschetta options.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, there is a five-tier platter of pastries, ranging from classic French macarons in raspberry and mango flavors to the traditional esh Al-bulbul kunafa (the bird’s nest kunafa). The first tier includes bite-sized brownies and apple crumble cakes. Between sips of tea, be sure to sample the fresh fruit chocolate and caramel meringue tarts. The options available for the most important part of the afternoon, the tea itself, included English, sky, lemon and red berry tea. The teatime spread also includes fresh carrot juice shots and a scrumptious blackberry-yogurt concoction.
While being prim and proper, do remember that not all tea sessions need to be pretentious and, more importantly, are about having a good time. It is all about enjoying the tea and delicacies interspersed with hearty, enjoyable conversation. Needless to say, be sure to take two hours or more of your time to indulge in the lavish treats, enlightening conversation and the beautiful sunset over the city.
The spread costs SR180 for two people and is open from 1:00pm to 7:00pm every day. If you wish to book your table, reservations can be made in advance.


Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

Updated 17 August 2018
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Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

  • Rapid shift 10,000 years ago to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods, say researchers
  • Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality

PARIS: Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with low-carb diets, researchers reported Friday.
The findings, published in The Lancet, challenge a trend in Europe and North America toward so-called Paleo diets that shun carbohydrates in favor of animal protein and fat.
Proponents of these “Stone Age” diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago — with the advent of agriculture — to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.
For the study, under 40 percent of energy intake from carbohydrates qualifies as a low-carb regimen, though many such diets reduce the share to 20 percent or less.
At the other extreme, a 70 percent or higher share of carbohydrates — such as pasta, rice, cakes, sugary drinks — can also reduce longevity, but by far less, the scientists found.
“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy,” said lead author Sara Seidelmann, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”
Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality, Seidelmann and her team found.
The optimal balance of food groups for longevity remains hotly debated.
Many studies have concluded that eating carbohydrates in moderation — 45 to 55 percent calories — is best, but others report improved short-term, cardio-metabolic health with high-protein, high-fat diets.
Measures of metabolic health include blood pressure, good and bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Seidelmann and colleagues poured over the medical histories of nearly 15,500 men and women who were 45-64 when they enrolled — between 1987 and 1889 — in a health survey spread across four locations in the United States.
Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits — what foods, how much, how often, etc.
Over a 25-year follow up period, more than 6,000 of the men and women died.
People who got 50-55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates outlived those with very low-carb diets, on average, by four years, and those with high-carb diets by one year.
A review of medical records for an additional 432,000 people from earlier studies yield confirmed the results, which are also in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
“There is nothing to be gained from long-term adherence to low-carbohydrate diets rich in fats and proteins from animal origins,” said Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England, commenting on the research, in which he did not take part.
But carb quality, not just quantity, is crucial he added.
“Most should come from plant foods rich in dietary fiber and intact grains, rather than from sugary beverages or manufactured foods high in added sugar.”
Fibers also help maintain a healthy gut flora, now considered to be a major player in health and disease.