Discerning diner? It would be a ‘folly’ not to try this Dubai restaurant

The restaurant and lounge offers a smart, modern vibe. (Photos supplied)
Updated 26 December 2017
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Discerning diner? It would be a ‘folly’ not to try this Dubai restaurant

DUBAI: Probably the hottest restaurant opening in Dubai in 2017, Folly by Nick & Scott is well-worth a trip if you are visiting the city. The restaurant had a lot to live up to, not least its pedigree — headed by two of the brightest stars in the region’s culinary circuit, Nick Alvis and Scott Price, formerly Gordon Ramsay protégés, who then pioneered the indie chef-led restaurant trend with the acclaimed Table 9.
Having worked with Spinneys Food in the interim, Folly feels like the culmination of a long-cherished dream by the chef duo, along with their longstanding partner who runs the front-of-house operations, Viktorija Paplauskiene.
Then there is the location. Folly replaces the beloved Rivington Grill in Madinat Jumeirah, and across the multilevel space enjoys an enviable position with stunning views of the Burj Al-Arab and beyond, as well as an atmospheric Arabesque setting.
Offsetting that traditionalist context, the restaurant and lounge offers a smart, modern vibe with warm woods, exposed brick walls, funky light fixtures and bistro-style seating. An open kitchen pass offers a window into the back-end workings and all the culinary entertainment a diner needs, adding to the lively ambience.
But Insta-worthy as it is, the setting is probably not the reason Folly seems to have swept the awards season this year. It is the food. Some restaurants draw you in with elaborate menus, detailing each dish to make it sound appetizing (in some cases, making them sound tastier than they actually are). In Folly, it is the exact opposite.
The menu, divided into three sections of varying portion sizes rather than the traditional starter/main course distinctions, downplays the dishes by only listing the main ingredients used. It may not do justice to the level of intricacy displayed in every dish, but the often-intriguing combinations tantalize just enough to make you want to order one of each.
While the menu is designed to offer diners the flexibility to build their meal according to what they want, from light tapas bites with drinks to a full-on degustation, we opted for a three-course (ish) meal, aided by recommendations from the staff.
There is really not much we could fault with our dinner, but highlights included the small plate of monkfish cheeks with paprika and salted lemon, which basically translates to a tart crème fraiche-like accompaniment, offering the perfect offset to the subtle sweetness of the fish.
A Butterhead lettuce mousse with mustard was a delicious study in how a bit of creativity can elevate what is usually a humble, overlooked ingredient into haute cuisine, as does the crispy hen’s egg with morels.
But the standout dish was the straciatella (a mild creamy cheese), the little spires of which needed little else but the complement of sweet baby tomatoes and the drizzle of a light balsamic dressing to make for a moreish starter.
Among the larger plates or mains, the lemon sole with sprouts and mint was a refreshingly herbaceous dish, while the roasted guinea fowl with stuffing, served with shredded cabbage and fondant potatoes — this could well become the perfect festive meal for the season — is excellent, if a touch over-seasoned in our case.
Dessert offerings continue the pattern of giving familiar dishes and ingredients an inventive twist. So the well-loved meringue, cream and berries concoction that is Eton Mess is updated with a basil meringue and fresh basil; while cheesecake pairs unexpectedly, but deliciously, with apple ice cream.
Both chefs are extremely hands-on in the kitchen, which means the menu regularly gets updated with quirky new combinations that they have conjured up. This, and the pared back, fuss-free yet undeniably gourmet experience that Folly offers, put it on par with some of the trendiest restaurants around the world, and a must-visit in Dubai.


Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, holds citrus seedlings that are used for gene editing research at the University of Florida in Lake Alfred, Fla., on Sept. 27, 2018. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

  • Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening

WASHINGTON: The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.
By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modified” foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.
The US National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?
“If the consumer sees the benefit, I think they’ll embrace the products and worry less about the technology,” said Dan Voytas, a University of Minnesota professor and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., which edited soybeans to make the oil heart-healthy.
Researchers are pursuing more ambitious changes: Wheat with triple the usual fiber, or that’s low in gluten. Mushrooms that don’t brown, and better-producing tomatoes. Drought-tolerant corn, and rice that no longer absorbs soil pollution as it grows. Dairy cows that don’t need to undergo painful de-horning, and pigs immune to a dangerous virus that can sweep through herds.
Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening, a so far unstoppable infection that’s destroying Florida’s famed oranges.
First they must find genes that could make a new generation of trees immune.
“If we can go in and edit the gene, change the DNA sequence ever so slightly by one or two letters, potentially we’d have a way to defeat this disease,” said Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, as he examined diseased trees in a grove near Fort Meade.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED OR EDITED, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Farmers have long genetically manipulated crops and animals by selectively breeding to get offspring with certain traits. It’s time-consuming and can bring trade-offs. Modern tomatoes, for example, are larger than their pea-sized wild ancestor, but the generations of cross-breeding made them more fragile and altered their nutrients.
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals that were mixed with another species’ DNA to introduce a specific trait — meaning they’re “transgenic.” Best known are corn and soybeans mixed with bacterial genes for built-in resistance to pests or weed killers.
Despite international scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat, some people remain wary and there is concern they could spur herbicide-resistant weeds.
Now gene-editing tools, with names like CRISPR and TALENs, promise to alter foods more precisely, and at less cost, without necessarily adding foreign DNA. Instead, they act like molecular scissors to alter the letters of an organism’s own genetic alphabet.
The technology can insert new DNA, but most products in development so far switch off a gene, according to University of Missouri professor Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes.
Those new Calyxt soybeans? Voytas’ team inactivated two genes so the beans produce oil with no heart-damaging trans fat and that shares the famed health profile of olive oil without its distinct taste.
The hornless calves? Most dairy Holsteins grow horns that are removed for the safety of farmers and other cows. Recombinetics Inc. swapped part of the gene that makes dairy cows grow horns with the DNA instructions from naturally hornless Angus beef cattle.
“Precision breeding,” is how animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California, Davis, explains it. “This isn’t going to replace traditional breeding,” but make it easier to add one more trait.
RULES AREN’T CLEAR
The Agriculture Department says extra rules aren’t needed for “plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding,” clearing the way for development of about two dozen gene-edited crops so far.
In contrast, the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 proposed tighter, drug-like restrictions on gene-edited animals. It promises guidance sometime next year on exactly how it will proceed.
Because of trade, international regulations are “the most important factor in whether genome editing technologies are commercialized,” USDA’s Paul Spencer told a meeting of agriculture economists.
Europe’s highest court ruled last summer that existing European curbs on the sale of transgenic GMOs should apply to gene-edited foods, too.
But at the World Trade Organization this month, the US joined 12 nations including Australia, Canada, Argentina and Brazil in urging other countries to adopt internationally consistent, science-based rules for gene-edited agriculture.
ARE THESE FOODS SAFE?
The biggest concern is what are called off-target edits, unintended changes to DNA that could affect a crop’s nutritional value or an animal’s health, said Jennifer Kuzma of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University.
Scientists are looking for any signs of problems. Take the hornless calves munching in a UC-Davis field. One is female and once it begins producing milk, Van Eenennaam will test how similar that milk’s fat and protein composition is to milk from unaltered cows.
“We’re kind of being overly cautious,” she said, noting that if eating beef from naturally hornless Angus cattle is fine, milk from edited Holsteins should be, too.
But to Kuzma, companies will have to be up-front about how these new foods were made and the evidence that they’re healthy. She wants regulators to decide case-by-case which changes are no big deal, and which might need more scrutiny.
“Most gene-edited plants and animals are probably going to be just fine to eat. But you’re only going to do yourself a disservice in the long run if you hide behind the terminology,” Kuzma said.
AVOIDING A BACKLASH
Uncertainty about regulatory and consumer reaction is creating some strange bedfellows. An industry-backed group of food makers and farmers asked university researchers and consumer advocates to help craft guidelines for “responsible use” of gene editing in the food supply.
“Clearly this coalition is in existence because of some of the battle scars from the GMO debates, there’s no question about that,” said Greg Jaffe of the food-safety watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest, who agreed to join the Center for Food Integrity’s guidelines group. “There’s clearly going to be questions raised about this technology.”
SUSTAINABILITY OR HYPE?
Gene-editing can’t do everything, cautioned Calyxt’s Voytas. There are limitations to how much foods could be changed. Sure, scientists made wheat containing less gluten, but it’s unlikely to ever be totally gluten-free for people who can’t digest that protein, for example — or to make, say, allergy-free peanuts.
Nor is it clear how easily companies will be able to edit different kinds of food, key to their profit.
Despite her concerns about adequate regulation, Kuzma expects about 20 gene-edited crops to hit the US market over five years — and she notes that scientists also are exploring changes to crops, like cassava, that are important in the poorest countries.
“We think it’s going to really revolutionize the industry,” she said.