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

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)
Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar
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The lounge offers a wide array of treats.
Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar
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The food and service are impressive.
Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar
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From sweet treats to savory delights, this lounge has it all.
Updated 05 November 2017

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

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.


Eid treat: Moroccan chef Nargisse Benkabbou’s chocolate chip krachel

Eid treat: Moroccan chef Nargisse Benkabbou’s chocolate chip krachel
Chocolate chip krachel. Supplied
Updated 12 May 2021

Eid treat: Moroccan chef Nargisse Benkabbou’s chocolate chip krachel

Eid treat: Moroccan chef Nargisse Benkabbou’s chocolate chip krachel

DUBAI: Moroccan chef Nargisse Benkabbou is on a mission to demystify her country’s cuisine for international foodies, especially those in the UK where she lives.

Here, she shares her recipe for chocolate chip krachel to sweeten up your Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.

Ingredients:

60g unsalted butter

2 ½ tbsp sesame seeds

2 tsp dried active yeast

50g caster sugar

1 tbsp warm water

300g plain flour, plus extra if needed and for dusting

1 tsp aniseed

½ tsp salt

1 egg

80–120ml warm full-fat milk

1 ½ tbsp orange blossom water

100g dark chocolate chips or chunks

Vegetable oil

1 egg yolk, beaten

 

Instructions:

1.      Melt the butter, then leave it to cool. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a medium-high heat for about 6 minutes.

2.      In a small bowl, mix the dried yeast with 1⁄4 teaspoon of the sugar and the measured warm water using a fork. Leave the yeast to activate for about 5 minutes.

3.      Mix 2 tablespoons of the toasted sesame seeds, the remaining sugar, the flour, aniseed and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter, yeast mixture, egg, 80ml warm milk and the orange blossom water together until smooth. Combine both bowls and mix to form a soft dough.

4.      Lightly dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic and add the chocolate chips. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 45 minutes or until it almost doubles in size.

5.      Divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and shape each into a ball. Place them on a baking sheet, leaving about 5cm between each ball. Cover with cling film and leave the buns to rise for about 30 minutes.

6.      Preheat the oven to 190°C. Brush the buns with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with the remaining toasted sesame seeds. Bake for about 17–20 minutes.


Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot
The restaurant overlooks the main star of the venue, the 100-meter infinity pool. Supplied
Updated 10 May 2021

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

DUBAI: First things first: If you’re familiar with the Instagram account @influencersinthewild, then chances are you’ll spot similar examples of the content it posts at Burj Al-Arab’s SAL. Because for every few individuals who are at the venue for the resplendent views and excellent hospitality, there’s that one “influencer” at work, taking part in an impromptu photo shoot. It would be extreme to claim that they’re ruining the experience for everyone else, but you’ll probably pause and have a chuckle or two at the confidence of it all.

That being said, to reduce SAL to a social media “hotspot of the moment” would be doing it a disservice because judging by our own experience, there’s so much more to it than a backdrop for Insta-models. Jumeirah Group describes SAL, which opened in the second half of last year, as a “chic lifestyle experience at Burj Al Arab where barefoot luxury at an iconic pool and beach destination meets culinary excellence in a striking new dining venue.” With hues of blue forming the picture-perfect landscape, the restaurant overlooks the main star of the venue, the 100-meter infinity pool.

Jumeirah Group opened SAL in the second half of last year. Supplied

However, we’re here to dine, not dip (into the pool), and our entire meal was a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Headed by Culinary Director Marco Garfagnini, SAL’s menu “pays homage to the sea,” with the majority of the dishes made for sharing.

Greeted by a very welcoming and friendly team of hosts, we were guided to our seats before being offered a detailed run-through of the menu.

The heirloom tomato carpaccio, feta cheese and black olives was laid out on a platter in a pretty pattern. Supplied

To start, my dining partner and I opted for the heirloom tomato carpaccio, feta cheese and black olives, and the tuna tartare with caviar. As we waited, we were served water from freshly cut coconuts.

Once our appetizers arrived, it became clear that our phone photography would be reserved for the dishes and not only for the view. The carpaccio was delicately laid out on a platter in a pretty pattern, while the tartare was served in a perfect circle with a dash of gold dusting on top.

Tartare is served in a perfect circle with a dash of gold dusting on top. Supplied

The tartare was divine. Its citrus-based Ponzu sauce marinade offered the perfect balance, “cooking” the fish to eliminate any offending aftertaste sometimes experienced with tartare. In fact, it was one of the best tartare dishes I have ever sampled.

The main course certainly had a lot to live up to, bringing us to the first — the recommended Portuguese dourada, a gilt-head sea bream fish common in the Mediterranean. At SAL, it’s served baked with tomatoes and potatoes. Again, absolutely flawless. Its cod-like meatiness paired with a spinach-infused sauce made for a moreish main that was delightful on the palette.

The Portuguese dourada made for a moreish main that was delightful on the palette. Supplied

Another fish dish we were recommended was the sea-salt-crusted seabass for two, but since my guest isn’t the biggest fan of seafood, we opted to try the third recommendation — the stone-oven-baked lemon chicken empanada, with French fries and baby spinach salad. Now, SAL likes to entertain guests, so similarly to the seabass, this one is carved and served right in front of you. Given the show, we were expecting something big, but if there was one dish that was more “meh” than “marvelous,” it was this one. It was underwhelming after it was cut open and presented, looking more like some lemon chicken in pita bread rather than a baked turnover. It still tasted delightful, but we both agreed that if we could, we would advise the restaurant to serve it as is, as it looked much more appealing at the start.

The stone-oven-baked lemon chicken empanada is carved and served right in front of you. Supplied

It was nearly time to wrap up, and as much as we wanted to go for something sweet, we were simply running on full. One lovely staff member did try to tempt us with the dessert trolley offering a selection from the restaurant’s master pastry chefs, but we stayed strong. In the end, we were presented with a cute little meringue-based dessert topped with fresh berries — just the right amount of sugar to conclude our visit with.

Needless to say, this Burj Al-Arab beach restaurant is definitely one to add to your must-visits. As someone who has been based in this region for many years, this was easily one of the best meals I have had in a long time. 

I don’t make that claim lightly.

A little meringue-based dessert topped with fresh berries. Supplied

Info:

SAL @ Burj Al Arab

jumeirah.com/SAL

 


Maamoul: Why the storied sweet is so important during Eid in Palestine

Maamoul: Why the storied sweet is so important during Eid in Palestine
Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 May 2021

Maamoul: Why the storied sweet is so important during Eid in Palestine

Maamoul: Why the storied sweet is so important during Eid in Palestine
  • Prepared in circles, the Eid cakes are stuffed with dates, while maamoul are stuffed with dates or walnuts, pistachios and nuts, and the outer layer is sprinkled with crushed white sugar

GAZA CITY: In the last week of Ramadan, the smell of maamoul and cakes wafts from Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip. Maamoul, also popular in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, is a traditional shortbread cookie popular in the region, and one of the main sweet items prepared for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.
Samira Al-Burai, 54, is enjoys preparing maamoul with her sons and daughters.
“We bring basic ingredients a few days before making maamoul. All the family members, including my sons, will participate in making it.
“I learned (how to) make cakes and maamoul from my mother, then I taught it to my daughters so that this tradition may continue during the last days of Ramadan. My children are accustomed to the smell of cakes at this time of every year.”
Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians.
Prepared in circles, the Eid cakes are stuffed with dates, while maamoul are stuffed with dates or walnuts, pistachios and nuts, and the outer layer is sprinkled with crushed white sugar.
Some women earn money during Ramadan by making and selling maamoul to others.
Salwa Kabariti, 57, used to make them for her family. With the passage of time and after they fell on hard times, she began to produce larger quantities and started selling to neighbors, friends and even to some shops.

SPEEDREAD

Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians. Some women earn money during Ramadan by making and selling maamoul to others.

“Due to our poor economic condition, I began searching for a source of income. This work offered a good source. It helped me and my family to overcome our economic crises,” Kabariti said.
“There is no Eid without maamoul. I love (it) and will continue making it every Ramadan as long as I have the ability to do so,” she added.
Despite the large number of bakeries that sell maamoul in the Gaza Strip, many women prefer making theirs at home to preserve the festive atmosphere in their households.
Lubna Al-Sumairi, 40, said: “I like preparing it in my house with my husband and other family members. Making maamoul is one of the most important customs that we enjoy during the
last days of Ramadan; its preparation, delicious taste, and the pleasant atmosphere gives us a happy feeling.”


Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul
(Supplied)
Updated 09 May 2021

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

DUBAI: Jordanian Chef Hassan Al-Naami shares his delectable recipe for fragrant freekeh-stuffed chicken, a dish that is wildly popular at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, where he brings his culinary vision to life at the hotel’s Middle Eastern restaurant, Amaseena.

As Ramadan draws to a close, give this dish a go for a special iftar this week.

Chicken ingredients:  

Whole baby chicken

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp paprika

1/3 tbsp 7 spice

½ tbsp coriander powder

2 ½ tbsp lemon juice

1 handful of almonds

1 handful of pine nuts

Freekeh ingredients:

5 cups freekeh 

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup onion (chopped)

1 tsp cinnamon powder

½ tsp cardamom powder

1 tbsp 7-spice

1 ½ tbsp cumin powder

6 cups chicken stock

Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.       Wash and drain freekeh until clean. In a hot pan combine olive oil and spices, toss for a few minutes till fragrant. Add the freekeh then sauté for another 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes on a low heat. The freekeh should be cooked but still have a chewy texture.

2.       Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a small bowl, mix all the spices and rub chicken with spices all over and inside, including under the skin. Take the cooked freekeh and stuff the chicken with it, cross the legs and tie with twine. Place the chicken in a roasting tray, cover with foil and roast for 60-80 minutes. Allow the chicken rest before serving (keeping it covered).

3.       Serve stuffed chicken on over leftover cooked freekeh. Decorate with roasted nuts and serve with minted yogurt on the side.


Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo
Photo/Supplied
Updated 08 May 2021

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo
  • All menu items are served with rice, homemade peanut sauce and sambal on the side

BoBoKo is an authentic Indonesian restaurant located in Jeddah’s North Obhur area and serves traditional items such as rice noodles, curry, satay, spicy sambal and more. Recipes are spiced up with Asian flavors and ingredients including ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk, and chili pepper.
Boboko is a rice basket made from bamboo and the restaurant’s dishes are presented on a freshly cut banana leaf, complementing the restaurant’s Indonesian vibes.
The dishes are inspired by names of Indonesian cities and what each of them is known for, such as Jakarta (chicken and meat), Puncak (meat only), Bandung (chicken only), Bali (not spicy), and BoBoKo Surabaya (vegetarian).
All menu items are served with rice, homemade peanut sauce and sambal on the side.
For vegetarians, the menu offers vegan options using plant-based foods such as silky soft tofu and bean sprouts.
One of the most popular appetizers is crispy krupuk, or shrimp crackers, a snack close to the hearts of older Saudis.
BoBoKo is open from Thursday to Saturday. For more information visit the Instagram account @bobokoindo.