Where We Are Going Today: Vanilla Patisserie in Eastern Province of KSA
Each cake is sliced by hand by a staff member. Shoppers feel like they are part of the process as their selections are carefully sliced and bagged. Cakes stay fresh and the service delivers a special touch
Sandwiched between gate 3 and the Muvi cinema at Dhahran Mall is a neat little boutique stand with a tempting aroma of freshly baked pastries.
It is the ideal spot to visit after leaving the movies, or to enjoy a snack while shopping. It is also worth a trip to the mall simply to buy a slice, or several treats for a gathering.
Vanilla Patisserie initially opened in 2010 in Sharqiya, but that outlet closed during the pandemic. This stand, opened about five months ago, is currently the only branch in the Kingdom.
Each cake is sliced by hand by a staff member. Shoppers feel like they are part of the process as their selections are carefully sliced and bagged. Cakes stay fresh and the service delivers a special touch.
We tried the most popular flavor — the lemon poppy seed slice with a thick vanilla frosting on top, dotted with poppy seeds. It was delicious and moist. We also tried the carrot cake, the second most-popular request and one recommended by staff. It contained nuts and was crunchy, and came with a perfect portion of cream cheese frosting.
Each slice costs SR14 ($3.70), and the menu includes other pastries and cookies, as well as coffee.
The stand is open from noon until midnight. For a complete list of products and offers, visit Instagram @vanilla__sa.
JEDDAH: Roll and More serves up Indian street food in a fine dining setting with modern decor. Located in Jeddah’s Hira Street, the restaurant’s ambience is cozy and comfortable. While I anticipated an all-Indian musical playlist, the eclectic soundtrack added a unique touch to the dining experience.
For my appetizers, I selected the fried samosas, which were generously stuffed with spiced potato and served with two sauces: a zesty chili mint yogurt and a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. I also ordered the butter shrimp tacos, which came drenched in a rich sauce infused with Indian spices.
My main course was flavorful biryani rice infused with an aromatic blend of nuts and Indian spices paired with the chicken butter masala — a tender and mouthwatering delight — accompanied by two slices of buttery naan bread.
I also indulged in the grilled shrimp roll — a generously sized tortilla loaded with tomatoes, lettuce, and some special Indian sauce to complement the shrimps.
To quench my thirst, I could not resist the fresh mango lassi. This refreshing beverage provided a welcome respite from the spices, though its thick and creamy texture might prompt you to order a glass of water.
The dessert — caramel French toast served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — was a true delight and stole the spotlight from the rest of the meal. The contrasting textures and flavors created a delightful symphony for the taste buds.
Roll and More also offers an array of options for group dining, including rice bowls, roll boxes, and taco boxes, making it a perfect choice for gatherings and parties.
The friendly and efficient staff further enhanced the overall experience.
For more information, visit @rollandmoreksa on Instagram.
Recipes for success: Chef Steven Gibbs offers advice and a delicious seafood recipe
Updated 29 September 2023
DUBAI: Chef Steven Gibbs likes to laugh. Throughout our interview, Gibbs — the executive chef of Scott’s Riyadh — jokes and smiles. But underneath the jovial exterior is a serious mind focused on serving a great experience to customers.
He also likes crab, which makes him an ideal fit to head the Riyadh branch of Scott’s, the hugely successful London-based seafood restaurant.
Gibbs began his career at another London hotspot: the legendary theatre eatery The Ivy, under the restauranter Des McDonald, and has worked at several other high-profile eateries, including Gordon Ramsey’s Verre in Dubai, London’s Soho House, and event production and catering company Urban Caprice, before his move to Riyadh.
Here, Gibbs talks co-cooking, mellowing with age, and burning toast.
Q: What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
A: If you’re cooking at home, for a dinner party, for instance, I’d advise asking someone to do it with you. It makes it a more enjoyable experience. And if I was cooking for three or four people, I’d definitely want someone helping me.
What was the most common mistake you made when you were starting out?
I think most chefs burn toast a lot. (Laughs.) It’s very common during service. When I worked at The Ivy, we used to have eggs Benedict on the menu and I used to burn the English muffins all the time; I’d put them on the grill and just forget them.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
I’m going to go back to when my dad used to cook. He was a terrible cook; he was so bad that I developed a phobia about mashed potatoes — I couldn’t eat them until I started working in restaurants. So, salt and butter. That’s all I can say.
What’s the most common issue you find in other restaurants when you go out to eat?
Sometimes, I think people try too hard. Like, if the server is a little shy or unsure, it adds a bit of humanity to the experience. I never criticize — I don’t do reviews; I prefer a casual approach.
When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish to order? And why?
I don’t have a favorite cuisine – I like all food. But my favorite ingredient is crab, so I’ll say anything with fresh crab and peanuts.
What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?
I’m getting old so I’m trying to stay in shape and not have carbs. Usually, my go-to dish is a cheese omelet with a fresh tomato salad. You can’t beat that.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
Honestly, people are people. Everyone has different tastes. I think because I’m getting old, I’m never shocked and I don’t get annoyed.
What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?
I’m from the UK, where it can get quite cold. So I like slow cooking meats, like lamb shoulder or beef cheek or short rib. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of precision, and, when it comes out right, it’s really satisfying.
What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right (whether on your current menu or not)?
Probably pastry — cakes, meringues, eclairs... I can do some, but it’s the most difficult thing to get right because it takes more time, more precision… the weight needs to be right, the oven… there are a lot of things that need to come together.
As a head chef, what are you like? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laid back?
I don’t remember ever losing someone from a kitchen because of me. I think I’m laid back. I never shout at people, but I do like people to be honest in the kitchen.
Chef Steven’s prawns with chilli jam, apple and green papaya salsa
INGREDIENTS (serves four):
For the jam: 1 tblsp corn oil; 1 red onion, roughly chopped; 70g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped; 60g fresh red chili, roughly chopped; 10g dried red chili or chili flakes; 60g garlic, peeled and crushed; 90g caster or granulated sugar; 40g brown sugar; 400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, blended; 100ml rice wine vinegar; 40ml fish sauce
For the salsa: 1 green apple, core removed and finely chopped; ½ green papaya, green mango or firm orange mango, peeled and finely chopped; 1 long red chili, deseeded, finely chopped; 50g spring onion, finely chopped; 20ml mirin; 20ml rice vinegar; 40ml olive oil
For the prawns: 100ml corn oil; 16 good size prawns, peeled and de-veined (just the mid-section, or the head and tail if preferred); 80g butter, diced; 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped; a handful of washed, chopped fresh parsley
For the jam: Lightly heat the corn oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chilies, and cook on a low heat (the ingredients should not change color) for five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes, until the jam is thick and glossy. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then blend to a smooth consistency in a food processor. Leave in the fridge until required.
For the salsa: Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper and leave to stand until needed.
For the prawns: Heat a skillet or frying pan. Add the prawns four at a time and cook for one minute on each side, then move to a flat baking sheet. Repeat until all the prawns are cooked. In the same skillet or pan, add the butter and garlic and cook until the butter is bubbling. Add the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon and pour over the prawns. Spread some chili jam on to the plates, add the prawns and finish with the apple and papaya salsa.
Saudi Arabia’s senior citizens on a mission to promote exercise, hiking
Abdulrahman Al-Bani, a team member, told Arab News: “The Southern Travelers Team was established on the 88th Saudi National Day. At that time, we walked from Baljurashi to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia”
Updated 24 September 2023
MAKKAH: A group of elderly Saudi travelers is touring the globe to promote sports and the idea that everyone should participate in them on a regular basis to prevent diseases.
The experienced hikers range in age from 61 to 79 years old, and practice their activities year-round, most notably on public holidays. They have scaled numerous summits throughout the world.
They believe that one must exercise regularly, especially hiking, to strengthen the heart and promote good health.
Abdulrahman Al-Bani, one of the founding members of the Southern Travelers Long Distance Team, told Arab News: “The Southern Travelers Team was established on the 88th Saudi National Day. At that time, we walked from Baljurashi to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia.”
He added that on the 89th National Day the group walked a long distance from Abha to Baha and from Baha to Abha the next year. They walked from Abha to Dhahran Al-Janoub on the 91st National Day.
“On National Day 92, we made a trip along a path we called ‘Qyam and Shamam,’ which is a path similar to some European countries. It was 242 km long and passed through ancient villages, museums, and tourist attractions such as parks, mountains and valleys in the beautiful Asir region.”
The team has also started commemorating the Kingdom’s Founding Day with walking trips. Al-Bani explained: “Two years ago, on Founding Day, we walked from Baha Province to Makkah Province, passing through the migration trail from Makkah to Madinah. We made another trip from the Jazan Governorate in southern Saudi Arabia to the last governorate in Baha Province, a distance of 420 km.”
He explained that the team tours all regions and governorates of the Kingdom, holds events and encourages practicing sports through setting an example. It currently consists of 10 members.
One of the valuable aspects of their excursions has been developing a community and getting to know each other. “We got to know each other in walking and hiking activities. The team came together and became harmonious and consistent with each other. We carry a national and societal message to citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Bani added.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Health spends billions to treat diseases such as narrowed arteries, heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol. These huge amounts of money could be saved if people walk for at least half an hour a day.
“We aspire to be a good role model for young people and the elderly when we walk in cities, parks, and villages,” Al-Bani said, noting that team members “do not suffer from any diseases, not even diabetes or high blood pressure, thanks to the continuous physical effort that they are always keen to do, despite the fact that most of the team members are close to 80 years of age.”
Al-Bani added: “This week, in just one day, the team covered a distance of 21 km in Al-Soudah Mountains, which rise 2,400 meters above sea level. We have extensive experience in walking and hiking. We have become professional, but our message to everyone is do not exhaust yourself. Just exercise regularly.”
He noted that the group had trekked summits such as “the Himalayas, Everest, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa, and the Elbrus Mountains, which are the highest peaks in Europe and Russia.”
He added: “We walked on the Mont Blanc Trail in France, Italy, Switzerland, and the Western Highlands as well in Scotland. The group also climbed the highest peak in the Arab world in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco — Toubkal.”
Where We Are Going Today: ‘Aleppo’ a Syrian restaurant in Riyadh
Customers will enjoy a variety of flavors on Aleppo’s menu including shishbarak, yabriq, and farika, which are all popular Syrian dishes
Updated 24 September 2023
Aleppo is a Syrian restaurant located on Prince Mamdouh Bin Abdulaziz Street in Riyadh. This eatery provides a selection of authentic Syrian dishes but with an interesting twist on some of the original recipes.
Aleppo’s historic interiors, ambiance, musical playlist, and paintings by notable Syrian artists hanging on the walls all transport guests to the city of Aleppo, with its historic buildings and ancient passageways. The restaurant has created the perfect recipe for a great time with family and friends, while also satiating the appetite with delectable food.
Customers will enjoy a variety of flavors on Aleppo’s menu including shishbarak, yabriq, and farika, which are all popular Syrian dishes. If you are a fan of kebabs, you will find a variety to choose from, including kabab halabi, popular among regulars, and kabab tahinah, which is mixed with tahina sauce and other spices. Other appetizers on the menu are hummus, tabouleh, and kubbah.
One of their best items is dolma with meat, a specialty in Aleppo. It is cooked with meat unlike the usual way of making dolma where many cook it with olive oil.
The place is a bit small and finding a parking space can be challenging especially early in the evening and during peak hours. Thus, it is recommended to avoid going to the restaurant during those times to save yourself some time, and visit during lunch hours or for a late dinner.
The restaurant opens every day from 12 p.m. until 1 a.m., except on Thursdays and Fridays where they extend the time for one more hour.
Where We Are Going Today: ‘Cwtch’ - European dining experience
Cwtch’s menu showcases elevated European flavors, with a focus on quality ingredients and meticulous attention to detail
Updated 22 September 2023
Located in Al-Murjan district, Jeddah, Cwtch is a culinary gem that offers a refined European dining experience, taking gastronomy to new heights. The restaurant’s name, derived from the Welsh language, perfectly captures the essence of comfort and affection that every guest is meant to experience through their delightful dishes.
Some may find the overall simplicity of the place to be slightly underwhelming. However, the focus on quality ingredients and attention to detail may overshadow the desire for bold and innovative culinary creations.
Whether you visit for a regular meal or to celebrate a special occasion like Saudi National Day, Cwtch promises to delight your senses and leave a lasting impression.
Cwtch’s menu showcases elevated European flavors, with a focus on quality ingredients and meticulous attention to detail. From the starters, such as the wagyu beef tartar mixed with Cwtch’s signature tartar sauce, to the Andalusian prawns PIL PIL served with homemade baguette, and the delectable Rockefeller oysters baked with a creamy white wine sauce, each dish is a testament to the culinary expertise of the kitchen team.
The salad bar at Cwtch offers exciting choices, including the creamy burratina salad served with serrano tomato carpaccio and rocket salad, as well as the prawn and kimchi salad, which combines flavors in a unique and refreshing way. The commitment to using the finest ingredients is evident in every dish, such as the slow-cooked chicken and the oven-baked gnocchi with cream, bacon, broccoli, mushroom and parmesan.
When it comes to the main courses, Cwtch delivers exceptional flavors. The Dover Sole Meuniere, pan-fried with butter, capers, and a white wine sauce, offers a delicate and delightful seafood experience. The roasted whole corn-fed chicken Provencale, cooked with Provencale herbs and served with roasted potatoes, is a mouthwatering option.
For meat lovers, the wagyu rib eye and the veal cutlet Milanese, with their golden and crunchy exteriors, are truly satisfying. The sides, including truffled mashed potatoes, asparagus and rainbow carrots, perfectly complement these main dishes. Do not forget to pair your meal with their curated drinks, such as the refreshing mojito passion fruit or the captivating blue unicorn.
The culinary delights at Cwtch are accompanied by exemplary service. The staff members are attentive, knowledgeable, and dedicated to ensuring that every guest’s needs are met. From the moment you step into the restaurant until the end of your meal, you are treated like a VIP, receiving personalized care and service that enhances the overall dining experience.
In addition to their regular menu, Cwtch offers special culinary creations to celebrate Saudi National Day. Indulge in the heavenly Pistachio White Chocolate Crisp Nebrow, a baked treat coated with luxurious white chocolate and sprinkled with pistachio slivers. The Grenisher’s Pistachio Mousse with white chocolate crumble is another must-try, with its dense and creamy texture that combines pistachio paste, fluffy egg whites, cream, and crumbles for a truly decadent experience.