Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At the Marina Yacht Club

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

There is no two without three, and the third blog for The Huffington Post I wrote about chefs and design in Dubai, is a magical one. I really enjoyed meeting all three of the talented chefs, but Chef James impressed me with his kindness and humanity.

Finding the Meaning of Life, and Cooking in Dubai

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The Dubai Marina Yacht Club, seen from the bay
When I recently asked three world-class chefs in Dubai to create culinary creations inspired by fashions discovered at the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience, I did expect I’d get to peak into their kitchens. But I never imagined that I’d also get a wondrous insider’s look into their humanity.

Chef Steve at The Palace Downtown Dubai, was inspired by the colors and cultural heritage of the African Java-print fashions by Dent de Man, while chef Abel at The Address Downtown found his inspiration within the structural look of a Max.Tan red mesh dress, thus recreating a modern take on the classic red velvet cake.

The reason I love doing what I do so much is because I often get to the heart and soul behind film, food and fashion. Think of it as a direct, private line to the men or women behind glitz and glamour. Even with celebrity chefs, artists, fashion designers and movie stars, their humanity is what interests me most.

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And what wonderful warmth and candid intelligence I found in the figure of Executive Chef James Knight-Pacheco at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club! His interpretation, of the black and white structural looks created by Korean designer Byungmun Seo, went straight to the form of both fashion, and food. He overstepped the obvious, color (or the lack thereof) to discover the essence of the composition. What a beautiful experience this all turned out to be.

When I say “only in Dubai” I mean it. I love the grandness of this place, and those who understand it best are those who possess a spirit of discovery. One only has to sit perched on the second floor terrace of the Aquara, chef James’ first class restaurant inside the Dubai Marina Yacht Club — overlooking the water dotted with multi-million dollar boats and framed by the impossibly high buildings of the area — to understand why. Perhaps, if there is one thing these three great men I got to interview last week have in common, and whose culinary generosity I thank for the extra notch I’ve had to begin using on my belt these days, it is their pioneering spirit. Dubai is a city that can boast over 6,000 restaurant, nearly 14 million visitors a year, and still doesn’t have its own Michelin guide. It was chef James who brought this important fact to my attention.

In terms of world-standing, Dubai is still a baby on the global foodie map. Sort of like NYC pre-2005, the year when the first US Michelin guide, focusing on the City, came out. I often draw parallels between Dubai and the Big Apple because I truly believe there is something about this city borne out of the desert, with a thirst for the future and a hunger for glamour that truly feels like NYC in the good ol’ days.

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Chef James’ background is, in his own words, “half Venezuelan and half British; I was born in Venezuela and came over to the UK when I was 8.” He attributes his love of food and cooking to his Venezuelan culture, which is family oriented. “My family is all female led, four sisters, my mother, my grandmother, lots of aunties and I was always in the kitchen,” a place he calls “magic.”

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Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At The Address Downtown

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

In the second of this trio of blogs for The Huffington Post, I got to catch up with another magical chef, and admire (but also taste of course) his creation.

The Red Velvet Side of Life in Dubai

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The Dubai Fountain and neighboring hotel, The Address Downtown
Don’t know about you but hearing the words “red velvet” always makes me think of those wondrous events where mere mortals are kept away from the celebrities by velvet ropes. In the United Arab Emirates, there is no lack of premieres or celebrities, as highlighted by recent sightings that ranged from Jackie Chan to Brad Pitt (plus Angelina), Dennis Quaid, Malala and the entire Star Trek Beyond cast. Things are only bound to get steamier once the Dubai International Film Festival kicks off in early December.

Yet when I asked three Dubai-based master chefs to draw inspiration from the fashion exhibited as part of the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience and create their own gourmet creations, I never expected that this style and taste experiment would turn into a kind of metaphor for life. And I definitely did not anticipate that a red mesh dress by Singaporean designer Max.Tan would be turned into an edible study in deconstructing, and then re-assembling, the perfect red velvet cake.

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I started out knowing full well that I would be awed by the wonderful ambiance of Downtown Dubai, now a must-visit tourist destination but also a gourmet and fashion mecca for any self-respecting jet-setting world traveler, and that the chefs’ creations would remind me why I love food — and those who prepare it with passion — so much. But what I didn’t expect was to find such distinct interpretations by three men who each represent the best the world has to offer. As chefs of course but also, most importantly, as human beings.

While seafood was conquered by chef Steve in part one of this series, dessert undeniably belonged to chef Abel Vieilleville, the Executive Pastry Chef for The Address Downtown. The wonderfully soft-spoken, Cannes native explained that when he went through the collections by the various designers, the red-mesh dress creation by Max.Tan, a design house based in Singapore, “inspired freedom in me.” And what a beautiful word that is, freedom. Chef Abel continued, “the design is really wide, the dress is made out of mesh, it is beautiful, and although like a structure that looks really fabricated, it’s really light.”

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Chef Abel has worked in the food industry for the past 24 years, after studying in the South of France. His parents owned a restaurant for 26 years and so, chef Abel explained, “I was brought into the business at an early age, always focused on dessert.” His first move away from French kitchens was to England, where he worked with Michelin-star chefs, and after working with Chinese-French fusion cuisine in the UK, decided to move to China, which he called, “a fantastic experience.”

READ IT ALL HERE.

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Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At The Palace Downtown

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Thanks to a friend and some Arabian desert magic, I got to work on a trio of pieces that combined three of my loves: Fashion, food and going out in Dubai.

We asked three chefs to look at designers participating in the recent Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience and each choose a look that they could be inspired by in their cooking. The resulting gourmet creations were incredible, truly mouth watering and the pieces I got to write, after meeting the chefs and visiting their venues, a delight to work on.

All around, what I like to call a win/win. Check out all three blogs, starting with this one. Of course, the full piece you can always find on The Huffington Post, my home for all things great.

Thai-ing Up at The Palace Downtown Dubai

When American movie star Chris Pine called Dubai the “Future-land” during a press conference earlier this year, I finally found within his observation the perfect way of describing a feeling I’ve had for some time now. Whenever I’m in Dubai, this marvelous city of possibilities, I feel like I used to feel in N.Y.C., in my early days there. Because Dubai — like the Manhattan of Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat — is a land of visionaries and pioneers, but also a megalopolis that is achieving its stellar place on the jet setting world map at dizzying speeds. No other place does is better, bigger and faster.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in its Downtown district. If you want a five-star plus luxury hotel, that is where to book. If you want the latest designers clothing, you step into The Dubai Mall. If you want to eat at world class restaurants, savoring dishes created by Michelin star chefs, this is where you book your table. The choices are endless and the possibilities, limitless. Even when you think you’ve done it all in Dubai, there will be a new restaurant opening up, a trendy designer will install their flagship store here, or you’ll discover that a world-class celebrity chef has moved to the city from Paris, London or New York City.

Recently, everything I love in life — fashion, food, glamour and fun — came together in one place, under one roof I already adore, The Dubai Mall, in this hotbed of activity and excitement. The end of October saw the second edition of the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience taking place in the fashion capital of the Middle East and I kick myself for having missed it. But with the help of a few friends in the right places and the willingness of three master chefs to step outside their comfort zone, I managed to find a way to celebrate glamour and gourmet, in my own very special way.

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Chef Steve Deconinck, Executive Chef of The Palace Downtown Dubai
At The Palace Downtown Dubai, I found in the figure of their Executive Chef Steve Deconinck a magnificently inventive soul. Of course, the hotel itself had me at “hello”, from the moment I stepped into their Arabian-inspired lobby, complete with central water fountain and the fragrance of exotic flowers in the air. And I can’t wait to go back for some spa treatments and another Palace cappuccino, which came complete with 24-carat gold leaf and four scrumptious, perfectly chilled macarons. But I digress, which is easy to do when surrounded by the understated grandeur of the place.

READ IT ALL HERE.

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Cinema at the Edge Film Festival in Santa Monica

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

When I lived in LA, I spent most of my time in Santa Monica and Venice. The Westside is the coolest — quite literally, there is always a breeze — and the most fun. And there is always culture to be found. Since I was a step away from The Grove, the mecca of shopping in Los Angeles, I needed regular trips to Santa Monica to keep me grounded, informed and “culturized”.

Seems that these days there is one more event for those who enjoy a little learning with their entertainment, and it’s about to kick off. Scheduled to run from July 11th through the 13th, the second edition of the Cinema at the Edge film festival promises to outdo itself. Last year’s edition boasted honorary chair and guest jurors Brett Ratner, Susan Sarandon and John Singleton. Who will it be this year?

Although, in all fairness, I haven’t caught any of the films on this year’s schedule, I can safely say that a few are interesting and very, very important. The festival will open with A Star for Rose by Daniel Yost, which focuses on three lost souls, homeless on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk Of Fame, who start out as enemies but then become each others’ lifelines.

If only we could begin to do that in the Middle East…

Speaking of my favorite part of the world and a constant source of personal worry these days of turmoil, there are two films that immediately caught my eye, one about Israel, one about the Syrian struggle. The latter, a 14-minute short titled Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution by filmmaker Matthew VanDyke has as a synopsis the following: “The story of the Syrian revolution as told through the experiences of two young Syrians, a male rebel fighter and a female journalist, as they fight an oppressive regime for the freedom of their people.” While the film about Israel is called GOLEM and is directed by Adam Deutsch. It’s about two lost souls who wonder through the eerily calm urban landscape of Tel Aviv, and are somehow transformed by their connection.

There’s also a feature documentary from the UK titled Music & Coexistence, by filmmaker Osseily Hanna, a fellow Huffington Post blogger who has created a music movement through his film, one easiest explained by his synopsis: “Music and Coexistence is a documentary which provides a compelling account of the possibilities and limitations of music in specific parts of Europe and the Middle East. Both well established and young music groups are featured to show the healing power of music in situations where people are separated, for example Turks and Kurds in Turkey, Serbs and Kosovars in Kosovo, and Israeli’s and Palestinians in Israel.”

The festival then comes to a close with the French film Le Vie Revee de David L by Julien Pichard and Paul Lê, “The imaginary story of the director David Lynch as a student in art school.” Indeed. I wish I could be there. Truly.

For the full program and more info, check out the Cinema at the Edge website. If you are looking for a cool place to eat nearby, personal favorites are Rose Cafe and a stroll through the Santa Monica Place mall. But you can let your driving do the walking… It’s LA, after all!

Top image from the documentary Music & Coexistence courtesy of Carlo de Agostini’s blog

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Cannes 2013: The Food

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

If you’re like me, you wonder what the celebrities are doing, wearing and eating at Cannes. Turns out, for those who have films in the festival or are on one of the juries this year, the event is as much about food and gifts as it is about films.

Rumors abound in Cannes, from the one about The Bling Ring crew snubbing their fans in front of the Palais des Festivals at their premiere last night, to Nicole Kidman declaring how much she loves the rain, while Carey Mulligan cursed out who hit her on the head with an umbrella coming out of her limo. This is undoubtedly an event that grows more and more surreal each day, but it is still the greatest cinematic show on earth.

So when the team at Electrolux invited me to sit at a Chef’s Table lunch the day after the opening night gala and sample the incredible creations of chef Anne-Sophie Pic, which were served to Leonardo DiCaprio and the entire world of VIPs who’d descended on Cannes for the premiere of The Great Gatsby, I RSVPd with a giant, bold “YES!” The Agora Electrolux pavilion sits just to the left of the Palais and while we dined on our gala lunch, Steven Spielberg and his fellow jury members ate next door, starting out with a fragrant zucchini risotto.

Chef Pic is, very simply put, a superstar of the cooking world. At once humble and wonderfully insightful, she talked us through a four course meal that included Alverta Impérial® caviar, king crab and a Caribbean chocolate pot de crème to die for. She also shared the recipe for her entrée with green peas, something not always done in the cooking world but oh, so appreciated.

The lunch was presented gracefully by our server Yohan, who also suggested a light red wine with the fish main dish, which ended up being the most daring thing I’ve done so far in Cannes, but one I’ll definitely be repeating soon.

And all thanks to the wonderful folks at Electrolux, who quite simply know how to make a kitchen worthy of a Michelin (make that three in Pic’s case) star chef.

Check out the full piece on the Huffington Post, which includes a slideshow of the meal and chef Pic’s recipe, which may be the stuff chef’s dreams are made of, but alas, too complicated for me. I’ll just have to join her at her restaurant Maison Pic in Valence to sample more of her delicious, light, fragrant food.

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Dinner and a Movie

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

It’s the simplest of dates, the most easily organized outing whether for one or twenty-five and yet I don’t seem to do it often enough. It is in unexpected moments like the time I walked into the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, right before a panel conducted by the legendary Richard Peña, that I remember how much I love that old standard — dinner and a movie.

The brand new cinematic hub for FSLC is complete with its own fantastic eatery, the aptly named Indie, which serves lattes alongside dug leg confit sandwiches and bread pudding for dessert — with loads of other great dishes in between. The ambiance is this lovely dark, romantic wooden cabin of a place, and the food absolutely scrumptious. And I went there by myself! I can only imagine it with the right man… As a funny aside, guy behind the counter was a working actor and when I gave my name for the order, we started a lovely conversation about Nina in The Seagull.

This week, Arbitrage starring Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere screens at the Munroe Film Center and, just in case you need a bit more exciting with that, it’s the film that has been chosen to kick off this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Just saying…

So, do as I did and try it on your own by making it lunch and a movie, or grab your favorite friend for dinner and a flick, or even ask out that guy/girl you’ve been too shy to approach for a late night cinematic date but don’t say you didn’t know. I’ve told you, now it’s your job to do the rest. N-joy!

Top image courtesy of Indie Food and Wine

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Everybody Was Kung Fu Drinking…

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

I’ve got a new addiction and I’m not afraid to admit it: Bubble tea. But not just any run of the mill, Chinatown bubble tea — the drink originated in the tea shops of Taiwan — the kind that comes from the folks at Kung Fu Tea. On my way to an appointment yesterday, I grabbed a Longan Honey tea with bubbles (in case you don’t know what bubbles are, they are little spheres of heaven, made up of tapioca and sugar) and it totally did the trick on a hot, steamy, humid NYC day.

Kung Fu is going to open more locations by the end of the year, but in the meanwhile, you can find them in the East Village and in Chinatown. Tell me which one is your favorite… Me, I’m still in process of trying them all out!

Image courtesy of Kung Fu Tea

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Sometimes a Little is a Lot (of Chocolate)

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Honestly, my cravings for chocolate run nonstop during the day. But I don’t need a lot of it to appease my desire. Last week I discovered Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds, which are just small enough to possess none of the guilt, and chocolate-y enough to knock out all of the cravings. And they are pretty low cal too, for such a delicious treat.

So next time you feel that need for a chocolate pick-me-up try these. They’ll do the trick, guaranteed.

And, I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for some extra antioxidants in my life… In NYC, they cost $2.99, a bargain for such yumminess!

Image courtesy of Club Trader Joe’s

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It’s Puddin’ Time

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The menu at Puddin’
I’ve got a brand new crush. He’s smooth, sweet and delicious and no, he’s not Ryan Gosling. OK, yes, I like him too, but this new love of mine is served in a cup. I’m talking about pudding from Puddin’ in NYC, in the East Village. DIVINE.

I discovered this new storefront of deliciousness on a wonderful outing with some new friends this past Friday. Everyone was raving about Puddin’, got me into a silly state (doesn’t take much of course) where I kept calling everyone “Puddin’” in my best Southern accent, which just ain’t that good. Anyway, pudding from Puddin’ is that good.

So what sets this freshly made nirvana of desserts apart from, say, Jello pudding? Well, for one, the dark chocolate is really dark, made from single source 70% chocolate from Icelandic confectioner Nói Síríus. The rice pudding is dusted with Vietnamese cinnamon and for their vanilla they use Madagascar beans. For those who may still be doubtin’, they offer toppings like Salted Caramel Sauce and Brownie Bits, as well as Coconut Lime Cake and good old fashioned whipped cream. Yeah, you get it now, don’t you?!

All puddings come in mini, regular and large, which can fit all pocketbooks as well as all diets. A mini is the kind of indulgence that will satisfy a sweet tooth just enough to leave you wanting for more. And leave you feeling light on your feet.

Puddin’ is located at 102 St. Marks Place (between First Ave & Ave A), in the East Village. Check out their website for more info, a full menu and directions.

Top image courtesy of Puddin’

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Five Insider’s Tips from this Year’s Tribeca Film Fest

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Insider’s Tip One — Magnum Ice Cream:

As a journalist covering the festival, there was a neverending well of Magnum bars available at the Cadillac Press Lounge. My favorites this year were the new Minis, which of course were less of a threat to my figure, but still managed to quell all my cravings. Of course, we also could stop by for some daily surprise lunch menu, which ran the gamut from sushi to mango/cheese sandwiches depending on the day. Yup, nice work if you can get it indeed…

Insider’s Tip Two — Illy Espresso:

I amazed my movie companions one night by telling them we could get coffee for free at the theater. Indeed, if you attended any of the films at the Tribeca PAC center, on Chambers, there was an Illy cart offering free hot signature espresso drinks made from Italy’s favorite beans. Their cappuccino was divine! And did I mention FREE?!

Insider’s Tip Three — Facebook-ing It:

Tickets to TFF’s 2012 screenings and events could be bought on Facebook through AudienceView Tiki—the first time a film festival offered this service to its online community. This way, I could purchase my ticket while my friends could also see what I was watching and where, and purchase theirs to meet up. No more annoying “I’ll get it then you pay me back” for fifteen people, amounting to hundreds of dollars and friendships lost (if you still owe me, you are no longer my friend!)

Insider’s Tip Four — TFF Is Well Worth the Trip:

If you don’t believe me, just read the story of Jeroen van Velzen, director of World Documentary Competition entry Wavumba. Van Velzen traveled four days to get to New York from Lake Malawi, Africa—eight hours by bus, two days by train, and more than 18 hours by plane via Dubai. It was his first visit to America. All worth it for a film critics and audiences alike ooh’d and ahh’d over. But even without a film in the festival, just noticing all the foreign media in town for TFF, it was well worth the trip!

Insider’s Tip Five — How to Watch Movies Like an Insider:

Well, there are a couple of tips and those work for all film fests, even if it is not a science. First, ask the Artistic Director of the festival which movies to watch. Check. Planet of Snail and The Flat. Shhhhh… Then, look through the program to find films that interest you. Check. All world cinema is my passion. Then narrow it down by watching films that hold a bit of background for you. Check. That’s how I came to watch The World Before Her and Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken With Plums. And I think I brought my own sensibilities to both, while most critics did not get Satrapi’s latest AT ALL! It’s all in a name, I say… It’s all in her NAME.

Till next year, Tribeca, miss you already…

 Top image courtesy of What’sUpIran.com

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