I just went on the trip of a lifetime with my best friend. We found the 200 dollar ticket deal from JFK to Dubai last Christmas and couldn’t pass it up, joking it would be our ten year “friendversary”. We traveled to the foreign Abu Dhabi, not so foreign Dubai, and exotic Goa in ten days! Of course, as a chef the first question I get is, how was the food? Funny thing is I was doing too much living to be worried about food. Now don’t get me wrong I love food! But interestingly enough food became an afterthought to experiencing all the newness of these countries. The buildings, the people, the feel was all so different the food we ate actually brought me back to reality. It is a commonality of the human experience; after all we all have to eat. So although food was not the highlight of my trip I still took note when I had a meal that was particularly delicious or interesting to share with you.
If you go to Dubai I highly recommend you visit Abu Dhabi. It’s about an hour away by taxi, which is only about 80 USD round-trip! As New Yorkers this blew our mind. We were only there one day but the feel is much quieter and much more Middle Eastern. You definitely stand out as a woman walking around uncovered. Actually in general I felt we stood out as women walking along the Corniche (boardwalk) at sunset, as there is strong male presence.
Emirates Palace– It is a palace built of gold. Ultimate in luxury it is a place where a lot of Sheiks go to have meetings. We went for high tea and drank and ate gold!
Statros– It is a revolving restaurant that gives 360 views of entire city. The food here is just ok, but perfect if as an American you want something familiar. It’s really more for the atmosphere. The restaurant takes 2 hours for a full rotation so order a bottle of wine and relax.
Grand Mosque– No food here but the beauty of this building will leave you in shock. So many little details when into building this grand structure. Make sure to do the tour, you’ll want to take notes so many good facts.
After visiting this city I can understand why so many people like it but I actually do not need to go back here ever again. It is so new and clean, built just within the past 15 years. We stayed in the Marina area in an Air BnB situation that gave us less access to helpful hints from concierge. Dubai is so western that visually I felt like I was in New York, but the modest clothing of the woman and general quiet nature of the people reminded me I wasn’t. Many of the people that live in Dubai are ex pats with interesting tales of their own.
Desert Safari– There are multiple companies that offer desert safaris. Choose a safari based on the activities you want to do. Some are more adventure based while the evening ones are more of a dinner and a show. I’m glad we choose an evening option, this was probably the best most authentic Mid East food we had the entire time.
Saffron Brunch at the Atlantis– Before I left to Dubai a friend described this brunch as the most decadent experience and she thought people were fatting her up to take her outside and kill her. Upon arrival I understood her completely. You are greeted with champagne and then brought into a wonder world of food and drinks galore while very loud music pumps in the background. Like literally nearly every food you can imagine in 5 star fashion; sushi, dim sum, lobster, fried chicken, terrines, salad bar. It’s a bit overwhelming without even talking about the stands of every kind of liquor. Oh and it’s all you can eat and drink for four hours. Needless to say we lost a whole day of our lives and half of another one to Saffron. It was an experience I both thoroughly enjoyed and made me very concerned for the human race at the same time.
Souks– If you like to shop and would like to see the softer side of Dubai the souks are the place to be. I wouldn’t recommend going day after Saffron brunch in 100-degree weather. Loads of interesting things to look at like spices, gold, and clothing. There’s also a cool ferry and a lot of olden day ships. It’s the only place in Dubai that isn’t trying to be the biggest or the best of anything and you can feel the people. Go early to avoid crowds of tourists and hear some really good lines from the people trying to get you to stop in their shops.
Goa was my favorite place by far. Honestly before this trip I had no idea it existed. I choose Goa as the other place to go because I googled tropical places and clicked on images. The first picture I clicked on was Goa. It just so happens that it is only about 3 hours away from Dubai so I was easy to get to (DON’T TAKE AIR INDIA) by plane. I probably liked it so much for it’s beauty and very chill vibe, very Californian. The people are friendly and generally speak English (yay). They also do this weird thing with their heads and shake no when they say yes which is confusing and entertaining. South Goa has less people and is more resort life living. Northern Goa reminded me of Venice Beach filled with smaller hotels that are nice enough but not necessarily somewhere you’d want to be all day.
Martin’s Corner– I’m not sure about the karaoke singer or the décor or the general idea of this restaurant but the food was so so good. It is authentic Goan food, which is a very interesting mix of Hindu and Portuguese. Being on the coast they pride themselves on seafood and the tropical climate brings a lot of spices. Our whole meal cost about 1300 rupees, which is only like 20 USD. We had drinks, appetizer, and two entrees.
Corn from the Man in Anjuna- This grilled corn was the best thing I ever had. It was so hot and I was so weary from antics from the night before it really hit the spot. As he grilled in front of me and drizzled it with lime and sprinkled masala spice I did have a thought I could maybe get very sick from this corn. That thought quickly vanished as I took my first bite.
Sahakari Spice Farm– You are greeted with lemongrass tea, given a red dot on your forehead for good luck, and led on a short informative tour. It shows you different spice plants and gives you facts about them. This was another place I took notes. After they serve you lunch. They give you a tasty spread of Goan food and a shot of Feni (cashew liquor). There is also an option to ride an elephant or have an elephant shower next door, an experience of a lifetime.
After writing this post I’ve changed my mind, maybe food was the highlight of my trip. I did a ton of other things but the experiences based around these culinary adventures really stick with me. Eating is really bonding and memorable. Especially when you are eating food of a different culture while your other senses are soaking in the culture. Food is all encompassing. Nourishment is life and brings happiness inside and out.