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Life

Dubai | Utopia

In the history of civilisation, it is fair to say there has never been as much economic and structural growth as has occurred in the United Arab Emirates in the past 40-odd years. From virtual villages, Emirs such as Abu Dhabi, and in particular, Dubai, have become the new business centres of the world, the must visit stop-over destination for global travellers and with that, a new mecca for food.

Just a century ago, Dubai was a small community of a few thousand, who survived by fishing and pearling Dubai Creek, a 14 kilometre inlet of the Arabian Sea. The discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s saw unprecedented wealth f lood the seven emirs of the UAE. But it has been how these finances have been spent that has set the Emirates apart and facilitated its amazing transformation.

It was the foresight of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai from 1958 until his death in 1990, to develop the region’s economy to prosper once the oil has dried up. The Dubai of today is testimony to the fact his vision has been realised. These days oil production accounts for just six per cent of GDP, with business, trade and tourism raking in over half the Emirates income.

One of the biggest incentives for business is its centre point in world trade, between east and west, north and south, and for the businessman looking to make a fortune, the fact that there is no income tax, is a massive lure. Quite simply, what you earn is what you get! And with many companies providing accommodation and expenses, you can see why Dubai has such a large ex-pat community.

City of Ests

Dubai is the city of ‘ests’ – the bigg-est such as the massive Dubai Mall, the tall-est – Burj Khalifa, at 830 metres the world’s tallest man-made structure, and whose viewing platform on 124th f loor is the highest anywhere, and a must-visit in this city of stunning architecture.

While Dubai sits on the edge of the mystical Arabian Desert, it has been transformed into an oasis with meticulously maintained luscious parks and gardens throughout the city. Ninety-three percent of the water is from massive desalination plants, irrigation is recycled sewerage. The city is fastidiously clean and organised with a modern railway system, cheap and reliable taxis, whose drivers all speak English and, most noticeable of all, it is extremely safe. Due to the fact there are severe punishments for breaking the law, crime rates are low (less than 1%). In fact, Interpol has rated Dubai as the safest city in the world for the past decade. All this means it is ideal for the discerning tourist.

STAYING IN DUBAI

The recent decision for Qantas to partner with Emirates airlines means Dubai is now the designated stop-over spot for many Australian travellers. And this is a city that is custom-made to accommodate and entertain everyone from young families to grey nomads. First of all, it must be remembered that the UAE is a Muslim nation and with that there are rules to be followed and respected. But for the most part, Dubai is far more liberal than one might think.

You should dress conservatively, but women don’t have to wear a burka or hijab, they can wear dresses. Men should be fully clothed in public, but all can wear swim wear on the beach or around hotel pools. And you can drink alcohol. Ex-pats working in Dubai can apply to get a licence to buy alcohol to drink at home, while tourists are restricted to drinking in hotels.

CULINARY MECCA

For this very reason, hotels host nearly all of the city’s bars, restaurants and niteclubs. To this end, there are some amazingly lavish digs around Dubai, from the ostentatious to the stupendous, and with the competition to attract the hungry and thirsty tourist supreme, it makes for some amazing culinary adventures.

Like Las Vegas in the 2000s, Dubai is bringing in top notch celebrity chefs from around the globe, such as American Wolfgang Puck, French Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire and Australia’s own Greg Malouf, who has just opened up Cle Dubai, a glamorous 250-seat restaurant in Dubai’s bustling financial district.

Dubai has every cuisine you desire, with everything from Japanese to Italian to French. In 2014 Dubai hosted its first annual food festival with pop-up restaurants and food-themed events across the city and world media flown in to enjoy delightful customs such as Friday afternoon brunch where the city shuts down and hotel restaurants put on amazing degustation dinners with accompanying wine matches. The award for Dubai’s best brunch is currently held by JW Marriott Hotel’s Prime 68 Restaurant. With impeccable service and an eagle-like perch on the 68th f loor, it offers delicious fare with breath-taking views.

A TASTE OF HISTORY

Of course, you may want to get away from the hotels and bars, to explore the ‘real’ Dubai. Catch an abras (wooden boat) across Dubai Creek to visit the city’s famous gold, food and spice souks, and fill your bags with saffron, the tastiest dates ever, and camels’ milk chocolate – one of Dubai’s newest exports.

And if you want to try some authentic Emirati food, head over to Deira, the old town on the eastern side of the Dubai Creek. There are no skyscrapers, no bling, but here, sisters Arva and Farida Ahmed from Frying Pan Adventures can show you the old Dubai, exploring everything from a Philippine supermarket to Iranian food and traditional Bedouin fare. It will show you that the Dubai of old is still thriving alongside the glitz and glamour of the new.

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Life
Moon Festival
Words by Mark Hughes on 22 Sep 2015
Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Moon Festival is the one of the grandest festivals in Asia. Also known as the mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th is when the moon is at its roundest and brightest, and it is a time of special significance. Slightly differing from the customs of Moon Festival in China, Korea celebrates the mid-Autumn event by preparing a banquet to pay respects to ancestors for a successful harvest. During the festivities, Korean people travel back to their hometown to spend time with their families and to enjoy food predominately made from rice, which is harvested during this period.   “The Moon Festival is called Chuseok in Korea,” says Eun Hee An, chef and co-owner with her husband Ben Sears, and wine agent Ned Brooks of Korean restaurant Paper Bird  in the Sydney suburb of Potts Point. “Traditionally, Chuseok is a day to pray to your ancestors in order to assure a good harvest that year. I am from Ulsan, but we have family members in Seoul, Chungju and Busan, so it’s one of the few times a year (along with Seolnal, which is Chinese New Year) that the entire family comes together. We come together, commemorate family members who have passed (Charye) and do Seongmyo, where we make offerings at their graves.” Family feast Of course, with the family gathered, food is important to the festivities and Eun recalls her favourite memory from the Moon Festival when she was a child. “One of the offerings we make is songpyeon: a sweet rice cake, like a mochi, stuffed with honey, sesame or red bean, shaped into a half-moon crescent. Young girls are told that whoever makes the best looking songpyeon will get the best looking husband, so I was always very focused with my mochi decorations!” Unique to the Songpyeon in Korea is the use of pine leaves. During the cooking process, the Songpyeon is steamed together with pine leaves, which adds a delightfully aromatic twist to the traditional dessert. Along with the Songpyeon, Eun’s favourite dish during the Moon Festival was a pan-fried fritter known as jeon, as well as a special recipe perfected by her grandmother. “Besides songpyeon we eat assorted jeon, which is a Korean pan fried fritter. My favourites are zucchini and also my granny’s gochujeon, which is a chilli stuffed with minced beef and then battered and fried. Chuseok in Australia Ben and Eun manned the pans at Sydney’s iconic Claude’s restaurant before it shut down in 2013, which prompted the pair to start up their own venture. From humble beginnings, Moon Park has emerged as one of Sydney’s best Korean restaurants with the menu featuring a fresh focus on traditional Korean. Dishes such as Sooyuk – cold smoked pork belly braised with artichoke and chestnut in mushroom dashi, sit alongside fusion dishes like barbecued octopus with potato cream, kelp oil, garlic chive kimchi, and crispy fried chicken with   pickled radish, soy and syrup. These days with Eun making a life for herself in Sydney with Ben, she celebrates the Moon Festival in her own way. “In a way, Chuseok for me is bittersweet because I am the only member of my family who no longer lives in Korea,” says Eun. “Of course, I still want to celebrate, so I call my parents and talk to everyone about what they are doing and the food they are enjoying. But it is a time of year I realise how far away I am.” Eun says they will also celebrate the Moon Festival with their patrons in the restaurant with some traditional Chuseok dishes added to the menu during Autumn, but she doubts the festival will ever get as big over here as it is back home in Korea. “It would be great, but I don’t think it could ever be,” she says. “Chuseok is a very old tradition in a country where, historically, for many people the quality of the year was defined by the agricultural harvest. Even now, as more people move to cities, it is still so ingrained as a big part of our cultural upbringing.” NOTE: We ran this article in the Spring issue of Selector followed by recipes for chicken skewers and stir-fry beef, and it could be assumed that these recipes were from Moon Park. However, Ben and Eun were not the authors of these recipes and they are in no way affiliated with the products featured in the recipes. Sorry for the confusion, and to Ben and Eun. If you have a hankering for traditional Korean with a fresh focus, then check out P aper Bird , I think you’ll be rewarded.
Life
My City Brisbane
Words by Ben O'Donoghue on 14 Aug 2017
A lot has changed in brisbane over the last decade with the food and wine scene taking off to make it one of Australia's most vibrant destinations The first time I came to Brisbane was in 1994 on a wild road trip from Sydney in a mate’s Bedford van to indulge in the Livid festival at Davies Park (now home to one of the best farmers markets in South East Queensland). My next foray to Brisvegas was in 2000 when I journeyed here with my good friend Jamie Oliver, promoting The Naked Chef 2 and the accompanying cookbook, both of which featured yours truly...an unremarkable experience I recall! So, on returning in 2008 from London, Brisbane seemed an unlikely place to move. But I’d been told good things by some close friends and a recent move north by my mother-in-law was enough to tip the scales in Brisbane’s favour. Brisbane was a city hungry for new things and in the subsequent nine years has matured into a uniquely independent city with some amazing food, beverage and lifestyle opportunities. On the south side
If you’re after some serious liquor and cocktail therapy, head to The Gresham , an old bank building at the bottom end of Queens Street. These guys know their spirits, reflected in the fact they’ve won Best Bar in Australia. Once the hunger sets in after a few stiff well mixed old fashioneds stumble next door to Red Hook, a well-executed New York-style burger joint. They knock out a classic cheeseburger and do some damn fine things with ground meat in general. Now, if you find yourself in South Brisbane's West End I would be remiss not to direct you to my new wine bar, Billykart Bar & Provisions adjacent to my newest restaurant, Billykart West End . The wine focus is on Australian and NZ producers, spirits from boutique Australian and imported distilleries, and Australian craft beers, both on tap and bottled. The food focus is tapas-style dishes with a global influence. It’s a great place to relax and for intimate gatherings and functions. But if you’re after something more substantial, pop next store to Billykart West End. Still on the south side, venture out to Annerley. There loads of new places popping up around here. This is where you’ll find the original Billykart kitchen. A renovated 1930s Queensland corner store turned café restaurant, it’s open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and Friday evening for a monthly changing menu with a specific cuisine focus Still in Annerley, on Dudley Street, is the Dudley Street Café , serving some of the best coffee on the south side and yummy toasted sambos. Northern Necessity You might be starting to realise I live south side and in Brisbane there is a bit of north-south rivalry. But when it comes to bread and pastries, you’ve got to head to the Brisbane MarketPlace at Rocklea and visit Lutz and Rebecca from Sprout Artisan bakery. They produce some of the best bread in Australia and the quality of Lutz’s croissants is legendary – we’re talking layers and layers of buttery goodness! Eat, move, repeat
Now after eating and drinking all this food and booze, you’ll need some park life and Mt Cootha offers great hiking within 5km of the city! There are great views across the Brisbane River Valley from the lookout and you can grab a bite to eat at the cafés. The walks range from easy to mildly difficult and it’s great to go after some rain when the creeks are flowing. Also check out the botanical gardens at the bottom of Mt Cootha. Recent development in south Brisbane has seen the precinct come to life. The Aria group have made it their mission to revitalise Fish Lane. Running parallel to Melbourne Street in the heart of South Brisbane, the laneway features some great bars and restaurants. They run an awesome street festival in May, where all the local operators put on food with live entertainment. At the bottom end of Fish Lane on the corner of Grey Street, you’ll find Julius restaurant and pizzeria . It's always buzzing, the pizzas are awesome and the menu is simple and tasty. It’s a great family favourite of ours and my son Herb can smash the nutella calzone by himself! They do a good negroni as well. Just opened on Melbourne Street is the Sydney icon Messina Gelati . You know what you are getting with Messina – dedication to quality and the most amazing flavours of gelati. They even own their own cow, controlling the product from the bottom up! For art's sake
If it's arts you want, stay south side where the Goma Gallery is one of the most visited galleries in Australia. There's always something on and during the holidays the kids are well catered for. For music, one of my fave destinations in Brissy has to be The Triffid – one of, if not the, best live music venue in Australia! Whether it's a gig you're after, or just a good beer and burger in the beer garden, The Triffid is a must when you're hanging in Brisbane for a few days. If you're self catering and you need some supplies of the continental variety, head to Panisi on Balaclava Street for everything from antipasti to tacos and Italian/Spanish/South American products. For more up market eating, Gerard's Bistro in Fortitude Valley is my pick, or Esquires for something long and indulgent! For good vino, head to 1889 Enoteca in Woolloongabba is the go. And for a long standing icon, Phillip Johnson at e'cco. There's so much more to the real Brisvegas and so much on its door step. So, as they say, what are you waiting for? Get amongst it!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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