Creative Writing Sessions with Tracy Crisp

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Last week’s print of the Abu Dhabi Weekly proffered an exciting opportunity for all creative writing enthusiasts (beginners and novices) to know and get more out of your talent by introducing Creative Writing Sessions with a renowned author and novelist, Tracy Crisp.

Sessions will be held for four consecutive Mondays from 10AM to 12PM at The Space, Park Rotana Offices near TwoFour54. The first session begins tomorrow, Monday 14th April 2014. Total fees for these sessions are AED 400.00 to be paid upfront at the beginning of the session.

For more information to register / reserve your place, contact Tracy via email: tracyqcrisp@gmail.com or call 050-1336697. Don’t forget your notebook.

Radisson Blu Resort: Fujeirah

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Lord of the Sea & Sky

You don’t need to travel too far to experience the trilogy of wind, water and rocks, when you can enjoy it at Radisson Blu Beach Resort, Fujairah. The room’s best stand-out is its view: a grasping abyss of pristine blue waters, over a horizon of rain clouds and mountains. All rooms have sea-overlooking balconies fitted with comfy chairs, thus making for a cozy coffee conversation. The beach is well maintained, clean and covering a lengthy expanse.

*Oops!* Seems, like I rushed the readers straight out the balcony, without mentioning the hotel. Being from an established group of Resorts, Radisson Blu does not fail to impress the guest with its quality location, interiors, comfort and value for money. Importantly, its the ambiance and Guest-relations that counts, and surely the hotel was not complacent on their delivery. From the time of your arrival to your departure, you are well taken care of by the Concierge, Receptionist and Housekeepers. At the lobby, after you have received your welcome drink, take a quick look around the hotel’s facilities. Some of the key attractions being:

  • Library: A cozy study room by the beach side equipped with divans, study tables and chairs, magazine desks, coffee tables, a large cabinet with selected novels, and a PC.
  • Spa: Facilitating both indoor spa and beach massages for the guest
  • Lounge: With a bar, Billiards table for smokers and non-smokers.
  • Kids Section: For parties and children’s access.
  • Dining Restaurants: all of which overlook the beach.

Even while you are escorted to the rooms, you can stop and enjoy the valley view from the corridor lounges: bright and well placed divans with coffee tables. The hotel has really invested in it’s guest luxury.

Corridor Lounge @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Corridor Lounge @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Our package included a night’s stay with breakfast. We dined at Breeze for breakfast and lunch. This restaurant is known for its extensive outdoor seating, and delicious buffet spreads of continental and Arab cuisines.

Breakfast spread included: Egg station, pancake and waffle station, Fouls Mesdames, Hash browns and Sausages, cold cuts, cheese counter, assorted breads, muffins and cakes (including Christmas Stollen!), an array of fresh juices, cereals. I observed they also served low calorie breakfast specials available in the a la carte menu.

Cereals @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Cereals @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

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Cheese and Cold Cuts @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Fresh Fruit @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Fresh Fruit @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Fresh Juices @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Fresh Juices @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Muffins, Assorted Bread @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Muffins, Assorted Bread @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

For lunch, we ordered from the menu, and the chef – Mr. Kant, was kind enough to accommodate our request for special diet food, making sure it was served as specified. My order was a Grilled Salmon cured with potato puree.

Grilled Salmon @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Grilled Salmon @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Desserts @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

Desserts @ Radisson Blu Beach Resort

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All through our stay, I’d like to appreciate the hospitality of Mr. Savio D’Souza, who went out of his way to ensure our comfort at all times. The complete room reservation (even though it was at the last minute), to the food arrangements, as well as check-out was carried out with gracious and professional incumbency.  Mr. Savio, allow me to say that we shall be regular guests as long as you’re around.

Mr. Savio D'Souza

Mr. Savio D’Souza

This resort, is worth the long drive from other Emirates, for its scenic location, great service and awesome views. Make sure to book your next holiday at the place.

Gym Monsters

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Years ago after I graduated, I had a good figure…the ideal 36-28-36 type. No…I wasn’t popular nor sexy as I was in my very boyish punk phase. So people hardly remember the good ‘ol body I used to have. Plus it was a very brief period of my life. Soon work happened…sitting for hours in front of a PC happened…coffee breaks with cream donuts and chocolate croissants happened, and soon again I needed to buy new work trousers and baggy jeans. The punk phase was soon replaced by hide-your-curves-with-your-jacket phase, and I thanked God for winters. It took me years to discover that I had a weakness for suppressing  stress with food, which explained the big water balloon in between while I walked. Four years of work changed me into something overtly huge, that I remember the receptionist once asking me if I could see my toes. Somehow, I refused to admit that I needed help. For my 24th birthday, a colleague gifted me with a black cotton buttoned jacket, which she explained I should wear often, as black had this ‘hypnotizing’ effect of concealing curves in women. Within few months, the buttons wouldn’t catch up with a good five inch gap. My colleague finally gave me a warning tap, “Its time”.

Gym wasn’t so bad actually. Just that I could barely afford it, so I took a basic bronze plan, and since it was conveniently located opposite my residence, attendance was regular. My trainer was thankfully a cool and motivating muscled dude, and made sure I got my exercise and diet regime right. Six months forward, I lost enough weight to wear a belt with my jeans and to ditch the jacket. I still wasn’t my ideal weight though. I stopped the gym, and walked atleast 2 hours after work to replace the mechanical reps.

5 years on, walking did not seem to help, so my best friend gave me a rather surprising birthday present – a year’s membership at the newly opened Gold’s Gym at Al Wahdah Mall. I was to join immediately, and the package included 4 free trainer ‘sessions’. The gym is a mega outlet located in the extension of the mall on the second floor. The reception desk divides the area into male and female sectors on each end. What impressed me most was its sheer size, and insane number of treadmills, cycles, dumbells, machines, mirrors, washrooms and shower rooms, lockers, and for the first time I had unlimited access to all kinds of classes: zumba, body pump, body tone, yoga, etc. What depressed me was the intimidation I received which took effect as soon as I entered. The reception was quiet hostile, and kept me waiting for atleast 30 minutes for a trainer. No one showed me around the locker room so I had to figure the locking system myself. Finally when the plump trainer showed up, she hurriedly took down notes and poured out a list of commandments: You shall not eat after 6 p.m., you shall not eat rice, you shall not…etc etc. She squealed at the weighing scale and nodded that I needed to lose a good 15 kgs, it was more like she was accusing me of a ghastly crime and I was sentenced to the treadmill at once. For the past 5 years, I enjoyed the outdoor exercises- the fresh air, sights, sounds, sweat. The treadmill felt so artificial – so mechanical, and most of all no sweat. I definitely did not want to see the trainer’s face again.

Next my best friend suggested I join the classes. I did. It was a huge class with more than 50 participants, surprisingly and intimidatingly all in shape. The instructor was blaring rep numbers on the microphone against the backdrop of already blaring high pitched music while the monkeys just followed their leader. Gosh, how can one expect to unwind from a stressful day’s work in such a mind-disturbing environment? No wonder so many expats suffer from high blood pressure. The workouts definitely brought out the worst in me: lack of concentration at work, stress, temper tantrums, mood swings and irritation. Plus after 3 months of exercises there has been no change in my weight. The negativity of the place has affected me so bad, I hate to go to the mall anymore. This is the first time I’ve had such a bad bout of aversion to something, it surprises my best friend, who isn’t too pleased about my appreciation for his birthday present. I’m reminded of the kid who’s afraid of the monsters under his bed. What should I do? There have been times when I have simply sat in the locker room and wept for 2 hours and then walked back home. Should I quit? What would my best friend feel if I did? Should I play along? Should I slap the loud mouthed instructor? Should I break a machine? Should I starve? I’d do anything for my share of sanity right now.

Moving away or Moving on..?

*sigh*…its been more than a month since I haven’t written a single expression on this blog, but I can explain. My Samsung Note crashed, with its motherboard completely damaged; I lost my contacts and my photographs….yes all of my lovely food pics! Something went terribly wrong on an unsuspecting day at work, resulting in me getting a warning letter, plus a pay cut! (all because no one else in the work team is single and hence can’t afford to be penalised). Year ending is coming up, heaps of things to do, and now with my pay cut I may not be able to afford several things for Christmas.

*sigh* *sigh* *sigh*

Like my mentor told me, it is better to keep many options open, so that in an unforseen circumstance I am less upset. That’s precisely what I decided to work upon before I am given the axe myself. FB friends contacted, Appointment Times screened every morning, online applications etc all in tow, and its been 2 weeks and yet no response or call from anyone :(. So I guess I’m looking at finding something only after the New Year which means I will have a very ‘axe-i-ty ridden’ Christmas season. Till then I try to tell myself that this had to happen, and in no way I could’ve prevented it; so its all for the best. I try hard not to pin my hopes too much, but can’t stop myself from thinking of the relief of not having to explain about my marriage anymore to my colleagues or my boss when I finally work in another place. This seems to be my only consolation for now.

In my 30 years in the UAE, I have never had to think of December 2 as a working day. Whether school or work, it was some day to look forward to its events especially at night. Over the last decade, National Day in Abu Dhabi is remembered more for its fireworks display and Corniche parade. While some drivers do go overboard with their innate displays of enthusiasm, overall it is a loud and engaging display of colors and glitter on the streets. It is recommended to avoid taking your cars on the roads tonight. If you wish to enjoy the evening, travel on foot, wear something warm and take a coffee to go, along with your camera for some candid shots.

As obvious, I am a little broke right now, and a lot on my mind, so I won’t be too regular with my restaurant reviews for the time being. Hopefully with an improved situation, things will go back to normal, and I will restore my restaurant hopping once more. Until then, do pray…and enjoy the lovely Christmas season!

Happy Diwali!! @ Tim Hortons

Perhaps this is the first cafe I have seen celebrating and offering something special for Diwali!

It has been a while since I have been to Tim Hortons, owing to the hot weather, but decided to take the walk finally today as it was the end of October. Seems like the heat has simmered a bit, so walk within the cool shadows if you have to avoid the 32 degree blaze.

My favorite branch at Najda Street has changed over the past few months with some better alterations to their interiors. The most pleasant surprise was in the showcase, with the top row being the ‘Diwali Special’. Now celebrants can buy their box-full of donut delights – completely eggless. Perhaps this could be a limited promotion, so make sure to pick your dozen soon!

Diwali Special Eggless Doughnuts @ Tim Hortons

Diwali Special Eggless Doughnuts @ Tim Hortons

Upcoming: Tai Chi Seminar @ Corniche

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 There’s a fantastic 5-day seminar upcoming at the Corniche Gardens opposite Al Ain Palace Hotel – from 28 September – 02 October. There are different timings for these seminars, starting from 05:45 Hrs (morning session) and 18:30 Hrs (evening session), you can choose between morning & evening sessions or both. The seminar will be conducted […]

Rosewater @ Jumeirah Etihad Towers

Lunches have their advantages over dinners. Firstly, you get to enjoy the sunshine and its effect wherever you go, secondly you can eat guilt-free knowing that you could work out the calories for the rest of the day. My pictures at day ironically come out better than the ones I shoot at night, and does not seem to require much editing within the natural light.

So here we are again, driving late to our reserved table at Rosewater – Jumeirah Etihad Towers or better known as JET. The beauty of the place is that it has a separate connecting exit linking straight to the towers, of which one of them is a 5* hotel. This was one of those urban chic exquisitely designed structures – right from the driveway to the restaurant that places you in a “ramp-like” feeling as soon as you step out of the car. I have noticed that the latest hotels delve on chandeliers and carpet work, and JET is no exception. The entrance lounge is high, bright, bustling and crystallized.

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Lobby Entrance @ JET

We were shown our way around to the restaurant which was two floors below the lobby. This confused my sister a bit, who had done her homework of researching the details of the restaurant online, and wanted to avail the sea-view seats. But now that this was at the basement, she lost all hopes of a view, if there ever was one.

Rosewater Entrance

Rosewater Entrance

To our surprise, the structure was designed such that the first floor was way above the average 3-4 storeys. So the P2 floor was still well above the required height for an appropriate view of the pool and the adjoining sea. We obtained our vouchers from Groupon, who has been advertising the restaurant over several months, but this offer was too good to miss. The voucher included 2 house beverages per person, and upon seating we were provided with moist towels and complimentary aperitifs. The restaurant was full of customers, which was a pleasant difference from the otherwise silent and empty fine dining experiences. Since we were already late, we made our way to the buffet which was extensive with several live cooking stations. Sorry I wasn’t able to catch a picture of one of the chefs since they ended it by 3pm, which was around the time I completed my lunch too.

Nevertheless, there were several cuisine options – Thai, Lebanese, Italian, sushi and Indian. Some of the features of this buffet were:

2 house soups

Fresh Salad Bar

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Salad Bar @ Rosewater

Fresh Cold cuts and prepared salads

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Cold Cuts & Prepared Salads @ Rosewater

Thai curries and preparations

Lebanese / Arabic foods like biryani and meats

 Indian specialties like basmati rice, lentils, and tikkas

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Indian Specialties @ Rosewater

Assorted Breads

Live Sushi Counter

Live Pasta Station

Live Noodle Station

Live Manakesh Station

Live Grill Station

Desserts.

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Desserts @ Rosewater

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Fresh Fruits @ Rosewater

The highlight of the buffet was the impeccable Indian dishes which stood out from all the other cuisines that day. Full marks to the chef for each of the preparations – the peas rice, dal, tandoors and tikkas, etc. The Ras Malai in the desserts was the cherry on the cake – sumptuously fulfilling. Other notable desserts included the white chocolate brownies and the crumble tart.

The restaurant has an outdoor seating area which I’m sure will be enjoyable during the cooler seasons with its sea / pool view. Service was excellent, friendly and prompt to customers needs. The hotel has some breathtaking views, so after a hearty meal, don’t miss out on the tour of the place, and as I recommended earlier, its best to savor these sights while the sun is still shining.

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Outdoor Seating @ Rosewater

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Sea View from Rosewater

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Fashion Gallery Exit @ JET

Price per person (incl of all taxes) AED 249.00

Alba @ The Ritz Carlton Hotel

It’s been a week only, and we decided to re-visit the Ritz Carlton for some of our very favorite Opera Cake (something that my sister spotted in the menu). The valets apparently recognized us and gave us a friendly “welcome back!” I guess I must admit, I’ve gotten used to the addiction of fine dining. Sometimes, I hoped that I would be given the opportunity of a food critic where I could visit such glamorous restaurants sans my guilt conscience. *sigh*

The night scene at the hotel was very dim, candle-lit and quiet. The enormously long chandelier-ed corridors reminded me of the earlier castle like experience. Not creepy, but not bustling either to prep up a relaxed holiday  mood. Anyways, as decided we proceeded to Alba – a typical tea-lounge within the lobby level. Finely upholstered and dimmed, we were greeted to some fine pastries and gourmet chocolate bars at the counter. Even though they were out of Opera pastries, they managed to arrange some from the high tea miniatures, which I felt was very polite of them, since not having to do so would have left me and my sister feeling disappointed.

Opera Minis

Opera Minis

Alba Tea Lounge @ The Ritz Carlton

Alba Tea Lounge @ The Ritz Carlton

We seated ourselves in front of a television screen which played one of the Charlie Chaplin classics – this I felt was in conjunction with the ambiance of the place. I quickly gulped my cappuccino and the pastry, while taking out some pics of the lounge. Frankly, there’s nothing much to say about the place, but nevertheless the staff, pastries and service was absolutely flawless. I would recommend this place for those looking for some quite or solitary time with their cuppa.

Price for Opera Miniatures – AED 45

Price for Cappuccino – AED 15

(All items are subject to 10% service tax & 6% tourism fee)

Cantina Restaurant – Vision Links Hotel Apartments

Alright this may sound a bit cliche cos its actually one of my company sponsored restaurants but I decided to visit all the same. Anyhow my brother and his wife were visiting & I never treated them to anything, especially his wife, whom I knew for several years now but never had the time to sit and enjoy some coffee. Plus, I was informed that I would be enjoying a nice flat 50% staff discount, so why not eh?

Prior to the visit, I must admit that the staff was aware of my arrival. My Operations manager went out of her way to make my reservation and to make sure that I would be attended to well, owing to her knowing that I was a keen food blogger. I’m not saying she arranged for any special services, but I did get a lot of attention.

The restaurant is located on the mezzanine floor of the Hotel, & were very accommodating despite us reaching late and placing such huge orders. My sister-in-law and myself went for the seafood option of Baked Hamoor and Ratatouille, while my brother settled for the attractive looking Chicken Escalope.

There are a few things I must mention about the restaurant –

There has been absolutely no publicity for the same – neither a website nor a Facebook page making it difficult for advertising.

Appetizers were dry stale bread served along with olive oil, dried Parmesan flakes, and soy sauce.

The restaurant shares its name with another popular Mexican restaurant in Khalidiyah Mall.

The ambiance was  quite, perhaps because we were the only customers in the restaurant. The main courses, to be frank took long for service – but once plated, they were flawless. The Hammour was succulent and fresh. The Chicken Escalope was crispy and served with French Fries and Tartar Sauce. The meal was indeed hearty. As a complimentary gesture, we were served fresh Garden Salad with Thousand Island dressing. On the whole the experience was satisfying but could definitely have been better. For starters they really need to work on their marketing, followed by some fresh bread baskets / hors d’ouvres. Full marks for cleanliness, hygiene, lighting, menu options and restrooms. My compliments to the chef for the food presentation!

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Baked Hamoor Fillet with Ratatouille

Baked Hamoor Fillet with Ratatouille

Price for 3 persons including cocktails and mineral water AED 250.00. Make sure to avail the valet parking facilities.

Urban Kitchen & Dolce

And so the much awaited day!!!!!

Whew what a milestone achieved! I’ll be frank…I’m a bit insecure about turning 30 – I’m not confident about my job yet, my MBA certification is still stuck at the University, my marriage is not yet confirmed and I still weigh 78.6 kgs. Shucks!

On the other hand, since I look forward to every day with much positivity I plan on remembering what I have achieved successfully so far, without letting myself into unnecessary comparison. I am by far a more firm and outspoken person unlike before and try not to panic on petty issues if it can be helped. I’m glad I have a job, and someone to love immensely for today. Tomorrow will see for itself.

Leaving it to that, I must inform that right now me and my sister are enjoying the independent freedom of home-alone kids (our parents are on vacation)…hehe not that we’re kids anymore, but the spinsterhood shows all over the house. Its the time when the laundry is over-piled, so also the dishes in the sink; cooking and cleaning is done once a week, trash is thrown in the morning and our work clothing is hanging about all the chairs and sofas. My sis however still keeps the discipline of sleeping early at night, I drowse myself with unlimited TV sitcoms.

Back to my birthday….I waited impatiently for midnight as Jaan was the first to call up and wish :), followed by his mom 10 minutes later! This is the first time she called for my birthday and that too by midnight. The plan was to dine the next day, as my sister was looking forward to a much awaited outing after a couple of weeks, and what more better way to compliment it than with Entertainer Vouchers. I wanted to try the new hotel – The Dusit Thani and so we used corresponding coupons. We had a single voucher for Friday Brunch at Urban Kitchen and managed to wake up on time to dress and arrive at the lunch hour.

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Dusit Thani Lobby Front

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The entrance to the place was splendid, and so was the lobby. Beautiful, clean, exquisite and spacious. The restaurant was located at the lobby level just behind the coffee lounge. The buffet spread was marvelously awesome and seemed unlimited! The restaurant respected the word brunch and therefore put up breakfast as well as lunch items mostly patronising the Thai cuisine along with other international dishes. We were greeted by desserts at the entrance, which I found peculiar, owing to being the last course. My sister however explained that she found the idea more attractive than a typical salad welcome. Point noted!

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After the endless array of mouth-watering pastries (I noted they had the suddenly popular opera pastry), puddings, Indian and Lebanese sweets, fruits and creme brulees, was the egg station (for breakfast), followed by a live cooking station for dim sums and appetisers. Parallel was the American breakfast items of pancakes, waffles, cereals, breads and cold cuts. We were then shown into the next phase – which was more like an adjoining room that kept the fruit juices and cocktails, followed by the opposite table for live sushi preparations and salads.

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The main course was divided into the larger table hosting rice and grilled preparations, and a small table for the kids with french fries, fish fingers and pasta. Another room at the back of the corridor had the live roast stations – for duck and meats. The kids had their own dark and milk chocolate fountains. Coffee and other hot beverages were not included on the buffet menu, but since I saw the coffee machine I inquired into it, and the waiter was kind enough to provide me and my sister complimentary drinks. Perhaps it was because we did not take advantage of the other house beverages.

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After lunch we took a quick tour of the place and noticed the lobby was way bigger than what it seems from the outside. There were several more restaurants on the same level including a Grill bar and a Royal Thai Restaurant. A beauty salon was also located on the opposite end beside the restrooms. An escalator led you to the Ballroom at the basement which was huge and lavish. Altogether the hotel experience was wonderful.

After this we drove off to The Ritz Carlton, for picking up a Birthday Cake that I had ordered at Dolce – a chic coffee lounge with bright orange colors. Overall the place looks like a bright candy house and I’m sure will be the kids favorite. The pastry chef definitely has some distinct tastes when it comes to pastries.  The Resort by itself is grand and lavish with several valets at your service at the entrance. When they came to know of my birthday I was greeted with a complimentary pastry from the staff. That was too sweet!

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Dusit Thani:

Ambience: Grand, Quite, Posh, Executive

Dining Experience: Urban Kitchen, Thai Cuisine, Friday Brunch Special

Price: AED 225++ per person, excluding house beverages.

The Ritz Carlton:

Ambience: Posh, Grand, Awesome.

Dining Experience: Dolce – best for tea and candy.

Price: As ordered.