Taqado Mexican Kitchen

Taqado
Taqado opened several months ago and had always been on my mind to try. But I could never allow myself to set aside a meal to be consumed in a Mall, let alone MOE food court. Months following, when it opened in DIFC, my doorstep, I thought it was time to give it a taste. Walking into the land of men in Suits (DIFC) is constantly a pleasure. Although as I’m currently not dressed to greet any man in a suit and have 4 hungry friends waiting for me in the park I think a swift pick-up is in order. Greeted by the friendly staff, I place by broad stroking order of almost one of everything on the menu – I love doing that. And with each order a customization of rice, beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. Paying the bill, I most importantly collect my Snapp Points and with a team 2 Taqado staff, lug my order over to my car. Windows down and listening to Wicked Games by Para (my new play on repeated tune), I wonder why we don’t have more picnics in Dubai. With the weather nearing perfection, I make a pact to take advantage of the outdoor culture in Dubai. And with an entrance fee of AED 3, nothing could be sweeter then Safa Park. Throwing open my picnic rug, my friends arrive one by one hungry for some Mexican grub under the sun. Laying on the grass my hand reaches for the bean burrito, a meal I constantly had during my after school days. A bite into my burrito and memories of my girlfriends and I laughing come rushing through. Naively content with by bean burrito I take a bite of a special creation burrito, made of barbacoa Pulled beef, red Spanish rice, cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole and all other dishes fade to the background as I enjoy the flavors of Mexico. The nachos, salad, fajita and tacos all deliver on what they promise, although as a personal choice, nothing compares to a burrito. And for those crazy people who don’t eat carbs, you can get everything in a box, meaning no shell or wrapper, just the fillings in a box. A spoon full of soup in all its chunky glory and despite the 30-degree weather is a touch on the salty side but none-the-less satisfactory. Slipping out churros from its cone like a sword from its case, I drive it into the chocolate sauce and then into my mouth. Crunchy, yes, sweet, yes but after having a Maya churros my loyal taste buts don’t accept any other. With my tummy full, shades on, book in hand and toes on the grass, content is exactly the mood. Taqado does many things right, it’s a homegrown concept that offers casual and tasty Mexican food at a price that we can all enjoy. Their current locations of MOE and DIFC were a smart choice to build awareness for their brand, but for their next location, I would ask for something more inviting like Jumeirah so we can enjoy their dine-in experience.
THE DETAILS
LOCATION DIFC OPENING HRS. Sun-Thur 7-7 Fri-Sat 9-6 CUISINE Mexican PRICE PER COUPLE AED 140 TELEPHONE # 04 351 5210 WEBSITE www.taqado.com
THE FORK-O-METER
Ur Burrito Fix

La Serre Boulangerie

La Serre Boulangerie
Waking up, still cozied up in my beloved quilt cover, I think a reward is justified for pulling myself out of bed. And for me, a reward equates to a lovely meal in a lovely space. Walking into La Serre Boulangerie at 11 am, I worry if a table for two is available. With someone paying the check at that moment, I patiently wait, indicator turn on to the left and swiftly slide myself into the table as they pull out. In true French style, breakfast offerings include croissants, variations of eggs, fruits and more. Keeping with my reason to get out of bed, I begin with an order of truffle-topped scrambled eggs. My breakfast date arches his brow and comments, I wouldn’t feel comfortable paying AED 125 for a plate of eggs, regardless of the truffles. I respond by saying I wouldn’t feel comfortable paying X amount for Business class, regardless of the extra legroom. We all have our guilty pleasures and its no secret that food is mine. Making my way through the fluffy scrambled eggs, truffle shavings and beautiful bread, some of the best in Dubai, is a lovely experience. An extra crack of fresh pepper would do wonders. If waffles are not on the menu then I’m afraid its not breakfast. Piercing my fork into the sugar doused waffle, I feel its’ crispy crust. Immersing the bite into the berry compote and cream I prepare myself for delight. And rather unexpectedly, I get the flavor of orange zest in both the sauce and the waffle batter. A purely personal opinion, I don’t enjoy orange in ANY of my desserts because of its over powering flavor. To remedy the situation, I ask for honey, which gracefully expunges any trace of orange in my waffle, much better. And to end our breakfast on a healthy note, a can’t-go-wrong bowl of fruit salad. Apart from the bread, there is nothing that La Serre Boulangerie offers, which you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in Dubai. Although with the floor to ceiling windows and almost revolutionary street front positioning, stepping into its beautiful morning hustle and bustle is almost hard to match.
THE DETAILS
LOCATION Vida Hotel OPENING HRS. 6:30 am - 10:30pm CUISINE French PRICE PER COUPLE AED 220 TELEPHONE # 04 428 6969  
THE FORK-O-METER
Ur French Breakfast Spot
 

Comptoir 102

Comptoir 101
It’s a strenuous exercise trying to find a casual spot for lunch on a Friday afternoon. And per most of my friends’ requests, guilty of the food and drink consumed the evening prior, Friday lunch must be healthy. Recommended by the chef and brains behind Chez Charles, I feel I’ve checked the yes to Travel Insurance before paying a visit to Comptoir 102. Swinging open the vintage iron door, I’m welcomed by something interesting and somewhat unfamiliar - character. A space where cookie cutter and franchise strictly do not apply. Laying down my laptop and camera, I take a stroll around the beautiful retail section of the store which includes jewelry, shoes, bags, notebook, furniture and more. Running my fingers along the interesting textures of the retail space, my hands stop at some of the loveliest tableware I’ve seen in a long time. Although at a minimum price tag of AED 230 a plate, my hand lets go and a mental note is taken for a future splurge. With the sun pouring in and my Wi-Fi connected I select the set menu for my lunch. In an inspiring and chic setting, combing through my emails on a table for one becomes an enjoyable experience. The restaurant fills up with a trendy clientele leaning towards a predominantly French and European crowd. In response to a recent Juicing Documentary I had just watched or was forced to watch rather, I trade my usual tea, for a carrot infused juice prepared to boost my immune system. My starter arrives Rawcchini Plate, thinly sliced zucchini topped with Parmesan cheese, roasted pine nuts and fresh basil. One of my favorite textures and tastes in the World (yes that was dramatic, but true) is raw zucchini therefore making my way through the fresh flavors and nutty Parmesan is pure pleasure. My main arrives of black-eyed peas salad seasoned with sage, garlic and fennel seeds. Taking a bite of the beans and salad, the flavors are fresh, but I instantly get main course selection remorse. With such a big vegetarian movement underway, I feel my dish is a cop out and with an impressive starter I expect more creativity. And for dessert Matcha Mousse a mix of macadamia and green tea powered top with fresh raspberries and kiwi.  A healthy, tasty dessert (previously an oxymoron but now a reality) does exist. The nutty creamy flavors provide a lovely backdrop to the tangy raspberries. Finishing up my work and final drop of juice, immunity fully powered, I pack my things, say thank you to the staff and see you soon to Comptoir 102. Arriving home, I share my healthy experience with my brother while finding myself finishing off the story at the base of my fridge. A creative meal, yes it was, but based on my current location, (the base of the fridge) I would enjoy more quantity. I can only image how my brother, the beast, when it comes to food, (I love you BTW) would feel after that meal. Next time I’ll try the pita sandwiches. I will return, over and over again to Comptoir 102 because it represents a movement of home grown restaurants that have heart and soul. It definitely gets my Friday lunch recommendation.
THE DETAILS
LOCATION JBRoad Across Beach Center OPENING HRS. 8:30am - 6:30pm CUISINE Healthy European PRICE PER COUPLE AED 150 TELEPHONE # 04 385 4555  
THE FORK-O-METER
Ur Friday Healthy Spot
     

The Beaches of Sitges and the Padron Peppers

Beaches Stiges Pepper of Spain
I had just spent more then a handful of days in the Basque Country with a group of more than inspiring women surrounded by nature, crisp air and the serenity that comes with embracing the countryside. Stepping out of my cab, a stone throw away from La Rambla in Barcelona, almost trampled over by a group of Russians on tour, I think to myself, wait… I’m not ready yet. I lug my bags over the curb and under the view of another tourist, a Chinese this time, taking a photo of his beautiful family and check myself into my hotel. I freshen up grab my fedora hat and off I go to get out of the city. One ticket to Sitges please – the easiest and only town I know closest to Barcelona. After taking the wrong train, I don’t get the Spanish train system, I arrive to something more quaint, white low buildings, winding alleyways and the sounds of the beach not far away. Tourists? Yes, but nothing compared to Barcelona. Walking along the beach, a smile appears on my face as I take in the breeze and the blues of the water. I perch myself on a café stool, hungry from all the commute and browse through the menu for comfort food. My eyes and heart stopped at a plate of fried Padron peppers. A dish a didn’t grow up with, a dish I never knew existed 9 days prior and yet is my comfort food. Tied to it, beautiful memories I had in the Basque. As I pluck each warm pepper from its stem while enjoying a cool beer and salami along the beach, the feeling of comfort sets. A few hours later, happily tanned, that beautiful bronze Mediterranean tan, I begin to gather my things and enjoy my last moments of Sitges. Finally reaching Barcelona after getting off on the wrong stop, I still don’t get the train system, I strategize ways of getting as much peppers as I can back to Dubai. 7 am the next morning, positioned at the center of the farmer’s market, I’m loading up on peppers before catching my 10 am flight back to Dubai. If you do get your hands on some Padron peppers, please remember sharing is caring (just kidding… or am I?) try out this recipe, it couldn’t be simpler and is wonderful with some cheese and salami. Love, Tala   Ingredients: 500 g fresh padron peppers 1 cup olive oil ½ tablespoon coarse salt Preparation: Wash the peppers in cool water and dry thoroughly. Keep the stems on the peppers. Add the olive oil to a deep pan and let the oil heat up, around 3 minutes. Add a handful of peppers to the oil and cook for a round 3 minutes and turn occasionally so both sides are evenly cooked. Spoon out the peppers and place them on a paper towel. Repeat the above until all the peppers are cooked. Place the peppers in a serving bowl add the salt and serve warm.

The Basque Country…

Lunch
Love, Tala  

Power of Creation

Spain
Everyone has their guilty.... not so much pleasures... or aspirations... but maybe satisfactions, like fame or fortune. I'm not one to care for either of the two, but I will confess a satisfaction towards power or the ability to control a desired outcome. I'm a self taught photographer. In certain circumstances I'm conformable enough to say I do have a good eye for setting up a frame, although nothing beyond that. My photos are usually a product of my environment rather than the art of photography. Day one, the holy trinity of camera basics, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Three concepts I knew of and that were dangling around in my head but were never thoroughly understood or put into practice. Two hours later post explanation, post aha moment and watching Aran at work, I approach my cool metallic sardines. I look Bob and Fred (the sardines) in the eyes, and say "I can sum you up in three numbers... I know you... I think... I hope..." Pushing a button here changing a dial there my trinity is set and I'm ready for the click. Click Holly.... wow! Though far from perfection, for the first time, I feel power, I feel the ability to manipulate my camera to generate the outcome I want and most importantly I feel in control of creation and the art of photography. Love, Tala

Waking Up To Green

Astei
After a 7 hour flight, a 4 hour layover and another 1 hour flight to Bilbao airport, I flag down a cab and say "Astei por favor". Winding through the darkness I realize that the as flat as Dubai is, is how hilly the Basque is. Up, down, around, over and around again cutting through whats seems to be an endless wall of trees. After a near case of car sickness and 2 phone calls later at half past 11 pm I finally arrive. Stepping out of the taxi, a woman in the later half of her years exclaims, "Tala! You have reached!" while throwing open her arms for a hug. What feels like the warmth of a long lost aunt I fall into her arms and say "Finally", a perfect end to my journey and welcome to may stay. "Come, come, I show you to your cabin..." Rolling my oversized bag over to my cabin and between the darkness I see balls of fur scurrying through the grass.  With my slight hesitation my aunt responds "It's rabbits, don worry." Reaching my cabin I'm handed the keys and given a tour of my space, thanking Mertxe I ask how to lock the door before I dive into bed. "Tala! you are in the Caauntry, there's no thief here... no need to lock" Rabbits, country.... where the hell am I? I wonder as a burry myself into bed. At the first sign of dawn, my eyes open, I frantically rush to my door, swing it wide open and before me, nothing but green, actually bunnies and green. Hmmm... beautiful... It's a green you not only see, but smell, taste and feel. With 4 hours before everyone meets, we hop on the train back to the city to visit the Guggenheim. I only accept to go along with 1 touristy plan per vacation and the below is this vacation's.   Would I go back, would I recommend it, probably not. Schedules, tours and plans are never my thing when I'm exploring a new place. All I want to do is rome around the streets and pop into every hole in the wall I can find. On our return, the whole group has arrived and dinner is well under way. Simple, fresh food is prepared as we get to know each other a little more. The tomatoes.... Olla! They make me smile the whole way back to my cabin. And look who I found to greet me at my doorstep after a light drizzle.... Speak soon! Love, Tala

Espania!

Espania
Olla!! I’m currently in a four-hour layover in Barcelona, Blibao bound (The basque country, North of Spain) and I thought it would be the perfect time to update you on what’s coming up in the next 12 days. Before I begin, a side note about Barcelona Airport, I like it. As I type these words, I’m sitting outside (yes they have an out door area within the airport) enjoying the breeze, an espresso, free wifi and tall/dark/handsome men that seem to be everywhere I look. Back to the itinerary, a couple of months ago I was accepted into a dream come true kind of work shop with one of the best food bloggers/photographers I know of, Aran Goyoaga from the award winning blog Cannelle et Vanille. The lifestyle and food photography workshop will be held in Aran’s home town in the North of Spain and over the course of 5 days SHE will be teaching ME, along with 8 other women, the ins and outs of photography. In a nutshell, its like having one of your inspirations or idols teaching you your passion – wow. After Bilbao I will be taking a car, road trip, to San Sebastian a must visit for any soul who proclaims themselves a foodie, with the highest per capita of Michelin stars of any city in the world. A reservation is already secured at Mugaritz #4 on the worlds Top 50 Restaurants. A disclaimer was clearly mentioned on my confirmation email from Mugaritz informing me to set aside around 3 hours for the tasting experience, hell yea! And finally, a train back down to Barcelona for another three days to experience the beaches, tapas and aged cuts of ham and meat. Updates and photos to follow soon! One more thing, wherever I have traveled or whenever people try to guess my nationality, I always get Spanish, so on some level, I feel like I’m somewhere close to home. Adios! I'll leave you with a glimpse of Aran's amazing work:

Fraiche – #WatchThisSpace

Fraiche
This is strictly a #WatchThisSpace kind of post. Fraiche recently opened (Soft Opening) in JLT in early July. Stepping into Fraiche I notice the beautiful brickwork that surrounds the space which instantly gives it a warm vibe. Setting my eyes on the extra large communal table I smile, turn to the owner and say "I'll be pack on Tuesday... with some of my friends." I usually like posting reviews only after official openings, but I couldn't help it. Here's a couple of snaps of the evening, full review to come as soon as they officially open - September I think. #FIODT Powered by Restronaut. Love, Tala  

The D Bar and Grill

D Bar and Grill
It’s been quite a while since I‘ve written something creative and I can see its effects in my financial reports for my banking job. No longer is it a simple dip in company revenues by 10% but now its an extended explanation of how the rising price of steal and blossoming tulips in Holland had an effect on the company’s sales figures. To put an end to my ever-growing reports, I sat down this evening stretched out my fingers and said “Yalla go play” as I laid them down on my keyboard. Walking into McGettigans on Sheikh Zayed road I’m greeted with the hustle and bustle of an Irish Pub, glasses cheers-ing, a live band and roaring conversation. Climbing the steps, I reach the glass gates of the D Bar and Grill. Stepping in to the D, its shhhh quiet, calm and cool. The manager Gabriel, angelically glides over and welcomes me to the restaurant. “A tour my child?” “Yes please.” I respond. Escorted around the restaurant I’m told that the wood used for the fit out was sourced from an old train station in the UK and the bar, made of bricks, was also sourced from a church in the UK. Adorning the walls are colorful quirky paintings that give a much-needed contrast to the heavy fit out. Taking my seat I wait for my guests, its just four of us tonight, which is expected, it takes hard work and dedication climbing up the steps and reach the gates of the D Bar. On their arrival, our orders are taken, a cheers is made and our dinner begins. To start a beetroot Beetroot & Dill, Horseradish, watercress & Irish soda bread arrives. Stunning colors is what I take in first. Bright green, with deep Bordeaux against a white canvas. I adore beetroot but it was a sudden enlightenment. I remember hating it as a child and suddenly loving one bright Sunday morning. The trick to a successful beetroot dish is the right amount of dressing, which the D has nailed. The earthy beetroot, fresh watercress and mellow creamy cheese are perfect. I’m never pulled towards duck. Is it a question of habit, or non-habit? Or is it a question of flavor? Either way, no one at the table selected the duck, therefore by default, a rare hazard of my job, I select the duck. My duck breast spiced red cabbage, endive, turnips & fig jam arrives beautifully presented and not as fatty as I remember, the fig jam makes all the difference. I happily finish my plate, but have I converted? I still think duck is a sitting duck kind of selection for me. And on to dessert. My favorite cake from my childhood is not birthday cake or a cup cake or even an ice cream cake, no it’s an Opera Cake the only kind of cake I used to eat. Sliding my fork down the cake, memories of pointing out the cake to the vendor come to my mind. Having a taste of the bite, I smile but believe there should be more cream. I move on to a delicious cheese platter to end a heavenly meal. Finishing off our lovely meal we do notice that we still are one of the few people at the D which made me remember Mark Twain, who loosely mentioned Go to D Bar for the climate and McGettigans for the company. I have returned since and had another impressive meal at the D although this time in the company of one more table, slow progress I guess. D offers good food, at an interesting venue but lacks in terms of ambiance. Maybe it’s a question of time before more people to start walking through their doors. Either way, I’m counting my blessings that the D is right next to my house. Powered by Restronaut
THE DETAILS
LOCATION Trade Center OPENING HRS. 12-3 7-11  CUISINE International PRICE PER COUPLE AED 500 TELEPHONE # 056 6038846 WEBSITE DBarandGrill
THE FORK-O-METER
A Craving Quencher Restaurant