Is Georgian Cuisine from Heaven?

There is a Russian poet from the 19th century named Alexander Pushkin who stated, “Every Georgian dish is a poem”.  According to Georgian legend written about in the book The Georgian Feast, “God took a supper break while creating the world.  He became so involved with his meal that he inadvertently tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus, spilling his food onto the land below.  The land blessed by Heaven’s table scraps was Georgia”……or, so it goes!

 

Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin wrote that every Georgian dish is a poem

I really didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to travel to Georgia.  But I am so glad that I did!  Georgia is a country that is home to not only wonderful people but also to some of the best food and wine in the world!

Georgians regularly meet to enjoy a supra, which means feast.  One of the most important features of the feast is, of course, the wine.  Georgia has a long history in winemaking and is home to over 500 varieties of grapes.  It’s one of the oldest wine regions in the world.

According to many of the historians, since the year 6000 BC, the inhabitants of Georgia were cultivating grapes.  Winemakers would bury them in clay vessels called kvevris. This vessel stored their wine until it was ready to serve.  According to UNESCO, ” The kvevris was topped with a wooden lid and covered and buried underground.  The porous nature of the vessel allows for natural temperature shifts and aeration….and, the oblong shape promotes kinetic movement by allowing constant natural stirring and more uniform oxygen contact.  This process is important for the production of amber wines in Georgia”.  As we drove through the countryside many homes still had grape arbors in the yard.

Qvevri store Georgian wine
Qvevri are vessels that store Georgian wine under the ground until ready to serve

Photo by Georgianrecipes.net

Today, according to wine experts, somewhere almost 500 varieties of grapes exist in Georgia.  Many of those grapes were nearly extinct!

The best way to describe Georgian wine is “orange wine”. It’s not made from citrus, but the grapes taste like a white wine but have the body, tannin, and structure of a red wine.  It’s a lot more complex than a traditional rose wine.  And, it’s a lot better than rose, in my opinion.  No preservatives are added to Georgian wine.  I’ve found that many times it’s the sulfates in the wine that gives you a headache the next day and sulfates aren’t added to Georgian wine.  The shelf life may not be as long, but at least you have an all-natural product!

Georgian wine is amber colored
Georgian wine is orange in color

Not only is Georgian wine bottled without any preservatives, it’s also much lower in alcohol than traditional American wine.  Georgian wine contains around 9-11% alcohol compared with 11.5-13.5%  in American wine.  This is excellent news when you are attending a 4-5 hour formal dinner or supra, as they call it in Georgia.

We stayed in the old part of town in a hotel that was built on a hillside. It was a cool hotel.  At the bottom of the hill was the old section of Tbilisi.  Cobblestone streets were lined with shops, restaurants, and bars.  One of my favorite memories of my trip was going to a traditional Georgian restaurant complete with a band that played Georgian music.  Both the music and the food were great!

 

 

 

Formal banquets in Georgia can last from 4-6 hours, or longer.  Multiple rounds of food, wine and toasts are the hallmarks of a Georgian supra.  My post last week discussed Georgian toasting, it’s quite an experience.

Georgian toasting
There’s always toasting and a lot of food at a Georgian dinner party!

According to Georgiastartshere.com traditional Georgian feasts consist of dishes such as these:

  • Pkhali, which is a spinach and walnut salad
  • Khinkali, dumplings stuffed with spiced meat or vegetables
  • Badridzhani Nigvsit, fried eggplant with walnut sauce
  • Charkllis Chogi, beets in a tart cherry sauce
  • Khachapura, egg and cheese bread
  • Khashlama, veal and sour plum stew
  • Pakhlava, a walnut pastry
  • wine

Although Georgian cuisine is unique to the country, you can see influences from eastern Europe and the middle east.  The Georgian diet contains many different types of vegetables, which are often meal highlights.

On many occasions, we were served Khinkali.  These are dumplings that contain spiced meats, cheeses or vegetables.  Even though they look heavy, they were very light.

Khinkali are Georgian dumplings
Khinkali are little dumplings in Georgia cuisine

Photo by Wikipedia

Another dish that was served at each of our meals, and which can be found at various street vendors, was Khachapura.  Khachapura is a cheese bread, sometimes served topped with an egg.  It was a little like cheese pizza, only much better!  No Georgian bakery, restaurant or home would be without Khachapura!

Georgian Khachapura is cheese bread
Khachapura is a cheese bread in Georgia

Photo by Wikipedia

Georgian pizza topped with vegetables
Georgian pizza is sometimes topped with mayonnaise

Badrijani may be hard to pronounce, but I can tell you it’s absolutely delicious!  The region of the Caucasus Mountains where Georgia is located is home to many delicious fruits and nuts.  Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are plentiful as well as figs, pomegranates, apricots, grapes, and mulberries.  Walnuts and pomegranates are important ingredients of Badrijani.  The dish is comprised of fried eggplant, spiced walnut and topped with pomegranate seeds.  The classic Mediterranean and Georgian dish!

Georgian Badrijani
Fried eggplant never tasted so good!

Photo by Wikipedia

Georgians don’t eat many sweets.  Because walnuts are a staple there, you do find Pakhlava served after many dinners.  Pakhlava is a variation on the traditional Greek dessert Baklava.  Pakhlava uses a different type of dough than Bakhlava and it’s not as flaky. Ingredients can contain a variety of different ingredients including poppy seeds, ginger, saffron, and almonds.

Georgians don’t really eat candy like you and I think of candy.  One “candy” that you can find on every street corner and at roadside stands is Churchkhela.  I was anxious to try this Georgian delicacy. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are threaded onto a string and then they are dipped in a sugary fruit juice, such as grape juice.  The sugar from the juice dries on the nuts and it looks like a sugarplum.  The finished candy is displayed on the string and looks like little sausages, but instead, they are candied nuts!  As you drive down city streets or rural parts of Georgia you will find these multi-colored strands of tastiness!

Georgian Churchkhela Candy
Who knew walnut candy could taste so good?

Photo by Shutterstock

Kutaisi is the capital of Georgia. We spent several days there for business.  It was a lovely town, not as large as Tbilisi.  Kutaisi’s population is around 200,00 and the Parliament of Georgia is located there.

Our Georgian hosts wanted to be sure that we felt at home. Every morning they served us breakfast at our bed-and-breakfast hotel.  They wanted to be sure that we had everything that they considered an “American” breakfast.

Georgian American Breakfast
Our Georgian hosts served us their version of an American breakfast each morning.

Next time you are looking for a place to travel, you should consider Georgia.  The food and the wine are worth the trip!  Until next time xoxo.

Sources used in this post:  The Georgian Feast; Unesco;

 

 

 

Toast to Tblisi

Toast to Tblisi

I’ve been catching up on my Parts Unknown shows.   I loved the show. It took me to places that are off the beaten path…..not in the mainstream.  Bourdain’s conversations and interactions with different cultures were so interesting and captured a more human side, versus just a typical travelogue.  The episodes were always filled with a lot of characters, but characters in a good way.  We experienced the unexpected!

Anthony Bourdain filmed Parts Unknown In Georgia
Anthony Bourdain filmed Parts Unknown in Georgia in 2016

Photo by CNN

I ran across a show that was taped in Tbilisi, Georgia.  It struck me that Bourdain was able to bring all the warmth and friendliness that I encountered when I traveled to Georgia.  The people were so welcoming, and I still talk to many of them to this day.  Facebook makes it so easy to stay in touch with people from all over the world!

I was able to travel to Georgia through a partnership with the US Department of Energy and the State of Kentucky.  Georgia needed expertise in developing their natural energy resources, such as hydropower shown below, as well as management of consumer issues.  It was a reciprocal arrangement, we went to Georgia and they came to the United States.

Hydro power dam in Georgia
Hydro dam on the border between Georgia and Russia is much bigger than the Hoover Dam. Can you see the armed Russian guards at the border?

While traveling to Georgia we had a layover in Munich, Germany.  The trip was in late September, around the time of the annual Oktoberfest.  On the flight to Tbilisi, many people boarded the plane in Germany that had been to the festival.  They served beer on the flight, even though it was 6:00 AM.  I will never forget that…..and, it certainly foreshadowed things to come!

 

 

When we arrived at the Tbilisi airport, I was struck by the warm greeting we received from our energy industry counterparts.  It was gratifying and reassuring to be welcomed by people who were genuinely glad we were there and appreciated our willingness to share and exchange our knowledge with them.

Georgia is a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and their neighbors include Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.   The population of Georgia is about 3.7 million, so as a whole its population equates to that of Oklahoma and geographically is about the size of West Virginia.   It’s a former Soviet republic state that has mountains, the Black Sea, and a mix of the old and new country.

Georgia border map
You might think you have difficult neighbors!

Photo from Thewaywomenwork.com

Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia, is known for its diverse architecture, high-tech features, and its traditional cobblestone streets.   I believe the photo below well illustrates the old and the new of Georgia.

travel views from Georgia
The old meets new in Georgia

Georgia and Russia have a long history of disputes.  The latest conflict happened in 2008 and as you travel through the country you can still see the ravages of the war.  Bombed out buildings and bridges remind you of the tumultuous history the two countries share. The United States came to the aid of Georgia to the tune of $1 billion, and to this day they are extremely grateful and appreciative.  Georgians love Americans.

As you travel into the city you can’t help but notice the high-tech designed bridge that connects old Tbilisi with the new city.  It’s a very modern suspension bridge that is called the Pedestrian Bridge of Peace.  It has glass panels and is shaped like a bow.  At night the bridge lights up with many different colors.  Every hour 30,000 bulbs broadcast a message in Morse code. It is said that the message is composed of the names of the periodic table of elements that make up the human body. According to the architect, “the message a hymn to life and peace among people and nations.”

Tblisi modern bridge of peace
Tbilisi Bridge of Peace
Tblisi Bridge of Peace
Glass panels give the bridge a very modern look
Bridge of Peace in Georgia
LED lights change colors at night broadcasting Morse code message

The bridge is not the only modern twist to the city.  Public art installations are located throughout the Tbilisi.  It was awesome to travel to a city that has such strong beliefs about the benefits of public art.

 

The statute below is in honor of the “tamada”.  A tamada in Georgia is the assigned toastmaster for formal dinners.  This is a very important function in Georgian hospitality.  Every formal dinner has a tamada that is chosen to preside over the toasts of the evening.  It’s not uncommon to have a 4-5 hour formal dinner with numerous toasts.  I didn’t keep count at our dinners but there had to be at least 25 toasts, and probably more.  The tamada is also in charge of hospitality.  They make sure that everyone is having a good time and has enough to eat and drink.

Public Art in Georgia
The statute is a piece of public art named for the Tamada

The tamada begins the toast and then each man at the table is responsible for a toast throughout the evening.  These toasts are very emotional and heartfelt.  It’s not unusual for there to be tears of joy, laughter, and sadness. There are toasts to family, Georgia, and during our dinner, to America.  I believe there was even a toast to President George Bush!  Only men in Georgia drink to each of the toasts.  Women are not expected to drink each toast (that’s a good thing!).

 

Tamada toasting in Georgia
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Cheers!
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Here’s to Georgia and the United States!

I recently read an article on Georgian toasts that described the 10 basic toasts that are traditional to formal banquets.  I remember that most of them were included in our dinners.   According to Transfersgeorgia.com, the toasts include:

  1.  To our meeting- this includes celebrating the event that brought everybody together.
  2. To our parents- this toast thanks parents for life and raising.
  3. To those that passed away- good qualities are toasted and their souls are wished peace in Heaven.  It is customary that during this toast, everyone dips a piece of bread into their wine and then puts the bread on the edge of their plates.
  4. To the children- this is a toast to the future of families and the country.
  5. To Georgia- Georgians are proud of their country and always toast to it.  It always includes any countries of foreign guests at that the table as well.
  6. To women- thanks are given to the women that have prepared the food on the table.  Georgians hold women in high regard and are treated as special creatures to be admired and respected.  I was very impressed with their courtesy towards me.
  7. To Peace- peace is very important to Georgia due to their long history of conflicts and wars.  Peace is treasured by Georgians.
  8. To someone celebrating a special occasion- birthday, graduations, anniversaries are all highlighted in this toast.
  9. To those who could not be at the table, but are present in everyone’s thoughts- if someone is ill, or unable to attend, they are remembered and toasted too.
  10. To the host family- this toast usually signals the end of the dinner.

 

For special toasts, there’s an item that is brought out that is called a Khantsi, which is a ceremonial drinking horn.  This is an important accessory in the culture of ritual toasting in Georgia.  You have to drink it all, it’s considered rude not to finish the wine.  Georgians only toast with wine, not beer.

 

Photo courtesy of En.wikipedia.org

I really enjoyed my trip to Georgia….we experienced such warmth and genuinely friendly.  Tune in next week for the Georgia food and wine blog post!  Until then xoxo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Space, Great View

Cool Space, Great View

The Mane on Main could be the most unique event space in Lexington, Kentucky.  It is located on the 15th floor of the Chase Bank Building on Main Street.  The sweeping views of the city give it an exciting, big-city vibe.

Views from The Mane on Main in Lexington, Kentucky

You might remember this 12,500-square-foot location as the Lafayette Club, which was a private lunch and dinner club, or more recently as Bakers 360, which was a restaurant and nightclub. There’s a reason that it continues to be a popular location for events and dining.  From the floor-to-ceiling windows you can see the twinkling lights of Lexington.

Fine Dining and Event Space at The Mane on Main

Dupree Catering, which is co-owned by Azur chef Jeremy Ashby and Tom Evans, along with their business partners, operates The Mane on Main.  Both the catering expertise and the location make it a great option for private events.

The farm-to-table concept has become very popular these days.  The Mane on Main offers the concept for catered events.  You don’t find many catering operations that offer farm-to-table options.  That’s a really nice touch.

Tom Evans, who is the Owner/Chef Operating Officer at The Mane on Main is no stranger to the hospitality industry.  He worked in his family’s catering business in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years before coming to Lexington.  Tom was instrumental in opening Azur Catering and later merging operations with Dupree Catering.  The Mane on Main is their newest venue space.

Diners at The Mane on Main enjoyed fine dining in Lexington, Kentucky

Last week The Mane on Main presented a pop-up dining experience.  The idea was to recreate an iconic restaurant from Lexington’s past.

Dining has always had a rich tradition in Lexington.  You may remember the New Orleans House from the mid-80’s.  The restaurant was open for a little more than 10 years.  It was first opened in the Southpark shopping center and later moved to Griffin Gate Plaza in 1989.  The New Orleans house featured a signature seafood buffet.

I can remember that when I was in college my Uncle Buddy would come in from Alabama and would take us to eat at the New Orleans House.  I got to take my best friend, Gina, and we thought we were the cat’s meow!  I always looked forward to going there.

Frog legs were one of the house specialities.  I can remember shrimp, oysters, frog legs and crab legs on the buffet.  Bananas Foster for dessert!  It makes me smile just thinking about it.

I happened to see a Facebook post a couple of months ago from Chef Jeremy Ashby asking for comments regarding The New Orleans House.  He wanted to know everybody’s favorite dish and comments that people had of the restaurant.  Of course, I replied!  How could I not share my fond memories!

The Mane on Main hosted the tribute dinner to The New Orleans House a week or so ago.  Hats off to the marketing team! I think it’s a great idea to host events like this for the community.  Not only do you get to experience great food, but you get to do it in a terrific setting!

When we stepped off the elevator to the 15th floor we were greeted by a very friendly, hospitable staff.  They welcomed us to the event and made sure we were informed about the night’s festivities.

Fine Dining at The Mane on Main in Lexington, KY

A lovely jazz band was playing in the corner of the room.  They had a great sound and were playing all the classics.

The Mane on Main in Lexington event venue

The New Orleans House was well known for specialty cocktails.  The dinner included a cocktail of your choice.  Of course, I picked a French 75! …..and, Champagne…. please!

The Mane on Main special event

The Mane on Main bar is a lovely mix of stone, glass and wood.  It’s really pretty and a nice backdrop for a reception area.  Diners mingled and enjoyed their cocktails and the live music before dinner.

The Mane on Main in Lexington, KY

The friendly catering staff passed Oyster Rockefeller and frog legs before the dinner started.  The Oysters Rockefeller were really good. Just the right amount of butter, parsley and bread crumbs.  I’m not a big frog leg fan, but you know what they say, tastes just like chicken!

The Mane on Main Special event venue

You could hear people telling stories of their dinners at the New Orleans house and the fun times they had.  Everybody was having a great time.

The event space can be configured a variety of ways but for this event there were buffet stations set around the room.  The New Orleans House was a seafood buffet, so it made sense that we eat buffet style.

Of course the first station included a lovely salad.  But it also included shrimp, oysters on the half shell, and a seafood salad.  It’s hard to beat fresh seafood!  The shrimp was really fresh, not watery like some shrimp that you may find, and the oysters were meaty and tasted like the sea.

The next station consisted of cooked seafood.  Now you might not be familiar with this dish, but it was really tasty.  The dish was a Maque Choux and Shrimp Cake that was finished with a remoulade and chow-chow.  Think about a crunchy hash brown that has shrimp in it.  It really had a splendid taste, and the presentation was great.

Fine Dining in Lexington Kentucky

On the other side of the table was a deviled crab in a cute little serving dish that was shaped like a crab.  There’s nothing better to me than lump crab!

Sepcial Events in Lexington, Kentucky

Have you ever tasted turtle soup?  Turtle soup used to be very popular and it was usually available at the New Orleans House.  But going back even further, the soup used to be one of the most popular and most sought-after dishes in American history.

Turtle soup is still a speciality and can be found in many fine dining restaurants in New Orleans.  Restaurants such as Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s and Galatoire’s still serve the delicacy.

Bubbly Horse attend the Mane on Main special event for fine dining

I didn’t try the turtle soup, but I’m sure it was delicious.   There was so much food that I needed to pick and choose.  My tablemates said it was tasty.

Crawfish is another bayou tradition.  Chef Jeremy was hard at work boiling the crawfish.  Of course, like a traditional crawfish boil, there was potatoes and corn to accompany the fish.

Did I mention that they also had baby back ribs, Trout Almondine, and smoked salmon?  Also, a dish called Angels and Devils on Horseback.  I admit I had to look it up, I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  Evidently the oysters are the angels and the scallops are the devils.  Both were wrapped in bacon (how can you go wrong!) and were in a creole mustard piquant.  They were very good.

Bubbly Horse attends a fine dining event at The Mane on Main

All of this and I haven’t even gotten to dessert yet!

The Mane on Main offered several choices for dessert.  Choices included fresh fruit (almost was too pretty to eat), strawberry almond shortcake complete with whipped cream and mint, and of course, bread pudding!  Bread pudding is a traditional New Orleans dessert.  The topping for the bread pudding had plenty of Kentucky Bourbon it.  The dessert was really good!

Following the dinner, the dance floor was full.  Everybody had a great time experiencing the bayou favorites and The Mane on Main!

See you soon. xoxo

Travel to the Fair!

Travel to the Fair!

Have you ever traveled to a state fair?  If you haven’t, you are missing out!  State fairs are one of the best ways to learn and observe what different areas of the country have to offer.  It’s a fun way to experience the USA.

Last week I traveled to the Kentucky State Fair.  It was a best of the bluegrass kind of day!

Kentucky State Fair Freddy
Freddy Farm Bureau greets all the fair goers!

According to the Filson Historical Society, ” The Kentucky State Fair is one of the oldest fairs celebrated in the United States.  Its beginning can be traced back to 1816 when Colonel Lewis Sanders of Fayette County, Kentucky (no known relation to Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) organized the first fair in the Commonwealth.”

In addition it states,” The fair became official in 1902 after being mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly the previous year.  It was held at the famed Churchill Downs initially, then rotated throughout various communities until finding a permanent home in Louisville’s West End at the newly created Kentucky State Fairgrounds on September 14, 1908.”

Photo op at the Kentucky State Fair
That’s a big chair!

There’s so much to do and to see at the fair.  Not only can you find food, music and rides but you can also watch one of the premier horse shows in the country.  The World’s Championship Horse Show is held in conjunction with the fair each year.  There are approximately 2,000 of the best saddlebreds in the country that compete for one million dollars’ worth of prizes.  You won’t believe how fancy the barns are decorated!  People obviously work hard to customize the barns and make them appealing with fresh flowers, curtains and decorative items.

World Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair
One of the premier horse shows in the country

Who doesn’t love looking at various livestock that is brought to compete at the fair? The cows and the pigs were pretty laid back.  They were content to relax and take a nap, or have a snack.  The goats, however, were busy getting baths and getting groomed.  It’s hard to be a goat supermodel, evidently.  There was a lot of crying and noise making as they were being fluffed and puffed with blowdryers and hair brushes.  It looked like something out of a Kardashian tv show filming!

Kentucky State Fair Livestock

And who knew that goats were so stylish!  Check out the fancy coats.  Of course, my favorite is the pink one.

Have you ever had a selfie with a mule?  They were so cute and very friendly…..just hanging out in the tents greeting people.  They liked being the center of the attention.

Farming is an important industry in Kentucky and other rural states.  Tobacco, corn, hay, soybeans are all on display at the fair.  Have you ever seen an 800 pound pumpkin?  Well, look no further!  Many of the 4-H clubs around the state submitted displays for the competition.

Bubbly Horse Travels to the Kentucky State Fair
Sitting among the hay bales

One of the coolest parts of the fair is a relatively new section.  Kentucky bee keepers from around the state provide educational displays as well as actual working bee hives.  It’s fascinating to learn what an important role bees play in the world, not to mention actually watching the bees in action.  If you don’t have bees, then you don’t have flowers!

The Kentucky State Bee Keepers Association had a table that contained honey from all parts of the state.  It was amazing to taste the different honey and how different they were from one another.  The dark honey is usually from the fall and the lighter honey is from the spring.  Soil conditions play a big part in the taste of the product.  Think of a wine tasting, except with honey!

Kentucky Beekeepers Association at the Kentucky State Fair
The Kentucky Beekeeper Association did a great job in educating about honey

Country hams are always a big deal at the fair.  In fact, every year there’s a country ham breakfast.  There are always politicians in the mix, and Miss Kentucky auctions off the ham.  The breakfast usually attracts around 1,600 people.  According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “the ham breakfast has netted more than $10 million for charity since 1964.  The most expensive country ham on record (before the 2018 record) at the Kentucky State Fair went for a whopping $2 million in 2014”.  This year’s country ham came in at 18.77 pounds and brought in $2.8 million at the auction.  It was a record setting year!

I ran into the proud buyer of the ham at an event the day after he bought the ham.  He told me that he was going to be serving the ham for a Christmas event for his bank’s board of directors.  I’m sure that will be a nice meal!

2018 Kentucky State Fair Champion Ham
The blue ribbon ham that sold for 2.8 million!

This year Broadbent B & B Foods had the blue ribbon ham that was auctioned.  The ham breakfast tradition was started in 1964.   According to the Courier Journal, “the breakfast includes 450 pounds of country ham; 5,400 eggs; 130 gallons of orange juice; 1,600 half-pints of milk; 30 gallons of sorghum; and 20 gallons of honey.”  That’s a lot of food!

From there we went over to the contest area.  Anything that you can imagine is there to be judged.  Whether its dolls, ugly lamps, shadow boxes, cakes, pies, quilts, decorative items…..the list goes on an on.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was entering my doll into the county and state fair.  My doll was a Madame Alexander baby doll that my Nannie had given to me.  My grandmother Bell was an expert in knitting, and would make my doll new dresses each year.  They were beautiful and little works of art.  I always entered them in the fair and  I won several blue ribbons.  It’s a great memory, so I was really excited to see the doll competition.

Doll Competition at the Kentucky State Fair
The doll category at the State Fair

Cakes and pies have always been a crowd favorite.  Did you read my post about Malone’s and their state fair award-winning apple crisp?  There were so many desserts on display.  The detail on the cake decorating entries was really intricate.  Needless to say, they were too pretty to eat.

Cake competition at the Kentucky State Fair
Yes, this is a cake!

How can you forget the pies?  They made me hungry just looking at them.

Award Winning Pecan Pies at the Kentucky State Fair
Pies look delicious

One of my favorite parts of the fair is the Kentucky Main Street area.  Counties from all around the state have booths that highlight their area.  Chamber of Commerce volunteers are happy to fill you in on what their county has to offer.  Everybody was very nice and willing to talk with you and let you know what makes their place special. Whether it’s Marion County and their distilleries or Corbin and Colonel Sanders, there’s a lot to see and learn about our state and history.  And who could forget Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln connection!

No state fair experience would be complete without sampling the various dining options.  Funnel cakes, ice cream, pizza….. the list goes on.  For years I have wanted to try the doughnut burger.  I have to say that the wait was worth it.  It was delicious!  Not only was there a doughnut, but cheese and bacon, as well.  Even the state troopers got into the action!

My trip to the fair was a great day.  Being a travel blogger gives me the opportunity to see and participate in a lot of cool things.  I noticed throughout the day that fair goers, employees, and  volunteers at the fair all had smiles on their faces and it was a really nice experience.  People were friendly and happy to be part of this great Kentucky tradition!

Smiles at the Kentucky State Fair
See what I mean about the friendly faces?

 

Summertime Southern Cuisine

Summertime Southern Cuisine

I always look forward to the last days of summer and what it brings…..the best tomatoes of the season!  Travel to the local farmers’ markets and you will find baskets full of different types of tomatoes; from Heirloom to Beefstake to Roma and Cocktail tomatoes. They are sweet and delicious and key ingredients to many dishes in summertime southern cuisine.  Fine dining at it’s best!

Tomatoes at the Farmers Market

There are a variety of ways to use an abundance of tomatoes.  Canning them or making pasta sauce or fresh salsa are all terrific options and are certainly useful, but you can also make a traditional southern favorite – tomato pie!

I researched a little history of tomato pies and how they came into existence.  The tomato pie that I’m talking about isn’t what my Italian friends might think.  Pizza, the Italian favorite, is often referred to as the original tomato Pie.  Trust me, I love pizza!  They both have similar ingredients, but the end result is totally different.

The history of the southern tomato pie is a little indefinite, but most historians agree that the southern tradition, as we know it today, came about in the 19th century.  Shaker recipes for pies with ripe tomatoes most closely resemble what we see today in a tomato pie.  The Shakers knew how to make great southern food.  I’m going to travel to Shakertown in Harrodsburg for lunch soon.  I hoping tomato pie will appear on the  menu!

Did you know that tomatoes are considered an antioxidant?  They are rich in lycopene, which has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.  They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.  Ladies, you can even use tomatoes for a skin cleanser?  There are all sorts of benefits and uses to this little vegetable!

Tomatoes at the farmers market

There are just a few ingredients that make up the pie, but the summer-kissed tomatoes are the real stars.  Most of the recipes that I’ve seen call for using several different varieties of tomatoes.  Red and yellow varieties are found in most versions, as well as cherry tomatoes. But the tomato pies that I have made in the past contain one very important ingredient that make them uniquely southern.  You won’t find this on a traditional Italian pie! I recommend using Duke’s mayonnaise.  Duke’s is a little more tangy than regular Hellman’s and a lot creamier.  You’ll be able to tell the difference.  No Southern Belle would go without having Duke’s mayo in the house!

Duke’s mayonnaise was started in 1917 by Eugenia Duke.  She started the company by selling sandwiches to soldiers in-training at Camp Sevier in Greeneville, South Carolina.  Locals and visitors soon took notice of not only her sandwiches, but the tangy spread that she used in them.  Duke’s mayo was born and has been a southern staple for over 100 years.

Fresh herbs are another key ingredient to the pie.  Not only does basil and dill provide a great taste but they also provide a dash of color to the dish.   Here’s a photo of  the pie that I recently made.  It was almost too pretty to eat!

Tomatoe

 

I grow several varieties of herbs in my garden.  There’s no dish that is prepared in my house without the addition of fresh basil, thyme, rosemary or chives.  From scrambled eggs to salmon, herbs make a great addition to any meal.  Basil is my favorite.

 

So after I left the farmers market today I was thinking about what would make the tomato pie more contemporary.  How could it be updated to reflect today’s culinary tastes?

Why not make the tomato pie into a tart!  It instantly makes the dish more hip and cool!  Who doesn’t love a phyllo crust?

Tomatoe Tart

Photo by Greg Dupree

I got home and did a little research and found a recipe from Real Simple. I think you’ll like it!

Cheesy Heirloom Tomato Tart from Real Simple:

  • 12 oz. of mixed heirloom tomatoes (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of Duke’s mayonnaise
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or basil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 frozen phyllo pastry sheets (from a 16-oz. package), thawed

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the lowest position.  Arrange tomatoes on a large baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Season the tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand 10 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towels.  This is a very important part of the recipe, you don’t want a watery tart!

Mix together the cheese, mayonnaise, scallions, chopped dill, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.  Place the oil in a small bowl.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush with the oil, and place 1 phyllo sheet on top; brush with oil.  Repeat the process with the remaining 9 phyllo sheets and oil.  Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the top, leaving a 1/2- inch border.  Top the tart with the tomatoes and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, which should be 18-20 minutes depending on your oven.  Let the tart cool for 5 minutes and then dinner is served!

Big Blue Ribbon Dining

Big Blue Ribbon Dining

This post is in collaboration with Malone’s/Bluegrass Hospitality Group.  All of the opinions are entirely my own.

It’s a classic, and it’s in Kentucky!

Lexington, Kentucky, is fortunate to have several high-profile industries that conduct business in our city.  The horse industry, several large corporations, and various sporting events bring a variety of people to town on a regular basis. It’s an eclectic mix of people and countries and gives Lexington a metropolitan vibe.  We are very lucky to have an award-winning restaurant that reflects our southern heritage and culture and helps to promote Kentucky through its food.

Malone’s is the flagship restaurant of the Bluegrass Hospitality Group (BHG).  It was started in 1998 by owners Brian McCarty and Bruce Drake.  BHG offers several different restaurant concepts within the brand.  From steakhouses to sushi to casual dining and banquets, BHG has a wide variety of dining that suits every occasion and taste.  BHG has always been a great partner in helping Lexington to promote the dining scene, as well as Lexington and the Bluegrass region in general.

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's Restaurant

Malone’s is a traditional steakhouse with a local twist.  The menu has many of the items that you expect to find at a premier steakhouse.  There are steaks, chops, and seafood as well as signature dishes with local celebrity endorsements.  Dishes like “Coach Cal’s” Chicken, Stoops’ Steak or the Randall Cobb steak, illustrate and celebrate Lexington’s love for sports.

We recently went to Malone’s for Saturday night supper.  We enjoy dressing up for dinner occasionally, although at Malone’s it’s not a requirement.  As in most restaurants these days you will find a wide variety of dress and people on any given night. But regardless of how you come through the door, you will be greeted warmly and made to feel welcome and appreciated. Genuine hospitality is a cornerstone of the Malone’s experience. It’s a ‘Southern Thing’!

Malone’s serves a hearty helping of classic steakhouse atmosphere.  It has a lot of dark wood, glass, and low lighting. It is also contemporary, but with many regional touches.  Signed menus from both national and local celebrities cover the walls.  You will definitely see lots of people you recognize…..whether it be in the booth next to you enjoying their dinner or their signatures on the walls.

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's restaurant

After we were seated in a cozy booth we ordered a cocktail.  Malone’s has a great wine list, including wines by the glass.  The list offers many different varieties and price points. You can be assured that you will find something that you like.  In fact, Malone’s is one of the few restaurants in Lexington to receive the Wine Spectator award, which is a special achievement.

Wine List at Malone's Restaurant

My friend is a bourbon drinker and Malone’s prides itself on their bourbon selection.  The restaurant even selects individual barrels of bourbon from the distiller’s rickhouse and bottle and sells their own blends.  That’s a unique and interesting way to differentiate yourself from other restaurants.  While I ordered a glass of Malbec, my companion ordered a Manhattan.  The drink was served with a side car on ice.  That’s a great touch for Manhattan and martini drinkers.  The martini glass is just the right size, around 4 ounces.  Not so big that the cocktail gets warm before the rest of the drink is finished, and the sidecar allows for the drink to be refreshed.  Too few restaurants offer this courtesy, and it illustrates Malone’s thoughtful commitment to hospitality and customer service.

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's Manhatton's

Prior to ordering dinner our waiter brought us a loaf of fresh bread, right out of the oven!  I’ve always loved Malone’s bread.  They even give you a loaf of fresh bread if you order carry out.  From the day they opened, Malone’s has always made excellent bread available as part of the meal.

Loaf of bread at Malone's

While the atmosphere leans to the casual, certainly never pretentious, there is nothing casual about Malone’s service. Our server was very knowledgeable and helpful.  The warm welcome from the hostess extends to the well-trained wait staff. The server’s assistant was very quick to keep my water-glass filled.  That is very important to me, because I drink a lot of water!

My favorite appetizer has always been a shrimp cocktail.  Steakhouse quality shrimp is something that you can’t buy at the neighborhood grocery or at Costco.  Restaurant shrimp is usually flown in daily or several times a week and is super fresh.  Malone’s shrimp cocktail is no exception.  The shrimp were large and firm without any hint of ‘watery’ texture.  You mix the cocktail sauce with the horseradish yourself.  This way you get just the right amount of heat.  The presentation is awesome.  The blue light under the ice gives the dish the cool vibe it deserves.

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's

 

Next the server brought our salads.  Malone’s is well-known for its bottomless Lexingtonian Salad. It’s fresh and fabulous. There are a lot of fine dining restaurants that don’t include a salad with your meal.  I really like the fact that Malone’s includes a salad with most, if not all meals.  The salad is served with bacon, tomatoes and house made dressing.  It’s a nice touch, well prepared, and really delicious. An alternative to a salad is Malone’s celebrated steak and potato soup…..it is robust and hearty and never disappoints.

For my main course I ordered the filet medallions.  They are twin medallions around 3 ounces each…..a perfect size for me.  I ordered them medium with a blue cheese crust and they arrived perfectly cooked.  To be honest, it’s difficult to grill a 3-ounce steak to perfection.  It’s really easy to over cook them, but to the chef’s credit, they were perfect!

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's

Not every steakhouse or fine dining restaurant serves USDA Prime beef. In fact, according to Malone’s website, “less than 2% of the beef processed in the world is rated as “prime.” Malone’s offers a variety of cuts of USDA Prime steak to eat at the restaurant, but also to take home.   Whether it’s a bone-in filet, a New York strip or filet medallions, they offer a wide variety of cuts to choose from.

On this night my friend ordered the pork chops.  They arrived perfectly charred on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside, with a fruit salsa of peaches, red and green peppers, and toasted pecans in a maple bourbon glaze. It was a perfect summertime meal cooked to perfection!

Bubbly Horse visits Malone's

Malone’s has always been a great place to celebrate special occasions.  The evening we were there the table next to us was celebrating a birthday.  The cake arrived and everybody sang to the birthday girl.  It was fun.  The slice of cake was huge.  It looked really good, certainly big enough for everybody at the table to have a bite or two!

Birthday cake at Malone's

I’m a dessert person!  That’s my favorite part of the meal.  I really couldn’t decide between the cheesecake, or the special of the night, key lime pie, or the apple pecan crisp.  The manager happened to be passing by so I asked for his recommendation.  He said to definitely order the pecan apple crisp.  It was his favorite dessert.

My friend doesn’t really like apples so I ordered the apple crisp and he ordered the key lime pie.  Both desserts were really good, but I couldn’t get my friend to quit eating the apple crisp.  As I said earlier, he doesn’t even like apples!  The apple crisp was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the desert was topped with caramel sauce.  The crust was buttery, nicely ‘short’ and crisp, and the apples were cooked with cinnamon and more butter.  It was delicious!

 

The manager stopped by the table to see how we liked the apple crisp and I asked him about the story of the desert.  He told us that one of the chefs at Malone’s had perfected the desert and had entered it in the Kentucky State Fair.  It was no surprise that the apple crisp was declared The Best Dessert and was the blue ribbon winner several years in a row!

We are long-time fans of Malone’s and our Saturday night supper was another delightful big blue dining experience. In honor of the Kentucky State Fair opening this week, may I recommend that you visit Malone’s and have a piece of the award-winning pecan apple crisp. Enjoy a fine dining experience with a unique Kentucky twist! xoxo

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In addition to Lexington, BHG venues can be enjoyed in Louisville and Florence, Kentucky; Franklin, Knoxville, and Bristol, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Burj Khalifa in Dubai

If you don’t have Dubai on your travel list yet, you should add it today!  Dubai has so much to offer to tourists including unique and breathtaking architecture, fine dining, cool attractions, various types of shopping, lovely beaches, outdoor activities….. and the list goes on and on!

Burj Khalifa in Dubi

One of the attractions that you should visit in Dubai is the tallest building in the world. The Burj Khalifa stands tall over the city.  At night it sparkles like a huge diamond and at 160 stories tall you can see it throughout the city.  As you travel in the elevator up 14 stories, your ears pop and you feel a bit light-headed.   Did I mention that the elevators go 600 meters per minute?  According to our guide,  the elevators are thought to be the fastest in the world.  It took us just a little over a minute to reach the 124th floor…..that’s fast!  It feels like you’re in the movie, Star Trek. The views from the top are breathtaking.

As you scan the horizon from 2,722 ft. above ground, you can appreciate the vision of Sheikh Mohammad.  It’s a big-picture achievement and truly larger than life.  The Burj project was designed to move the city from its emphasis on oil to that of tourism.  Glass, steel, aluminum and concrete are everywhere to see.  It looks just like a movie set, but it’s not…..it’s an ultra sleek and modern city. According to Wikipedia, the building’s cost was $1.5 billion to build in US dollars.  Construction in 2004 and was finished in 2009.

Bubbly Horse visits Burj Khalifa in Dubai

There is a connection between the Burj Khalifa and the US.  The architect that designed the Burj, happens to be from Chicago.   His name is Adrian Smith and he studied at the University of Illinois and also Texas A & M University.  He’s designed many buildings in the US, including the Trump Tower in Chicago.  Obviously, he’s a specialist in designing tall buildings.

We had a great time at the Burj and we couldn’t resist being super touristy.  They have a giant green screen that you pose in front of for fun commemorative photos.  Some people were confused and thought that I was really walking on the beam over the top of the building when they saw it on Facebook.  Now that’s a great optical illusion!

Bubbly Horse having fun at the Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa is part of a mixed-use development in the middle of downtown Dubai.  According to Wikipedia, “the development includes 30,000 homes, nine hotels (including The Address Downtown Dubai), 7.4 acres of parkland, 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall, and the 30-acre artificial Burj Khalifa Lake.  Dubai borrowed at least $80 billion for construction projects.”

Bubbly Horse visits Burj Khalifa

As I mentioned, the development includes the Dubai Mall.  Even if you aren’t a mall shopper, the malls in Dubai offer so much more than just shopping.  You really have to see it to believe it!  We discussed the souks of Dubai in a previous post, which are a totally different shopping experience.  But no trip to Dubai is complete without visiting the shopping malls.  Even if you’re not a shopper, you can find something to interest you at the mall.

At 3.77 million sq. ft.,  the Dubai Mall is the 2nd largest in the world.  There are over 1,200 stores!  The mall attracts over 54 million visitors a year.  According to Wikipedia, “the Dubai Mall was the most visited building on the planet in 2011.”  The Dubai Mall is definitely a tourist destination and you should plan on visiting it when you are in Dubai.

One of the first things you notice when you walk into the mall is the giant Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo.  The tank is 10-million litre (2641720.52 US liquid gallons) and is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world.  The aquarium has more that 300 species of marine animals, which also includes a variety of sharks and stingrays.  My photos don’t do it justice!  You could watch all the fish swim for hours.  It was so cool.

The aquarium includes a walk-thru tunnel where you can get a first-hand view of the tank, as well as glass-bottom boat rides.  If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can snorkel in the tank or do a shark dive.  Talk about an up close adventure!

The next section of  the mall is called Fashion Avenue.  This branch of the mall is home to brands such as Bulgari, Valentino, Brioni, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier….. and the list goes on and on.  There’s an entire wing devoted to high-end shopping.  Even if you aren’t into couture fashion, the window shopping is great fun.

Bubbly Horse goes shopping in Dubai

As you keep walking, you see more and more things to do, that don’t include shopping!

The mall has a giant ice skating rink.  It’s as large as an Olympic-sized rink!  It is massive, and starts on the ground floor and extends to the second level of the mall.

Bubbly Horse visits the Dubai Mall Ice Rink

Art is very prominent throughout Dubai.  There are public art installations in most areas of  the city.  I believe public art really makes a city stand out and makes it much more interesting.  The mall has a “human” waterfall with beautiful sculptures.  You can see how large it is from my photograph.  The wall goes from the top to the bottom of the mall and can be viewed from each floor.  It’s quite unique and amazing!

Bubbly Horse visits the Dubai Mall water wall

Gelato stores and candy stores were peppered all around the mall.  You couldn’t walk very far without seeing one.  The largest candy store in the world is located in the Dubai Mall.   Candylicious is over 10,000 sq. ft.  That’s a lot of candy!  The people of Dubai definitely have a sweet tooth.  The store windows have the boxes of candy nicely wrapped like beautiful little presents. Presentation is everything in Dubai.  From the buildings to the candy, Dubai is top-notch!

One unusual candy that is actually made in Dubai is camel’s milk chocolate.  According to an article that I read in Reuters.com,  “The company Al Nassma was established in Dubai and plans to produce 100 tons of premium camel’s milk chocolate a year.  They have 3,000 camels on the Dubai farm and the farm is controlled by the Dubai government. Our aim is to be the Godiva of the Middle East, according to the company.”

Bubbly Horse visits the desert in Dubai

The Reuters article goes on to say, ” All chocolates are produced without preservatives or chemical additives with a range of locally popular spices, nuts and honey, according to the company. Camel milk contains five times more vitamin C than cow milk, less fat, less lactose and more insulin, making it a good option for diabetics and the lactose intolerant.”

I tasted the chocolate and I really liked it.  It is not as sweet as the milk chocolate that we are accustomed to here in the US, but it was really good.  The fact that it may be a little healthier than most chocolate you find made it even tastier!

Bubbly Horse visits the Dubai Mall Camel's Milk Candy

When you travel to Dubai, make sure you bring your tennis shoes.  You’ll need them for walking around and experiencing the mall and other beautiful destinations in Dubai.

Thanks for reading BubblyHorse.com. xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souks of Dubai

Souks of Dubai

Bubbly Horse visits the gold souk in Dubai

You may be asking, what exactly is a souk? Well, the answer is that a souk is the name for a bazaar, stall or marketplace, primarily found in the middle east. In Dubai you can find souks nearly everywhere. It reminds me of a giant flea market with really interesting items and people.

There are certain parts of Dubai that have souks for textiles, perfumes, spices, or even electronics. According to Wikipedia, ” Evidence for the existence of souqs dates to the 6th century BCE. Initially souqs were located outside city walls, but as cities became more populated, souqs were moved to the city centre and became covered walkways.”

Bubbly Horse visits the Souks of Dubai

 

When you are planning a trip to Dubai you certainly want to visit the various souks that the city has to offer. It’s a form of shopping that isn’t much different than shopping at a small boutique, or a flea market here in the US, except for the haggling and bargaining.

Now, I know what you are thinking. A lot of people don’t like to bargain or haggle over items and prices. Here in the US, that’s viewed as tacky or distasteful. The price of the item is as marked. Sometimes items are on sale, sometimes items are the full price.

In Dubai, haggling is an accepted and encouraged form of doing business. Now, you can’t go to restaurants and haggle over the price of your meal, or try to wheel and deal with your hotel bill, but it is a traditional practice in the souks.

The best time to shop the souks is the first thing in the morning. Our guide told me that  it is thought to be bad luck for the shop if the souk cannot make a deal on the first potential sale of the day. I experienced this one day while shopping, the shopkeeper was desperate to sell me a belt! After you get used to haggling, it’s sort of fun! You get the hang of it.  In fact, while I was haggling for a purse, another shopper asked me if I would help him negotiate for a watch.  I guess he noticed I was an experienced shopper!

In Dubai, there are a variety of souks to choose from. There’s the gold souk (which is unbelievable!), the Khan Murjan souk (it sells mainly arts, crafts and textiles), the spice souk, the Meena Bazaar (sells men’s and women’s clothing), and the perfume souk.

The first souk that I visited was the gold souk. It is unbelievable the amount of gold that you see. Dubai is known for its gold jewelry. You see, most Dubai gold is 18, 21, 22 or 24 carats, not the usual 14 carat like we see here in the US. The government of Dubai tries to be very transparent in the selling of their gold and has many rules and regulations. The difference in the gold is, according to Dubai Online:

• 24k- is pure gold
• 22k- alloy with 22 parts of pure gold and 2 parts of other metals
• 21k- alloy with 21 parts of pure gold and 3 parts of other metals
• 18k- alloy with 18 parts of pure gold and 6 parts of other metals

So, you get the drift, most of Dubai gold is really high quality. The price for gold is set internationally, so you can haggle on the sticker price in the souks, but they don’t have control over the commodity base price. The jewelry pieces that I saw were true works of art. The craftmanship of the pieces of jewelry was amazing. The higher the gold content, the softer the metal so it makes it easier to produce such intricate styles of jewelry.

Bubbly Horse visits of the gold souks from Dubai

A lot of the jewelry is designed in Pakistan, and they are known for their craftmanship. Our guide told us that Indian brides often come to Dubai and purchase their jewelry not only for the bride and groom, but also their wedding party.

There is gold everywhere you can see. There are elaborate pieces of jewelry in the window and on display in the store. You can actually pick up the jewelry and look at it in the store. In the US there would be guards posted everywhere, but not in Dubai. Dubai is a very safe place both to visit and to do business.

The Meena Bazaar was the next stop on our shopping excursion. This souk, as I stated above, is the textile souk. They have men’s and women’s clothing, as well as fabric that’s for purchase. You really have to see the fabrics to believe it. The richness in the fabric in both the color and the workmanship is something to experience. Vibrant colors of pink, yellow, orange, blue and gold are everywhere you look.  The beading on the garments was really elaborate.

Bubbly Horse visits the Meena Bazaar souk in Dubai

 

In Dubai, there is a tremendous Indian population. The Meena Bazaar is comprised of many Indian goods. From traditional Indian jewelry to textiles and furniture, the Indian influence is in many, if not most of the souks. There are two Hindu temples located in the area that are lovely.

Bubbly Horse visits the Meena Bazaar textile souk in Dubai

 

 

The next stop is the spice souk. All I can say is WOW! There were large barrels of saffron, frankincense, cinnamon, turmeric, chili, curry, cloves, and the list goes on and on! The spice souk sells these spices and herbs in bulk. The colors and the smells of the market were truly amazing. It is definitely something to see. Saffron is so expensive here in the US, and in Dubai, there are barrels and barrels of it everywhere!

Photos by Expedia.com

 

Right around the corner is the perfume souk. There’s not really any signs that direct you to these souks, you just run into the different sections. You could walk around for hours looking at all the different merchandise. Trust me I did!

Frankincense is probably the most popular item in the perfume souk. There’s also a huge variety of incense available. Incense in sticks, powder, crystals, as well as numerous other forms are available. You can purchase perfume oils, lovely atomizers and bottles at the souk.  You can experiment and combine different oils to create your own fragrance. The possibilities are endless!

Perfume souk in Dubai

The last stop on our souk shopping tour was the Khan Murjan. We stopped in before we went to high tea at the Burj Al Arab hotel. We were a little early so we stopped in the souk to do a last bit of shopping. The Khan Murjan souk has a variety of souks that carry arts and craft items. From lovely woven carpets and rugs, to mosaic furniture and jewelry, there was so much to see! Each section of the souk was inspired by Egyptian, Moroccan, Syrian and Turkish architecture. It’s so beautiful.

We found some lovely pillowcases with that looked very Turkish with sequins and beading. We got some really nice items to bring back to remind us of the trip.

Bubbly Horse visits the souls in Dubai

Photo by Dubai-online.com

Dubai certainly has many things to do and see when you visit. Visiting the souks is a great way to learn the culture and to meet friendly people. But be sure to practice your haggling before you go! xoxo

 

 

Meydan

Meydan

No trip to Dubai would be complete without a visit to Meydan.  Dubai and Kentucky share a mutual love of horses so it made sense that we visited the horse track.  Being a  travel blogger, this was right up my alley!

Bubbly Horse visits Meydan Racecourse in Dubai

Meydan is the vision of His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  Or, as he is referred to in Lexington, Sheikh Mohammed.  Sheikh Mohammed is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.  He is a big-picture thinker.  According to Wikipedia, ” his goal is to make the UAE one of the best countries in the world by 2021.”  He has launched many large enterprises including Emirates Airlines, Burj Al Arab (the hotel we discussed for High Tea), Palm Islands and Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  His vision is truly remarkable.

Sheikh Mohammed is also a very active in Lexington.  He owns Gainsboro Farm in Versailles, Kentucky and is an active participant in horse sales, breeding, and racing.  Darley Stud is a global breeding operation owned by the Sheikh.  It stands stallions at stud in six different countries. According to Wikipedia, “Darley currently stands more than 50 stallions around the world.”

According to Darley Stud’s website Sheikh Mohammed is quoted as saying, “Breeding and racing horses is one of my great joys, and a challenge that I relish sharing with my family and friends.  I wish you good luck with the horses in your life, and thank you for considering the Darley stallions.” A true gentleman.

Darley Stud is also very active in charities in Lexington.  The Markey Cancer Foundation has received significant donations from the organization in the past.  His wife, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Hussein is very active in the horse world as well.  You might remember that she was president of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) during the World Equestrian Games that was held at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010. Princess Haya is also an accomplished equestrian who has competed in international show jumping competitions.

Sheikh Mohammed’s horse farm is in the middle of the city.  We visited and toured the farm, prior to going to Meydan.  It was definitely a treat as not very many people get to experience this.  The facilities were beautiful and the horses were well taken care of.  The horsey spa was nicer than a lot of the spas I’ve seen for people!  Not to mention more high-tech!

Following the trip the farm we went to Meydan!  Meydan is a world-class horse racing track (they also have camel racing) and also a luxury hotel that the Sheikh built.  It’s located just 15 minutes from the heart of Dubai and can be reached easily by highway. Dubai has a first-class highway and road system.  There’s quite a bit of traffic, but at least the infrastructure is there. Racing starts in November and ends in March.

Bubbly Horse visits Meydan Racetrack in DubaiBubbly Horse visits Meydan Racetrack in Dubai

The last Saturday in March is the Dubai World Cup, which is the richest day in horse racing around the world.  According to the web site, the Dubai World Cup is a $30 million dollar race day.  That’s quite a payday! All the best horses, jockeys and trainers in the world race on that day.    It’s hot during the day so all the races begin at 3:45pm.  More than 50,000 people attend this event, including many international and national celebrities.

My birthday always falls around World Cup day so a group of us get together for breakfast (the time difference) to watch the races. It’s always cool to watch since I’ve been there.  It’s interesting to see jockeys from all over the world that we never see here in Kentucky.  The same for horses and trainers.  I usually don’t have much luck betting the races, but it’s still fun!

During the World Cup they even have a fashion show! Dubai ladies love fashion.  There is a reason why they have the largest malls in the world.  Best Dressed Lady, Best Hat, etc.  I’ve seen many photos on Instagram and they really go all out.  Beautiful fashion and hats.

Photo by Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News

We were able to tour the private room that the royal family watches races from during the meet.  It was a beautiful room with gold, brightly colored enamel and Swarovski crystals adorning the room.  But don’t look for the betting windows, because gambling is against the law in Dubai and the UAE.  This is in keeping with Muslim law.

Bubbly Horse visits Meydan Racetrackmeydan 20Meydan Racetrack Enamel

Photos of all the past winners are located on a wall within the viewing room. The photos don’t do the wall justice, it’s really beautiful.  You may recognize some of the past winners.

Bubbly Horse visits Meydan Winners Wall

Meydan Hotel is built-in the form of a wave in motion.  The lines and the architecture of the building are amazing.  It’s the first (and probably only) 5-star trackside hotel in the world.

Meydan Wave Hotelmeydan 6

When you walk in you are amazed by the sheer size of the lobby of the hotel.  It’s very modern, just like the city.  Lots of glass and gleaming steel.  Everything in Dubai sparkles.

Meydan Hotel in Dubai

The paintings of the UAE rulers are so large, you can see the comparison with the people.  Everything is bigger and better in Dubai!

Meydan Hotel Lobby in Dubai

The bar area in the hotel is lovely.

Meydan Hotel Bar in DubaiPhoto courtesy of Meydan

Just think, you could sit by the infinity pool, get a tan and watch the ponies.  That sure gives a new meaning to “winning”! And, according to the website all rooms have balconies that overlook the race track as well.  The hotel website says they are currently updating the infinity pool.  Looks pretty good to me!

Meydan Hotel Infinity Pool in Dubai Photo by Meydan

Meydan Hotel Room in DubaiPhoto by Meydan

Dubai is an absolutely wonderful place to visit.  The people are very welcoming.  In the recent Travel & Leisure’s The World’s Best edition, Emirates Airlines was ranked the #2 best airline (I can attest to the quality!), and the Dubai International Airport is ranked #3rd.   Dubai is a tourist destination, they appreciate visitors, and make them feel very welcome. It should definitely be on your bucket list!  xoxox

 

 

High Tea in Dubai

High Tea in Dubai

When I went to Dubai I really enjoyed the trip.  Some of my friends were a little hesitant to travel there due to concerns over safety and culture.  I am here to assure you that there isn’t a safer place to travel!  The people were lovely and very hospitable.  Dubai is a tourist destination, so they are welcoming and appreciative of guests.

Granted it was hot, but you didn’t really notice it because you are too busy looking in awe at the buildings.  Modern, sleek and high-tech is the best way to describe today’s Dubai.

I’m sure you all have seen the Burj Al Arab hotel on television or in photographs.  It’s the 5-star hotel that looks like a sailboat and it is magnificent.  I remember Matt Laur and Tiger Woods playing golf on the helipad…..there’s no getting those balls back!   The hotel is so tall I couldn’t even fit all of it in the photo frame.

Bubbly Horse has High Tea in Dubai

Tourists aren’t allowed thru the gates without a reservation in the bar, restaurant or for high tea.  If I were staying at the hotel, then I’m not sure I would want to see tourists traipsing in all day thru the lobby.  It’s a privacy thing.  It’s a very exclusive hotel.

During our trip to Dubai, a group of us decided to go for high tea.  We thought it would be a great way to experience the luxuries of the Burj Al Arab hotel.  High tea was served from 1-3:30pm and the charge was $138.86 US dollars. High tea at the Burj has 7 courses.  It was truly an adventure of a lifetime.

High Tea menu at Burj Al Arab

We arrived at the hotel and had to show our reservation at the gate to be let in.  We were allowed to go thru the gates and proceed to the hotel.  It was like going to Wonkaland.  Very exciting!

When we were seated for the tea we were served a glass of Louis Roederer champagne to begin.  You know how I love champagne!  Off to a great start.

Stephanie Bell at High Tea at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

The next course was a berry tart.  It looked almost like a culinary work of art.  Almost too pretty to eat!

High Tea course at Burj Al Arab

No high tea would be complete without finger sandwiches.  The course included combinations such as goat cheese with pomegranate seeds, tomato and cucumber on whole wheat, cucumber and cream cheese, and lastly smoked salmon and cream cheese.  Smoked salmon and cream cheese was my favorite.

High Tea at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Chef’s carving came next.  Kobe beef tenderloin so tender it was like butter.  A little dollop of mashed potatoes completed the serving.  But wait, there’s more!

High Tea course at Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Next they brought out a tray of scones with Devonshire Clotted Cream.  I had heard of clotted cream but wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but it was really tasty! According to Wikipedia Devonshire Clotted Cream is:

“Clotted cream (sometimes called scalded, clouted, Devonshire or Cornish cream) is a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms “clots” or “clouts”. It forms an essential part of a cream tea.”

The tray was completed with an assortment of French pastries.  I found that people of Dubai love sweet treats.  Definitely my kind of people!

High Tea in Dubai Photo courtesy of Burj Al Arab

Did mention that in the ladies restroom they provided toiletries by Hermes?

If you ever get the chance to travel to Dubai, DO IT!  The people are lovely and it is the epitome of luxury.  You have to see it to believe it.  xoxo