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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

No Bones About It!

No Bones About It!

This post is in collaboration with Bone’s Restaurant.  All of these opinions are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting businesses that are partners with Bubbly Horse!

When you arrive at Bone’s, the building is very unassuming. With a simple awning and a small front drive, you might just pass it by. Trust me, you will be sorry if you do! But, as most fine dining restaurants, be sure you make a reservation.

There is a reason why Bone’s Steakhouse in Atlanta is always listed as one of the best restaurants in Atlanta, or for that matter the US.  The place oozes an old school vibe.  You almost expect to see the Rat Pack sitting in the corner drinking martinis!

 

I was in Atlanta for business recently, so my parents went along with me.  A small family vacation, and it happened to be my mother’s birthday!  There’s not a better birthday dinner than celebrating at Bone’s.  They really make you feel special and important.  Check out how they decorate the table below.  So cute!  I haven’t seen any other restaurant do this.  Very cool.

Bones Filet in

I have been a customer at Bone’s for a long time, so I even have a profile on file. The General Manager just happens to have a connection with Kentucky so I contacted him before we arrived in Atlanta.  He was so nice.  He greeted us warmly at the door and showed us to the table.  Our table was in the Dog Room, that’s where I like to sit.  Portraits of regal dogs adorn the dark paneled walls.  Glass wine cases and low lighting complete the ambiance. Everybody looks better in low light!

 

 

It was time to order dinner.  For my appetizer I ordered the lump crab cocktail.  The cocktail was served with both a cocktail sauce and a remoulade sauce.  You can’t believe how firm and delicious it was.  Fresh off the boat!

Bubbly Horse visits Bones restaurant in Atlanta

Soon after the starters were taken away and the crumbs were swept away,  our main course arrived.  Bone’s is a steakhouse, so I ordered steak.  I can grill a good steak, but I can’t get the crust to turn out like professional grills do.  The filet arrived, cooked perfectly and already portioned out for me (dad and I always split a steak).  It was so tender I really didn’t even need a knife.  The outside of the steak was perfectly crusted.

Bones Filet in Atlanta

A birthday dinner wouldn’t be complete without a birthday cake!  And at Bone’s they give you about half of a cake.  Great for sharing, and it’s ice cream!  Delicious!

Birthday cake at Bones Stekhouse in Atlanta

The last part of the birthday celebration is my favorite.  I’m sure you have gotten the connection between the name Bone’s and dogs by now.  When you are leaving the restaurant you are presented with a cute little box to take home.  Guess what it is? A box of cookies, shaped like bones!

Thanks to Bone’s we had a great birthday celebration for Mom.  I would tell you how old she is, but I would have to kill you. Ha!  xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

Dining Delight

Dining Delight

This post is in collaboration with The Charleston Grill and The Belmond Charleston Place. All of these opinions are entirely my own.  Thank you for supporting businesses that are partners with Bubbly Horse!

Charleston is definitely a foodie destination.  Southern cuisine at it’s best!

Trip Advisor ranked The Charleston Grill in the Top 2 places to eat in Charleston.  I had read all the reviews and decided to make reservations for us (my parents and I) during our recent trip to Charleston.  My aunt and uncle had visited The Charleston Grill over the New Years’ holiday and have raved about it.   I didn’t realize that the restaurant was located in our hotel, The Belmond at Charleston Place.  How convenient!

When you arrive at The Charleston Grill you are greeted by a professional staff and ushered into a lovely dining room.  There’s dark paneling and luxurious fabric as well as soft lighting.  Candlelight and muted lighting makes us all look and feel better!  The lounge had a jazz combo playing softly.  It’s truly a beautiful space.

Charleston Grill Bar

Photos courtesy of The Charleston Grill

The menu had several options that caught my eye.  At home, I don’t get the chance to have super fresh seafood, so I opted for the scallops.  The scallops were sautéed perfectly with a golden crust and had a piece of morcilla (which is a blood sausage from Ecuador) which was accompanied by pea puree.  The dish had a chili-chorizo vinaigrette to top it off.  All I can say was WOW!  I’m not even a huge sausage fan and I could have licked the plate!

Bubbly Horse visits the Charleston Grill

As a side dish we ordered the roasted baby carrots.  They were so tender and delicious.  Sweet carrots accompanied by feta cheese, fresh mint and pickled Fresno chili peppers.  The feta cheese gave them just enough saltiness.  They were almost too pretty to eat.

Bubbly Horse visits The Charleston Grill

throughout the evening, from the hostess to the sommelier to the server, the staff was knowledgeable and the service was top-notch.  To be honest, these days it’s hard to find a restaurant with high quality service standards, but The Charleston Grill trains and educates their employees, and it shows.  The wine list was extensive and had a wide variety of wines and price points.

No meal would be complete without dessert!  That evening the dining room had a special dessert.  It was a chocolate tart with a graham cracker crust and a poached pear.  The chocolate was warm and sweet and it was drizzled with a raspberry sauce.  Hello treadmill!  It was delicious and I ate every bite!

The Charleston Grill at The Belmond in Charleston

The evening was so lovely.  I would advise that you visit The Charleston Grill on your next trip to Charleston.  You won’t be disappointed!  Cheers xoxo.

Stephanie and her parents at The Belmond

 

The Belmond at Charleston Place

The Belmond at Charleston Place

This post is in collaboration with The Belmond Charleston Place.  All of these opinions are entirely my own.

Recently I took my parents to Charleston.  We wanted a family vacation, but we didn’t want to fly, so our options were limited.  Problem solved.  Charleston was only an 8 hour drive from Lexington.  One of my favorite shows on TV is Southern Charm on Bravo so I was really excited to visit Charleston!

We wanted to have the entire Charleston experience.  I compared all the hotels, locations and distance to places we wanted to visit.  The hotel that stood out to me was The Belmond.  I had read recently that Travel and Leisure voted the hotel chain the best in the world. The hotel was in a central location. My parents are older so they don’t walk as much as they used to.  I booked it.

On the way down we stopped in Asheville to break up the trip.  Asheville is a cool place, I’ll post more about that in a future post.

We arrived at The Belmond Hotel and it was lovely.  As we drove in we noticed the large columns and the beautiful horse fountain.  This was the place for us!

We checked in and went up to the room.  I had heard that the rooms were large, but wow! They were awesome.  There was a knock on the door and a bellman delivered a nice bottle of Chardonnay and a cheese/fruit plate.  They really know how to welcome you at The Belmond!

After we unpacked we went exploring to check out the surroundings.  The lobby was busy with people and there was a fun looking lobby bar.  A jazz combo was playing and there were lots of people enjoying happy hour.  The name of the lounge just happened to be The Thoroughbred Club!

Charleston Place has some great shopping available.  Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Bahama and St. John to name a few.  That’s all located in hotel.  You don’t even have to go outside and brave the heat and humidity! But, if you want to go out of the hotel you just go out the back door and you’re right on King Street.  King Street is where all the action is in Charleston.

The Belmond at Charleston place has a rooftop swimming pool.  It is so beautiful.  The glass rooftop is retractable for summer and is also ready for cooler temps or star-gazing.  The windows around the pool give a view of the downtown area and the building landscape.  Stunning at night!

The Belmond at Charleston Place

After exploring and shopping was time for dinner.

Stay tuned!  Tomorrow I will discuss The Charleston Grill at the Belmond.  You don’t want to miss it!  xoxo.

Featured image of the hotel and pool provided by Belmond Charleston Place.

 

 

Book’Em!

Book’Em!

Memorial Day weekend means the beginning of the summer is here.  After the winter that we had, I’m ready!  But the beginning of summer also means that vacation travel is here.  I have a few ideas that will help you save big $$ when you are planning your trip.

Whether you are staying close or traveling far I have a site that can save you money on your trip.  I have been using TopCashBack.com for a while.  When I checked my balance the other day, I have $60 just waiting to be transferred to my Paypal account.  I bought a dress for Derby from Neiman Marcus and got 12% back, I bought my mother a gift from Saks and got 10% back and I frequently purchase items from Ebay and got money back.  I even bought Alexa and got money back.  She’s pretty handy.

So when I was looking at the site I noticed quite a few hotels offer cash back.  It’s really simple, just go thru the site and book your hotel as normal.  Some of the offers I saw included Marriott 7% back, Hilton 10% back, IGH 8% back and Expedia is 12% back.  If you are going to spend $1000 (or probably more for a week) you would be crazy not to get money back!   Especially from doing what you normally do anyway.

https://www.topcashback.com/ref/bubblyhorse

So let me know what you think!  With all the money you’ll save you can shop more!  xoxo

Photo by flicker.com