Sunday, December 4, 2016

Meeting Santa... Over and over and over again!

'Tis the season, and everywhere we go, the child within is awakened by the magic of Christmas. And shopping. 

But mostly, it is the holidays. 

And it looks like Santa has recently moved to Dubai because he is literally everywhere! To the children's utmost joy and merriment of course (so many opportunities to redeem themselves and get on that "Good List" before December 24). 

So how about I go through last year's favorite Santa hangouts around town?

Christmas Sparkles at WAFI MALL

This is one we have been doing for years now. The Christmas village at Wafi is truly enchanting and we absolutely love it. Santa is always very "authentic" as stereotypical and racially biased as it may sound. What I mean is he looks like he just escaped from a book (or Coca Cola commercial) and he gives the best gifts in town, in our humble, yet utterly professional Gift Assessor opinion. 


The drill has been the same throughout our three-year history with Wafi: 

Last year's Fees: 60 dirhams per child (free for adults)

Timings: 
• 8th December: 7:00PM to 10:00PM
• 10th – 15th December: 10:00AM to 10:00PM
• 17th – 22nd December: 9:30AM to 10:00PM
• 9th, 16th, 23rd and 24th December: 9:30AM to 10:30PM

Perks: Meet Santa and have a little talk with the Man of the hour, get a (super) stuffed toy, take a photo and have it printed and framed. A bunch of vouchers and a big competition for a trip are also part of the deal. We always use the vouchers to redeem kids meals at the various participating restaurants because you know, meeting the Man in Red can be quite famishing!

Drawbacks: The massive waiting! For two years we went during the school vacation, in other words, when everyone in town started remembering that they had not yet taken a "holiday shot"! The first year, I ended up waiting in line for two hours and a half while the kids drove their dad and grand-parents insane! The second year... Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on... Well, shame on me indeed! But you cannot fool me thrice because last year I was prepared! We went on the second day of the festivities, at noon. I had called the mall beforehand to make sure what time Santa would be in and they had specified his lunch break between 1:30 and 2pm. So we were there at 1 sharp. Turned out the lunch break started at 1 so we ended up waiting for half an hour. But it was absolutely fine this time because the "play area" was empty and the kids could take a few photos on the backdrop there and play a little without getting overly anxious or tired. Then we were seconds in lien to meet Santa. That was perfect! Another tiny detail I would love to change is the size of the photo. It is quite small in comparison to all the others we get around Dubai at those events. And we get only one print per child (no copies allowed). 

Verdict: We love it, definitely going back this year!

Year 3: December 2,  2015

Year 3: December 2,  2015
Year 2: December 23, 2014

Christmas 2013: we were in Lebanon

Year 1: December 21,  2012


Souk Festive Market at MADINAT JUMEIRAH

This was our second time at Madinat Jumeirah's Souk Festive Market and with good reason. We loved it the previous year! Mia who had never been in the snow (actually she had, but she was way too young to remember) kept telling everyone she prefers real snow because it is warm, and she was certain the cold snow at Ski Dubai is in fact fake because it is, well, cold. It took months to convince her of the opposite!

Photo: Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat's elves are delightful! They are so welcoming and helpful every time. They will carry prams up and down the stairs and will help with children. We found Santa sitting in his sleigh ready to strike a pose with anyone and everyone willing to join him. He took the "jolly" to an entirely other level. He was loads of fun and the setup is gorgeous so it makes for nice photos but ours did not work. The photographer was not around and even though we took a few with our phones, none was worth saving. Jad was not in the mood and refused to let go of his iPad (unless he was on the move, that is out of the sleigh).

Last year's Fees: 50 dirhams per photo (no entrance fee) and each game is charged a separate fee per child

Perks: It is not about taking a holidays photo only, it is about the whole experience. The village is stunning and there are quite a few games including (real-fake-warm) snow ball fights and ice skating. Mia absolutely loved it, just like the year before. The grown ups also had a good time, waiting at Starbucks (above the Festive Market) after a delicious lunch at Meat & Co.

Drawbacks: Santa is loads of fun but do not promise your kids a gift because there are none (but a lot of games to enjoy nonetheless). It is outdoors and very crowded so not ideal for a private and professional looking holiday photo (although I am certain, with bigger kids or ones who are less hyper, things might turn up gorgeous).  

Verdict: We will return for the fun games!






Santa's Grotto at SKI DUBAI

Last year was our first at Ski Dubai and what a rush! The kids could not have enough! The minute they walked in Santa's village, they could not stop jumping and running and throwing themselves in the snow. It was like they were bitten by some magical snow bee! They were insanely happy! We had done the Penguins Encounter at Ski Dubai before and even though it was as intriguing as it was fun, the kids did not get the chance to go nuts. This time, they took it all in!


Last year's Fees: 100 dirhams entry fee per person for Santa's encounter

Perks: Welcome to the North Pole. Literally. I mean, how much more Christmassy can it get? Santa gave the kids a goodie bag with a small toy, a lollipop and a gift card from Magic Planet. It was nice and most importantly, we took our time playing in the snow which was brilliant!

Drawbacks: The photo prints are a little more expensive than at other venues. But as with any photograph taken at Ski Dubai, you can get as many prints as your heart desires (for a fee obviously) and in all the shapes and sizes you want. We had a snowglobe, a keychain and a fridge magnet made (one for the kids, one for grandma and one for mommy's kitchen). 

Verdict: We would be insane not to return this year. The kids had the best time!







Mamma Mia+Jad

Find this blog on Facebook

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This summer's color: Purple Pink

I just got back from Lebanon where I spent my summer break with the kids, up in beautiful Ehden. The breathtaking nature all around my home got me addicted to Instagram: I could not resist posting daily sunsets and stunning landscapes. I usually spend so much time on Facebook, I make it a point not to check other apps but it tuned out I was missing out on a lot. Instagram introduced me to so many talents out there!

Photo: Purple Pink

Purple ❤ Pink By Mira was one of them.

Photo: R. Abouzeid - Instagram

Mira Moawad started as a fashion designer, with more than 13 years experience under her belt at Mireille Dagher Fashion House where she played a key role in different areas from selecting fabrics and designs, media, to fashion show executions and more.

Photo: R. Abouzeid - Instagram

But it was her insatiable passion for fashion and creation that let her to launch her own label: Purple ❤ Pink By Mira. Her captivation with accessories for adults and children started with creating her own designs for her nieces and nephews every occasion she found. With time, and the encouragement of others who loved her work and asked for them, she decided to take her passion to the next level and go pro.

Photo: Purple Pink

I was really intrigued by the color synthesis that is Purple ❤ Pink and what it could mean. It turns out Mira's two-year old niece inspired the name when she kept repeating these two words over and over again for almost two days after being gifted a bunch of purple and pink balloons. Children's obsessions are the cutest!

Mia and Jad wearing Purple Pink while watering the garden in Ehden
Photo: R. Abouzeid - Instagram

Purple ❤ Pink offers a variety of accessories for boys, girls and teenagers such as hats, bracelets, bands or hair clips, personalized T-shirts, crowns and tiaras, and so much more. Her Instagram page is literally a rainbow of colors, fabric and bling!

Photo: Purple Pink

Mira says that her designs are inspired by her surroundings, trendy fashion, celebrities, and most importantly, her very own customers. She starts by creating samples to showcase the designs and the products gradually come to life.

Photo: Purple Pink
Colors, materials and fabrics are all carefully selected from haute couture stores, like Swarovski and sourced mainly from the US and France. One single item could take up to five days to be completed.

For the time being, Mira relies on social media and word of mouth to promote her work and it is not surprising the orders never stop. If you pass by someone wearing Purple ❤ Pink, you will not be able to resist asking how you can get your hands on one of your own!

Photo: Purple Pink

And bonus for all of us lazy girls: Purple ❤ Pink offers home delivery via Liban Post. Orders are placed on social media (Instagram, Facebook) or WhatsApp (+96176534245). Shipments worldwide are also available for a small additional fee and Purple ❤ Pink has already delighted customers in Abidjan, the US, Cyprus and Greece.

Photo: Purple Pink

Mira hopes to become the number one stop for accessories in Lebanon and the region, and most particularly for children and teenagers who were her original inspiration behind Purple ❤ Pink.

Photo: Purple Pink

Photo: Purple Pink

Photo: Purple Pink

Photo: Purple Pink





Mamma Mia+Jad

Find this blog on Facebook

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Slice of Mediterranean Goodness

Those who have lived in Dubai for a while will tell you there is one certainty about this city: continuous change. We have grown accustomed to roads suddenly diverting and new buildings popping up out of the blue. And it is quite exciting witnessing how Dubai keeps on inventing and reinventing itself. But it is also easy to forget what used to be and every once in a while, a place will take us back to that time of new beginnings when we first discovered what was going to be our new home.

Biella is one of those places.

Source: Wafi Restaurants

For as long as I can remember, we have known and loved this restaurant. It is simple, warm and the food is really good. And our last visit to Biella at Wafi Mall validated once more our expectations.

We were greeted by a lovely hostess and the manager, Dante Biagio who made sure we were comfortable and happy at all times. The children wanted to sit outside at first and we usually do as the setting on the terrace is charming. But quite honestly, the humidity would have upstaged everything else and we opted for a comfortable table inside, with a nice window view.

Source: Zomato

It is always a relief to find staff willing and happy to talk to the children and make them (and us) feel welcome. Kids can sense people's energy and from the get go, Mia connected with our hostess who won massive points by promptly bringing the coloring kits to our table. We had enough space to park our stroller on the side and even sit Jad in a high chair at the end of the table. Everything was just perfect.

The kids attacked the bread basket and raced to grab as many breadsticks as possible while we ordered their meals: a pizza margarita and penne with red sauce. Classics, of course.

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid


Once this was out of the way, we focused on our treats: Organic Salmon and Burratta for starters and Beef tenderloin, Fritto Misto (seafood basket) and Salmone for our main dishes.

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid
Photo: R. Abouzeid

Each and every dish was absolutely delicious.

Biella manages to blend the quality of top Italian cuisine within a family and budget friendly experience that will keep you coming back for more.




The menu is varied and will please all taste buds with a large variety of pastas, pizzas as expected from an Italian restaurant but also amazing meat and seafood options. Salads are exquisite and the antipasti in general are so good, it is almost a struggle to decide what to choose.


Source: Wafi Restaurants

Mamma Mia's Checklist: 

Parking / Access: Located at the heart of Wafi Mall, access is not an issue and the mall recently opened a new extension with a large car park that has resolved any parking issue you might have encountered at Wafi in the past. Valet parking service also available from the Mall

Staff: Kind and very friendly; absolutely lovely with the children 

Service: Prompt and professional 

Food: Delicious and always at the right temperature; some of the presentation was as much a delight to the eye as it was to the palate

Kids Menu/Meal: Extensive choices of meat, pasta and pizza for the children, inclusive of a juice and dessert; and of course the amazing coloring set that the children always love

Play area/Playground: Not available but the restaurant is at walking distance from the mall's playground

Baby Chair: Available 

Changing Table: Available at the mall's restrooms 

Outdoors: Agreeable and welcoming; beware of the street though as the gate is open and cars drive right by the restaurant but when the weather is cool, the terrace is a delightful change of scenery

Indoors: Elegant and comfortable

Drinks: Non-alcoholic beverages only

Credit card: Available

Bookings: Not necessary, walk in available

Shisha: Available

Family Seal Of Approval: YES! Grown ups and kids both loved the venue and the food


Links and Contacts:
Wafi Website
Wafi Restaurants
Facebook
Phone: +971.4.3244666
Email: fnb.sales@wafi.com




This review was written for Mums Like Us.  




Mamma Mia+Jad

Find this blog on Facebook

Monday, November 30, 2015

Olea: a delicious breath of fresh food ... and air

We have been living in Dubai for over a decade now and we have seen restaurants and culinary concepts rise and fall throughout the years. But if there is one thing we have learned, it is that people have got to eat at some point and the classics never fail. 

That is not to say a twist here and there, well designed and beautifully executed is not welcome. Actually, it has become a necessity. Food can get so boring so quickly. Everywhere looking the same. Everywhere tasting the same. It is almost a burden to pick a nice place to go out on the weekend. And with children, forget it! So many factors and prerequisites come to play. It is truly a challenge.

To be honest, when we decided to visit Olea, I was expecting yet another Lebanese restaurant.

 


But what a wonderful and delicious surprise 
Olea turned out to be.

The restaurant concept is brilliant in its simplicity: 
« Olea presents the most authentic Levantine cuisine and a complete Levant dining experience that will delight all the senses.  
Levantine cuisine is the true traditional cuisine found in the Levant region, known in Arabic as the Bilad ash-Sham or Land of the North, which today spans Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, southern Turkey and Cyprus. »
Source 

   


What is fun is that all of these countries have similar cuisines and sometimes even the same national foods but there are twists as to how they cook each dish.  Olea is presenting some of these signature dishes as prepared by one of these countries.

And so we were handed a menu that looks familiar, but tastefully executed in ways that varied from the usual.

  
 


Some tasted like what we knew from home and other Lebanese and Syrian restaurants but others were new and exciting. The Cypriot grilled Halloumi cheese for instance was such a hit the minute it landed on the table that I did not even have time to snap a photo! It is amazing: crunchy and golden on the outside, creamy on the inside; overall, very different from how Lebanese restaurants will present it. The four pieces had already been swallowed when I took out my phone for a quick photo! 

The portions are quite generous and the waiters keep the stream of hot freshly baked bread coming continuously. We gave some appetizers, main dishes and a dessert a try and all were exquisite. The chefs clearly know they stuff and they excel at it. 

Three mouth-watering Hummus.

We started with a selection of Hummus from three different countries, which was a delightful change from the regular Lebanese one we usually order (also available and equally delicious), three kinds of Labne to die for, the tastiest kinoa Tabboule in town, amazing Sojok, superb raw Kebbe and a lentil soup Mia could not stop eating! Needless to say we had a difficult time refraining from licking our fingers in public, as my prolific (and well deserved) use of adjectives will indicate.

Please, please, do click on the photos to enlarge them and get a glimpse of what I am talking about!

 
   
 

 


After such treats, we could only tackle two main dishes which left us in awe and definitely coming back for more!

 

 


And finally, because there is always room for sweets, we shared this fantastic piece of home that sealed the deal:



All wrapped up in a delightful setup. 

The weather was gorgeous and we opted for the charming terrace where the kids enjoyed running around and watching the Metro pass by, which incidentally was not loud at all (we almost missed it most of the times). 

A breath of fresh air at the heart of Dubai!

  

 

 

 

  


Mamma Mia's Checklist:
  • Parking / Access: The restaurant is at the Kempinski so the hotel's valet service is available; alternatively, the mall parking is also quite near but it is necessary to enter the restaurant via the Kempinski lifts (2nd floor)
  • Staff: Bilingual (Arabic/English), kind, knowledgeable and very friendly; lovely with the children
  • Service: Prompt and professional
  • Food: Delicious and always at the right temperature; exquisite presentation 
  • Kids Menu/Meal: Not available but the children can easily find something they like in the main menu (meat, chicken, fries, soup, mana'ich which are baked dough with various toppings like thyme, cheese, etc. - a sort of an Arabic pizza)
  • Play area/Playground: Not available but the restaurant is at walking distance from Magic Planet at Mall of the Emirates and the beautiful terrace is also a gorgeous alternative to the usual places kids are confined in
  • Baby Chair: Available
  • Changing Table: Not available; the restaurant patrons have access to the Kempinski restrooms which do not provide baby facilities
  • Outdoors: Agreeable and welcoming; beware of the pool as it is accessible from the restaurant terrace and although it makes for a lovely view, it could be dangerous to allow the little ones to wander nearby (a lifeguard is always on post)
  • Indoors: Elegant and private seating available if needed
  • Drinks: Alcohol and bar available 
  • Family Seal Of Approval: A big fat YES! Grown ups and kids both loved the venue and the food



  
  
 







This review was written for Mums Like Us.  
  


Mamma Mia+Jad

Find this blog on Facebook