I've always inwardly rolled my eyes when friends tell me they're going on a crash diet, trying to skinny down for an event in a week or so. How can the human body in all its majestic complexity adjust to your whims in such a short time? Surely all the processes that go on in there to keep us functioning are far too evolved and essential to be diverted to melting the flab off our upper arms just in time for the wedding photos. Yes, exercise and diet could make a difference over a period of months - even The Biggest Loser contestants have that long to shed the pounds. But really, how fast can your weight change?

It turns out that it takes fifteen days. In Italy. For gaining it, anyway. I'm quite amazed, given my former ignorant sneering, that it is entirely possible to go up a couple of sizes in a fortnight. My holiday in Italy with Maurizio's family can be viewed as a tasty version of the Super Size Me experiment. Following a well-planned and strictly adhered-to regime of eating loads of really good food all day long, it takes fifteen days to put on the weight. It only took eleven days to become a broken, tubby mess, and actually say: thanks, I won't have seconds.

The thing is, over-eating in Italy doesn't feel like too much. The food is all good and fresh and tasty: bread is made by bakers, meat comes from the butcher, vegetables are grown on the farm, herbs are picked from the balcony. The food is the main topic of conversation, always - my morning coffee was taken out on the balcony to be drunk during the discussion of What To Have For Lunch, and at each proper meal, the benefits and failings of rival suppliers and cooking methods are picked over with the antipasti. The food is prepared with love. It would be foolish not to eat lots of it, all the time. And then there does tend to be lots of it. Look at these pictures. So much amazing food, all gone now. Although luckily I only need to prod any protuberance on my body to remember it.

"May I have something to nibble on with my beer please?"

Porquetta at the corner shop. You CAN order it by the slice, apparently, but it would be rude to do so. Rude and ungrateful.
Pasta from pans this big. What to do?

A tree of prosciutto, a decorated officer, and a nurse from the past.

Ordered a prosecco mid-morning? You get a bowl of parmesan with it.









It was a happy day for many when Rumba got its license. Since then it's become a (partially) underground hotspot in Muscat, packed at weekends, with talented bartenders serving up the best strawberry margaritas in the country. And I don't like margaritas. Ask me why not one day; it's an excuse to tell you a story of me at my most debauched.

With all its popularity and boozy goodness - do you know you're allowed to take your drinks onto the terrace now? - you'd be forgiven for forgetting why it was that Rumba managed to survive and thrive through the Long Dry Year at The Cave. Their food is really good, and authentically Latin American. (They do have some of the tex-mexish stuff too, but the best food coming out of the kitchen is made by the chefs working to their mothers' recipes. Top tip: if you don't recognise something on the menu, order it.)

This week, Rumba is holding a celebration of Colombian cuisine. Given that my only experience of this has been at Rumba, it was nice to see fresh Colombian dishes featured on their special menu. I had the potato and chicken soup: delicious, very homestyle and nourishing. It's not pictured here due to my inability to capture neutral-toned foods. I came to Rumba straight from four and a half hours of swimming, so a soup was welcome, as were meat-and-potato balls. Like many meat-and-potato dishes, this sounds better in any other language: papa rellena. Unlike any other meat-and-potato dish, however, this one was light as air. How do you take a potato, fill it with beef, and turn it into little tasty bites lighter than the sum of its parts? The steak on horseback came with a fried egg on top and tasty little biscuits you can use to break the yolk and dip. The paisa platter was another hit, with dozens of flavour combinations, the charred and moreish pancake being my favourite. I didn't try dessert because - to my outrage - it turns out that Tres Leche, the world's best dessert, is not Colombian, and once you've been stunned by Tres Leche there's just no point trying anything else in a Latin restaurant, or maybe any restaurant, so I sulked into my margarita instead of eating the coffee flan which was apparently lovely.

Rumba's Colombian menu is available now and will be until the 22nd; there's a flyer below with details.

















FatSu suffered last week. For six days, my husband was out of town. That means many things, including a cold and lonely bed; a disgruntled, yowling cat who despises me but worships Maurizio; the background noise of a TV permanently switched to property programmes from 8 years ago; double duty on dog walks; and nobody to cook for me.

I've got two projects at the moment - one is the awesome new collaboration TOTEM/Copper, and the other is BritSwim. With my shop, I work, but that involves using a laptop, standing up, and talking, with some occasional re-arrangement of merchandise. It's not tiring. Teaching swimming is, though. Four or five straight hours in the pool with full focus on my students, constantly moving, every day. It's amazingly rewarding and loads of fun, but lord, you need some good food, hot food, fast, after that. Don't become a swim instructor if you don't have someone at home who loves you enough to cook and tolerate chlorine-scented hair.

The Maurizio-shaped hole first came into focus the morning he drove away. Why does tea made by someone else taste so much better? I had studied his methods before he left in preparation, but to no avail. Breakfast was a tangerine: a good middle line for a haiku, but totally inadequate as a meal. Lunch and dinner weren't an issue for the first two days; Maurizio loves me, so he had left me four portions of lasagna. So that's what I had for the first two days. Then it was Tuesday and I had to fend for myself. (I used to cook, you know. When I lived in England on my own, a group of friends once called on my unexpectedly one Saturday, and I was able to breezily offer all five of them a bowl of homemade tomato and basil soup I happened to have in my freezer. With a quenelle of creme fraiche and everything. And that was before Masterchef did the quenelle to death.)

Below are the images of what I had for lunch on the two days I was alone. (I didn't take pictures of the omelettes I made for dinner both nights; beige doesn't photograph well.) The first is pesto linguine with pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan. Now, I would definitely recommend this for non-cooks, except use gnocchi instead of linguine. Gnocchi is the easiest pasta, because it floats to the top of the pan when ready - no need to dip your fork into the pan and try to spear a pasto of linguine, which is time-consuming and frustrating. Also, I had to break the linguine in half before putting it in the pan - I have since learned that you're supposed to put it in long and push it down as the submersed parts soften. But then haven't the first bits in been cooked longer? Just break it for less attractive but evenly-cooked pasta. Pesto can be bought ready made, and because it comes in a glass jar instead of a packet, you can pretend that you picked it up from the family-run deli down the road which doesn't exist. Pine nuts and cherry tomatoes go in a frying pan for a minute to warm up and toast a bit - real cooking, and it doesn't involve the bottom part of the cooker, which remains mysterious and threatening.

The second dish pictured is a salad of red beans, coriander, carrot, and cucumber. This is a miserable thing to eat. The image you see was sent to Maurizio on WhatsApp with the caption "Please come home."

Believe it or not, these are both #nofilter images. Feel free to pin.





It's taken me a long time to get to anything near coffee-loving. I'm a tea freak, but there are so many nice biscuits and waffle things that go better coffee than they do with tea, so Joe has somehow wormed his way into my affections. And once I like something, I only want to have the very best version of it. Our new neighbours Copper have the best coffee in town. It's a signature blend, made by a cracking squadron of baristas, using the most expert of techniques and on the best machine you can get. (I also like the little copper tongs you drop the sugar into the cup with.)

Tomorrow only, TOTEM (aka me, for full disclosure) and Copper are doing a special deal: buy anything at TOTEM, get 20% off your purchase, and a coffee and cake combo for just 2 OMR at Copper. You'll need to head over to the TOTEM Facebook page and click to claim the offer.








This Friday, Copper opens its doors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We'll likely be eating all three meals there. I'm very efficient, and have access to the menu, so here's what I reckon I'll be having: I'll start with the waffles and buttermilk fried chicken with salted caramel sauce. I'm thinking about the sirloin salad for lunch - comes with air-dried tomatoes, cress, toasted pistachios and pickled cucumber. And dinner will be Cape Malay spice chicken with sweetcorn relish and mango chutney. You know what I like? Things on the menu that I've never seen on a menu here. New and fresh flavour combinations and presentation; it always gives me a tingle.

I'll be posting photos tomorrow at Copper on the @heyfatsu Instagram page. Meanwhile, here's what I managed to sneak out of the restaurant this morning. The coffee is freaking awesome and those lemon butter cookies manage to be mind-blowing and subtle at the same time. See you at Copper tomorrow! You'll find the restaurant on the road towards PDO - you'll see the flags outside as you drive past before the traffic lights. There's a map below, or go to Copper's Facebook page for more directions.






It's been more than two years I've been writing this blog now, and it's got me into all kinds of places and events and situations. Festivals, cooking classes, interviews with chefs and entrepreneurs. Food tastings! Like a sneak preview or a private showing, but with my mouth. I do like all this behind-the-scenes stuff. And here's another brilliant thing: I'm about to be more involved in the restaurant business - well, one restaurant in particular - than I could ever have hoped. 

Some of you may know that I don't pay the bills with food blogging - it's extremely unfair, but I have to work at a job, as well as eat stuff and write about it. Thank you, I appreciate your sympathy. Of the projects I work on to make money, the longest-running is TOTEM, which I set up in 2007. If you don't know the shop, and you didn't bother to click that link there, I can tell you it's an independent boutique, with loads of awesome clothes and accessories for men and women, from cool little designers from all over the world. Click up there now. Or here. Scroll. You'll see.

We closed our mall location in summer (we were at Muscat Grand Mall, hence the number of FatSu posts about the kabsa you can get in the foodcourt there) and now TOTEM is re-launching in Qurm, and in collaboration with Copper, a super-hip new restaurant concept, homegrown and really exciting, with some super-talented people at the helm. Like I said, TOTEM is independent - maybe even fiercely - and we wouldn't be teaming up with just anyone. Especially as I'll be eating there daily. You're going to love it too - wait til you see the menu. No, wait til you see the interior! (In fact you can have a look at that on their Instagram.) Anyway, not much longer to wait. Watch this space for more detail - it's going to be an even better collab than cheese + burger.




Here's two things that never tempt me to eat somewhere: a mall location, and an obviously made-up name. I mean, I'm sure there are people called Casper, and others called Gambini, but I'm just as certain that they aren't the people who founded this restaurant at Avenues Mall. However, there is very little point holding tight to these snobberies when you live in Oman. What am I going to do when I'm hungry, wander along the cobbled streets until I stumble upon an organic artisanal toastery? Anyway, Ben and Jerry were real people, and so was Burt, and he had real bees. Real people who founded innovative, inspirational brands, and what happened to them? They cashed in and handed over their booming babies to faceless corporations; yet their ice-cream and lip balms remain enjoyable. So it seems I should just get over myself. I need to eat. Besides, I heard this Casper and Gambini's is good. 

It's a nice-looking place in an airy new mall. Lots of natural materials, softly industrial, not obviously franchisey. Welcoming staff, too, including a lovely Sri Lankan chef who speaks fluent Italian - speaks passionately about his food in fluent Italian, in fact. (I don't speak Italian - I can only understand food words, and recognise passion.) So, Casper and Gambini's is a Lebanese franchise serving food from around the world - the idea underpinning the menu being freshness and quality ingredients - that's very Italian, maybe that's why they put the 'Gambini' bit in? The internationality of the menu is a bit bewildering at first - can I really have a tomato and basil soup, then sushi? Perhaps this is another thing I need to get over, this suspicion of 'international cuisine'. It works in Eat Street, and it works here. Everything I had was super tasty. Restaurant tasty, not mall tasty. The sushi is just splendid, with classics and twisty options on the menu; I liked the mango one best. Good juicy sliders, from the extensive burger selection. The pain perdu was delicious. I suppose you can't soak brioche in custard and caramel sauce, add vanilla bean ice-cream, and not have something special happen.










We ate at Eat Street right at the start of their soft opening and really liked it. Today we tried out some of their Latina offerings and made an awesome meal out of a dish of local corn, and slow-cooked pulled beef nachos. The service is super-tight and even more friendly now - I suppose because the opening-days clench has been relaxed - and their lovely big folding doors are back, so it feels very cool and streetlike there now. Actual cool and actual street, not hip, although it's that too. So, those dishes: seriously tasty. All zingy, singing flavours in the fire-roasted corn dish, with sharp white cheese and some melty variety too. Then the come-to-mama, nachos, which are also home-roasted, and come in a bowl made out of themselves, and you can eat the bowl - the top of it stays crisp throughout, all the better to scoop out any sauce left at the bottom. Best thing with nachos is how every mouthful is different, and with Eat Street's, you can taste each of the individual components  - the guacamole, the slow-cooked pulled beef, the salsa - perfectly, an absolute mouth fiesta.





  
Salted caramel almost-anything is very delicious, and Lindt is my favourite chocolate available here, so imagine my mixed emotions when I found that I could buy a bar made up of eight generous, melty squares of this stuff, but only on condition that I parade a revoltingly twee package through the aisles of Carrefour. Don't talk to me, chocolate, don't even greet me. Especially not in the tone of a coy baby. Luckily the most nauseating crap - "I'll make your tummy yummy", in a deliberately imperfect rectangular speech bubble - is on the inside of the wrapper and can therefore be swiftly discarded in the privacy of your home. The chocolate is worth it, if a touch undersalted, but if you really can't stomach the "nice to sweet you" - and it certainly makes me want to crush a Kinder Egg - then try the Touch Of Sea Salt, also by Lindt. Not as creamy, but it has the advantage of being a more grown-up dark chocolate, and not having been scrawled on by some dead-eyed Creative cynically retching up whimsy in an infantile font.









We went for a new year barbeque at a friend's house; homemade burgers, delicious little pies, enormous tasty cake. We drank and laughed a lot. And just before midnight, I performed The Ceremony. I actually gave up superstition a year or two ago - went cold turkey, now indifferent to magpies - but I still do this one, because my dad has always done it and still does. I should have written about this before, so you could reap the rewards, but I forgot. 

So, for next year, or if you celebrate Serbian new year, this is what you do. Just before the strike of midnight, take a piece of coal (charcoal will do), a slice of bread (or a chunk of a burger bap), and a pound coin (I tried using local currency last year and it didn't seem to do the trick, and with all this talk of unpegging the rial from the dollar, probably best to stick to pounds if you can. It's tradition. I have some pounds if you want one, the jar makes up my emergency travel fund). Then, you put these items outside your front door, and some kind of new year force or set of spirits will recognise them as emblems of what you want for your family this coming year - respectively: warmth, food, and wealth, although I interpret warmth as comfort now that I live here. When you gather up this little collection of stuff and bring it back into your home, straight after 12, they will have been imbued with the power to grant your wishes, and you will have a happy new year. Happy new year!







It's the Thursday after my Friday brunch at the Al Bustan's Beach Pavillion, and at the risk of putting a godawful song in your head, I've still got sand in my shoes (note to self and Dido: wear flip-flops to sandy venues). I've also still got a big smile on my face. This season - winter, the one that just finally arrived ten days ago - there is a new concept for the Friday brunch. That made me concerned, because I loved the existing concept so much; I wrote about it earlier this year, in deservedly glowing terms. I even called it my favourite food to eat on a Friday. So I went back, to check that everything is still awesome.

It is. Was that paragraph break enough to constitute a dramatic pause? Maybe I should have hit enter again. Because actually, it's not a given that brunch at the Al Bustan will be awesome. Lots of people I've gushed to about the brunch have been surprised to hear it's so fun, informal, and reasonably-priced. They're not surprised the food rocks, but they don't expect such a fancy institution to operate a laid-back and glorious way to fill your Friday. It has 'palace' in its name; it's not necessarily where you'd think of for a sandy, boozy, chilled-out feast for 39 OMR.

Well, by now you'll likely have clicked on the link above, eagerly devoured the post I wrote on this brunch back in March, made notes, and returned here, ready to compare the two experiences. That's very impressive, but I've already done it for you. The essentials are still there: great price, ridiculously fresh and tasty food, unbeatable location, and friendly staff who seem happy to be there and happy you are, too. There are still so many different cuisines that you can easily make this an eight-course affair, without danger of duplication. And the best drink I ever had, the clear Bloody Mary invented by the culinary geniuses at the Al Bustan, is still there in pride of place. The wall of cheese stands tall and you can still have flavour-packed, herb-infused honeys, specially-paired, for each slice or dollop.

Debuts for this season include a ceviche station, manned by Chef Bryce himself. I never heard of a ceviche station but I love ceviche and things I've never heard of. There was hammour, shrimp, and scallop on offer, each with its own marination. Dear god. You must try the hammour ceviche - it's made with charred corn and coconut and it's a revelation. When I tasted it, I sat back in my chair stunned for half a minute. 

What else is new? There's an oyster station, complete with various dressings - just ask the friendly oyster guy for his recommendation - and a tabasco oyster shooter too, which provides the inept with a far easier and less scary way of eating them than glugging down one of the cat-sized oysters also available. I like the thought of something in a shot glass being the classier option. The sushi station has also expanded, and there's a range of cured salmon there (try the beetroot one - sweet and delicious). Fresh local crab, or one flown in from Alaska. Homemade tuna confit. Slices of lobster, of course. More lobster outside in the cosy garden, where you can get some perfectly-cooked steak to turf up your surf. There's lamb out there too on the barbecue, and a biryani station. Through every station, there's an emphasis on freshness, quality, and local produce, and it makes the food sing.

A couple of changes I should point out. The music is more beach loungey house type stuff, very Dubaiesque, but don't expect singalongs like I was treated to in March - I'm guessing they weren't always as harmonious as the one I witnessed and have thus been jettisoned. And this season is missing the little tasters that were brought around randomly on my first visit - I loved this because it allowed me to sit happily on my chair instead of hoisting myself up to peruse the many stations. Possibly the growing awareness of the global obesity problem has caused the Al Bustan staff to re-think this indulgence of the lazy, or maybe a manager saw what was happening and said, what the hell? Let them get up and get their own damn food, it's right there and it's really good. I did notice one waiter carrying a child back to his table, having taken him to look at the balloon animals being made, and asked if this porter service was available for adults too, but he just laughed so I didn't pursue it.

Desserts were gorgeously presented and lovely to eat - rosewater macaroons, lemon meringues in dark chocolate shells - and there's an ice-cream station too. Then to the wall of cheese and freshly-baked breads. This all happens over a four hour period of course - I'm not a beast. It makes for a perfect day and a total mess of your body clock. Forget dinner, write off the Saturday, and go to bed to sleep it off at 7pm, full and happy and a bit drunk. The wine was really lovely - Veuve Cliquot was on offer too but I liked the white they had. And at the end of the meal, we asked if there were any liqueurs. They're not included in the package price, but we wanted something zingy to end with. The waiter listed the options, we ordered, but then instead of the drinks coming over, the barman did. Would sir and madam perhaps prefer some of the Al Bustan's homemade limoncello? Well, I almost swore with joy. Not only that, but when the guy came back with limoncello, he brought some mandarin-cello too! What a brilliant day. You should go and have one too. Stations change up weekly depending on what's good and what amazing ideas the chef has had. Here's the Al Bustan's Facebook page, and you can reserve a table by calling 24799666.




























It's Oman's 45th National Day! Everyone's celebrating, and this morning a quick trip to the bank made me regret actually having had breakfast on the 18th of November - what am I, just off the boat? Of course there will be food everywhere. Here's what I found at my favourite branch of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, where one of the managers (pictured) is a also a baker, and everyone is kind - I was given three badges and a special National Day scarf, had my picture taken with the whole team, downed four Omani coffees, and activated my credit card. I love Oman. Have a great National Day!








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