Oman's first Latino restaurant opens today! Rumba Lattina is FatSu approved: having been to menu tastings, I've been lucky enough to sample just about everything on offer from Rumba Lattina's chefs, all of whom come from South and Central America. It's authentic Latin American cuisine made with real passion. The restaurant itself is inviting too, and the front of house team are as lovely and genuine as the food.

See you there soon...I'm off for an empanada or twelve.

Ramadan mubarak everyone! The Holy Month is here again. That means fasting for Muslims during daylight hours, respectful abstention in public by non-Muslims, and come sundown a general atmosphere of happiness and celebration.

Most restaurants have something special going on during Ramadan, and I was super happy to see that Grand Hyatt Muscat's Marjan has been set up for shisha and some seriously delicious traditional foods. I love that place, partly because it's all tucked away and romantic, partly because of its slow-cooked beef stew. I also love its versatility: family poolside joint by day, intimate pan-Asian restaurant by night. I'm a big fan of optimum utilisation - it pleases my commercial instincts and was one of the first things I blogged about here. And now with Marjan's subtly-done tenting and some serious cooling unit tonnage, it's all ready for its third incarnation, a lively Ramadan venue for long-into-the-night lounging with good friends and good food.

We tried the tent pre-Ramadan. (The German-supporting team at the Hyatt had toiled to get it ready in time to test it out on Thursday evening, just in time for the Germany-USA match by an odd coincidence, so we went along for the evening.) It's easily cool enough to spend the evening in, with huge TV screens to showcase the rest of the World Cup (expect a Deutsche-bias), really comfy seating with lots of cushions and a nod towards your majlis-type seating, a million-dollar view of the garden, pool and beach; and the food was fabulous. Just tasty and moreish, with lots of local favourites like hummus and stuffed vine leaves, a grill selection cooked to perfection, and sweet, melting baklava. The shisha's great too; the pipe barely left my hand all night. I love what they've done with the place.

I'm going to try and create a comprehensive guide to picking an outfit to wear when you're eating out in Oman. This guide is aimed primarily at women. Here's my guide for men: undo your pants.

So, as this is part one, let's get straight to the core of the matter: the waistline. (I'm going to assume that anyone reading this is likely to be really eating when they go out. Salads and skimping on carbs has no effect on what you wear.)

Two things to think about here. One, comfort - are you going to be able to eat to your full potential and still be happy with what you're wearing? Two, how you look. Picture what the outfit will look like when you're leaving with a bellyful of something lovely.

For the curvy among us, the waistline vs food issue is, once you hide or lose that cinch inwards, your whole silhouette is compromised - if I don't emphasise my waist, I am the same width all the way down. "Reassuringly stocky" is not a description I ever want to hear of myself on the way out for a romantic meal. But the important thing here, and what I hope to help people to achieve, is never feeling so pressurised by the need to look good that you are tempted to hold in your stomach, or, heaven forfend, skip dessert.

Trousers, skirt, any dress with a waist - think about where the tightest point is. A high-waisted pair of pants can be your friend if they hit just above the stomach and flow outwards from there. Conversely, a low rise can be comfy when you leave the house; but post-pasta may need some unsightly tugging upwards; not a good look.

Empire lines and drop-waists can be your friends but go in and out of fashion (it's almost as if designers don't work with the greedy in mind, although that Gatsby phase was a godsend for gourmands).

Choose a dress or top that skims the waistline, so it just touches the outline without clinging. Or, tuck a blouse into pants or a skirt, and then let it billow out a little - it looks like you're being all boho, but really it's so you don't have to skip the bread. That's what I did for the Shangri-La's Moonlight Beach Buffet. I hear buffet, I immediately start planning what to wear to best take advantage of the feast. You have to get up and walk multiple times if you want the juiciest lobsters, past people who don't want to see you cradling a food baby. 

So I wore a well-fitting but not fitted top; a pair of very flowing pants with an elasticated waist that rested happily just above my belly, and had an eye-catching print (prints hide shape). Also I carried a clutch...the beauty of these is that you can hold them right in front of your belly as camoflage. I ate a big beautiful banquet secure in the knowledge that my expanding waistline would stay hidden.

With Italy, acknowledged producers of the world's best food, out of the World Cup, it might seem like the FatSu World Cup Theory has been shown up as conclusively wrong, but actually it still holds. Consider this: the major upset that contributed to Forza Italia's ousting was Suarez CHEWING an Italian. Couldn't have proved my point more clearly. Delicioso.

There are good, well-run franchises serving great food; I cherish my Second Cup chai lattes and salivate at the thought of a slice of Paul pie. I will always prefer, though, to seek out those hidden food gems that are invariably the product of someone's passion for food. I like local and I like different.

Kiwi Cafe doesn't really fall into the "hidden" category, not with 14,000+ Facebook fans. But it's an independent success story, having started life here in Muscat as a roadside shack just 2 years ago and grown to a hugely popular venue, recently opened next to Dolphin Village.

Now, I'm fairly new to burgers. In fact I only had my first one at age 26. That's because when I think burger, I think McDonald's and cheap offcuts and sweepings and euuuw I don't know what might be in this. I only like good food, so now I do eat burgers, but I also do my research before eating anything but homemade.

Kiwi Cafe's Facebook page details the owners' seeming obsession with perfecting their own product, even charting the history of the two main patty types (back to the early 1900s), and chronicling their own struggles to obtain the optimal char on the outside and juiciness within. I appreciate this, and their use of grass-fed, gross-stuff-free meat. Clearly these guys are going the extra mile in the quest for the ultimate burger.

And it came across in the flavour. It always does. If only all restaurants would realise this simple fact, and that to offer anything less than a product you can be supremely proud of is an insult to paying customers. Kiwi served up a good-sized patty (120g), with a nice amount of burn and lovely fresh taste; not too much messing around with the ingredients, I guess, so the true flavour came through. Maurizio had The Volcano, a fully-loaded double-patty extravaganza, and loved it. Destroyed it, in fact.

I may not be a burger expert but I do know cheese. I also have very strong opinions on fries. (Really, thank goodness I have this blog, or I'd be going around saying things like that out loud.) And I think that Kiwi Cafe could step up their game in these areas. The fries were from frozen and very uniform (although nicely seasoned) and the cheese was meh. Al Marai. And I had a cheese burger with extra cheese. I had no issues with the price overall, not for juicy, healthy grass-fed beef like we had, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one willing to pay an extra few hundred baisas to upgrade to "premium" cheese. Just a decent cheddar; a burger isn't just about the meat, after all.

Going through Kiwi Cafe's social media more thoroughly makes me want to give their shuwa and wings a try, too. Luckily Kiwi has chosen as its expansion location a spot about two minutes from our house, so we'll be sampling more, although I'm not sure if I will ever go quite as local as camel burger.

Hmmmm. I'm beginning to doubt my own theory (see previous posts here and here). This World Cup, each game's outcome should be dictated by the excellence and popularity of its national cuisine. Is there any food more universally-loved than Italian? Of course, Costa Rica has marvellous fresh produce and dozens of other reasons to like the place. It's got 18 distinct biospheres! But food-wise last night's game should have been a no-brainer. (Possibly football-wise too, but I'm no pundit.)

If Nigeria doesn't win tonight, I may have to recant.

This food blog business is fun. Scrolling through the posts of the last few months, I'm very happy about what I've eaten, the places I've been and the people I've met, and inordinately, illogically proud of the mineral water that's named after me, sort of.

In recent weeks, my food-blogging journey has taken a sharp, sudden South American turn. Lucky enough to be invited to sample the menu for Rumba Latina, the much-anticipated Latin restaurant at Muscat's new tourism development The Cave, I've been learning a lot about the region's food. (My experience pre-Rumba extended to a lot of rice and beans and any street food recommended by Lonely Planet on a trip through Central American, then the usual Tex-Mexitude/Doritoness of student life and beyond.)

Some revelations from my tasting sessions at Rumba: first, which is also one of the restaurant's raisons d'etre (or Spanish equivalent), is that the foods of Central and South America are as diverse and subtle as those of any continent. Rumba exists to wow its guests with this fact, which becomes clear even before tasting the food - it starts with hearing the front-of-house and kitchen team tell the stories behind each offering; sometimes a national treasure like Venezuela's arepas, sometimes a beloved family recipe, sometimes a contemporary twist on a traditional dish.

Second surprise: Latin America has awesome desserts! Never having made it as far as pudding in Pavo, I wasn't sure what to expect...something banana-ish? But no, I found subtle flavours and brand-new combinations (fennel and chocolate!). Textures that are literally mouth-watering; mine is watering right now from the memory of that most yielding, caramelly Venezuelan flan - grab a napkin and see the last picture. And it would be worth a trip into an actual cave to try Rumba's Tres Leches. Something called "Three Milks" doesn't sound like it could possibly have so much flavour packed into its feather-light layers. You must try it.

And I tried dehydrated fruit, in joyous salads, and as a vibrant additiom to plates of pudding and mains. I think we need to come up with a better name for it, because "dehydrated" doesn't sound particularly tempting, especially here in Oman. But what dehydration does to fruit is concentrate its flavours without any extraneous processes or additives. All those sugars and flavonoids get shrunk down to their very essence. It's what sun-drying does to tomatoes...ha, see that? The tomato people came up with "sun-dried", even "sun-blushed". Suggestions welcome. That's a dehydrated orange slice adorning Rumba's dark, deliciously bitter chicken mole - another revelation, but I'll save that for another day.

There have been some major upsets so far in this World Cup. Maybe not in actual footballing terms...that I wouldn't know. I mean in terms of the FatSu best-food-wins theory, but I think I can explain the blips away. Yes, Holland thrashed Spain, home of tapas - not just a cuisine, a whole different way of eating and one that allows us to sample a gazillion dishes and feel trendy rather than gluttonous - as well as jamon, manchego, Rioja, gazpacho. Holland has good, honest cheeses...well, even as the founder of Cheese Lovers of Muscat, I can tell you that I could live without Edam, and that shouldn't have been enough for such a conclusive victory, so I can only put it down to the food-consuming power of a nation legally allowed to give in to The Munchies.

As I write, Germany is similiarly drubbing Portugal. Has the latter relied too much on its excellent marinated chicken dishes? Is Portugal, in fact, resting on those same fragrant laurels that scent its traditional espetadas? Maybe a true winner's diet is made up of salty goodies like sauerkraut and pretzels. And Argentina just beat Bosnia. At this stage, the FatSu theory is still in the game. Come on England...

So happy! Today I got a friendly email from a gentleman called Ersin, who thought (correctly) that I might want to know that there is a fresh bottled natural spring water in Turkey called Fatsu. I have my own water! This is the best thing I ever heard in my life. A picture of the bottle is now the homepage on my tab, reminding me of the wonderful unpredictability of life as FatSu.

What an awesome day! I spent the morning at the Grand Hyatt Muscat'in more detail Summer Baking Class with the lovely Chef Lionel. If I had to define Who I Am in a kitchen setting, I would have to say that I'm a pastry chef trapped in the body of a lazy ignoramus. I'm a recipe-stickler, never wanting to deviate or experiment, so I like the scientific precision of baking...none of this spontaneous, reactive, unpredictable, let's-throw-in-a-stick-of-cardomom cooking for me. That way hunger lies.

But my desserts always went wrong, probably because I tend to become quite tense in my quest for the perfect pudding and forget really important stuff; and after a few too many disasters I gave it up. (It was Maurizio's birthday cake that did it. Unintentionally Flourless Chocolate Cake. Also eggless.)

So, it was a bit of a dream come true to have a chef explaining the recipe in minute detail while creating his gorgeous desserts, being able to question him on the potential pressure points, getting clarification and demystification on a number of processes and ingredients. I'm no longer afraid of gelatin, for a start. My morning's menu is covered in notes made from Chef Lionel's lucid and passionate narration (all in an adorable French accent, mais oui). And in interesting gastronomy tidbits that I want to understand in more detail, like matching flavours according to whether the ingredient is hydro- or lipo-soluble. I'll let you know how my first attempts at recreating Chef's creations come out. Attempts plural because I'm feeling so inspired I might not even give up after one try.

For a football ignoramus like me, with affiliation to England's national team, and so little idea of what makes a winning side, what else can I do to predict the winners of each Cope do Mundo game but use each team's national cuisine as a guide? Oh you may scoff when you consider that Germany beat Argentina in 2010, 4-0 at that, as if the South American team didn't represent a country that rules the world of beef and have at least a stake (sic) in global wine awesomeness. 

But so far Brazil is beating Croatia. If Spain beats Holland - Gouda notwithstanding - and to a lesser extent if Mexico beats Cameroon (not having any idea about the best foodstuffs to come out of Cameroon, to my shame, but how could it possibly beat the chilli-chipotle-nacho-Mayan-mole combo?), you might want to consider my method infallible. In which case England have even less chance than you might think.

Burnt bits. Caramelisation. The tastiest bit of the edge of so many foods. Smoky barbecued peppers, a sizzling, griddled steak - oh those blackened lines, I'd put them on everything if I could. And these oven-roasted tomatoes, on a simple lemony spaghetti with wilted rocket and slivers of parmesan. The tomatoes hold their shape in the oven, then melt in your mouth. 

I make a nice sauce out of roasted tomatoes alone, too. You slow-roast a mix of tomatoes (cherry, vine, beef, whatever you can get, chopped to roughly the same size) with salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste, on a low to medium heat until you see black bits, then they start to give off that caramelised aroma until you really couldn't keep them in the oven any longer if you wanted to. Use a fork to break it down a bit but keep it rustically chunky. Perfect easy pasta sauce and you can freeze it too; you can add basil leaves before serving to freshen it up. Also it's a tangy addition to toast with a fried egg on top, if you need a super-tasty weekend breakfast. 

As an acknowledged greedy beast food blogger, I was invited to try the pre-launch menu in the most exciting of the new restaurants at The Cave, a soon-to-open tourism development in Darsait that you've surely heard about and which will be officially inaugurated tonight. For two nights this week, I happily myself dedicated to the task of tasting the creations of their amazing chef and team. I sampled fifty different dishes in all. For the sake of future customers. Out of the goodness of my heart. I'm like a Food Santa.

Stay tuned to FatSu to find out more about the restaurant and its cuisine...meanwhile here's a sneak peek at a couple of the stand-out dishes you'll soon be able to sample for yourself. What made them stand out: the incredible burst-in-your-mouth taste experience of dehydrated fruits; micro-shredded fennel as a garnish for cake; vibrant colours and beautiful and innovative flavour combinations. You're going to love it. 

Fabulousness Alert! The stunningly beautiful and luxurious Chedi Muscat is giving away some incredible prizes as part of its summer celebration Chill At The Chedi. You can win by correctly answering this, and other super-duper local blogs (see below, although you're no doubt following them already). 

Here's what you can win:

  • A night's stay in a Deluxe room at The Chedi Muscat as part of the Chill at The Chedi offer - including breakfast, 30% off spa rituals at The Spa. (This one is for residents of Oman only.)
  • Dinner for two at The Restaurant. Swoon.
  • The Spa Exclusive Promotion for two: two ninety-minute Balinese massages, plus a half-hour spa treatment - you can choose from an aromatic steam bath, Thai-style foot reflexology or an Organic Naturelle D'Orient Cleansing Facial.
I want them all. Actually I want to live at The Chedi.

Just post the correct answer to my question on the comments section below this post, and you'll be entered into a draw; three lucky winners will be chosen at random. Remember to leave your name and email address in the comment so if you win, the lovely people at The Chedi Muscat can contact you.

How many open show kitchens does The Restaurant have?
A. 4  
B. 2  
C. 6

Of course you know that. If you don't, go check at The Chedi Muscat (bring me back a salted caramel while you're at it).

And once you've commented here with the correct answer, go do the same with these blogs to increase your chances of winning:

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