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.