What an amateur I am. Last night I ate at the Grand Hyatt Muscat's newly re-opened Safari Rooftop Grill, with its ample opportunities for lingering shots of glistening fresh seafood platters, juicy steaks and perfect chips. And these are the only two pictures on my phone this morning. Sigh. Although, to be fair to me, that's because I was too busy having fun. What I'll do it, I'll just tell you what the food was like. It was awesome. We were a table of twenty, yet when my tenderloin came out of the kitchen it was the most spot-on medium rare meltiness I ever had. Fabulous chips - a far cry from my squidgy Elevation Burger favourites, these were the sort of proper gourmet chips that would get you a nod on Masterchef. 

Now that it's winter (it is, it really is) I plan to spend more evenings at Safari Rooftop. The food rocks, the staff are all lovely, plus, I love deals. The meal packages are a great price for what you get, starting around OMR 27 including all your drinks. I like the ease of splitting the bill if you're with a group, I like knowing how much I'm going to spend, and I like unlimited stuff, especially wine. It all makes for a very relaxed evening out. Also, if you like people-watching, the roof is privy to a great view of the outside of Safari itself - you have to lean over, but all human life is there.

(Anne, by the way, is pictured below about to demonstrate a top tip for getting ketchup out. Apparently you give a couple of sharp raps on the bottle, just where it says either 57 or the word Heinz on the glass.)






And that's it, FatSu USA is no more! Until February. I should try and eat somewhere different there next time, somewhere a bit more typically Vegas, maybe a restaurant featuring live tigers gyrating round a fully-functioning volcano. But when Dubai is so close, what's the point in seeking out the excessive and showy? And I'm a dull sort by nature. Sofa and a cup of tea type. To that end, post-Vegas, I like to visit my family in England in search of such homely comforts, before coming back to Muscat. Here are my food highlights from the family seat.

I like taking my nephews out. Felix is yawning as he waits for his ice-cream at Scrum-Diddly-Umptious, a tea room that brings some Roald Dahlian confectionery frenzy to my home town in Derbyshire.

Max is hanging upside down for as long as it takes to get all the blood into his head, on the way back from a Fruit Gum spree at Waitrose.



Waitrose is another thing I love. Or any nice supermarket, come to that. They sell wine there. Wine without shame. It's so normal that if you forget you can buy wine, and you get to the till, you can send a five year old off to pick it up for you! "Can I get a nice Rioja for my aunty please?" Adorable. And there are loads of organic things. And they look at you funny if you ask for a plastic bag, and you have to school your countenance not to seem surprised that nobody is bagging your goods for you. I spent an hour and a half in Waitrose, buying the ingredients to create a simple, make-ahead dinner for my sister and her partner. It was such a pleasure (those clean, wide, clear aisles) that I couldn't stop, and ended up making a ridiculous feast, which, while it could indeed have been made ahead, was not, because I forgot to do anything except congratulate myself on designing a menu that could be made ahead.


Most of the time I spend at my parents' house, where I grew up, I'm in the kitchen drinking tea. My mother doesn't like the current fashion for the open-plan concept, those sightlines that blur kitchen and living room. She likes clearly delineated spaces, and, understandable for a mother of five, she likes to be able to get away when necessary into a different room. Unfortunately for her, an interloper like myself can render these lines obsolete by cleverly parking myself on the countertop, mug in hand, for the duration of my waking hours.


And it was in the kitchen that me and my brother staged this little food scene. It speaks volumes for my mother's parenting that, as a family, we actually discussed whether the image below was in poor taste, given the conflicts raging in the world today. But then again, she was the one who added the peeler to the potato corpse's belly. And it was her genius stroke, not quite visible in the photo, of the single Superglue tear on the cheek of the father potato.






Why is that I can go into restaurants in four star hotels here and receive a slice of defrosted, store-bought Sara Lee cake as a dessert, when not only should that be unacceptable for any kitchen with standards, but when even food trucks are going gourmet and giving in to the inevitable, growing, and really quite reasonable desire of customers to have food outlets actually care what they serve? Answers below please.

Meanwhile, back in a Vegas parking lot, right outside the show I had been trudging round all morning, I heard a happy-sounding lady calling out orders for a long, long queue of customers, suffixing every name she yelled with a "honey" or a "darling". Away from home and starved of affection (I told you, my Vegas is a sad and lonely place), I gravitated towards her food truck, Sauced Vegas, which had "comfort food" on the side - fantastic, a lunch that could satisfy both my hunger and my self-indulgent homesickness.

The Sauced concept is written on the side of the truck - is it lazy of me just to post a picture of it? I'm going to. I love it. Food that people love, homemade, with a gourmet twist, with proper ingredients, and super tasty. At a brilliant price. Such an intriguing menu by any standards, let alone for something with wheels - how about their Big Easy Balls? That's "Cajun chicken and Andouille sausage mixed with creamy risotto and garlic herb cream cheese, rolled and coated with panko breadcrumbs and fried to a crispy golden brown". This is a five star truck. I got a blue cheese turkey burger with bacon fig jam, without onions for Susan Honey.





This has to be a quick post because I only had two things perched at the bar at this lovely steakhouse in Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel. The restaurant, though beautifully and traditionally done out, was too intimate and romantic for me to eat a full three course meal in, alone, on my wedding anniversary, thousands of miles from my husband. Still, the stomach wants what it wants, and I'd spied Drunken Mussels on the menu, passing the restaurant on the way to my room. Well, actually not really on the way. Quite a diversion really, Vegas hotels being so huge.

The fact is, I felt called down this particular corridor, as if the words "with pancetta lardons" had been shouted instead of written on the menu. Delicious green-lipped mussels, all juicy and dripping with the citrussy sauce, perfect with the smoky pancetta, perfect with my cucumber cocktail, which was shaken by a barman with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his craft, and a porkpie hat on.








Twice a year, Las Vegas is home to the world's biggest shows for fashion buyers, which I why I travel to Sin City - although I probably do less sinning there, considering my dozen or so visits, than anyone in Vegas history. What does FatSu get up to in Las Vegas? There's the buying, three or four days of selecting styles for my shops, that's fun...then after nine hours of that, there's the inputting of potential orders into my annual budget. Less fun, that part, but I have all my papers spread out on the hotel bed and old episodes of Seinfeld on the huge TV. (Again, record-breakingly unsexy use of a Vegas hotel room, but work is work.)

As a solo female visitor to Las Vegas, I don't really get out of the city what everyone else tends to, or what people expect me to. I sort of hid in my room the first couple of times, post-shows. That was back before I discovered my favourite hotel there, which is the Hard Rock. I used to slum it at the Flamingo (old school Vegas "charm", i.e. sticky carpets throughout) and the Luxor (too noisy, too pointy). A couple of years ago, I gave the Hard Rock a try for show week, mainly because it was one of the few hotels to offer free in-room WiFi (rock and roll baby).

I wouldn't ever have thought I'd love the Hard Rock, from my (deliberately) scant experience of the Hard Rock Cafe franchise. But the hotel in Vegas is awesome. Here is why:

1. Relatively small casino, that you don't have to walk through. So less smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes, hair and food, and the over-excited gambles are localised and can be avoided along with their fag-smoke.

2. Good music playing over the tannoy. The Cure B sides. Blondie. The Pixies.

3. Very comfy beds and sound-proofing in all the rooms. I'm sure this wasn't intended to give me a good night's sleep, but it does.

4. Culinary Dropout.

Culinary Dropout (I've written about it before - I could go on about it all day) is the Hard Rock's gastro-pub, if we're still hyphenating that. Actually, its menu feels like it's been written by a gastro-pub's chef on his day off. The set-up is long communal tables, or you eat at the bar, or curled up in one of the oversized armchairs on the patio. (Another bonus for a non-predatory lone female in Vegas: this place is plenty of fun but not at all sleazy, so you can sit qualm-free at the bar.)

The food rocks. It does, I don't even care if it's a pun. You can get an antipasti platter that you build yourself from a fine, fine selection of cheeses and meat. Yes, fine cheeses in Vegas, including some really good American ones. Desserts like Monkey Bread (a baked, layered pudding of cinnamon apple brioche) and Bourbon Black Bottom Pie are also comforting forays into US-ish cuisine, as is the soft sea-salted pretzel and provolone fondue. Their sweet potato cannelloni with smoked shallots just melts, and melts you. Gorgonzola chicken salad with sour cherry dressing, shaved apple and smoked almonds - whatever the chemical is that the brain releases once our eyes send up the information they gather from a great menu, I get relentless hits of it when I'm at Culinary Dropout. It's not really a Vegas-worthy drug binge, but it feels good.
















In between work on my trips away, I don't get as much time to explore as I'd like. So I walk everywhere, in the hope of discovering random and wonderful places to eat, which of course in New York is very easy. Occasionally though, if my legs are starting to hurt, or if I've found myself embroiled in a raucous Bolivian street party, I duck into the subway to catch one of NYC's character-filled trains to where I'm going, in sitting position, if not in peace. 

Last time my feet bailed on me, I found myself in Grand Central Station, which is a very impressive structure, and becomes more so once you scout around a bit and find its permanent food market. It's a bright and buzzing space that you can zip through, grabbing a takeaway deli sandwich, or browse blissfully for hours. A dream come true if you love retail and food. Organic truffle honey. Pecan butter. Black Italian cherries. Artisanal breads. Artisanal everything else. I'm such a sucker for all this stuff. Handmade goats' milk caramels - the packaging of which features line drawings of the actual goats who donated their milk. And their names.

I didn't taste everything that's pictured here. It's enough just to look on in wonder as these fine foods are sold by the fine people of New York. It's also cheaper just to look. Granted, those milking goats are probably hand-fed with organic truffle honey, and that farmyard portraiture doesn't come cheap, but still... $15.99 for 12 sweeties - oh but look, each individual piece has tiny goat pictures on its sustainable wrapping! Alright then.












Sometimes you spend a good deal of time walking the Manhattan grid in search of a place like Tous Les Jours, that fits the bill of a joy-to-discover, flavour-revelation, party-on-your-palate, ooooh-look-at-this-hidden-gem-I-found type of a cafe. And other times, you want to feel like you're having a breakfast that any Noo Yoiker might have. So you seek out a Lenny's. 

Lenny's NYC is a chain of really good sandwich shops, one of which I ducked into out of a summer storm, and where I had a tasty Provolone omelette with a side of home fries. One thing I like about America is how, as a foreigner, everything you do there feels like a moment in a movie. What are home fries? I don't know. They sound like something in a gentle Southern romcom though. Sometimes I only go into diners to pretend I'm in Reservoir Dogs, although I always order something of course. And I always tip.





I've missed sitting down to write this blog! 

As part of my real job, I travel twice a year on buying trips to the US and UK; I just got back from one of these and can put off doing all my washing if I prioritise writing up the culinary highlights of my time away.

My first stop in the US was New York - you'll excuse me not having any fancy dinners or bars featured here, as the trip was for business (i.e. I collapsed into bed each night with a bag of nacho chips). But breakfast in Manhattan is cool too. Not at Tiffany's. I like to sit down while I eat. 

The lack of novelty everyone feels in Muscat is of course crystalised in a place like New York, where you can barely walk forward for all the stumbling-upon. Take this French-Asian bakery on 32nd Street. I would never have gone out looking for a Korean place to have breakfast - now I know better and I would seek out this place in a heartbeat, for their baked donuts filled with sweet potato and red bean paste, for their frothy green tea latte, for the calm, welcoming ambience and the scents coming from the bakery itself. Those donuts were the softest, most yielding I've ever had, the level of sweetness exactly perfect. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If anyone really rich is reading this, Tous Les Jours offers franchise opportunities. Please put one next to my shop and put me down for breakfast every day.













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