I hate this time of year.
I'm perpetually hung over. At the snippets of time when I'm not, I'm drinking someone's hideous party wine and eating god-awful canapes. My diet consists entirely of smoked salmon blinis, cold garlic prawns, hummus and mince pies. Ugh. Who on earth invented mince pies? And does anyone at all actually like to eat them? For some reason, it's also the time of year when people seem to think it's OK to have Champagne for breakfast. I'd be all for that if I wasn't, as previously mentioned, perpetually hung over.
I get up, I harangue the kids into clothes and breakfast into kids. Because despite all the partying, life goes on. I drive them to school. I get home. I pay off my credit card again. I drink coffee and prop my eyes open with toothpics. Then I drink more coffee. I'm at an event for lunch, I decorate a school hall, I attend a class play date in the park. The kids want to put up the Christmas tree. They need to go to Dragonmart for all manner of strobing environmental destroyers to drape around the garden. I arrive home all aflurry, and let them eat junk food again, because I need to go out for dinner. I haven't been in my kitchen for longer than it takes to burn a piece of toast in three weeks. I'm out weekdays, weeknights, breakfasts, brunches and suppers. I fall into bed at 2 am to wake up at 6 and do it all again the next day.
When I get a break in the socializing, I spend the time apologizing to all those I've had to stand up or pass over. I have a night off. I fall asleep in front of a 6-week old episode of Homeland, and wake up with a mouth full of dog hair, a crick in my neck and my ear in a puddle of drool on the sofa - dog's or mine, I have no idea. He's become clingy because I never see him, and started to give off this weird musky scent. I think he's scared he's going to lose me and is giving off mating pheromones in some vain effort to woo me back.
And then, to top it all off, it will climax with a home cooked dinner that is expected to rival Babette's feast. And being a blogger who tends to talk a fair bit about food, the responsibility always gets passed to me. They say they are too scared to cook for me. Bah! Scared I'm going to review them badly or spank them, I have no idea. The truth behind it is I would happily just eat a bacon sarnie on the 25th so long as someone else cooks it.
If it's in Dubai, then I cook for 25 orphan expats. If I go to Melbourne, I cook for all the family, who manage to all finally get themselves in the same room together because nobody wants to miss out on seeing the Waltons. Even the ones I haven't seen in years. I wonder why they didn't seem to value my presence so much when I lived around the corner from them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, true - and I'd probably appreciate it if I wasn't so bloody tired. Either place, I fall in a heap at the end of the day, and barely rise until the following year. New Years eve has been a total write-off for as long as I've had progeny. I'm still recovering from the noel, and in such a bad mood, that if I try and write any resolutions, they're probably going to look a little more like a hit-list, interposed with unattainable quests like giving up sugar and alcohol.
I've escaped it once. A blisfull day at Brunch, where someone else cleaned the lobster, set the table, entertained the kids, carved the turkey, supervised the drunks and cleaned up all the mess. This year I was silly enough not to book it far enough in advance, so I'm escaping to Sri Lanka, where the only turkeys you'll find drive tuk-tuks, and I can get drunk on the sound of the surf. If Santa gives me a suntan, that will be the best present ever. I wonder how I'll cope in a world without Christmas? I'm hoping the old adage will work in its favour, and after a season without the silliness, I'll come back home craving it.
But truly, I jest. I do love a little pomp. I've just had a little spread in Ahlan Gourmet with some of my recipes - a twist on the traditional, just bringing in some nuances of the middle east. They'll hate me for it, but you'll find the recipes linked here (free) on the blog. They include a series of Dubai-infused traditional dishes like gingerbread lamp with stained glass, a freekeh-stuffed turkey, a vibrant pumpkin salad and my much tastier version of mince pies, using the traditional Emirati sweet treat, batheeth. There's also a stack of sweet things like truffles and fudge from last year.
But, if you'd like someone else to handle the brunt (as you can see, I've already made a Christmas Dinner for Ahlan, so I'm definitely not making another one, so we're in the same boat), then you can order in a full Christmas dinner. It's amazing, and I have no idea why you can't get this done in the rest of the world. I had the lucky opportunity to have a gander at Galeries Lafayette's offering a week or so ago, and trust me, they do a super bird. Really juicy, and the dark meat is just as good (if not better) than the breast. They also do a beef wellington with foie gras that will stop you from ever attempting to cook it yourself again. Turkey serving 8-10 people is 595AED, Lobster Thermidor is 300AED (800g). They also do sweets and a range of canapes and more. The quality is excellent, and they deliver to your door.
Or, you could try any of the following, who offer something similar. The tip? Order the tricky stuff, and cook the veggies yourself. It's impossible to get the brussel sprouts both tender and green by the time they are cooked, plopped on a truck and brought to your door. Ditto for crispy roasted potatoes.
Bab Al Shams - small turkey from 495AED, full shebang 895AED
Rotana - turkey from 475AED from most venues. They have a dedicated Christmas page for all Gulf hotels, including Abu Dhabi, Fujeira, Beirut etc.
The Intercontinental is known to have one of the best quality dinners. Starts at 790 for a small turkey, but includes everything else. You could go the whole
The Habtoor Grand's deal starts at about 600AED for a small turkey with three side orders included.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel starts at 795AED including the trimmings.
Emirates Golf Club charge only 95 per head - definitely good for a small group.
The Burj al Arab, believe it or not has turkeys from 680AED
Or, you could try a brunch. I've tried the Westin's Bubbalicious Christmas Brunch, which was super, but tends to get booked out by July. Try the following - there may still be space:
Meydan 545AED including plonk
Rotana have something going on at all venues - Murooj starts at 275AED for Brunch on Christmas day including house beverages, and Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi is 299, and for a cheapie, try Centro al Barsha for 149AED
Millenium Airport have a fairly good kids program and a reasonably priced lunch at 265 including house wines on the Terrace (had a great Flamenco night here recently, so could be a surprise winner)
Pullman hotel MOE - 390AED including bubbles at Sanabel. Had brunch here last weekend, and was surprisingly good. They have a chocolate room!
The Address Downtown have a good value seafood lunch at Zeta - 300AED including fizz.
For a deviation, try the Al Mansour Dhow (Radisson Blu), at 219AED, not including alcohol. Or Blades at al Badia have a picnic on the grass Christmas from 325AED including house wine.
Al Mahara at the Burj al Arab is giving underwater Christmases for 480AED not including wine
Pier Chic might be a quieter option at Madinat Jumeirah, with a 3-course set menu for 680AED including house wine and a bottle of bubbles.
Reflets Pierre Gagnaire at 790AED not including wine. Yes, an expensive one, but it's Christmas!
By the way, if you really want to give me a present for Christmas, I'll have a trip to Vietnam. Thanks xx