Archive for February, 2009

Stuffed Camels & Halva & Starbucks, Oh My! - The Dubai Shopping Festival

Monday, February 23rd, 2009


Photo by Mark Belokopytov — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Although Dubai has changed a lot from its Bedouin past, it still shares a passion for setting world records with its nomadic ancestors. The pastorialist Bedouins currently hold the Guinness World Record for the “largest item on a menu”. The “item” in question is a sort of meta-camel with manifest relations to the Turducken. This staple of Bedouin wedding feasts involves a chicken stuffed with rice and hard boiled eggs, a lamb stuffed with said chickens, and a camel stuffed with…well, you get the idea. Le tout is broiled over an open fire, decorated with nuts and the rest is food history.

You’re more likely to come across a Starbucks Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte in modern-day Dubai than you are a stuffed camel, but record-setting adepts will not be disappointed by a visit to the most populous city in the United Arabs Emirates. On February 13th, The Dubai Shopping Festival (officially cited as the Dubai Food Festival, but “shopping” rhymes with Dubai) just set the record for the largest dessert buffet in the world. Over 40 hotels participated in this mammoth exhibition of 2,232 desserts. A red-hot melting pot of world culture, Dubai cuisine is influenced by Lebanese, Iranian and Persian culture with significant input from every other country on the planet. Pistachio Baklava, Quatayef (Arabic stuffed pancakes), Iranian Halva, Coconut Burfi from India, Green Tea ice cream and brownies à la mode are just a smattering of the delicacies up for grabs last week.

Have a sweet tooth? Sneak some leftovers and head over to the Dubai International Jazz Festival. Because this is Dubai, jazz doesn’t mean just jazz. James Blunt and John Legend will share the main stage with up-and-coming talents like Peter Cincotti and Kaz Simmons.

Can’t make it to Dubai? Bring the flavors and sensations of the Middle East to you with this delicious recipe for Halva. Halva is relatively easy to make if you can get your hands on some rosewater. If you can’t, sit back and visit other great festivals in Dubai. Halva great day!

- Courtney Maum

Monkey on Your Back - The Lopburi Monkey Festival in Thailand

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Hungry Monkeys

Photo by sivanelle — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Paris has its pigeons, Manhattan, overpriced horse carriage rides, and Greycliff, Montana, its peppy prairie dogs- but the Lopburi Monkey Festival has these living attractions turning green with envy. Tourists! Whereʼs the love?

Part tribute to Rama, the hero of the epic tale Ramayana, part thank-you party for the townʼs most famous residents, the Monkey Buffet Festival brings together two dozen of Thailandʼs best chefs and 2,000 of Lopburiʼs best-behaved monkeys for a massive buffet in the provincial capital of Thailand each November.

In addition to the 4,500 kilograms of fresh fruit, vegetables, sausages, ice cream and sodas laid out in an elaborate spread for the macaque, visitors and residents bring their own edible offerings for the furry fellows in hopes that the monkeys will bring them luck and fortune in the coming year.

Whether they are climbing up the stone walls of shrines or the clothed back of a tourist, the charming antics of the macaque bring in thousands of visitors each year. Amusing to watch, lucrative to film, the monkeys provide endless fodder for budding YouTube directors, but itʼs not all fun and games with the largest primate genus in the world. In the late 1990ʼs, scientists determined that 90% of Macaques carry the herpes B virus. No problem for the monkeys; big problem for you. A second study by the University of Toronto proved that urban Macaques carry the simian foamy virus — and you know you donʼt want that.

So hereʼs a good plan for the last two weeks in February. Rather than risking your life and health in Lopburi, head to the Phuket International Blues Rock Festival instead. Rest, relaxation and rhythm on the gorgeous sands of Phuket, and all for a good cause. (The proceeds from the festival go toward a childrenʼs education scholarship fund.) Now thatʼs no monkey business!

Tempted by Thailand? Visit other fab fests here. Feeling courageous? If you think you can endure 5 minutes of the worldʼs most annoying music and an irritating copyright notice, visit the monkey festival here. Want to try your hand at creating an authentic Thai delicacy? Then check out famous Thai Chef Vichit Mukura’s recipe for Plaa Ghoong, which blends the marine flavors of fresh prawns with the rich aromas of Thai herbs.

- Courtney Maum

Mbege & Music - Sha’ban in Tanzania

Monday, February 9th, 2009


Photo by Jay Grandin — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The Sounds of Wisdom festival celebrates the best of East African music in the historical center of Zanzibar City, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. While Tanzania is well known for its eclectic mix of Swahili architecture, rambling streets of bazaars and breathtaking landscape, it’s not a top name in the food festival scene. So this week, we’re going to put the emphasis on “culture” instead of “culinary” by learning a bit about the Islamic festival of Sha’ban.

A large part of the Tanzanian population consists of practicing Muslims who zealously observe traditional holidays like Ramadan and Sha’ban. Sha’ban falls in the eighth month of the Islamic calendar, a period sometimes referred to as the month of “separation” during which Pagan Arabs left their camps in search of water. Throughout the duration of Sha’ban, stores close on Mondays and Thursdays when observers fast. In the middle of the month, the streets are decorated with lights and gifts are exchanged between neighbors and family members. The fast is broken with small dishes of rice, fish, duckling, chicken and vegetables, all lightly sweetened with sugar. “Mbege”, a time-honored beverage of the Chagga ethnic group, is traditionally served as well.

Made from banana, African millet and bread, this fermented banana beer plays an important role in the social life of the Chaggas. Business transactions are usually conducted around a bottle of Mbege, and the beverage is even used as payment in certain court cases by the losing party. Mbege is served at social celebrations and festivities like weddings and parties, as well as solemn rituals, like funerals. And multitasking Mbege plays a nutritional role as well. When properly formulated, it is naturally gluten free, chock full of unaltered proteins, Vitamin B and potassium to prevent muscle cramps. (So it’s good to keep a bottle on hand if you plan on hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro).

I don’t know about you — but I plan on attending the Sounds of Wisdom in the wisest way possible — with a fresh bottle of Mbege by my side and the sweet sounds of Taarab tunes in my ears.

Tempted by Tanzania? Find other live festivals here.

- Courtney Maum

Summertime in the City - The Harvest Hawke’s Bay Wine Festival

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Hawke Bay Festival

Photo by dandownunder — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

It’s that time of year again. The winter holidays have passed, and January is over, leaving high oil prices, high waisted pants and a horrid ex-president in its wake. Welcome to February — a month that causes many people to wonder if the thermometer will ever creep above 30 again.

At KadmusArts, we have the formula to turn cabin fever into Copacabana. It’s called summer festivals, and it’s happening now in a far away paradise known as New Zealand.

If you’ve had it up to here with down coats and long johns, take off for the creative city of Nelson, where summer and the Adam Chamber Music Festival are both in full swing. Enjoy two weeks of classic music in intimate settings, before slipping off to sleep beneath the Maori moon.

Next up, trade in Valentine’s Day for a wine-filled Waitangi Weekend in beautiful Hawke’s Bay. Serious wine, sublime food, and spectacular settings await you at this two-day festival dedicated to regional vineyards of all sizes. From the terroir workshop run by the Mission Estate Winery to a free tasting and jazz concert at Black Barn Vineyards, the festival features over 20 different wineries, with food pairings, live music and tastings galore.

New Zealand has ten main wine growing regions, each displaying a diversity in climate and terrain that equally benefits the country’s culinary tradition. In between glasses of Chardonnay from Central Otago, or a local Pinot Noir, festival goers will have the opportunity to sample traditional specialties like bluff oysters, greenshell mussels or paua, an abalone inside a foreboding bluish-green shell that looks as awful as it is good.

New Zealand might be one of the only countries in the world without a motto, but with classical music by day, classical vintages by night, and fresh shellfish to boot, who cares?

Find other festivals in the youngest country on earth.

- Courtney Maum