Monday, February 17, 2014

My Favorite Abu Dhabi Wildcat Featured in Sport 360




Andrew "The Kid" Williams for Abu Dhabi



My son, Andrew, got the attention of Sport360 this weekend after his performance against Al Ain. Check out the story about my running back here.


Friday, February 7, 2014

My Favorite Salon in Abu Dhabi


Marquee at The Eastern Mangroves Promenade

I get asked all the time for recommendations for hair salons here, especially from new expats. There is nothing scarier than putting your locks into the hands of a stranger for most women. I'm probably the the worst, because in the states my hairdresser was my sister. I always knew with her I would get her best work, because unlike most stylists and their customers she would still have to face me after. Not to mention, I'm the big sister, so I know she is the one stylist that will listen to me......or else.

Well ladies, after searching and trying several salons in Abu Dhabi, I have found a true winner that ticks all the boxes for me. Marquee, a new salon that has opened up at the The Promenade at the Eastern Mangroves, has just won over this tough customer. I am absolutely in love with the place.

Marquee is all about glamour, and they set the mood for the experience right from the start. Guests are welcomed with a yummy fruit cocktail in a champagne flute to start your unforgettable experience, and the music playing takes you back to a time of old Hollywood glamour. At Marquee you can quickly let go of all your stresses, and imagine you are Hollywood royalty the likes of  Marilyn, Audrey, or Grace. 

My stylist for the day was Cat Hawkes, the Artistic Director for Marquee. Cat hails from London where she still owns a chain of salons. She made my day when she did what no other stylist in Abu Dhabi has done. She asked me lots of questions about my hair and about my style preferences. Cat then took time to assess my hair and scalp to see exactly what treatments would be of most benefit to me.

We then proceeded to the shampooing station that is state of the art. No uncomfortable shampoo chairs to be found at Marquee. My neck usually aches after getting my hair washed at most salons, but Marquee has chairs that recline till you are laying flat like on a bed. This really makes you feel like your hair and scalp are getting a spa treatment. 

My golden locks got the red carpet treatment literally. I had a Kevin Murphy Red Carpet hair facial, that's right I said hair facial. Hats off to Kevin Murphy, because he is a pure genius. I learned from Cat he is a world renowned stylist from Australia that developed a line of sulphate and paraben free hair treatments after not being satisfied with the numerous ones he tried.  

My locks were exfoliated and detoxified with a Maxi Wash that felt like sheer heaven. This wash removes all of the residues from using hair styling products, and opens up you hair for the nourishing treatments that follow. I then had a Balancing Wash applied to balance the pH level of my hair followed by a Hydrate Me Wash to quench my parched strands. Ladies, this experience really does have all the lovely tingling relaxing sensations of a facial, but on your head. 

The pampering didn't stop with the washes, I then had Kevin Murphy's Born Again Treatment Masque mixed with a Blonde Me treatment applied to my hair. Cat explained the Blonde Me would tone my blonde staving off any yellow or brassy tones.  After 10 minutes or so of relaxing under the steamer, again daydreaming of being a Hollywood starlet it was time to rinse. Again, I applaud the comfortable shampooing beds.

The last part of my Marquee experience is when Cat showed off her skills as a top notch stylist. I requested to keep my locks long, but really wanted a style that framed my face better. I admit after having a stylist here cut my hair too short a year and a half ago, I have been gun shy when it comes to getting it cut. Until I heard about Marquee, I was holding off getting a cut until I saw my sister this coming summer.

I received a cut that frames my face as requested using the Diamond Dry Cut method. This is the UAE, the country where meals are laden with gold, so I have to actually clarify that there were no diamonds used to cut my hair. The "diamonds" are referring to the angles dividing the curved sections of the scalp. You're thinking so what, but let me put this in laymen's terms what this type of cut does for those of us that aren't stylists. Cutting the hair this way tailors the cut to each individuals scalp and face shape. This makes for a more natural look cut, and it is easier for you to re-create that same great look at home that the stylist gives you the day you get your hair done.Thanks to Marquee, I have looked like I have just stepped out of the salon everyday since my visit.

Marquee gets a two thumbs up in my book. I highly recommend if you are looking for a stylist in Abu Dhabi look no further. Oh and don't despair Dubai, Marquee also has a salon at the Arabian Ranches Golf Club and another opening at The Lakes. Call and make a booking at Marquee today.

Before Marquee
After Marquee
Marquee Locations:

EASTERN MANGROVES

Location: Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Abu Dhabi
Opening hours: Seven days a week, 10am – 10pm
Telephone: 02 449 4044
Email: Reception.em@marquee.ae 


ARABIAN RANCHES

Location: First floor, Arabian Ranches Golf Club, Arabian Ranches, Dubai
Opening hours: Seven days a week, 8am – 8pm
Telephone: 04 420 7700
Email: Reception.argc@marquee.ae




Saturday, February 1, 2014

Around Abu Dhabi Review: Koi At The Collection

It's officially February, and we all know what that means. Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and in a city like Abu Dhabi there are no lack of choices. Allow me to make a recommendation if you are looking for something new to wow the love of your life.

Koi Restaurant and Lounge, a chic Japanese eatery born in LA, has found its way to Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. My husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy a magnificent meal at Koi a few nights ago, and I have to admit it exceeded my expectations. Koi is far from your everyday Japanese establishment, it is truly a culinary experience that will delight your senses.


I felt we were in for a treat the minute we walked into Koi welcomed by large flickering lanterns outside inviting us into a dimly lit sanctuary pulsing with up tempo music. We were given the option of relaxing and having a drink in Koi's swanky lounge area upon entering, but we both were famished and opted to go directly to a table instead. I contemplated the lounge, but feared I may get way too comfortable on one of the many cushioned sofas that dotted the room and not want to move.











We instead were taken to a lovely table that allowed us to soak up the ambiance and mystique that is Koi. Our server, Liz, was prompt to welcome us and offer to set our experience off with one of Koi's signature cocktails. I opted for a pomegranate and raspberry concoction called a Berry Bliss while my mango obsessed date opted for a more tropical Koi Fling. Both were delivered within what seemed only a few minutes, and they were as delightful as we had hoped and helped set the tone for the culinary carnival that ensued.

Berry Bliss
                                                         
At first glance of Koi's menu, one may feel overwhelmed and find themselves in a quandary over which of several appealing dishes to order. Now for the best part, one does not need to settle on merely one entree at Koi. Instead you can design your own feast choosing several options from the menu as portions are modest and meant to be shared. This is perfect for someone like me who tends to have trouble narrowing down my selections. Still we couldn't order the entire menu, so Liz who seemed to have extensive knowledge of the menu was able to help us narrow down our selections.

At Koi your dishes are delivered as they are finished, so the table becomes an every changing smorgasbord of fresh food. I'll refrain from listing every tasty morsel we devoured that night, but would like to highlight a few gems. A particular favorite of mine was a Lobster Avocado Salad with a wonderfully fresh tofu-lime dressing and generous portion of succulent lobster.  Paired with a Viogner from Australia it is like summer wrapped into a salad.

We also both were surprised by two of Koi's Signature Rolls we tried. The Dragon Rolls had me a little leery at first, because I'm not a fan of eel. I blame that on an experience I had catching one in the water behind our house back in Virginia. They just aren't the prettiest of creatures, and when I see it on a menu I flash back to the creature I accidentally reeled in one night behind our house. Sorry, I digress. The point is, I wasn't really keen to try a dish with eel, but with a little coaxing I did. I'm glad I didn't let the images in my head get the best of me, because the Dragon Rolls were absolutely delish. Stuffed with shrimp tempura, baked crab, and yes eel they come with a generous topping of tempura that can be a bit messy, but add a nice crunch and compliments the warm baked seafood. We enjoy laughing at ourselves, so having a competition to see you who can make less of a mess just added to our experience.

The other Signature Rolls we tried were the Rok N' Rolls which stopped us in our tracks when presented, because these little beauties come adorned with real flakes of gold. A gorgeous dish that you ponder rather you should dig in or take a picture. I confess, we took a picture before devouring them. These rolls are a treat wrapped into each delicious bite featuring a nice slice of toro and avocado that that is like the icing on the cake for these seafood laden rolls.
Dragon Rolls
Rok N' Rolls
Lobster Tacos
Another favorite of mine for the night were the mini Lobster Tacos. Like the Lobster and Avocado salad they were delightfully fresh, and in my opinion anything with mango salsa and guacamole has to be good which was my logic when ordering these crispy crescents. They most definitely did not let me down. They in fact were so go good I have been craving them ever since.

My husband's favorite for the night were the Sauteed Tiger Prawns that came glazed with just the right amount of sweet and then spicy to counterbalance. I enjoyed them as well and the warm heartier dish added some variety to our meal.

Koi is a Japanese restaurant, so I would be remiss not to mention its sushi and sashimi. Both were fresh and flavorful, and did not disappoint. My favorite was the tuna sashimi, but after having the toro on the Rok N'Rolls I may opt for toro sashimi next time we visit.

We did squeeze in some veggies enjoying sea salted edamame, a must for me at any Japanese establishment. Even something as common to any Japanese menu like edamame was above average at Koi. The Japanese grilled eggplant was sweet and almost dessert like in my opinion, but was a nice contrast to the edamame.

Given the size of our feast we normally would have passed on dessert, but we were so impressed by the culinary show Koi gave our taste buds, that we just had to know what was in store for dessert. Leaving without dessert would be like walking out on a concert or play before the final act. Staying with the Japanese theme, I opted for the mochi plate with various flavors. My husband decided on what I thought would be a run of the mill chocolate brownie sundae. Our desserts were delivered, and this chocolate loving girl had a true case of dessert envy. While the mochi was good, it did not hold a candle to the chocolate banana creation that sat before my husband. Luckily for me the sundae portion is generous, and he was willing to share.


Mochi
Koi Sundae
                                                                                                                                             
I would like to stress that in addition to an excellent meal, we also received impeccable service. I was in the restaurant industry once upon a time, so I can be a little critical when it comes to service. The staff at Koi are friendly and welcoming. They are knowledgeable, and more than happy to assist with helping you make choices that suit you and even in my case helping you step out of your comfort zone a little to discover something wonderful. We had the pleasure of meeting the manager, Irfan, a very hands on guy that works the room assisting his staff and checking on guests rather than hiding in the shadows as I have seen in other establishments. Koi seems to not only have a winning menu, but a winning team of professionals that are passionate about their jobs.

So if you want to impress your Valentine this year, I highly recommend a romantic dinner at Koi. I'm told the Chef has lots of delicious culinary surprises planned. After the amazing meal we had, I couldn't help but inquire as to what Koi is cooking up for Valentine's Day. So here is a sneak peek at the performance they have planned for Valentine's Day:

Amuse Bouche

Uni Truffle Chawanmushi
Aloe-Green Tea Dashi / Edamame / Crispy Gobo / Chive Sprout


First Course

Hamachi Carpaccio
Elderflower-Yuzu Essence / Green Tea Panna Cotta / Pickled Baby Carrot /
Shaved Celery


Second Course

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup
Brioche / Comte Cheese / Pickled Red Pepper / Micro Borage / 
Five Spice Port Wine Reduction


Third Course

Sushi Tasting
Choice Of Chef's Selection


Forth Course

Choice of

Pan Roasted Chilean Sea Bass
Boursin Miso / Tomato Confit / Compressed Cantaloupe / Fava Bean

Or

Pan Seared Wagyu Strip
Chocolate Miso / Crispy Yuba / Creamed Morel Mushroom / Baby Turnip / Strawberry Balsamic Coulis


Dessert

Strawberry Mango Duet & Red Velvet Cake
Chocolate Mousse / Glazed Pistachio / White Chocolate Flakes

5 course set menu with a French bubbly cocktail on arrival AED 400
5 course set menu with a bottle of selected grape AED 550
5 course set menu with a bottle of selected French bubbles AED 650

For reservations: Email: reservations@koirestaurant.ae
                              Phone: +971- 2 678 3334

Friday, January 31, 2014

Catch Up Via Photos

October

In October my baby boy became a legal adult. YIKES! Some days I still see him as the little baby you see to the left.

Below is a picture of Andrew (in blue) with some new friends he and his friend met in the desert between Khalifa A and B one night. An Emirati gentleman invited them to join him and his family for a bonfire and tea. Andrew traded numbers with the group, and he's been to several outings with them since. His favorite was a barbecue in the desert where they roasted a lamb


November


In November, we held our annual Expat Thanksgiving at our house. This year we shared the holiday with about 50 of our friends who all brought along food to share.

December

December was awesome for the following reasons:

#1) My son, Andrew, was accepted to the school he has been dreaming of attending since he was a toddler. Yes, I said a toddler. We start warping minds early in the Williams family. He is following in his Dad's Hokie footsteps, and words can not describe how over the top excited we were when he received his early acceptance. We actually stayed up till 2am to get the news, because the decisions were posted at 5pm EST.



#2) Andrew made the UAE National team for American football. He represented what he refers to as his "second home" against the American University of Beirut.



#3) We returned to Garmisch, Germany for Christmas. This time around we were able to conquer the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, unlike last time when the conditions were a total white out.


#4) We also returned to Milan, Italy for a few days during our vacation. I got to revisit one of my favorite Christmas markets outside of the Duomo where they sell a huge selection of goods including meats and cheeses. Yes, I brought home a bag full of cheese, so we've had some impressive cheese boards lately.


#5) We spent a day in the romantic town of Verona, Italy during our trip. Luck would have it, there was a large Monet exhibit in Verona during our visit. Ok, it wasn't luck....totally planned that one. If there's a Monet in a town I visit, I will find it.


#6) New Year's Eve was spent here on our 5th floor balcony with a couple of great friends. They were also just returning from Europe, and the thought of going out to the local celebrations required way too much effort for us weary travelers. Instead of fighting the crowds, we enjoyed relaxing on the balcony exchanging vacation stories beneath the stars. 




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Boy in the Etihad Inflight Magazine


My son, Andrew, was recently interviewed about his experience playing for the Emirates American Football League. Here's a link to the story on the EAFL's site, http://www.eafl.ae/news . Just scroll down till you see the story with my lucky #7 in the gold and black.

The league is currently registering players for anyone interested in playing America's version of football. The youth league is for players 9-17, and the men's league is for players 18+. You can check out the EAFL on Facebook or on their website.

We of course, are looking forward to watching Andrew take his talent to a higher level this year. Yes, that means there will be more proud mom posts to come this season. Sorry guys, I can't help myself.

To everyone that has asked about coming to games to watch the Wildcats in action, I will be sure to post their schedule as soon as it becomes available.

Now, if we can just introduce the UAE to tailgating.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Versace Chuckle


We were in The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai last night when we stumbled across this gem in the Versace window. According to my hubby, the shirt says "I'm stylish, but I like to hunt".

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baby Mangos!


Last summer when I got back from the US, our Emirati friend/neighbor/landord gave us a mango tree as a gift. It has more than doubled in size over the past year, and today I got a pleasant surprise. It seems our little tree is now full of lots of little baby mangos like this one.

How cool is it to have your own home grown mangos? I see lots and lots of mango sorbet in my future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who Wants a Lamborghini?




source


I heard this story on the radio this morning, and knew I had to share it. It seems somebody has abandoned a Lamborghini in the emirate of Sharjah, or maybe they just forgot where they parked it. I don't know that you could really miss a purple Lambo though. Here's the story: Lamborghini ‘abandoned’ in Sharjah street | GulfNews.com

I should mention when looking for the story online to share, I actually found another one about an abandoned Lamborghini at the Dubai airport last year. It sat for over 20 months before they auctioned it off. If you've ever parked at the Dubai airport, you know that the parking fees probably totaled more than the car.....Just kidding, but it was probably close.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Think I'll Pass on This One

Placenta soap?
Ok, not trying to be crude or offensive here. Just trying to point out how some companies and their choice of product names would not go over very well in America. I have other examples, but they may be deemed offensive although I don't believe that was the intention when they were named.

For the record, this soap contains PLANT placenta. Still, I don't think there are any marketing gurus in the states that would slap a name like this on soap and expect it to sell. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ramadan Dieting

Ramadan treats from my friend "H".


Well friends, we are a few days into the Holy month of Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi. No I'm not Muslim, so you're probably wondering why that means anything at all to a non Muslim. Wellllllll, Ramadan in a Muslim country means you have to follow some rules regarding eating or drinking in the view of others prior to sundown or you can get into trouble. These aren't the only rules, just the hardest ones to follow when it's 120 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

My husband and I have decided to use Ramadan as our chance to drop a few pounds we gained eating our way through France last month. I'll share with you more on the Paris trip later, but when you see the pictures you will understand why you can't say no to French cuisine, especially the desserts. Anyways, since most of the restaurants are closed here during the day, and the few that are open and hidden from view of those fasting are completely packed with Westerners, we've decided to skip lunch and only have a light snack here at the house.

I should mention that one of the cool things about Ramadan is that the government mandates that the work day for people in the private sector be reduced by 2 hours each day during Ramadan for both Muslims and non Muslims. Some companies have even more reduced hours, as is the case with my husband's company. They are working a 9am-2pm schedule during the month of Ramadan.

Since he's getting in so early, our dinners are earlier than normal making it easy to skip or only snack at lunch. It seemed like the perfect plan to lose a little weight, but I didn't factor in the generosity of my Muslim friend and neighbor, "H", who has started sending over Ramadan goodies.

You see during Ramadan it is the custom for Muslims to share with their friends, family, and strangers. Well, my dear friend H knows I love chocolate. She always makes sure she has some chocolate goody when whenever we have tea together. Today, she sent over what I can only define as "Chocolate Death Cake" and dates fresh off the tree in her garden to share her holiday with me.

If we keep getting delicious treats like this during the next month, I'm thinking our little weight loss plan is going out the window.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Birthday and My Bucket List

Me at my most favorite place in the world.

I've been so busy lately with things around here, plus a quick trip to the US (fill you in later) that I haven't even mentioned that I checked the number one item off my bucket list for my birthday. No, I'm not dying, or at least I don't think I am. I'm just a firm believer in dreaming and realizing those dreams when possible.

First, confession time again...... I'm a Francophile. I love any and everything relating to France. I credit this to being reminded by my grandmother constantly as a child that I'm part French. Grandma's surname was Jaques, originally Jacques, but shortened  and pronounced  Jakes after the family came to America.

J'aime toutes les choses françaises.

That little spark from Grandma inspired me to take French as soon as I was able to in 8th grade and I continued till I graduated. I actually even began teaching French to 3rd graders at a local elementary school for one class period during my senior year of high school. Then there was French Club Treasurer, French Honor Society, and of course your's truly received the French Club Scholarship (paid for books).

Anyways, it was during all of these years of French classes that I was introduced to impressionist art and my all time favorite artist, Claude Monet. I absolutely adore Monet and his works, from his early years to his later years when he started losing his sight. My husband jokes and says our house is like a mini Monet gallery, because it's filled with his prints. I can spot one of his pieces from a mile away, even if it's one I haven't seen before. I even taught the kids from a young age to recognize his work, and they are quick to proudly point them out to me if they ever see one.

Claude Monet the "Father of Impressionism"

Which brings me to my bucket list. I have dreamed of visiting Monet's garden and waterlily filled pond that is showcased in several of his paintings for years now. Thus putting it at the very tip top of my bucket list. Yes, I know it's not exactly climbing Everest like others may have as their number one, and it is a bit foofoo but it's MY list. I can be foofoo if I want to.

Monet's home at Giverny

So, the hubby and I hopped a plane to the City of Lights for a few days for my birthday. That's right, birthday number 38 was spent in Paris! And la pièce de résistance of the trip was a train ride to the little town of Giverny where I got to step inside a Monet painting. At least, that's what it felt like to me. It was some amazing surreal moments for me, as we walked the grounds of Monet's home touring his famous garden and pond. For me it was all so familiar, despite never being there before. At different angles you could capture several of his many paintings, but in real life not on canvas.

Les Nymphéas (The Water Lilies)

One little spot of Monet's massive garden

Not wanting to spoil my moment taking pictures, I commissioned my husband to be trip photographer. Besides, he's the artist in our family, I'm just an admirer. While he went around snapping pictures that resembled the numerous Monet paintings I've subjected him to over the years, I was able to just sit on the many benches around the grounds and just take in all the beauty. I could have sat there forever. I was actually shocked at how many tourist just shuffle through the place without ever really stopping to take in its amazing beauty. Monet was just as much a talented gardener as he was a painter, but just like his painting style his garden did not conform to the norm either. It has been described as a mix of both French (formal) and English (natural) styles. Whatever label you put on it, it's pure genius. Monet himself called his garden his "greatest masterpiece".




Sadly, I couldn't stay in Giverny forever, but I did buy up a good portion of the gift shop to take with me or at least it seemed that way. I bought so much I was invited behind the counter to inspect all of my items. The hubby just stood back and shook his head and laughed at me. Poor guy knew there was no telling me "no" at the "Monet Store". Lucky for him we don't live in France, at least we don't live there yet.


I'm already planning how we can live on the outskirts of Paris one day.....one more item for the bucket list.

Me behind the counter at the gift shop. No, I wasn't joking.




Monday, July 8, 2013

Fiery Skies over Abu Dhabi

Sun setting behind the Central Market Towers.

The view from our balcony tonight.


































*Photo props go out to my husband for these shots.