BTS Food blogging- Fiction vs Reality?

If you follow my instagram account or any other foodies on instagram, I think you might find this interesting! Let me start by introducing myself so you know where I am coming from.

I am a Clinical Researcher and a Food enthusiast. When I moved to Dubai from Karachi, Pakistan- I loved the food scene here since this is a city where you can get Pakistani, Indian, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, American, Italian, Lebanese and so many more cuisines. All in one city. I splurged on innovative restaurants and trendy meals weekly when one day I noticed a couple walking in the restaurant and instead of sitting on a table, they spoke to the manager and were immediately looked after. I thought to myself maybe they are special guests. Soon, they pulled out a professional camera out of their bags and started taking pictures of food in creative ways. I then thought that they were perhaps food photographers. Later on, I found out that they were food bloggers.

Somehow in that moment I felt that I want to feel the same way. I too wish to walk in a restaurant and aim my professional camera to the glass of pinacolada and be creative with it and also get free food. I started writing food reviews on zomato and instantly loved the feeling of sharing my honest opinion on a fried chicken I devoured or a salad. But my reviews were usually lengthy and I loved talking in detail about a restaurant experience so I started this blog last year and received my first restaurant invite ever to review the menu. Yes, that was an amazing feeling that can not be described into words. Receiving the first restaurant review invite is a happiness that is unlike any other feeling, in fact it is so addictive that I wasn’t able to say “no” to any restaurant invite after that for a year. I blogged about 50 restaurants around UAE in the past year that makes me rank among the top ten bloggers in Dubai today.

 

That sounds cool right? Free food? Foodies to gather with on different ocassions? making new friends? Yes, please.

Let me walk you through this. This is how a restaurant review proceeds- the restaurants provide good food and efficient service (two relatively inexpensive things, compared to the cost of paid advertisements), and the food blogger shares photos of their food with tens of thousands of people and writes an honest review in return.

Now here’s the truth- A few years into my blogging journey, I’ve stopped accepting many of the restaurant invitations. In fact, the longer I blog, the fewer free restaurant meals I accept and the more I pay for everything on my own. Following are the main 5 reasons for this:

1. Honesty is the best policy?

The major problem arises when I visit a restaurant and do not like their food and give them my honest feedback. They ask me to sugar coat this in the blog and that their restaurant rating shouldn’t drop which becomes contradictory to why I started this blog. I try my best to stay neutral in a blog where I did not like the food served at XYZ restaurant because of strict UAE defamation laws and also because I don’t want to hurt anyone.
I was once chased by a Restaurant PR because they wanted me to give them the highest rating when I didn’t like their food at all but it was disturbing and what was all the hassle for? I asked the restaurant- had they treated me the same way if I were a customer instead of a blogger?

2. Time is money

The 2018 version of me would be quite baffled by this statement but over the time I have realized that restaurant tastings take 3-4 hours of my evenings when I can visit the same restaurant as a non-blogger and pay for my food and save 50% of time. Why you ask? simply because the cost of all that food is not worth 3 hours of my time. Heck! I don’t even eat that much.

3. Free food does not pay my bills

I have to drop this truth bomb because its all fun and games until you have to get back to the ultimate reality of life. Sure its fun but it doesn’t pay my rent or the bills.

4. Turn the tables

I love the experience of dining at a restaurant, and when I show up to media tasting as a food blogger, I don’t always get to experience that. Now, I do get to enjoy some other unique things, like talking with the chef, being shown a behind-the-scenes look into the kitchen, and getting vouchers as a take away gift. But none of that is a realistic restaurant experience for the average diner, so I don’t think it’s a realistic way for me to give my opinion of a restaurant.

5. It’s just not the same

I get so many comments from foodies on my restaurant blogs saying- we went to xyz restaurant on your recommendation and the service was so bad and etc etc. I actually feel for that person who was influenced by my opinion of a restaurant and regrets later. For instance, my instagram feed is full of gorgeous photographs of food because I had been to various food blogger gatherings and restaurant tastings. But when I really like a restaurant and their service, I make sure to go back after a while as a paying customer because I just wanted to be sure that I loved it just as much. But sadly, it wasn’t the same.

Am I still accepting Restaurant Invites?

Yes. My criteria to saying yes for a restaurant review invite is:

  • Instances when there is a new small business in town that needs help. When a new food truck invites me to try their menu; I definitely say yes.
  • An older restaurant with great reputation. If PF Changs sends me an invite, I’m running barefoot for this one.
  • When it’s a second or third meal from a restaurant that I really love- I loved the salads at abc restaurant and now they are offering me to review their brunch menu? Yes sir!

 

 

 

Food Earth and Love- all together.

Located in Trade center, Dubai; FEL is bound to impress you with their neat white vibes and simple decor. Their interior and food both are based on the popular belief “Less is more”. Now I don’t meant that their meal portion sizes are small because they were enormous. I meant the use of flavors and plating techniques and the menu itself that isn’t composed of ten pages of this and that. Its fairly easier to decide what to eat since the menu describes each dish clearly. FEL uses the freshest and organic ingredients only for their meals. Before I begin dissecting my experience for you, please understand that FEL stands for Food, Love and Earth. I find it beautiful 🙂

We were served Ice water upon arrival and I specifically loved their glasses.

I started off with a classic cup of coffee that was quite a giant cup but was really strong. I then had their summer salad which comprises of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, balamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese. You may even add chicken to this if you’d like to. Priced at 38 Aed, I feel it was really filling and delicious.

Next up, were the cali chicken wraps. These looked absolutely colorful and a treat for the eyes. The chicken were sliced into thin strips for these and everything tasted brilliant. The chicken was spiced to perfection and even one lettuce wrap was really filling.

Then came something that literally blew my mind. It was a burger that looked pretty simple in a time when burgers come with oozing cheese and ketchup and what not. When I took the first bite, I was so happy and surprised. I looked at the burger patty and asked the server which protein was used to make this? And he tells me that its a vegan burger. I swear my eyes popped out a little. The burger patty was made up of potatoes, beetroot and peas. I mean it was unbelievably good! Try it for yourself, ask for the impossible vegan burger.

I also had the spiced chicken bowl that was made of cajun spiced chicken, cabbage slaw, coconut rice, seared vegetable and avocado cubes. I felt the coconut rice were slightly sweet and needed a more spicy chicken to pair with but the chicken was less spiced so the overall flavor did not quite appeal to me but the seared vegetables were great!

Thank you Team FEL for the wonderful dining experience. I highly recommend my readers to visit.

FEL Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The cake that broke my heart…

Magnolia bakery is the prettiest, chic bakery that you will ever come across in Dubai especially if we talk about the bakeries in malls. I’m sure you have had their banana pudding and I have to tell you that I literally dream of their salted caramel banana pudding because its absolutely delicious.

Recently, I was craving for a moist chocolate-y cake and so I headed over to Magnolia as they have beautiful cakes. After much thought I decided to go for the Devil’s food cake because it was made with dutch cocoa that creates a darker sort of chocolate and I am always ready for pure dark chocolate any day. A giant beautiful slice came on my table and I took lots of pictures and poked my fork in. I had a few bites and realized that it was dry 😦 and it needed some kind of moisture in the sponge. The buttercream frosting was perfect but the cake’s sponge itself was a little rough. The price was 28 Aed for one slice and I think its fair but I wish the cake was good.

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This just broke my heart because I genuinely love desserts and cakes. So its pretty difficult for the cake monster inside me to be disappointed. I am still going to return and try another dessert from here and then update this blog 🙂

 

 Magnolia Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spoil yourselves at The House of flavours

Wouldn’t it be great if you never have to decide what cuisine you wanna have? Because this is what happens… one of our friend is a die hard chinese cuisine fan, the other one..not so much, he would love Indian food while some of us would wanna have hearty Arabic meals, some would want Filipino fried chicken and this is why we never settle for one place to dine in.

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Fear not, House of flavors has got you covered because they serve Indian, Filipino, Chinese and Arabic cuisine all under one roof. Not only this, they have separate chef for each specialty cuisine so the authenticity remains intact. To top it all, they have separate menu-s for every cuisine they serve. I mean, that’s just super cool.

We started off with Crispy chicken that’s cooked in chili sauce with sliced peppers, it tasted amazing. The blend of spices and crispiness of chicken were spot on.

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crispy chili chicken

Then we jumped on the murgh angara that at first didn’t strike much excitement for me because I had it seconds after the chili chicken. But believe me, it was the most comforting curry with boneless chicken pieces dunked in it. It was lovely! They served garlic naan with the curry that enhanced its flavor. Naan were super soft and fresh from the oven.

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Murgh angaara

We also tried the charcoal pepper chicken that was true definition of perfection including the pepper coating on top and the juicy chicken from inside. If you can handle high intensity spicy then this one is for you.

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pepper charcoal chicken

Next, we had the american chopsuey which was a giant bowl of noodles on one side and red chicken sauce on the other with a fried egg on top garnished with scallions. Imagine the view that was in front of my eyes, purely beautiful. The egg was cooked perfectly with the egg white hard and yolk soft and intact. The noodles were hand-made and you will definitely know the difference once you taste.

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American chopsuey

Then came the beef sizzler that made me skip a heart beat, sizzling luscious mushroom sauce with tender juicy beef and a grilled corn on the cob looked nothing but amazing. Totally love the mushroom sauce.

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Beef sizzler

Thank you for the wonderful dining experience Team House of Flavors.

They cater to a wide variety of occasions. Contact them for more information by clicking on this zomato widget below:

House of Flavours Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Luxuriously Satisfying desserts at The Living Room

If you have a bossy sweet tooth that is not impressed easily then you have to check out ‘the living room” in Mercato Mall. They have a fancy pink vibe that’s quite evident the moment you step in. It’s not a big place but they have decorated it beautifully with sweet messages like the ones you can see in pictures below:

I was really impressed by the decor and great music playing throughout the time I dined in here.

Extremely challenging to pick a few treats out of a wide variety of drool worthy pretty desserts and drinks. I finally decided to go with unicorn roulade and pink karak milkcake (their best seller) along with a Rose pink latte.

The unicorn roulade was a dream come true for the kid in me because that slice of cake was super cute and layered with creme cheese with such perfection that it was balanced out when you look at it. Each layer was intact and colorful sprinkled with mini hearts on top to make your heart skip a beat.

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Unicorn Roulade

Then I had the best milk cake of my life which was quaint and absolutely gorgeous from top to bottom. As, nowadays its all about theater food- the cake is topped with a giant fluffy pink cotton candy that melts away when you pour the rose milk concoction all over.

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Pink karak rose milk cake

All these sweet treats paired fabulously with my Rose latte that was strong and not loaded with sugar. It had subtle hints of rose and needless to say that it looked amazing! Don’t believe me? Just watch!

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Pink rose latte

Thank you so much for hosting me “The Living Room” I thoroughly enjoyed the treats and look forward to visiting you again.

 The Living Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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