Monthly Archives: December 2011
With a Laurent-Perrier cooling in the fridge on a sunny morning just before New Year’s, one starts to contemplate: to pop it now or to wait a bit and indulge in the fizzy for
lunch dinner. In preparation for the big night, one has to be at least slightly lubricated, though hopefully not like the infamous elk from somewhere in Sweden who was found napping in a tree, wasted, after a joyful feast on rotten apples (a bizarre news report that amused across borders in 2011). Once we down the champagne, a promise we will make for 2012: tomorrow’s hangover will definitely not be of that caliber – but if it does happen – we can always claim that we had one apple too many. So, here we go, whatever your party toxin, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Before we celebrate the New Year in Marrakech in a couple of days we would like to revive the memory of a very special New Year’s Eve, the one in Paris.
Being a source of inspiration for numerous books, documentaries and movies for over a century, Moulin Rouge, despite its corny reputation among cultural experts, continues to deliver cabaret shows that attract thousands of tourists each year. On New Year’s Eve 2008, the samandthedunes team (minus Sam) ended up at this historic cabaret, sipping champagne and watching cancan for the first time.
We had picked up our tickets the day before and were then at the same time given a short tour of the premises. When the doors opened and we saw the theatre in all its glamour, we were struck by all its opulence and the vibes it generated: the foyer, the auditorium, the wooden floors, the small tables, the staircase up to the balcony, not to mention the stage. But, when we came back on New Year’s Eve, all the original charm had suddenly faded. Instead of hearing the sound of creaking floors, there was an ear-splitting ruckus from hundreds of tourists planning to celebrate the New Year in exactly the same manner as us. This shouldn’t really have surprised, but it did.
As soon as the show started the magic revived. It’s fun, catchy and entertaining all the way through and the scenery is impressive (we were sitting far back so a pair of opera glasses wouldn’t hurt). Part of the performance is built around the famous topless dancers, of course, but there were also many other numbers involving various flying and jump splits that should impress even the harshest of critics. There were even mini-horses and dogs hopping around on two legs on the stage (Sam would have loved that!). In the end, when the orchestras’ grand performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Galop infernal filled the room and literally lifted the roof-top, it was just impossible not to be emotionally affected and jovial at the same time.
For the price of 900 Euros we were offered a three course dinner (for future reference avoid the steak), two bottles of champagne and some nice surprise gifts. After a long and entertaining evening we stumbled out of this establishment not knowing which leg to stand on (whether it was the champagne or the glitzy cancan, we prefer not to say).
Michelin star level cuisine, live music in a night club ambiance with champagne by the gallon, roses on every table and an air of exclusivity. Voilà, welcome to Christmas dinner at So Good restaurant in the Sofitel Hotel in Agadir.
The clientele is French (except for the Sam and the dunes team) and the food speaks the same language. The wine is Moroccan. A discreet bass in the background performs Christmas songs while you feast on poached oyster, foie gras on ginger bread with fig chutney (that would fit in comfortably at a State reception) and roasted blue lobster. One small note, though: the menu was perfection, but there was just too much of it (when you have eight dishes coming one after the other, your taste buds tend to start screaming “help!).
So Good was fully booked for Christmas as most other establishments in Sofitel – a mecca for the glamourous and the haute jeans crowd from Paris, Cannes and Nice this time of the year. Before dinner, a welcome drink was offered in the lobby while an African band was drumming it away.
An enormous Christmas tree reminded us all that the holiday season just started and it was time to kick off the celebrations, which we did with a vengeance. The night flew by like a meteor with guests departing around midnight, or after (depending on one’s stamina and resolve).
The happy, if tired, faces at breakfast the next morning said what needed to be said: This was one So Good Christmas!
Located on the Ring in Vienna (Austria), Indochine 21 is a French-Vietnamese restaurant that has phenomenally good service and a wine list that goes on, and on, and on. (Be prepared to spend exuberantly, some bottles go for a few thousand big ones). The atmosphere is decadent and you can puff on a Cohiba or a Punch Punch whenever you feel like it. The food is highly exquisite and the presentation makes your mouth water. Get ready to be pleasured by a culinary world that is nothing you could have imagined with spicy tastes in abundance and soft shell crabs prepared to perfection. Seafood dishes are French-sophisticated with an Oriental twist, meat is as tender as it gets and the duck makes you cry from delight. Waiters speak several languages and are happy to point you in the right direction, be it food, wine or cigars. If you have a dog – bring it along – even water bowls are available. Now, this place is not cheap, but if you are in Vienna and decide to try something different from the traditional bratwurst you can’t find a better hideout. What can one say? “I’ll be back!”
Photos: Indochine 21
½ head red cabbage
1 ½ tbsp mayonnaise
2 carrots (minced)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
Tabasco and black pepper to taste
Thinly slice the cabbage and mix with the salt. Put it to the side for about 30-60 minutes and remove any eventual water. Grate carrots and garlic and mix with the cabbage. Roast cumin seeds in a pan before putting them into the salad together with mayonnaise, a pinch of pepper and Tabasco to taste.
Perfect with fish or BBQ!
After 10 days in Agadir we have now returned back to the desert. It’s time to start preparing our own food and perhaps we can come up with a few new recipes as well. If we succeed, (chances are usually 50/50 so don’t expect any extravagancies à la Keith Floyd) we promise to share them in the Sam’s cooking lab category. It’s also time to write a number of stories from our previous trips before we go on our next adventure – to Marrakech!
One great thing with this category “travel tips” is that we can turn our most improbable mistakes into something extremely useful (without pretending it was actually us who made these embarrassing blunders).
Having said that, here are five tips on how NOT to travel through the desert:
- Before you go to the car rental to pick up your desert vehicle, make sure that you booked a four-wheeler and not a KIA Picanto. Having heavy trucks constantly overtaking you while driving this tiny city car will build up the sort of compressed air that makes you feel like you are constantly going backwards, in a tumble dryer.
- No matter what type of car you choose to travel with (unfortunately we booked that KIA Picanto), never, we mean never, forget a spare tire. This mistake we never made but who would imagine that we actually would have needed TWO of them!!
- When you are stuck in the desert (like we were), changing tire (of course), make sure you have plenty of water. Passing cars are usually very helpful but it is a pretty scary feeling standing in the middle of nowhere, without what every five-year-old knows is a top-priority in the desert.
- Later on, when you for the second time have to change tire (still, without any water) then it’s interesting to see that your mobile phone might not have any coverage (trust us, this is a hundred times scarier than being without water). If you know how to do smoke signals, it maybe makes you feel like a true survivor but remember that nobody actuallly understands how to read these signs nowadays anyway.
- Bring music, lots of music. You will need entertainment since it will take a long, long time before the next car passes by and offers you a lift to the nearest gas station.
La Madrague restaurant in Agadir, Morocco, was one place everybody recommended we should try out. And we did, with great pleasure. Located in the marina with a comfortable terrace offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the mountains, La Madrague can be described as a traditional Mediterranean place of the upscale type.
The menu is vast, we mean vast, on offer you will find numerous seafood dishes, meat of all shapes and sizes and even foie gras has not been overlooked. But go for the fish, it’s fresh, cooked to perfection and melts in your mouth. We highly recommend the seared tuna and the shrimps. The wine list is acceptable if a bit short-ish and the service is meticulous. La Madrague is not cheap but worth the effort: It’s a nice hang-out to savor some good food and wine, look at the yachts and contemplate life.
Résidence No 6 M3/M4 – Marina Agadir
Tel: +212 528 84 24 24
We have stayed in many fabulous hotels all over the world but even as seasoned luxury travellers we were flabbergasted by Sofitel***** in Agadir, Morocco. A true oasis of tranquility (just take a look at the lobby), fantastic service and amenities that make you go wobbly in the legs.
The rooms are decorated with great style, rose petals on the bed and in the bathroom, classy furniture and one comfortable bed makes you want to order room service throughout the day. Don’t be tempted, though, the rest of the hotel is just as fun.
You can be pampered around the pool with waiters tending to your every need, or enjoy a drink in the lobby where chicha smoke and cool people interact.
The restaurants offer some of the best fare in Agadir, from a mouth-watering buffet in the evening with the menu changing every day (don’t miss the Asian theme), to nice snacks and salads by the pool. The service is attentive and friendly.
Pets are just as welcome as any other patron, Sam loved the place.
Now, to be fair, one can find faults here, but let’s be honest, to quote P.J. O’Rourke, that’s like complaining about Sharon Stone’s toenails. The Sofitel is pure luxury perfection, a place we plan to visit again in the future, inshallah. And we highly recommend you do the same.