Sports fans have their games; music lovers have their concerts. Well, for us gluttons, we live for our food festivals. These rare events allow us to be unabashed if not borderline shameless about our obsession with all things tasty.
So you can bet I’m at the Qatar International Food Festival 2014 well before the doors open. Apart from scoring the best parking, this ensures I have enough time to size up the grounds, strategise my appetite and hit the most exciting stands in order of intrigue.
My foodie buddy and I find ourselves hunting for menus that are out of the ordinary and appropriate for the al fresco setting. To that end, we skip the lines for nachos, fish ‘n’ chips and shawarmas — and try nearly everything else.
Follow the Aroma
We’re most impressed with the Kempinski Hotel’s Aroma offerings of braised short ribs and salmon with soy honey wasabi. Both come with steamed asparagus and a little potato salad – they’re the most complete dishes on tap. Plus they are presented so attractively, we forget for an instant we’re at an outdoor fair.
2014 is Qatar Brazil Year of Culture, celebrating a partnership between the two nations. So naturally we head for the Brazilian section. There are several churrasco meats to choose from, but it’s the grilled pineapple from Ipanema of the Renaissance that steals the show for being particularly refreshing in the afternoon sun.
Don’t Pronounce, Just Point
I can’t quite figure out how to say cacir or hunkar begendi, but the Turkish dishes from Agora at The Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa have us hooked. The braised beef with mashed barley is a standout. We could complain about the presentation, but with those kind of flavours, we’ll stay mum.
Even Food’s Entertaining
While standing in line for chicken wings and a smoothie, we are distracted by pizza dough flying through the air. As it turns out, the global champions of pizza acrobatics are on stage, tossing and twirling to the rhythm of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore.’ Think that sounds cheesy? Think again. By the end, we’re standing with chicken wings in hand transfixed to the show.
500-Riyal Meal with a Million-Dollar View
Look up, and you’ll see people on a platform hoisted from a crane enjoying a gourmet meal. The ride/attraction is called Dining in the Sky and is exactly as it sounds. Friendly advice: get your tickets early, and use the bathroom before you go up. (If that sounds too intense, there’s always the floating donut, where you could a barbecue on the water in the most peculiar of circular contraptions.)
The setting of the fair really makes it – picnic tables and tents all around the MIA Park with the museum and West Bay as a backdrop provide for a really glorious day out with family and friends. As the sun dips and the breeze picks up, put on a light sweater and stay for the night time entertainment. Dinner is also awaiting, of course.