Managing Editor Sanaa Jabeen decides to hide away from the heat and happily explores the world of authentic Italian cuisine, refreshing gin and the ideal nostalgia burger!
This weather is overwhelming. Everything about the heat is stressing me out and making things so much more dramatic. For this issue and this column, I was frustrated because how could I enjoy anything when I am melting? Fear not, dear readers, the food gods already had a plan for me, and you know what? I think I’m okay with the heat now. Especially because, I found a way to escape it!
Italian food is a favourite of mine, to eat and to cook. Italy is on my list of must-visit locations and I have fierce envy of people who are fluent in the language of Italian food. No matter how much I study, I’m not sure I will achieve the authentic understanding that seems so innate. La Terraza, which translates to ‘The Terrace’, is a new Italian restaurant on the sixth floor of The Greenhouse along Ngong Road. In this heat, the breeze is welcome and the food is delightful enough to make you not want to leave. I was welcomed in by Stefano (one of the owners) who showed me around this restaurant/ art gallery surrounded by Italian wine and art by an Italian artist now living in Malindi. I asked Stefano and his team what makes this restaurant so different and they boldly said “The Italian experience is about three things: The food, the art and the wine. We’ve got all three.” My experience was a wild ride. A quick tasting session of 3 authentic kinds of cheese (mozzarella di bufala (caprese), stracciatella and ricotta), classic lasagna and for dessert, almond parfait and the classic tiramisu, all paired with a specific Italian wine. I was in a new sort of heaven. Stefano and Murielle (the owners) were a delight to sit with and I must admit, I spent way too much time talking, drinking and eating than I expected. Right after dinner, I called up a friend and made plans to go back. For that classic lasagna, I would practically live there.
Have you ever been stunned to silence? I have. Musgrave Gin is a new craft gin from South Africa, inspired by botanicals all over Africa. At a simple tasting event, I sat down ready for a gin and food pairing where I met a beautiful woman who introduced herself as ‘Simone Musgrave’. Cue in the shock. The founder of Musgrave Gin was seated next to me, tasting the gin and food with me and talking me through the gin. I was in awe, of course, but it became so much more as she took me through the notes and her families history with botanicals. Each course of the dinner was paired with a specific cocktail created to enhance the flavours of the dishes. Five cocktails and four courses later, I left the table happier and more fulfilled than before. During the dinner, we tasted two variations of Musgrave: Original and the Pink Gin (which was my favourite). The bottles are beautiful to look at and the flavour stays with you way past dinner time. I think we can all agree that gin is the drink for those seeking escape from the heat so these cocktails were perfect.
Chef Dennis Pop Up @ The Grind
I had heard of the elusive Chef Dennis before, this illusion that hosts intimate dinners consisting of ten courses and wine in peoples homes and exits leaving a fantastic reputation in his wake. Recently, I had the pleasure of being one of his guests at a pop up at The Grind at Wilson Airport. A dinner so intimate, it would border on awkward: 7 strangers, sitting side by side watching Chef Dennis put together the strangest dishes with such precision and focus on plating, we all stare knowing we’re being a bit creepy. During that dinner, Chef Dennis admitted to me that he always wanted to be a maestro and he sees his team and himself as the closest thing to an orchestra. I can’t help but agree. The rhythm that this team works in is graceful and completely in sync, an almost memorised performance that keeps us all watching. The food was a fusion of surprises: Omena wrapped in rice paper, matoke with beetroot, persimmon marinated in Kahlua and mango jelly dessert served over rocks and spoons. The flavours surprised and delighted me and the adventure of not knowing what came next made it even better. Chef Dennis is online so give him a call and plan your own maestro dining experience!
This new spot in Westgate is my new guilty pleasure. Their burger evokes such a feeling of nostalgia and comfort. I truly believe it’s the cocktail sauce that they use that keeps me coming back. Also, even supremely packed, the staff are considerate and consistently check on me (possibly wondering when I will take a breath from stuffing my face). Awesome addition to the Nairobi food culture.