From flying fish and food trucks to tasty movies and an old-school funfair, there's something for everyone at the capital's annual food festival, which starts on December 7
Ten to try at Abu Dhabi Food Festival 2017
The festival’s first event will feature 10 food trucks that change on a weekly basis. Alexandre Teodoresco, founder of Truckers, says: “The event will resemble American funfairs that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s – a mix of sounds, colours, fun play and street food. A luminarium, which is a strong ‘edutainment’ component, gives the event a particularly family-friendly quality.” The giant 55-metre-by-29-metre inflated structure, which is based on a pentagon, invites visitors to move about in its maze-like passageways filled with saturated colours and light, while playfully considering the work of the great Greek mathematician Archimedes.
Truckers Carnival will run from Thursday to December 23 in the car park opposite Marina Mall
This day-to-night event will serve culinary treats from the Caribbean islands. One of Dubai’s first Jamaican restaurants, Ting Irie, will offer many of its signatures, including oxtail coco bread sandwiches, roasted plantain, and jerk chicken with rice and peas. Foodies can also sample coucou and flying fish, the national dish of Barbados, and a spicy stewed-meat pepperpot from Guyana, as well as a range of street-food classics for more sensitive stomachs. Post 6pm, the Beach Fest venue will switch to party mode, with a host of reggae artists, including French-Portuguese musician Lucenzo, Swedish-Congolese singer and dancer Mohombi and popular Jamaican singer Shaggy entertaining visitors.
The only licensed event at Abu Dhabi Food Festival, Beach Feast will take place on Friday and Saturday on Yas Beach, and is open to ages 21 and above. Entry is Dh30 between 2pm and 5pm; and Dh100 after 6pm
The largest event at this year’s food festival collects 40 street-food vendors, and stalls by regional restaurants and international chefs, including Geeta Bansal from California, Portuguese chef Miguel Rocha Vieira, Alberto Buratti from Italy and Japan’s Kentaro Torii. The event will also host popular street artists. Maajed Ahmed, a participating graffiti artist from Saudi Arabia, says: “It is always good fun working around the UAE, which is embracing all kinds of street art. I am looking forward to sharing my work with visitors, and painting and connecting with young people in Abu Dhabi.” Also making its debut at the festival will be brightly outfitted Mexican food truck Maiz, which opened its first outlet on Dubai’s Kite Beach last month. The eatery is known for its al pastor sirloin, served with grilled pineapple and roasted tomatillo salsa wrapped in a corn tortilla; and smoked BBQ short ribs with pickled radish, red onions and roasted jitomates salsa.
Street Fest will take place from 2pm to 11pm on three weekends: Friday and Saturday at Al Ain Zoo, Dh40 including zoo entrance; and December 14 to 16 and 21 to 21 at Lake Park on the Corniche, Dh30
Ripe Night Market
Ripe Market will create a special edition of its open-air and clean-eating event for Abu Dhabi Food Festival. Visitors will get a chance to experience the Ripe Organic stand, for locally grown fruits, vegetables, juices and superfoods. The day-long event will also include live cooking stalls, music and entertainment, fitness and yoga workshops, children’s activities, and stores selling crafts, fashion and jewellery.
Ripe Night Market is on Saturday, 3pm to 10pm, at Umm Al Emarat Park; entry is Dh5
40 Mule by Festember
Emiratis Noora Al Mazrui and Latifa Al Hamed launched Festember, an annual arts and entertainment festival, three years ago. This year, the company will host 40Mule, a modern pop-up dining masterclass conducted by chef and television personality James Knight-Pacheco that aims to “change the way we approach culinary creativity”. The Venezuelan chef, who is known for his cutting-edge cooking, has worked at some of the world’s great restaurants, including Six Senses Zighy Bay and the Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, and is currently executive chef at Vida Downtown Dubai. For Abu Dhabi Food Festival, Knight-Pacheco will put together a unique dining experience, alongside live entertainment, where guests smell and consider the different textures of the ingredients, which is said to stimulate the taste buds.
40Mule by Festember will take place every evening from December 13 to 15 at Umm Al Emarat Park. James Knight-Pacheco will run three 30-minute masterclasses from 5pm; entry is Dh250. Bookings can be made on-site or at www.festemberad.com
This family-friendly, music-filled event will have plenty of children’s activities, including the Funky Souk, plus DJ sets and live performances by local bands. Foodies can also be the first to sample fare from a number of food trucks that are yet to officially roll into the UAE. These include: BollyDXB, which offers an Indian take on typical burgers and French fries, with options such as butter chicken sliders and idli fries; and Theo’s, which focuses on clean eating and offers fresh wraps filled with superfoods and served with home-made artisanal breads. The truck will also offer chips, dips, baked goods and meatless high-protein alternatives, all of which are free of preservatives, hormones and refined sugar.
Truckers Park will be at Madinat Zayed on December 15 and 16, 2pm to 11pm; entry is Dh20
The Big Piknik
This first-of-its-kind food concept is themed around a giants’ picnic, and is characterised by oversized outdoor decor and larger-than-life food props: think macaroon globes and man-sized ice-cream cones. Despite this, the event seeks to promote heathy living and the benefits of being outdoors. Some of the featured food concepts include Casa Mia, which serves home-cooked Italian treats, including vegan pasta; Moylo’s, known for fresh, gourmet burgers served in a brown bun or lettuce wrap; and catering service Chef Corner.
The Big Piknik will be held on December 22 and 23, noon to 10pm, at Umm Al Emarat Park; entry is free
Another first-time event, this evening soiree will pair movies with meals to take visitors on a culinary and cinematographic journey. The idea is to allow guests to sample similar dishes to the ones being shown on-screen; accordingly, the five films will be food-inspired, and include classics such as Ratatouille and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Delicious Cinema will be set within Manarat Al Saadiyat on December 22 and 23, 6pm to 11pm; Dh190 per person
Market to Kitchen
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the sourcing and cooking process with this day-long event, hosted by Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi and held every Saturday for the duration of the festival. Participants will meet at 10am at the hotel’s Market Kitchen restaurant for coffee and pastries, before taking a chauffeured spin around the capital’s farmers markets to learn how to select fresh produce. The four-hour trip also takes in visits to the fish souq, and fruit and vegetable market. Head back to Market Kitchen for a close-up look as the restaurant’s chefs prepare the food, sharing tips en route.
Market to Kitchen takes place on Saturday and December 16 and 23. It is free, but reserve your place in advance by calling Le Royal Meridien on 800 101 101
Zomato Restaurant Week
Want to enjoy a meal without having to get off the sofa? Zomato has partnered with Abu Dhabi Food Festival to offer a range of home-delivered treats from Thursday to December 21. Users of the app will have access to set menus from some of the capital’s premier restaurants, for a reduced price. Zomato will also offer special rates on its two latest products between these dates: Zomato Gold, a dine-out club membership that offers complimentary drinks at 300 spots across the UAE; and Zomato Treats, a subscription that rewards users with free dessert each time they order online. Between Thursday and December 23, the portal will also be running a series of as-yet-undisclosed social-media competitions centred on Abu Dhabi Food Festival, with 50 brunch giveaways on offer for the winners.