A TALE OF PHOTOS – PART 3

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When I started photography, I actually didn’t know any technical things……it was just a hit and miss sort of thing, actually back then I was using my film camera so I didn’t even know what I had done till I actually developed the film!
One thing that I didn’t know, was that I was mostly doing macro shots! I didn’t know how or why, but I got my close up filter and looked for flowers and insects to shoot! Actually, I blogged about my first shoot and one of my favorite shots here.

My love for macro photography is still a big part of my love of photography, but now I ended up exploring a few different aspects…..water drops!

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DSC_1843 andy warholeThis was one of the first times that I ever took photos of water, I was going around the family farm after my return from Antarctica, and I was absolutely re-inspired by nature… I saw many things that I would have typically took photos of but a man made waterfall had a beautiful effect to it caught my eye. I saw the waterfall differently, I saw a black background and colorful water. The initial shot looked nothing like this but 18 hours on photoshop I got the photo I wanted! (I didn’t have the skills I do now).
I then decided to change up the colors in the Andy Warhol style! of giving multiple shades to the same person, and I loved the result! Actually if you go through my photography website you will see a nice little effect that I did that combines the four images 🙂

A Water Drop Universe

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Sometimes as a photographer I see things that I feel are unique…I see the world in ways that only photographers do, and while on a trip to Salalah, I walked around with my colleague from work to a gorgeous spot, I was busy taking photos of the centipedes and the mist filled mountains when I noticed a spider running away from the mist….that spider laid its web between two leafs and with that mist, I saw something resembling a universe. This shot is one that I am deeply proud of, and every time I look at it, I think of how amazing our universe is!

Well that’s it for this tale of photos, but writing this really got me to see that I should definitely try to get some more water drop shots!

Going back to “The Classroom”

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A long time ago, I wanted to be a chef… This was back when I was in high-school and back when the fanciest thing I could cook was a cheeseburger!

Back then, the Image of a Omani Chef wasn’t what it is now….we didn’t have people like Chef Issa Al Lamki or any other celebrity chefs around. Local independent restauranteurs like Khalid Al Suwaid didn’t bring up the hospitality industry to the way it is now. Most importantly, we didn’t have a school like the National Hospitality Institute to go to!

                    Photo from the NHI facebook page

This is actually where I see the big change…..I see young Omanis working very hard in the hospitality industry at the major hotels, your shangrilas and bustan palaces are a great example!
I see a very good reason why that works very well…..think about it; Omanis are known throughout the Middle East as the most hospitable people around! no wonder it works so well!
Of course, I didn’t end up being a chef but I stuck with the love of food anyway! So this week I went to the place that I missed out on studying in to see the caliber of students that are there!

NHI has its own fully functional restaurant, The Classroom. The place is run by the students…you get served by apprentice waiters with food that came out of chefs to be! These young people will be your 5 star chefs at your premium hotels, whats really cool is that you will be getting the same quality of the hotel food for a fraction of the price! you get a 3 or 4 course meal for under 5 OMR!!!!

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I put their food to the test with a few other people and here is what we had!
I started off with a lovely cream of pea soup.
What I really loved was the fact that I was looking through the open glass kitchen to see the student learning presentation as he was serving it to us, they went by the photo and it looked exactly like that….as for the taste, it was rich and well seasoned. pea soup’s usually suffer from being bland as it is a difficult mix to get….do it too much and it becomes salty, do too little and you hit the bland palate. The garlic croutons here made a big difference.

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Next on the menu for me was the fish cakes with tomato sauce.
I was hesitant at first, fish is something I am particular with but I thought ‘if I want to feel comfortable recommending this place to someone, I better try the riskier options…if they are good then im good’.
I’m glad I did though,everyone else had the sweet and sour chicken with fried rice but I was the only one who had the fish! it was absolutely amazing and even though it was a tad on the spicy side…it just really hit the spot. the outer layer was crisp but a smooth and almost mushy inside. the sauce was overpowered by the well flavored fishcakes but I really didn’t mind. They were something that I would go back for!

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A final hoora before I went back to the office was a creme brulee……I enjoy making and eating them!! when the work of beauty first came, I was hesitant as i felt the whole thing being warm, a crusty outer layer but a cool inner layer is what I have always seen, but after I bit into it I didn’t mind the different style. It wasn’t too sugary or too eggy. It was just right! the sugar at the top could have used some more caramelizing but if this came to me in another restaurant I would still be very happy with it!

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My colleagues tried a few other things like the egg Florentine:

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At the end of the meal, i thought to myself…..why on earth am I not here more often? Well that’s something ill fix, so come next week u’ll see me there! also, gentlemen….this is your cheat cheap date 😉 thank me later.

Actually my last flop at the A’saffa bbq competition provided me with the eye to spot an opportunity! Ill be taking a class with NHI in a couple of weeks and ill be writing about that soon so wish me luck! (well at least better luck than the bbq competition)

              photo found on the NHI facebook page

PS: after writing all of this I found out that for every meal they serve, they will donate 10% to the Association for Early Intervention for kids with special needs

Oman’s Iron Chef BBQ edition…..and how I wasn’t even close!

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Its not a secret that I enjoy food….Apart from being a food photographer / Blogger, I always enjoy a nice meal at home or out!
I didn’t start cooking myself till I went to university in Australia. The first attempts were.. well lets just say ..umm well they weren’t good. That was very ironic as before I wanted to study at uni, I wanted to be a chef! Thankfully since then, I took may classes and experimented….now I really enjoy cooking and at camping trips and bbq, i’m always the one behind the grill.

When A’saffa Foods announced that they will be doing a bbq competition, I thought: Hey, why not! lets be on the other side for once! whats the worst that could happen?20150313_154003

Weellllllll……..lets just say I was not prepared for this kind of competition! the people there had amazingly complicated marinades, some serious gear and a great spirit to go along!
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I wanted to do my simple but tasty yogurt, lime and coriander marinade.

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The other teams livened up the spirit! the teams and their families created such a fun experience and the entertainment on stage kept the young ones entertained!
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The awesome chef Issa Al Lamki was the judge of the competition and although he wasn’t impressed with the simplicity of the dish, he did say that he was loved how it was cooked very well and how the chicken was tender….There’s some hope left for next year!!
(pic taken from Susan from HeyFatsu)

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So lesson learned! next time they have this, ill bring my ace game….maybe even take a class or two at NHI!

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Ethics of A Food Blogger

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So recently I’ve been confronted with an interesting topic: Why do you get free meals and why should people believe your blog?
This question even popped up on the popular restaurant review page “Oman Restaurant Review” and the admins there were accused of trying to score free meals…etc.

Should bloggers get paid? should they get free meals? how do you insure that a blogger’s views are honest and not bought?

Well, here are some popular bloggers and their opinions before I share mine…

Heather Duncan from The Duncan Adventures had this to say:
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“As a Blogger I am constantly ploughing my time and money into a site to please other people. Shelling out for camera equipment, domain names, traveling to places in search of a good story – it all adds up! I don’t make any cash back on my site so effectively I am at a loss. I just keep blogging because I enjoy it and feel a sense of pride. If a company wanted to invite me for a free meal to discuss their upcoming events, I don’t see anything wrong in that. A small ‘perk’ in return for all the time devoted to creating something bigger is a not a bad thing. A ‘perk’ is just a small reward, not pay day.”

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I asked one of my favorite food bloggers; Susan from HeyFatsu a few questions that I’ve been asked a lot! this is what she had to say:
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Me: Why do people differentiate bloggers from traditional media? essentially they both get asked to join in for food tasting.

Susan: It’s probably because people see bloggers as people who write for free, whereas the print media gets paid a salary for it. That makes bloggers look more objective and open, so maybe people feel somehow betrayed if they then perceive bloggers as getting “bribed” with food.

Me: Do you think its ethical? would it sway opinions of bloggers?

Susan: Blogging is so varied and doesn’t follow a set structure, each writer is going to make their own ethical choices. Personally I was brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton and righteous indignation so I have a very firm view of what I am morally comfortable with. I think that readers can sense when there’s honesty in what’s being written, especially highly intelligent ones like the people who read FatSu. I hope people reading FatSu know that while I might love food and appreciate sometimes being invited, I wouldn’t ever change what I wrote based on that for the sake of a free meal. Maybe for a massive pile of cash.

Me: If you got invited to a place and didn’t like the food, how would you handle that? does getting invited sway how you write?

Susan: Sometimes, I get invited to places and choose not to go because I have had the food before and not enjoyed it. So free food alone would not be enough to tempt me. Free awesome food, I will not turn down. Why would I?! If anyone were to ask it I ate for free, I would tell them the truth. I have never and would never lie about that, or anything else on my blog. My blog only retains its value for readers if it’s honest and entertaining. There’s never been any pressure on me to make specific references, or efforts made to influence my posts, by any of the people that have invited me – if there was, I wouldn’t continue to eat at their restaurants. I’m no food whore. And nobody tells FatSu what to write.

Being invited doesn’t sway how I write. How good the food is sways whether I write. I’ve been invited to restaurants and not particularly enjoyed the food – to me, that makes for a pretty dull post, so I tend not to write it up, particularly when it’s a cuisine I’m not that familiar with (on the ground of well, what do I know?). Of course if I was a traditional restaurant critic, I would have to give a full evaluation regardless, but luckily I’m not. I can choose what I write about, and I like to write about good food. All my negative ranting tends to be aimed at the market in general, whether it’s the proliferation of faceless chains or the lack of ripe avocados on the shelves.

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Initially, I had set out to write a big post about this but all my points are covered! what id like to add is that we don’t write to get perks, we write because we enjoy it and as Susan rightly said, it will be a very boring post if we write things that we ourselves can’t enjoy!
More so, we have intelligent readers…..if I write that a restaurant I visited has amazing food and great service and you get treated to an unpalatable meal, would you believe my next post? would you continue to read my blog?

No, you wouldn’t …….

A Blast From the Antarctic Past

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So this time two years ago, I was overwhelmed with excitement as I was about to set foot on the last spot before I checked visiting every continent! Antarctica was a long time in the making and I wrote and rewrote this post so many times that in the end, I couldn’t make this readable without it being a book!!

So I thought, what can I do to commemorate two years since I had the most life changing experience iv had? and then I thought….well I blogged about it before on my other blog and I wrote a journal that no one ever read! so why not take you guys (and myself) into my frame of mind of two years ago! ….please be nice, I was writing while I was really really cold!
(ps. slightly edited to include my personal journal)
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“Today, months after being selected for the 2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Program, I have landed in Antarctica. The first place I landed in is Mikkleson harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The journey took me all the way across the world; from Muscat to Brazil to the city of Ushuaia in Argentina. In Argentina me and my team climbed to the top of a glacier and trekked through the national forest to prepare ourselves for the journey ahead, and this was all within moments of meeting them! the bond between us was forged instantly as if we had known each other for years…but then, they are the only people who get how much work it took to get here!

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On the 3rd of March, the ‘Sea Spirit’ left Ushuaia heading south to the Antarctic Peninsula. The journey would take two days through the roughest waterway in the world; ‘The Drake Passage’….it’s here where I forged a strong bond with a few of the ‘tough’ ones that didn’t get seasick….after all, there were just a few of us that were enjoying the two day roller coaster ride rather than feel sick! I don’t even know how i’m able to write! god help me when I try to read this in the future (bwaha past me! I was able to read after consulting a cryptographer)
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After two and a half days at sea, the Antarctic icebergs showed themselves shortly followed by land. Seeing those icebergs was something magical, everyone on the boat just ran to see them, it was a moment of awe where everyone was out of words, even the people who were laid up in bed with seasickness two hours before. I can’t describe it…the whole journey since I got to Argentina felt unreal, and i’m not exaggerating… my sight and senses don’t feel real, but seeing those icebergs was a hammer to the senses, it feels real and unreal at the same time and I’ve never felt so excited or so inspired… this is all by seeing a piece of floating ice…I already feel that this will be an emotional roller coaster.

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I’ve never felt so excited, I was on the second Zodiac heading to the historic Nickleson harbor to learn about the area and rest for a few hours before trekking and listening to scientists as well as environmental specialists to develop my campaign for when I come back to the Sultanate. More so….this will be the moment it will happen, months of training and fundraising will be for this….I don’t even know what to write, I just feel very proud that I have my flag with me and a photo of my grandfather in my pocket.

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Tomorrow (the 6th) the ‘Sea Spirit’ will cross the Lemaire Channel and I will be spend the night on the ice….I can’t wait to see the stars, iv never seen anything like this sky before so seeing it from a completely remote place is beyond my imagination….for now..

A Singaporean Foodie Getaway in Oman! + Competition

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Iv always been a fan of Asian food, and living in Australia for a while, got me exposed to Singaporean food a lot! (there is large Singaporean community in my city). When I got invited to taste the food at ‘Asia’ in Shangrila with two acclaimed Singaporean guest chefs on board (Amer Hashim and Andy Ho) , I instantly got excited to relive my Australian memories of having Singaporean Chili Crab.
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After a long day of work I was pretty happy to see prawn crackers! I don’t need to say much about em because well….prawn crackers!

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And no Asian meal should go without a warm yet refreshing cup of Asian tea!
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We started off with a lovely dish, prawn with mango, coriander and chili….the tangyness of this dish mixed with the spices were perfect for me but if you aren’t a big fan of spicy food then make sure you ask them to reduces the spices….make sure you order this though because this is a real treat! (second photo cred: Anna Chesalina)
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Next was a Oxtail soup! its as strange as it sounds and it shows how these chefs aren’t afraid to bring in real authentic things to our tables!
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One thing you CANT miss out on, is the one thing that I was really hoping I would see! the Singaporean crab was just divine! again it was on the spicier side but I love it that way…….and when you do go, don’t bother with a fork and knife! just dive into it because you just wont enjoy crab as much with a fork and knife!

The crab is very well done and I suspect that ill be back there again with my family before the end of the week!
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Also, I couldn’t help but include the only photo of me that I took…with heather’s expression, I had to :p

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One last thing! There is a pretty cool competition that they are running and the prize is a three nights stay in Singapore!! I have been looking for a holiday spot so cross your fingers that my name gets picked! 😛
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Moza Wa Khamis – A Burst of New Nostalgia

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Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of Arabic dubbed anime! It was a big thing in my generation and I bet that you won’t find a single person around my age who cant at recite the theme from “ra3d el 3imlaq” or “grandizer”. I bet some of you are humming to them right now!

This new place that opened up at the Best Western plays to the awesome nostalgic notes that just make me smile! Moza Wa Khamis is a new kind of Omani Restaurant….its not typical Omani food and its not a traditional atmosphere….its a new fun place that im really excited about!
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The restaurant revives a few old cartoons that have been forgotten for a while! the beauty about this place for me is just that……..you know whats even better? you know how I said that most of you that saw the cartoons will be humming the themes? well thats what I started doing there! the ambiance of the place will instantly kick you off to a happy place while playing the theme songs from your favorite 80’s / 90’s cartoons!
I even called my mom and got her to hear those themes!

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I got the opportunity to sneak in a meal before the place opens up on Monday (9th Feb) and im so happy to say that the theme isn’t the only thing that will pull me here! Some of the things are creative and ull have to trust the chef and just try em, and others are perfectly executed classics.
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So lets start with the first things that came! The Shuwa salad was one of those things that looked strange at first but was very unique and well balanced. The strange part for me when it came was that it had ‘Chips Oman’ in it! but it mixed in very well! the shuwa meat itself was well cooked and my friends who tried another shuwa dish loved it as well! (id plan ahead though as its only available on Thursday for now)DSC_9601

We also explored my love of cheese with the cheese platter, It was a pretty good selection but it needed crackers….the dates were a wonderful complement!DSC_9616

The mains came around and my partner ordered the Kebab….I had a bite and the meat was bursting with the flavors, and I dont mean that it was hidden with spices and herbs….This was proper meat that tasted exactly how it should! I’m surely going to order this one of the times im back here.

Oh and the sauce that it came with is a tomato sauce that was tangy and had just the amount of spices in it…..I haven’t had a chance to explore much of the menu yet but I sure hope that this sauce comes with more dishes!
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I see mushrooms and I order the dish that they come with 😛  So naturally my choice was a mushroom burger!
This came with the ‘Chips Oman’ twist and I really took a second to realize that after I bit into the burger…..I Absolutely loved it! the sauce was just the right consistency and the chips brought a nice zing to it……….again the big highlight for me was the meat itself! the burger patty was flavored very well and balanced between the taste of the meat and seasoning….the different elements mixed very well and it really did feel that this burger was engineered to perfection!
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Before I dive into the sweet stuff, id absolutely love to talk about the drinks here…….they have some really amazing coffee creations done with Omani touches.

The Rose frappe is something that ud love if you like rose water taste….you can really taste it and I wouldn’t mind ordering this to go when I spend a day on the beach because this drink is absolutely refreshing.

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My favorite thing though would be the qahwa frappe! I absolutely love coffee, especially Omani coffee so when the owner suggested this I was pretty excited!
When it came, I could immediately smell the strong flavorsome smell of Omani qahwa…..I actually wondered why wasnt this done before? if you had to order just one drink from the menu, id suggest this would be the one.

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By the time the desserts came, we were stuffed! We couldn’t finish our luqaimat (photo cred: Anna Chesalina) but they were divine! I was told that next time I should try the halwa spring rolls or the date pancakes! it would be good to see how they compare to silk route’s date pancakes (my favorite dessert) or shuwa expresses halwa spring rolls!
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The place itself has a very fun vibe and atmosphere…..the cartoon themes will just make you smile if not sing along and the food will bring you back for more!

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to explore the menu much yet…..but fortunately I will come back to surely be pleasantly surprised with more awesome dishes…..and you know what? next time I go, ill bring my mom along for all the nostalgia overload!

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