Wednesday, October 28, 2009


There's lots of good restaurants in Riyadh, but I have to say that Cristal is one of the best ones they have here. It's real fine dining.

Cristal is located on the ground floor of the Faisaliah and it's almost always empty if you arrive when it opens. There is one advantage to eating at an empty restaurant though - the service. The head chef came out and talked to us for a little while before we ordered, and then it seemed that the manager, the maitre D and the waiter were all competing to serve us. They even switched our bread basket mid-meal to make sure that bread would be warm. At the end of the night I had a headache and they brought out some Panadol on a plate for me. That's service!

The hours are a bit of a mystery - it's not open on Fridays and when we got there on Monday night, they opened at 8pm. So you might want to call before you get there. But all in all, better food and value than the Globe, even though the view is pretty spectacular up there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

hot ghetto mess

One of the joys of living on a compound is that you get to meet people from all over the world. You're thrown together with people you would never think that you would get along with, but somehow you just do. I think the best thing you can do is laugh about your differences - to me, it's a lighthearted way of celebrating them. You might wanna skip the rest of this post if you don't agree....

Today I spent some time with an African American woman and we had a good laugh talking about stereotypes about our cultures and of course, every ethnic person's favourite target - white people. We also evaluated our own levels of whiteness. To find out how white you are, I recommend consulting this list.
My personal favourites of stuff white people like: "being the only white person around" "standing still at concerts" and "appearing to enjoy classical music" - in my opinion, there's a blaring hole in the list. Where is "sailing"???

Anyhow, somewhere in our conversation my friend agreed to teach me ebonics. My first lesson was learning the term "hot ghetto mess." What is it? When a woman pulls up to the Wendy's drivethrough and her cheque bounces, it's a hot ghetto mess. I'm not making this up, it's on youtube.
Wendy's Drivethrough Story

It's basically any problem that a person experiences that's 'ghetto'...and the problem can range from a heated yo' mama argument on the bus to poor clothing choices. You don't have to be black to be ghetto. Youtube it. Google it. Seriously.

I recommend this site to educate yourself on all the aspects of "hot ghetto mess."

peace out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ha ha halloumi!

I discovered the best cheese here. The first time I tasted Halloumi, I thought it was God-awful. Weird texture, way too salty, I went "blech" and thought I'd put it down forever. Then I found out you're supposed to COOK it!!! I fry slices of Halloumi on medium/high heat and throw a thai red chilli in to give it a kick. With a layer of sizzling oil, you fry a minute on each side, and when you do it right, you'll have a nice crunch to the outer shell and then a soft almost-gooey texture in the centre. It tastes amazing on salads and vegetables (especially fried red/green/yellow peppers) and goes well with fennel, rosemary, mint, any strong herb. It's the cheese of the year in my books.

Oh man, I want to halloumi right now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

bbq 4evR

Ahh...the favourite past time of all expats in Riyadh. The BBQ. On weekends, I love walking around and smelling that charcoal lighting up on all corners of the compound. We don't have the place for it, but we are lucky enough to get invitations from our friends who do, and there ain't nothin' like a good cookout.

Part of the joy of living on a compound is being able to walk around without your abaya on to visit friends living nearby. Even if you haven't made specific plans for the weekend, it's nice to get out, sit by the pool in your skimpy bikini (gasp!), and receive impromptu invites to bbq's. We've made friends here through our living circumstances that we would never have made back home. When different age groups, backgrounds, and etc. get together, it invariably centers around putting some meat on a grill. Inside these high security walls, there's such a sense of community through shared hardship that I'm sure I will miss it when I leave. At home in Canada, people go back into their holes during the week and there's no such thing as walking down the block on a Monday night to sit down on a friend's couch and shoot the sh*t. When you're away from your favourite malls, your favourite coffee shop, your favourite sushi and pho restaurants, and most of all, your favourite people, it makes you incredibly grateful for a BBQ.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

maintenance changes our lightbulbs

I wonder if people will lose respect for me when they find out I do zero amounts of housework. I'm just not very good at it, and I can't motivate myself to clean things that I know will only get dirty again. I don't have kids, but we have a maid anyway who comes in twice a week because we can afford it here, whereas back home in Canada maids are very expensive in comparison, and I have to make a half-hearted effort to clean up after myself =(

Many families love it out here because the help is cheap and living in a compound makes having a house pretty easy. If anything goes wrong you just call maintenance and they'll fix it for you. When I say anything, I really mean anything. Like, if you can't reach the lightbulbs on the ceiling, they'll come by with a ladder and change them for you, and if you can't figure out why your freezer door is not closing, they'll fix that too. Living on a compound is expensive, so it's not like we don't pay for these services, it's just that I know that is one big thing that I will miss about Saudi Arabia when I go home. I just can't stand cleaning!!!

pork substitutions

As you all know, pork is illegal here in Saudi. In Dubai, you can go into grocery stores and those products are in their own dirty little section, but in Saudi they are banned outright. I confess, I'm not huge on pork. In Canada, I typically choose chicken and beef over pork. Pork's just...I dunno. It's just there sometimes. It's that in-between kind of meat, in terms of flavour. I don't miss it all that much.

That being said, I believe there are a couple of no-sub pork items that just don't taste as good with beef when you've gone oink. I'm reminiscing here, so I hope no one takes offense. Perhaps sone of you are disgusted with me now, but all I can say is oink. Oinkity oinking oink pig snort oink!!! =D

Exhibit A: BACON

Beef bacon is okay, but I think beef bacon will always be jealous of pork bacon, like Cinderella and her step-sisters. No, to be fair, actually some of that beef bacon is pretty good, and pretty close to the 'real thing' but I swear I can taste the difference. Please do NOT even defile me with the mention of gobble gobble bacon. That's just revolting... My favourite bacon dish? Brussel sprouts fried with bacon and walnuts. Yes, I miss pork bacon terribly. There's a specific ache near my spleen that aches only for oinky bacon.


Okay, now this picture just says it all. I don't have to write anything, but I will. There's nothing more succulent and flavourful than a slow roasted rack of baby back ribs. It must be the pork fat that makes it so perfect. There is a reason why God put pigs on the earth, and ladies and gentlemen, this could be it.

As a sidenote another product that can be difficult to get in Saudi is Vanilla. Not the cream or powder - I'm talking the delicious smelling dark liquid - the nectar of the gods that make cakes and cookies so delectable. Those of you who have it in your house in the West take a look at your bottle of vanilla and you'll see our dear friend Mr. Alcohol, another banned substance here in Saudi.