Now that we have your attention, let’s talk about the amazing slow food movement coming to the Mobility pavilion at EXPO 2020.
Founded by Humaid Saeed Khalifa Humaid Alremethi and Jessica Queitsch, Farm 2 Table is a concept the duo are extremely passionate about. They are hoping to bring local artisanal farmers to the forefront of the Mobility Pavilion by providing homegrown, quality organic food directly from heritage farms to be sold as dine in and to-go food at the Alif Café, tapping into the nostalgia of local Arabic Cuisine. A born at Expo concept, Alif Cafe will launch in the Mobility Pavilion, at Expo 2020 Dubai, both managed and operated by the celebrated Media One Hotel. This is a part of the Born at Expo, a concept backed by her excellency, Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy to encourage the sustainable and slow food movement.
The UAE has a long history of date, animal and fish farms and recently has expanded its sustainable efforts to look towards sourcing high quality produce locally. The Farm2Table concept prides itself on keeping that history alive and spreading the truly important message which highlights the vast offering the UAE has to offer while serving delicious wholesome food. Alif Cafe sources sustainable, organic produce from these local farms showcasing the incredible range and high quality of food and ingredients that the UAE has to offer while incorporating local flavours, tastes and recipes from this rich history. Hearty food that speaks to your soul and nourishes your body and mind.
Guests can follow in the footsteps of travellers over millennia because the inspiration for the food found in the Alif café is The Silk Road. The spices and flavours from the regions along this route will come alive once more and visitors will have a chance to closely understand the heritage, provenance and stories of key ingredients such as coffee, rice, pasta and spices and how they continue to influence worldwide cuisine.
Last week, Ipshita Sharma headed to Al Ain to actually get a taste of what they would have on offer. We’re welcomed with a cold glass of purple butterfly pea tea that hits all the right notes. The trip starts off with a walk around the farm where they grow native herbs without any chemicals whatsoever. We’re then introduced to the farm animals, most notably the ostrich. Then it’s almost sunset and time for dinner and the amazing spread laid out for us.
Before we get started however, Humaid, his wife Jessica and their cousin Saeed (who handles the farm) chatted with us about the food, how they try to stay under the Organic parameters, how they plan to expand and how they plan to start a delivery system for fresh produce across the country.
They then turned to what makes their dishes stand out — the freshness and the flavours. All the food at EXPO will also eschew the usage of white sugars and other refined products. For example, as Jessica points out, honey and dates are used for sweetening desserts and rye and locally grown wheat is used instead of refined flours. Slowly they are aiming at locally sourcing all products through their farms or other heritage farms.
Matters then turn to the fantastic smells coming from the spread in front of us. We start with a yellow salad made of all the yellow veggies available – yellow tomatoes, zucchini, corn, cucumber, bean sprouts and carrots. Then come veggie fritters with the most incredible tomato salsa. There is also a pomelo and rocket salad with pomegranate dressing that’s “just a simple last-minute addition” but it’s beyond delicious. On the side we have homemade beetroot foccacia and rye bread. Jessica says, “The UAE has such a beautiful versatility when it comes to local ingredients and is proof that sustainable eating can be a lifestyle for all. We hope to spotlight local artisanal farmers with this concept that is “born at Expo. I hope to inspire guests of all ages to question where their food comes from, and open the conversation around the importance of considering eating.”
All the invited foodies fall into a reverent silence as they fall in love with the way the ingredients are used. As Jessica explains, we start to understand what she meant by bringing the flavours of the Silk Road to contemporary cuisine.
We then move to the mains as some chicken cooked with local spices and pomegranate hits the table with an incredible fragrance. Following it is the pumpkin and lentil kootu or curry from South India that is also deep and welcoming like a bowl of soup. Pillowy plates of flavoured pulav and plain steamed rice are passed around.
All along this fantastic meal, Humaid and Jessica talk about the problems they face being an organic garden, how they keep away pests without chemicals, and how they see the landscape of sustainable farming change.
Now it’s time for dessert and since everyone is really full, Jessica has made the wise decision to keep things very simple. There is a bread pudding much like an Umm Ali that is made with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, rose and pistachio — this feels like the ultimate compilation of the flavours of the Silk Road.
This is followed with a piece of walnut sourdough that is brought alive by a simple piece of locally-made cream and some honeycomb from a local farm. This is easily the highlight of the entire evening for us. Both decadent and humble at the same time, this makes us have ratatouille-type fireworks!
This is truly the future of food. Sustainable, earth- friendly, locally sourced but global in flavour – we cannot wait to see it brought to life. Head to Alif Café at the Mobility Pavilion in Dubai EXPO 2020 to see what all of us are raving about.
As part of this, Alif Cafe will also host talks for customers on sustainability within food, how to grow your own food, nourishment and a variety of presentations including ‘How Tea has travelled by Jing Tea’; ‘Considered Eating: Sacrifice or Conscious Choices’ and ‘Perfume in Food Series’. It will be the place to be at EXPO for those wanting to educate themselves, learn about where our food comes from & sustainability while sampling the menu. Guests can expect a variety of mouth watering, sustainable options from Alif Cafe from Omani Prawns crusted in dukkah spice, Local Organic cream served with honey comb, Pumpkin and Ricotta Simit Bagels and Orange and Earl Grey Cake. Head to the Mobility Pavillion to learn, meet and eat at Alif Cafe where local farm produce is fused into dishes from the Silk Road, experience a truly authentic culinary journey while dining at Alif Cafe.