Ahlan!’s Guide to the Dubai Food Festival

Get your plane ticket booked for the ultimate gourmet stay-cation!
ByOlivia Spadavecchia
,Dawn Gibson
Tuesday , 18 February 2014
Ahlan!’s Guide to the Dubai Food Festival

The inaugural Dubai Food Festival is a city-wide culinary celebration that brings together some of the Emirate’s most popular business and consumer food events, including Gulfood and Taste of Dubai, as well as new events such as the Dubai Food Carnival and The Big Grill. Running over 23 days from 21 February to 15 March, it’s well worth the price of an air ticket!

21-22 Feb
Dubai Food Festival opens with the Dubai Food Carnival at Dubai Festival City
The event promises ‘fun, food and flavours’ and will feature celeb chefs, culinary masterclasses, restaurant pavilions and food tastings, as well as musical entertainment. In the live demo area – The Chef’s Dome – foodies can check out ‘queen of the Arabic kitchen’ Manal Al Alem, food TV star Silvena Rowe and UK MasterChef’s John Torode in an exciting cook-off.
Other events include the Great Yalla BBQ, an open barbecue competition, on 21 February, with the finale the following day, The Extreme Food Challenge, a marathon chilli-eating contest, and My Dad Can Cook, a week-long competition culminating the following day.
INFO: Dhs60 per person, children under 12 free, 10am-11pm, Fri 21-Sat 22 Feb, Dubai Festival City, www.dubaifoodcarnival.com

20-22 Feb
Grand Kerala Festival at Wonderland Dubai

The three-day event will transform the theme park into a Keralite village and will include a food fair with cooking stations showcasing cuisines from Malabar, Kochi and Travancore. There’s also a Kerala home cooking competition, family entertainment, competitions, handicrafts on sale and an art expo.
INFO: 2pm-12midnight, Thu 20-Sat 22 Feb, Wonderland Dubai, Garhoud, www.grandkeralafestival.com, www.wonderlanduae.com

26 Feb-1 Mar
Taste of Peru at Madinat Amphitheatre
The fair celebrates Peruvian cuisine and entertainment with food stalls serving traditional dishes completed by rhythmic South American music. 
INFO: 6pm onwards Wed 26-Thu 27 Feb, 3pm onwards Fri 28 Feb-Sat 1 Mar, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, www.jumeirah.com

27-28 Feb
The Big Grill at Emirates Golf Club
Meat lovers can revel in a weekend dedicated to all things barbecue with an extensive menu prepared by Chef Jeffrey Brothers (previously at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr) and his team. Visitors can tuck into classic steaks and juicy burgers as well as regional specialities such as Indian kebabs and Lebanese mashawis. There’s also a King of the Grill competition which will crown Dubai’s ultimate barbecue master!
Organised by Sundance Live, musical acts during the weekend include UB40 on 28 February and No Mercy and Diana King on 27 February. Tickets include unlimited food from the grills plus one serving from the Masters of the Grill Zone.
INFO: 4pm onwards, Thu 27 Feb, Dhs295 per adult, Dhs100 per child, 1pm onwards Fri 28 Feb, Dhs300 per adult, Dhs150 per child, weekend pass Dhs495 per adult, Dhs250 per child, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, 052 990 0112, www.facebook/SundanceLIVE, book at available at www.timeouttickets.com

Catch UB40 live at The Big Grill! 

4-8 Mar
Emirates Airline Festival of Literature at InterContinental Hotel Dubai Festival City
The literature festival has a strong food angle this year thanks to a host of internationally renowned food writers. Chef Greg Malouf joins the line-up and he’ll be preparing a ‘Friday Literary Lunch’ at Terra Firma restaurant in InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City. Attendees can sample his dishes and listen to Greg and his co-author, Lucy, recount their colourful stories of the travels that inspired numerous exotic cookery books. After lunch, Greg and Lucy will lead an interactive session discussing Dubai’s restaurant scene and culinary culture.
The next day, Greg will be joined by cookbook author Tessa Kiros; restaurateur and cookbook writer Prue Leith; typographer, interior designer and writer Arlette Boutros and award-winning editor, broadcaster and author William Sitwell. The talented group will host a Foodie Panel looking at how and why food has become such a popular subject of television shows.
Tickets for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature are available online from www.emirateslitfest.com
INFO: Literary lunch 1pm, interactive session 6.30pm, Fri 7 Mar, foodie panel, 11.30am-12.30pm, 8 Mar, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, www.emirateslitfest.com

7-14 Mar
Gulf Photo Plus at Alserkal Avenue Arts and Cultural District

The annual photography festival will feature a range of food-related workshops held by food photographer and blogger Matt Armendariz (www.mattbites.com). The blogger-turned-author kicks off with a seminar dedicated to taking great food pics with your smartphone (love!) from 11.30am to 1pm, followed by the ‘Great Writing and Food Photography for Bloggers’ session at 6pm on Friday 7 March.
Matt will also host a two-day ‘Food Photography in Depth’ workshop from 9am-5pm on 9-10 March where photography enthusiasts and professionals can learn all the techniques of lighting, props, food styling and retouching.
INFO: Online registration required for free workshops, tickets available from www.gulfphotoplus.com

13-15 Mar
Taste of Dubai at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre
The culmination of Dubai Food Festival, Taste of Dubai features an incredible line-up of chefs, cooking demos, restaurants, music and entertainment. This year’s festival is headlined by master baker and food TV star Eric Lanlard and French maestro Jean-Christophe Novelli. Food Network stars Siba Mtongana, Reza Mahammad and Jenny Morris will also be at this year’s event, which is a celebration of all the best food and drink Dubai has to offer. 
INFO: Standard tickets in advance Dhs70 and at the door Dhs90, VIP tickets Dhs220 in advance and Dhs240 at the door, VIP tickets include fast-track entry, access to the VIP enclosure, two free drinks at the VIP bar, three free dishes from any participating restaurant and entry into a prize draw, Thu-Sun 13-15 Mar, Thu 4pm-12midnight, Fri 12noon-12midnight, Sat 12noon-11pm, www.tasteofdubaifestival.com, www.tasteofdubaifestival.com


Getting There
Flights from Doha to Dubai take an hour. Direct return flights from Qatar Airways, Emirates and Flydubai cost between QR610 to QR850, with FlyDubai typically the cheapest.
INFO: www.emirates.com, www.flydubai.com, www.qatarairways.com

Where To Stay
The grand finale and biggest highlight of the festival will be Taste of Dubai from 13 to 15 March, an annual al fresco event which attracts thousands of foodies every year. Here are our picks for accommodation close to the venue at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre:

Media One
A stylish four star hotel where all rooms boast views of the Arabian Gulf, the Palm Jumeirah or Dubai’s skyline. INFO: +971 4427 1000, cu@mediaonehotel.com, www.mediaonehotel.com

Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City
Features including two outdoor pools, a hip rooftop terrace and a day spa make this hotel a plum spot for the festival. INFO: +971 4366 9119, info.mediacity.dubai@radissonblu.com, www.radissonblu.com/hotel-mediacitydubai

Arjaan by Rotana, Dubai Media City
Overlooking the Palm Jumeirah, this hotel’s suites and apartments feature modern Moorish-style interiors which open onto balconies with cityscape and sea views. There’s two swimming pools, one just for the kids. INFO: +971 4436 0000, www.rotana.com