What To Do: Dubai Stopover (2017)

One of the best options for traveling to the Middle-East and/or Asia is on the Dubai flag-carrier, Emirates. If connecting through their Dubai hub, one benefit of traveling with Emirates that is available to you is their Dubai stopover program. Once you book your flight through Dubai, call the airline and have of them adjust your reservation to extend your connection at no additional cost. Or, simply, book through a travel agent and tell them you’re interested in the program. When I travel to Hyderabad in the the coming weeks, I’ll be taking advantage of this program to experience the futuristic city.

  1. Eat dinner at Nusr Et Steakhouse: Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Nispetiye Caddesi No.87 Etilera
  2. Visit the Dubai Mall: Financial Centre Road, Downtown Dubai
  3. Take a Desert Safari Ride
  4. Go to the Dubai Opera: Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai
  5. Take the monorail to Palm Jumeirah – one of the largest artificial islands in the world in the shape of a palm tree
  6. Stroll along City Walk: 39 Al Safa St (at the junction of Al Wasl & Al Safa Road)
  7. And finally, look up at the Burj Khalifa: Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai

Nusr Et Steakhouse

First off, it’s a rare occasion when a social media phenomenon collides with my life. And it’s an even rarer that I would coordinate such a feat for myself. Second, we’re talking about the Turkish meat master. And finally, getting reservations at Nusr-et Dubai felt like the beginning of a religious experience, a unique sensation that I’d never previously associated with dining out. Here’s why:

I respect this man, Nusret Gökçe. He commanded my attention, like much of the internet’s, when first appearing on youtube and treating a piece of meat with more respect than most people get on a daily basis. Each motion is a stroke devotion, practice and love. His demeanor exudes respect and he clearly has a relationship with the meat through life and death.

salt bae

His respect for the animal sold me. Time and again I find myself watching his videos, his technique and that finesse.

I’m not ashamed to say that if this man offered an apprenticeship I would start it all over to learn from the master.

I very much am looking forward to experiencing his cuisine and culture.

Take a Desert Safari Ride

Yes please. As someone that has never experienced a proper desert or safari excursion, this is the s’more of traveling abroad. Riding around in 4x4s, camel treks, sand skiing, it reads like a fantasy or a movie.

As intriguing and exciting as a Desert Safari sounds, I can’t honestly say I’m a fan of extreme heat and dust storms. But nothing is perfect. Dubai is definitely an environment that is foreign in every sense and I am very much a home-grown American but I am not deterred. As a cap to my travels in and around India and Dubai, I’m most compelled to experience the extremes this time. Not to be sidelined; to enjoy such an experience vicariously through my family.

I can always be humbled by nature. Irreverence to time and impervious to my (individual) impact. As much as traveling to India is of bucket list quality, experiencing every biome, the majesty of nature is not just nice. I believe to be necessary.

I seek to return humbled by such beauty.

Brunch in Philadelphia

If you’re one of those rare college students who tends to wake up before noon and likes to partake in some quality eating to start off the day then brunch sounds like the restaurant genre for you.

Philadelphia is home to an eclectic variety of brunch restaurants only a short and cheap train ride away and certainly affordable on the tight college-student budget.

The closest to St. Joe’s happens to be right on campus. The new and popular Landmark Restaurant, walking distance for most of us, does in fact serve brunch on Sundays with about six or seven unique breakfast dishes including Breakfast Nachos, Heuvos Quesadillas, and Steak and Egg Burrito, none of which hike above $10. The menu also includes about twelve lunch dishes including the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sandwich, Fish and Chips, and Seafood Bisque Bread Bowl.

Café Lift, located in the Loft District (not far off of Route 676), offers a variety of both egg based dishes
(excellent Huevos Rancheros) and griddles such as the Canoli French Toast (as good as it sounds) for those who don’t mind indulging early in the day. For those who’d rather skip breakfast, “Café Lift” offers an array of salads and paninis as well.

Another less expensive choice is Sam’s Morning Glory Diner located a few blocks below South Street’s Magic Gardens on 10th and Fitzwater. The small, changing menu is made up for in quality. My recommendation? The Frittata—fluffy with fresh grilled veggies and served with an enormous hunk of biscuit. Their homemade jam is excellent as is their coffee. Give this place a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Of course you can’t mention Philly restaurants without a Stephen Starr. “Jones” is a fun, 1960s, almost Brady Bunch themed restaurant that serves brunch on weekends from 10AM until 3PM. Jones is slightly more expensive but don’t let that discourage you – a quality meal under $10 is certainly possible and still a superb choice. A few things worth noting on your first trip: if you love a simple breakfast sandwich, the Jones Biscuit Sandwich is a must. The Monkey Bread ($8.50) is a mouthwatering pastry to split between your group before your meal.  The orange juice is fresh squeezed and worth the $3.75.

For those who don’t mind spending a little time waiting and some extra money, try Green Eggs Café. With three locations (one in south, north, and midtown Philadelphia) Green Eggs is known for its commitment to being environmentally friendly. Their products are bought fresh and locally and their herbs and spices are grown in house. Dishes are often too big to finish in one sitting. Griddle-fans will be in brunch heaven here with French Toast flavors of peanut butter, crème brûlée, and tiramisu. Get there early, it’s quite popular.

Philadelphians take pride in their Brunch. No one does it better. Take advantage!

Roaming Around Rome

First and foremost, the cliches are all true; the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum, the Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel are all breathtakingly beautiful displays of ancient human society—not just society in general, but THE society—as well as monumental feats in architecture. While the city hosts many under-the-radar beauties, the famous ones are nothing to skip. Bite the bullet, be a tourist, bring your cargo shorts and fanny packs, it’s worth it.

My recommendation: brush up on your history before or while visiting all these famous landmarks. Without doing so you can appreciate the architecture and the art, but to stand in the spot under the arch Julius Caesar led his army through to conquer Rome, to picture the hundreds of artists taking Michelangelo’s direction, hanging from the ceiling, to wonder in awe how they staged naval battles in what was the world’s largest structure for centuries, is to truly appreciate Rome.

Don’t be afraid to wander, Rome’s a safe city. However, you will certainly need to watch out for pickpockets.

If you have an evening free and plan to walk around aimlessly, Trastevere is your destination. Probably the most charming residential neighborhood, Trastevere is home to a number of restaurants that meet our expectations of real Italian cuisine. After dinner, there’s plenty of Gelato places to choose from. My recommended flavor: Stratecella (chocolate drizzle in vanilla).

If your night is calling for some more excitement, the nightlife of Rome isn’t as laid back as Italian culture would have you think. For English speaking travelers who don’t mind a bit of rowdiness, Scholars Lounge is a great time. The Irish pub, a few minutes walk away from Il Vittoriano (or Altare della Patria), is a two large room bar that hosts fun events most days out of the week including live music and karaoke. And of course, the nature of an Irish pub is near and dear to most English speakers from Australia to America, so meeting people is a lot easier in Scholar’s than with the language barrier somewhere else.

Campo de’ Fiori is great spot for a good dinner in the late afternoon when the restaurants are in full swing or at night for a lively time when the bars are active. During the day Campo is a colorful farmer’s market surrounded by cafes and shops with great local produce including good cheese, pastas, fruits, vegetables, spices and more.

The McLobster – McDonalds Goes Cape Cod

For what it is, taste isn’t everything.

Any harbor town on the East Coast of the United States is going to have a few restaurants that offer up lobster rolls on their menu. More than a few will even go as far as to claim that they are the area’s best and despite the cost of entry, the low ingredient count and simple concept allow almost anyone to have an entry. But what happens when lobster rolls slide down into the fast food bracket? Not as much damage as you would think.

Despite the simplicity, lobster rolls are still a bourgeois treat. It is not uncommon to see them reach $25.00 to $30.00 on a high end menu. So with lobster rolls commanding these price premiums, it’s not surprising that an $8.99 version from McDonald’s drew some attention. The McDonalds lobster roll was available in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Albany, New York this past summer. It was available at more locations in 2015 and I believe we can expect its return in the spring of 2017.

So how does it taste? Better than you would expect. In order to really appreciate the McDonald’s lobster roll you have to take it for what it is. Comparing it to a $25.00 roll at a high end seafood restaurant will just leave you disappointed. But for $9.00, it’s not half bad. Yes, the lobster is frozen. Yes, the bun isn’t as soft and buttery as it could be but it is a fraction of the normal price.

The real beauty of the McDonald’s lobster roll is its accessibility. A family of four would have to pay $100.00 for four rolls whereas the Golden Arches will do the same for less than $40.00. For people balling on a budget this is a way to have the lobster roll experience without the lobster roll price since not everyone can justify spending $25.00 on a seafood stuffed hot dog bun.

Long story short, go try it. It won’t kill you and if you end up hating it, at least you can say you gave it a shot. No matter what in the end it will just let you appreciate a traditional lobster roll that much more.