Brandon's Sparkling Shopping Cart - Gray Mackenzie & Partners, Abu Dhabi

Brandon's Shopping Cart recently was all about sparkling wines on a visit to Gray Mackenzie & Partners' flagship store at the Hilton Capital Grand, Abu Dhabi. I would like to see people enjoying sparkling wines more and more, because life should always be bubbly even in challenging times. But rather than focus on champagne, I targeted affordable sparkling options. 

Sparkling wine is very misunderstood and for most people anything sparkling is called champagne. Of course, the latter is the expensive stuff - now is not the time to write about the nuances of every sparkling variety, Today, I leave the expensive stuff and look at the sparkling options from South Africa. Spain, Australia and Germany. 

I settle on Campo Viejo, a cava, a sparkling wine from South Africa, Kleine Parys, Jacob's creek Moscato from Australia and Balthasar Ress Brut, a German Riesling. With the exception of the Riesling, the other wines are all under 75AED. 

Over the next couple weeks, I tried all 4 …

Eli Teplin at Q's Bar & Lounge by Quincy Jones - Palazzo Versace, Dubai

Having been entertained by incredible jazz by three former acts at Q's Bar & Lounge, I could be forgiven for arriving to listen to the latest performer to take up residency at this fantastic venue, Eli Teplin, with ambivalent feelings. Knowing that this singer -songwriter was bringing to Q's a more pop-like approach to music, I needed to adjust my mindset. nonetheless, I opened my mind to his music. 
 At 21.15, He launches into New York state of Mind, a Billy Joel composition. There is indeed a decided jazziness to this, interestingly, something that belies his reputed penchant for more popular music. I am pleasantly surprised. He comes across as remarkably down to earth - a very unassuming, regular person. As he introduces his next song, a rendition of Adele's Someone like you, he lets the audience into his world of depth and vulnerability. "The first time I heard this song, I had to pull the car over", he muses. I sit up and really take note. It is during th…

The inaugural Sipping Abu Dhabi with Brandon - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

Sipping Abu Dhabi. The concept is simple. 12 people move to high end bars and have an evening of canapes and drinks. Movement is important. It is about meeting people and connecting, like in the old days when people looked at one another. The inaugural event, at Beach Rotana, took in three restaurants/bars - Finz, Indigo and Rodeo Grill. 

We start at one of the sexiest restaurants in the city, Finz and gravitate towards the bar, with sumptuous views of the water through floor to ceiling windows. We start with a glass of Perrier Jouet NV paired with a series of canap├ęs: Oyster tartare in cucumber, Hamachi yellowtail cevicheHome Smoked salmon on avocado and Crispy crab cornet. The bar at Finz is a bar that is a destination in itself. With one of the best DJs in the city, Miki Love, spinning tunes from her fantastic selection, it is really a great way to get the evening started. A champagne sabering by Gray Mackenzie and Partners' Sandeep completes the first part of the evening!

For …

Taking steak and wine to your home in Abu Dhabi - with Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, Gray Mackenzie & Partners, La Carne and

Steak is expensive in Abu Dhabi restaurants. Over the last few months, while compiling my second Abu Dhabi Steakhouse round up, this dawned on me once again. Did you know that at one of the restaurants that will feature in the round up, you can get a steak for around 750AED? This is an extreme case of how expensive steak is, but the average is around 300AED for a decently marbled sirloin. I met Joan at a Japanese wagyu steak dinner, and she became essential in bringing this dinner to life. It was with this in mind that I thought I would include in my round up a post on doing it yourself at home - picking up some great beef at a fraction of the cost and a bottle or two of wine and having a fun evening at home  while saving a lot of dirhams. The premise is not that it replaces the steakhouse experience because we all have to go out but it is an option when the money is a bit low or you are not in the mood to dress up.
Ideally, the evening would have been held at one of our homes but then…