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I’M still recovering from Formula One fever after having enjoyed three jam-packed days of motorsport, entertainment … and fine cuisine at the Bahrain International Circuit.
As one of the hordes of hacks attending and covering the event (and trying unsuccessfully to ensure my young reporter Kristian actually interviewed the drivers rather than just posed with them for selfies), it’s surprising how hungry a grumpy old editor can get.
In fact, on Saturday, my little step-counting fitness watch recorded a staggering 23,000 steps and normally a little fireworks graphic explodes on the screen (similar to the display at the end of the F1 race) when I do less than half of that.
The main reason was that the main refreshment tent was a long trek under the tunnel from the paddock and media centre … but the culinary fare on offer was well worth the effort.
And, as reported in GulfWeekly, best of all, the fare being tucked into at Sakhir by sports writers and presenters, camera crews, race team personnel and Formula One stars, was Gulf Hotel-inspired cuisine.
Charbel Hanna, executive assistant manager, who was recently presented with the inaugural CEO’s Award at the Gulf Hotels Group annual staff party, was busy behind the scenes helping to coordinate the 500-strong culinary team efforts.
It is anticipated that more than 17,000 meals were served during the three-day F1 extravaganza. The catering team was made up of food production, logistics, managers and service personnel from the Gulf Hotel Bahrain, Convention & Spa for the first time, with contracted support from local suppliers, working with two specialty chefs who travel to all the global races.
The task, although challenging, was well executed - producing an array of international cuisine with at least one local dish on every menu.
Manning the Media & Teams Lounge reception once again was the lovely Alison (I believe this was the ninth time we’ve met at this venue) and her two young colleagues and she told me the race crews quickly devoured the pasta like there was no tomorrow. A Popeye-inspired Spinach & Mushroom Lasagne was a particular favourite.
The Lamb Maqloub was luscious too, an Arabic feast for your mouth, with fabulous flavours from different vegetables with the unique aroma of basmati rice topped with pieces of tender meat. A friend from an international photographic agency insisted I also tried the sensational sea bass and I was happy to oblige.
But it wasn’t just the journalists and muscle-bound mechanics filling their plates … the sponsors were also receiving five star treatment too with attentive waiter service thrown in for good measure.
On Sunday, I joined the movers and shakers as a guest of AMA Motors’ GM Simon Keen in one of the swish corporate lounges overlooking the starting grid, watching one of his company’s big trucks transport its most expensive load ever (see Motoring Weekly on Page 20) before settling down for the big race action.
Lunch, High Tea and Dinner was served and the delightful dishes included a superbly moist Salmon Trace and a breath-taking Beef Chateaubriand, a fabulous thick cut from tenderloin filet.
But my stand-out dish of the whole weekend was the Beef Stroganoff.
Executive Chef Carlo Cirone popped in to see me with Charbel after the last dish was prepared. The last time we met, the Italian culinary virtuoso from Verona, had added an international touch to the occasion with a fresh pasta station featuring an awesome Lasagna Cannelloni with Ricotta Spinach making my taste-buds tingle at the hotel’s new-look Ramadan tent - Khaimat Al Khaleej.
The secret to the Stroganoff, however, was simple, give it plenty of time to slowly cook … and he believes it’s one of those particular dishes that benefit from being produced in large quantities as the flavours of the meat, mushrooms and chopped onions, expand into a furore of flavour in the pot. Truly amazing.
The desserts were impressive too, particularly the Apple Strudel, but the one that caught my eyes was the Ferrari Red Velvet.
This F1 lark is a piece of cake, just ask Sebastian Vettel.