Shannon Fennell's Blog

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My Moroccan Adventure: The Overall Review, Part 2

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If you have followed my blog or read back, you know I eat Low Carb High Fat to control my Type 2 Diabetes.  So I was spending a lot of time thinking about how I was going to manage eating on this tour.  I love North African and Middle Eastern food so I was planning to at least taste everything, regardless, and just monitor and adjust my medication accordingly.

I was really looking forward to tasting REAL Moroccan food, in Morocco.

Well…

I lost 10 pounds on this tour.  I am seriously considering putting out a diet plan based on it – “The Olive, Cheese and Powdered Egg” diet.

I was so disappointed.

I have a few theories:

  1. Everywhere we ate was cooking bland for the tourists who they think can’t handle spice/flavour
  2. My taste buds are ageing faster than I thought and I need MORE spice
  3. My expectations were too high and it is that bland

But… many of my travel companions also expressed the same disappointment in the food and flavours we were getting.  We all were expecting it to be spicier.

We had to ask for salt and pepper everywhere.  They did not put it on the tables.  And everything NEEDED salt, lots of salt.  I found that a little strange.

Two of the special dinners were in themed Moroccan restaurants and were promoted as “authentic” meals.  They were enjoyable evenings, but the food wasn’t what I was expecting.

Fes Signaure evening

At both of these dinners they started with what our guide called a “cook’s salad” which at one consisted of nine small bowls of different things – olives, pickles, dips of different types, cucumber pieces, etc. that you would eat with the local bread that was on the table. The other restaurant served a similar course but on a huge platter with a slightly different selection of items.  I ate what I could from those selections – mainly olives.

Marrakesh dinner (2)

The main course at both was a Tangine.  I was expecting so much more flavour.   I picked out the meat and olives to try when I could. The meat (I only tried chicken and lamb due to my beef allergy) tended to be tough. The flavours weren’t awful, but there was so little of them.

If you aren’t aware, a tangine is a ceramic cooking dish – a flat dish with a cone-shaped top as seen in the photo below – the dishes prepared in it are called the same.

DSC04215

I loved the olives – which was a very good thing as I pretty much ate them at every meal.

The meal in the Marrakech optional night out was more extensive and also served a couscous dish as the third course which was fairly decent according to the others.

The dessert that night was enjoyed by my table companions – a huge flaky pastry with icing.  In Fes dessert was fresh fruit.

Marrakesh dinner (3)

The hotel breakfast buffets blend together as they essentially were all the same.  There were a couple of variations though.

They all had machines that produced coffee… espresso, a double espresso, a cafe au lait, and cafe american.  You had to get your own.  And if you asked for cream they gave you hot milk.  Apparently there is NO cream in Morocco – I asked everywhere.  None.  I even asked our guide if he could find me some decaf coffee and cream – nope.  I wonder what they do with the cream they produce?  I should research that.

Now, that isn’t to say that the cafe au lait wasn’t good – it was!  I had many of them.  But I really wanted cream!

Breakfast was the meal I considered my most important – it was included each day of the tour so I knew I could eat well to carry me through the day in case I wasn’t able to partake of other offerings.  Due to the selections offered – which were many, no issue at all with the amount of selection offered to everyone  – I was stuck with sliced cheeses (all very bland), assorted olives (served at every meal in Morocco) and eggs.  And a couple of times sliced cucumbers or stewed peppers, and sometimes a plain yoghurt.

Now, those eggs.  That was … interesting.  The one hotel only served them hard-boiled in the shell, hot; the others had scrambled powdered eggs – you can tell because of the texture and the fact that the curds and liquid have separated (shudder); and thankfully three of the hotels had omelette stations where they made omelettes to order out of real eggs and you could ask for them fried too if you wanted.

One hotel served pork. I was very surprised as it is a Muslim country. But they had shaved parma ham on the salad table at dinner and pork sausages and bacon at breakfast.  I did not partake of the bacon – it appeared to have been boiled.

Most of the meats were tough at the hotel meals – mostly chicken and lamb in tangines.  I may also have tried goat but I don’t know for sure.  The dinner buffets were awkward for me as they had a lot of beef (I’m allergic) and there were a lot of sauces that I had to avoid due to potential inclusion of beef stock, etc.  And the mixed salads usually were combinations of fruit and vegetables and I don’t eat fruit, and the dressings were unknown ingredients.

One hotel had fresh calamari and roast lamb at the dinner buffet – I had both.  The calamari was lovely.

The dessert selections were epic – I could only watch as others enjoyed those. Pastries, cakes, fruit, etc.

Our guide was very conscientious about making sure there were options for me.  At the lunches where we stopped while on the road, he would have the restaurants make me a small tangine of vegetables and chicken kababs if the main course was beef.  There was always so much more than I could manage.

We were served mint tea several times – it varied from okay to very nice.

Mint tea and an ashtray.JPG

The best was the tea made from scratch for us by the Imam’s wife when we visited them.

DSC04021

A group of us had lunch at poolside on our own at the hotel in Marrakech, we all had the Caesar Salad which was excellent.  It was nothing like what we call a Caesar Salad here in North America though.  It was butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, fresh anchovies and a very subtle and light dressing that did not coat everything.

The best meal I had in Morocco?  On our free evening in Marrakech my seatmate and I went out and found a Lebanese restaurant – it was fantastic, well seasoned and super good!  The hummus was to die for!  Restaurant Mandaloun was the name of it.

Best meal of the trip?  Holiday Inn Express – Schiphol, on my way home I had an overnight stay in Amsterdam.  Yes, Holiday Inn Express serves dinner – who knew?  I got there after 7 p.m. and there were only two other people in the dining room (aka “great room”).  They had a limited menu written on a table top blackboard.  There was a Dorado (aka Mahi-Mahi) fillet – so I went with that and asked for all vegetables, no starch.  The chef delivered the plate to the table himself – he had grilled up a whole bunch of different fresh vegetables for me.  OMG – the fish was crispy grilled on both sides and well-seasoned, the vegetables were perfect and there was also a small bowl of house made spicy pickles.  And I didn’t have to ask for salt!  I was very happy and told the chef it was the best meal of my trip.

I’ve got one more post after this, just to wrap up the overall review and my trip home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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