A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked whether I’d like to join him for a booze run to Barracuda in Umm Al Quwain. I immediately piped up, “forget the booze, I wanna go to Finer Things, the gourmet deli store next door.”
Only one hour door to door from New Dubai, you can’t miss Finer Things. It’s just before the booze shop in the car park – and its shop front is rather quaint in a British kind of mock traditional village way. FooDiva was stunned by the large premises – this is no hole-in-the-wall, mind you neither is the booze store anymore. Finer Things is a gourmet mini-market. So what can you fill your shopping basket with?
Cheese – mainly French, bought directly from cheesemaker Philippe Olivier, with a small Italian (pecorino), Spanish (manchego) and British (stilton) selection – clearly categorised by colour into cow, sheep and goat’s milk. His Coeur de Chevre du Pays Boulonnais is made from a goat’s first milk and moulded into a single heart – cup cakes aside, that’s what I want for Valentine’s next year pretty please. Soft and mild with a slight peppery flavour, this chevre just melts in your mouth. Beautiful layered onto some spelt crackers. AED 68 for 200g. There’s a small tasting counter where you can mix and match cheese with chutneys. Best to remove cheese from the fridge 45 minutes or so before consumption for optimal flavour.
Chocolate – the selection from different suppliers is endless. We picked up plenty of 73% organic dark chocolate bars from French artisan chocolatier Bovetti in a myriad of natural flavours – Espelette chilli, Szechuan pepper, raspberry and my favourite fleur de sel. Speckled with chunks of sea salt granules, the sharp saltiness contrasts perfectly with the bitter yet smooth chocolate. AED 22 for 100g bars. There’s so many more flavours I need to return for. In the meantime, am rationing it to a couple of slithers every day. Mireille Giuliano, best-selling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat whose portion-control rule is my mantra, says that if you eat one piece immediately after you have finished your meal, you’re less likely to have hunger pangs later in the day or at night – works for FooDiva!
Tea – plenty of leaf tea, but pre-bagged. FooDiva’s delighted to discover the hard-to-find smokey Chinese Lapsang Souchong black tea packaged by French brand Quai Sud. Whilst smokey, sometimes this particular tea can become too bitter if not stored correctly, but in this case it’s very well rounded and smooth. AED 33 for 75g. Click here for some tea storage and brewing tips.
Tinned delicacies – from sardines, white tuna, and anchovies in olive oil, to stuffed piquillo peppers – all from Spanish brand, Conservas Ortiz. At least not everything is a French import. The sardines and anchovies in particular are ever so more-ish…easily eaten straight out of the container. AED 25 and AED 52 respectively.
Artisan salts, pepper, dried herbs and spices – again from Quai Sud. FooDiva spotted some smoked sea salt – I love it sprinkled over poached salmon. AED 30 for 60g.
These are FooDiva’s top five highlights but you can find plenty more – artisan oils and vinegars included. Tarryn, the welcoming South African store manager will happily guide you through the delicacies, and if you’re after a particular product, just ask and they may be able to import it. With some shelves still empty, they certainly have the capacity. Prices are so reasonable because Finer Things is able to import directly from these suppliers. And if you think one hour is too much of a trek from Dubai, you’ll be pleased to hear they are eyeing up a location in Dubai to open later this year. Jones The Grocer and Lafayette Gourmet had better watch out.
FooDiva did end up popping to the booze supermarket to pick up a bottle of Rioja I’ve been searching for high and low – the Solar Viejo Crianza 2008. If anyone spots the 2007 harvest please let me know!
Finer Things is located at Barracuda Beach Resort (next to the booze supermarket) in Umm Al Quwain. T: +971 6 7681175. Open daily 8am to 7pm. Only a one hour drive from New Dubai. Website and Facebook page on its way.
What gourmet delicacy or artisan product do you wish you could get your hands on here? Would you drive one hour to purchase your favourite products?