Captivated by Marrakech

Into Jardin d'Issil

Into Jardins d’Issil

About twenty minutes outside of Marrakech, at the end of a dirt road separating the Moroccan desert from long aisles of olive trees, is Les Jardins d’Issil.  The twelve acres of meticulously landscaped and maintained gardens are the backdrop for a series of Lawrence of Arabia-style tents, complete with toilets, showers, beds, and air conditioning.  Butterflies drift across the paths between flowers, and birds chatter in the arches of bougainvillea.  Jardins d’Issil has a ten hole mini golf course and a pool, but our preferred place to relax at the end of the day was the restaurant’s patio (which caters amazing meals) with a glass of red wine surrounded by the soft glow of Moroccan lamps as the sunlight dwindled on the horizon.  The combination of sun and wind create the perfect temperature during the day and nights cool down enough for long pants with a short sleeved shirt.  Sarah called it “glamping”, glamorous camping, and that’s just what it was.   Continue reading

The Supermarket Chronicles XI: Discovering the Tastes of Morocco

As you know, the Supermarket Chronicles showcase the restaurant or grocery store treasures of our travels, ranging from the unappetizing to the bizarre.  I jot down a brief description, throw in a picture or two, you read it in horror, and I sit back and laugh like Bram Stoker’s Renfield.  It’s really a great relationship.  This episode of the chronicles, however, is going to take a 180° turn, perhaps just this once.

That’s because we just returned from Marrakech, Morocco, and my perspective on dining has done a 180° turn.

Lunch of chicken tagine and Moroccan bread

Lunch of chicken tagine and Moroccan bread

Tagines simmering at a traditional restaurant

Tagines simmering at a traditional restaurant

I don’t cook much, even less now that we’re living abroad, but I was raised to be at the least food savvy, so you can imagine my shame when I knew next to nothing about Moroccan cuisine.  Most meals are centered around the tagine, a large terracotta dish with a cone-shaped lid that originates from the indigenous Berber people of Morocco.  You load the dish with meat, veggies and spices, put it under a low heat, replace the cover, and let the whole thing stew.  The lid traps the evaporating water so precious to desert dwellers, while the terracotta gives a slight earthiness to the dish.  Like a slow cooker, the process makes the vegetables tender, the meat pull apart with a fork and the flavors blend for unbelievable results.

Each sunset was enjoyed with a bottle of luscious Moroccan wine, peanuts, and the only olives I've ever enjoyed, so fresh some still had stems.

Each sunset was enjoyed with a bottle of sumptuous Moroccan wine, peanuts, and the only olives I’ve ever liked, so fresh some still had stems.  Photobombed by Aine.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Breakfast was a refreshing assortment of traditional Moroccan breads, yogurt, fresh fruit and cheeses.  We were so impressed by our “hotel’s” restaurant (not really a hotel- I’ll explain in the next post), we never felt the need to venture out for dinner.  Each evening we put the kids to bed and relaxed for a delicious three course meal; those meals that, despite being full, you keep eating anyway because the taste is irresistible.  As a former French colony, France’s expertise in the kitchen combines with Moroccan exotic and fresh ingredients, resulting in sheer brilliance.  There was only one set menu per night, often a dish that I would never have chosen regularly, but each evening was more fantastic than the last.  Let me show you some examples:

Stay tuned, faithful readers, because there’s a post coming soon about our Moroccan adventures.  It’s just emotionally difficult to type now that I’m home scrounging my kids’ uneaten chicken nuggets and trying to exercise off the five pounds I gained on vacation while dreaming of my next tagine.

Morocco