Abu Dhabi Culinary shines the spotlight on the capital as a leading gastronomical destination where foodies can relish in a diverse range of delectable offerings, from fine dining restaurants to independent hotspots.

The season takes pride in championing homegrown talent as they take centre stage and showcase their offerings. We spoke to Kathy Johnston, Chief Chocolate Officer at Mirzam about the local brands participation in the next six weeks and the limited edition treats on offer at their Qasr Al Hosn location:

Mirzam appears to be much more than just chocolate makers, can you explain the culture and history of the brand?

Mirzam makes chocolate from bean to bar, following the historical Spice Route to find cocoa bean farms. Historically, the Arabian Gulf was home to spice traders and dhow sailors who used the Spice Route trails to find their prized goods, bringing them back to souks in the Middle East to trade with European buyers. We connect to this beautiful history of spice trading, through cocoa beans and recipes from these countries.  

How do you think your flavours and ingredients tie in with local culture within Abu Dhabi?

Our recipes are inspired by both the treasured recipes of the UAE, but also those which were themselves only possible through the Spice Route passing through the Arabian Gulf. Special seasonal recipes like Aseeda – which is a slow cooked pumpkin pudding infused with cardamom, were only possible when cardamom became available with dhows arriving from India and elsewhere. 

Can you explain Mirzam’s special offerings during Abu Dhabi Culinary?

In every Emirati household, Arabic coffee is served – and the recipes can be quite specific and crafted over time. We have created a unique drinking chocolate, inspired by a secret family recipe from Abu Dhabi, that includes rose, saffron, cardamom and coffee together with rich dark chocolate – that is steamed up together with milk. 

Can you explain the craftsmanship behind the production process and do you think it is this that makes you stand out?

Mirzam specialises in making chocolate from bean to bar, in a slow and careful process that takes time – but means we can make chocolate with just 1 or 2 ingredients. Starting from the cocoa beans arriving at our factory, we start by cleaning and sorting the beans to pick out the best quality. The second step of production is roasting; where the flavours of chocolate are more richly developed with the application of heat to the cocoa beans. They are then cracked and ground into a smooth paste over about a week, in stone grinders, until we create chocolate! The chocolate then rests for around 4-6 weeks to create ideal chocolate flavour notes; and then we can make truffles, chocolate bars & hot chocolate!

Tell us about the Mirzam collaboration with Moaza Mattar?

Emirati artist Moaza Matar is based in Abu Dhabi – and is known for her watercolour painting, illustrations and urban sketching dairies, from trips all over the world. We have collaborated with her before to create a chocolate bar wrapper for an exhibition at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; and this time she was the perfect fit to create a sunset illustration of the Abu Dhabi skyline for our gahwa cup. 

If all this talk of sweet treats is making you hungry, be sure to visit Mirzam’s Qasr Al Hosn boutique for a delicious Abu Dhabi themed hot chocolate blend! This is just one of the expansive programme of activations throughout the season, with plenty more initiatives to uncover. Explore the rest of the website for more information as you embark on A Journey Through the Senses with activations including Chef’s Table, Yas Flavors, Hidden Gems, Sweetest Things and much more.