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Marrakech Dining

Morocco’s Traditional Dishes
Marrakech Dining
One of the best ways to get to know a country is through its cuisine. In Marrakech, you can sample the entire Moroccan culinary spectrum, from traditional tajines and inexpensive street food to high-end dining.
Photo by Amal Women's Training Center
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    Morocco’s Traditional Dishes
    Morocco’s Traditional Dishes
    The tajine, an earthenware dish with a conical top, is synonymous with Moroccan cuisine and its most iconic dish covering a wide range of exotic flavors from chicken stewed with green olives and preserved lemon, to beef succulent with prunes and almonds, and kefta (meatballs) bathed in a delicately spiced tomato sauce, a poached egg crowing the surface. To sample tagine in all its various guises head for Le Tangia for the streetside spectacle, or La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour for the fine-dining take on the dish, including a superb sea bass with onions, raisins and saffron. Coming a close second in terms of the country's signature dishes is, of course, couscous. Make like a local and enjoy yours on a Friday somewhere like Amal – womens vocational training restaurant that knocks out some of the best-home cooked dishes in town.
    Photo by Amal Women's Training Center
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    Explore Marrakech’s Food Markets
    Explore Marrakech’s Food Markets
    Morocco is one of the most agriculturally productive countries in Africa, and Marrakech's markets—teeming with fresh fruits and vegetables—celebrate this fact. In the medina, the Bab Doukkala market offers top produce. But almost everywhere in the city, you'll be able to find mountains of gleaming olives and locally-grown oranges. Saturday through Thursday, stallholders yell prices for their produce, bakers stack warm loaves of bread pulled from community ovens, and cats await scraps near butcher shops (those used to buying meat at the grocery store should prepare to see loads of animal heads and hooves for sale). In the spring, you can smell sweet orange blossoms, which are used to make cooking infusions.
    Photo by Stefano Scata/age fotostock
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    Take Home the Flavors of Morocco
    Take Home the Flavors of Morocco
    Marrakech’s spice shops know how to attract customers. Pyramids of herbs and spices displayed outside the stores entice all kinds of visitors, cooks and non-cooks alike and there’s nowhere better to stock up than by taking a stroll around the spice souk in the Mellah (just behind Kozy Bar), which is heady with perfumes of the orient. If you want to bring back a taste of Morocco, these are the places to visit but be sure to smell the goods first (freshly ground spices are vibrant and alive, rather than sawdusty). Essentials include ras el hanout ("top shelf"), a special blend of a dozen or more spices that give Moroccan kefta and kebabs their distinctive flavor. Every shop and kitchen has its own combination, but cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves often play an essential role. Lemony Moroccan cumin is essential, as is pungently sweet cinnamon and an almost citrussy saffron. Many spice shops double as apothecaries, offering herbs, bark, minerals, and infusions to cure anything from headaches to skin problems.
    Photo by Jeremy Richards/age fotostock
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    Street Food in Marrakech
    Street Food in Marrakech
    At sunset every day, dozens of food stands pop up in the Djemaa El-Fna. The owners add to the square's theater as their calls for customers become a performance in their own right. You'll find everything from grilled eggplant and spicy sausages to tiny fried fish and snails cooked in broth. Hole-in-the-wall establishments tend to specialize in one dish, such as bsara, a garlicky pea soup served with cumin, paprika, and a glug of olive oil, or the traditional dish tanjia marrakshia, meat slow-cooked in the embers that heat the water for the city's hammams. If you feel uncomfortable about going it alone, hook up with Mandy Sinclair of Tasting Marrakech, who’ll initiate you in the very best the street food market has to offer from its most challenging dishes (spiced cow feet, udders or tripe anyone?) to its rambunctiously convivial culture.
    Photo courtesy of Moroccan Tourist Office, www.vistimorocco.com
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    Winemakers and Brewers
    Winemakers and Brewers
    Despite being an Islamic country, Morocco has developed a thriving wine and beer industry, with a market that's almost entirely domestic. Drinking in public is still frowned upon, but the country’s tipples are well worth exploring in an upscale bar or restaurant. Red wines often tend toward the heavier end of the spectrum. For something lighter, try the crisp Volubilia gris or Médaillon rosé. On the beer front, order a Casablanca lager or a Flag Spéciale light ale. So, where to find it? If you’re in the medina you’ll find killer cocktails and an excellent wine list along with the city's groovers and shakers clinking glasses at El Fenn. For something a little more jazzy, snuggle up over a negroni by the baby grand in the bar at Maison Arabe. Alcohol is generally easier to come by in Gueliz at places like Barometre, where pro-mixologists produce showstoppers in a speakeasy setting; Le 69 - a Parisian style wine bar, and La Mamounia for dazzling, grand-dame surrounds.


    Photo courtesy of Barometre
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    Marrakech's Top Restaurants
    Marrakech's Top Restaurants
    The never-ending boutique riad boom has upped the ante across Marrakech's diverse food scene with more and more of them adding innovative dining options to the mix. El Fenn, for example, now has an on-going pop-up concept, which brings different chefs into the kitchen for four to six weeks at a time; Riad Farnatchi has recently opened Le Trou au Mur, which fuses Moroccan flavours with Anglo classics like shepherds pie and truffled mac 'n' cheese. Sensational Chinese small plates at Ling Ling, out at the Mandarin Oriental, are so popular folks think nothing of driving down from Casablanca to eat there. Likewise at snazzy Le Palace, which is as much about seeing and being seen as it is feasting. Then you have the ever expanding Franco-Moroccan bistro scene in the Ville Nouvelle, which encompasses old favourites like the Grand Cafe de la Poste with top-flight newcomers like Le Petit Cornichon. When it comes to the new wave however, look no further than the various dining options at Royal Mansour – eye-wateringly expensive, but essential dining for any serious foodie – and the soon-to-launched Dar Simons, which promises a contemporary spin on Moroccan cuisine with a more wallet-friendly price tag.
    Photo courtesy of La Palace
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    Breakfast in Marrakech
    Breakfast in Marrakech
    Breakfast is one of Morocco's great treats. Round loaves of bread provide the base and are often served with eggs, jiben (fresh cheese made with goat's or cow's milk), and olive oil. For those with a sweet tooth, try a plate of fluffy beghrir (Moroccan pancakes) or harsha (fried semolina flatbread) topped with a dollop of local fig jam or honey. Cleanse the palate with some seasonal fruit and homemade yogurt, and wash everything down with coffee or mint tea and some fresh orange juice. Perched on the sunny rooftop terrace of a riad, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better setting to plan your day.
    Photo courtesy age fotostock
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    Take a Break at a Café
    Take a Break at a Café
    Moroccans have perfected the art of whiling away an afternoon at a street café. These ubiquitous watering holes have outdoor terraces where all the chairs face the street so you can watch the world go by. Mint tea—often called Berber whiskey—is the drink of choice, poured three times from a silver pot and sweet enough to melt your teeth. Locals usually take their coffee black and bitter or nus-nus (half and half) with steamed milk, but sometimes ginger and cardamom are added. Orange trees line the streets in Marrakech, so it's no surprise that freshly squeezed juice is another favorite drink. For prime people-watching, head to Café de France or Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier on the Djemaa el-Fna. Or find relief from the sun under the shady trees in the gardens of Restaurant La Famille, where you can sip on botanicals-infused water while enjoying ultra-healthy vegetarian fare.
    Photo by Patrick Escudero/age fotostock
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    Sweet and Savory Snacks
    Sweet and Savory Snacks
    While Marrakech's markets provide an abundance of fresh produce, travelers may want to concentrate on grazing their way through an array of sweet and savory snacks. Confectioners pile honey-drenched pastries into sticky mounds and offer gazelle-horn cookies made with almond paste and orange blossom water. Dried figs are sold by the string next to mountains of local dates and nuts. For an ideal (and inexpensive) accompaniment to an evening drink, bring back some olives to your riad. And if you can’t decide between sweet and savory, get both at dinner by ordering pastilla, a pastry of pigeon or chicken dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
    Photo by Diana Springfield
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    Learn to Cook Moroccan Food
    Learn to Cook Moroccan Food
    If you’re going to eat your way around Marrakech, why not go one step further and learn to cook like a Moroccan. You can find top-notch classes at many restaurants and riads, including La Maison Arabe, Café Clock, and Souk Cuisine. For the complete experience, sign up for one that includes shopping for ingredients with the chef. Learn the secrets of hand-rolled couscous or the special blend of spices and preserves that make a classic tajine. You may even prepare your own bread dough to be cooked in a community wood-fired oven. Just be sure to leave room in your suitcase to take home your own tajine.
    Photo by age fotostock