Posts

Showing posts from February, 2015

Why I Am Unlike Other Lebanese-Americans

Image
The other day, I stumbled upon a self-narrative by a 25-year-old Lebanese-American raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Krista Abboud was born to Lebanese immigrants who met on American soil, each having left Lebanon for diverse reasons. Abboud elaborates on her affinity for all things Lebanese, having spent many childhood summers in Lebanon, attending Maronite conferences in the US to unite with other Lebanese-Americans, eating traditional Lebanese cuisine, speaking Arabic, and more. Understandably, growing up, it was difficult to reconcile her heritage with the American culture surrounding her—the inability to date boys or to sleep over at friends’ homes proved hard to explain to peers.
A few years ago, I authored a series on Beirutista called “Caught in Between” where I delved into the very topics that Abboud speaks of. You can read them here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. (I confess, Part V and possibly VI are long overdue—look for them in the upcoming month.)
However, my…

Lebanon's Epic Weather This Week: Newsworthy?

Image
It was ridiculously cold in Lebanon this week. Frigid, in fact. The storm commenced last Monday, February 9th, throwing down inclement rain across gloomy stretches of sky and evolving in subsequent days into howling gusts of wind, thunder, and lightning.
Though the wind eventually subsided, the rain persisted into this week, and temperatures plunged Thursday and Friday to near-zero levels in Beirut. Thursday evening, we lingered after work in the downtown district for dinner, and seated by the restaurant window, we felt an austere pounding outside. Large spheres of hail shot down from the sky and onto the stone-studded passages. Within minutes, Place de l’Etoile morphed into a white wintry wonderland, and the ground become dangerously icy and slippery.






Friday morning saw real snowfall as low as 300 meters—even our home in Mansourieh witnessed the frosty downfall. Temperatures skirted around historic lows, and schools were closed as precautionary measures.
I am well aware that the fuss …

Beirutista Selected As Regional Expert For International Guide to the World's Best Pizzerias

Image
Nearly a month ago, I was contacted by a certain Daniel Young, the prolific food critic behind the blog YoungandFoodish.com. Young was seeking me out as a regional expert for a guide to the world’s best pizzerias of which he’s been appointed editor. The guide will be published in autumn 2016 by the premier global publisher of the creative arts, Phaidon, whose headquarters are in London and New York City.
In the past, I've waxed lyrical about exceptional pizzas in Beirut, namely my favorite places to grab a slice of the iconic Italian pie. I've also raved about PZZA.CO, sister restaurant to BRGR.CO, who imported a seasoned Neapolitan pizzaiolo to man its wood-fired oven. Having recently returned from a trip to the heart of Italy, I was able to discern and appreciate the Neapolitan-style pizzas emerging from the Beirut-based pizzeria.




Rather coincidentally, Young reached out to me as I was in the midst of compiling my own roundup of Beirut’s best pizzerias, second edition, for Be…

A Weekend of Dubai Dining

Image
I was in Dubai this past Valentine’s weekend. The weather was a sunny 30°C, and people were strutting around the malls in shorts and flip-flops. Contrast that to Beirut’s inclement rain and folks bundled up in knee-length woolen coats! I was grateful for the escape.
It’d been over fours years since my last visit to the Emirati state, and I was transported back to my numbered days there in the fall of 2010, when I worked as a strategy management consultant in Abu Dhabi. It’s uncanny how that short-lived episode is so vividly etched in my memory. After four years away, I could readily navigate around Dubai’s expansive, village-like malls, Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, as if I'd been frequenting them my entire life.
We spent nearly a full day scaling Dubai Mall’s four floors of shops, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and confectioneries. There’s also an indoor ice skating rink, the outdoor Souk el Bahar, fountain shows occurring twice hourly in the evenings, and the towering ma…

Mar Mikhael's Transformed Secteur Totally Outdoes Itself

Image
I was a little puzzled when one of the partners and founders behind Secteur 75 told me that the pub was due for a major facelift. One of Mar Mikhael’s trailblazing pubs with deliciously addictive cocktails and first-rate food, Secteur 75 had quirky d├ęcor animating each room in its house-like layout—even the restroom was a mandatory visit for its interesting basin and contraptions.
Secteur 75 shut down during the stretch of the second half of 2014 and re-launched a week before Christmas, nixing the digits from its name to don it a statelier aura. The good news is that that stateliness is more than fully realized between its renovated walls.
The gastropub—and trust me, Secteur figures in that rare breed of refined food meets pub—has a canopied entrance that evokes New York’s Park Avenue. Push open the door, ascend the crimson carpeted steps and alight to a landing that leads you to a shimmering bar. Your jaw will drop once you behold the ceiling-high shelves neatly housing the hundreds of…

In Time for Valentine's: Heavenly Home-Baked Cakes

Image
I love it when I stumble across a new foodie discovery in Beirut. Honestly, I cannot believe how much inspiration and self-initiative is bouncing around in this city, and it’s especially noticeable on the gourmand scene.
Last week, I was tagged in a photo on Instagramof a luscious carrot cake batter in mid-preparation. I chimed in with my admiration, and before I knew it, the ladies behind the baking insisted on sending me one of their fine cake specimens. I couldn't resist!
Farah Malhas and Joy Zahar founded the boutique home bakery “From Grandma with Love” a mere six months ago, though they’re anything but amateur. They craft 7 varieties of cookies, 11 cakes, 5 cheesecakes, and 4 other desserts including brownies, lazy cake, donuts, and date delights. Cookies and other bites go for a $1 a pop (minimum order is a dozen); cakes serving 12-15 are $35; and cheesecakes serving 15-17 are $50.
Get a whiff of the menu description for their carrot cake:
“A cake filled with texture and color…

Lime Tree Dbayeh Takes Customer Feedback More Seriously Than You Think

Image
It’d been nearly three months since I’d been back at Lime Tree. On my first visit, I distinctly recall enjoying the vast space with its soothing gray and lime motifs; the American-style food and generosity of each plate; as well as the attentive service of the restaurant team members. The only thing I recommended nixing was the salad bar, which looked sad and desolate and didn't really add any character to the restaurant. Otherwise, I could definitely see myself returning.
Last night sealed the deal. We were warmly received at the door and ushered to our table overlooking the Dbayeh highway. Two walls of Lime Tree are entirely fashioned from floor-to-ceiling glass panels, so the light that percolates in and the unabridged view of the vicinity beautifully accentuate the restaurant's sense of space.
We settled in and ordered the Chicken Tenderloin (12,000 LL), Mozzarella Sticks (10,000 LL), and Chef Salad (15,000 LL) as starters. The chicken tenders, which come six to a bucket, …

Hats Off to the New SmokeShack Burger by Shake Shack

Image
I’m gonna be upfront. I like Shake Shack. I really do. And I am well aware that many Lebanese people do not. Before Shake Shack opened its second outlet in ABC Achrafieh—the first debuted at Beirut City Centre—the blogosphere was teeming with critical remarks about the Shack’s so-called small, overpriced burgers that didn't deliver on taste and could at best be compared with McDonald’s offerings.
I didn't find a ring of truth to any of those disparaging comments, and my first-ever dining experience at Shake Shack was more than pleasant. I found the patty to be simply and beautifully seasoned, a loosely-packed, imperfectly-formed Angus beef pie pressed onto the griddle before being laid inside a soft, yellow-hued bun. The fries are a happy departure from the thin-cut standard at fast food chains. And the concretes were refreshing but could pack more punch in the flavor department.


Today I was among a select few in Lebanon to sample the newly-released SmokeShack, essentially a che…

Beirut's Youngest Executive Chef Commands the Kitchen at Harry's Bar

Image
This article appeared last week on Beirut.com.

I've been noticing a trend in the prominent kitchens of Beirut. The executive chefs are young--incredibly young--and sprightly. Chef Sotiris at the Four Seasons is a mere 34 years old. Chef Amer el Hajj at TSC Signature can't be much older. Eyeing this pattern, you’d think I would be prepared to stomach the fact that the executive chef at Harry’s Bar Beirut’s is 24 years old, but I simply could not. And especially not after I had the privilege of sampling his gourmet flair—he’s a genius!
Meet Andrea Gurzi, the star behind the exquisite cuisine at the storied Venetian stronghold who hails from Calabria, Italy. Prior to his arrival to Beirut, Gurzi worked at the Four Seasons Milano for four years before being sought after to man the kitchens at Harry’s Bar in Lebanon. Together with three Italian chefs, three Lebanese sous chefs, and two pastry chefs, Gurzi is cooking up a beautiful storm, and lucky are they who will have the fortune t…

Chicken Shawarma Gets Some Love on "The New York Times"

Image
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my excitement to see one of the mainstays of Levantine cuisine, “ful mudammas,” get big praise on major American foodie forum SeriousEats.com. Never before had I seen the broad bean in the spotlight. Even in the Middle East, it’s a relatively understated breakfast dish, one of the cheapest you could have but certainly not the blandest.
The fact that it’s starting to trickle into the food scene abroad, alongside the likes of its very popular and versatile cousin, hummus—which in the US can be had in flavors as unconventional as jalapeno and roasted bell pepper—is heartwarming.

Last week, another Levantine staple, the shawarma, was featured in the internationally-acclaimed New York Times and even comes with a recipe for the homemade affair. A few Hollywood movies like “The Avengers” have introduced the world to the marvels of the fast-food shawarma, so we can’t say that shawarma was heretofore unknown in the West. 
But the fact that a home recipe was…