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Showing posts from June, 2015

Cup & Roll Rolls Out Its First Dine-In Outlet

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There’s a reason I’ve followed the growth of Cup & Roll since day one. I love entrepreneurship. I think there’s nothing worse than wasted potential, and here was a seemingly simple, homegrown idea that fluttered with potential.
The story was classic: a kitchen-savvy housewife baked delicious treats for her family and friends, and anyone who sampled her edibles implored her to establish a business. Years later, it was her son and his best friend that decided to act on that fervor, transforming a homemade good into a sellable product that folks across greater Beirut have come to adore.





In the beginning it was called Pizza Cups. A special-recipe dough was spread thin inside muffin molds, and in each, a lick of tomato sauce and slew of fresh, high-quality ingredients were poured. In the trial phase, 30 different toppings were tested until nearly a dozen made the cut. 

But what started out as a modest home business soon outpaced the capacity of both kitchen and cook, so Pizza Cups pause…

Hilton Habtoor Revives The Traditional Ramadan Iftar

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Ever since I dined at Hilton Habtoor’s Le Ciel for Christmas Eve, and then again on New Year’s Eve—yes, we were quite smitten with the cuisine—I’ve been singing the culinary praises of the hotel establishment. Three months ago, my sentiments were confirmed yet again at a Mother’s Day brunch hosted by Italian restaurant Venezia at Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Hotel, just across the pedestrian walkway. Nothing was overlooked, from the lavish charcuterie spread to the fresh, made-to-order pasta.
But how would the Lebanese cuisine stack up next to its European counterparts? After all, Executive Chef Paolo Rocco, boasting an impressive 30-year hospitality history, does hail from the heart of Europe, in fair Italy. A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to put that uncertainty to rest at a very traditional Iftar housed inside Al Diyafa restaurant on the first floor of the Habtoor.





We arrived to a regal dining room—apparently, it doubles as the breakfast area for hotel guests—outfitted in ico…

Why I Choose to Salute Anthony Bourdain

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Among the Lebanese, Anthony Bourdain enjoys celebrity status. The American chef, author and television personality first visited Lebanon in 2006, just two days before war erupted, to film a program called “No Reservations.” His trip was in large part coordinated by Kamal Mouzawak, founder and visionary behind Souk el Tayeb and restaurant chain Tawlet. Thus, Bourdain’s tour was defined by his collaboration with Mouzawak and included a trek to the restaurateur’s seaside home in Batroun. The ensuing TV feature proved idyllic, shedding light on beautiful vistas in Lebanon and emphasizing our historically farm-to-table cuisine.




Though Bourdain’s trip was curbed by the 2006 war, he still managed to fall in love with Lebanon for its deep-seated chaos, its eclectic cosmopolitan makeup, and its unpredictable nature. Upon returning to the US, he joked about naming his soon-to-be-born daughter "Beirut"—such was the magnitude of his fondness for the capital. It came as no surprise, ther…

Your Guide to the Best Eats in Downtown Beirut

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I spend the better half of my day every day in downtown Beirut. I’d say that qualifies as a second home, doesn’t it? Inquisitive by nature, I wile away lunch breaks and afterhours pacing downtown’s different quartiers--I’m confident every security guard and shopkeeper recognizes me readily. I know the area like the back of my hand, and when it comes to the food scene, you may as well join Zomato in dubbing me a city expert.
There are countless options for whatever your palate fancies, be it coffee and a sweet treat, a peppery pizza pie, a happy hour potion, or a lavish Lebanese spread. I’ve gone and done the grunt work to spare you the confusion of where and what. Here are my favorites.






Coffee Starbucks, [Grid]
If it’s exclusively the brew you’re after in a pleasant laissez-faire environment, you won’t find a better bet than Starbucks. You could literally spend hours here and not warrant the judgment of staff members. And the baked goods—particularly the muffins—are unrivalled.

But if yo…

Dunkin Dishing Out A Whole Lot More Than Donuts

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In the US, their slogan is “America runs on Dunkin.” Having lived in Boston for a couple of years and spotted Dunkin Donuts outlets bustling within mere blocks of each other, I can confirm the foregoing. In Lebanon, they may not be as ubiquitous, but their prominence is unmistakable. Numbering 30 outlets—that’s nearly double the count of Starbucks—and occupying prime locations in malls and shopping centers, Dunkin Donuts are the haunt of both Coolatta-loving teenagers and black-coffee-sipping professionals.



I’ve always found the consistency of donuts in Lebanon to be substantially lighter than their American counterparts. The round pastries don’t strike you as cloyingly sweet, and you don’t get that fried aftertaste lingering on your palate. I’m not going to pretend to make a case for their nutritional benefits, but they’re certainly no worse than ├ęclairs now, are they?
The great news is that Dunkin Donuts Lebanon offers a decent croissant and bagel breakfast fix that has recently been…

Lebanese Food Makes A Splash in Tapas-Loving Madrid

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Having spent a fair chunk of my college years far from the family nest, I was deprived of my mother’s heartwarming Lebanese cooking. For those residing in Lebanon, that hardly qualifies as a debacle—you’re smothered with options for Lebanese cuisine, be it the mezza or home variety. In fact, plats du jour have become all the rage, and you can order them anywhere.
But for the expatriate population that spends time away from mother and the motherland, decent Lebanese restaurants are few and far between. When I first moved to Boston, I recall getting inordinately ecstatic when a Lebanese food truck parked right outside the university, curbside. I rushed out to scan the menu and finally settled on a kafta sandwich. It came doused in laban, totally devoid of seasoning, and strangely garnished with…no, not parsley, onions and tomatoes as one might expect, but…falafel. Revolting. 
In Paris, too, things weren’t much better. The famous Lebanese chain Noura is rank-and-file meh, and it’s rather p…