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Showing posts from September, 2015

Popolo Beirut: Italy Never Felt Nearer

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I know what you’re thinking. Trust me, the very same thought raced through my head when I learned Popolo was opening in Beirut. Another Italian restaurant?! We may as well rename the Lebanese capital “Little Italy.”
In the past few years, Lebanon has experienced an unprecedented surge of pizzeria and ristorante. Some are mere meters from each other—Cavalli Caffè and La Cucina readily come to mind. Others barely lasted one season—Basilio, L’Oca Matta, Villaggio, Signor Sassi. And still others like Aliacci and Fiona’s shuttered despite years of being in business.



But the past has never been a source of determent for adamant restaurateurs in Lebanon. They persist in spite of the numerous failed examples set by their predecessors.
On rare occasion, however, that tenacity can be a good thing, a blessing. Authenticity is preserved. Creativity is injected. And the perch—setting, ambiance, view—is just perfect.
Popolo, literally “people” in Italian, is one such godsend.
When you first enter the…

Exclusive Culinary Experience ChefXChange Landing in Beirut this October

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The food scene in Lebanon is getting its share of leverage from the digital world. You might recall my experience with Bibayti in the previous month, where an aspiring chef visited our home to prepare dinner for a group of friends we were entertaining. Bibayti is still in its pre-launch phase, as its website indicates, but its premise is implied by its slogan, “cooks and stories.”

Scan the global frontier, and you'll find a similar startup called ChefXChange, which debuted in London, Dubai, and Washington, D.C., early this year. ChefXChange was founded in 2014 by two friends and former MBA classmates, Karl Naim and Marc Washington, who conceived the idea at a home meal Naim was hosting for a circle of buddies.



Naim is a French-born Lebanese who earned an MSc in Economics & Finance from the Warwick School of Business. He met Washington, also a well-bred student with degrees from MIT and Stanford, while attending London Business School. The two resided for some time in Abu Dhabi, …

La Crêperie: Striving to Meet Impossibly High Expectations

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It’d been shuttered for so long, I honestly doubted it would ever reopen. Perched on a hilly slope overlooking Jounieh Bay, its mansion-like façade and vast interior spoke of an era when ceilings were sky-high, chambers spacious as studios, and architecture unmistakably Ottoman.
It was the site of our first date, back on that fateful June night, when not a cloud had obstructed the panoramic view below and above—we could see Our Lady of Lebanon smiling down upon us from the heights of Harissa. Slightly nervous and heart aflutter, I suggested we order the house’s namesake specialties and then scale up the mountain for a saj mankouche. And so we did.
Within weeks, the restaurant closed its doors to business, and rumor had it a total facelift was in order. A year passed, then two. By the third, I was confident that the owners had given up on the property, diverting their efforts to more lucrative venues.
Four long years later, La Crêperie invited sunlight to percolate once more through its…

Natural, Fragrant, and Sweet as Lebanese Honey

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Call me crazy, but I find that the most inspiring people nurture passions totally removed from their day jobs. Donald Trump is one contemporary example. The man is a real estate tycoon, and apart from having become an outspoken television personality thanks to his decade-long NBC stint at “The Apprentice,” he’s now seriously contending for the role of US president.
Many bloggers write and do so prolifically, simply as a creative hobby. For most, blogging is not a full-time occupation that fetches a salary. It’s a labor of love.
Then there are the nose-to-grindstone entrepreneurs, the ones who have taken a riveting pet project and transformed it into a tangible consumable, a byproduct to benefit society and enrich the way in which we live.
Case in point: Marc-Antoine Bou Nassif is a successful architect at the helm of his own firm, 1000 Years Old. Together with his brother Ralph, a business consultant, and their friend Rabih Traboulsi, an engineer, the trio founded L’Atelier du Miel (“The…

BRGR.Co Big on Premium, Innovative Burgers

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Last month, I experienced a revelation, one that only diehard foodies can appreciate (if you’re an economist, skip this post, but you’re welcome to ogle the photos below).
Since BRGR.Co first debuted in downtown Beirut, mere steps from my office, we pop in from time to time for a clean gourmet burger experience. Its unique selling points? The Australian Angus beef is unmistakably high-quality. The bread buns are ethereally light, hugging the patty so tightly that the two fuse into a seamless unit. And, of somewhat tantamount importance, the fries figure into the sides, detached from your burger order. So you can bypass them altogether if you’re watching your shape—no need to get tempted by Sir Spud.



We’ve almost always opted for the 4-oz. “Original Blend,” best served medium-well to well-done and fetching a price tag of 12,000 LL. The 6-oz. “Tender Blend” will set you back 24,500 LL, so to the unsuspecting diner, the 4-oz. number appears to be the better-value deal. Pricing doesn’t fol…