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Showing posts from February, 2017

Manghal: In Praise of Authentic, Inexpensive Armenian Cuisine

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The first time I had Armenian cuisine was exactly six years ago, when I'd recently transplanted to Lebanon. My friends raved of a cozy corner newly opened in Mar Mikhael, and in no time, we became regulars. The novelty of bulgur-intensive itch, kebab with cherries, and the dumpling-yogurt-sumac trifecta called mante left me totally speechless.
As my knowledge of the Beirut culinary grid improved, I branched out to more established footholds, namely Mayrig. Soon thereafter, sibling venue Batchig launched in Antelias, boasting a modern interpretation of classic dishes at more affordable prices.
By the time Onno expanded to Hamra and Badaro in the format of a franchised bistro, I could start to discern differences in taste, method of preparation, and presentation across Armenian eateries. My opinions on which did what better had evolved to confident conclusions.
And this was one of them: authentic, inexpensive, downright delicious Armenian food is hard to come by in Beirut. The favori…

Mathieu: Maître-Crêpier Extraordinaire in Mar Mikhael

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Some of the fondest memories of my year in Paris were at a little crêpe station in the Quartier Latin. Situated along the quaint Rue Mouffetard a stone’s throw from a cluster of fondue eateries, Au P’tit Grec attracts locals and tourists alike for its cone-shaped crêpes, folded thus to accommodate an uncharacteristic generosity in ingredients.
Anytime a guest from out of town came to visit me, we exacted the pilgrimage to the Greek crêpe house. In fact, nearly the first thing I did on our trip to Paris last November was make a beeline for P’tit Grec to reverence its immutable marvels.



Since my move here, I have been on an endless hunt for decent crêpes, not just those in the style of P’tit Grec’s but the traditional galettes sarrasins crafted from buckwheat flour. While a few shops once boasted the latter (Bar à Thym, Café Diem--both since shuttered), the former I have never been so fortunate to find.
That all changed last week, when we popped into corner crêperie Mathieu a block from ED…

Soup With Soul: The Flavour Thief Raids Lebanon's Gourmet Scene

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How often have you walked into a restaurant on a chilly winter’s day, pining for a piping hot soup to warm your heart and soothe your soul? You race through the menu to the section on starters, only to find the trite red lentil or onion offering, and that's if the restaurant's even bothered with soup.
Here’s a bit of history for you: the word “restaurant,” meaning “restoring” in French, was actually invented in the 16th century to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup sold by street vendors. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in such reinvigorating soups, which then prompted the use of the modern word restaurant for the eating establishments (thank you, Wikipedia!).
If we acknowledge history, then restaurants owe their very existence to soup, and thus by default they should stud their menus with it. Instead, the imperative of soup has been altogether downplayed and discarded around these parts.
Which is why Youmna Sargi is taking action. A form…

How I (Don't) Celebrate Valentine's Day

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When we were in grade school, I always thought Valentine’s Day was cut out for kids. The cute candy grams from secret admirers; the exchange of Disney-themed Valentine’s cards with tasty treats tacked on; red- and pink-frosted cupcakes washed down with cloyingly sweet punch. And who remembers those edible conversation hearts called Sweethearts? I was obsessed!



I didn’t realize how much significance Valentine’s Day carries among adults until I moved to Lebanon. Midway through January, restaurants here begin advertising set menus for Lovers’ Day, and they’re not confined to merely one day. Try the entire weekend either leading up to or following February 14! As of February 11, some venues have already started to unload their romance-laced festivities on guests.
And it seems the Lebanese love to love Lovers’ Day. What’s not to like about the astronomical surge in prices of flowers, chocolate, and oversize teddy bears? Who wouldn’t enjoy being forced to opt in to a $150 couple’s package of…

BRGR.CO: Leave Your Price Reservations at the Door

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Possibly the number one complaint lodged by customers of BRGR.CO is its high prices. Scroll through scores of Zomato reviews, and it seems everyone’s in general agreement that the burger house is unjustifiably overpriced for what you’re getting. In fact, the suggested price per couple is 80,000 LBP (US$ 53).
Let’s glance at the menu:
The 4-oz. original blend weighs in at 12,000 LBP (US$ 8), and you can double the patty for an additional 10,000 LBP (US$ 7). That’s a half-pound burger for US$ 15, equivalent to what Gordon Ramsay’s selling his bunned beauties at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood BURGR.
The 6-oz. Tender Blend goes for 25,000 LBP (US$ 17) and is best served medium-rare to medium to preserve the juiciness of the beef. Note that the meat blends diverge markedly in the 4-oz and 6-oz. patties, hence the price differential.
Should you choose to upgrade your burger to include sautéed Portobello mushrooms and onions with sliced smoked cheddar, the price bumps up to 21,000 LBP (US$ 14) f…

PureGray at Le Gray: The Ultimate Pampering Experience

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As someone who sits behind a screen nearly 10 hours a day, five days a week, I’m a magnet for back pain, neck stiffness and poor posture. (White-collar employment is so overrated!)
So along with my new year's vow to deepen the pursuit of healthful eating, I’m taking action on total body care. Interior cleansing, exterior sloughing, if you will. The body is a temple, after all, and wellness is key.
Nothing beats a fabulous massage, complete with subtle aromas, warm oil, and dim lighting. Apart from the physical manipulation of the body, I want the pampering that comes with the holistic experience. I'm worth it, right?!
Readers of this blog no doubt understand my fascination and endless love affair with Le Gray – no, not Christian Grey from Fifty Shades – but Campbell’s Le Gray in the heart of downtown Beirut. I’ve waxed poetic numerously (123456) about the luxury hotel’s culinary glory, modern feel, and welcoming vibes. Surely, their spa facilities would prove equally p…