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Holiday Gourmet Guide in Beirut

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Whether you’re descending upon Beirut for a few weeks this holiday season, or you’re a valiant local braving the traffic impasses on our roads, there’s redemption yet: Lebanon’s lively gourmet scene. Heck, if we as a country can unanimously decide on a solitary national treasure to cherish and uphold, it’s the cuisine and our intense love thereof. Not only do we do it better, we share immense appreciation for food (and drink) as an art form.
I won’t sit here and wax poetic about the age-old institutions you’ll no doubt be tucking into with family. Nope. This list is a casual, contemporary roundup of cool, seasonal stuff you've gotta gorge on before we ring in 2019. None of it is here to stay, so make haste and ready your eating utensils. Mostly, just bring your appetite.

GOOD FOOD
Classic Burger Joint For the past six months, I’ve been monitoring Classic Burger Joint with eagle eyes. The remarkable improvement in the quality of meat, freshness of ingredients, and all-around value for …

Holiday Wine Guide: Top Ten Bottles Under $20 at Wesley’s Wholesale

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December is here, promising good cheer, which means we are officially in holiday mode! That translates to lavish tables of good food, chilly weather, Christmas soundtracks on playback, and of course, loving, smothering family. Whether you deem the foregoing in a positive or not so positive light, the great news is I have just the party favor – or antidote – to make it all magical. And wine not!

Indeed, there’s nothing like that bittersweet grape elixir to render the holidays – or any occasion, for that matter – a shade more festive, forgiving, and frolicky. Rich white wines, big spicy reds, fruity finishes, oaky flavors, vanilla bouquets: The vast world of wine may not be particularly easy to fathom, but it washes down without a hitch. And a bottle makes a perfect dinner party gift, or an invitation to cozy up on the couch while consuming corny Christmas romances on Netflix.
Which labels, you inquire? Let’s make this a pocket-friendly roundup, because most of us find ourselves strapped …

Five Days in Istanbul

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The last time we traveled was nearly a year ago, when we returned to Beirut after Stephen’s birth in California. Now that he’s a year old, we felt it appropriate to make a quick family getaway to a nearby country. Turkey immediately came to mind, as neither I nor my husband had ever visited.
Indeed, Istanbul is about an hour and a half plane ride from Beirut, and it is a popular destination for Lebanese because no visa is required. We booked a four-night stay in the capital, divided between Karaköy, close to the historic district, and Taksim, just a stone’s throw from Istiklal Caddesi.
I’d only entertained a few fleeting perceptions of Istanbul before arriving, but few proved to be accurate. Yes, the Turks are rather sly and expedient, much like the Lebanese. For example, as we exited the airport and scanned the sidewalk for taxis, a porter quickly darted to our side, and once he’d tucked us in to a cab, he demanded a fee. Then, our taxi driver pretended to know exactly where our hotel …

Oum el Nour, Turtles, and the Fight Against Drugs

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Up until a month ago, I had never heard of Oum el Nour, which translates to “mother of light” in Arabic. A Lebanese NGO established in 1990 with sister branches in France and the US, Oum el Nour was born out of an urge to save a captive friend from the shackles of drugs. Over the past 28 years, the organization has assisted over 7,000 men and women to recover and go on to lead productive, prosperous lives. Services are rendered free of charge, so raising funds is of critical importance to keep the wheels in motion.

This year, Oum el Nour, steered by a fresh and vibrant committee, enlisted the skills of 15 internationally celebrated artists to reconceive their peer Ghassan Zard’s sculpted turtle for eventual auctioning. Why the turtle? Long recognized as the epitome of persistence, determination, and endurance, the turtle is a survivor. It possesses the ability to protect itself against aggressors, which to be fair are few. Such an innocent aura dons it longevity, perhaps explaining why…

If It Feels Like Home, It Must Be Tawlet Saida

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I still vividly remember my first encounter with Tawlet. It was 2011, and I’d been in Lebanon for nearly a month when my friend Sarah K., who at the time was working with now-defunct group-buying site GoNabit, told me about an amazing deal on the site. “Women from the community are brought in to cook traditional dishes from their villages, and this way, you're treated to the real tastes of Lebanese rural cuisine.”

Interesting, I thought to myself. It was true inasmuch that any run-of-the-mill Lebanese restaurant won’t serve you typical home-cooking; the food spread is unequivocally mezza and mashewe (grills). But here was a restaurant that was employing homemakers to both showcase their unique dishes and, in so doing, preserve the authenticity of their respective regions.
I nabbed a pair of vouchers, and Dad and I went to the Mar Mikhael eatery. We were mind-blown. The dining space is admittedly crowded, so you’re bound to rub elbows with your neighbors, purposefully promoting conve…