Strolling Down Memory Lane: Restaurant Closures in Beirut

The other day, I was scrolling through the extensive directory of restaurants published on my blog. By no means is this an exhaustive list of every eatery in Lebanon. It is merely a compilation of the places I’ve (1) visited and (2) felt utterly compelled to showcase. To be sure, the list counts hundreds of food institutions in and around Beirut.

But as I was skimming over the roster, I realized an update was in order, for a vast number of these joints have gone out of business. A reliable source in the food and beverage industry recently confided that 741 establishments shuttered in the past year alone. That number is at once record-breaking and crippling.
Indeed, the one constant in Lebanon is change, and more often than not, it’s anything but positive. Our dilapidated roads, the poor urban planning, telecom and mobile service, pollution of the environment, economic stagnation, unemployment, unreasonably low wages…the banes afflicting this nation are too numerous to recount here. 
One …

Honoring Lebanese Female Entrepreneurs on This International Workers' Day

May 1 marks International Workers’ Day or, more commonly, Labor Day, when all productive members of society are recognized for their achievements. The aim of this blog post is to highlight the endeavors of a number of female entrepreneurs in Lebanon who are slaving over their dreams with nose to the grindstone. While the majority dabble in the food and beverage industry, they hail from completely diverse backgrounds, proof that a mere hobby can evolve into a passionate and gainful enterprise.

Here are these women wonders, in no particular order.

Laure Schoucair, Laurita’s Bites
I may have a sweet tooth, but truth be told, I yearn for simple tea cakes, particularly if they’re healthy and wholesome. Those who follow me on Instagram are no doubt privy to the toddler-friendly cakes I bake incorporating yogurt, fruit, and natural sugar – either honey or molasses. Which is why I readily identified with pastry chef Laure’s artisanal cakes counting among them flavors such as cinnamon swirl, vani…

Guest Lecturer at Saint Joseph University’s Higher Institute for Banking Studies

A few weeks ago, I was invited to deliver a free-form lecture to third-year banking students enrolled in l’institut supérieur d’études bancaires at Beirut’s prestigious Université Saint-Joseph in Monot. I jumped at the chance to address the next generation of Lebanese bankers. The only stipulation was that I weave in my working knowledge of social media, blogging, and communications in the context of a corporate institution, namely a bank.

I’d recently become aware that today’s students don’t come from the same cloth as us, their predecessors. We may be separated by a mere decade, but the academic environment that dominated during my collegiate years would be wholly foreign to these fledglings.
How did I know? During my tenure at Bank of Beirut, I helped spearhead and implement a novel MBA program in Banking Operations at another local university. Based on my direct interaction with students in that program, in addition to the input I gleaned from colleagues delivering courses there, t…

Kalimera, Athens!

The motivation to travel to Athens was two-fold: (1) the direct flight from Beirut is a mere hour and a half, and (2) my understanding of Greece had heretofore been limited to its coastal resorts. It seemed appropriate to visit the capital of a country considered to be the cradle of Western civilization, where landmarks like the Parthenon at the Acropolis date back to the 5th century B.C.

So we booked our flights, homed in on an Airbnb in the heart of the city, and dashed away during the second week of April. Our first impression upon landing was how unusually quiet the airport is. We completed passport control, claimed our baggage, and nabbed a cab at the curb all within 10 minutes after deplaning. When will we ever be able to say the same for Beirut?
The drive into the city takes about 45 minutes, with lush green expanses of olive trees and fields on either side of the slick highway. Once you reach the periphery of Athens, however, the scenery changes markedly. In fact, it’s reminisce…

Sami Basbous: Lebanon's Rare Renaissance Man

In the fast-paced digital world we currently inhabit, it seems certain our creativity is stifled. You rarely see people scanning the landscape around them for inspiration, whether they’re hustling from point A to point B, or idling in the passenger seat of a car – can’t really reference public transportation in this country, can we now? – or even enjoying a coffee break beneath the shade of a tree. Everyone’s invariably yielding a smartphone and completely riveted by its contents.
How do you create if you’re utterly caught up in consuming? How will we breed the next generation of artists and creatives if our society doesn’t foster any appreciation, let alone recognition, of the beauty surrounding us?
Sami Basbous belongs to what perhaps might be an endangered breed of artists. He is a Renaissance man to the full extent that he is a multidisciplinary artist, painter, composer, lyricist, performer, poet and writer. Embodying just one of those vocations is an admirable feat, particularly i…

Le Gray's Indigo Hits It Out of the Ballpark, Again

When it comes to knocking things out of the ballpark, five-star property Le Gray nestled in the heart of Beirut is unmatched. It’s no surprise I’ve blogged about its prestigious dining venue, Indigo on the Roof, no less than six times over the course of the last three years. Here is an institution that takes gastronomic pleasure rather seriously, which couldn’t be more evident than now, with the introduction of a dozen menu items by the hotel’s newly appointed Executive Chef Nicolas Herbault.
Hired toward the end of last summer, the French culinary master didn’t waste a moment in brandishing his flair at the Sunday lunch buffet, as we noticed several months ago from both the artistic setup and dessert display. The former emphasizes the sheer lavishness of the food spread, while the latter points to the chef’s heritage, with delicious novelties like the Saint Honoré, macarons, and mini moelleux in the mold of Cannelés Bordelais. I remember rejoicing at the mere sight of these beauties. …