Toasted: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Let’s be honest here: it’s hard to get excited about two slices of toasted square bread, notwithstanding what goes between them. Am I right? Hardly my idea of a riveting culinary affair, especially when I’ve been making the trite peanut butter and jelly variety since elementary school.

Leave it to the epicurean genius of Jad el Hage to set me straight and send the ball hurling out of left field. Managing partner and executive chef at his company Foodlab, Jad is the face behind the concepts of l’Humeur du Chef (Mar Mikhael), La Cabane du Chef (Zaarour), and La Paillotte du Chef (summer popup in Halat). Rewind the chronology, and you’d find him helping to launch Tawlet alongside critically acclaimed food activist Kamal Mouzawak; manning the kitchens at the now-shuttered Talleyrand, once a bastion of enviable haut gastronomy; and flexing his muscles at the Byblos beach resort EddeSands.
Jad is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, where he earned a bache…

Life Lessons I've Learned From My Toddler

As an adult, it’s natural to get bogged down in responsibilities, burdens, and commitments. In your quest to be mature and, quite simply, an adult, you often forget the joy of what it means to be free and genuinely happy.
Immerse yourself for a few hours in the world of a toddler, and you’re transported back to the carefree innocence of your youth. If you’ve ever mulled over the theme of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Can anyone pinpoint with certainty the exact moment at which we traverse the bridge into the cold, exacting world of adulthood?
Back when I was a teenager, I promised myself I’d never lose touch with the kid in me, no matter how old I became, or how accomplished and besot with accountability. Now that I have a child of my own whose imaginative mind I can admire, I’m reminded time and again of the little things that are so easy to lose sight of.

Always look up. No matter how dull or bland our surroundings might prove, my son…

In Search of the Silver Lining

It’s painfully easy hating on Lebanon. No matter where you look, there’s incessantly a blatant reminder of how archaic the country’s infrastructure is. We still suffer from electricity outages day and night – where else in the world does that happen? Many a country reflect a lower GDP per capita than we do, and yet they’re not living in the dark (pun intended).
Forget the countryside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a smoothly paved road devoid of potholes anywhere in the capital. If you’re ever reeling from indigestion, just get behind the wheel and go for an excursion. That’ll solve your tummy troubles in no time.
How about the air and water pollution and the seeming indifference to ameliorate either? What of the historic ruins that are open to the public to trample upon and abuse, rather than being the objects of painstaking preservation and care? We count as one of the oldest civilizations in the world, laying claim to Roman and Byzantine ruins from tens of centuries ago that attest t…

Celebrating Seven Years of Blogging

Exactly seven years ago, a lightning bolt electrified my thoughts and induced me to launch this blog. For those who weren’t readers then, my motivation was two-fold: (1) I sought a creative outlet in which to chronicle my adventures in my relatively new country of residence, Lebanon; and (2) I wished to paint a real and positive image of that country for friends around the world to explore. Global perception of Lebanon is rather limited to what the media projects, and that is a country riddled with strife, corruption, and disillusion. I may not be able to contend with those unwieldy labels, but what I can do is provide an alternate view of what it’s like for an American transplant to make a permanent home for herself here.
The blog has undoubtedly taken me on a journey I never could have foreseen. The focal points from the beginning have been culture and food, which is perhaps what made the blog popular with Lebanese expats around the world seeking to live vicariously through a fellow …

Hotel Wakim: A Cozy Nesting Spot in the Heart of Beit Mery

Beit Mery has always held a certain spell over me. Straddling residential Ain Saadeh and summertime hotspot Broumana, this charming village has arguably the most breathtaking vantage points of Beirut, the Mediterranean, and everything in between.
Most recognize it as the setting of Al Bustan, a hotel lush with sprawling gardens constructed over half a century ago by entrepreneur and statesman Emile Bustani. Others have come to identify the town with its ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins nestled below Deir Al Kalaa, or Couvent Saint Jean, an Antonine Maronite monastery that doubles as a majestic wedding venue.
But there’s far more to Beit Mery than meets the eye: The parallel streets that narrow to the width of a car despite remaining two-way. The yellow-stone buildings that have withstood the inclement harshness of many a winter. The crisp, cool air in the early morning and late evening on a warm summer’s day. And, as I recently came to unearth, an endearing establishment named Hotel Wa…

The Case of the Mysterious Package Delivery

Last Friday evening, I received a very mysterious package.

The courier had contacted me a few days prior via Instagram Direct Message, coordinating time and place: being in public was crucial, as he couldn't reveal his identity. It all seemed rather cryptic, particularly his unpopulated account @overdose961 that reflected absolutely no followers or accounts followed. Naturally, I was reluctant to agree. But the element of suspense eventually got the best of me, and after cluing in my husband on the exchange, I succumbed.
So around 6:45 PM on the aforementioned Friday, I courageously met the masked man in a busy street, where passing cars slowed to snap his photo as he handed me a brown paper bag stamped with "OVERDOSE961." He indulged me with a selfie before jumping back into his car and speeding away.
Back in the safety of our home, I carefully opened the bag, which was wafting with the incredible aroma of something delicious. My toddler Stephen was more impatient than I, …

Food Trend Alert in Lebanon: The Skillet!

The culinary scene in Lebanon has been capsized by a trend sweeping its way through every major restaurant chain. Can you guess what it is?

The latest sensation is the “skillet,” which in layman terms is merely a frying pan. Think of how fajitas are typically presented: in a cast-iron skillet. This ensures the meat continues to sizzle and cook even while off the stove top, nestled in front of you and titillating your senses.
Perhaps the credit of streamlining skillets in this country belongs to Swiss Butter, a two-outlet-strong restaurant that does one thing and one thing only: what I like to call meat-frites, French fries with your choice of either beef, chicken, or salmon. The meat comes swimming in a pool of secret sauce containing 33 herbs and spices, kept warm inside a skillet. The skillet is flanked by fries, sliced baguette bread, and a mesclun salad all neatly arranged on a wooden breadboard. For 22,000 LL ($14.67), you can have a superb dish cooked to your specified doneness. I…