Posts

A Vegan’s Guide to Lebanese Street Food

Image
This article has been adapted from the original version, which is published on the  Al Wadi Al Akhdar website  under the  "Visit Lebanon" tab . Some of the most memorable and adventurous meals are often come by in the street. In Beirut, that certainly rings true. No matter which narrow city alley, village souk , or seaside boardwalk you find yourself exploring, there’s bound to be a delicious bite within arm’s reach. While meaty shawarma wraps and lahm bi ajeen pies readily come to mind in Lebanon, there is in fact a myriad of vegan foods to appeal to every palate. These savory meatless munchies form an integral part of Lebanese cuisine. To be quite frank, going vegan in Lebanon may prove to be an effortless endeavor! Lebanese falafel inside pita bread ( photo source ) Manakish Za’atar Pizza is to the Italians as “manakish” is to the Lebanese. It’s all about fresh-baked, soft, round flatbread crafted before your very eyes. If you’re visiting a Lebanese furn , or bakery,

The Diabolical Debit Card Situation in Lebanon

Image
If you’re a (miserable) account-holder at a Lebanese bank and you reside in Lebanon, you’re probably in possession of a debit card. After all, that’s the only God-forsaken method of siphoning some of your locked-up assets from the bank. And by siphoning, I mean extracting via trickle method. One miniscule drop at a time. The current predicament that cardholders face however is the rejection of their plastic wallet accessory by a vast number of retailers. Months ago, gas stations across Lebanon unanimously stopped accepting card payment. Then supermarkets and grocery stores, in a show of solidarity, enforced a 50/50 approach: they'd only accept 50% payment by card and 50% by cash. We’re talking about retailers like Spinney’s, Carrefour, Le Charcutier, Stop and Shop, O&C, and the likes. A range of epiceries, or upscale grocers like Aziz, haven’t accepted card payment for at least a year – understandably, they don’t want to deal with local banks, heinous capital controls and h

Lebanon's Premier Lahm Baajin Specialist Furn Beaino Lands in Dubai!

Image
Eight years ago, I stumbled across Furn Beaino while researching Lebanon’s acclaimed "lahm baajin" bakeries. At the time, I was freelancing as Food & Drink editor at Beirut.com, and “best of” roundups were my bread and butter. Furn Beaino kept surfacing again and again in the literature, so I had to go and see what the fuss was about. I still remember that first visit in late September 2014. Wissam Beaino, son of the furn’s founder and visionary Toni Beaino, greeted me and briefly recounted the history of his family’s enterprise. Established in 1975, the furn, Arabic for "bakery," had quickly risen to fame for its matchless lahm baajin, a fragrant blend of mince lamb, onions, and tomatoes spread richly on a thin round flatbread, baked swiftly at high temperatures, and finished with a drizzle of lemon and a dash of pepper. These meat pies were Furn Beaino’s signature item, but customers clustered at the small Jounieh stronghold for everything from manakish zaa

A Sublime Wine & Dine Experience at Kempinski Beirut's Rojo Restaurant

Image
I bear good news. The hospitality industry in Lebanon is still alive and well. Very well, in fact, namely at Beirut's premier five-star property Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort . Boasting its own private beach and marina on the Mediterranean, the estate is a little piece of paradise promising seclusion, seduction, and absolute sumptuousness. It definitely delivers on those promises, as our visit last week to its cozy Mediterranean eatery Rojo attested. Rojo restaurant at the Kempinski Beirut ( photo source: online gallery ) It was a tempestuous Friday evening and the winds were howling, but we were nestled safely inside at a table for two, eager to embrace the night’s “Wine and Dine by the Sea with Latourba” menu proposition. I knew very little about Latourba , a private Lebanese vineyard located in the West Bekaa in a town called Saghbine. Assuming that we were in for a typical wine and dinner pairing, I was pleasantly surprised to find the owners and founders – Christi

Ça Suffit! (Enough!) With All The Criticism Surrounding "Emily in Paris"

Image
I'm largely annoyed by the so-called criticism surrounding "Emily in Paris." If you've watched the series on Netflix, whose first season aired in the thick of the pandemic in 2020, you discovered how the show immerses its viewers in the magic and charm of Paris where the entire show is filmed. Emily, played by actress Lily Collins, is a marketing executive who has been sent by her Chicago-based company for a year of international experience at its subsidiary in the French capital. There she strives to fit in with her colleagues and newfound friends, all while grappling with a new language and culture she knows relatively nothing about. In the media, there is an onslaught of negative feedback by Parisian viewers who claim the culture captured on the show is not rooted in reality. The over-the-top fashion Emily sports, the unrealistic spaciousness of Emily's apartment, the minimal hours employees keep at work, the great divide in what is uttered and what is meant.

My 2022 Outlook

Image
I held off writing this piece because I wanted a little whiff of 2022 before hastening to assign any labels or meaningless wishes to the new year. It's the same song and dance every end of year, isn’t it? The year comes to a close, and we almost too giddily sweep it out, as though it should be discarded with the rubbish in our dustbins. Then we proceed to usher in the coming year, imploring it to "treat us well," or to "behave." Because, you know, that personification boosts our chances of negotiating assured success. If I'm being honest, 2020 and 2021 just blended into each other, like one indistinguishable continuum. In fact, my perception of time over those two years is very wishy-washy. In my mind, 2019 still seems like last year, and everything that's transpired since fell into the span of one seemingly endless, hopeless, wretched annum.  I attribute it to simply how bizarre this epoch of the pandemic has been. Covid's hold over the world, ove

Seven Shelves Culinary Boxes: Bringing World Flavors (Including Lebanon's!) Into Your Kitchen

Image
Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” But during this unusual era of the Covid-19 pandemic, our collective mobility as a society has been severely impaired. Face it. When was the last time you traveled carefree? When was the last time you were able to board a train, or hop on a plane, or embark on a ship, to transcend country borders? Can you remember when you last ambled about freely and explored an exquisitely different culture and cuisine? Acting upon this realization, the savvy gourmands behind Key 16 – a Belgium-based enterprise that organizes culinary trips, events and tastings – launched Seven Shelves . The idea is rather simple. If you can’t roam the world for new tastes and flavors, why not bring the world into your kitchen? No need to sail the seven seas. Just tap into a treasure trove of high-quality products sourced from farmers and producers in adherence with fair-trade practices. And thus were born the Seven S

Retail in Lebanon: A Never-Ending Tide of Scams

Image
It seems to me like every day, the Lebanese are put through a charade of scams intended to test (1) how vigilant they are, and (2) how unabashed they can be when it comes to calling out the perpetrator. If you live in Lebanon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. False advertising? Rampant. Just go inside a "dollar store," and you'll notice that nothing is actually for a dollar. Fine print? There’s always some of that, but rarely is it printed. Shortchanging? Would it really be a Lebanese enterprise if it didn’t condone this? In the span of just one week, I’ve seen it all, and it sickens me now more than ever before. Why? Because the Lebanese people have been stripped naked over the course of the past two years and suffer from overnight theft of their bank deposits, a failed state, a corrupt government, hyperinflation, acute unemployment, lack of basic necessities, and an onslaught of every conceivable bane in the book. So now is not the time to push their buttons.