Showing posts from September, 2012

Beirut Souks Spectacle

What's the story behind the dummy lying face down beneath a bench in Beirut Souks? At first I thought she was a human making a statement of some sort, as even up close, the body seems real. But yesterday, as I stopped to study the spectacle after work, a fellow bystander explained she was just a dummy, and noticing my disbelief, he walked up to her and nudged her with his foot. The body easily gave. Bizarre and creepy. What's the scoop?

Restaurant Review: Latest Version Diner

Saturday night we headed over to Latest Version Diner (LVD), pumped up in anticipation for their premium burgers. Anytime a restaurant has to remind you that their fare is "premium," you can bank on the fact that it won't be. If you're a leader, do you have to spew it to the world? Certainly not. But we ignored the obvious, because we were desperate for a real burger in a country where the frankfurter is deemed bliss in a bun. The roasted shelled peanuts offered upon our arrival were promising. Even the napkin that was covered with print descriptions of Angus versus Wagyu, marbled meat, and the merits of each was enlightening. But the rapture ended there. We ordered 6oz. Angus beef burgers, expressly asking for no mayonnaise on any, along with sides of potato wedges and a green salad. The waiter tried to convince us that the wedges would be divinity incarnate if topped with chili con carne, but we politely declined. A burger without the frills, please. After a re

Plastic Chair City

In the wake of Pope Benedict VI's visit this past weekend to Lebanon and the massive open-air mass held at the Biel seaside, thousands of chairs--stacked or sprawled about--continue to adorn the Beirut skyline. A reported 350,000 spectators made it out on Sunday to the Pope's special service.

Restaurants: Past & Present

Dining out has never been so popular in Lebanon as it is today. New restaurants open every week, striving to differentiate their service or cuisine with a unique flair (does "Lebanese with a twist" ring a bell?). But with competition so fierce, many are finding themselves in the red, unable to make ends meet, and they're closing their doors to diners. Strangely enough, since I moved here nearly 20 months ago, several hamburger joints have gone out of business. Anyone remember Burger N Booze, the tiny burger shack on a street corner along Monot that resembled an outdoor sports bar? Their rib eye burgers were truly some of the juiciest and tastiest I've sunk my teeth into, both here and abroad. The prices were a bargain too, at about 15,000LL ($10) per burger. But B&B rarely had volume--underdogs don't stand a chance against hyped up eateries in Lebanon--and the last time I was there earlier this year, I could sense that the quality of the food had severely d

The Price is NOT Right

I used to think basic pricing strategies were common sense. For example, if there are multiple sizes of a particular product, say 100g and 200g of Haribo Happy Cola candy, you'd expect the 200g bag to cost relatively less than the 100g bag. First, companies like to reward customers who shop big, hence the slight discount for the larger product; and second, convenience costs money. A small bag is more desirable to an individual shopper, so pricing it at a premium is an infallible tactic retailers use to make an easy penny. This was not the case at TSC Signature store in the downtown Beirut Souks, where I found myself yesterday afternoon wiling away in the candy aisle. The 100g bag of Haribo Happy Cola is priced at 1,450LL ($0.97), whereas double the size will set you back 3,150LL ($2.10). It may be a mere 16-cent mark up, but I think they meant to reverse the sign: -0.16, not +0.16. Go figure. Another rule that almost goes without saying is that store brands are chea

The Spectrum of Hired Help

A couple weeks ago, we trekked up to the mountains of Faraya to seek escape from the intense heat plaguing Beirut. The climate is remarkably cooler, and the clean, pristine air revitalizing. We made our way to Faqra, a beautiful resort village studded with mansions, gated communities, a golf course, and ski slopes. We arrived to the hustle and bustle of a street circus that had drawn out throngs of kids and their parents. But these weren't village kids per se. These were the privileged children of wealthy families who own swanky villas in Faqra and vacation there exclusively in the summer and winter. They sport fashionable wear, wile their summers in day camp, and are vigilantly tended to by live-in maids. In fact, many families have more than one maid, depending on the number of kids they have in tote. This scene got me thinking about so-called domestic servitude in Lebanon. With the growing number of mothers in the workforce, many families rely on paid help to maintain the