Showing posts from November, 2014

7 Misbehaviors We Lebanese Need to Stop

I've lived long enough in this country (coming up on four years now!) to appreciate its merits and loathe its demerits. Unfortunately, the latter can sometimes dampen the former. To illustrate, we may be world-renowned for our delicious cuisine. But it’s become awfully hard to savor it in light of the health minister's recent denouncement of restaurants' lack of hygiene and sanitary standards. Fret not--this is not another tirade against Wael Abou Faour, nor is it a rejection of dining out in Lebanon. There are perhaps worse things you could do or be subject to around here. In fact, contracting a disease from dining out could be the least of your worries next to these villainous acts: The Lebanese are not particularly renowned for their pristine, clean environment. Littering is a chronic problem, and people don’t seem to give a whiff about chucking rubbish from their vehicles, balconies, or other perches in the city. Here’s a very clever appeal to trash-tossing

Captain Cook Restaurant in Downtown Beirut: I Just Can't Get Enough

Captain Cook in downtown Beirut is a restaurant I just can’t emphasize enough. I first discovered this veritable hole-in-the-wall nearly ten months ago descending along the steep slope adjacent to the Serail. Outside, a collapsible chalkboard scrawled a cute food-related quip, and peeking in I was drawn to the red-seated metal barstools lining the joint along three walls. I picked up a menu and rushed back to the office, eager to explore the restaurant’s website . It was chockfull of details about the benefits of “superfoods” like quinoa, flaxseeds, pomegranate and blueberries. I was immediately sold on the concept. But would the food hold up? Would it be as fresh, tasty and wholesome as purported? I had to try it. And I did. And it was. Unmistakably fresh. Phenomenally tasty. Exceptionally wholesome. The added bonus was the pocket-pleasing prices. A filling sandwich, burger, or salad could be had for an average of 10,000LL. Breakfast items range from 2,500LL for a labneh s

"Scheherazade's Diary" Tells The Story of Lebanon's Female Outcasts

On Wednesday night at Le Mall Dbayeh’s Cinemall, I had the rare privilege of previewing “Scheherazade’s Diary,” the seven-time award-winning documentary emerging from acclaimed actress, directress, and social advocate Zeina Daccache. The tragicomic piece films the inmates of Baabda’s all-female prison over a 10-month period, during which Daccache engaged them in a theatre project doubling as drama therapy via her NGO Catharsis (more on that below). Throughout the film, we are introduced to the stories of these women, these so-called pariahs who have been cast from the light of society because of their grave crimes of adultery, drug use, murder and more. What’s troubling is that many of the women we meet have never been tried—only accused—for their alleged misdeeds. One woman served four years without having been sentenced or lawfully convicted of wrongdoing. Here is where the viewer breaks down and grapples fiercely with the corrupt machinations of this society. These women

An Enduring Restaurant: Michael in Ghazir

If you’re ever driving along the Ghazir highway toward Jbeil, you might notice an older restaurant whose overhead sign is scripted in a wavy, emerald-green font: Michael. Michael has been around for nearly three decades, catering, delivering plats du jour, and serving as a kitchen to its acclaimed wedding venue in Kfarhbeb, Michael Garden. In September, we hosted our wedding at Michael Garden, and there’s no doubt as to how superior the food is in freshness, flavor, quality and presentation. It was high time we tried the restaurant proper, so this past Sunday, we found ourselves in the area and dropped in around 1:30 pm. The place was packed with diners. Miraculously, a table for two was readied at our arrival, and as we settled in, we scanned the list of plats du jour—11 in total!—before making our selection: Couscous with lamb and vegetables and roulade de poulet stuffed with jambon, hot dog, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Each dish was heaving with generosity and cou

Honeymoon Diary Part III: Livorno, Tuscany, and Umbria

This is the third installment in a tripartite series on my Italian honeymoon. Be sure to read the first  and second  parts here.  At this point in our trip, we were totally spent. Seven days of walking—and no less than 8 hours per day—will take its toll on you, and having foreseen this, we steered our honeymoon to a more relaxed pace. Renting a compact, manual-transmission Ford Fiesta from Hertz in Florence, we plotted for five days of cruising around Central Italy. Our first stop was Livorno, or Leghorn in English, a beautiful seaside city to the west of Florence that has virtually no foreigners and whose tourist population counts only the wandering Italian. Arriving around midday, we lunched on fresh smoked tuna, grilled swordfish, and fried calamari and shrimp. How do €9-12/plate sound to you? Beyond admiring the sea and enjoying its edible bounty, there is little to do in Livorno, so we headed north to nearby Pisa to witness its notorious leaning tower. Boy does it lea

Lime Tree Dbayeh: Cuisine a l'Americana, Shisha and More

When you walk into Lime Tree restaurant on the Dbayeh highway, exactly where Appleby’s used to be, your mind and body are overcome with a sense of relief. There’s something so soothing about the venue, with its calm grey and lime-green hues; extreme spaciousness, which means tables are not grouped close together; high ceilings; impeccable ventilation; glass panels from floor-to-ceiling to maximize the view of the outside; and comfortable sofa chairs. The restaurant’s occupancy is 400, and it’s readily apparent with seating along the panoramic window, at the sushi bar, near the salad bar, and everywhere in between. No detail has been overlooked. Wi-Fi is available to diners. There’s a stack of magazines and newspapers not far from the immaculate restrooms. There are even backgammon tables for those seeking tranquil entertainment with their dining companions. I found Lime Tree to be a great meeting point for social gatherings among friends and family. Waiters are friendly without