Showing posts from November, 2015

Woodbees: A Paradise for Health Foodies and Tree Huggers Alike

The food scene across Beirut beckons reproach for dullness and repetition. From the ranks of the casual eatery to the upper echelons of the swanky restaurant, you’ll find the same trite goat cheese salad with walnuts and fig jam, or a banal beef burger with a slab of breaded mozzarella. How about chilled shrimp atop a bed of guacamole, or a quinoa-halloumi-cranberry salad? I can name at least a dozen joints that feature the foregoing in their menus.
Wherever you go, you’re bombarded with the same combination of tastes and flavors to the point that differences across venues begin to blur. Which is why my husband and I have curbed our once-adventurous spirit of trying new places, because disappointment has become almost certain.
So when Woodbees opened along the Zalka highway, nestled between Wooden Bakery (its parent company) and KFC, our curiosity was limited to the interesting cube-like structure of the building and its sky-high ceiling. And that was it. We didn’t even form a notion of…

Deek Duke Dazzles with Delectable Menu Additions

For nearly a decade, it was the neglected younger child, cast in the shadows of its wildly successful and growing elder sibling. As the firstborn flourished and expanded, the tiny tot remained humble and small, popular with a limited crowd. And then suddenly, as with all underdogs, it was discovered and exalted, and it started to blossom.
OK, enough with the extended metaphors. This isn’t the story of two plants, or even David and Goliath for that matter. This is the story of Roadster and Deek Duke and how the little guy went through a rite of passage to become the handsome budding diner it is today.
Few know that Deek Duke has assumed its Achrafieh-Tabaris perch since 2003. It would be another five years before a second outlet opened in Hamra, neighbor to Roadster in the Crowne Plaza complex. Another five years and Deek Duke would make its home inside two malls—City Mall Dora and Le Mall Dbayeh. Today a fifth branch is slated for Jbeil next to cousin restaurant Zaatar W Zeit.

"Film Kteer Kbeer" is a Big Step Forward for Lebanese Cinema

I’m generally skeptical about Lebanese movie productions. If they’re not inane, they’re clichéd. If they’re not clichéd, they’re melancholic. And if they’re not melancholic, the acting is hideously subpar.  
So I attended the avant premiere of “Film Kteer Kbeer” with some serious qualms. Even the title struck me as lame—in English, it’s “Very Big Shot” which is equally unpersuasive. But a bit of Googling unearthed that this movie had attracted notice at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier in the year. Surely there was some merit to it, right?
"Kteer Kbeer" follows three brothers—Ziad, Joe and Jad Haddad—who run a small pizza parlor in the industrial city of Dekweneh. Jad has just been released from prison after serving a five-year juvenile sentence for a murder Ziad committed. The pizzeria is in fact a front for a cocaine business they operate. Order a “speciale” and your pizza will come accompanied by a salt packet filled with powdered coke and a $100-price tag.

My Utter Disappointment with the Beirut Cooking Festival

I’m going to be honest, brutally honest. You could say this post is borderline ranting, which I generally attempt to avoid. But today, words will be minced.
The subject? Beirut Cooking Festival & Salon du Chocolat expositions.
Date of incident? Last week.
Location? Biel Pavilion, or whatever remains of Biel.
Level of satisfaction: rock bottom.
Likelihood of returning in future years: abysmally low.
Here’s the thing. Nobody is a stauncher supporter of gourmet festivals than I am. Year in and year out, I look forward with earnest to Horeca, the largest food festival in the Middle East and more extravagant counterpart to the Beirut Cooking Festival. Here you can find a slew of exhibitors, from local wineries (Nakad, Qanafar) and beer distilleries (961, Almaza) to nut roasteries (Krikita, Castania), bread houses (Prunelle), cheesemakers (Taanayel, Khoury), and a whole lot more. It’s a veritable trade show for the hospitality and food service industry.
What once had the magical makings of …

Three Young Lebanese Inventors Headed to Kuwait for International Competition

I’m an engineer (de jure, if not entirely de facto), so anytime I see young people headed in that direction, my heart swells with fierce delight.
Three high school seniors who attend Collège Nôtre-Dame de Jamhour recently snatched top honors for their technology invention at the International Warsaw Invention Show (IWIS). Carlo Karam, Samy el-Khoury, and Walid Behlok, all 17-year-olds who aspire to be engineers, created a surveillance drone that scans ski slopes for fallen skiers and transmits this information in real-time back to a central computer. The officer manning the computer can then access photos of the target, pinpoint its location, and intervene accordingly.
The motivation behind this device? The trio are friends of the sister of Melanie Freiha, who died earlier this year after suffering an accident on the Faraya slopes. Stirred and stricken by her fatal tragedy, the students assembled a drone and programmed an algorithm in Matlab to seek out floored objects. Self-taught pro…

My Movie of the Year: "Steve Jobs"

I don’t write movie reviews often—in fact, I rarely do. 
Quite frankly, most movies for me end mere minutes after their viewing. Sure, some inspire a feel-good sensation while others speak to my deep-seated intellectual. But like dreams, they dissipate into vague memories as I walk past the red-lit exit signs of the theatre.
Not so with “Steve Jobs,” whose avant premiere I attended last weekend in advance of its release this Thursday across cinemas in Beirut.
The story unfolds backstage at three historic product launches spanning the decade and half between 1984 and 1998. Immediately, we are made to see how divisive Jobs’ character is. 
He’s aggressive, openly threatening one of his chief engineers over a technical hiccup at the launching of the Macintosh. He’s cocky, self-smugly taking credit for “[playing] the orchestra” that is Apple computers, though he had no hand in any product design, development or programming. And he’s hot-tempered, exploding in front of anyone who falls short o…

My Latest Dessert Discoveries in Beirut

No birthday is complete without a dizzying dose of dessert, and mine was no exception! 
My colleagues had been singing the praises of Al Beik Patisserie in Koreitem for over a month now, high on the signature knefeh sandwiches the pastry shop is renowned for. I normally shy away from knefeh because it sits heavy on the stomach, but Al Beik’s is miraculously digestible.

A thin-shelled sesame-crusted pita round snugly hugs a cheese and semolina patty in what appears to be a knefeh burger! It’s even wrapped in a paper jacket as burgers are wont to and fitted inside a white Styrofoam box. The contents are delicious, but I’d definitely dial down the syrup, because a few bites and your sweet tooth will be plenty satisfied.

On Sunday, we discovered a new spot in ABC Achrafieh called Caffè Gianni (named after its Italian owner Giovanni). Tucked out of sight on the farthest reach of the terrace (where Scoozi used to be), this “bar” preserves the vibes of a true Italian caffè. There’s a long glass…