Showing posts from September, 2016

Baron By Name and Bite

There’s only so much you’ll experience in the culinary world of Lebanon. When a new restaurant opens, you can bank on already being well-versed with 50%, if not 75%, of the dishes featured. Be it an Italian pizzeria, a French bistro, a Japanese sushi joint, or a Lebanese shawarma stand, there aren't too many surprises you can expect. Two reasons for this. First and foremost, the Lebanese palate, while discerning, is heavily biased in favor of familiar flavors, so menus intentionally reject the foreign. Secondly, the creativity of the chef is capped. He draws up a menu based on what’s trending in the country and what his culinary capacity can afford him. Now imagine for a second that a new restaurant opens in Beirut, slapping both of the foregoing principles smack in the face and flipping them on their heads. The restaurant introduces unconventional tastes and flavors, and boasts a kitchen whose sense of adventure knows no boundaries. A bit far-fetched? Well, as of a f

Cool Finds at Wesley’s Wholesale In Hazmieh

It’s been over three weeks now, and Wesley’s Hazmieh is pulsating with life! If you haven’t had the chance to visit the two-story megastore nestled on Camille Chamoun Boulevard roughly opposite Galaxy, “missing out” just doesn’t start to capture it. Your meek existence in Lebanon will totally transform with just one Wesley’s shopping spree, but don’t let me sway you. Let the products do the talking. Wesley's Hazmieh staff Spread across 3,000 square meters with two separate entrances and five check-out stands, Wesley's Hazmieh is split into food and nonfood sections. The former encapsulates fresh, dry, frozen, chilled and bulk sizes. The latter gathers up everything home and bedroom (linens, pillows, home organizers, plastics), cleaners and laundry, health and beauty, cookware, furniture, basic clothing, pets, and paper (toilet, towels, and disposables).  The store is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 9 pm, and the parking lot accommodates over 175 cars (happily no

Summer Lives On: Weekend Escape to Byblos Sur Mer

After my initial rapture with Byblos Sur Mer some three months ago, when we lunched at its seafood restaurant Dar el Azrak , a revisit was due. Located squarely at the port of Byblos, the five-star boutique property perches right on the Mediterranean and boasts an expansive seaside cove. Therein sit Sophia Bay, a zen for sunbathers and seafarers, and Al Marsa café. Saturday found us checking into our charming junior suite. In fact, “charming” is the best adjective to describe the hotel, from the cream-colored, chandelier-decked lobby with local artwork on display, to the den-like breakfast buffet site turned evening pizzeria, Café Tournesol. The lobby inside Byblos Sur Mer Our room, a comfortable 44 square meters, featured a proper balcony with views of the Crusader castle and the Byblos port. This is precisely where you'd want to sip on wine at sunset as you survey tourists passing directly beneath.  View from the junior suite balcony Back inside the

Inheriting My Mother's Fate

I never thought I’d relive my mother’s plight. My intention in moving to Lebanon some five and a half years ago was really to be an anchor. An anchor that would gravitate my parents back to their motherland. An anchor that would reunite my mother to the family she abandoned in the height of the Civil War when she wed my father. An anchor that would take me back to my heritage and deepen my roots in the nation of my ancestors. An anchor that would transcend the artificial charm of a vacation for a gritty and real presence year-round. Growing up in the US, I was conscious of my mother’s split existence. Her body was in California, but her heart, mind and soul were firmly entrenched in Lebanon. Sure, she’d willingly left her mother and siblings to start a new life with her American-nationalized husband, but not for a second did she live mentally unshackled for having done so. She wrote long, lyrical letters to her sisters. She’d wait from week to week to make a quick, rehear

The Unsung Heroes of Lebanon

In this part of the world, one of the toughest things I’ve had to grapple with -- and continue to do so, five and a half years in -- is the pronounced polarization of socioeconomic classes. Having grown up in the West where from a young age I was taught the importance of self-help and equality regardless of color, race, or creed, I’ve had difficulty coming to terms with the deeply-felt presence of a migrant working class in Lebanon. Gas stations manned by Egyptians and Bangladeshi who pump your gas and squeegee your windows without you even having to open the car door. Garbage men balancing precariously on steel rungs in the rear of dumpster trucks, inhaling the fumes of the road and rank rubbish as they descend to the street level to sweep it up. How about those captive restroom aides who camp inside restaurant and venue wash areas, wiping down toilet seats and counters and doling out paper towels to comers and goers? Migrant worker keeps busy on phone while ma

Al Sultan Brahim Anchors in Downtown Beirut

Who knew that Al Sultan Brahim had such a prime perch in Beirut Central District? Spread across an expansive 1,800 square meters in a corner building facing the Biel waterfront, this Lebanese seafood institution is split across three floors: the first, a sleek and modern indoor dining space with sky-high ceilings; the second, restroom central; and the third, a canopied terrace for those breezy summer nights when a sunset drink is imperative. Rooftop terrace at the new Sultan Brahim in downtown Beirut Al Sultan Brahim, winner of the Arab Tourism Quality Award 2016, has graced the Lebanese dining landscape since 1961, when it first opened along the Jnah seaside. Hard work and commitment to excellence on the part of the Ramy brothers – Elias, Ibrahim, and Shaker – soon propagated to a network of branches, and today the Al Sultan Brahim – Diwan enterprise finds its foothold in Jounieh, Antelias, Achrafieh, and downtown Beirut. The Ramy’s second generation is at the helm, empl