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Showing posts from August, 2018

The Rise of Excellent Shawarma across Beirut

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If you’re here to read about shawarma icons like Barbar in Hamra or Joseph in Sin el Fil, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m not one to dabble in the trite or commonplace. And I’m going to be frank: the last time I sampled the pickings at Joseph, it was I who was sorely disappointed. Like almost every eatery that rises to fame and snatches acclaim, the trajectory is parabolic. No doubt I’d had much better.
So for the past year or two, I just couldn’t recommend a shawarma joint wholeheartedly. There have been so many I’ve frequented over the years, but they’ve all shuttered: Shawarma Show in Jdeideh, TSC Signature in Beirut Souks, Sheikha in Sassine. Like most things in Beirut, food outlets are transient around here. So when you discover something good, become a loyal patron. And by God, spread the word.
Here are not one but two of my recent finds in the world of shaved meat from a rotating spit. The first, I’d surprisingly forgotten about; the second, we stumbled across in a mall. Both …

Gemmayze Cake Lounge Pays Homage to Teta Afaf

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On a quaint street corner nestled in Gemmayze, a stone’s throw from the famous night club Loge, sits a cake lounge called Afaf. The juxtaposition is striking, as the former heaves with loud music, while the latter provides sanctuary from even the slightest noise in the street.

Thank the triple-panel glass wall, just one of many fixtures carefully thought out and installed to give Afaf the right air and aura. A giant whisk doubles as a door knob. Beautiful silver trays attached to legs serve as coffee tables. Ornate chandeliers festoon the ceiling. Comfortable divan seating outfits one room, while cool concrete slabs characterize another. Imaginative two-faced statues custom-made in East Asia lord over the walls. Wooden foot stools reflect an impromptu acquisition at a Turkish bazaar. Photos upon framed photos pin a face to the name Afaf, which in Arabic translates to chastity or virtue.
But who is Afaf? And how does she figure into this avant garde cake lounge that boasts homemade bundt…

Malfy Gin: When Life Hands You Lemons and Liquor

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Isn’t it bizarre that just about everything coming out of Italy is (a) tantalizingly tasty, (b) simplistically sophisticated, and (c) absolutely amazing? Okay, so those alliterative adjectives (oops, I did it again!) may be loaded claims, but I’m 100% confident I can substantiate them. My latest discovery, Malfy Gin, will appeal not only to the spirits aficionado, but also to the refined gourmet who demands a product backstory complete with family, terroir, and a scrupulous labor of love.

Ready? Here goes.
Gigino the Flying Farmer, so dubbed because of his nimble movements in the orchard, is 83 years old. But that doesn’t stop him from tending his ancestral lemon groves as though he were a spritely man of 20. Proud to have been conceived under a lemon tree, Gigino jokes that he has the fruit juice coursing through his veins. His lemons, called “sfusato amalfitano” because of their spindle-like, tapered ends, are grown nowhere else in the world but Amalfi. Thanks to a unique micro-climat…

Making the Case for Lebanon: To Move or Not To Move Here?

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A couple of weeks ago, I received a very thought-provoking inquiry from a Beirutista reader. It went to the tune of this: a family of Lebanese origin residing in Southern California was debating whether to transplant their three children aged 11, 9, and 5 to the land of their heritage. The father had immigrated as a teenager, while the mother had been born and raised in the US. Their last trip to Lebanon dated back some six years, and they were seriously contemplating a move here to immerse their kids in the culture and rigorous educational system. Seeing as I had crossed that bridge, they wanted my opinion.

My first reaction was to grimace. How would the kids feel, I immediately empathized? 20 years ago, like almost every family that fled Lebanon during the civil war, my parents faced the exact same dilemma. The post-civil war ‘90s witnessed what appeared to be a rebounding economy, the promise of a rebuilding nation, and the hope of restoring Lebanon to its once golden age. Many fami…