Just stretch those legs wide and…

September 27, 2010

…take big strides, is what I kept telling myself as I was hiking up Jabal el Sheikh (Mount Hermon bil Inglizé) last weekend. I spent two days hiking and camping with a small group of people led by Lebanese Adventure. Though Deedee’s not into group stuff (at least when it comes to hikes), she knows the owners and they promised this was a small and pleasant bunch, so she said, “Tayyeb, OK”.

Glad Deedee’s legs are strong, cuz it was a pretty tough hike, yaani I’d say 8.5 on a scale of 10, but totally worth it. The landscape is arid this time of year but the shades of yellow, pink, orange, and gray were a soothing combination. We climbed 11 km’s in about 5 1/2 hours until we were literally over the clouds!

We camped in a spot that was slightly dipped so as to protect us from the strong wind. After the tents were set up, it looked like aliens had landed a bunch of UFO’s in that spot. Dinner was being prepared as we watched the awesome sunset.

We had a black lentil mjadra/soup’ish dish and a crunchy mixed organic veggie salad that the wife of one of the guides had prepared. Deedee had a bottle of bordeaux with her, akeed, that everyone was happy to share: Château La Mauberte 2006 (Vintage in Saifi Village), well rounded and full bodied, this melange had a deep red berry nose and the palate was blackberry with red plum.

In the morning the view was crystal clear and one could see all the way to the Cedars! We took a different route back down and it was just as breathtaking as the way up. Tough on the knees though, so one may want to have sticks for support. Landing back in ‘human-ia/hu-mania’ was bitter-sweet.

When Deedee got back home, first thing she had in mind was a cold bottle of 961 Witbier, which definitely hit the spot. Madame Mrad took one look at Deedee and said, “habibti baddik téklé?!!” Looking inside the fridge, they found a packet of smoked Magret de Canard which got tossed in a frying pan to sizzle. They threw in some chopped garlic, sage (fresh if you have it), onions and sliced fresh chili on top. When slightly wilted, add chopped fresh tomatoes, crack pepper and cook for a bit. Serve with penne drizzled with olive oil and mix everything together… Garnish: parmesan shavings! Sage is just the right herb with the smoked duck… simple and Deedeelicious!

The bottle of Bodega Norton‘s Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Mendoza, Argentina (Vintage in Saifi Village) went hand in glove with the  Penne and Magret de Canard. A young wine and smells that way at first, it took about 15 minutes to breath and develop it’s character. Naturally as a Cab, this deep full bodied red wine has a peppery nose but with red current and even cranberries! A sharp mouthful of red plums… surprisingly, it’s not as fruity as South American cabs usually are.

Merci Lebanese Adventure mecs pour ce weekend incroyable. Not only did Deedee enjoy the hike, she also got to practice her French! Mount Hermon’s got to be a whole different kind of beauty during the spring with wild flowers and leftover snow, so definitely doing that hike again.


Hush now, don’t explain…

September 24, 2010

… I’m glad you’re back, don’t explain.  Quiet, don’t explain… what is there to gain?

After we established that, I opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Rosé 2004. A salmon pink color with strong aromas of strawberries and red berries, it is fresh and lively in the mouth, like pink grapefruit, with a spicy, sensual finish… another winner from the Orange Widow.

Then “discreetly”, these mangoes and avocados descended upon me from the heavens. The mango was greenish yellow on the outside, a real orange orange on the inside and succulent all the way.

The avocados were delectable! I had one half with Yo’s Filipino Papaya Ginger Relish (made with shredded papaya, ginger, garlic chunks and red chili pepper in Filipino vinegar – Suka) and the other half with honey… or better yet, a melange!

Hush now, don’t explain… I’m enamored with the way Billie Holiday sings it with so much courage of conviction.

Wasn’t me!

September 21, 2010

Cellar? What cellar? Aaah, Beirut Cellar! They have a cellar? ‘nTs’

Met up with T at the “newly renovated but nothing’s changed” Beirut Cellar… Yaani please, if you wana change the decor, how about you change the menu while you’re at it!!! I just thought that was a no-brainer, but I guess it wasn’t in this case. Heik államoukon bil École Hôtelière? As T put it: “the only thing that changed on the menu is the prices!”

We started off with a Vodka Martini and Campari Soda… and a bottle of Pellegrino. Then moved on to Gotto d’Oro’s Frascati Superiore 2008, an Italian white that’s lively and verging on bubbles but not. The nose is blue cheese, nuts and grapefruit. The palate is slightly fruity with peach and apricots ending with a balanced finish. Good price quality ratio. Deedee recommends.

That said, the food is mediocre but edible. The Grilled Calamari’s good but make sure to ask for baby or medium sized calamaris, otherwise it’s too chewy. The Carpaccio Poulpe (octopus) was not raw!? Why they call it carpaccio puzzles me. They have Daily Specials, which is a nice change from the regular menu, but sometimes their specials aren’t ‘daily’… if you know what I mean.

I’ve had their burger and it’s not bad. Their pasta dishes are sometimes good and some risottos are worth a try.

The thing I like most about Beirut Cellar is that they’re open during the afternoon, so when you want to have a late lunch/early dinner you always find a spot and the place is all yours! Khai, ma fee hada!

For reservations: 01-216990

sawtak wati, ma ‘am bisma’…

September 20, 2010

… shee. Madame Mrad must’ve had something in her ears that evening cuz she couldn’t hear anything anyone said over dinner… or maybe she was just in her own world! 

W walked in with his signature bottle of champagne: G.H. Mumm’s Brut Rosé (non vintage), mainly Pinots. The color is a crisp orange-peach and the nose has a sweetness, like vanilla, with a touch of melon. The palate is refreshingly bubbly and dry with melon, and it has a long finish with strawberry written all over it.

L brought a bottle of PJ Le Petit Jaboulet 2008 Viognier, which coincidentally, Madame Mrad also had, so they had two bottles of PJ to enjoy with dinner. Last time this wine made it to the table, it had too many other competitors, so it didn’t stand out at all. However, that evening was it’s time to shine and it did. A straw yellow color, this white is quite a mouthful of fruit and a bouquet of flowers. Fun to drink with or without food.

The Menu:

Salad á la Mme. Mrad: romaine lettuce (finely chopped), shredded cabbage, parsley, seedless red grapes – halved, walnuts, rockefort (or feta if you like) and drizzle with apple cider vinaigrette.

Aunty K’s Lentils and Eggplant in Pomegranate Molasses… this time Mme Mrad added chopped tomatoes and parsley at the end. It was just the thing to give it that extra kick. (recipe in Yee, nawwarit blog entry August 2010)

Akeed Stir Fried Shrimp and Romaine Lettuce… Mme Mrad just couldnt help herself! (recipe in Too Many Cooks blog entry July 2010)

Figs Agrodolce, parma ham with parmesan shreds (the figs weren’t from “Eden”, bas close enough). (recipe in Makin’ out blog entry July 2010)

And endlich: Cherry tomatoes (halved), basil and feta cheese salad with a balsamic vinaigrette to dress it up.

Sahtein ‘a albkon!

Shoo? Sporting? Yalla…

September 12, 2010

… yaani, you know when you go somewhere so often and you keep saying: “I’ll write about it baadein”? Maybe you don’t… bas that’s how many times I’ve said that about Sporting Beach Club. Guess it’s those closest to the heart that have to wait… ma heik?

Though the place itself is somewhat shabby and they just paint over the mess to make it look good, they do try to make some improvements to the facility. The view is ‘fadstastic’ (especially at sunset), the food hits the spot, and the service… well… if you’re as frequent a guest as “we” are, then the service is ‘azeem… “tikram ‘ainik, madame”.

Here’s what Deedee likes to nibble on at The Deck Café: Tabboulé (bala basal), Eggplant Feluka (fried eggplant slices with mint leaves and a special labneh spread), hummos with pine nuts or balila, Hindbé, Batata bi Kizbra (potatoes with coriander), Batrakh (more like cured fish served with a thin slice of garlic on top and to die for!!). If we’re in the mood for seafood, it’s either the oven baked Loukoz (sea bass), Bizri (fried tiny fish or sardines, if you will – only in season), fried Sultan Ibrahim, Mallifa, and/or Farridi (different kinds of smaller sized ‘Lebanese’ fish… yaani, byihko Libnéné).

There’s a lot more on the menu, but Deedee’s recommendation is: Stick to the Lebo food and don’t go “International cuisine”.

They have a full bar and are generous with their portions. Wine wise, it’s the usual Ksara and Kefraya. If I’m having wine, I’ll go for the Kefraya Blanc de Blanc and, as I said before, I’ll only drink that with ice cubes in my glass… its the only way that wine goes down with me. Arak is another option. You can also sip on a Campari Soda or a Gin & Tonic at sunset… they’re refreshing and fun to drink while you’re waiting for the big orange ball to sink into Le Grand Bleu.

Sporting Club in Manara also has two other restaurants: The Feluka Restaurant, which serves the same food as the Deck Café; and the Maharaja Indian Restaurant, which I haven’t been to in a while, but last time the food was not bad.

Entry to the swimming club is LBP 26,000 for adults. For reservations call 01-742481.

Only the good die young…

September 12, 2010

… that’s what I kept thinking as I ate those little tiny birds (‘asfour teen) at Saba’ A’youn Restaurant in West Bekaa. These little tweeties apparently feed on fig trees so they’re sooo soft you can throw the whole thing in your mouth… or at least that’s what Deedee does! I prefer them mishwé and eat them as is because they have so much flavor, but some prefer to dip them in sumac to give them a little spice, others cook them in pomegranate molasses.

G, D and me were craving proteins that day, so it was meat straight up. Kibbé and Habra Nayyé, then skewers of grilled lamb pieces (kebab), and the ‘asafeer with Tabboulé (bala basal), hummos, and batata. Simple, straight to the point, and deedeelicious! This place knows how to pick its meat. Always fresh and clean.

We had their House Arak to go with that. Very smooth and light, this creamy white arak is almost sweet and has a very light anis nose and palate… nothing too overwhelming as some araks do.

For reservations at Saba’ A’youn Restaurant (which literally means: Seven Water Springs) in West Bekaa near Sad el Karoun: 08-645453 or 03-189015

Deedee dedicates this to her friend Hrach. You will be missed, habibi.  At the risk of sounding ‘crass’: Only the good die young…

Ma bsaddi’ shoo wal’ané…

September 7, 2010

…bi Byblos (yaani, Jbeil). That whole yard area in the old souk has transformed into a lively outdoors restaurant and bar ‘quartier’ – a bit too many people for Deedee, but I’m sure others would enjoy the atmosphere.

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with M & G at é Café in the Eddé Yard, and went again last Saturday with R. I gotta say the food in this place is quite impressive. A couple of my long gone friends started that café about 8 years ago when the souk in Byblos was a quaint and quiet area.

We started with a bottle of Chateau Saint Thomas 2005 (from Clos St. Thomas), pepper and dark berry nose, tannic with a smooth coffee and black/redberry palate, this Cab/syrah/merlot threesome is full bodied and dry so you want to drink water (preferrably sparkling) with it – one of Deedee’s preferred Lebo wines – not necessarily this vintage, but in general their Chateau is a winner. I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking any of Clos St. Thomas’ other wines, though.

For dinner, R and I shared the Salade de Melon au Jambon de Parme – large ‘new-moon’ melon slices with the parma ham wrapped around middle. Next we shared the Salade de Magret de Canard Fumé – a mixed green salad with smoked duck slices and chunks of fresh strawberry in a tangy balsamic reduction dressing… delicious!

I had the Entrecôte (medium rare, akeed), even though I was dying for the Côte de Boeuf but its for two and despite my big appetite for meat, I’d’ve preferred that much meat raw and in human form! It came with baked potato chunks and mushroom sauce… drop the sauce and ask for mustard – much better with the meat. Last time, I had the Filet (medium rare) which was very tender and just melted in my mouth… shoo taybé! 

R had the Char Grilled Sea Bass which came with finely chopped grilled veggies. I could tell she loved it cuz there was no meat left on that fish!

On the way out, we saw a deer on a spit at another restaurant! Deedee loves venison and can’t wait to go back and try that place.

For reservations at é Café: 09-542224 or 03-163316