They’ll be gone for a couple of weeks, but don’t despair, Deedee’ll be back with lots’a deedeelectable stories about their adventure.
“Go and come” as they say in…
…ma badda haki, atyab shi el-Libnéné… wil Armané kamein.
Deedee’s friend AL is visiting from Béreez (yaani, Paris) and a Leboland virgin. Sooooo, after dropping off the bags at Madame Mrad’s, they headed to Seza, a cute new Armenian restaurant in Mar Mikhael, (baad mafra’ el Tawlet, take the first right and walk up the street – it’s at the end of the block ál yameen). Deedee’s already been there with K & Bobba and enjoyed it. The food is good bas the service is a little off. Yaani, puhleez train your staff. They’re soooo sweet, but that’s not enough in the restaurant business.
Some of Deedee’s favorite dishes are: the red beet salad; the Itch – Armenian tabboulé; the raw meat and lentil kufta (like kibbé); the tomato salad; Su beoreg (a savory cheese mille feuille made with filo pastry); Muhammara (ground walnuts, red pepper and pomegranate molasses); Manti; Meatballs with sour cherries (a must). To drink, I prefer Arak and I pretty much recommend it, because they don’t have much of a wine list, and they neither know their wines nor how to serve them… sorry guys… stick to what you know… or train your staff!
Overall I like the feel of the place and the food isn’t bad. Seza Bistro Arménian is on Patriarch Arida Street, Mar Mikhael. For reservations: 01-570711 (closed Mondays).
The next day we toured Batroun and Byblos. You can never see enough sunsets, and I love how the color of the sun changes with every season. We sat down to watch the pale yellow planet sinking at Bab el Mina in the old port in Jbeil while sipping on a bottle of Chateau Musar Cuvée Réservée Blanc, a white made with 100% Obeidé grapes, an indigenous Lebo grape variety, light golden color, dry, light and not too acidic (which our whites tend to be). The palate is nuts, herbs and green apple, ending with lemon zest. Nothing to right home about but potable when considering the price-quality ratio on their wine list.
We ordered the Fish Kibbé, Tajin, Aubergine Salad (not wow), Calamari Provencial (soft and juicy, nice), and Batata Harra (a little too oily). Overall it’s mostly the ambience about this place that does it for me. Bab el Mina Seafood Restaurant, Byblos. For reservations: 09-540475.
Saturday we had brunch with Cha & Z at Tawlet Souk el Tayeb. Deedee’s third time since she’s been back, so yes it IS one of my favorites. Authentic, consistent quality, an intriguing variety, and service isn’t bad either… considering you’re serving yourself most of the time, as Z noted. For the brunch buffet they offer Fatteh, Foul, Eggs with Awarma (cured beef) or sumak, kibbé nayyé (raw meat with cracked wheat – burghol) yay shoo taybé, a variety of salads, mtabbal batinjén (aubergine mash), Lahmé b’ájeen, Chicken Wings à la Provencial, Grilled Meat, cheese and labné… to name a few! Think that’s enough for you? Then késs (or more) árak… dessert (if you still have room for it) w finjén ahwé at the end. Fun, highly recommended, w sahtein.
Later we headed to Tamatim’s new apartment with a bottle of Ruinard that AL had brought with her. Claiming to be the oldest house of champagne, this bottle of bubbly, straw yellow color, fine bubbles and a palate of pink grapefruit and vanilla. Later, off to Beirut Art Center for a silent auction fundraiser. They were serving Louis Roederer Champagne, which Deedee has been looking to try. Deedeelirious! All I gotta say is: Don’t Drink and Bid!
Next day, after a stroll through the ruins of Baalbeck, Deedee and AL drove to Hamra for a couple of beers and a manti at Regusto, in the Hamra Square Center. Later they dropped by Dany’s for a G&T and staggered back to Madame Mrad’s to crash.
Merci pour ta visite, ya AL, mbasatna. À bientôt!
… is how A, P, Cha and Deedee felt when they walked out of Osteria il Mattarello in Gemmayze the other day.
We started with the day’s special: Burratta which was LBP 80,000?!?!? It must’ve been made with haleeb enNawar, cuz that’s what it brought out in A after he saw the price on the bill. I have to admit, that even the Burratta in “oh-no-lio” tasted better and was less than half the price of this one.
The Crudiolla Pizza was nothing to write home about. The cheese was already cold and chewy, the topping was proscuitto and rocca with cherry tomatoes, so you can’t really go wrong there… or can you?
The Basil Gnudi with basil ricotta stuffing was to basil-y, and nothing to compare with the ones Deedee had in NYC. What a pity cuz they’re usually pretty succulent so this was just an anti-climactic moment.
The lamb chops were a total flop! Too gamy/meaty, I mean, Deedee loves her game but this Australian friend of Mary’s must’ve been defrosted too quickly (or cooked then microwaved, as P guessed), hence the off taste. The Italian Chef couldn’t handle the comment and went off sulking with his tail between his legs… éh ma badda hal ad ya bambino.
Ma iltillik stick to Libnéné?
said Madame Mrad to Deedee… ma’ik ha’… Yaani, Deedee gave this place another shot and, as she feared, no consistency in food quality at all. Domage, because the server (Mo) tried his best to impress, considering the pressure he must’ve felt with 3 nightlife veterans on that table. Kudos to Mo… bas I guess I’m going to put el ha’ át-tillién after all!
Yaani that was NOT what Deedee wanted to hear upon stepping on the airplane (nor at any other time, for that matter). Shoo khassak w shoo baddak? She had no other alternative but to bite the guy’s head off and send him away to the back of the plane. She was glad to have the extra seat to stretch out and take a nap before arriving in Beirut International Airport. Lahza… lameen hal mataar?
This time, her bags made it to Leboland with the airplane! Then Deedee aimed straight for the Duty Free Shop to get a couple bottles of Veuve Clicquot (Vintage 2002), as usual. They had a special offer on the Moët & Chandon, so she grabbed a bottle for Madame Mrad. You can never have enough bottles of bubbly in the fridge!
Back in Leboland… mixed emotions… Tayyeb, what to eat? Libnéné w késs ‘arak, akeed.
… and going ethnic.
So the part of Deedee’s time in the United States that you haven’t heard about yet is the when she had ethnic food at mom ‘n pop type restaurants.
Ethiopian food is a must when Deedee does DC. First time I tried it was 22 years ago… of course, I was 8 years old at the time!! 😉 Nothing fancy going on here, just good old comfort food. Ethiopian bread, called Injera, is like a pancake or crepe, in fact, its very much like atayef but really thin and shi 8-10 inches in diameter. It’s usually placed on a flat tray and all the dishes are scooped on it in piles. Ethiopian food is very spicy and you eat it with your hands, like us Lebo’s eat mezza with bread. You’ll find most of the Ethiopian restaurants in Washington, DC in Adams Morgan (18th st., NW) and on U st. b/w 9th & 7th st. NW.
When Deedee arrived in Seattle it was late, wet, cold and she’d been flying all day. So she had a quick bite at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront hotel’s 2100 Bar. The menu featured a Hot Chili Pepper Shrimp & Hummus with grilled pita. Now I never ever have hummus outside Leboland, but with Shrimp?!?! Ma bsaddi’! Deedee had to try it and… oh my Bob!!!! They’ve de-virginized hummus… in a sexy way. Gotta try this at home.
Now, you can’t go to Los Angeles and not have Mexican, I mean, you’re almost there… better yet, they’re everywhere! One night Booboo took me to Hacienda del Rey, a really kitchy family style restaurant. Everything piled on your plate, yaani the meat, the beans, the rice, the guacamole, the salad, and served with a side of either corn or flour tortillas (fresh and soft). A frozen margarita is liquid to sip on. As authentic and you’re gonna get that many miles away from the border, hombre.
Deedee’s last stop was Boston. Some clients took me to try this Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. First time I’ve had Senegalese and interestingly enough the owner (a young, cute and determined Senegalese woman) told us that their food has Lebanese, Moroccan and Vietnamese culinary influences! The place is simple and cozy. We shared a few appetizers at first, including Nems (spring rolls), Fataya (yaani like fatayer but filled with fish), and sweet potatoes. Deedee had Michoui, a marinated lamb shank in a caramalized onion reduction served with couscous (so tender it falls off the bone and melts in the mouth). Do try it if you’re in the Boston South End area.
w khalas Amérka! Toot toot ‘a… Beirut?
… shopping session, Deedee and K were starving. They headed to the East Village to try out Momofuku ssäm, a Korean fusion restaurant. We asked for a couple of glasses of bubbly to go with the Mattaki Oysters, BC (yes, I’m outta control!) served with sliced fresh wild cranberry to garnish and give it a tang. Comte de Gascogne, Blanc de Blancs, NV (France) is a sparkling Chardonnay with refreshingly lively bubbles, citrus, and green apples. Next we had the Steamed Buns – stuffed with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions… yislamoulé ‘l buns tab’ak shoo taybeen. Last we had the Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes with chinese broccoli and sichuan peppercorn, which was killer spicy… yaani soooo harra that we couldn’t finish it, and believe me, Deedee loves her harr (chili). To put that fire out, we drank a couple of Avery “White Rascal” ales – a Belgian white from Boulder, CO. The label on this beer cracks me up; it’s a pale straw colored wheat beer, light with coriander aroma and a lemony fruitness in the mouth.
For brunch on Sunday, Deedee, M & JA decided to check out Freeman’s Alley. Hidden in a zaroubé on the Lower East Side, this place feels like it should be out in the country somewhere. With a hunting club motif, it’s cozy, cluttered, and makes you feel like you want to live there. For starters, akeed we ordered Bloody Marys while we nibbled on Devils on Horseback, which are bluecheese stuffed prunes (some use dates) wrapped in bacon… wipe that drool from the side of your mouth, please. The second round of Bloody Marys set the tone right for that Hot Artichoke Dip with Crisp Bread, apparently a signature dish. Chunky bits of artichoke in cream topped with cheese and just the right comfort food to start your morning with. We had an order of Thick Cut Bacon and the Bitter Greens Salad with Grated Egg & Warm Bacon Vinaigrette before we got our mains. Deedee asked for the Fall Vegetable Hash with pan fried eggs & herbed crème fraîche bas I had them with scrambled eggs instead… ‘nuf said. Can’t wait to go back for dinner on my next trip. I’m sure it’s a whole other level of orgasmic terrain. Freeman, habibi, where’ve you been all my life?! Definitely goes under “my new favorite place” category. Thanks for the tip, Warnink.
Met up with AEN later for a walk in Central Park. It was just the right thing to do on that beautiful cold sunny day and just what was needed to help digest the feast. It’s such a luxury to have such a huge park in the middle of the city, bas akeed it doesn’t compare one bit with Jnainit Es Sanayeh. Yaani shoo mfakreen halon el Amirkén?!
Last but not least, M & Deedee literally tumbled into Jeffrey’s Grocery – Luncheonette & Oyster Bar. Yaani, wihyét Bob we were innocently walking in the West Village when some force just drew us inside. Shoo mahdoum hal mahal… it really is a grocery store, bas in the back there’s a bar and one high communal table. We had two rounds of a dozen oysters. The first time we had two of each of the oysters on offer. Second time around we picked three and had a dozen of those: the Blue Point oysters and the Beau Soleil, both from the East Coast, were briny and you could taste the sea in them. The other was Hood Canals from the West Coast, which are always sweeter. To quench our thirst we tried the Tröegs “Dream Weaver” Wheat Ale from Harrisburg, PA. I’m sensing a pattern here… you notice how many wheat ales Deedee’s had over the last few weeks? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had other types of beer but I think wheat beer wins. This cloudy orange Pennsylvanian Dream Weaver has the usual cloves, citrus allure with a hint of banana.
Jeffrey’s Grocery also offers a variety of cheese and charcuterie with a handful of salads and sandwiches for lunch versus appetizers and entrees for dinner. A short menu, but just right amount of items for this charming gourmet grocery store/luncheonette. Deedeelightful!
I have to admit, I get giddy with the flawless service at restaurants and bars in NYC. Yaani, pretty much everywhere in the US was impressive, bas NYC has an alternative take… a new dimension of professionalism, sophistication, and refinement in dining and service.
Spitzer’s Corner, located on the Lower East Side, serves around 40 beers on tap!! So I had to drag my beer drinking buddy, RLM, along. Not much of an adventurer, RLM had the Weihenstephan Hefe-weissen and stayed there. A South German wheat ale that tasted and smelled of tropical fruit, citrus and cloves. Deedee on the other hand, had to try as many different beers as she could handle. To start with, she had the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner from NY. A light beer with earthy hoppiness, hints of herbs and honey. Next was the Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild from CA (if you say it fast enough it sounds like a little something wild… get it?), a pale ale with notes of pineapple, mango and melon. By that time, we’d ordered their Pork Fat Edamame to nibble on while we waited for our Kobe Burgers (made with 100% Kobe beef and medium rare, akeed) and the Hand Cut French Fries. After that, Deedee had to try that Allagash White from Maine cuz she couldn’t believe the description of that witbier: Banana, grassy wheat, creamy, and balanced… they were right! Last, but not least was the Pretty Things Baby Tree from MA: big plum, red wine, cinnamon raisin bread, and brown sugar. Thanks for the tip Cha, it was a hop-pennin’ experience!
Later Deedee miraculously found herself at The Spotted Pig… it’s a must, after all. M & M joined her. Hog Island Oysters, I couldn’t help myself, from northern California, these babies are sweet, tender with a briny finish. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with Basil Pesto… oh my Bob! The way these melt in your mouth is so sensual, they should be forbidden from consumption in public! Whatever you’re eating, you can’t not order the Shoestring Fries with rosemary. This time Deedee tried the Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Beets & Horseradish Cream, the slices of meat are cooked medium-rare and so tender you barely need your knife. The beets are roasted with kale, and drizzled with Horseradish cream… life is good. (btw, for those of you who read The New Yorker, there’s an article about the chef in the November 22nd, 2010 Food Issue. Read Burger Queen. She really makes the best burger in the world… amongst others. A Deedee must-have.)
We were around 7 for dinner at Public, another one of Deedee’s regular do’s, so it was the perfect opportunity to try many items on their menu. As we waited for the gang to assemble, we had an aperitif at the bar. Deedee was curious to try The Chook NV, a sparkling Shiraz from SE Australia. The bubbles on this dark ruby red were subtle and light, the nose and palate are cherry, ripe berry and herbal spice ending with a tangy kick. We were then seated and the feast began. For starters: Grilled scallops with sweet chili sauce, crème fraiche and green plantain crisps; Pan-seared foie gras on spiced french toast with mango chutney, maple glaze and crispy bacon; Fried green lip mussels with shiso, sansho pepper, and wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce; Lavender cured ham with a salad of frisee, mirin glazed pecans, pear, pomegranate, and truffle dressing; Beet gnudi with whipped lemon ricotta and a smoked almond and celery leaf pesto. We ordered two different pinot noirs to go with our appetizers: Four Graces 2008 from Willamette Valley, OR a light/medium bodied ruby red, with vanilla, flowers, and light oak aroma, rounded palate flaunting red berries, fruit and light tannins. The other Pinot Noir was the Neudorf “Tom’s Block” 2008, Nelson, New Zealand, a lively bright red with hints of lavender and licorice, this wine is svelt with a mineral palate and fine tannins. With our main courses, we had the Craggy Range “Te Kahu”, Gimblett Gravels, 2007 a Bordeaux blend from Hawkes Bay, NZ. Deep crimson red and has complex aromas that hint at cinnamon, ripe fruit, and pine forrest. The body is full and layered in the mouth. Well rounded and tannic. A good transition. We culminated with Lang and Reed, Cabernet Franc 2008 from North Coast, CA, with aromas of ripe plum and sage, this Cab Franc is dry and tannic but well balanced with dark cherries. Altogether a selection of robust wines that were exquisite with our gamy main course choices. Deedee went for the New Zealand Venison loin, Cabrales dumplings, oyster mushrooms and salsa verde. Oh Bambi, you taste so fine!
Stay tuned… the NYC dining extravaganza isn’t over yet!