The City of Angels totally brings out…

December 5, 2010

… the carnivore in me!

Deedee rolled into Los Angeles, CA – actually Long Beach Airport which, if you’re traveling in the US, I highly recommend: small, quaint, and not much hassle.

The first night, Booboo and I hit Ribs USA. You can’t get clearer than that… baby back ribs, beef ribs, and… Bob’s ribs? Things to keep in mind: go casual and be prepared to get down and dirty… yaani, you WILL eat with your hands! No other way to do it, honey.

First thing on your table are the peanuts – throw the shells on the floor. Then comes the cornbread – nice and warm with butter and honey on the side. Next are the fries and Bob’s World – a hodgepodge of barbecued meat! Once you’re done, wash your hands in the sink that’s smack in the middle of the dining area. Ghassil idék mneeh, éh habibi?!

In the morning, after going for a long run to burn off Bob, Booboo drove Deedee to Patrick’s Roadhouse, a diner located on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) heading north from Santa Monica. A small hut with an extension, this place is cute, kitchy, and serves typical Americana food, yaani, eggs (cooked any way), pancakes, waffles & sides for breakfast; salads, burgers, et al for lunch/dinner. Deedee concocted her own: poached eggs on an english muffin with smoked salmon, capers and hashed potatoes. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was their coffee, which wasn’t robust enough. Before leaving, we met the cute Portuguese/German manager. If only I’d kept room for Nachspeise!

The next day, after a couple of meetings, Deedee needed to connect with mother earth, so she drove to Pacific Palisades and went for a 2 1/2 hour hike in the Temescal Canyon Gateway Park. How fabulous to be able to take a break like that in the middle of the city. Relax, get your nature fix, re-energize, then head back to the city and kick-ass in your next meeting!

The last night we graced La Grande Orange. For starters the Tuna Tartar & Guacamoli got lucky – made with chunky bits of Ahi tuna marinated in Yuzu vinaigrette layered over a juicy guacamole, served with homemade corn tortillas. When in the Sunshine State, you gotta try the local product, so Deedee started with a glass of Selby Merlot from Sonoma County. Dark fruit and blackberries, this thick velvety red gave hints of chocolate and coffee. Later Deedee moved on to Ridge Vineyard‘s Zinfandel, from Sonoma Valley (it was a Sonoma kind’a night). Silky smooth and tannic, this Zin embraces your palate with dark cherries, ripe plum, and mocha. It was just the right fit with the Asian Style Short Rib that came with chimichurri-coconut rice. I’m bashful and embarrassed to describe the emotions that dish gave me… so how about I leave that up to your imagination?

Booboooo… thanks for making Deedee’s trip a canni-ballistically meatatarian experience!

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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.


Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we th…

August 9, 2010

… oh WOW!! That was my reaction as R and I arrived at Al Jourd for a few days in the wild.  This “glorified camping” site is surrounded by prisitine nature and located in the middle of nowhere up in Northern Leboland, 2,200m above sea level. The weather is dry, hot in the sun but cool in the shade. The evenings are chilly (which is a welcome change in August) and when you look up you see the whole galaxy… ok, I’m exaggerating, but the stars are amazing!

Now, I personally know the inside story about how this place really came about and I’ve wanted to go there for years. Being there made me wish I’d done it earlier. Now I know where the picture of that slanted tree comes from.

The only sounds you hear are the wind, birds, tree leaves ruffling, and an occassional bee or fly. We were lucky there weren’t many people there during our stay, so it was relatively quiet. The camp site itself is well preserved. The tents are clean and they actually have toilets and showers (for those clean freaks out there)!

You can spend your time walking, reading, writing, thinking, napping, or just doing nothing! For those interested, they can also arrange activities like rafting in the ‘Assi River, parapont, etc… for an extra cost.

We went on a 6 hour (about 12K, I think) hike in Ghabet el Illé. This wasn’t just a walk in the park but boy was it worth a go. A steep hike up, down, and  through the cedar and fir tree filled mountains until we hit the peak where you can see all the way to the sea (almost) and all the way down to Wadi Jhannam. We continued and every time we ran out of breath, we’d get a second wind and keep going with the same rigor! The air is so clean and the energy in nature so strong that we felt physically, mentally and spiritually rejuvinated.

The landscape is almost untouched except by the assholes that cut hundred-year-old cedar trees to sell the wood – where the hell is the Lebo government and why for Bob’s sake isn’t it stopping them?!?!) Come ON people… get with the program! It’s not like this country’s all that bushy and green. So can we puhleez try to preserve what’s left of it?!

Now that that’s off my chest, let me tell you about the ‘deal’: With the tent you get three hefty meals a day: foul, eggs, cheese, labné, za’tar and ‘mrabba’ for breakfast; Salad, bourghol with tomatoes, soup, eggs with zucchini, or some such light vegetarian village food for lunch; then mezza with ‘mashéwé’ (grilled meat and fish) for dinner with arak or wine for an extra charge. After dinner you can hang out by the camp fire to stay warm while you nibble on fruit and finish up your arak. If you stay more than one night, they’ll give you a discount.

The Grand Finale: OK, so you know how a woman can make or break her man’s business (and vice-versa)? Well, in this case, the little wench is eventually going to shred this thing apart (unless it was pre-planned teamwork – which would be pathetic). After we had paid and thanked the owner (and tipped the working staff), the wife of the owner walks up to R and asks her to pay an additional LBP 20,000 for some Arak R had bought 2 weeks ago when she was doing a story on them…?!?! Enough said!

We had such a wonderful long weekend and that was the perfect ending for it. I mean it… 

Soooo, I’ve decided that I can’t wait to create a similar – yet different – place but much better!