Off the beaten track…

December 13, 2010

… 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?


Round two… ping!!

December 7, 2010

You guessed it, Deedee was back in the Big Apple for round two of her food orgy, and get ready cuz I’ve got a couple of new hot tips for you!

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 Pestooh 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!

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

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

So that’s where…

September 5, 2010

…all that noise comes from!! A and Deedee hadn’t hung out in a while and since they have the same birthday, Madame Mrad decided to take them out for a belated celebration. Driving along Riad El Solh, A asked if we’d ever been to Le Capitole Restaurant Lounge… ‘nTs’ (yaani, La’).

Located on the rooftop of the Asseily Building, Downtown Beirut,  Le Capitole is a bar, lounge, and restaurant with hanging out and dining areas indoors and outdoors on the terrace during summer.

We started up with a couple of glasses of bubbly, naturally. Their open champagne is Moët et Chandon (nice). For nibbles we ordered the Beef Carpaccio and Iceburg & Apple Salad with Roquefort dressing. Good but nothing to write home about.

The pleasant surprise came when we ordered a bottle of Chateau Bargylus from Syria!! Shoo haida? Ma bsaddi’! That’s right: SYRIA!  It’s full bodied, with a mineral, blackberry and pine tree nose, this tannic and metallic wine was so thick you could bite on it… just the way Deedee likes her reds. Slightly chilled so as not to be heavy in the summer, Bargylus is a combo of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah and tastes of red plums, blackberries and mineral earth, with a long chocolate and velvety finish. Can’t wait to try it with game! Faja’nakun, moo?

As for the Le Capitole itself… not really Deedee’s kind of crowd. Yaani, not sure me and Madame Mrad will go there again. Besides, it turns out to be that place with the loud music which keeps me up at night! Shoo hal diversified Libnén, we have so many layers.

To each his own… aw bil Libnéné: ma ili jlédé, yistiflo.

If you want to check it out, for reservations (and believe me you need them): 01-999 339 or 70-302 402

Too many cooks…

July 29, 2010

… in this case, concocted a fabulous dinner at Deedee’s.

A & O made Lychee Caipirinias. Nice touch. The lychees added a sweetness to the lime skin’s bitterness. Deedeelicious! Naturally, that put everyone in the right mood for the ‘culinary jam session’ that was about to begin.

Tamatim rolled up these magical Summer Rolls. Simple and refreshing, they were the perfect starter for what we were about to consume (carrots, cucumbers, spring onions, coriander and bean sprouts all rolled up in a rice paper rolls). Served with Garlic Chili sauce and Sweet Mango Chili sauce… or any other sauce you feel like dippin’ in!

O made his famous Thai Beef Salad. Now I have to say, I’m not much of a beef salad person, but what really did it for me was O’s secret sauce which consisted of fish sauce, a touch of sesame oil, soy sauce, lime and maybe even oyster sauce, to name a few. The salad combo is straight forward: tomatoes, cucumbers, coriander, spring onions, red & green chilis, beef tenderloin cooked medium.

Deedee made her famous Fragrant Green Chicken Curry (recipe by Jamie Oliver –  see blog entry July 25th). She also made J’s Stir Fried Romaine Lettuce recipe but added shrimp – olive & sesame oil, spring onions, ginger, garlic, toss in the lettuce and turn off the heat. In a separate pan, sautée the shrimp with garlic and ginger , then throw into the lettuce mix. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame seeds… et voilá!).

Last minute we decided to add another dish, as the party kept getting bigger, so A made Beef with Soy Sauce & Ginger (another Jamie Oliver recipe). We didn’t have Bok Choy or Spinach (as the recipe says), so we substituted flat Asian peas instead – which are crisp and sweet – and were just purrfect!

Wine with dinner came from Vintage in Saifi, again. The newcomer to the party was Métis 2008, Sauvignon Blanc from Trinity Hill Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand… with a French twist. Now, if you ignore the fact that it’s a screw top… I mean, to unscrew a bottle of wine is such a turn off for me… but, yeah, yeah, I know, you never get a corky bottle… still, somewhat anti-climactic!

Anyhooooo, it was just the right palate with our grub. A floral nose with hints of passionfruit, as are most sauvignons from the down under region, this SB (not Son-of-a-Bitch, I mean: Sauvignon Blanc) is yellow-green in color. The palate: fresh and crisp with citrus and passionfruit. Well rounded with a long finish… you just wana keep drinking it… which is exactly what we did!!

We also had a bottle of one of my faves: Marchesi di Barollo’s Gavi (which was the last bottle in the store!), then a PJ  Sauvignon by Paul Jaboulet, which unfortunately for PJ, was horribly expressionless after the Métis.

That ‘jam session’ was worth the dishes I had to do the next day! Always fun to cook with peeps who appreciate oral pleasures.

Makin’ out…

July 25, 2010

… I mean ‘up’ for lost time. It had been a while, after all!

MC got me some delicious lychees and black figs from Eden. I decided to experiment with the Figs ‘Agrodolce’ recipe – 1/4 cups sugar and water boil until golden and thick, add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and complete to a full cup with red wine. Then add garlic, fresh rosemary, salt pepper and lime zest (Deedee’s touch). Boil and in the end add lime juice and olive oil – you could even drizzle in some honey, then drop the figs in and let those babies soak for a while – overnight if you like.

Have them with Prosciutto di Parma, drizzle olive oil and garnish with parmesan shavings….

Yislamou idék ‘ala hal li’mé ‘l taybé!

That was for starters… we were hungry after that workout.

Our main course was Fragrant Green Chicken Curry – a recipe from Jamie Oliver. The curry is made of all fresh ingredients (coriander, basil, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chili, spring onions, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper… add the chicken and then coconut milk, et voilá!)

I’ll leave dessert up to your imagination…