Hamdilla ‘as-salémé…

January 19, 2011

… said Cha to Deedee and Madame Mrad, as he walked in with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rosé 2002 to toast 2011 with the ladies. Cha loves his Rosé’s. Yee shoo mahdoum! Léh ‘azzabit halak? This bubbly Rosé, created by Madame Clicquot in 1818, was revolutionary for its time and made from both black and white grapes. A salmon-copper colored wine, this mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend is dry with an elegantly rounded balance on the palate and a nose of complex aromas. Its fine red fruitiness mainly hints at strawberries and raspberries ending with a spicy finish and a fun kick.

Cha was bearing many gifts that night, including a bag of Funghi Porcini Secchi. These dried earthy tasting mushrooms got soaked in a hot water tub before diving into the very spicy tomato sauce they cooked in. As he peeled and sliced the garlic, Cha told Madame Mrad that you should remove the green pits from the garlic cloves so they don’t give off a bitter after taste. Thanks for the tip, Cha. Wa minkom nastafeed! The garlic slices were tossed with the mushrooms and shredded red chilis in olive oil, then topped with fresh chopped and canned peeled tomatoes, seasoned to perfection, and served with Spaghetti and Garlic Bread made with rosemary flavored garlic butter.

In the end, they nibbled on a piece of Testun Al Barolo cheese that Deedee bought for Madame Mrad from TSC Signature. This pricey piece of blended cow and sheep’s milk cheese is semi-firm and covered with pressed Nebbiolo grapes (which are used to make Barolo wine). Aged in oak barrels, this Italian cheese crumbles nicely and enjoys complex flavors from the pastures of the grassy alpines.

Kteer mbasatna shifnék, ya Cha. C’est toujour un plaisir to cook with you.

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Tinzakar w ma tin’ad…

December 18, 2010

… 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.

 

The food was as bad as this picture!

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!


killo l’ha’ ‘at-tillién…

October 6, 2010

…or so we like to think, bas I have to say this time bayyadoua.

Last week I went to Osteria il Mattarello in Gemmayze with B and Z. We were very warmly greeted by the waiter who Deedee knew from another place, therefore, she figured service was going to be good. Even the friendly Italian chef came to welcome us and recommend a couple of dishes. Benvenuti!

For starters we had the Beef Carpaccio – delicious and raw (hint hint), then the Oven Baked Scallops that came breaded and served on a shell – a little cliché and, personally, I like my scallops raw or seared… yaani, this dish didn’t go down too well with Deedee. 

For mains we had the Pumpkin Ravioli – on the sweet side with sage to give it a kick… nice touch! We also had the Seafood Linguini which consisted of a fun combo of fresh seafood in a light white wine sauce… just as it should be.

Alla fine, we had the Crudiola pizza topped with parma ham, cherry tomatoes, rocca and parmesan shavings… yaani this was a fabulously deedeelightful pizza that hit the spot in terms of comfort food to end the fiesta.

Vino wise, we went for the Villa Rocca Soave 2008. You can’t go wrong with a light, crisp bottle of Soave. The nose is fruity with melon, vanilla and light oak. On the palate, we got melon and pink grapefruit, with a smooth almond creamy finish.

Overall service was very pleasant. I’ll definitely go back to Osteria il Mattarello again to try some more of their menu items. That will be test # 2. For reservations: 70-898987 or 01-570075 open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner… so what’s with the cheesy #’s?


Oh-no-lio…

August 25, 2010

Was how we felt at Olio in Gemmayze last week. We were 6 and hungry. You’d think our first waiter, ‘Fido Dido’, may have gotten the notion that we were somewhat sophisticated diners, considering our style of ordering and all the special requests we had… but nooooo, this little twat was clueless. 

So was their manager who, at one point in the evening, was surprised to hear from his staff that they ran out of ice!?!? Uh, pardon me, but aren’t you supposed to be ‘on top of things’? Puhleez Istéz, get your act together and do your job!  Eventually, Fido Dido gets replaced but “Eager-to-Please-Sari”, who tried hard to repair the damage…

We started with the cherry tomato and mushroom Bruschette (pl). The toppings on each were fine, but the bread was chewey. ‘Afwan, a bruschetta is about the bread too, eh?! Otherwise, we’d have ordered sautéed mushrooms or a cherry tomato salad on the side.

Then came the Grilled Marinated Calamari… here’s a hint Olioliolio: if you use baby calamari they’ll be more tender and taste loads better than the big chewey ones you serve… wait a minute, did I already use chewey to describe something? Hmmm… “There’s a pattern here, but wouldn’t call it consistency though,” said Deedee, tongue in cheek.

Marinated Octopus… Asian marination? Focus iza bitreed! Either stick to Italian or… stick to Italian!

The Grilled Vegetables were what Deedee would call 3B – boring, bland, and bad!

‘Pizza-wise’ (usually I like their Bresaola pizza, and I’d actually recommend that – comes with parmesan shavings and rocca) but this time we had the Bianca – goat cheese, walnuts, sundried tomatoes, olives, rosemary – though it sounds like its got potential, this pizza’s been dry every time I’ve had it (sorry G, I know you like it, bas… nashshaf ree’éh!) 

We ordered some specials, one of which was the Burrata – fresh mozzarella with a creamy inside. I have to say that was the best thing I had that night. Too bad it was the only thing the Chef at Olio didn’t make!!

The Linguini Mare was mushy… yaani, they cooked the life out of the tomatoes, pasta and seafood, ya ‘aibishshoom!

The Shrimp Risotto tasted like it was made with Maggi bouillon cubes (wallaw?!?) and the grilled shrimp was decor on the side of the dish.

We drained all that with a bottle of Chateau Kefraya – Blanc de Blanc , which I can only drink if I have at least two ice cubes in my glass… that said, I won’t describe it, so check out the link.

“Eager Sari” offered dessert on the house, which was sweet and that’s why he got a good tip. Chocolate Fondant; Lemon Sorbet in a hollowed lemon… bad kitsch; and Champagne and Strawberries Sorbet… trying too hard are we?

All that said, I have to say that I have had better meals at Olio… not often, not consistently, but their salad’s and pizzas aren’t that bad. The last time I was there service was just as appalling as Fido Dido’s service. I remember complaining to that same manager, but it seems he has recurring “unprofessional manager” syndrome.

For reservations or delivery: Gemmayzeh 01-56 39 39; Hamra 01-74 11 33.


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…


I’m comin’, I’m comin’….

July 25, 2010

… and I’m back from my food orgy in NY city. Wow… wow… did I say ‘wow’ already? Whether its the exquisit food, wine, and beer, or the immaculate service, NYC knows its gastronomy and boy do they put on a great show.

My first meal was at Otto!! Everything Italian, this Enotica Pizzeria in New York city is one of my favorite places. I like to sit at the wine bar and have their ‘mezza-like’ dishes.

JA and I thought we’d start of with a pink bubbly, so we had two glasses of Flor Prosecco Rosé  from Veneto. A blush redish-pink color and so refreshing in the summer heat, Flor tastes of citrus, peach and pears.

We moved on to food…

Sformato di Parmigiano – a parmesan flan/pudding that sinfully melts in your mouth. Then Figs “Agrodolce” (a sweet and sour marinated figs – I’ll talk about that in another blog entry) to die for, especially if you have it with Prosciutto. The Roasted Beets & Saba was succulent, the Cucumber, Watermelon & Ricotta Salata – so simple and refreshing – and we had our usual assortment of three cheeses that Denis, the bartender/sommelier, recommended with our wine, which was a 2006 Domenico Clerico Dolcetto Visadi Langhe – a full bodied and very tannic Italian red from Piedmont. The grape -Dolcetto – tasted of dark berries, prunes, licorice, chocolate and was velvety in your mouth. Though it’s summer, this red was pleasant and smooth company to our food.

The Spotted Pig, another one of my faves came next. I just couldn’t get myself to stop eating those Shibumi Oysters! From Washington state, these are medium to small in size and are sweeter and creamier than the ones you get on the East Coast. Washed that down with a Harpoon UFO White, which is a white wheat beer, foggy yellow color, easy to drink and refreshing with an orange and spice palate and made in a micro-brewery in Boston, MA.  Interesting how many micro-breweries are popping up in the US. When M arrived, we had another dozen oysters (can you imagine the state I was in by then?!? :-)). We decided to share their Burger (medium rare akeed) with Roquefort accompanied by their delicious Shoestring Fries seasoned with garlic and rosemary (yaani, á la Deedee).

Next day, K and I went Public!  Usually my dinner hotspot, it was the first time I ‘brunch’ there. Of course, we had a pink bubbly. This time it was Taltarni, a sparkling Rosé from Tasmania, Australia. The color is rosy pink and the palate is dry and spicy but refreshing with peach and berries.  We shared a few dishes: a Salad of Herby Lentils with Pomegranate Molasses (they went a little too heavy on the Pomegranate), Roasted Boudin Noir (blood sausage) a strong flavor with nuttiness, and finally Tea-smoked Salmon with spinach and poached eggs (my favorite of all and went the best with the bubbly).

I was a Double Crown virgin – same owners as Public. We were 3 and shared, naturellement! Started off with Oysters (surprised?) and a glass of Riesling, then moved on to a Gerard Millet Pinot Noir 2008 from Sancerre – a little too light bodied, but went well with the Crisp Pork Belly, Steamed Mussels, and Singapore Style Lobster. I would certainly go back there.

Overall, service was fabulous everywhere. It was an orgasmic experience eating out in NYC…. but then again, isn’t it always?


Jibné w jambon, tu’burné?

June 10, 2010

What a pleasant place L’Osteria is without the bar Nazi!  (a Seinfeld joke)

A cozy place in Mar Mikhael, about 300m from Éléctricité du Liban, L’Osteria (which means ‘Tavern’ bi T-tiliéné) is owned by Tommy and his wife who cooks daily platters M-F. A variety of Lasagna’s, Melanzane’s, a pizza’ish thing, and fritattas (veggie omelette, ‘ijjeh sort of thing). At lunch you get the daily specials and an assortment of sandwiches.

In the evening, you can have whatever’s left over from the specials, as well as an assortment of 3 cheeses or 3 kinds charcuterie platters accompanied by three bowls of either cornichon, cherry tomatoes, olives, nuts, jam, depending on what you ordered. I would do something to improve the bread quality and I have to say that the cheese and charcuterie platters have fluctuated in quality since the place opened up… “typisch” – as the German’s would say.

They serve Lebo and Italian wines. Last night I tried the Italian Pinot Grigio which – as a friend accurately suggested – tastes like bubble gum (you know the round hard ones). So we tried the Chateau Khoury Pinot Gris (which you can only find in bars or restaurants, apparently) and it was a relief after the candy 😉 Light and easy to drink – when well chilled (2nd bottle wasn’t!?!), the nose: pear; the palate: yellow plums. Jean Paul, you go boy!

A nice simple place when your life’s getting too complicated.

For reservations: 01-566175 (no cooking on Saturday – so you only get the cheese and cold cuts platters, and closed Sundays)