Ya heik sufra ya bala…

December 20, 2010

…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!


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…

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!

Yislamli hal…

June 28, 2010

 … Jammal!

I have to admit this is one of the most beautiful settings by the beach. It was a long kept secret, but has -in the last few years –  been discovered. If you have a boat, you can drive/sail there and ‘Popeye’ will pick you up in his dingy. You can eat and swim… they’ll even put tables in the water for you!

The food is your usual mezza but with additional Jammal treats, including: a pickled cabbage roll, Octopus provencial (yaani, cooked in olive oil, coriander, garlic and lemon),  huge potato wedges, and potatoes provencial, to name a few. Their seafood can be grilled, fried, or oven baked – your call.  The quality of food has improved tremendously (though still pricey, but at least price-quality ratio’s a bit closer now).

Joe’s been running this place for over 15 years, fluctuating in quality over the years, but yesterday was a real treat. His son, Mickey, and daughter are now helping daddy out and they’re doing a great job. Mickey is running the new bar downstairs and making great cocktails, including this Peach Daiquiri is the perfect refresher upon arrival!    

He told me he’s got a few other cocktails up his sleeve, but I didn’t try them. I like that he’s into perfecting the art of the cocktail. Kudos to you, Mickey! Otherwise, you can have beer (they actually have a variety), local wine or arak.

Oh, and did I mention that you get mouth watering Batteekh on the house at the end? What a culmination!

Happy Birthday T, or: “O tanjō-bi omedetō gozai masu”, as they say in Japanese 😉

So close, yet so far away… Jammal is located on the old road to the north, before you get to Batroun. It’s open daily. For reservations: 06-74 00 95

tfaddalou ‘al Tawlet…

June 5, 2010

So what’s the best kind of food you can get in Leboland? (careful, that’s a trick question…) well? … Lebanese food!!  Bravo! 

Considering we’re such a small country, Lebanon has a lot of diversity in terms of food from region to region, and even village to village. So maybe the reason we can hardly get along is not just a religious issue. “My kibbé’s better… No, my Kibbé’s better…” and next thing you know, it’s another civil war! Ya ‘aini, you all make great kibbé, so let’s just eat and enjoy it.

What Kamal Mouzawak came up with in Tawlet is génial! What a luxury to be able to taste the different varieties of delicious food we have in this country in just one spot! The place itself has a nice cozy feel – téta style – with a touch of kitch. You never get the same food two days in a row, yaani, the menu changes daily. Subscribe to their mailing list and get their weekly menu by email. And when you thought you’ve tried it all, there’s always a new surprise waiting for you.

They serve lemonade, jellab, and water with ‘mazaher’ (orange blossom), or if you’re in the mood they have a variety of Lebanese wines you can try. I personally like to go for Arak with that food… sometimes white wine (actually had the white Chateau Marsyas once, if I remember correctly it was the Chardonnay… just make sure it’s really chilled. Rounded and full, dry and fruity.)

Tawlet is open M-F for lunch only and Saturdays for Brunch, but guess what? you can rent out the place for private dinners!

Seriously, forget everything else. Our food is what we’re really good at. Kamal, you’re a genius!

L & M, thanks for that lovely dinner party and Happy Anniversary.

For reservations: 01-448129