Deep in the bushes…

January 16, 2011

…of lush Sri Lanka, Deedee treated Madame Mrad to a fadstastic adventure. Bas before getting on the plane, they did their usual trip up to the bar at Beirut International Airport for a Campari Soda to set the tone right for that long ride to the tear drop island (the bar is up the stairs opposite the passport control area.)

They only had 12 days in SL, but they certainly got around… the island, that is. The adventure started off in Mt. Lavinia, a small town below Colombo – an OK spot to rest for a day/night before embarking on your journey. Next day, they took the train south to the old fort town of Galle, beautiful colonial architecture and a very small community, small enough to do in one day. In the morning, they grabbed the bus to the very tiny village of Mirissa where they decided to chill by that gorgeous beach for a few days.

When at the beach, seafood and beer are your default consumables. The local brew is Lion Lager (they also have a stout that didn’t impress Deedee much). Made by Carlsberg, this beer is – if you’re lucky enough for them to serve it cold – refreshing with a bitter finish and basically the only choice you’ve got. The grilled fish at Rajeen’s Antartic View shack is one of the best meals you can have on that golden sandy cove, which btw, boasts quite a few restaurants catering to us aliens. After four days in Mirissa, Deedee looked at Mme Mrad and said: Shoo, hazzaynéha? So they took the 6 hour bus headed to Ella to check out the mountains and tea plantations.

Rice and curry is the main food in SL. The curry can be either vegetarian, seafood, chicken, or mutton and is generously served with rice, papadams and about 5-6 side dishes including a few single veggie curries (e.g. okra, pumkin, eggplant, beans), dahl, a salad, Pol Sambol, and chutney (mango mainly). Sort of like mezza or tapas, if you will. Pol Sambol  is made of shredded fresh coconut mixed with chopped onions (or shallots) and a chili mix. You sprinkle it on top of your food.

Madame Mrad was thrilled to discover new vegetables and fruit. Dambala, also called winged bean, looks like a star fruit but longer and thinner and green. She tried it in a vegetable curry. Another fruit she’s never tried was the Jackfruit, which is also served as a sidedish with the “Rice and Curry” mezza. Its texture and taste is similar to artichoke hearts.

To burn off all that food, Deedee and Mme Mrad did a couple of hikes in Ella, one short walk to Little Adam’s Peak (where you walk through fields of tea plantations) and another much tougher hike to Ella Rock which, when you reach the top, boasts magnificient views as far as the eye can see (depending on the weather and clarity, akeed). They were awestruck by the rawness of this land.

A couple of days later, after a scenic 7 hour train ride to the bustling mountain city of Kandy, Deedee found herself suddenly surrounded by these Deedivine Nénuphar – Water Lily’s. She felt right at home amongst the colorful nymphs. They were all being sold as offerings to the Buddha in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. Deedee had a lot to offer, so she grabbed a few and went to say hi to Buddha.

They bid farewell to the lovely smily people of SL and enjoyed their last sunset of 2010 in the seaside town of Negombo which is close to the airport. They had their last supper at Lords Restaurant, an Asian fusion restaurant/gallery owned by a lively British fellow, then headed back to Leboland for some concrete.

Go and come, yaani see you later bi ‘es-Siri Lanké.


After a hysterically out of control…

December 11, 2010

… 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 Bunsstuffed 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!


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!

Drizzling wet but flaunting a magnificent…

November 30, 2010

… cloudscape, Seattle, WA is green, lush, and has much to offer including a diverse array of seafood!

One evening Deedee had dinner with some clients at Elliott’s Oyster House in downtown Seattle by the waterfront. A dozen oysters served with a Champagne-vinegar Mignonette Sorbet… though Deedee likes her oysters straight up, she was curious to taste that sorbet and… wow, it had a great punch!

For our main course we all had the Yukon River Sockeye Salmon cooked Alder Planked, yaani seasoned with the house rub and baked on an Alder plank of wood to retain the salmon’s juice and give it that smokey flavor. This lusciously moist piece of pink meat was served with grilled vegetables and smoked tomato-onion beurre blanc.

The next day, after a few long meetings, Deedee headed to the Pike Place Market (a famous local market) for a late lunch. She came by a quaint restaurant called Place Pigalle, strategically located on the edge of the market facing the ocean. I instantly found myself sitting at a corner table overlooking the beautiful cluster of islands – Seattle’s Puget Sound. Deedee was pleased with how her day had gone and was starving. Since she never misses an opportunity to celebrate, she decided to embrace the moment. Starting with a glass of bubbles: Jean-Paul Trocadero’s Blanc de Blanc Brut (NV) from the Savoie region of the Alps; a fun rounded palate bursting with citrus and apple that enhanced the flavor in the half dozen Kumamoto Oysters she started with. The Kumamotos are small, smooth, sweet and on top of “Deedee’s Favorites” list. They also couldn’t have been more fresh as they come right from that body of water she was gazing at.

Next came the Roasted Beet Salad served with baby arugula, toasted walnuts, an almond covered mound of chèvre cheese and a Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette. The beets were warm, an unexpected but actually pleasant surprise that evoked a cozy feeling in the cold weather. And so did that half bottle of Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2007 from Willamette Valley, Oregon! Yes, the Maison Joseph Drouhin family has branched out to Oregon, which is famous for its Pinot Noirs. Medium bodied, the nose is oak and spice, and the palate is red cherries ending in light velvety chocolate.

To culminate this celebration was the house special: Steamed Mussels Pigalle cooked in white wine & butter with smoked bacon, celery, shallots and comes with a side mix of tomatoes, basil and bread cubes drizzled with a Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Sar badda finjén ahwé, ma heik? Even that was charming, serve with a curly lemon rind.

Khalas, ‘ntafakhit! Eh hallik!

I just can’t get enough…

November 22, 2010

… Oysters!

Deedee landed in Washington, DC, checked into her hotel, and rushed to Georgetown’s Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar to grab herself some oysters. They serve them ha, ha, ha, yaani: half priced, on the half shell, during Happy Hour. 

Though the ‘old maid’s tale’ says to eat oysters only in months that don’t have an R in them… well, it IS an old maid’s tale because oysters are now grown in shellfish farms and harvested when they mature so… ‘nuf said.

That evening they had two varieties: Atlantic coast Tomahawk, Martha’s Vineyard, MA which are usually briny and Pacific coast Hunter’s Point, Washington – usually creamier and fresh sea sweet.

For liquids, she had the Blue Moon Belgian White on draft, a wheat beer that’s got coriander and citrus in the palate, served with a slice of lemon. Refreshing and a perfect compliment to the oysters.

After gobbling down two dozen of the little suckers to satisfy that craving, I needed to satisfy my other craving (amongst many) so I had the Pan Seared Sea Scallops which were served with Grain Mustard-Wild Mushroom Risotto.

Feeling stuffed and terribly sleepy after that long flight from Beirut, Deedee finally decided to retire and sleep off those ‘afro-deedee-yaks’!

Something smelled fishy…

October 10, 2010

…and Okaïbé was it! Last Sunday, Deedee left her fan club back in Batroun, and on the way stopped at the seafood vendors in Okaïbé to pick up a couple dozen of those sweet little scallops when she found a bunch of crab sittin’ there screamin’ “Deedee, take us with you!” So I did and they really enjoyed that hot tub I made for them with lemon chunks, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and some whole pepper. Deedeelightful! Grab them while they’re in season.

This Sunday, I was in the mood for fish, so I snatched away that gorgeous 800 kg redish amber Loukkoz Sakhré (rock fish) or Hafshé as the gang calls it (thanks T for the tip). So turns out Loukkoz may actually be Grouper rather than Sea Bass. There’s a debate going on about that, so if you know the answer, puhleez enlighten us. Anyhoo, Deedee thinks the sakhré rocks! It’s much meatier, in a chunky sort of way, than the ramlé (sand fish).

Decided to bake it, so chopped coriander and garlic, shredded ginger, lemongrass, and red chili pepper, then added lemon slices. Put some inside the fish, some on the outside and bake for 20-30 mins,  depending on the size of the fish.

On the side: Basmati rice, with a herbal concoction to add aroma (bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and cloves)… I had grated some lemon rind which I forgot to put with the fish, so threw that in with the rice and it gave a great kick!!

When serving, drizzle some soy sauce on top of the fish. It culminates the dish with an Asian motif.

Deedee literally screwed open a bottle of Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. This wine, from Vintage in Saifi Village, is a light greenish yellow and smells of citrus and some vanilla. It is round and full in your mouth tasting of both citrus and passion fruit. A very suitable partner to Deedee’s Hafshé à la Asiatique.

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.