If you’re planning a trip to New York City…

October 17, 2012

OMBob do I have a coupl’a tips for yoooou!

The Modern: its the restaurant at the MOMA. I’m feeling giddy just thinking about the food, wine, service and ambience. A must… if you’re ready to splurge! There’s a set menu in the “fancy” restaurant area, and I would go for wine/beverage pairing if I were you. You could also opt to hang out and eat in the bar area. More casual menu, but just as delicious!

The Americano at Hotel Americano in Chelsea – they’ve done a good job renovating this place. Americano Hotel Restaurant - day timeThe dining area is right behind the reception and serves a scrumptuous meal. I went there in the evening but I imagine, with that huge window, this place would be lots of fun during the day. In fact, I just Googled it. This is what daytime there looks like.

Forty-Four Bar & LoungeForty Four bar and lounge located at The Royalton Hotel, takes you back to the early 1980’s. What a place! I haven’t eaten there but love hanging in the bar or lounge area for a delicately made cocktail… or two…

And since four seems to be the lucky number at the moment, you must try Four Seasons Restaurant wow… oh wow… oh my Bob!! Why haven’t I heard about this place before?!! Can I live here? Please? Four Seasons Restaurant Pool Dining area

OK, I can’t begin to tell you how this place, that opened back in 1959 and was designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, is a celebration of the genius of creative design. As for the food, it is an exceptional culinary voyage… and I would go with pairing beverages with your food in this case too. All I can say is that you must experience this place at least once in your life. I know I’ll be experiencing it a lot more… says the hedonist in me.

The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station. How many times has Deedee been to Grand Central unaware of this place, and how right C was when he said, “I know you’ll love this”… Put on your flapper dress, your cloche hat, your long bead necklace and take a step back to the 1920’s! A hidden jewel of the good old times!

The Spotted Pig is always a must…. at least once a trip. Don’t forget to order the Gnudi’s… sometimes I wonder what life would’ve been like had I never tasted those succulent little balls of wonder… sigh…

Tala, this one’s been on the shelf for a while and it’s going public just for you, sweetie. Enjoy the city! I want to hear all about it!


Todo por la Revolución…

August 26, 2011

'nuf said

… said Fidel to Deedee as they were sipping on a Mojito and listening to the band playing in the background. She looked at him and smiled wryly, “Seriously, Fidel?”

Deedee’s still trying to find the vocabulary fit to describe her latest adventure in the land of salsa, rum, cigars, colonial architecture, lush nature, and total oppression.

After a short roller-coaster of a plane ride on Cubana Airlines (the cabin screws loose and shaking, condensation forming on the aisle ceiling, and dew dripping from the overhead seat fan) Deedee arrived in Havana Airport, a dark sullen place. Passport control asking his “strategic” questions, “Líbanesa?”… “Si”; “Tourista?”… “Si”.

Deedee got in the taxi heading to Habana Centro, where she had (against her will) pre-booked a hotel online: Hotel Bellevue. Well, bellevue was right, but that’s about where belle stops. Not Deedee’s kind of place… but then again, she wasn’t planning on spending her time in the hotel, so yalla, ça va.

Checked in, dropped off her bags, and went for a walk on the Malecón (yaani el Corniche taba’ Havana). She stopped at Prado No. 12 for her first Mojito and live Cuban band session. She sat at the bar to watch the bartender making her Mojito. In the end, he tops it with a dash of Angostura… hmmm, an original touch that gives it the perfect bitter kick. It was actually the only time during her trip that anyone made a Mojito that way. Gracias por el “tip”, amigo.

She spent the next two days discovering the capital. Havana Vieja is á la Solidere, yaani Legoland style. Some of the buildings have been renovated by the government and the area caters mainly to package tourists… Deedee hates package tourism… in fact, she has come to the conclusion that tourism in general just spoils travel for people like her. It spoils the natives as well. Suddenly any foreigner becomes a walking Dollar sign… dommage.

Centro Havana is poor, worn out, and feels deserted. There is a sense of melancholy in the air, a defeated expression in the red eyes of the drunken old men hanging out on the street. The shop windows haven’t been cleaned or re-dressed since 1960-something, but then again, there’s hardly anything in the shops to display in that window, so why bother. Why not kill time playing a game of dominos.

Vedado is a whole other world. That’s where the big hotels, theaters, casinos and extravagant life of the 1950’s took place. It’s like going to a whole other city. Wider, cleaner, well groomed avenues, grander colonial residences, and more modern architecture. Coco Taxis (three wheeled vehicles) lined up on the side of the street waiting for passengers. A slightly more vibrant neighborhood, yet still mulling in that melancholy.

Deedee had one special dining experience in Havana during those three days. She actually had to reserve a “table for una” at the Paladar La Guarida as it turned out to be a hot spot for foodies (“thanks” to travel guides and the Oscar nominated Cuban film “Fresa y Chocolate” which was filmed there). Located in an old colonial mansion in Centro Havana, the entrance is manned by a huge black bouncer. You walk into a hidden oasis filled with sounds of playing children, crying babies, and chatting mothers, then climb up the spiral staircase to reach a deserted floor adorned with the family laundry. One more flight of stairs and you reach a door, ring the bell and they let you into their home turned restaurant. Paladars are privately owned family restaurants that are usually located in the family living-room-turned-dining-area. The decor was decadent and warm, the food is “not bad for Cuba” considering ingredients are not easy to come by. At the end of the meal, Deedee had a glass of Havana Club Añejo 7 Años and a bottle of sparkling water. This became  the digestif of the trip.

More later… hasta luego!

And just when you thought it was over…

March 29, 2011

…well, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” and so, Deedee’s back to the Battle of the Burgers…. teeheehee… after all, there still hasn’t been concensus on who wins the Leboland Burger Battle.

Deedee, Princess and Smayyiss went to lunch at Mrs. Robinson’s in the An-Nahar Building, Downtown. Ooooh… Why do these places do that? I don’t get it? I’m afraid Deedee’s going to have to open up a can of whoop-ass, cuz these guys earned it.

The place wasn’t packed, so we got the attention we needed. The waiter was friendly and insisted we try some of his favorites, so we had the Cheesy Chips: basically potato chips with melted cheddar and provologne (?)… it’s sort of like wanabe nachos but without the fun stuff. Yaani, in other words skip it.

Deedee had the large size patty, classic with Swiss cheese. It was dry and a disappointment to bite into. I won’t go further in trashing this place, and I definitely won’t go back there for a second try. They lost me at “goodbye”… (ref. the antonym quote for that famous line in Jerry Maguire).

Aaah, I totally felt it…

March 20, 2011

…thought Deedee as she looked up at the moon. She knew something was up: it was a full moon. It turns out this is the closest full moon to the earth that we’ve had since 1993. No wonder it’s looking so cosmically glamorous!

The Road Runner drove Deedee into the old city of Byblos (Jbeil) late that afternoon as the sun was preparing itself for a magnificent departure. This old city is so enchanting and the architecture is better preserved than in other nearby villages. After a little snooping around she felt hungry and so headed to é Cafe for a bite. Luckily it was empty and too early for dinner time, so she grabbed a small quaint table inside and ordered her meal. Straight to the point: Filet Mignon, medium rare akeed, comes with Rocca salad and potatoes, complimented by a bottle of Epicure 2005 (a red bordeaux from Enoteca – see previous blog entry for description), and topped with a special touch of good service to go with that meal. Turns out the staff is actually trained! When Deedee asked,  she found out it was her friend A who was behind it all… not surprised, since she was one of the initial creators of this place.

Deedee enjoys the choices on their menu, but she doesn’t understand why they give you two menus to choose from? Personally, I wouldn’t go for the Italian… menu, that is. There’s another é Cafe in Sursock, Ashrafieh, but this one has a different kind of charm.

Psst, don’t flatter yourself… it’s purely business. For reservations: 09-542224.

Was that a cheesy lunch or what?

March 13, 2011

… Literally, and you’ll see why!

Cha, Loomi and Deedee were skiing in Faraya and decided to grab a bite at Le 1700. D had told Deedee about this new place near Faqra in Kfardebian, and since D actually knows what she’s talking about, Deedee decided to check it out.

The place is spacious and has huge windows that flaunt an awesome view (especially on a clear day). Wood everywhere, thank Bob, cuz I’d hate to see plastic in that kind of setting. It’s cozy and the staff is friendly and trained, at least as far as we could tell. Surprised, though, to find the place empty for lunch on Saturday, but apparently they fill up at dinner Saturday and for lunch Sunday, which is logical for that area, so if you really want personalized service, head there when the crowd’s away… that’s what Deedee would do.

Once you sit down, you’re served warm bread with a piece of smoked Feta cheese topped with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts… yummy, and a refreshing alternative to the usual bread and butter. We asked for the Magret de Canard Salad and the Foie Gras – homemade, served with a fig confit and deedelicious. For our mains we had the Raclette and the Cheese Fondue (told you it was cheesy). The Fondue is pretty good, and you can’t really go wrong with Raclette which is served with a mixed green salad. Overall, it was fun and hit the spot after that short day skiing – considering there wasn’t much snow a few weeks back.

Deedee had a bottle of Epicure, a 2005 Red Bordeaux by Hubert de Boüard, that was just right for the meal we picked. You can find it at Enoteca, this Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is medium bodied, rich and elegant with a nose of earth and spice. Along with its fine tannins it had dark red berries, prunes, cinnamon and licorice on the palate with a caramel finish. Le 1700 actually has it on the menu but Deedee asked if they’d let us drink our own bottle and they said “Walaw?!” They didn’t even charge us a corkage fee! I love those guys! Anyhoo, their wine list is not bad and the prices are pretty reasonable, yaani they don’t triple charge you, which is a good strategy for up-selling.

Deedee will do Le 1700 again cuz she’s eager to try the other intriguing items on their menu. Recommended, even if only for an aprés ski aperitif.

Great shots, Cha. For reservations: 03- 44 1700 (shway cheesy?)

I hope you’re all ready for this…

February 20, 2011

…cuz Deedee’s about to rip Classic Burger Joint a new… door… a back door, in fact, so people can escape discretely. Yes, that’s how disappointed she was.

Jay (who also happens to be searching for the ultimate burger) joined Deedee in the quest for the best burger in Leboland. They went to Classic Burger Joint with an open mind. Having heard much about it from the few fans out there.

Deedee ordered hers and told the server she’d like it medium rare. Jay asked for his medium. The guy at one point looked stunned but said OK and walked off with our order.

The anti-climactic moment came when he served the burger and I realized that its a THIN patty which means it’s impossible to take a temperature order. Dude, why didn’t you say something? Something like, “sorry eh, madame walla mademoiselle, bas ma ‘inna temperature la’inno el burger rafee’a” – at least, that would’ve removed the expectation of getting a big fat juicy burger! The meat was dry, nothing to write home about. What a disappointment. Deedee couldn’t even finish her burger. She ate half of it, grabbed Jay by the arm and ran down the block on Abdel Wahab El Inglisi and burst into The Brgr Co. to get her fix. “I need a 6oz burger, medium rare, on the double!!!”

Phew, I mean, thank Bob these places are close so she didn’t have to wait too long to erase that misrable excuse of a burger from her memory! In the end she ordered the Vanilla Bean Milkshake to give her that final comfort-food ending. OK shake, but Jay disagreed.

People, what in Bob’s name do you see in the Classic Burger Joint’s burger?

Someone once said: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit… Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

In other words, that is not Deedee’s idea of a real burger so don’t freakin’ put it in a bun!

The Battle of the Burgers…

February 9, 2011

…is on! (and if you don’t get the title, ooof… bas check out Battle of the Bands).

Deedee’s starting to realize that there’s more than one place in Leboland where you can get a New York style burger. Soooo, she promises to keep looking and tasting until we all come to some concensus on who ranks best and who’s at the bottom of the ever increasing list of burger joints in Leboland.

Upon Peter’s recommendation (see comments on Woohoo & Moohoo blog entry), Deedee decided to take L to check out The Brgr Co. and you know what? P’s spot on! It’s a damn good burger, and they serve it medium rare by default… yaani, I didn’t even have to ask for it! 

Deedee also realized that Walid’s Cow & Apple (C&A) actually wasn’t the first to go for an open kitchen. In fact, Hussein beat him to it months ahead at The Brgr Co (TBC). Not only that, even the graffiti on the walls wasn’t originally C&A’s idea cuz TBC opened first! Snap! Sorry Walid, but… that’s what he said! Guys, you’re starting to disappoint me. I mean, what happened to originality and innovation.

The menu is short and straight to the point… exactly what you’d expect at a burger joint. The burger is juicy and so tender it melts in your mouth. Fries is all you get, either thinly sliced or thicker, depending on your order. Deedee had the Butcher’s Cut medium rare with cheddar cheese and L had the 6oz Burger medium with caramelized onions.

The only thing I wished they had was 961 on tap (boy that stuff is good). Too bad cuz you’re stuck with Almaza, so I’d probably either go for a milk shake or a soft drink if I were you… but I’m not, am I?

Dubbed “Beirut’s Dirty Little Secret” (though we all know there are dirtier secrets out there ;-)) The Brgr Co. is located on Abdel Wahab el Inglizi st. in Ashrafieh right off Monot St. and is open all week from 12pm to 12am. For reservations call 01-333511.