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Lebanon this June?


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So I don't want to take it personally, but the war started a couple of years after I was born, and ended right after I left. Now (for lots of reasons) I block my first trip in well over a decade, and three car bombs later it's looking a little scary again.

Anyway, I am still hoping to give A a first taste of Lebanese summer fruit, not to mention a real shawarma and HALLAB! And er, also of course to meet the family and stuff... :rolleyes: God knows I can deal with a little chaos but the boy is a mellow german and not used to so much drama. And car bombs are kind of the worst form of chaos :sad:

Assuming all hell doesn't break loose, we are still hoping to go -- we'll just spend more time up north if we have to. I would love to do a trip to a winery, would love to hear of your favorites. I was originally leaning towards Musar or Massaya. We are hoping to drive through bcharre to see the cedars and visit some friends in Baalbek, and of course the family village in the north (asbeh sawda after we get a few drinks in him :wink:), tripoli souks...I would love to go see places I never got to in the war: the south and bettedine, but now this seems iffy...Of course we were planning to spend a few nights in Beirut to relax before I unleash upon him the force of nature that is my family.

So basically, I could really use some advice. First of all on whether it makes sense to go then (right after May elections I guess.) And assuming we make it, what are some of your favorite (food and other) places? Does anyone remember what is in season in mid-to-late June?

I can't believe I've been away for so long, and how much I am still mentally invested with the place...

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Some friends of ours went last summer, they've been going back for a number of years. They came back with the sort of tan you can only get in certain parts of the world. Namely where we all are from. :biggrin: They had a great time as they always say they do. But things are pretty volatile now. What do your relatives say?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Some friends of ours went last summer, they've been going back for a number of years. They came back with the sort of tan you can only get in certain parts of the world. Namely where we all are from.  :biggrin:  They had a great time as they always say they do. But things are pretty volatile now.  What do your relatives say?

Are your friends planning to go this year?

See, my dad was into packing us all into the car to explore the country. This during the height of the fighting. He would have happily driven all the way south if my mother hadn't put her foot down. But we got some crazy looks from soldiers at some pretty abandoned checkpoints.

soldier: "what the *** are you people doing here? Are you nuts?"

dad: "roadtrip! and, yes!"- :laugh:

I love my dad but I'm trying to break A in gently :wink:

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No, they aren't going this year. They have two small children.

I am very familiar with your dad's attitude! :laugh:

Even though I really want a full report on the food scene over there, I can wait untill things have settled down enough for you to feel safe about your visit and a safe return. :smile:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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My relatives who live in Beirut do not seem too concerned! they think it should calm down soon, but really you never know. So, the only advice I can give you is to weigh your options. If it seems like it is escalating (fingers crossed for NO), then it might be wise to either not go or to limit where you go.

Now on to the food, where to begin....

North of course, my birthplace and it seems like it is yours as well. Other than falafel and Hallab in Tripoli, you have to go to the Mina (port) of Tripoli area and eat at "Abu Fadi". Absolutly the best Samke Harra (spicy fish) sandwich and it weighs about a Kilo :biggrin:. Another must try is the octupus sandwich at the same place, wonderfull. There are several places that serve similar items but "Abu Fadi" is widely recognized as the best. Also in the Mina area, pick up some refreshing hand cranked lemon ice from one of the several street vendors. It is a great finish to a large spicy fish sandwich.

Shawarma in Beirut! My favorites are in the Dora area, more specifically a place called "Jabbour". I love both their beef and chicken versions and eat them at least every other day when I'm there. Also they make a mean "Baid Ghanam" sandwich aka lamb testicles. If you are lucky enough to have Kahlid as the shawarma guy that day, try chatting with him. The guy can talk non-stop, is very friendly and hooks up his buddies :wink:. Right next door to the shawarma place is the juice joint, get yourself a nice rich calorie ladden fruit smoothie, known as a cocktail (it has no liquor though). Don't get the one with the fruit chuncks in it, get the pureed one.

If you are still in Beirut, especially in the Armenian sections, grab a Basterma sandwich or a spicy sausage sandwich. Both are equally good and pungent. the place to have those is in the Burj Hammoud area and I cannot believe I forgot the name of the exact shop even though I was there last May :wacko: . Anyhow, if you do make it to the Shawarma place above, ask any local and they will point you to what I'm talking about.

ok, that's all for now. more to come...

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Other than falafel and Hallab in Tripoli, you have to go to the Mina (port) of Tripoli area and eat at "Abu Fadi". Absolutly the best Samke Harra (spicy fish) sandwich and it weighs about a Kilo  :biggrin:. Another must try is the octupus sandwich at the same place, wonderfull. There are several places that serve similar items but "Abu Fadi" is widely recognized as the best. Also in the Mina area, pick up some refreshing hand cranked lemon ice from one of the several street vendors. It is a great finish to a large spicy fish sandwich.

Of course the octopus sandwich is mandatory! I've only been telling him about it for the five or six years we've been together. And June will defintely be ice cream weather. I personally always went for the fruit mix but he will have to try the chewy milk flavor, just for the experience. :smile:

Do you have an approximate street address for abu fadi? I used to go when I was in high school but I'm sure it all looks different now, I don't know if any of my old crowd will be around to take us there.

Thanks for the Beirut tips!

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Does anyone remember what is in season in mid-to-late June?

Hmm...this is tricky, because it is not spring anymore and not really summer yet. I'm afraid you might be a little limited in this area. No figs, grapes or pemegranates yet. You might be able to catch late green almonds, "akidinia" (not sure what these are in english, maybe lumquats :hmmm: ), cherries, and maybe peaches and apricots. All these, in addition to fresh plentiful fava beans are at their prime in the spring.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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First I am so jealous!

I have enjoyed 2 trips to Lebanon and lived there all last summer. I still have friends and families of many friends there and I wouldn't worry about your safety at all. Barring major changes, I would expect your trip to go ahead as planned; things always seem a little tenuous from an outsiders perspective but I think you will find things surprisingly safe once you are there. That said, use your best judgement and be flexible about what parts of the country you want to visit (Beittedine should be fine, but Bint Jbeil might be a bit far south). I was hoping to spend this summer in Damascus but I had to change my plans because of work.

You will certainly be in time for fresh almonds but unfortunately too early for figs. And oh the ice cream. I will have to think about all the recommendations I can offer, I am too excited for you at the moment to be able to collect my thoughts!

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"akidinia" (not sure what these are in english, maybe lumquats  :hmmm: ),

Close...Loquats :smile: Yum.

I am really excited about the cherries. I just remember setting a couple kilos on ice on hot summer evenings. You could get drunk off those things.

Lucia, too bad you won't be around, it would have been really neat to meet up. We were thinking of going to visit some friends near Aleppo, but A is applying for his greencard and is a little worried he would be given a hard time if that stamp were on his passport. We'll see -- it would be an amazing experience for him. I think I've mentioned this elsewhere, but at some point (on one of those crazy car trips) we befriended a family of farmers around there. Someday I wil tell you about Rocky, the sheep they insisted on giving us. :blink:

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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I second the recommendation for both Beiteddine and Baalbak, both should be safe and an awsome road trip. Depending on how you get there many food items are available.

In Baalbak, make sure to have some of the signature meat "pizzas" known as Sfiha. There really is nothing better...well almost.

If you drive through Zahle and Taanail, stop by a dairy shop and have a Labneh sandwich with olive oil and olives. Pick up some of the local cheeses to take home. I hear a monastery over there is making wonderful Gouda-style cheese with caraway as well (I'll look the exact establishment name for you).

Other stops if you go through Soufar are the roadside chicken shacks. you cannot miss them or miss the smoke and smell (boy do I miss them now though :sad:). They butterfly the chickens, soak them in an oliveoil/garlic/lemon marinade and grill them over coals. You can either buy them whole or as everyone does buy them in a sandwich (sandwich in all these posts refers to a pita wrap, but I'm sure u knew that :smile:) with garlic, pickles and lettuce.

I'll write up more stuff as I remember them. YOU have to write a report when you get back :smile:.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Catching this thread a little late because of work, work, work :sad: . Is it too late to find "janerek" in June? These are some of my favorite spring fruits, i guess they could be best described as really sour and crunchy unripened prunes?

My fondest memories in Lebanon are of course food related such as the endless outdoor lunches held with the family by the beach or in the mountains. I particularly enjoyed the row of restaurants in Zahle that are located along the little stream (name?) that flows through the town. I was there last in 1998 I think and my father who hadn't been there in almost twenty years was amazed to see that it hadn't changed in almost 50 years!

During that same trip he also took us to this restaurant located in Saida that overlooks the Qal'at al Bahr (castle of the sea). I remember eating there one of the most amazing fried "Sultan Ibrahim". I don't know how tumultuous Saida will be around June though because of the recent events so you'll have to play it by ear.

But as far as safety goes and as Elie said, the people I have spoken to in Lebanon really seem not to have a concern in the world :blink: , life is still going on as normal they say..

I'm very envious, if you do decide to go I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Lucia, too bad you won't be around, it would have been really neat to meet up. We were thinking of going to visit some friends near Aleppo, but A is applying for his greencard and is a little worried he would be given a hard time if that stamp were on his passport. We'll see -- it would be an amazing experience for him. I think I've mentioned this elsewhere, but at some point (on one of those crazy car trips) we befriended a family of farmers around there. Someday I wil tell you about Rocky, the sheep they insisted on giving us.  :blink:

Oh Hallab! It is too bad.

And one day I will have to tell the story about the farmers we befriended and our subsequent hitchhiking/bus trip carrying a huge sack of corn. I thought that was bad, but a sheep!

:shock:

And about every other person I met in Lebanon told me the best food in Lebanon was in Zahle, it is legendary. I certainly loved what I ate there (along the wadi), though I had amazing meals elsewhere too.

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Someday I wil tell you about Rocky, the sheep they insisted on giving us.  blink.gif

Hilarious! Tell us now. I can visualize it or at least try. "What, you don't want this sheep? Just take it. It's a good sheep."

So did you take the sheep? :laugh:

I have similar stories involving foodstuff, a few involving live animals.

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Catching this thread a little late because of work, work, work  :sad: . Is it too late to find "janerek" in June? These are some of my favorite spring fruits, i guess they could be best described as really sour and crunchy unripened prunes?

As far as I can tell, here they would be underripe greengage plums. I love those things. Every year, at the beginning of every season, I would eat about a kilo of those all at once, and spend the rest of the afternoon whining that I had a stomach ache. My poor mother.

My fondest memories in Lebanon are of course food related such as the endless outdoor lunches held with the family by the beach or in the mountains.  I particularly enjoyed the row of restaurants in Zahle that are located along the little stream (name?) that flows through the town.

We will definitely be going to Zahle. My dad's best friend lives there, and A has to meet him -- so far, he only knows him as the guy who sent us that amazing case of arak for our wedding. :smile: We used to drive up to Ehdin on hot summer sundays for those outdoor lunches. Its funny. For me, too, that is a big part of my memory of Lebanon, and something I want A to experience. Why was food such a big part of life there? Maybe it was that the seasons were so reliable, when everything else wasn't.

I don't know how tumultuous Saida will be around June though because of the recent events so you'll have to play it by ear.

I must admit I am bummed, I really really want to see Saida and Tyre. We'll see...

I think what I am excited about the most is being able to show A all the places that were such a big part of my life growing up. I am fairly certain our visits will be much more frequent after this.

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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As far as I can tell, here they would be underripe greengage plums. I love those things. Every year, at the beginning of every season, I would eat about a kilo of those all at once, and spend the rest of the afternoon whining that I had a stomach ache. My poor mother.

Well, even at my age I still do that, like you I go through it until I am in excruciating pain. I guess all this acidity can't be too good for anyone's stomach. I know of one place that sells it here in NY and every year around May, it's tradition, I buy a case full. My wife and I go through it in a matter of days :biggrin:

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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  • 3 weeks later...

So my dad, completely unsolicited, sends me a copy of Chef Ramzi's book. What an amazing volume!

Here is a plug, and a link -- apparently an english edition is in the works. Walk, don't run, if you have any interest in Lebanese food.

link

We're definitely going, to both Lebanon and Syria. IMaybe the photos in the book sold the trip more than anything :smile:

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Chef Ramzi attended University in Lyon. He might know some friends of mine. Do you mean "run, don't walk?".

You'll be going to Lebanon and Syria? Are you mad woman!!! :raz:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Snap! I'm planning a trip to Lebanon (Beirut) in the Summer too.....lets hope things calm down and the elections in May run smoothly, eh?

Anyway - some guidance and recommendations, please?!

1. Anyone been to Pepes Restaurant at the Byblos Fishing Club recently? Is it any good now? Any menu recommendations?

2. Any suggestions for good Lebanese restaurants on/near the Corniche? I want to avoid tourist traps!

3. Chateau Musar - is it worth a visit? Anyone bought wine there? Their responses to my e mails for prices have been a bit bizarre (looks like I can get it cheaper in the UK?!). Can you buy Musar in Magnums?

Cheers!

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So my dad, completely unsolicited, sends me a copy of Chef Ramzi's book. What an amazing volume!

Here is a plug, and a link -- apparently an english edition is in the works. Walk, don't run, if you have any interest in Lebanese food.

link

We're definitely going, to both Lebanon and Syria. IMaybe the photos in the book sold the trip more than anything  :smile:

I bought a copy (I'm sure I mentioned this elsewhere on this forum) last summer when I was in Lebanon and I love it. I just flip through it and read whenever I feel homesick. He even has recipes from my small hometown in Akkar :biggrin:. The full color glossy pictures are amazing as well. One caveate though, the recipes, especially desserts do not seem to have been fully tested and you might need to use your common sense or I guess "cook's sense" to make them work. Should we start a thread for this book? Anyone interested?

Welcome to the Society Alanbalchin! unfortunatly I am not too familiar with specific restaurants on the cornish. I normally just go with my buddies wherever they decide to go and I do not remember many restaurant names. It seems that most of them in that area share the same menu more or less, so I would go with the one with the best view. Lats year we had a great time at a place looking on to the "Rouche" rock. The view itslef made the experience so much better.

I heard Musar is nice to visit, if nothing the roadtrip itself is a pleasure.

Keep us updated with both of your trips Behemoth and Alanbalchin.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Should we start a thread for this book? Anyone interested?

YES!! My mother is flying back from Beirut next week, I'll ask her to bring me a copy! Which book is it specifically, volume 1 or 2 or you guys have both? I hope this book will be available in English and in the US soon, we certainly need it!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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I have the second volume, which covers Lebanese regional foods. Do I have it right that the first volume covers arab foods more generally? Anyway, a thread would be fun, I definitely plan to cook from this. Actually I recognized the name of the book from Elie's previous mentions of it. I had planned on buying it when we went, but this now saves me a bit of suitcase space. (Thanks for the tip about the dessert recipes btw, Elie.)

Before I completely forget my manners, welcome to eG alanbalchin. Sorry, since I haven't been there in so long I really have no good advice. I was thinking about heading to either Musar for wine or Massaya for the arak. I will report on it when I'm back but that will probably be too late for you.

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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Any suggestions for good Lebanese restaurants on/near the Corniche?  I want to avoid tourist traps!

Welcome! Not sure if you can call any place in Beirut a tourist trap in general since it is not as "touristy" as other capitals of the world can be (it is changing though). I found that food in Lebanon was good pretty much everywhere I went, from the fancy hotels in Beirut to the hole in the wall kind of places one might find in the narrow streets of old Trablous or Saida. I'd say you can't go wrong anywhere on the Corniche so Foodman's recommendation to factor in the beautiful view as your primary incentive is wise. Enjoy!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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