Category Archives: Food

Lebanese Harvard Graduate Sara el-Yafi protests “Offending” Israeli Buffet

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You can’t mess with the Lebanese when it comes to food. After almost 20 days of her original post, Harvard apologized to Sara and agreed on naming it a “Middle Eastern buffet”. When reading this story, I remembered the hilarious video I posted exactly two years ago about Lebanese vs. Israeli hummus.

Here’s the story as told by Sara on her Facebook page.

On October 28th in the year of our lord 2012, I posted a post about an Israeli Mezze Station Menu at the Harvard Business School dining room that I was not very happy about. The menu featured a wide array of typical Arabic and Mediterranean dishes, which as far as we’re all concerned should not be called Israeli the same way I cannot be called Israeli. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt unhappy about the false content of the menu… Within five days of my posting, the “shares” had climbed from 1 to 1,000 (with my knowledge of mathematics, that’s a whole increase of 000.) Then, literally overnight, the shares doubled to 2,000. Then kept climbing over the next week to 3,400+, all the while being accompanied by a generous 4,700+ likes and 270+ beautiful comments (we’ll define beautiful later).

Without me having to exert much effort, it was the virulence of your likes and shares, as well as the respectful way that everybody connected with their humor and frustration, that has caught the attention of the key people. Last week, I received an official, gracious response from Harvard Business School through Mr. Brian Kenny, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HBS less than 24 hours after reaching out to them. He has kindly requested I share with you his response on behalf of Dean Nohria and Harvard Business School:

“As you can imagine we’ve been following the responses to your post since it first went up last week. [..] [our] response is essentially a mea culpa on the part of the school. Clearly we didn’t do enough to verify the the accuracy of the Israeli Mezze station menu. You correctly called us on it and struck a chord with thousands of others in the process. The fact that we offended people is deeply troubling, particularly considering that our reason for having the international buffets each day is to celebrate cultural diversity. We take such things very seriously. From the moment we first saw your post we began having extensive conversations internally and with Restaurant Associates to understand why this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.”

To which I answered:

“Dear Mr. Kenny,
I appreciate the time and effort you took to understand and commiserate with us about the sensitivity of this issue. Naturally, I knew that HBS would react properly, which maybe lets us see that we Arabs (even the more educated–Harvard Arabs) may be placing too hard of a stigma on American biased responses when it comes to Israel. [...] While my Arab colleagues’ pessimism concerning evenhanded American responses is not founded on illusion (we have tons of history to prove American bias), your response has proven that it is still worth reaching out when we feel trampled on. [...] So thank you for that, this will bring relief to many.
Since your comment is positive, if you don’t mind, I will post it on my facebook wall, as I am writing a follow-up answer to the commotion that was caused. Do you mind?
Thank you again for your response. I look forward to posting a picture on my wall of an HBS authentic Arabic [sic. Middle Eastern] Mezze station, I think this will assuage everybody who feel they have been deprived of their identity. And kindly let me know when you do so, it would be an amazing response from HBS.”

To which he graciously responded:

“[...] Please do feel free to post my response on your page. [...] We truly understand the reaction and the sensitivities of the Arab community. [...] In the meantime, RA [Restaurant Associates, the catering company] asked me if they could post their own apology. They dont want to offend further but they would like people to know how sorry they are. [...] As for the Arabic Mezze station, I will have them get to work on that right away.”

Sweet Tea at the Beirut Souks

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I always used to pass by Sweet Tea at the Beirut Souks but had no clue it had a green rooftop terrace until lately. As you can see in the picture, there are green vine plants all over the walls with a glass-roof on top and colorful tables and chairs, making it a gorgeous outdoor seating. Sweet Tea is the perfect place to have breakfast, brunch or lunch, with a large variety of French Desserts, different types of omelettes and a large selection of tea. I had the “Omelettes aux herbes fraiches” and a Baba au Rhum (My Favorite Dessert) and both were delicious.

Sweet Tea is a concept imagined and designed by Yannick Alléno.

The terrace overlooks the Beirut Souks and nearby Beirut streets and buildings. You can also see the rooftop terrace of S.T.A.Y (Simple Table Alléno Yannick), another concept by the guy behind Sweet Tea, which I am planning to visit soon.

Sweet Tea is located in the Jewelry souk of Beirut Souks’ right next to George Hakim. For more information, check out Beirut Souks’s website [Here] and Sweet Tea’s Facebook page [Here].

Pop-up/Junkyard/YellowContainer closing down on November 10!

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Picture taken from Popup-Beirut’s [Facebook Page]

When I posted about the Junkyard back in August, I never thought I’d get so many people interested in visiting it and asking me about the place, not because I didn’t think it was a cool idea, but because I never imagined that many Lebanese would appreciate an innovative and crazy concept such as this one. These guys were so crazy they organized “Petanque” games every night starting 6 pm.

This being said, the Junkyard, also known as Pop-up Beirut, turned out to be a great idea but unfortunately a short-lived one as it will be closing down this week due to the weather but also as planned initially. So if you haven’t had the opportunity to go there yet, this week is your last chance. In fact, and in order to celebrate the last days of the POP-up, a series of Jam sessions is planned with some Lebanese artists, with all the profits going to a Lebanese NGO called Himaya (Against Child Abuse), which you can read about [Here].

You can check out the full program in the picture below:

A nice tribute to Le Castel

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Picture by Anthony Rahayel

I lived in Keserwan most of my life and most of my outings with friends as an adolescent were around Kaslik but I’d never go to Le Castel as it was a place for families or older people usually. Added to that, my parents would always take us outside Keserwan, usually Beirut or up to the mountains, on Sundays to have lunch. Nevertheless, I did end up going to Le Castel a few times in later years and I remember liking the food and the exquisite desserts.

This being said, and knowing that Le Castel closed down a few days ago, Mustapha from the BeirutSpring wrote a nice tribute about the place which I thought is worth sharing, specially that he used to be a loyal customer.

When I was a young child growing up in Tripoli, I used to believe that Beirut and Kaslik were the same place.

Ray7een 3a Beirut lyoum, “We’re going to Beirut today” was what our parents told us when they wanted to take us to Kaslik. In the early 90s the war was over but not quite so over. Things were safe enough to drive from Tripoli to Kaslik, but not safe enough to go all the way to Beirut, and Kaslik had everything.

Kaslik was the best place in the world. It had it all, the glitz, the shopping, the arcade games in Espace 2000, the movie theaters. It was unlike anything I saw in Tripoli back in those days; places with french names and women who dressed like in the movies. My adolescent self especially appreciated the ladies who sauntered around in short skirts and beachwear, a sight I had never seen in Tripoli. I was in heaven.

Le Castel

Le Castel is where my father and I would sit while my mother and sister did their all-day shopping marathons. I hated shopping, and so did dad. Le Castel was our refuge, our Kaslik home away from home. He would drink coffee, smoke his cigarettes and read Annahar. I would eat Chou à la Crème, watch the beach, the cars moving by, and stare at those strange and beautiful people. I had the best time, and this became a tradition.

Even when I grew up and started driving my own car, I didn’t stop going to Le Castel. In my drive from Tripoli to Beirut for university at the end of each weekend, Kaslik was conveniently located in the middle and Le Castel was where I had my break. I thought I was being more modern than my father because I read the International Herald Tribune instead of Annahar (the IHT came bundled with The Daily Star in those days), I also didn’t smoke and I drank cappuccino instead of espresso. Take that dad, I’m my own man now.

The end of an era

All those memories came rushing through my head when I read today that Le Castel has shut down. I was sad and melancholic, but I understood. In many ways, Le Castel resembles a Lebanon that no longer exists, a Lebanon where people lazily hung around, smoked, read real newspapers and payed outrageous amounts of money for coffee and pretentious patisserie.

It is easy to read too much into the demise of Le Castel. Old residents and cultural conservationists will bemoan merciless and vulgar gentrification and demand some sort of government assistance. The syndicate of restaurant owners will blame the smoking ban for killing the clientele and politicians and bloggers will blame the government for killing the economy.

But I’m not here to explain or to blame; I didn’t find any injustice in Le Castel’s sunsetting. All I wanted to say is that I had some very good time here, time that I hopefully will never forget. But life moves on, and I hope the new place will bring great new memories for a new generation. [Link]

Dulce n’ Banana

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The Smarties & Kit Kat Double Chocolate Birthday Cake

It was my brother’s day last week and I wanted to surprise him with an original cake, the Smarties & Kit Kat Double Chocolate Birthday Cake. It’s not really a cake but a nice idea, however I could not find anyone to do it for me before I was told about Dulce n’ Banana. It’s not a shop but just a Facebook page where you can order any cake/cookie/muffin you can think of. Everything is home-made and delicious. I already tried their muffins, a slice of the rainbow cake that one of my friends had ordered and the chocolate cookie shown in the last picture.

Rainbow cake

This idea of home-made cakes is still relatively new in Lebanon and people are not promoting it well even though it has a lot of potential. Having said that, Facebook is a very efficient and cost-effective way to kick off your business, specially that you can check out pictures and order without actually going there.

Last but not least, I was glad to know that they make apple and pecan pies. I ordered one of each and looking forwarding to trying them. I will let you know of the outcome since very few places in Lebanon make them.

For more information on Dulce n’ Banana, visit their Facebook page [Here].

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Magnolia Bakery opening soon

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I was at ABC Debayeh and I noticed that Magnolia Bakery is opening where Nestle Tollhouse used to be. I think thats really great since I stopped passing by Nestle Tollhouse once they stopped serving their chocolate chip cookies. Plus Magnolia Bakery has an amazing banana pudding and chocolate cheesecake swirl. Delicious, can’t wait.

Update: Turns out Najib already posted about this [Here]