Today is a momentous day in Egypt. A year to the day since Morsi was elected, and hundreds of thousands are back in Tahrir Square to demonstrate against what many see as his failed presidency and to ask him to leave. Irhal (leave) they are shouting or mish 3ayzinaq (we don’t need you)! Well, I wish I could have been in Cairo now despite the heat instead of a few weeks ago. Would be quite fascinating. Still, it was pretty wonderful then, especially the evening we spent watching Magda cook a few dishes, including mumbar (stuffed ox intestines) and mehshi waraq 3enab (stuffed vine leaves) before feasting on them. We have both dishes in Lebanon but the Egyptian versions are quite different. Read more >
I will always regret it. The year must have been 2002, perhaps even earlier. I had rented a flat in Barcelona to test recipes for my offal book and was there for 3 weeks. During that time, I could have easily gone to El Bulli whenever I wanted. I had a well-connected friend who would have organised it for me — in fact he had organised an amazing offal dinner at Can Fabes and an exquisite lunch at Ca L’Isidre where the owner gave me their recipe for tripe. But El Bulli was far and I was not so taken by molecular cuisine after a disappointing meal at the Fat Duck. So, I didn’t even try to get a booking. Then it became incredibly difficult to get in and now it is closed. Since then, I decided never to miss eating at a restaurant I was interested in even if it means travelling. Last year I went to Noma and I am just back from Faviken where I had the most amazing dinner followed by a terrific breakfast in the most serene if slightly ascetic atmosphere.
Well, the title is slightly misleading but this feast I was invited to in the desert in Doha last week was very close to Christmas and just as festive even if a lot more exotic than a Christmas meal. I had been to the same farm before but at a hotter time of the year and not for a full meal. This time the weather was just fabulous and the meal totally amazing.
I hadn’t been to Beirut for nearly two years and in that time many new places have opened, including my new favourite, Villa Clara in Mar M’khayel where owners Olivier (ex pastry chef at le Grand Véfour) and Marie-Helene have created the most delightful restaurant, inside and outside where friends and family mingle over simple but exquisite dishes, made with locally sourced ingredients. Olivier cooks these expertly and with great precision but without any fuss. Just how I like to eat, at least most days! Anyhow, what made our lunch even more memorable was the wedding that was happening across the road which took me all the way back to when I lived in Beirut even if I never saw a similar wedding. Here are some fun pictures of our gorgeous day, both at Villa Clara and from across the road! And for those of you interested in my culinary tours, I will be doing one in Lebanon next fall with Villa Clara as our base! Details to be announced soon on my travel page.