Tuesday, August 11, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 14 - LEBANON

I love it when we end up in a small restaurant operated by a family and there are no other diners. It creates the perfect opportunity to converse with the owners and learn about the contents of food and sometimes more about the culture or the science of the food they serve.

Though distant at first, the owner lady at Cafe Matinee Lebanese Restaurant quickly warmed up to us when we asked her if they made their own sausages and told us "if we made the bread, everything we serve would be homemade!" She told us how they make their olives, and the benefits of sesame that is abundantly present in almost every dish they serve. She said "Sesame is good for your brain!"

The menu was once again filled with many items we wanted to try, but first came the drink orders of Jalab (date juice) and mulberry juice.

They added salad, olives, and pickled turnip to our appetizer order, turning our table to a colorful food bazaar.

Don't be fooled by the name "Fool" for our first appetizer was a delicious blend of fava beans seasoned with garlic and fresh lemon juice, garnished with italian parsley and paprika.

Second appetizer Jibne Zaatar was pita bread topped with white Lebanese cheese and  the Zaatar mix that has oregano and sesame seeds. This seemingly simple dish was on par with many a pizzas we had elsewhere.

The third appetizer was a finger-licking delicious lamb sausage called Makanek topped with diced onions and tomatoes.

The non-homemade pita bread and the homemade olives vanished with the appetizers long before our main dish arrived.

Thankfully we had only one main dish - Chicken Shawarma. Unlike other places this shawarma was not made on a skewer. The owner lady had every right to be very proud of this tender chicken dish they served with rice pilav with roasted orzo.

The dessert showed the heavy influence of Ottoman Empire on this Middle Eastern country. Keunefe is a syrupy dessert made with string dough and cheese topped with pistachios, and just one slice was more than enough to top off the delectable meal we had.

We bade farewell to the owner couple and promised to come back to try more of their homemade food. And that we will!

Bil hana!

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