Beirut is one crazy place. very diverse and fast moving. We arrived here two nights ago to the first rain since May – there it was, bouncing off the pavements to our alarm and the joy of the Beirutis. We took a hazardous taxi ride to the guesthouse where we are staying, passed out and when we woke the next morning the rain had stopped and the skies were blue.
Con, myself and Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery are here as guests of a very special man called Kamal Mouzawak, the man who bought farmers markets into the city of Beirut where small producers can sell their produce in the city. He has also set up a kitchen called ‘Tawlet’ Souk el Tayeb. It’s an open kitchen where everyday a different producer/cook prepares typical food from his/her region. This is our headquarters while we are here. The daily feast is amazing, a huge variety of salads, vegetable mezzes, meats, fish and different grains. The tabbouleh we ate is nothing like the tabbouleh that we make. It’s pretty much the opposite comprising 90% fresh herbs and 10% bulgar. We will be redefining our idea of Lebanese food while we are here
Today began with breakfast – labneh, olives, tomatoes, eggs with sumac, fresh cheese with tomato jam and flat breads with zatar.
There was a little break for a planning meeting washed down with a glass of Arak, the local aniseed flavoured drink which looks innocent but would be lethal in quantity! We talked about what we would like to do and what had been organised for us. This went something like food, food, food, a trip to Tripoli to cook with war widows, wine tasting near Batroun – the Bekka Valley , the famous wine producing area is off limits at the moment due to kidnappings and road blocks, a trip to the farmers market and more food. This was followed shortly after by a large lunch.
Everyone that we meet is super friendly and hospitable. I think visitors are pretty thin on the ground around here.
We finished the day with more food. We were invited to the tasting of a a new menu by a man called Wahel, His food establishment is on the same street that Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Druzes political party lives on which means the security is very high. The street is blocked by sandbags and guarded by armed soldiers. Wahel jokes that tis means he can have a street terrace as no traffic is allowed through.
This is pretty much the attitude of the Beirut people that we have met so far, upbeat and positive. It’s the only way to be!