Category Archives: Dining in Style

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One-on-One With The Cheesecake Factory’s Lisa McDowell

The Cheesecake Factory, the American award-winning casual dining restaurant, has finally made its much-anticipated debut in Lebanon! After months and months of waiting, TCF finally opened its doors on December 1st, 2015 in V Verdun.

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Having visited The Cheesecake Factory numerous times all over the United States throughout the years, I was thrilled to finally see it opening in Lebanon. So imagine my excitement when I found out that I would be interviewing the company’s Vice President of Global Development, Lisa McDowell.

I met this amazing lady right before opening night, as more than 250 permanent employees were gearing up to host a bevy of eager diners wanting to discover what The Cheesecake Factory was all about. What unfolds is a story about inspiration, passion, and a unique culinary experience only The Cheesecake Factory can provide.

 

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Carmel + Vanilla: Why is it important for the Cheesecake Factory to open in Beirut?

Lisa McDowel: You know we’ve been planning this since day one when we chose to come to the Middle East and one of the key cities was Beirut. I think the key here is that people like to gather, be social, and dine together. Food is all about celebrating and communicating and Lebanon likes to do that, right? You see families, big groups, youngsters, just basically a lot of unity, and that’s what the Cheesecake Factory does really well. We’re all about providing that right kind of atmosphere, from the beautiful building to the great food, finishing off with a great dessert, and not forgetting all the efforts of our fantastic servers. Our staff is here to host you and that’s what we do well. So to sum it up, it just feels like a natural fit for us to be here in Beirut.

C+V: What do you think the Overtons (original founders of The Cheesecake Factory) would feel now that their restaurant is all the way across the globe in Beirut?

LMD: You know I think they would be so proud of the fact that we held on to the quality and standards which they set forth. Their son, David, has been the pinnacle in our organization and he’s really driven in terms of quality, execution, follow-up, and the ‘why’ behind it everything we do. More importantly, the Overtons would respect how much we take care of our guests and how much we understand that purpose. They would be really proud because what they instilled and created years ago is still what we’re doing today, and we try our best to make them proud everyday.

 

TCF
C+V: The Cheesecake Factory was named as one of Fortune magazine’s 100 best companies to work for, for the second consecutive year. Why do you think so?

LMD: Well it starts with that foundation that everybody likes to be proud of where they work. You like to proud of the product you serve, what you represent, the values you share with that company, and you continue to strive to take care of the people who take care of others.
So, for example, our servers take care of our guests. Our managers take care of the servers and staff, and as management, we take care of our managers. Those elements have been the foundation of our organization from day one; I just think that now we’re being recognized for it. I don’t think it’s anything different since the inception of the brand.

C+V: So, can we expect to see this award being granted to The Cheesecake Factory for a third year?

LMD: Oh I wouldn’t doubt it one bit. We would strive to only be that good and continue to be so.

C+V: Why is important for the Cheesecake Factory to have over 200 items on its menu?

LMD: It’s such a big menu, isn’t it? Well it’s this large because we understand the complexity of the fact that what we do is what makes us successful. So everybody sitting here tonight gets whatever they feel like: you can have something from our SkinnyLicious (low-cal) menu or something with a little Latin flair- nachos or tacos. I can have a pasta, a sandwich, a burger, or a steak- you name it! So there’s something for everyone here and that really is a big part of our success. Anybody can dine here and the best part is that you can dine the way you want; the portions are so generous that you could share, take home, or just eat what you want. This is the uniqueness of The Cheesecake Factory.

 

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C+V: What is you personal favorite dish?

LMD: I love the Cajun Chicken Littles (my personal favorite as well). I also love the Miso Salmon- which consists of a beautiful bed of fluffy white rice topped off with a miso glazed filet of salmon and some sake butter and finished it off with steamed snow peas. The whole combination is magical!

C+V: What can a customer expect on their first visit to the Cheesecake Factory?

LMD: Our mission is to make sure that you would have an amazing food, beverage, and dessert experience and that you would be in awe of your surroundings, from the architecture to the warm cozy environment- we want you to soak it all up. We want you to feel the positive energy and realize that this place a great space to gather. At the end of their first experience, we want people to say: ” I need to come back because I couldn’t take it all in the first time”.

C+V: Why is the lighting so dim at a the Cheesecake Factory?

LMD: We try to create an ambiance. There’s a science to our lighting strategy. We have lights for different settings; lunch, dusk, and dinner. Dinner is cozy, we like to see a warm glow on everyone’s face- enough for you to read and see your food, but one that creates an atmosphere that’s warm, cozy, and inviting. This makes it feel like the place to be for each individual table.

 

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C+V: In your opinion, is the customer always right?

LMD: We value and practice this. We always want to please the guest; it’s our number one goal because our guests come with expectations and we want to exceed them each and every time. So when you ask me ” are they right every time?”, I say they’re right in expecting what they expect and we should be able to honor and deliver that everyday.

C+V: How important is constant employee training for an international company and how do you keep it interesting to keep employees engaged?

LMD: You know you need a little bit of everything. The environment we have is unlike any other restaurant. Just now here in Beirut, we have over 280 servers. We brought 60 trainers and we have plenty of corporate support staff. We teach our employees how to do everything from scratch and then ask them to repeat what they’ve learned several times. Repetition will make you good at what you do and improve your craft. All our trainings are hands-on, side by side and you get to practice all the time. You read, study, and practice. And most importantly, you constantly get feedback.

C+V: What attracted you to The Cheescake Factory?

LMD: It’s the energy, this unique opportunity that allows me to part of this chain, where you see people become a part of a second family, the Cheesecake Family. The energy in the restaurant business is very dynamic. It’s never 9 to 5, you never watch the clock. Time goes by so fast and you go ‘where’s my day gone?’. There are so many entities, because you deal with people, products, as well as the every day life of a guest, so it’s never boring.
I’ve been in this business for so long- particularly at the Cheesecake Factory. Being here allows me to grow with the world in a sense that if trends/foods/you name it change, The Cheesecake Factory will do it too. We just never sit around and watch opportunities go by. We never stay stagnant. If you work in that kind of dynamic, where you continue to learn and grow, that’s what makes it worthwhile and keeps it challenging.

 

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C+V: Describe the Cheesecake Factory in just three words.

LMD: It is magical. You can’t get it anywhere else. You can’t replicate it; it simply cannot happen. It just comes together: the food, the ambiance, and the smiling guests.
You know we’ve got over 40 signature desserts. What other restaurant can you think off that has this many? Just seeing that Cheesecake fridge- I don’t know what else can put a smile on your face!
Then just looking at the menu and all those ingredients required to make all those items come together, and then not to mention our specialty cocktails which are made from scratch. All I can say is that the Cheesecake Factory is a well-orchestrated restaurant that brings the magic!

The Cheesecake Factory is located at V Verdun, Verdun. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to grab all your family and celebrate at this “magical” place!

Dessert

Dining In Style At Pasquale

It comes as no surprise that the Grand Hills Hotel is the place to be this season. The Fall weather is absolutely the perfect time to take a stroll in this extravagant village that boasts the world’s largest presidential suite and offers more than breath-taking views of the Lebanese mountains as well as the mesmerizing Mediterranean Sea.

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The Grand Hills Hotel is also home to the county’s newest Italian restaurant, Pasquale. The eatery has just recently opened and features truly authentic Italian delights and specialties that aim to satisfy every Italian food lover’s appetite. Pasquale boats  spacious indoor seating, but we chose to sit outdoors among the Fall trees as soft Italian music played into the background on the first day of November.

 

Pizza

Soon after, our waiter came with menus and started making suggestions to assist us with our order. Following a brief discussion, we decided to share the Pizza Funghi as a starter, and surely, we were not disappointed. This pizza is truly by far one of the best I’ve had in quite some time and featured what can only be a homemade tomato sauce with heaps of tastefully melted Mozzarella.

 

Chicken

 

As for the main courses, we ordered the Gnocchi Al Sorrentina – which was exquisite, the Risotto Porcini, and the baby chicken with potatoes and vegetables. All dishes were perfectly cooked and full of flavor.

 

GnocchiRisotto

Although we were stuffed, we couldn’t resist but share the chocolate dessert specialty at Pasquale. Three layers of thin chocolate bars were pressed together in between rich creme chantilly and hazelnut that provided the perfect sweet ending to a great experience.

 

Dessert

Meal for 3, with drinks: USD 120.

Special thanks to our waiter Paul, who was knowledgeable as he was courteous!

Kale & Quinoa Celebration

For The Love Of Bread & Friendship: Savoring Bar Tartine’s New Menu

What started out as a small bakery on Mar Mikhael street has turned into another Lebanese success story! Bar Tartine has literally taken over peoples’ hearts in a very short time frame, making it one of the country’s most popular eateries to date. And why not? The food is great, the service amazing, and the tastes and flavors are always consistent.

A member of the group that manages Zaatar W Zeit and Studio Beirut, Bar Tartine welcomes you in three perfectly selected locations: Mar Mikhael, ABC Achrafieh, and Dbayeh. And since the eatery is part of a mother company that is constantly looking for ways to reinvent itself, Bar Tartine decided to re-engineer its menu and invited selected bloggers to savor these new items last night in their branch in Dbayeh.

 

Farmhouse Kale & Quinoa Celebration

The newest locale enjoys a perfectly spaced outdoor garden- a great setting to schedule a lunch or dinner with friends when the weather gets cooler. The interior is cozy and you are directly welcomed with smiling waiters who are happy to walk you to your selected table. The evening kicked-off with a round of fruity Prosecco cocktails; I had the peach flavor which was perfect, but was told that the strawberry was just as good. As it turns out, you can enjoy these fruity Prosecco cocktails everyday in August starting 5.00 pm in all Bar Tartine locations, so make sure to book an afternoon with your friends for a tasting!

Soon after, the new menu items started coming in: The Kale Quinoa Celebration salad is more like a flavor celebration for your taste buds; kale and quinoa come together in a perfect mixture and are fused with hints of cranberry and topped with a large grilled chicken breast, a great dish to have as a full healthy meal. Another great dish was the Couscous Freshness salad. I am usually not a fan of couscous, since I feel that it’s really dry, but the rich dressing and carefully selected spices make this salad a winner! The Kale Avocado Rolls are a must-try: the two ingredients are seasoned and rolled in green cabbage and are accompanied by a dipping sauce for you to enjoy!

Couscous Freshness

Next came the three new pizzas, all with a homemade dough as their base: the chicken picante features cheese, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini. For olive lovers, the goat cheese feast has a tapenade base sauce and includes goat cheese, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and sprinkles of pine nuts. The spicy alfresco was my favorite; if you’re into spices then you will love this rich blend of Italian sausages, olives, mushrooms, and wild thyme.

 

Spicy Alfresco Chicken Picante Goat Cheese Feast

Sandwiches followed and gave vegetarians a reason to smile: the veggie symphony is a winner with a rich mix of eggplant, beetroot, avocado, and arugula all sandwiched between two slices of brown toast. At the other end of the spectrum, the chicken provolone was juicy as it was hearty and was complemented by a generous side salad.

 

Veggie Symphony Chicken Provolone

Bar Tartine’s new menu drops today across their branches in Mar Mikhael, ABC Achrafieh, and Dbayeh. And if you happen to be craving some bread or late night desserts, Bar Tartine offers a 50% discount on its bread and pastries as of 9.00 pm every night. See you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dining In Style At Le Talleyrand

Le Talleyrand is probably one of those places that you’ve passed on your way to Hamra and overlooked, somehow because of its hidden locale. Perfectly nestled in Kantari, this restaurant is one of Beirut’s finest: the waiters are knowledgeable, the menu is designed to perfection, and the guests are beautiful as they are fashionable!

We arrived to Le Talleyrand shortly after 9.00 pm on a Saturday night. We were greeted by a smiling host who showed us to our table as we were directly asked if we prefer sparkling or still water. Moments later, our waiter arrived with the menu- which is pretty much a recto-verso one page thick cardboard featuring the restaurant’s offerings. French and Italian dishes dominated the menu, but our eyes quickly wandered off to the steak section.

 

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Our waiter- who was patient as he answered question after question about the meats and steaks- was extremely knowledgeable and provided his professional advice. I finally settled on the filet de boeuf while my date went for the entrecote. For sides, we had the French fries, sauteed vegetables, and potato dauphinois.

 

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We started our meal with two glasses of Italian white wine- I can’t recall the brand name, but I remember that its taste was divine. We split a house salad and made small talk as we were offered a variety of on-the-house crudites with their accompanying sauces and condiments.

 

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Shortly after, our steaks came and I can honestly tell you that Le Talleyrand really serves one of Beirut’s finest steaks. It was possibly one of the only times I did not have to return my steak to the kitchen for not being cooked “well-done”- this one was and it was cooked to absolute perfection!

 

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While we were too full to have dessert, we couldn’t resist not to taste Le Talleyrand’s Pain Perdu (which I’ve heard rave reviews about). I wasn’t really a fan of the caramel- it was too sweet for my taste, but the bread pudding was flawless and the accompanying vanilla ice cream was fresh and refreshing!

 

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All in all, our experience was truly that of a fine dining restaurant. I cannot keep stressing over and over again about the attentive and dedicated service that you receive here. Now that summer’s in full swing, make sure to book a table on the patio- I loved the combination of wooden/garden furniture with trees all around and a perfect marriage of light projectors to make your experience all the more special.

 

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Le Talleyrand is located on Fakhreddine Street, Kantari. For reservations, call 00961 1 371 500.

Meal for two with two glasses of wine: USD 200.

Breakfast at the Latest Version Diner

5 Fun Things to do this Holiday Weekend!

Brace yourselves: a three day holiday weekend is coming up! If you didn’t have time to plan a getaway, do not despair; there are plenty of fun-filled activities to do locally.

Visit a Winery

Whether you plan on going east or north, Lebanon is packed with breath-taking wineries! I visited Massaya earlier this summer and enjoyed an amazing sunny day with family. Their Sunday brunch is rich in traditional Lebanese delicacies and fresh produce. Dine on their wooden tables and enjoy their sumptuous open wine throughout your meal. After lunch, lounge on their lazy chairs overlooking the vineyards and mountains. The serenity and peaceful setting is literally an ultimate de-stressor.

 

Captivating Views at Massaya
Captivating Views at Massaya

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Enjoy a Sunny Breakfast

Everyone who works knows that it’s almost impossible to squeeze a proper breakfast into a busy day. With sunny skies forecast for the weekend, why not head to your favorite spot and enjoy breakfast with friends or family? One my favorite places to have breakfast is the Latest Version Diner; while their menu is a simple combination of eggs, pancakes, and waffles, their portions are generous, budget friendly, and simply delicious!

If you’re a fan of Couqley (who isn’t?!), schedule a stop at their Big Breakfast formula on Saturday anytime between 10.30 am until 4.00 pm. Their special breakfast menu will set you back 38,000 LBP, but includes eggs, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, and bottomless coffee!

 

Breakfast at the Latest Version Diner
Breakfast at the Latest Version Diner

 

Head to the Beach

Our beach days are pretty much numbered now that it’s October. Take advantage of what might be your last beach weekend for the season and hit up your favorite resort. Now that schools are back in session and the weather’s cooler, you can comfortably lounge by the pool or at a sandy beach front until the sun sets.

 

Edde Sands
October waters at Eddé Sands

 

Eat Ice Cream!

One of my best discoveries this summer was Helado- a small ice cream shop located in Jounieh. Their flavor options are endless and include Biscolatta, vanilla framboise, wine and vodka (seriously), and lotus (my favorite!). You really do not want to miss their ice cream before the season ends!

 

 

Flavors galore at Helado
Flavors galore at Helado
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Helado’s Signature Lotus Ice Cream

 

Fly with the Childrens’ Cancer Center of Lebanon

One my favorite organizations is planning flight tours over Lebanon this Saturday and Sunday. At 3,000 ft altitude, you will not only be looking over Lebanon’s breath-taking landmarks, but you will also be helping a child in need. For more information, click here.

 

 

Cruising in the Bosphorus

Dining in Style in ISTANBUL

Everyone is in need of a quick getaway every once in a while! I finally got to take some time off last month and picked Istanbul to be my destination of choice. Five amazing days in a city with so much history, culture, shopping, and countless dining options!

In case you’re planning a visit to Istanbul anytime soon, I’ve rounded up some of my personal favorites for you to choose from. I’m more of a conservative eater, so you will not see any fish or any traditional Turkish food in my choices. In any case enjoy your trip and happy dining!

The swanky high-end neighborhood of Nisantasi is home to several luxury brand boutiques including Prada, Gucci, and Versace. The residential streets are perfectly painted and colorful plants adorn the terraces. Following an elaborate tour of the Bosphorus that day, we arrived in this lavish area shortly before sunset. There is a variety of dining hot spots on every street; bars and restaurants are all packed with beautiful people who are ready to celebrate the weekend. We took a table in “Salomanje”, a bar/ cafe that serves an international and Italian menu. We ordered a creamy Alfredo pasta and herbed chicken with rosemary French fries. Both dishes were equally tasty and perfectly cooked. The ambiance was lively and the waiters spoke perfect English. I truly recommend this place!

 

Salomanje pizap

 

Address: Harbiye Mahallesi, Tesvikiye Caddesi, Atiye Sokak, No 4/12 Sisli, Istanbul

What to Wear: Wear your favorite jeans with a flowing top and a statement necklace. Heels will help you blend in with the crowd, but flats are perfectly fine if you’ve been walking around all day.

 

You’re going to be walking a lot, so there’s no doubt that you’re going to be craving some refreshing ice cream. We stayed at the Moevenpick Hotel Istanbul, where the lobby was beautifully decorated with an ice cream cart carrying the tastiest flavors of Moevenpick Ice Cream. In case you’re not familiar with the brand, this ice cream is 100% Swiss made and has a variety of flavors from chocolate to caramel, raspberry, strawberry, etc.. The good news is that you don’t have to stay at Moevenpick Hotel Istanbul in order to savor these tasty flavors; several restaurants in the city carry this ice cream brand, including La Sirene in Bebek.

 

MP Ice Cream Cart

MP Ice Cream CHoco

 

If you’re traveling to Istanbul this summer, then one item that should be on your checklist is: dessert at the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus. This hotel is probably one of the best you will visit in your lifetime. The views of the Bosphorus, the first Bosphorus bridge, and parts of Istanbul that are on the Asian continent are truly unparalleled. The service is flawless, to the extent that your purse gets its own table-seriously! The waiters know what they’re selling and their suggestions perfectly complement your desires. For example, I had the best profiteroles EVER! The vanilla ice cream filling is perfectly sweet and the chocolate sauce with a hint of orange melts in your mouth, as the tiny chocolate crumbles tickle your palate! This dessert is a must!

 

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Address: Ciragan Caddesi No. 28, 34349 Istanbul, Besiktas

What to Wear: Put your heels on! Even though you’re going for sunset dessert and drinks, everyone is impeccably dressed here, so make sure to spice up your outfit with your favorite sandals!

 

A short drive away from the Four Seasons, lies the charming town of Bebek. “Bebek”, meaning “baby” is home to the Turkish favorite “Kitchinette”. This restaurant is practically mushrooming in most areas of Istanbul, and rightfully so. The mood is so relaxed and the service is generous. This branch of Kitchinette is perched on top of a quiet street in a garden like setting. You can conveniently have a late lunch in a relaxed atmosphere. The menu- also international- features a variety of salads, pizzas, and mains. We chose the classics: a Mozzarella salad, hand cut fries, and a Margarita pizza. While pizza wasn’t a memorable one, the fries were perfectly seasoned and crispy. Enjoy a light meal and your favorite drink as you watch passers-by on a Saturday afternoon.

 

Kitchinette Pizap

 

 

Address: Bebek Mh. , Ipek Sk, 34354, Istanbul

What to Wear: Pair your favorite summer dress with some trendy flats for an afternoon lunch or an early dinner.

 

A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without having some Kaak, chestnuts, or grilled corn from the many vendors lining the city’s streets. Blend in and feel like a local by stocking up on these trademark Turkish offerings throughout your trip!

 

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And just because it is SO GOOD, I had to go back to the Four Seasons for a proper dinner meal. As breath-taking the view is in the afternoon, it is probably even better after the sun sets. We had a great dinner experience consisting of salads, pastas, and mante (although I would say that the mante served in our restaurants in Lebanon is way better). We also sipped a fantastic 2011 Chardonnay called Plato- which is made of grapes found only in Istanbul. (We made sure to pick some up the next day at the airport :) )

 

FS Dinner Pizap

 

 

What to Wear: Go all out for dinner at the Four Seasons. An LBD would be perfect with your favorite colorful heels. Keep a shawl or a light bolero with you since it gets pretty breezy at night.

 

That’s a round up of my culinary findings in Istanbul. Feel free to tell me about your favorites in the comments section!

 

Cruising in the Bosphorus
Cruising in the Bosphorus

 

Culture Stop at Hagia Sophia
Culture Stop at Hagia Sophia

 

The Magical "Blue Mosque" / Sultan Ahmet Mosque
The Magical “Blue Mosque” / Sultan Ahmet Mosque

 

No Words can describe the Breath-taking view from Pierre Loti!
No Words can describe the Breath-taking view from Pierre Loti!

 

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Dining in Style at Mario e Mario

Nestled in a quiet street towards the end of Mar Mikhael lies Mario e Mario. An old Lebanese house transformed into a cozy Italian eatery with a yellow wall exterior, purple shutters, and homestyle plants.

 

Outdoor

 

We walked into the restaurant shortly after 9 pm. We were greeted by one of the happiest and most helpful waiters I’ve ever seen! He led us up a narrow staircase to the restaurant’s rooftop. Understated and romantic, soft music plays in the background as guests dine on Italian delicacies and sip their cocktails in a laid back environment. The place is absolutely perfect for a lazy Sunday lunch or early drinks with friends.

 

Rooftop

 

Unfortunately, the terrace was packed so we made our way back down inside and chose a small table for 2. A new waiter emerged with a cold bottle of stillwater as we admired our table setting: 2 tomatoes and one lemon placed on a plate with a tiny plant of basil nearby (I thought this added such a homey feel to the place!)

 

tomatoes

 

As we waited for our menus, a lady stopped at our table to say hello. Mrs. Cynthia Sednaoui from Mario e Mario told us the story of how the place came to be: the restaurant is owned by Mario Haddad, who also owns Falamanki (that by the way makes the best Fattouch in the country). Mario presented his father (also named Mario) with this new Italian eatery on his birthday. The most interesting fact about the restaurant is that the entire menu changes everyday, based on what organic products the Napoli chef finds and the fish catch of the day. So, you are always promised a surprise!

We kicked off our dinner by ordering the Melanzane Alla Parmiggiana, which basically consists of baked eggplants with tomatoes and Mozzarella and Panzanella Classica, a mixed vegetable salad with creamy Burrata cheese. The salad was yummy and the dressing with the Burrata cheese was just amazing.

 

Salad

 

For our main course, I went for the Gnocchi di Patate Alla Sorrentina- potato gnocchi with basil, tomato sauce, and Mozarella. The tomato sauce was simply divine. Made from scratch, it added the perfect flavor to the gnocchi.

 

Gnocchi

 

Ralph went for the Totelloni Di Ricotta E Spinaci- which is basically handmade Ricotta and spinach tortelloni with butter and Parmesan sauce. At first, I thought the portion was too small, but every bite is as heavy as the one before. The dish is actually too much for my taste, but Ralph enjoyed the flavored mix of spinach and cheese.

 

tortelloni

 

Shortly after our meal, the waiter presented us with a serving of homemade Tiramisu and a slice of lemon pie (also homemade). Both desserts were delicious, but the pie won me over with its light filling and crispy crust!

 

Dessert2

 

Mario e Mario is one of those restaurants you just have to visit: It’s not an easy task for a restaurant to pull off a new menu everyday, but the place does it with such class and professionalism. The servers are knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly.

Head out to Mario e Mario for a Sunday lunch with the family, an early drink with friends on the terrace, or a date with someone you’re trying to impress- you will not be let down, I promise!

 

Place

 

Mario e Mario is located on Rue Patriarche Arida, Mar Michael. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12:30 pm until 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm until 11:30 pm. For reservations, call 01 444 036 .

Meal for two without wine: USD $ 110.

Special thanks to Mrs. Cynthia Sednaoui for being so hospitable and to the entire team for their generosity.

 

 

Indoor

Dining in Style at Bagatelle

To celebrate my birthday this past weekend, Ralph surprised me with a romantic and cozy dinner for 2 at Bagatelle in Hamra. The restaurant just celebrated its 2 year anniversary since its founding, and despite our numerous visits to the area, we never crossed this place.

 

Indoor

 

Shortly after 10 PM on Saturday, we walked into Bagatelle located on the ground floor of an old building. We took in the little details such as the old floor tiles and the wooden furniture before being seated at a private table on the terrace. The weather was amazing – it really is the perfect time to enjoy a meal outdoors!

 

Indoor2

 

Our waiter came and offered us a wooden board decorated with freshly baked bread and olives. We ordered some wine and a few appetizers to kick off the meal.

 

Bread

 

The Classic Bruschetta contained 3 generous pieces of sliced bread; the first had a tasty mix of tomatoes and fresh Mozarella with a touch of pesto, the second was filled with sauteed mushrooms and garnished with Parmesan, while the third was spread with Philadelphia cheese and topped with Parma ham. Delicious!

 

Brushcetta

 

We  then ordered the Nicoise salad to share before our main course. While the serving was a generous one, I found it odd that the restaurant used canned tuna and that eggs were missing from the salad. Perhaps this is something to be considered :)

 

nicoise

 

Following the appetizers and salad, Ralph and I split the Filet Mignon. This was my favorite dish and possibly one of the best steaks I’ve eaten in a long time! The meat was cooked perfectly and the pepper sauce was absolute perfection! I would recommend adding some more vegetables, since 2 slices of carrots and zucchini are really too little!

 

Steak

 

Following the meal, I was so surprised to see the waiter serve me with a bowl of Pain Perdu with a candle on it. He said that this was for my Birthday and he continued by wishing me a happy year ahead. To start with, the Pain Perdu was perfect. I am not really a fan of Pain Perdu but this specific one was insanely good. And second of all, I cannot begin to stress how amazing the service was at Bagatelle; our waiter was so knowledgeable, kind, generous, and attentive. Seriously a type of service that I wish can rub off on more restaurants in this country!

 

Pain Perdu

 

We left with big smiles on our faces and that’s surely how we’ll return to Bagatelle!

Bagatelle is located on Jabre Doumit St, Hamra. For reservations, call 01 342 842

Meal for 2 with wine approx. USD $100

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Dining in Style | The Perfect Ending to the Weekend at Tavolina

Ralph and I have been meaning to try Tavolina for ages, but it seemed like we never had the time to so. So, on a rainy Sunday night, we finally hit the relatively new Italian eatery located in Mar Mikhael.

 

tavolina

 

The place is really cozy and its most eye-catching piece is the pizza wood-burning oven located in the corner. We sat at a table in the middle and directly ordered main platters when the waiter came.

 

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I chose the goat cheese pizza with sun dried tomatoes and Ralph went for the grilled chicken with steamed vegetables. I loved loved my pizza! The dough tasted fresh and homemade and the goat cheese was delicious. Ralph’s chicken was cooked to perfection and we both loved the place’s generosity with the serving size for both mains.

 

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chicken

 

I’d love to go back to Tavolina; the place is so understated and perfect for a laid back evening with your date or a fun family lunch on Sundays.

 

Tavolina is located on Camille Youssef Chamoun St, Mar Mkhael. To reserve, call 01 442 244.

Meal for two with wine $80

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Dining in Style | Found: Lebanon’s Best Italian Restaurant

We walked into La Traviata on Pasteur Streey shortly after 10:30 PM on Valentine’s Day. The place is literally the size of a standard salon, which made it incredibly cozy. There was no big fuss about Valentine and no set menu which was perfect!

 

view

 

After being seated at a cozy table for two by the window, we ordered two glasses of Italian white wine which we enjoyed with the tastiest freshly baked pain au fromage and parma ham.

 

pain au fromage

more pain

 

Shortly after, our Caprese salad and special house roasted potatoes came in. The Mozarella was so fresh and the pesto dressing was just right. The roasted potatoes had an addictive scent of rosemary and were as crunchy as they should be.

 

Caprese

 

We enjoyed our starters while staring at pedestrians passing by on a big television screen. This sight turned out to be a live camera installed in La Traviata’s home restaurant in Bologna, Italy. We loved this detail!

 

screen

 

It was time to order our entrees and to our surprise and it turns out, La Traviata makes all their pastas in house. We had a true Italian experience by ordering the Spaghetti with mushrooms and Parma ham and the most delicious Parmesan Ravioli. Simply YUM!

 

parma ham spaghetti

 

Ravioli

 

Our experience came to a perfect end with the Nutella Tortellini (also homemade). The dessert was fresh out of the oven, which made the nutella simply melt in our mouths. A true perfect ending to the best Valentine’s dinner date ever!

 

tortellini

 

 

You simply have to try it!

 

La Traviata is located on Pasteur Street, Gemayzeh. To reserve, call 01 444 471

Meal for two with wine: USD $90