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Monday, 30 January 2012

My Dream, About Provence and A Ragoût de Poullet Provençal - Chicken Stew (from the Provence region of France)

"Once you have heard the lark, known the swish of feet through hill-top grass and smelt the earth made ready for the seed, you are never again going to be fully happy about the cities and towns that man carries like a crippling weight upon his back." 
- Gwyn Thomas

I Have a dream...
One of my most favourite cuisines ever is Provençal cuisine. My fondness doesn't stop at that! I have a specific love - which I cannot explain - to that spot of earth! Very often - and recently more than ever - I find myself longing more and more for a life in a country house somewhere on Provence with a piece of garden where I get to grow my own herbs, trees and floral bushes... where I get to cook my take on that cuisine using its local produce, all in a woody and rustic country kitchen. You can say I have a dream! I would love to wake up to the herbal and floral Aromas of lavender and rosemary being brought together in holly matrimony to take part in the whole of the fragrant Provence. What can be better than sipping on fresh orange juice while looking out onto fields of colour and fresh produce? One day....

Come to think of it, growing up, I was always around flavours of Provence. Maybe because my family's business was in farming, or because back then when Jordan was more agricultural in nature, the produce was somewhat similar to that in Provence. From olive trees, to lavender, fennel, sage, rosemary to bay leaves... moving on to citrus fruits including the thick skinned citrus fruits, to grape trees, cherry trees, fig trees, plum trees, and apple trees... all were grown in Jordan and were all around us! I remember munching on their raw, natural goodness up until I moved to live abroad. Sadly, although Jordan still has a small agricultural side to it, it is nothing like it used to be! Today, it seems that - just like the trend is everywhere - trees have been replaced by buildings and touristic attractions! The simple joys have been replaced with adrenaline packed rides, water slides and urbanised landscape! For that reason, I dream up Provence, which is reminiscent of a good old time!

Until then, I can conjure up Provence in my kitchen, close my eyes and let the aromas bring about the dream. In my kitchen I am able to float away on clouds of a fragrant bouquet garni, to a much simpler life, to that of a dream. And this, you too can achieve. Be it Provence or any other dream, you can live it, even if shortly by cooking its cuisine. My recipe below 'Ragoût de Pullet Provençal' is one that always evokes provence. Ragoût is french for stew or 'slowly cooked'. The recipe is a stew of chicken and provençal vegetables and herbs. I have an adoration for the french Baguette and would always choose to serve ragoût with a baguette. However, this stew can also be served with rice, a side of pasta or over mash.

Ragoût de Poullet Provençal - 
a tomato based stew of carrots, fennel, garlic and  onion, aromatised with fresh rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaf 

As ever, before jumping into the recipe, why not get to know
Provence is a vast region in South Eastern France, on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy.  It is the countryside of France, very well known for its picturesque landscape with hues of pastel colours touched with the soft light of its favourable climate. Lavender purples, poppy reds, sunflower yellows and olive greens are but a handful of the array of colours naturally painting its hilly terrain. The fragrant and beautiful Provence can stimulate the imagination and creativity in ways that no other region can, so much so that it has inspired the great works of writers and artists the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald to Van Gogh and Picasso, who regularly turned to Provence for inspiration. Provence was also home for the great French artist Paul Cézanne. To him, the region is resonant with memory and emotion, his grounding and home, which lead to him concentrating much of his extraordinary pictorial talents there - creating from that landscape some of the most remarkable and original images in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art.

Landscape Art of the Provence by Paul Cezanne 

The inspirational influence of the Provence region was not limited to arts and Literature, it has magnificently influenced French Cuisine, through its colourful gastronomy, which became known in Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Today, Provençal cooking continues to live on as an influential and undivided part of the French cuisine's heritage. It is also one of the world's most favourite cuisines. 
Painting of Provence Olive Trees and hilltop village
by French artist Jean-Marc 
Provençal cuisine is defined by the region's landscape and its generous offerings. In Provence, olive trees, fennel, sage, rosemary, thyme,  lavender, marjoram, bay laurel trees and garlic all grow naturally and are found in abundance. These races of produce are used in the region's cuisine as abundantly as they are found in its nature. Dishes a la Provençal are characterised by the presence of Tomato and lots of garlic and herbs amongst the other ingredients. The flavours of Provençal cooking are bold and robust, yet never heavy-handed. The ingredients are mixed together in a way to meld without any of them overpowering the other. Not even the use of lots and lots of garlic, which is characteristic of Provençal cooking, will make it stand out. It is truly a melting pot of flavours that are intermingled and balanced.

When it comes to the French specialty - Patisserie, then Provençal specialties include among others:
  • Biscuits, crisp cookies.
  • Calissons, a diamond-shaped sweet made with ground almond.
  • Bugnes,  sweet crispy pastry made out of dough that has been shaped into thin twisted ribbons, deep-fried and covered with icing sugar.
  • Pompe, a sweet cognate to focaccia. (part of the 13 desserts of Provençal Christmas, which are desserts made only on Christmas)
  • Souflee Cakes
  • Croissants with Pine Nuts....

More on  Provençal  Produce
Along the Mediterranean cost, anchovies are caught and usually cured with salt. this curing process not only preserves the anchovies, but also intensifies their flavour. Anchovies are strongly present in french country-side cooking. The Mediterranean cost also supplies a number of local fish and seafood. Found in the costal cuisine of Provence are trout, bleak, sea urchins, mussels, crabs, small cuttlefish, octopus, and small snails. Over there, people even have a snails festival, where the residents of a village get together on a late Sunday morning to savour snails in a variety of preparations.

When it comes to meats, the Provence is famous for its local Sisteron Lambs as well as goats for meats and from which they make a variety of local cheeses. The region is also famous for rabbit, which grows wild there. As for fruits and vegetables, the valleys of Rhone are the largest fruit and vegetable producing areas of France. There you will find abundance of apples, prunes, peaches, cherries, oranges, lemons and almonds, figs and of course grapes...etc.  One remarkable produce of this area is the truffle. Truffles are gathered in Tricastin (the main market: Carpentras). Another specialty produce is Lavender honey of vaucluse.
The Provence is also known for producing wines! Famous for Roses that pair well with the region's cuisine, while more and more Red wine varieties are being produced. Among the famous wines of the Provence are: Cotes de Provence, Coteaux d'Aix-en-provence, Cassis, Cinsaut, Grenache, Ugni Blanc, Semillon...etc.

Ragoût de Pullet Provençal
You Need
1 whole oven grilled chicken, pulled from the bone or 4 chicken breasts cooked and cut into thick chunks
1 cup reserved drippings from grilling the chicken or 1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 medium brown onions, finely chopped
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 packet new red potatoes, cut into chunks
4 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and sliced
500g tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped
500g tomatoes, peeled and juiced
2 -3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 spring fresh rosemary
1 spring fresh sage
salt & Black pepper to taste
Chives for garnish (optional)

In a large pot or casserole dish, heat the olive oil together with the finely chopped onion. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent but not browned. Add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, and fennel along with the herbs and stir to coat.

Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to mix. Let it cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate dish or large bowl, mix together the tomato paste and tomato juice, season and add the sugar. Add the drippings from grilling the chicken (if reserved any, if not use 1 cup chicken broth instead) stir all to mix. Pour over the stew vegetables and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Once the mixture boils, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 2 hours, or until the vegetables are very tender. Before serving, add chicken pieces and let simmer in stew for 20 minutes further.

Garnish with chopped chives and serve hot. For best results, dunk a baguette into the ragoût and taste the goodness!


I find no better way to conclude this post than with these words by John Burroughs, which speak my mind:   "To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life."

Thank you for dropping by, hope you have enjoyed reading about my loved Provence, and learning about my dream :) Come back soon for more....

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Borscht - A Hearty Beets Soup from the Ukraine

On the same note of new cuisine and family...
Blessed is a food enthusiast who is surrounded by other foodies. Here is the thing, when you are someone with lots of love for food, when you revel and are enthused by the mention of food, and when you like to stir up food conversations, you have got to be surrounded with people who share the same interests. That is how you thrive... Blessed I am for the foodies in my life, who eat and talk food with me, and who cook and delight my taste buds, not to forget who always provide a chance to push the boundaries.

Bashar, my husband's cousin, is one of the people whose food company I always enjoy. The man can paint the walls red when it comes to cooking. When he hosts a meal, you know you are in for some serious food. A couple of months ago, we had gathered up at theirs, and having lived in Russia for quite some years, on his menu was a Borscht. Borscht (pronounced Borsh) is a beetroot soup that originates from the (previously known as) Soviet Union, which had swept over Eastern Europe, moving on to central Europe then to America via the Eastern European immigrants. Each city had adopted the concept of Borscht, creating its own version of the hearty delicious deep red soup. I had tried beetroot soup before, but never was it good enough to recall. It never made it to my repertoire! However, when I tried Bashar's soup I immediately placed it in the revisit compartment. It was sour-sweetly delicious, with depth and heart to it, which at first hits your nose with a sweet aroma of earth, then fills your mouth with the savoury sweet tones of root vegetables... by all means a satisfying experience that I would want repeats of. I asked him for a container to take home for pictures for a blog post. Sadly the soup never made it to my pictures! Someone had it at home, and until now I am not sure whether its my hubbs or the nanny as none would admit to it!

Never mind the non-photo incident, and moving on, a couple of weeks after that gathering, I had gone for a quick visit back home. When my mum, knew I was coming, she arranged for a surprise cooking session for me! She wakes me up at 7: 30 am one morning, and says "wake up I have a surprise for you!". "It's 7:30 mum!!" I said barely awake... She insisted I wake up and that I will be happy I did. So rushing out of bed, and washing up, while she kept on calling me over to the kitchen, you can say I was a little less than excited and on the verge of upset to put it mildly! But boy, was I in for a treat!!

She had met a Ukrainian Lady  - in Jordan - who makes these amazing Russian pastries made out of fresh phyllo dough! Knowing I was visiting, mum had arranged for the lady to come over to ours to teach me how to make these fine and delicate pastries! You can say that, I was fully awake and ready once I knew it meant learning how to make fresh phyllo! How sweet are mums? I was super excited to actually learn how to make fresh phyllo dough, because I had tried making it before and, well you can say, it was a relative of phyllo but not exactly a close one!! I will dedicate a post for that session and tell you all about how it went. As for this post... Knowing she is Ukrainian, I had to ask her about Borscht, and the sweet lady gave me a run down of the history and regional differences! And it goes as follows:

Borscht, is a soup of Ukranian origin, which became very famous all over Eastern and central Europe. In this soup, beetroot is the star of the show. Beets are a primary vegetable used in those areas during the cold months of winter. The story of Borscht began, when people would keep trimmings of root vegetables - mainly beets - in a large pot, that when full they would cook in beef broth and serve as soup. It was therefore known to be a poor man's soup, at first, but then moved up in rank to make it into a star soup in every city. Different cities created different versions of this soup, however the original Ukranian preparation uses beats as a base, and add starchy root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, together with chopped celery, tomatoes and mushrooms; all cooked in beef broth. The Russian borscht is made out of beets, cabbages and potatoes, the Polish version includes tomatoes and tomato paste, while the Romanian Borscht is based on the use of fermented wheat. Whichever version you choose to make, a key component of all Borscht soups is acidity, usually coming from the use of red wine vinegar or the use of lemon. Another staple ingredient is a dollop of sour cream on top.

Borscht is served in 2 variations...
  • Hot Borscht - the more famous version. Served as a hearty soup that can be served as a main, especially when bacon or meat are used in making it. But usually served as an appetiser with a side of dark bread such as pumpernickel. 
  • Cold Borscht (Chlondik) - famous in Belarusian, Polish and Ukrainian cuisines, and is a relative of Gazpacho, or the Hungarian Cold Tomato Soup...etc. Once the Borscht is cooked, it is cooled, then mixed with sour cream or yoghurt, which turns it into a pinkish hue. Chopped hard booiled eggs are then mixed into it and it is finally garnished with dill or parsley. This version makes for a unique cold soup or shooter aperitif for a cocktail party

Ukrainian Borscht 
Serves 4 Appetiser portions
You Need

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 liter Beef Broth (for vegetarian version you can use vegetable broth instead)
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
3 large beetroots, peeled and cubed or sliced
1 cup diced peeled carrots
1 cup diced celery stalks
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms
1 tbsp red wine vinegar, or juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & Black pepper to taste
4 tbsp Sour cream or low fat yoghurt
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
fresh dill springs

Place oil and chopped onions in a Medium pot over high heat. Saute the onions until translucent but not browned. Add the broth, seasoning and cubed potatoes, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered for 4 minutes then add the diced carrots and continue simmering until the vegetables are are tender (about 10 minutes).

Add the rest of the vegetables together with the vinegar and bring back to a boil, reduce heat to medium until all the vegetables are cooked through, potatoes are very soft and the liquid is a rich dark red colour. Serve hot with a dollop of prepared sour cream or yoghurt on top, then garnish with fresh finely chopped parsley and springs of dill. Best Served with dark bread on the side.

For the Prepared sour cream or yoghurt
Mix sour cream or yoghurt with a tbsp of finely chopped fresh parsley. Season with black pepper. Use to garnish top of soup.

Did you know
Beets have been first classified by Aristotle, and were described to have grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and that the Greeks used to offer them to the Sun God Apollo as they were believed to be magical vegetables with healing properties?  The ancient times knew what modern science had come to prove: 

Beetroot is one of nature's most amazing productions. Its rich red colour, makes it a great ingredient to use to add colour to your plates and make them more appealing to the eye. Beets are naturally sweet, which makes them fabulous for both savoury and sweet concoctions. They offer earthy tones, and are naturally hearty with a suggestion of warmth. They belong to the superfoods category as they are full of anti oxidants that tremendously aid your liver and prevent liver disease, as well as being a natural fighter against the fomation of cancer cells or mutations of healthy cells. Beets are proven to help reduce the risk of contracting colone and digestive tract cancer. Most importantly beets are a rich source of folate, which prevents umbrio deformations and is therefore great food to consume while pregnant... So make sure to eat beets, especially now, that they are in season.
Thank you for dropping by, hope you have enjoyed this post, come back soon for more :)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Armenian Manti and A Quickie In Beirut!

What better way to welcome a new year than with a spontaneous vacation and a quick trip out of town? My 2012 kicked off with a trip to Beirut, where we got together with family, celebrated my brother in law's engagement and got to meet new people while catching up with old friends :) I take it as a good start for a new year, and hopefully an extended tone of happy times and friendships throughout the year.

Beirut - Lebanon, to me,  is a city reminiscent of old times. Times at which people lived simple and happy. Times of food, music and dance, through which the Lebanese express a love for life. In every bite, tone and move there is a reflection of love, social belonging, a belief, or even a political or ideological view on life. It is refreshing to be in an Arab city where people are so opinionated and expressive. From the youngest to the oldest, they would all sit in the same restaurant, bar or cafe and would not refrain from sharing their most inner views of society, politics and world affairs. Very evocative of the 70's Paris and its intellectual cafes. Beirut is, in that sense, beautiful! The Lebanese are very positively engaged people who believe strongly, and live fully. A virtue that seems to have gotten lost in the bubble of passive modern living, in which we seem to be continuously racing on that treadmill marathon of cash collection and daily chores. Beirut has managed to keep the spirit alive, and to keep its people very much existent and active.

The bustling streets of the humble Hamra area are vivacious and full of energy. You are instantly put in a lively mood, once on Hamra streets. As you step out, you are greeted with cars honking and breaks squeaking, while being repeatedly invited to ride a taxi from the 1930's. Coming from the city of air conditioned cars and elevators, escalators and in-mall taxi rides, I just wanted to walk, in the crisp fresh air, down the streets of a past that seems so near. "No thank you" I said, and watched them smile and move on to the next pedestrian in line. Very basic, but with much soul, it is simple life!

When it comes to food, Lebanon is way too known for good food than a small blog intro would do justice for. Lebanese cuisine is famous the world over! So much so that most Arabic and Middle Eastern cuisine offerings are referred to as Lebanese food, even if they originally sprung out of other countries and regions! The dining experience in Lebanon is superb. With many offerings and restaurants to choose from, all of which are exquisite, you are never short on good food while there.  (I have put a list of "must try places" at the bottom of this post for you to check out). However, and back to Hamra; right at the corner of every turn is another snug neighbourhood pub that makes you want to tuck in for long hours of Jazz and Blues amongst the multi-layered tunes of Oriental Jazz. One very favourite pub of mine is Artur's Regusto, in Hamra square. A small Gastro-pub that serves up a storm of phenomenal Armenian food. It is very strange that Dubai has no Armenian Restaurants!! Or has it? Do you know of one here? I have not been across any Armenian Food in Dubai, which is strange really, as Armenian cuisine is ultimately Divine! From Sujuk (Armenian Sausages) to Pastrami (Armenian Bustarma, which is a prep of highly spiced cured or air dried raw beef), to Fakhara Manti, and everything else in between, Armenian food is a generous serving of goodness. Armenians are not shy about using spices in their food, which makes their cuisine's offerings rich and highly flavoursome. Artur has delighted my taste buds with his Armenian delights and was actually my introduction to that cuisine, of which I have become a huge fan. I have tried many Armenian restaurants throughout the years, which were great, but I remain a loyal fan of Regusto's, and always go there when in Beirut. The atmosphere of the place is very warm and cosy, it feels like you are amongst family. There is always interesting Jazz music in the background, and intriguing chats and comments, except for the days when a football or basketball match is on, where it becomes very sportively charged. I could spend the whole night there.

Since a new year intrinsically suggests beginnings and all things new, I have chosen to start the year with a recipe from a new cuisine to my blog. I have not before posted any Armenian cuisine recipe, and will start with the famous and utterly delicious Armenian Manti (when in Lebanon, make sure to visit Regusto and order their Manti: to die for!).

Regusto Gastro Pub- Hamra/Beirut
Manti is a concoction of small dough parcels, traditionally filled with ground lamb meat. The dough parcels are made from basic pasta like dough. The meat is traditionally enclosed by the dough parcels, however, modern preparation would keep the top open, revealing a bit of the filling. Once filled, the parcels are baked in a moderate oven till browned, then topped with tomato sauce and cooked till liquid is almost fully absorbed (a little bit of the sauce will remain and become thickened). It is then transferred to a serving dish, and topped with a minted yoghurt sauce, and sprinkled with Summac. With that said, I find that the parcels get quite wet with this method of cooking. Regusto's way of offering these makes more sense to me, as they chose to bake the parcels and serve the tomato and yoghurt sauces on the side instead. The result is remarkable! As you would still get a crunch from the manti instead of a soft bite, which to me enhances the texture tremendously.

In my recipe of Manti, I want to serve a twist to the traditional. I went with an Armenian Sujuk filling (Armenian sausages), instead of the traditional lamb filling, and chose to serve it the Regusto way: sauces and spices on the side. It turned out fabulous, and definitely one that I will be making lots of. In addition to making Manti, I have used the Sujuk filling in making actual encased Sujuk, and have also used it in making Sujuk Patties for a twist on a beef burger. The sujuk filling can also be cooked and used to top Hummus instead of Awerma or minced meet. Whichever way you decide to go, this is a recipe worth having, and one that is versatile and best loved.
Here is how I made it.....

Manti Made with Armenian Sujuk Filling
For Sujuk Filling
You Need
250g ground beef (15% fat)
250g ground lamb (15% fat)
2 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper (red chili powder)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt

For making Manti Dough
You Need
3 1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp butter, melted

For Tomato Sauce
You Need
300 ml Chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 small can tomato paste (4tbsp)
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup red wine or 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt & Black pepper to taste

For Yoghurt Sauce
You Need
Dried mint to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups plain yoghurt

Start by making the Sujuk Filling, a day before. mix together all the Sujuk Filling ingredients, and make sure it has all been incorporated well together. Cover with nylon and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours, in order for the flavours to develop.

The next day, make the dough. In a large bowl mix together, by hand, the flour, eggs, water and seasoning until the mixture forms a dough. Grease your hands with the melted butter and start kneading the dough until it becomes very smooth. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and form a ball out of each piece. Place each in a separate bowl and wrap with nylon wrap. Let the dough rest for 1-2 hours.

When the dough has rested, Roll it out (one ball at a time), on a lightly floured surface, into 1/8 inch thick. You can use a rolling pin to roll or you can roll the dough using a pasta roller. Cut the rolled dough into squares of the desired size (I like to make small manti pieces - 1 inch, but feel free to make them bigger). You can either cut using a ruler and a knife or using a cookie cutter - whatever is available. Fill the centre of each square with a small amount of filling, or the 1 inch size a small dessert spoon full would do. Then brush the sides of the dough with egg-wash and  pinch up the corners together to close, leaving the centre revealed as in the picture above. Repeat, until all the quantity is used.

Pasta Roller

Grease the bottom of a shallow, preferrably earthware (Fukhar) baking pan, or any shallow baking pan and place the pieces of Manti closely together in a single layer. Bake the Manti in a preheated (350F) oven for 20-30 minutes or until browned.

Meanwhile, Make the tomato sauce by sweating the chopped onions, and crushed garlic in the hot oil until translucent and not browned. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 5 minutes, season and cook stirring for 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, tomato paste and red wine and stir to incorporate, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by half.

Make the Minted yoghurt sauce, by heating up the chicken broth and yoghurt, without boiling (boiling will cause the yoghurt to split and curdle. the idea is just to heat it up slightly. Mix in the dried mint and season.

When the Manti is finished, arrange on a serving platter. Place finished tomato sauce in a bowl or mini pan, sprinkle the tops with chopped parsley and place next to the Manti. Place the minted yoghurt sauce in another mini pan or bowl next to the Manti, and then in 3 separate mini plates place summac in one and all spice in another and zaatar in one. Place these small plates of spices on the table next to the Manti & Sauces for guests to help themselves if desired.

Serve hot. Worth every bit of effort!!

PS Another place I have been to this time around and totally recommend, The Loge in Gemmayze! Amazing night out with a hustle and a bustle! An assortment of performers, and a colourful menu of music and flat out wild night out! I don't know if we were lucky, but if the place is usually like the night we spent there, then it is worth queuing for.

Must-Try Food & Drink Stuff in Lebanon

  • Regusto- Hamra Square
  • Al Mayass - Armenian Restaurant
  • Eau De Vie - Intercontinental Cuisine, and lounge/bar Phoenicia Hotel
  • Al Sayyad - Lebanese Seafood
  • Ferdinand - Pub in Hamra
  • Hamra Cafe for salads, shisha, snacks and coffee
Armenian Food is a must try when in Beirut

The following options are inspired by my brother in law and his lovely fiance, who are residents of the amazing city and know it best. Description in their own words:
  • "La Parrilla" an Argentinian steak house in Gemmayzeh. It is very up scale dinning, soft music and setting. Amazing steak with wonderful sides. 
  • "Regusto" an Arminian restaurant/pub on hamra street. You may know it as arthur. it's a very very casual place with great drinks and must try doo doo shots. The basterma is the best as is his Manti. 
  • Chili's" in Gemmayze. I know it's a chain, but they have the best strawberry margaritas in town and so far no one has beaten their fajitas. 
  • "Abdel Wahab" Mono street, for Lebanese food. It's a very nice atmosphere with great service and food. 
  • "Shalouf" it's in Jezzine. It has the best food around! A must-try is their kibeh balls :) That's what I call them. They are kibeh in a dome shape, with stuffing of kibeh and labneh. Everything is made from Jezzine locally and tastes wonderful!!! 
  • "Al Azrak" in Jbeil. Has the best seafood around!!! Try everything grilled or fried. They also have great specialty drinks :) 
  • "Charlie's Hotdog" Bliss Street. If you want something to eat right after you finish clubbing, grab a hot dog from a stand. It's great! Try it with cheese and chips!! 
  • "Sahyoun Falafel" Downtown. if you are looking for the best falafel sandwich go to sahyoun!! One, because it tastes amazing. Two, because it's a very old place that kept it's standards up and three, because it's fun to watch them make the sandwiches...if you are in Hamra and want a good falafel sandwich Barber is pretty decent.
Have you been to any of the restaurants above? Do you have any more restaurants that you would add to the list? Please leave a comment and share your favourite Beirut/Lebanon spots with the readers, am sure they would love to try them out :))

Welcome 2012, a year I am dedicating to good food :)