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Eating Lebanon: The Adventures of Chef Chad Houser, Randy Potts, and Chef Kamal Mouzawak

Parigi chef Chad Houser cooks in Lebanon.

Writer Randy Potts accompanied Parigi chef Chad Houser to Beruit to meet and eat with Kamal Mouzawak, who owns the restaurant Tawlet and  is referred to as the Alice Waters of the Middle East. For the past week, the threesome has been touring the area and scouting organic farms, artisan bakeries, and markets. You can read their previous reports here, here, here, and here. Earlier this morning, Potts filed this final report:

Wrapping up

After spending ten days in Lebanon visiting organic farms, wineries, and taking in the sites, Chad was ready to cook at Tawlet.  His menu included twelve dishes, all Texas-style comfort food sourced from local seasonal, local, organic produce. Local as in Lebanon.

Number one on the list was Houser’s favorite, Ninny’s salad, named after his mother – okra sliced thin on the bias, soaked in buttermilk, lightly battered, lightly fried and chilled, then tossed with tomatoes, scallions, and a light vinaigrette . There was no organic okra so Houser make do with green-chili cornbread, little lamb sausages dressed up as Lebanese-style corny dogs, beef tenderloin crusted with coffee and garnished with a loquat relish.  Houser spent all of the preceding day prepping, and on the day of the event he, for the first time, let me help in the kitchen.

Details below.

Fresh loquats are everywhere in Beirut this time of year, sold on every street corner.

The meal was a success. Most people went back for 2, 3, or even 4 helpings. The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon showed up, as did most of the friends we’d made in the previous week and a half.  Kamal praised the corny dogs especially, noting those particular Lebanese sausages had never tasted so good. That night, Kamal and Chad discussed the ins and outs of running a restaurant that attempts to use local organic produce and they both found a lot of the same troubling issues are true in both Lebanon and Texas.

Much more to say about the little market and accompanying restaurant that is re-shaping food politics in Lebanon, Kamal Mouzawak and his team, and the producers we met along the way, but we are traveling in London today where we will meet up with friends and debrief a bit before coming home. The Royal Wedding hysteria is crazy.  Luckily we leave before all the nuptials.  Can’t wait to get back to Dallas if only for my regular routine of hot showers and speaking English.