Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dates

While dining on sushi delivery (one of the wonders of living in Brooklyn) a few weeks ago Alex and I hatched the idea that we needed to try more new restaurants. Oddly, in Minnesota, we hardly ever repeated a place, but in NYC, sometimes the ridiculous number of options just kind of make us lean to the familiar neighborhood places. I mean, when the local pizza joint is good enough for Jay-z and Beyonce, I think that works for me.

Anyhow, it's no secret I'm a travel addict and love exploring new food in new lands. Since I can't always be getting my passport stamped, at least right now, we decided it would be fun to see how many different country cuisines we could sample right in our own backyard, and there's no better place to try then New York!

Thus, the Around the World in 80 Dates challenge was born. The rules are the following:

1. The restaurant must be country specific, no "asian fusion", etc. allowed.
2. At least one of us has to try something we've never heard of before.
3. It has to be a date, no take out. :-)
4. I will attempt to re-create at least one of the new dishes the following week at home.

Our first stop: Lebanon!

Alex: How did we pick Lebanon? Why, what better place to start than with the cradle of civilization itself? Wait, that's Mesopotamia, which technically is in Iraq. Where's Lebanon again? Oh: it's west of Syria and North of Israel. Still confused? If you look at your right hand palm facing up, and that represents the state of Wisconsin, then Lebanon is the equivalent of . . . some other body part. Either way, Lebanon is really more the tricyle or PowerWheels of civilization anyway.

But mostly we started with Lebanon because there is an authentic Lebanese restaurant named Tripoli a few blocks from our apartment that we'd been eying for awhile, so we spontaneously decided (after realizing that we didn't want to walk too far or drive anywhere) that that would be our first stop.

Nicki: Tripoli did not disappoint. Of course, like a moron I didn't have my camera with me for our first adventure, but oh well, I still want to count it! The inside of the restaurant is a little quirky, with kitschy sea murals and is decorated kind of like an old ship. The service was a bit slow but the food was delicious. In the spirit of trying something new and being authentic, we went with the Lebanese Traditional Maza, which then made me extra sad I didn't have a camera. It was quite a sight! The maza is a collection of 20 (!!!) different small plates, similar to Spanish tapas. It covered our entire table! I was pretty sure it would be too much, but then once we dug in it ended up being the perfect amount of food for the two of us, and a super fun dining experience to boot!
We enjoyed all of the plates, with the exception of one, olives. Try as both Alex and I might, neither of us can acquire a taste for them. Sorry mom :-(

For the at home version, I decided on three things, kibbeh, hummus, and tabouli salad. The kibbeh, or , kibbee mishwiye (I found lots of different spellings) was one of the more interesting things we tried, sort of a baked meat pastry. I couldn't find a recipe for exactly what we had tried, but something semi similar.

I apologize, I realize this is not super photogenic. But, it was REALLY tasty!

I used this recipe from All Recipes scaled back for 1 pound of ground meat with a little less salt. We used ground beef from the farmers market rather then ground lamb, as that's what I normally buy and was in the freezer. Otherwise, I followed the recipe, but baked it instead of fried.

I was a little worried about how this would turn out, but was surprisingly pleased! It was really easy and came together quickly, and, tasted really delicious! It wasn't as crispy as what we'd had in the restaurant, but close enough!

For the tabouli salad, I very roughly followed this recipe from Daily Unadventures in cooking, no green pepper and no scallions, but otherwise, more or less tossed the ingriedients together. Super easy, super yummy, and it even kept well for leftovers!


Finally, I whipped up my first ever batch of homemade hummus. Who knew this stuff was so easy?? Awesome, will be making this again. Light and fluffy and all around fantastic.

Lebanon success!


Stay tuned for the next adventure!

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