Last weekend I headed over to St. Raymond's Catholic church in St. Louis to reunite with a friend from highschool, and to pig out on some yummy Lebanese cuisine. They were having a homecoming celebration, so there was music and grilling outside, and inside a banquet center filled with people eating and laughing and playing games/raffles. It was cafeteria style, so I grabbed a tray and went through the line picking out my lunch. Which ended up being huge, because I wanted to try everything. Here's the menu, although not all of that was available...anything with Spinach had been nixed :( :
But I still ended up with quite a tummy-full:
I had the lentils & rice, with a dollop of Leban on it. Leban is kind of a yogurt/sour cream mix...a tangy, creamy addition to all the dishes. I also had the Kibbe Aras, or Foot Ball, which consists of a ground beef and wheat mixture that's formed into a hollow football shapes, filled with more ground beef and deep fried. Then there's the meat pie, a yummy chewy crust with yet more ground beef. There was lemon in it so it had a nice tangyness. And finally a cabbage roll. Whew!
But...there's more. Debbie (my friend, who helped prepare all the food, and does so every Wednesday) thought I'd like to try the Kibbe Nayee, which is the meat/wheat mixture that the football is made from, except it's left raw...kind of like a steak tar tar. We tore off pieces of flat bread and used it to scoop up the raw meat. It was really yummy. I liked it better than the deep fried version, although that was delish as well. Here's me digging in:
Then we went outside, where they were making Lebanese flat bread, called saj bread. It's pretty neat to watch, they cook it on a big dome shaped stove, called a saj, like this:
(Not my photo BTW-found via google image)
Outside there was more food! Falafel, an all time favorite of mine, Kafta, a ground beef and parsley mixture that's wrapped around a skewer and grilled, and some grilled chicken, which Debbie informed me was flavored with ketchup and some other things. I had a sample of all of it:
It was all, of course, fantastic. I was so stuffed by the end of it. But Debbie and her mom wouldn't let me leave without taking some desserts home:
Every city has these cultural festivities that are open to the public. I admit I am guilty of not taking advantage of these rich learning experiences. I will definitely keep my eye out for such things from now on. It was such a warm, friendly atmosphere. People expressing pride in their heritage and culture and food. This was especially neat to see because of the events happening in Lebanon. I can't claim to have kept up with everything, but the episode of No Reservations from Beirut was so heartbreaking. Luckily, the culture and food and spirit of Lebanon is being kept alive all over the world by churches, restaurants, neighborhoods, families and festivities.