For 3 days, it was all about food & chocolate in Beirut! The 4th edition of “Beirut Cooking Festival”, held at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure center, BIEL, looked more like heaven for any Gourmet in town – and even for the gourmands, and the reason? The first “Salon du Chocolat”, the world renowned salon, finally arrived to Beirut as part of this festival!
The chocolate fashion show
Dresses from the Chocolate fashion show – credits to Atyab Tabkha Facebook page
The inauguration was with “The magic of chocolate”, a sweet fashion show, where 11 Lebanese designers collaborated with top pastry Chefs and chocolatiers in town to present 11 exceptional dresses. Some were fully made of chocolate while others mixed it with some other fabrics. Personally, I loved two of them, the first one designed by Saro Jacques and executed by Chef Chady Karam from Chocolatine, and the second one was Tony ward’s collaboration with the famous Charles Azar, executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel.
The live demos
After the show started a long journey of cooking & chocolate making demos, where foodies and excited housewives gathered for 3 days to learn how to prepare some recipes and get in direct contact with the chefs. From Alexis Couquelet’s famous “confit de canard” – duck confit, to George El Kik mouthwatering “Turkey à l’Américaine”, you could see all the attendees interacting with the Chefs, taking notes, asking about where to find a certain product or if another healthier fat could be used…
I’ll be posting later the recipes from the demos that I attended in the upcoming posts.
The Salon du Chocolat
Now back to the stands, let’s start with the Salon du chocolat. I loved the all-edible chocolate Christmas tree at the Sofil catering stand, but the truffles didn’t really appeal to me. (I did not try them).
All-edible Chocolate Christmas trees at Sofil Catering stand
I fell in love with 4 chocolatiers:
This chocolate house was really famous when I was a child. It was considered amongst the top chocolateries in town, and then I didn’t hear of them for like 10 years. It was a pleasure for me discovering that they are still operating in Beirut, selling some of the best classical chocolate. I loved the 4 pieces of hazelnuts completely covered with chocolate, as well as the small chocolate discs decorated with walnuts. A delish.
They were selling some nicely wrapped chocolate boxes, for the very affordable price of 26$, which makes it an excellent choice for a gift, whether you are invited to a dinner or if you are visiting a friend in hospital.
There were also some “Nougatella” jars displayed – 20000LL per piece, the house’s own version of the chocolate spread. I resisted the temptation of getting it for 3 days, just because I know I need to lose weight. I’ll be trying this after Christmas, I am sure of that.
- M de Noir:
Why not try some exquisite mint chocolate at M de Noir stand? I am not a usual fan of this combination, but believe me, they are just worth it! Recently honored with the “L’espoir Etranger” award at the “Salon du Chocolat”, Maya Maalouf Kanaan, owner and chocolatier, offers delicious creations to please everyone: chocolate balls with a small toy inside for the small ones, marshmallows prepared with fruits, lollipops prepared with milk and “brun” chocolate… in addition to some “baguettes” and “rochers” for the older ones.
This chocolaterie was featuring some wedding and Christmas collections. Chocolate lollipops, biscuits dipped in chocolate, macarons… I loved the chocolates I tried there: two pieces of milk chocolate with different toppings.
But I really have a question. Why do people invest much in the ornaments for their chocolate wrappings, while everyone will just want to get rid of them… My personal advice: always opt for bigger piece of chocolate, with a nice simple wrap – even nylon works when the chocolate is decorated itself! – And then you can choose all the decorations you want for your trays!
- Arisons | Truffle – Chocolate Maker
From what I understood – and I might be totally wrong, these are 2 different places. The first one is a chocolaterie, and the second one only does truffles.
I only tried one piece of milk chocolate flavored with orange, and it was really awesome. My sister tried another kind, covered with French crepes bites, and she loved it as well. This chocolaterie is definitely on my must-visit list.
The food stands
The delicacies at the Jaber & Jaber stand: mini goat labneh covered with rosemary, chili, mint or thyme, sundried tomatoes, grape leaves stuffed with labneh…
As for the Beirut Cooking Festival’s stands, I only have one favorite: the Jaber Jaber dairy company. I have to confess that the “Bekaai” so cherished accent of the owners might have influenced my choice, but it was much more than that: the delicious goat labneh mini-balls rolled in rosemary, mint, chili and thyme, the grape leaves stuffed with labneh, the capriccio cheese – that I fell in love with last year – but preserved in oil and chili slices this time, the sundried tomatoes… the smoked cheese, the assortment of Majdoule, Nabulsi and other white cheeses… And it was not only the food, but the generosity of the exhibitors, their proudly smiling faces, and their insistence on everyone to try all the products… without mentioning the happy crowd gathering around the food, that left this very pleasing impression. I left with jars of pickled cheese and grape leaves, and promised myself to pay them a visit in Chtaura in my next trip to Bekaa.
I also got some truffle olive oil and sundried tomatoes and olives tapenade from “House of Zejd” specialized in olives and all their derivative products.
One thing was missing though: the interaction created at the Maggi and Nestle stands of the 3rd edition of the festival, with the live all-time cooking and baking.
The chocolate fountain, at the Lurpak stand
- The atmosphere was really positive in the festival.
- The foodies and housewives showed a lot of enthusiasm for taking part in the festival and its activities.
- The cakes at the stand of cakes & cookies were really exceptional and especially the wedding dresses themed ones, adding a “grandiose” aspect to the salon.
- All the chocolate gave the festival a delicacy and fineness touch.
- The cooking & choco demos were exceptional. I just wish the all the recipes were written with their step-by-step cooking method.
- The new disposition of stages and chairs allow a bigger number of people taking part in the demos, compared to last year. Bravo.
- The increasing number of stands featuring diet sweets and centers – even if I am not a big fan of them, helps in raising awareness around the main health challenges.
- The instagram manager was doing a good job, liking and commenting on all the pictures posted from the event… even though I believe he/she should have answered my negative feedback as well.
All kinds of traditional pickles and preserved foods at “Ma’koul al Hana”, a home-based business
- Come on! You can’t have some ladies watching a celebrity chef cooking and not expect them to draw near and try to see what’s happening in the pot!
- In the era of Instagram and Facebook, you don’t let people take pictures of the dishes that the chefs are cooking? Seriously guys? And with all the rude girls wearing the USEK shirts and preventing even the media from taking some nice shots?
Now let’s get this straight. When you invite media people, you are expecting them to write a nice coverage about your event. Be mean to them and they won’t even mention it!
And one small advice: The Lebanese market is known, even for the biggest brands, to be completely depending on the “word of mouth” factor. And what’s better than Social Media to help you promote the event? So again, no, you should not be rude to anyone trying to take a nice picture to publish it on Instagram, but you should be thanking them!
- When you promise – on the first day – that you will send the press kit by email on the same night, you just have to do it. I still did not receive it yet by the way.
- I personally think that brands should be investing in some samples to offer to the exhibition’s visitors, or that they should at least have some exclusive offers and promotions. Nothing would make me buy the new Lurpak products from there, if they tell me they are available, for the same price, in all big supermarkets.
- A small message to some exhibitors: you can’t have people who don’t fully understand the Arabic language at your stands, and if you are launching a new product, any one selling it should be able to answer all the basic questions related to your new innovative product!
- The host of the cooking & choco demos should not be there to intimidate people or make them feel uncomfortable.
- In a cooking demo, I personally think that a chef should only use products that are available in the market. In the end, you are cooking for an audience that is expecting to be able to do the same dish at home, so you can’t just tell them that this product is not available locally, and that you import it, without mentioning any other product that can be used as a substitute.