Dining Out Magazine

Horeca 2014: It Only Gets Better, Year After Year

By Nogarlicnoonions @nogarlicnoonion

Every year, and despite the hard economic situation Lebanon is passing through, Horeca, the annual food and hospitality gathering, manages to gather a huge number of exhibitors and visitors. This year, I’ve visited Horeca for two consecutive days and enjoyed discovered all the stands, products and exhibitors which are elevating this food sector to higher levels.

On the first day, I was welcomed by the Hospitality Team, who took me immediately to the US Aid stand. The US Aid mission in Lebanon is to help producers from the villages, such as farmers, sell their products by creating cooperatives in different sectors.

The USAID funded the Lebanon Industry Value Chain Project – LIVCP. The Value Chain Project aims to improve Lebanon’s economic stability and provide opportunities for women and youth in rural areas across Lebanon. LIVCP works in several sectors: grapes, olive oil, apples, pears, processed foods, rural tourism, cherries, avocados, and the producers of a ‘Rural Basket’ which includes honey, thyme, and free range eggs.

The project’s initiatives tackle different levels of these value chains, for instance production, processing, and marketing. It aims to increase the competitiveness of selected value chains, expand the number of micro, small and medium enterprises that can compete in selected markets, improve the market and business linkages between those firms and other actors throughout the value chain, increase the gross value of products and services in local and export markets, and expand exports.

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The Tasting Starter Included

  • Meat-free Kebbewith laktine, hommos and spinach and laktine with jozz
  • Honey with nuts
  • Traditional frikeh served warm that had light feel full of taste and an interesting crunch of the cashew nuts
  • Manakish and manakish with tomatoes

Samira Zgheib, who was discreetly watching the tasting, offered me some dried fruits (khokh, bosphere and apples) with no added sugar whatsoever. She believes, and she’s right, that those healthy fruit bites can substitute candies especially for children. No sugar, no artificial flavoring but simply real Lebanese fruits found in the village.

Wafaa Jammal, occupying the stand next to Mrs. Samira was showing her produces of dried almonds, crunchy grilled wheat and dried raisins. All were were tasty, fresh and authentic. I hope that the US Aid project will help those passionate producers reach the largest number of consumer and I’ll make sure to help as much as I can.

After that, I was invited, with three other food writers, to the Salon Culinaire competition where three plates were presented by local amateur chefs. The rules were simple, recreate a local plate with a touch of finesse and supreme know how to make a first class creation.

  • Arnabiyeh: I decided to start by trying the sauce and understand where its yellow color came from. The arnabiyeh sauce had a good consistency, a great flavor and was served warm. On top was a rectangular shaped borghol wheat block, mixed with green peas, carrot cubes, and red pepper dices. The borghol was a bit overcooked and watery. Together the flavors were too many and too complicated and consistency was the not the best.
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  • Risotto of Frikeh and a lamb rack: Decorated with baklava puff pastry bread a few carrots and half an onion, the frikeh was very good, with interesting textures and pleasant flavors of wheat that crunched in style. Following that was a juicy lamb roll with a symphony of color and hindbeh. I mostly loved the outer fat layer that had a certain juiciness that adds the needed finesse to the plate and four foul beans added color.

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  • Breakfast for lunch: This plate was 100% a Lebanese creation. The chef wanted to create a dish out of ingredients associated with breakfast, to make something you can enjoy all day long: kechek, fava beans, thyme and lamb. A rich and super strong kechek sauce filled with an overdose of garlic, pine nuts and thyme flavor, the dish was fantastic. After that came the meat roll, filled with wild thyme. Ground meat, tender and juicy with a sweet aftertaste erupting in style while the thyme added to the strength of the overall flavor. Fava beans, well seasoned and strongly peppered blended well with the mix. Sauce, beans and meat… All perfect and tasty. I felt Lebanon in a plate. To make it perfect, I’d remove some of the garlic; it overpowered the rest, shaking the equilibrium of the plate.

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Afterwards we sat at a round table with the chefs and the judges to discuss the different plates. Samaan Hilal, Greg Maalouf and Yasser Jad, three famous chefs, gave us their opinion about those three dishes and chose the second plate, the Risotto which highlighted the professionalism put into creating it.

The exhibition was big, time was running out and I’d only discovered the tip of the iceberg. Walking around, I was happy to meet the people behind Captain Cook Resto, try a dark chocolate ice cream without sugar or milk at Shockolat gelato, find a company that produces perfect food replicas as well as plunging deeper into Lebanon’s latest wineries, which have reached a record number of almost 50 producers in the last ten years or so.

For more info about the exhibitors and program of Horeca 2014, you can check their website or watch their short video while we eagerly wait for next year’s edition.

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