December 29, 2013 Lebanon Middle East

Christmas Dinner at My In-Laws: The 2013's Grand Finale Meal

This year is coming to an end and I remember, that on the same day in 2012, -when the website was only few months old- I decided to write about the only "dinner at home" experience, an exquisite dinner prepared by my beloved mother -in-law, Nada. And now, a whole year later, I am back with the only home cooked meal review, again; Christmas dinner at my in-laws.

Christmas_Mother_in_law_NoGarlicNoOnions67 Before getting into the details of this festive dinner, I would like to take a moment to express how overwhelmed I feel this year. Thanks to your trust and continuous support, NoGarlicNoOnions won "The best food blog in Lebanon" award as well as "The best blog about Beirut". Let's talk some numbers. NGNO has to date, 2,200 food related articles while in 2013, I have personally visited: 300 restaurants, discovered 40 street foods, tasted and got amazed with 90 tasty discoveries, wrote 200 travel reviews by discovering 8 new countries while staying at 30 different hotels... The list is long and all available on the website. I really can't thank you enough for making NGNO your favorite Food-Restaurants-Hotels-Travel reference that offers today a wide range of categories some of which are News, Reviews, Tasty Discoveries, Street Food and Gadgets, each represented in a different color. More than 300,000 miles of traveling and discovering and sharing my experiences with every one, this has been a great year that prepares me further for 2014. To end all the amazing meals I've tried all year round, Christmas dinner at my in-laws must have been the best.

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Christmas Eve is the most important and sumptuous dinner celebration which people from all over the world waits for. Families gather around one of the richest, heaviest and most expensive tables to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Dishes include Turkey, Foie Gras, salmon, variety of cheese, pâté, Buche de Noel and so much more – the possibilities and different tradition out there are endless. In Lebanon, a réveillon is a long dinner held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The name of this dinner is derived from the word réveil (meaning “waking”), because the tradition involves staying up until after midnight.

For the second time – although I am often asked to do it every time I’m invited to  home dinner - I decided to review a home feast. Not any feast but “The Feast" - My mother-in-law’s super Christmas dinner.

We arrived at eight o’clock to discover the amazing colorful setup from Les Maitres Du Desordre. A mix of red, green, yellow, pink and gold and more, accompanies you all around the place starting from the entrance, to the living room, dining room… The dinning table was mastered to perfection with details that will tickle your senses with anticipation, preparing you for the best dinner of the year – silver cutlery, porcelain plates, silk table napkins, thin crystal wine glasses in colors and much more… The perfect Christmas set up was accompanied with festive tunes filling the air with the season’s spirit. On the menu tonight:

  • Smoked Salmon: A fillet, cured and hot smoked and served in two different ways: Thin slices and other Barbecue style. A thick non-oily, high-end fish imported from Scotland. Lemon slices and capers are enough to accompany this fine dish

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  • Pâté au Poivre Vert: A mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste
  • Terrine aux Noisettes, served with mustard
  • Foie Gras: This is one of the best in town which I had ordered from Prune. Prune bistro serves Foie Gras like no other and I managed to buy some for this special dinner

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  • Green Salad including endives, lettuce, iceberg and cucumber next to the signature homemade sauce I call “The yellow sauce”; simple yet unique in taste, it includes mustard, mayonnaise, lemon and olive oil with some seasoning
  • Delicatessen Cold Cuts: Different kinds of salami and smoked ham. Smoked ham, Salami Poivre Blanc, Salami parmesan, Italian mortadella

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  • Warm crunchy bread provided by Sophie de France
  • Six kinds of rustic French cheese: Gruyère, Rochefort, Manchego , Brie, Goat cheese, Chèvre cendré

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  • The Famous Oven-Roasted Turkey: Prepared like no one else on earth, this turkey is stuffed with Chestnuts and Apples (Sorry guys this is the maximum I can tell you about the stuffing, as the recipe is a well kept family secret, but I know it's filled with four other premium ingredients... The turkey is served with small potatoes and cooked chestnuts

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  • Brown Rice with almonds, pine nuts, peanuts... I can eat from this every single day of my life

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The food, especially the turkey, was exquisite. Really... the turkey was awesome. It is something really unique... I don’t know if I can describe the sensation accurately – but you enjoy soft and tender pieces of turkey covered with thick shields of goldfish natural fat, outstandingly tasty and crunchy skin – without feeling the pronounced taste of “turkey”. It doesn’t chew, it’s not thick, it’s not dry, it’s not white but mixes a blend of aromas and colors, which make you, close your eyes after every bite. I had a piece from different parts of the turkey. A key to heaven! Add to it the brown sauce, some chestnuts, few grilled mini potatoes and here we are with a superb creation. I love the rice that comes with and the perfection put into preparing it. How it's cooked adequately and mixed with pine nuts, peanuts and almonds. Preparing the turkey is not an easy task, my mother-in-law tells me:

  • The process starts three days before the big night by defrosting the turkey
  • Clean it and then the delicate process starts
  • Stuffing with chestnuts, apples and the other secret ingredients
  • And now is time to prepare it for roasting. It has to be wrapped in aluminum paper foil before entering the oven for nine long hours. Yes, 9hours
  • Afterwards, keep it to rest for thirty minutes before serving

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Now, to entice the evening further and completing the perfect evening, let me introduce you to my father-in-law.  My father-in-law is, in my opinion, is one of the best wine connoisseurs around with whom I had the chance to discover a large choice of bottles from the four corners of the world. He made sure to pair this dinner with two great wines which everybody enjoyed.

  • Joseph Drouhin, Brouilly, 2007: It's a soft and satisfying Beaujolais wine with a purplish-magenta color. Offering plenty of structure, Brouilly is a light-bodied, rich feeling, earthy red, with a learthy raspberry nose. In the mouth, it has a rather noticeable and distinct mineral-laden, peppery spicy finish, with a hint of lemon on the after-finish
  • Chateau de Respide, Reserve, Graves, 2009: This velvety red blend is a great food lovers wine and works perfectly with both braised and grilled red meat and poultry. This wine only gets better within an hour of opening

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And we were not done yet... More was on the menu Believe me when I say that tonight's homemade Christmas yule log cakes (Buche de Noel) were mouthwatering and superb. I've tasted a lot this year: Faqra Catering, Cakes and Cookies, Saveur Plus, Pain D'Or, Wooden Bakery and many other commercial and homemade ones but none is close to competing with Nada's creations. The Bûche aux Marrons (Chestnut Christmas cake) is awesome. The Bûche au Chocolat aux amandes is extraordinary and the Bûche au cafe is to die for. Each is rich with premium ingredients, putting forward the flavor of the filling without being sweet, chewy or commercial. The chestnut one has a pleasant rum aftertaste, the coffee one is majestically filled with amaretto while the chocolate-almond, my favorite is constituted of dark chocolate and almond essence that caress your palatal buds in style. WOW!

Should I give you more mouthwatering details of perfection, decoration and taste? Everything I have written so far is not enough to describe the simple yet extravagant pieces of cakes and their royal fillings.
 
A cigar to end the night in style: Garo is a Lebanese/Armenian living in California who has created his own cigar brand. I had the chance to try them and when else than Christmas Eve to enjoy Garo's special 15th anniversary edition.
 
Garo's 15th anniversary special edition: Beautiful in its own right, it is a proud and elegant example of what can be attained when all the right pieces come together. Easy to draw, this heady, full-bodied cigar has hints of spice, honey, lush red fruit and coffee. This cigar is truly a work of art, a showcase for the talent and passion of the men and women responsible for its creation. It has incredible smoothness, a perfect burn and draw, and will never fail to intrigue and satisfy. This cigar, as befitting a milestone such as this, has few peers. It will draw a smile on your lips even as the first puff of dense, white smoke passes through them.
 
I hope that you have all spent memorable moments this Christmas eve as you filled your tummies with breathtaking preparations like the ones I had… Take a break this week as New Year’s eve is coming with bigger expectations. 
 
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