What We Are Eating Today: Baking Bouquet

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Updated 25 October 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Baking Bouquet

Baking Bouquet is not your typical local bakery. Owners and professional bakers Shatha Engawi and Baraa’ah Mullah wake up every day to create a perfectly balanced and probiotic-rich sourdough.

Engawi began her sourdough business back in 2016 from the comfort of her own home, honing her skills until 2019 when she and Mullah opened their first bakery in Jeddah.

Despite the four-day long process of creating the perfect sourdough, Baking Bouquet offers a variety of goods apart from bread, from regional favorite maamoul and even delicious and gut-friendly waffles.

The time and effort it takes for the two bakers to make the homemade rising agent for every single baked good justifies the price tag on their products. Making sourdough bread is a highly complicated process and requires years of practice.

Believed to have originated from ancient Egypt, in 1500 B.C, the long fermentation process using natural yeasts and friendly bacteria gives the dough its mildly sour taste and distinctive chew.

Engawi and Mulla are striving to create public awareness of the meticulously baked sourdough’s overall health and gut benefits. The cozy ambiance and the aromatic scent of freshly baked dough are guaranteed to give customers a one of a kind experience of an artisanal bakery.

To learn more, find them on Instagram @baking.bouquet.

Scent of tradition lingers in Lebanon’s ‘village of roses’

Updated 18 May 2023

Scent of tradition lingers in Lebanon’s ‘village of roses’

  • Oil derived from the famed Damask rose --- named after the ancient city of Damascus — is a staple of perfumers
  • The ancient Damask rose had been exported from Syria to Europe for centuries since the time of the Crusades

QSARNABA, Lebanon: On a gentle slope looking out over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, villagers work their way across pink-dotted terraces, gathering perfumed Damask roses that are used for essential oils, sweets and cosmetics.

The rose harvest “gives you a bit of hope, it makes things beautiful, it calms you down — it gives you strength to carry on,” said Leila Al-Dirani, picking the flowers from her family’s land in the village of Qsarnaba.
A soft bag tied around her waist and her hands scratched from the thorns, the 64-year-old plucks the small, pink buds from their bushes as their rich and heady scent wafts across the hill.
The oil derived from the famed Damask rose --- named after the ancient city of Damascus located just across the mountain range separating Lebanon and Syria — is a staple of perfumers.
Experts swear by the flower’s therapeutic properties in fighting infection and as a relaxant, while rose water is used across the Middle East both as a refreshing drink, in sweets such as Turkish delight, to scent mosques and even to bestow luck at weddings.


After a morning collecting roses, the workers in Qsarnaba drop their fragrant bundles at a warehouse in the village where they are paid based on their harvest.
At the facility carpeted with pink petals, Zahraa Sayed Ahmed — whose first name means “flower” — buys the raw materials to produce her rose water, syrup, tea and jam.
Around four years ago, she set up a small workshop at her house, using a traditional metal still that “belonged to my grandfather,” said Sayed Ahmed, 37.

With a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rose petals, she said she can make up to half a liter of rose water.

Zahraa Sayed Ahmed produces rose water from Damascena (Damask) roses, at her house in the village of Qsarnaba on May 11, 2023. (AFP)

She then also bottles and labels her modest production by hand, putting it on limited sale locally.
“The production of rose water is a part of our heritage,” said Sayed Ahmed. “In every home in Qsarnaba there is a still, even if it’s just a small one.”
The rose season only lasts a few weeks, but it is a busy time for Qsarnaba’s residents.
“This year is the first year that we didn’t bring workers to help us because the production is low and we couldn’t afford it,” said Hassan Al-Dirani, 25, who has been picking the flowers alongside his mother, Leila.

A woman serves a drink made of rose syrup at a house in Byblos on May 15, 2023. (AFP)

Since late 2019, Lebanon has been grappling with a devastating economic crisis that has seen the local currency collapse and pushed most of the population into poverty.
“The rose harvest and all other harvests have lost about 80 percent of their value... because of the economic crisis,” said local official Daher Al-Dirani, who hails from the extended family that is the biggest in Qsarnaba.
“But the roses help people put food on the table,” he added.

A worker sells traditional dessert Kunafa, at a shop in Byblos on May 16, 2023. (AFP)

Exported from Syria to Europe for centuries since the time of the Crusades, the ancient Damask rose is also cultivated in countries including France, Morocco, Iran and Turkiye.
“Our village produces the most roses out of any village in Lebanon” and more than half of the country’s rose water, Sayed Ahmed claimed proudly, as the captivating scent lingered in the air.
“Qsarnaba is the village of roses.”


French gastronomy facing huge logistical challenge for Olympics

Updated 11 May 2023

French gastronomy facing huge logistical challenge for Olympics

  • Around 40,000 meals a day will be served during the Paris Olympics, with food service group Sodexo Live! charged with the task
  • In addition to the Olympic Village, Sodexo will also cater 14 other Olympic sites and eight Paralympic venues throughout France

PARIS: France’s vaunted gastronomy will be put to the ultimate test when organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics have to feed 15,000 athletes.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the “gastronomic meal of the French” on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
“The gastronomic meal emphasises togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature,” UNESCO said.
“The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an aperitif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert.”
Realistically, the restaurants run by French catering giants Sodexo might not be offering up such a complete experience — and doubtless few athletes in the prime of their lives would take on such a culinary bonanza given they will be in Paris on tight schedules focused more on competing than indulging themselves.
Around 40,000 meals a day will be served during the Paris Olympics, using produce largely sourced in France.
Sodexo, through its subsidiary Sodexo Live!, already has experience of catering high-profile sporting events such as the Super Bowl, tennis’ French Open and the Tour de France cycling race.
But it will have its work cut out feeding participants at the July 26-August 11 Games and then the Paralympics that follow on August 28-September 8.

From left to right, leading French chefs attend a media conference on May 9, 2023, of Sodexo Live, a company tasked with serving 40,000 meals a day at the Olympic Village in Paris. (AP Photo)

Some 6,000 people will be employed to help in the restaurants, Sodexo Live! managing director Nathalie Bellon-Szabo said on Tuesday.
In addition to the Olympic Village, Sodexo will also cater 14 other Olympic sites and eight Paralympic venues throughout France.

Games organizers have made no secret of what they will be serving up: more vegetables than usual with an emphasis on locally-grown products.
Of the estimated 13 million meals that will be served during the Olympics and Paralympics, from a snack right through to a dish cooked by a top chef, the goal is to have produce that is 80 percent French.
It is a “huge logistical challenge,” says Philipp Wuerz, project manager for catering, cleaning and waste on the Paris 2024 organizing committee.
Avoiding queues, providing food that is healthy, varied and of good quality, with 25 percent of produce sourced “from within 250km” of each site, is challenging to say the least.
“We’re used to managing this type of event, but not over such a long period of time,” says Stephane Chicheri, chief executive of Sodexo Live!
There will be a necessity to remain “adaptable” over potential supply chain issues and price hikes for certain produce, Maxime Jacob, the organizing committee’s catering project manager, told AFP.
The athletes can choose from 500 recipes, which are currently undergoing fine-tuning before menus are signed off by the end of this year.
It is impossible, however, to be 100 percent local, Wuerz said.

A green lentil dahl, with skyr coriander and a corn tuile dish of French chef Charles Guilloy of Sodexo Live is displayed during media conference in Paris on May 9, 2023. (AP Photo)

“The athletes will eat around three million bananas and they don’t grow in the Paris region!“
Bananas, exotic fruits and rice will nevertheless be “organic or fair-trade certified,” Wuerz says.
All meat and dairy products will be 100 percent French, while seafood will be from sustainable fishing.

The recipes have been drawn up after consulting athletes and nutritional experts, including Helene Defrance, a dietician who won a sailing bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“There are no set menus” because organizers have to adapt to the food habits of every athlete, Defrance says, be it light meals or carbo-loading.
During their stay at the village in the Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris, athletes will also be treated to haute cuisine.
A trio of French chefs will have their own space next to the main Olympic food hall.
Amandine Chaignot will serve up guinea fowl with langoustines or gnocchi in chicken sauce. Akrame Benallal has come up with a crispy quinoa muesli, while you can expect Alexandre Mazzia to produce a herb-packed chickpea pommade.
The main food hall will have 3,600 seats and offer up dishes that are not just French-themed but also from around the world, as well as halal food for Muslim athletes, Jacob said.
In a bid to help make the Games more sustainable, water fountains will be installed to reduce single-use plastics, while the kitchen equipment and cutlery will all be re-used after the Paralympics brings an end to a colossal logistic challenge.

Where We Are Going Today: Looking for a place to deep focus in Riyadh? Try the Focus coffee shop in Al-Aqiq

Updated 25 May 2023

Where We Are Going Today: Looking for a place to deep focus in Riyadh? Try the Focus coffee shop in Al-Aqiq

For early birds looking for places to study, work or read a book, Focus could be your next stop.

Opening daily from Saturday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. and from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays, Focus is a local coffee shop located in the Al-Aqiq district in the north of Riyadh.

Although it was originally a coffee shop, there are many services that you can take advantage of including meeting rooms, silence areas, a mini library, a marketing board, and of course, coffee.

There are meeting rooms for customers to occupy per hour. rooms are supported with large screens to use for presentations, and it is suggested to book a meeting room beforehand, because they are fully booked by the afternoon.

Another service is the quiet zone. It is an area on the second floor where customers can work in a calm atmosphere, unlike the public area near the coffee bar which can be a bit buzzy sometimes. Also, some customers prefer to read books in this area. moreover, at focus, you can enjoy various options of both hot and cold beverages, baked delights and healthy snacks.

For example, some of the popular healthy snacks on the menu are the protein bites and oatmeal cup. Baked cookies are available to satisfy those who have sweet tooth.

For bookworms, the coffee shop has shelves with different books to read, from self-development to business.

Plus, Focus not only has a mini library for bibliophiles but they also host book clubs occasionally, making it a great place to discuss interesting publications over a cup of coffee.

In addition, the marketing board on the first floor is offered to help freelancers, business owners,
or anyone searching for useful services or business partners.

What We Are Eating Today: Kabshah: This Riyadh drive-through eatery keeps it simple

Updated 03 May 2023

What We Are Eating Today: Kabshah: This Riyadh drive-through eatery keeps it simple

Quality rather than quantity is the watchword at Riyadh drive-through restaurant Kabshah.

The eatery offers a limited menu and customers can either pick up their orders or have meals delivered.

Dishes include half a chicken with rice flavored with onion and almonds or carrot sauce and raisins, and a crispy sambosa appetizer available with cheese or meat fillings.

Frozen sambosas can also be purchased to fry or bake at home.

Tasbikat is Kabshah’s special sauce, along with its tahini, cucumber with laban, and hot sauces.

A small selection of drinks is available too, including sodas and laban.

Meals cost around SR30 ($8) from the restaurant’s two outlets in Al-Malqa and Al-Narjes, Riyadh. For more details go to Instagram at @kabshah.sa.

Where We Are Going Today: Diora restaurant and cafe

Updated 01 May 2023

Where We Are Going Today: Diora restaurant and cafe

JEDDAH: Diora restaurant and cafe offers a classy and luxurious dining experience and serves up dishes that deserve attention. Diora has two branches located in Al-Khayyat Center and Mall of Arabia in Jeddah.

The menu promises rich Mediterranean flavors and has something for everyone. It focuses on simple and high-quality dishes, from gourmet salads to plates of pasta for good value. 

From the appetizers, the beef carpaccio set atop a pile of greens is a refreshing option. It is a generous stack of thinly sliced meat with baby rocca on top served alongside parmesan cheese, olive oil, chimichurri sauce, and balsamic vinegar. 

Cheese lovers must try the goat zucchini rolls, which is goat cheese rolled up in slices of zucchini with honey drip and a sprinkle of pistachio.

A dish that should not be missed is the Diora parmigian, a mixture of eggplant, pesto sauce, and tomato sauce served with fresh mozzarella, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Mains are diverse and include wagyu beef fillet, corn-fed baby chicken, salmon teriyaki, veal and chicken Milanese.

For desserts you will find some of the usual suspects like tiramisu, chocolate lava, creme brulee and cheesecake. These beloved classics are crafted to perfection with every bite offering up a burst of sweetness and flavor.

Amongst their unique desserts is pain perdu, a house special of mixed brioche served alongside caramel sauce, vanilla sauce, and vanilla ice cream. Castroville, a meringue decorated with honey biscuit, crumble biscuit and creme vanilla is worth tasting.

The luxury service and casual dining with creative dishes on the menu makes Diora a perfect spot for diners.