Taste Lebanon is a boutique tour company run by acclaimed Lebanese-American chef, cookbook author, and former Miss Lebanon, Bethany Kehdy. Established in 2010, Taste Lebanon takes participants into streets, villages, farms, factories, homes, and restaurants, introducing them to specialty producers and exposing them to the process and techniques that go into making local dishes.


(Image via David Lebovitz)

There are three different options for tours: (1) a one-day ramble aptly named Beirut Bites; (2) a two-day Weekend Escape featuring rural jaunts and workshops; and (3) a comprehensive week long Food Trek across the country that immerses guests in our land’s people, customs, and traditions.

We had the chance to sit down and chat with Ms. Kehdy about her enterprise, its inspiration, and her growing emphasis on Beirut Bites.

Beirut.com: Tell us more about Beirut Bites: how frequently are tours held, and are they available yearlong?

Bethany Kehdy: Beirut Bites is a daylong ramble through Beirut with a unique opportunity to witness Lebanese food at its most raw (sometimes quite literally), avoiding places where tourists abound and, instead, taking guests to places that locals frequent. On this charming meander through the city, participants experience a variety of foods, from traditional mezze platters and Armenian cuisine to offal sandwiches (testicle kebabs anyone?), with flexibility to cater to different dietary preferences.
Beirut Bites tours take place yearlong and are available daily upon request with the exception of Sundays. Tours are limited to 6-8 people to foster an intimate touch.

Beirut.com: Are these tours exclusively for gourmets, or would any palate, no matter how simple, enjoy Beirut Bites?

Bethany Kehdy: Tours are for all palates, as our aim is to expose guests to a wide variety of eateries. The bites we order range from refined mezzes and shawarma on coal to the delicacies of churned Middle Eastern ice cream and offal offerings. Thus, it goes without saying that each location is carefully chosen from our favorite picks of the city, and the hope is to provide guests with a well rounded journey of flavor, culture and history in Beirut.


(Image via David Lebovitz)

Beirut.com: Who are the tour guides?

Bethany Kehdy: I select and train each guide. Passionate, trilingual (in English, Arabic and French), and possessing an in-depth knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and cuisine, our guides include Florence Beland, Eli Kehdy and British-born William Dobson, who first embarked on a Taste Lebanon tour and loved it so much, he moved to Beirut to become a guide! I personally lead the weeklong Food Treks and press trips.

Beirut.com: Give us a taste of your Beirut Bites tour: where do you go, what do you sample?

Bethany Kehdy: We kick off the morning at 9 AM with a typical Lebanese breakfast in Zoqaq-al-Blat, at a family bakery that has been in business since 1946. Can you guess it? Their exclusive specialty is Lahm b’ajeen, the Armenian meat pizza, which they fashion using ultra-thin dough and pomegranate molasses in the meat mix topping. We wash it down with ayran, the yogurt drink and complement par excellence for the Lahm b’ajeen. Watching the bakers’ skills and agility is very admirable and always heightens the experience!

We then make our way eastward by foot through Achrafieh, Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael, ending with a vibrant and filling early dinner in Bourj Hammoud followed by a night cap with drinks in one of Beirut’s most charming and personable pubs. The tour is set to end around 6 PM.


(Image via David Lebovitz)

Beirut.com: Where did you get inspiration for Taste Lebanon and Beirut Bites?

Bethany Kehdy: I was on holiday in Antigua, by the pool, with girlfriends, and the thought just popped into my head: “holidays in Lebanon that revolve around food!”

The response was sheer enthusiasm and within weeks of returning home, I was compelled to run my first tour. I had a very strong urge to show people the real Lebanon and not just talk about it on the blog or in magazine features. I created a tour using food as the focus to take people beyond Beirut and through the different corners of Lebanon. In so doing, they get to explore the cuisine, meet the producers and people behind it, and ultimately get a more robust view of the culture and country.

Beirut.com: Would locals benefit from such tours? Do you believe that people living in Lebanon could learn about their local food offerings?

Bethany Kehdy: Taste Lebanon is unique in that it attracts travellers from all around the UK, Europe, the United States, Canada, Asia and most particularly Lebanon, as there is so much culinary heritage and rural grounds to still uncover. Lebanese locals and expats from the diaspora who do not know Beirut well thoroughly enjoy Taste Lebanon’s Beirut Bites tours. Participation in the tour can be an exciting birthday gift or part of a more exhaustive holiday and/or honeymoon package.
The Lebanese food heritage is rich precisely because it is complex, multi-layered and in constant evolution. There is thus always something to learn, let alone preserve by experiencing it time and time again. While local Lebanese may know of the different types of food offerings in Lebanon, they might not necessarily know the know-how and ancestral techniques behind their production. Our multi-day tours including the Weekend Escapes and the Food Trek offer a well-rounded and hands-on exploration of Lebanon’s culinary heritage. It would bestow honor and pride upon the local participant to celebrate his or her heritage and understand it more fully and deeply.

In addition to the Beirut Bites, Weekend Escape, and Food Trek tours, Taste Lebanon offers press trips, team-building events and child-education activities along with cooking workshops and a la carte packages customized to your culinary specifications. Check them out at www.tastelebanon.co.uk.


(Image via David Lebovitz)


(Image via David Lebovitz)


(Image via David Lebovitz)

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Bethany Kehdy at Tawlet Gathering (Dinner)
 

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