A few weeks ago, the internationally acclaimed locavore restaurant Tawlet celebrated its fifth birthday in Mar Mikhael. The celebratory lunch included fweregh (stuffed intestines), raw kibbeh, and fresh baked bread, among other delicacies.

Tawlet, Arabic for “table”, is an open kitchen where every day over lunch, a different “producer,” or cook, prepares food representative of the region from whence he or she originates. The philosophy? There are many stories to tell in Lebanon, and why not do it through the language of food.

(Image via Beirut Nightlife)

Tawlet was established in 2009 by Kamal Mouzawak, a native Batrouni who founded Lebanon’s first farmers’ market “Souk el Tayeb” (which translates to “the good market”) five years earlier in downtown Beirut. The aim is to share knowledge of food as a basic and important common denominator.

Mouzawak believes fractured communities can put aside their differences—religious and otherwise—by uniting around a mutual respect for food, land, and agricultural traditions. The farmers’ market also endeavors to pass down timeless food conventions and the culture of small farming in Lebanon, with the hope of sheltering these individual producers from industrial giants, especially in the face of passive governmental involvement.

(Image via Line Shape Colour)

In 2008, Mouzawak partnered up with Christine Codsi, a successful corporate strategist who had a decade of experience in business process reengineering under her belt but was looking for more personal and social fulfillment in her career. The two extrapolated the Souk el Tayeb concept in November of 2009 to Tawlet, not a restaurant per se but an iconic meeting point where cooks, many of whom belong to the Souk el Tayeb family, prepare the foodstuff of their ancestral hometowns. Often these chefs are women who are homemakers and passionate about their respective villages’ specialties and cuisine.

A sample menu from the first Tuesday of November featured Nada Saber, who hails from Kherbet Qanafar in the Bekaa. Saber prepared fried chicory, pumpkin kibbeh, eggplant fatteh, shish barak, and shawarma. Occasionally foreign chefs visiting from abroad are hosted at Tawlet. For example, a few days after Saber’s cuisine, French guest chefs Claude and Maria prepared cannellini beans and tahini salad, black-eyed beans couscous, French beans au gratin, roast chicken, and monkfish à la mediterranée.

(Image via Line Shape Colour)

In 2012, Tawlet opened a sister restaurant in the fertile village of Ammiq, in the Bekaa. Like the outlet in Beirut, farm to table foods are served by locals, engaging the community in the harvest of its land. Unlike the original Tawlet, this is an eco-friendly environment, where the building has a high environmental performance rating, a thermal envelope, naturally-assisted cooling, solar water heating, and 80% less energy consumption than a conventional construction. All waste is sorted and recycled. Tawlet Ammiq is part of a regional program funded by the Swiss Development Agency and implemented by the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature.

(Image via Line Shape Colour)

Tawlet often invites budding winemakers and beer brewers to introduce their products to guests dining in the space. Book signings also take place here, as do campaigns for environmental health, ecological awareness or food waste NGOs. Guests can also enroll in thematic cooking classes at Tawlet to learn hands-on how to prepare a particular cuisine.

We wish Tawlet a very happy birthday, and, in true Lebanese lingo, 3a2bel il miyeh!

(Image via Line Shape Colour)

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Winter at Tawlet Ammiq Gathering (Lunch)


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