By Punch Pep Correspondent Elizabeth Fischer
When a wine event hits my inbox – I jump (literally and figuratively) at the chance to cover.Â I love wine and I love learning about wine.Â (Yes, I am a nerd because I love learning – period!Â :) – I once wondered how long the government would grant my applications to borrow money to study before it was determined that no matter the caliber of the job or the years I would work, short of a mega millions windfall, I couldnâ€™t possibly pay it backâ€¦ apparently there is a ceilingâ€¦ who knew! â€“ but I digress).Â So this wine event hit my inbox and I said yes.Â Now combine wine with yummy food, great weather, good vibes and I feel something akin to an â€˜Oâ€™â€¦! coming onâ€¦ followed shortly by a food and wine coma.
I am delighted there are studies to justify my wine habit!Â I am also pleased, and so are my wine friends, that I have advanced from my *sigh* days drinking Beringer White Zinfandel, when I actually thought I was a â€œWine Connoisseur,â€ to becoming a true Wine Aficionado – slowly traveling the universe of wines â€“ a universe with no end in sight, thankfully.Â I owe a great debt to Iraaj, law school and my waiting job at Ahmadâ€™s Persian Cuisine â€“ without all three I might never have come to understand the complexity of wine (more legs, more tears, the better the wine) â€“ the subtle differences â€“ the importance of a good harvest not to mention the unique wine making or vinification process and, yes the grape’s terroir â€“ without which great wine would not exist or the need for wine cellars.
Wine is lovely and no matter whether red or white or even rose â€“ all are luscious, full bodied and secos.
I also adore food â€“ food that is rich, succulent and interspersed with complex flavors.
Kababji Grill has plenty of both â€“ good food and good wine.Â It is the perfect, healthy, neighbor alternative to a home cooked meal that welcomes you to indulge and relax.Â On the outside it appears to be a fast food joint but on the inside it is swanky casual chic â€“ decorated in rich time-honored colors and provincial artifacts.Â Donâ€™t let the outside exterior fool you.Â This is a MUST see (and participate â€“ by that I mean eat & drink) on any to do list of restaurant stops.
In speaking with Philippe, I learned DC was the lucky area chosen to be the first US location, in part because it is DC and the mid-Atlantic, and in part because during the recession DC has seen an international market explosion.Â (I can attest to this one! Many cooking spices I ordered online can now be purchased from local shops in different pockets of DC, ie: several side streets off the U Street Corridor).Â Owner Toufic Khoueiri opened his first Kababji Restaurant in Jounieh, north of Beirut, Lebanon in 1993.Â Today, he has 30 locations in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Dubai, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.Â With only one location in America, he plans on expanding; and, for all you foodies out there, his first expansion is a food truck that will be rolling down the streets of DC soon.
Kababji boasts Authentic Lebanese Cuisine â€“ the recipes have not been Americanized and are the same as found in Lebanon.Â The menu is unique, diverse and complicated â€“ from the familiar dishes to the less known.Â The menu items are handcrafted fresh daily without the addition of chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors.Â The specialized charcoal process delicately removes excess fat from the meat while sealing in flavor.Â Kababji Grill also offers an excellent selection of vegetarian dishes and mouthwatering sides and desserts.Â Before joining my fellow guests, I did some research on the restaurant and was ready to try the authentic fare.
As soon as I found my spot and before sipping the wine, I devoured the spiced baked pita bread with cured olives. The bread was baked making it crispy, crisp and greaseless.Â It was topped with sesame seeds and a Zataar spice (an aromatic powder with underlying dark smokey notes). The pieces were mouth-watering and gone in a flash.
The next savory bit to tease my taste buds â€“ the Hummus â€“ I love hummus (yes the love word is being thrown around a lot but when true why not?!) â€“ so if it is bad I am a bit more than disappointed.Â As luck would have it â€“ this dish is tasty – delicate with just a hint of garlic â€“ each flavor discernible without any one flavor overpowering.Â Next, the Baba Ghannouj â€“ the egg plant is roasted over the charcoal â€“ the result a layered smokey effect.Â It was by far the most unique known dish I tasted.
I ended my food journey (this time â€“ another visit is around the corner) with the cheese pies â€“ scrumptious round saucers â€“ a hand-rolled pita stuffed with white cheddar and mozzarella cheeses mixed with parsley, mint and onions baked in the stone oven.Â The mini pies come seasoned or mild.Â I loved the hotness of the seasoned pie cooled by the richness of the mild pie.
Besides the food and the Kababs, Lebanon is also known for its wine making region in the Bekaa Valley â€“ which, incidentally, is known as the Napa Valley of Lebanon.Â The soil is very fertile allowing Bekaa to produce intense, supple and aromatic wines that are rich, fleshy and tannic for the reds; delicate, aromatic and with good length for the whites.Â Lebanon is home to the worldâ€™s oldest wineries with wine production dating back thousands of years to B.C. times when red and white wines were sent by the ancient Phoenicians to Egypt, Rome and Europe.Â While I pretend to be versed in wines â€“ it is this type of learning I live for â€“ I never knew about Lebanon.Â And for those cost conscious â€“ looking for great blends and taste at decent price points â€“ well hereâ€™s a chance to explore!Â And explore I did â€“ yet this journey is just beginning.Â The good news â€“ our wine captain â€“ Wasfi Skaff is local â€“ Reston VA (for those from DC and Maryland â€“ I realize local is relative but Reston is just a day trip away).
Our other wine tour captain â€“ Hakeem Bakeer â€“ INSERT Wasfi, Hakeem & Guests.jpg.Â I loved listening to both as clearly they enjoy their job/sharing their passion.
Our wine journey begins: first stop â€“ the whites.
Blanc de Blancs – Chateau Ksara â€“ an everyday favorite and a good buy when you want to bring a gift but donâ€™t know much about the palates.Â This is the type of wine you can enjoy on the patio after sweating on a long hot summer day.Â It is refreshing, soft and delicate.Â This white is an elegant blend of Sauvignon, Semillon and Chardonnay grapes.Â It is vatted for several months in French Oak casks before bottling.Â Nose â€“ CrÃ¨me caramel with rich burnt sugar notes and a sweet butterscotch aroma, which develops over time (can be stored for up to 3 years in a reliable cellar).Â Palate â€“ lots of ripe fruits, with fresh gooseberries, rhubarb and sliced apples.Â A sharp citrus note hits the palate mid-way lending to a warm dry oakiness.
Chateau Ksara â€“ Chardonnay â€“ won award in German competition and was by far my favorite white.Â The oak gives a subtle, almost creamy, vanilla topping to the grape aroma and an extra dimension of delicate spiciness to the taste; at the same time it adds a fine grained, racy definition to the texture â€“ tasting of honey and peach.Â The dimensions to this wine are immense.Â Friends â€“ look for this in the gift bags.
Massaya Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc â€“ another good discovery!Â As I raised the glass I was able to detect the aroma and was excited to sip away.Â The palate has almost a velvety texture â€“ it is fresh and elegant with good mineral balance â€“ lots of depth with complex white flower aromas.
Chateau Musar â€“ the nose is a beautiful mÃ©lange of ample tropical and white fruit, white flower, sea salt, and minerality.Â It is intense and powerful but not obnoxious with an uber long finish.
Next I ventured toward the reds.
First stop – Chateau Musar, Jeune Rouge â€“ huge notes of pepper, strawberry, dark cherry, and other red fruits â€“ palate vibrant due to the ample acidity with great amounts of pepper, red licorice and an ample roundness on the back end (funny â€“ get mind out of gutter).Â Unfortunately, for me the pepper overshadowed the rest of the flavorsâ€¦and thus was not my favorite â€“ but I could see it enjoyed with a light citrus salad to balance all the flavors.
Chateau Ksara – CabernetÂ Sauvignon â€“ Made from 100 percent amilmon grapes and matured in French Oak casks for 14 months.Â I enjoyed this wine â€“ delicious and light yet complex given its medium body.Â Nose â€“ rich with game like notes and a strong aroma of pine leaves.Â Palate â€“ robust with initial sip leading into dark fruit plums and finishing dry with cedar wood spice and salty overtones.
Chateau Ksara â€“ Reserve Du Convent â€“ another favorite â€“ superbly balanced â€“ this dark ruby wine, made from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah and Carignan grapes, combines elegance with a lingering delicacy.Â Nose â€“ hints of mint, vanilla and dark summer fruits â€“ overripe cherries and white pepper.Â Palate â€“ dark, rich and dry â€“ it is coated with licorice and the flavor of aged oak.Â Very robust in character with an extremely long finish.Â A perfect fall wine!
My last stop â€“ the rose.
Chateau Ksara â€“ Rose â€“ the perfect beach wine!Â It has an intense pink color.Â It starts firm with round flavor and finishes on a fresh and vivid note.
In the endÂ â€“ full bellies, satiated palates and happy faces.Â I also met a fellow Mizzou alum and the two of us lamented, just a bit, about Mizzouâ€™s early exit from the NCAA tournament.Â Overall a fabulous night â€“ great food, great ambiance, great wine and new friends.Â I enjoyed my conversation with Donna Shor.
Folks this is a must try both for the wine selection and the authentic cuisine.
1351 Connecticut Ave. NW DC | 202.822.8999 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.twitter.com/KababjiUSA
Attorney Elizabeth Fischer is Punch Pep Correspondent. She is working as an Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Student (environmental studies), covering events for Pamela’s Punch as a generalist correspondent. When she is not working, studying or playing soccer or tennis, she is walking her pups, traveling the globe, running marathons, and enjoying all DC has to offer. Contact her at email@example.com.