August at The Pantry Beirut
The View from The Pantry Beirut
Happy August (a little belatedly)!
It was a tumultuous month, hence the delay in the August newsletter, and my hesitation in writing about what is on the horizon for me and The Pantry in the near future. Laugh at me if you will, but perhaps it was that long spell of Mercury in retrograde that has made the past weeks feel simultaneously stagnant and fleeting and full of import but with any sense of resolution. At this point in the summer I’m always a bit peevish and ready for a new start of the Autumn season, but these past weeks have been a particularly formidable test of my normally optimistic nature.
In the midst of opening Super Vega I was stumbling through long days in the kitchen feeling rotten and was finally diagnosed with walking pneumonia. While that was happening, our poor chef was laid down with terrible food poisoning that she and 70+ others at a wedding she attended contracted. Really, it was a lesson in how not to feel during a restaurant opening. However, I can proudly say, that while there are still some kinks to be ironed out, this little gem in Badaro is blossoming.
Last month I wrote about my atelier, The Pantry, feeling a little neglected. I cancelled all of my classes because of my illness, and while the plants on my terrace are thriving, the space feels abandoned and sad. My conclusion? It might be time for me to move on and pass the space to someone else who will love it like I have. The vast majority of my work this year has been outside the atelier and I then feel horribly guilty for not hosting events and classes, all the while I’m still working from morning to night.
So a new chapter begins…as always with a sense of possibility. My space in Achrafieh served its purpose, establishing me in Beirut, showing me where my strongest opportunities lay, and what I do and don’t want to be focused on at this point in my career. Without The Pantry Green Junkie might not have found me and Super Vega definitely wouldn’t have. And I’m sad because I adored my little rooftop atelier, but I am a big believer that it’s also wise to know when something is working and when to go with the flow and move on.
I’m still figuring out what a virtual The Pantry Beirut by Chef Sally Jane will look like. I’m definitely not going anywhere and plan to continue to be a part of Beirut’s vibrant food scene whether it be consulting, doing pop up events, or catering. Part of me is even considering starting on a cookbook/memoir finally. So while it is an ending, you can still find me all over town and I hope you’ll seek me out!
To new beginnings!
I’ve worked over the past little while to migrate all of my blog posts from the past seven years from chefsallyjane.com over to thepantrybeirut.com - While the formatting and photos leave much to be desired, and will take more time than I have right now to fix, I wanted all of my material on one site. During the process I had fun revisiting one of my August posts from 2014 featuring an uncooked tomato pasta that I love eating during this time of sun-kissed tomatoes. You can check out this blast from the past and hope you might poke around and look at some other past blog posts here.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I love nothing more than taking a dish that’s famously sweet or savory and turning it on its head. I first saw a version of this dish Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s beetroot tarte tatin back when I lived in London. So I decided to try the same technique and do it in miniature with cherry tomatoes and leeks for a more summery version. This little gem is one of my clients’ favorites this time of year. You can try it yourself by clicking here for the recipe.
So you’re seeing the theme this August newsletter? Tomatoes galore! Both Super Vega and Green Junkie use the heirloom greenhouse tomatoes from local producer Gemfruits. And as August continues, I plan on offering a platter of sun-ripened beauties, sliced and served simply at the restaurant. I’m also a firm believer that what grows together goes together, so in addition to tomatoes I’m playing with some eggplant and cucumbers, peaches and melons, corn and zucchini. Maybe give my seasonal eggplant, herb, and crumbly Bulgari cheese flatbread (photo above) or the shammam and cucumber cold soup (photo below) at Super Vega a try if you find yourself in Badaro!
My husband and I finally managed to watch season 5 of Netflix’s Chef’s Table and found myself inspired all over again. In a time when immigrants around the world are being vilified, Christina Martinez’s barbacoa restaurant in South Philly was a profound reminder of the vibrant culture and character immigrants bring to communities. Musa Dağdeviren made me eager for my next trip to Istanbul, while Bo Songvisava’s Thai restaurant reminded me a lot of what potentially could be undertaken here in Lebanon. And if anyone out there has a wonderful porchetta recipe they’d like to share, please shout! I’m perfecting one to use here in the Autumn and any guidance would be much appreciated. Oh, and if you read French and are interested, The Sofra Sisters, the Beirut cooking club that I’m part of, has been featured in L’Officiel Levant’s August/September issue (scroll to page 226). And that’s it really!