Cultured Kitchen: New Eatery Features Tastes of Lebanon, Africa
I grew up in West Africa to Lebanese parents. Most of my life I was in the Ivory Coast, but we would go back and forth to Lebanon.
I opened my first restaurant in Michigan City in 2004. Learning how to cook took a lot of practice. My mother came and she helped. Since 2004, we’ve evolved. We still stick to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, but now we do a modern twist.
Our cooks are Lebanese, but we don’t make just Lebanese food. We do other things, too. I change the menu regularly and include items that remind me of West Africa, like avocado salad with lemon and olive oil dressing and spicy plantains.
There’s something to be said for someone coming to your door and enjoying a meal. They can experience your culture a bit. People come with their memory and leave with our memory. It’s rewarding.
Pickle & Turnip chef and owner Moe Mroueh describes some favorite dishes at his restaurant:
Stuffed grape leaves, hand-rolled with rice, served beef or vegetarian. We serve ours Lebanese style, which means they are lighter in texture than the more familiar Turkish version.
We make these with beef bacon and stuff them with goat cheese. Dates are believed to have originated in and around Iraq. This appetizer also has pomegranate molasses to round out the sweet and savory taste.
A highlight of our brunch menu is a Middle Eastern favorite, shakshuka—a dish of eggs poached in red sauce with spices, including coriander. Shakshuka is believed to have originated in Tunisia.