Tell your friends to grab their passports and appetite for adventure and invite them on a culinary journey to the Middle East via your living room. Be inspired by the robust flavors, colors, and aromas of the herbs and spices used in Lebanese cuisine and “pitch” an Arabian-style tent under which you and your guests will dine. A welcome cocktail scented with the heady scent of damask roses is all your guests will need to leave their busy day behind.
Setting the Scene
When setting the scene, look to colors like deep reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows that echo the natural colors of Middle Eastern spices like sumac and turmeric. Create an Arabian-style tent by draping a sheer red fabric from the ceiling and tacking it to the walls. Complete the experience by arranging cushions to sit on around low coffee table layered with a deep pink fabric and golden yellow-toned napkins. And don’t forget the Arabian-inspired music.
To complement the red and orange-toned palette, use gold and bronze accents for candles and serving pieces on the table. Turn off the lights and line the table with glowing votives (try using a mirror as a tray to create more light). If you can find antique oil lamps or vessels, use them as centerpieces.
Start off the evening with Champagne cocktails made with a splash of rosewater syrup and warm pitas with za'atar, an aromatic dipping oil made with a blend of herbs and seeds such as sumac, dried thyme, and sesame seeds. Once your guests gather around the table, pass around an assortment of authentic Lebanese mezze dishes, similar to appetizers or small plates. While hummus, tabbouleh, and baba ghanouj are popular favorites, we asked Chef Roland Semaan of Balade in New York City to share some other, little-known Lebanese classics with us.