This weekend there's plenty of food and not-quiet entertainment at the Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church's 34th Annual Lebanese Festival. It's like being at home but with strangers. The boisterous servers on the buffet line will ask you if you are Lebanese; if you are, why don't you attend mass, and, here, take some extra sauce on that.
These descendants of the seafaring Phoenicians are serving some of the most delicious Mediterranean food you'll be eating this year. As someone who grew up taste-testing their mother's tabbouleh and kibbeh, we know when there's too much lemon or not enough cumin. This is not only the real deal, this is the best deal.
The festival is put on annually to raise funds to keep the church afloat. Father Elie Michael told Short Order that this weekend, "people will be coming from every part of town to eat." And he is not wrong. Besides the belly dancing, this is the main attraction. Items are all homemade and use traditional recipes that have lasted 'cause they work. The church will also be naming the hall where the festival takes place after one of their most generous patrons, philanthropist Anthony Abraham.
Most of the menu's prices hover around $3 to $4, but the meat kabob and kafta sandwiches are the most expensive at only $6. Make sure to eat the goods today from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday, noon to 11 p.m. at 2055 Coral Way, Miami.
This laban lacks any of the acidity of your run-of-the-mill yogurt and there are cucumbers soaking in this, the most perfect of sides. The tabbouleh has the exact texture and flavor that tabbouleh is supposed to have: not soggy but well-marinated, not too much lemon and just enough garlic.
This kibbeh nayeh is only $4 and, just so you know, it's raw meat. Not sure if you should eat this if you're not an Arab, but it's supposed to taste like "heaven" (according to family sources).
Even if you don't like cabbage, you will melt when you taste this yabrat, or stuffed cabbage rolls, they beat the crap out of any grape leaves any day. Truly, do not leave until you've tried these.
The dessert table is a must last stop. These Ma'amoul are filled with pistachios and pistachio puree. After a bite or two, you'll notice the flavor of rose water. Holy ma'amoul! They're amazing.
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Oh, and there's never a 'rab party without a beautiful lady belly dancing in terrifically garish garb. Expect to see children dancing next to the talent. It's a family affair.
As the Lebs say, bon appetit and sahtein. Oh, and bring some home for your housemates or they'll never forgive you for talking about how good it was and then not sharing.