REVIEW: JOKER 2019

“One of the most profound and powerful films about mental illness I can recall seeing. The way it depicted childhood trauma leading to mental illness, psychosis and psychopathy in adulthood was disturbing and visceral.

More disturbing though, were the statements it made about how we treat and view mental illness as a culture. I think generally, most of society would like to believe that monsters are born- their pathology predetermined. It makes it easier to look away, to avoid feeling responsible, to act like the mess is someone else’s problem to address. At least until that monster shoots up a school or a concert, and then we feel entitled to be outraged? The truth is, many monsters are made, shaped by years of trauma, neglect, and lack of access to both mental health care and empathy. And still, despite years of suffering failed attempts, they still long for human connection, until one day they finally snap. The system, and society, didn’t just fail Arthur; it failed his mom. “Joker” was 40 years in the making, and what we witness in this film is the result of prolonged, unresolved generational trauma.

Even among my colleagues, I have sadly heard disheartening descriptions of how Joker’s incessant (and INVOLUNTARY) laughter throughout the film was “annoying” or “bothersome” while being fully aware that it is as a result of traumatic brain injuries suffered during childhood abuse (see Pseudobulbar Affect). The laughter I heard in the audience during several very emotionally painful scenes, further speaks to the pervasive ignorance that still hangs over our culture regarding mental illness. During a particular scene after a violent act is captured on live TV, the camera pans back to show a cluster of TV screens covering the footage, interspersed with commercials for Rolling Rock, and Energizer, and Corn Flakes. This is the atmosphere we live in- a 24 hour news cycle where a disturbing mental illness-related tragedy can’t stay in a spotlight for 5 seconds because it has become the norm. Anyone who left the theater feeling like they just watched a disappointing comic book movie completely missed the mark.” – wrote Michael Guthrie

We should do better. We can do better.

✌🏼 #mentalhealthawareness

Free Bubbles For The Ladies Every Thursday at MATTO Beirut!

Yes ladies, you read it right!

The city’s craziest Italian dining experience is offering you bottomless Prosecco and a complimentary magazine cover photoshoot, every Thursday!

A DREAM COME TRUE!

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There are loads of great reasons to love Italian food: stylish antipasti, crusty pizzas, giant wheels of parmesan, hearty vegetarian options and spirals of terrific tagliatelli served in modish pasta bars are just a bunch. Add to that free flow of Prosecco all night on a Thursday night, and you got yourself a winning formula! The buzz is as important as the food at Addmind’s enduringly popular MATTO Italian Restaurant.

Bellas, join the crazy team at MATTO on thursdays and you’re in for a fun time – especially if you’re into bubbles and chatty gatherings with your girlfriends. The ever-changing menu celebrates the best of artisan regional cooking in diverse ways, while enticing cocktails and impressive all-Italian wines also make an impact.

P.S: I know you usually wouldn’t go hard on carbs to keep in line. But forget all sort of principles the moment you set foot at MATTO.

You’d be paralyzed by heavenly scents that hit you right, left, top and bottom. There’s a wood oven baking the freshest doughs, as part of a visible kitchen workplace, a full-on Italian staff, an impressive cocktail selection and a mood set in a neo-noir kind of movies.

MATTO is a place that feeds both the tummy and the soul.

Tip: This rumor about keeping room for dessert is no rumor whatsoever. The ferrero rocher inspired MATTO ROCK is not only name, but ACTION!

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Does the world need another book about Italian food?

These emails between Anthony Bourdain and Matt Goulding show how Tony felt about telling the story of Italy, its food and the people who make them—and how the world actually needed that “extra” book about Italian food.

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Dear Tony,

I’m in a tough spot. Of all the people I know, I’m guessing you’re the one who will best appreciate my predicament. I write to you from Savigno, just outside Bologna, a town surrounded by sweet pignoletto vines and truffle-studded forests. Today is Easter, a day of liberation for the Italians, and splayed before me are the bones of half a dozen courses: ragù streaks, gnawed lamb ribs, pistachio dust. My blood runs with a mix of rendered pork fat and bitter spirits, six months in the underbelly of Italy’s food world hitting me down to the marrow. But it’s not my lipid profile I worry about; it’s the table full of grandmas and couples and new friends around me. Let me explain.

When I first left New York in 2010 in search of a new start, I set my coordinates for Emilia Romagna. There I would find a hilltop town, not unlike Savigno, powered by egg-rich pastas and slow-simmered sauces and single women with a penchant for lost Americans. Only a stopover in Barcelona and a fateful cerveza with a young Catalan I now call my wife kept me from my al dente destiny.

Granted, my vision was far from original. Most of the world dreams of Italy—of the pinup landscape porn, the cumulus clouds of cappuccino foam, the meals that stretch on like radioactive sunsets. It was those same dreams that drove me back here, that have me itching to capture this magic on the page. But lately, I’ve been having nightmares about Italy. Nightmares about what the Italians will think about another foreigner’s take on their traditions.

Nightmares about getting it wrong—about mistaking parmesan for pecorino, pancetta for guanciale, spaghettini for spaghettoni. I don’t mean nightmares in the figurative sense; I mean nightmares in the cold-sweat-and-sleepless-nights sense.

Nobody takes food more seriously than the Italians. I’ve seen family feuds break out over pasta shapes and grape varietals. No doubt you’ve been caught in the crossfire before. But these aren’t the petty beefs of food snobs—these cut to the core of what it means to be Italian. More than anywhere else in the world, food carries the full weight of Italy’s heritage: the pains and joys of its history, the depth of its ingenuity. Politicians are corrupt, democracy is fragile, borders are porous, but la cucina italiana is eternal.

At the end of the day, these are the people I want to surround myself with—the type that won’t hesitate to spit in my vino if I ask for parmesan with my spaghetti alle vongole. But they are also the ones I fear I will inevitably disappoint.

Does the world need another book about Italian food?

Am I walking into a trap?

Yours,
Matt

***

Dear Matt,

The path you have chosen is indeed fraught with peril. The overwhelming instinct of ItaloPhiles like you and I is to romanticize, over sentimentalize and generally follow the well-worn tradition of soft-edged food porn when writing about Italy.

What is charming to us is often a frustration and even an affliction to Italians. The same political and cultural paralysis that keeps this beautiful collection of city states “real” also traps its citizens in a reality that often approaches the tragically surreal.

But one can be forgiven, I hope, for finding great joy, even epiphany in a bowl of pasta vongole (though not with cheese), a bottle of rustic wine, the simple things that seem the birthright of the average Italian.

Careening through Rome, late at night in a taxi, half-swacked on negronis, listening to Mina, remains magic. To lay eyes on a bowl of cacio e pepe, a plate of trippa, agnolotti, urchins in season, porchetta… that’s some powerful shit.

The mysteries of Italian parking, slang, law enforcement, hand gestures, dress, family relationships, superstitions, dialectal differences, slang, physical contact are unknowable yet enticing in that unknowability.

I’m still trying to figure it all out. It sounds like you are, too.

Tony

***

Ciao Tony,

I will leave the mysteries of law enforcement and hand gestures to the locals, though I’ve been on the receiving end of both throughout my time here. But I have been trying to solve a few mysteries of the kitchen, namely what makes Italian food so damn delicious.

A wise man in Kyoto once told me: Western cuisine is about addition; Japanese cuisine is about subtraction. But I think he overlooked a kinship between Japanese and Italian cooking—both built around exquisite product, both guided by a type of magical math best described as addition by subtraction: 3- 1 = 4.

And like Japanese cuisine, Italian food is driven by a set of rules and beliefs established over hundreds if not thousands of years, and embraced by a citizenry that largely rejects the notion of people fucking with their food. But Italian cuisine is not a statue in a museum; it’s not some intractable monument to the past. It lives and breathes and bleeds like any good culture does.

I thought I could come here, eat a ton of tagliatelle, soak my bones in vino, and pay gentle tribute to the traditions of this wondrous place. I thought I would write a book about nonna, but everywhere I turn, I find granddaughters and grandsons writing the next chapter in their family history: three young brothers in Puglia expanding the essence of mozzarella and burrata in a deeply conservative culinary corner of Italy; a father-daughter team in the Piedmont who cast off the yoke of Barolo’s staid history to produce some of the most poetic and controversial wines in the world; a class of next-generation pizzaioli in Naples wood-firing a path to a new understanding of the planet’s most popular food.

In the end, it’s not a book about grandmas and their sacred family recipes (though they have a few delicious cameos); it’s a book about a wave of cooks, farmers, bakers, shepherds, young and old, trying to negotiate the weight of the past with the possibilities of the future.

I know how you feel about Italian cuisine. I know you don’t want some young hotshot turning pasta carbonara into performance art. You don’t want your cappuccino with condescension.

I’m with you. But after a few hundred meals here, I’m starting to see just how important this chapter is in the story of Italian cuisine, and I think it might make a worthy addition to this little series we have working.

What do you think?

Saluti,
Matt

***

Matt,

My response to you–and this sort of improvisation, innovation, expansion on traditional Italian regional specialties is entirely emotional—is a blind, unthinking, instinctive hostility. I hate it. I hate the thought. I am a curmudgeon when it comes to all things Italian.

I do not doubt—in fact I know and have experienced—delicious new takes on pizza, even that beloved carbonara. It is possible. It is, I guess, only right, that new generations of Italian chefs are flexing their creative minds and their skills in the interest of moving things forward.

But I hate the idea in a way that only a non-Italian, newly besotted with an overly romantic view of that country can be. Italians complain that their country doesn’t work, that it is stuck, mired in the corruption and incompetence and antiquated attitudes of another time—that nothing ever changes. Which is exactly what I love in so many ways about the country. That state of paralysis. If it worked, it would change. And I don’t want it to change.

I go to a place in Rome every time I’m there. And there’s another place in Turin. The waiters are the same as they were twenty years ago. The owner who buzzes you in the locked door is the same. The menu is tiny (when there is one) and that never changes either. Simple. Unpretentious. Handmade pastas, a few simple sauces. Polpette. Constant. A true friend.

To me, after 30 years of cooking, of garnishing, of torturing and manipulating food into being pretty enough or “interesting” enough to sell to an ever fickle dining public, another two decades of experiencing every type of culinary genius or frippery, there is deep, deep satisfaction and joy in food made with enough confidence and love to take three or four good ingredients, cook them right, and dump them unceremoniously on a plate. Better yet if the cook feels good enough about the food to serve it with a rough, not particularly good local wine.

That makes me happy.

You are right, there is something almost Japanese about Italian food at its best. But Italian food is much, much more emotional. One should experience it like a child, never like a critic, never analytically.

I am hopelessly compromised on this issue.

It is personal for me.

I cannot be trusted.

But I am right.

Still, if you ignore my advice and write this book anyway, I’ll read it. If it’s good, I might even publish it.

Good luck,
Tony

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Instagram: Beyond Work | Interview with Communicate Levant

There’s more to life than work. For Serge Trad, digital communication manager at Addmind Hospitality Group, life is also being a digital artist, an engaged Instagramer and a huge Potterhead.

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When did you start on Instagram and why?

I’ve started using Instagram at the very beginning of 2013. It was still a beautiful time when social media was just a silly pastime. Today, Instagram makes 30% of my days, and I have to say it’s a bittersweet feeling.

What’s your preferred post? Your worst one?

After I started the grid canvas design, I archived my personal posts off the channel. Which really left me with no “worst” posts. I take almost a week before I create a new canvas. So, I try to make the viewer’s experience enjoyable, by telling a story in each part of the 6-grid layout.

How much time do you spend on Instagram daily?

It’s sad to say but after introducing “your activity”, I noticed I’m on there for three hours a day. To be fair, I’m a communication manager. I do have to stay up-to-date. I also manage brands online and have some of the best creative inspo on Instagram while having my morning coffee.

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If you weren’t on Instagram, how would you indulge in your passion?

I’d definitely read and scan through arts/advertising magazines and publications more. I’ve been driven by arts and the creative world ever since I was a child… I am fascinated by the change and tremendous effect that virtual advertising is creating.

What’s the best feedback you got on your posts?

Many people have sent my profile as a reference to their clients and texted me later about it to tell me their clients loved it.

I’m always happy to inspire and I spend my days on Instagram trying to find people to inspire me. Instagram is a public platform, and the content we post is waived as public once we sign those terms & conditions. So don’t be greedy and pass your creativity on.

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Have you ever thought about making this a full-time job?

It kind of is. At the moment, I am managing the communication of WHITE Dubai (currently the only club in the Middle East & North Africa to be ranked amongst the world’s best clubs in DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs), Drai’s Dubai (a Vegas import) and some of the biggest house festivals/event pop-ups in the MENA region, the likes of EL ROW and ANTS.

Harry Potter: what kind of Potterhead are you?

I’m what they call a “Magic is real” fan. The type who is still low-key waiting by the mailbox for their Hogwarts letter to arrive. My passion expressed itself and paid its dues three years ago when I launched my blog Espresso Patronum (a play on “Expecto Patronum” from the series) which I didn’t know would be a viral hit in Beirut, and eventually was verified on Facebook two years later.

Which house are you in?

I’m a proud Slytherin.

Which film/book do you prefer?

A true Potterhead would never judge based on the films, but I’m gonna give a creative input here. From the books, it’s definitely “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. It’s the best read, a great life lesson where readers learn that no one is exactly what they seem on the surface. When it comes to the movies, my favorite will be “The Half Blood Prince”. This was such an emotional rollercoaster. We lost Dumbledore, we saw Harry fall in love, which eases us into the Hogwarts battle.

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If you collect Harry Potter items, which is your favorite and why?

I am a savage collector. Friends and family actually never gift me anything else. I’ve spent close to all my savings when I was 22 to travel to London (alone) and visit the Warner Bros studios. It was only then when my collection actually blossomed. Wands, clothes, scarfs, books, notebooks, pens, flyers, posters…  You name it! My favorite will always be the wands collection. It’s made of real wood, hand-crafted and life-like. If we were in a better world, they would actually cast spells.

What do you say to people who DON’T like Harry Potter?

Is there actually someone who doesn’t? I refuse to believe it. I’ve made it a mission to “convert” people who don’t. You know, we call them muggles. But once they get to taste what the wizarding world of JK Rowling beholds, they wish they knew about it since the early 2000s.

Interviewed by Nathalie Bontems for Communicate Levant.

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GAUCHO: Steak-World Royalty

The Dubai branch of Argentinian steakhouse Gaucho is tucked away in DIFC in a beautiful unflustered spot. Inside, everything is pristine.

This prestigious UK brand serves an exceptional quality of beef, excels at infusing traditional Argentinian style with cutting edge South American influences, in a stunning atmosphere for an ideal timeout amidst the frenzy of city life.

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Swiftly after arriving and being seated, “Zola” (probably the finest and most attentive waiter I’ve met in Dubai) arrives with a wooden board topped with slabs of uncooked ‘display’ steak, and delivers a podcast-worthy description of the different Argentinian cuts on offer.

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The steaks were dazzling: The Ancho Ribeye was flavoursome, delicately marbled throughout for superb, full-bodied flavor with the meat juices flowing readily over the plate at the press of a fork. The Churrasco De Lomo, meanwhile, was enviably tender, heavenly slathered in quantities of garlic and olive oil.

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One of my favorite steak sides on that night had to be the Humita Sateña. Gaucho puts their own unique twist on this classic dish, serving it in a corn husk with sweetcorn and mozzarella.

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Desserts, too, were outstanding; with the highlight being the Banana and Coconut Mess, garnished with a splodge of sticky meringues, was sweet and decadent.

With waiters like Zola frequently swooping in to top up wine and unmatched experience; Gaucho’s still and will forever be steak-world royalty.

To book your lunch, dinner or private function at Gaucho: +971 4 422 7898. Gate Village Building 5, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, UAE.

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Will This Be Beirut’s First Michelin-Starred Restaurant?

Finding somewhere decent to eat in Beirut has always been a bit like figuring out what to wear on an English summer’s day: trickier than you might think.

Despite an abundance of posh hotel joints and big-name chain brands, there just aren’t that many unfailingly good restaurants in the Lebanese capital. Luckily, CLAP comes in as an exception. Sure, there are facets that feel customary, but Addmind Hospitality’s newest baby still blows most of the home-grown competition out of the water.

Japanese gastronomy is at the forefront of this concept. Branding was designed to complement, not compete, with the lush interiors, which are dominated by wood and stone, with a large Robata counter giving off smoke and clatter against a soundtrack of lounge-y beats.

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Food highlights include Wagyu Beef Tataki, the slivers of dazzlingly fresh fuchsia-pink meat, placed over a canvas of Tozasu dressing in caramel-colored tones. Another delight is the Sea Bass Hoba, a Josper-oven-grilled fish, garnished with a light mint salsa.

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Nothing here is too much trouble. Plates are carefully placed – and replaced – throughout the meal, the table is kept scrupulously clean at all time, and everything is done with a smile.

So will CLAP become Beirut’s first Michelin-starred restaurant? Either-way, if you’re in town for a show, this is the best place to go.

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CLAP Contemporary Japanese Restaurant and Lounge is located on the rooftop of one of the most iconic buildings in Beirut, the An-Nahar building, in Downtown Beirut.

Open every day, from 12pm till 4pm and 8pm till 3am | For reservations: +961 70 633888

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KYO: Where Subtle Japanese Food Wins Supreme

The days of suffering through boring, hearty and outdated rounds of maki are over, thanks to the recent influx of terrific Japanese creations, introduced by the country’s newly self-elected Karate kids, Dar Al Diyafah.

Their latest signature, KYO, has already elevated the luxurious Asian cuisine, bringing an A-game of stellar Japanese rolls and fresh raw fish delicacies to the UAE coasts (or actually just Palm Jumeirah’s).

At KYO, appetizers offer the complexity of entrees, namely warm Gyozas, fresh selections of finely sliced sashimi and one of the finest ceviches I’ve ever had.

Beyond the raw, the chef has skills on the grill, forging on with dishes like the Black Cod & fresh octopus and scallops.

The dessert assortments including the chocolate fondant, meringues and tropically infused ice creams also make an appearance, and they’re all robust and satisfying.

But ultimately this is a place where subtle food wins.

KYO | The Pointe, The Palm Jumeirah.

Reservations on: +971 (04) 557 5182

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The Best of Lebanon in 20 Pictures

In the midst of news about climate change destroying most of Lebanon’s biblical cedar trees, Lebanese firmly believe in showcasing their country’s beauty off, whenever opportunities allow them.

I’ve stumbled upon a great thread of pictures that does just that.

Here are Lebanon’s best aerial shots, as taken by Rami Rizk.

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AFFORDABLE LUXURY: DUBAI’S POCKET-FRIENDLY MICHELIN-STARRED DINNER

Dubaians, take a moment to thank the Italian cuisine & wines world summit, for introducing us and the team at MATTO Dubai to Italian Michelin Chef Vincenzo Guarino, #43rd Best Chef in the world & risotto expert.

Born in Vico Equense (Naples) in Italy on the 4th of April 1977, Vincenzo fell in love with the culinary art at the tender age of 14 and the idea of becoming a chef began to mature within him.

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After embarking on a path of specific studies at the State Professional Institute for hotel services and catering of Roccaraso (Aquila) in Italy, from where he has received his diploma in 1998, he began his journey of unpaid internships in some of the world’s most popular locations such as Lausanne, Zurich, Naples and Milan prestigious starred Chefs of national and International fame, such as Fredy Girardet, André Jaeger and Davide Oldani.

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This specialized savvy in confectionery (Low- calories desserts, Panettone, Pandoro and liqueur Chocolates) as well as preparation of risottos and Finger food, is now taking full control of the kitchen down at MATTO, The Oberoi Hotel on the 21st, 22nd & 23rd of November.

Enjoy the four-course menu below, and the chance to meet a world-renowned Michelin Starred chef for AED 325 per person at MATTO Dubai. Book your affordable Michelin-starred dinner on: +971 4 444 1335

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“When food brings glorious sparks to reality, that’s the MATTO side of art”

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PREVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald

“I want to know who I am,” Credence Barebone says in the newest trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of GrindelwaldIt’s a question fans have been asking themselves for over a year now: what is Credence’s connection to Grindelwald?

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Film fans are returning to the world of Harry Potter once again this November 15, with the arrival of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in worldwide theaters.

The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them promises to be one of the biggest family films arriving over the festive period.

Eddie Redmayne’s magizoologist Newt Scamander is returning to the fold, along with his creature companions and a few familiar faces from the Potter universe.

If you can’t wait until the film is out to get your next Potter fix, and you’re not invited to the fan premiere such as myself (shoutout to the Warner Bros/Shooting Stars teams for this), here’s where you can find a preview of the magic.

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