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Dining Out

Glori Fickling, For the Coastline Pilot

When dedicated chef Marwan launched his delightful little Mama’s

Bakery and Lebanese Cuisine in Laguna Beach two years ago on Mother’s Day

he introduced to locals a new dimension in ethnic taste sensations.

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The quaint little respite with myriad tables outside for alfresco

dining is a continuing tribute to his late mother who so loved our

community that she often brought lavish picnics to Heisler Park to share

with neighboring sun worshipers.

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Her love, says the gracious Marwan, inspired this clone to the

14-year-old original located in San Diego where Mama’s recipes first

attracted a dedicated following.

The deliciously healthful flavors of Marwan’s Beirut homeland are

served with caring concern from an immaculate kitchen behind the cafe

nestled among the art galleries and shops of The Collection on Coast

Highway downtown.

These are ancient comfort foods prepared from scratch, the many

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complex ingredients carefully blended, chopped and authentically

combined. Stone-baked pita breads and similarly flat-wheat breads embrace

such sandwich fillings as crunchy falafel patties, toasted garlic

chicken, beef kafta and sajou, a spicy beef sausage. These are

embellished with various condiments, spices, yogurt, pickles, olives,

cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce.

The pliant and fragrant breads are presented triangularly in baskets

with the many entrees and appetizers that make for adventuresome

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picnic-style feasting. For a magical taste sensation, spoon into these

delicate pockets the creamy, comforting baba ghanoush, a roasted eggplant

dish, deliciously spicy labneh, a dab of chopped tabouli salad adding

texture contrast. The wheat version is also the basis for a delicate

herbal pizza seasoned with lemony sumac, olive oil and sesame seeds.

There is an interesting display of Lebanese artifacts in one corner of

the restaurant and a glass case at the entry encompasses a luscious

assortment of imported pastries to enjoy with any of an endless variety

of herbal teas and exotic coffees. A rare treat is the thick, syrupy

Turkish coffee poured ceremoniously from a small brass vessel into tiny,

delicate, gilt-trimmed cups. After consuming the sweet liquor, remnants

from the cups when turned upside down may reveal an individual’s future

when read by professional psychics, much as gypsy’s read tea leaves.

“Your future is in your stomach” is an oft quoted comment of these

readers, according to chef Marwan whose expertise began at childhood in

his mother’s kitchen. His training continued at prestigious Switzerland

restaurants and was finally consummated at a famous Italian cooking

school paid for by the appreciative management of one of those hotels.

Price wise, a quintet of combination plates sided with salad, humus,

condiments and pita are $11.99. Appetizers, sandwiches, meat and

vegetable pies range from $2.99 for the crunchy pizza Manakeesh, to $8.99

for meat/spinach/cheese pie. Beverages and desserts are $1.25 to $4.50.

FYI

MAMA’S BAKERY AND LEBANESE CUISINE

WHERE: 540 South Coast Highway Suite 108

PHONE: 376-9904

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. open every day except Tuesday


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