Almost everyone you meet in Beirut comes from a specific village outside of the city. My family is no exception. On my mother’s side, our roots are in Deir el-Kamar, also known as the City of Emirs (Princes); in my own prejudiced view, it is the most beautiful small town in Lebanon. Not only for the magnificent scenery of valleys, mountains, forests of cedars and pine in the Chouf area, not only for the historical sights such as the Palace of Beit-eddine, not only for the wonderful festival each summer during which I once saw Andrea Boccelli and Kazem Al-Saher but also for the memories of spending summers there since childhood and now for the past 10 years with my own children.
Well, Deir El-Kamar also boasts the best tamryeh in all of Lebanon, handmade for the past 60 years by Edouard Shami. His small bakery, a one-man operation, is on the town’s main drag. You have to order in advance, and these days, Edouard, who is well into his eighties, has cut down his handmade production due to some problems with his eyesight. His tamriyeh is exceptional: light as a feather, with a delicate semolina filling redolent of orange and rose water. In addition to his talents as a baker, Edouard used to deliver the pastries and improvise poetry to the enraptured audience of guests, what is called zajal. I have been told that no one in Lebanon achieves the same results as him, not even his own daughter.
All I can say is that tamriyeh is it!! With a dough stretched so thin that it is translucent, a filling that is just mildly sweet with a creamy yet firm texture and an overall lingering perfume of rose and orange blossom. It is worth giving it a try and I promised myself that this year, I will try to make it from scratch!