Taylor Cheney, she of the popular Arabesque pop-ups at MistralKitchen, recently started working at La Bête (perhaps you saw the restaurant's impeccable burger in our July issue?). And on July 1, she’ll launch a new Monday-night popup at the restaurant, focusing on the Middle Eastern flavors that have become her passion and calling card.
During her time at Mistral, Cheney went traveling to Egypt, where she realized truly immersing herself in those flavors meant picking up and moving there. She spent four months in Cairo, cooking daily and learning nifty tricks like how to cut vegetables sans cutting board.
After a stint at Mamnoon, Cheney landed at La Bête just three weeks ago. Her Babylon by Bus popup will run during regular dinner hours Monday nights. The a la carte menu will be full of meze like raheb, a salad of mashed roasted eggplant with peppers and tomatoes, covered in pomegranate seeds, and lots of mahshi, or stuffed vegetables, like zucchini filled with rice or meat, or eggplant, cabbage, and even grape leaves. Dessert might be milk pudding or crisp doughnuts called awami.
Flavorwise, Babylon by Bus will range across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, and Morocco. There’s also talk of some Middle East-inspired cocktails, and Cheney’s Arabic tutor happens to be one of the servers. She explained all this to me in the midst of cooking a big Arabic breakfast on her day off. "I'm obsessed," she says. "I cook like this on my days off, and read about it all the time. I feel really confident because I actually lived in Egypt."
Keep tabs on Babylon by Bus on the restaurant's Facebook page.