The Bayti Pop-Up is Bringing Distinctly Palestinian Hospitality to Adams Morgan
July 29, 2022 @ 10:00am
Chef Jinan Deena is throwing a Palestinian dinner party at Grand Duchess in Adams Morgan this August. The start of a new dinner series, aptly titled, Bayti, “my home” in Arabic, was born out of Deena’s desire to bring the Palestinian home hospitality experience to D.C. diners.
Deena selected Grand Duchess for the event because of its intimate layout – the space was formerly a living room in a residential home. Deena has previously hosted pop-ups at Adams Morgan mainstay the Green Zone, most recently putting on a Palestinian Iftar event where diners gathered to break their fasts during Ramadan.
At Bayti, guests can anticipate Palestinian staples such as knafa, a shredded filo pastry filled with sweet cheese and orange blossom, and hashwa, a dish composed of spiced rice layered with ground beef and slivered almonds. The dinner’s special feature, Booza, is a type of mastic-based ice cream found across the Arab world. The treat is nearly impossible to come by in the states due to the rarity of its main ingredient, sahlab, a flour made from orchid plants. The menu will offer a selection of Palestinian beer, wine, and arak in addition to a curated cocktail list featuring regional ingredients like orange blossom water and date-infused whiskey. The Dubbaneh brothers, founders of Rockville-based Palestinian spice company Z&Z, are providing their products for the event.
Deena, however, insists that the focus of the event is the authentic Palestinian home meal experience rather than the menu itself. Guests will sit at tables of six and twelve and should expect to serve themselves family-style. After the meal, guests will be served sage tea to aid with digestion as is customary in Palestinian homes. The rich aromas of the dishes will intermingle with fragrant jasmine flowers provided by the Palestinian-owned “Little Shop of Flowers,” a scent Deena describes as central to her childhood summers spent in Palestine. Strings from traditional oud music will serve as a backdrop to what Deena anticipates will be lively conversation between guests.
Deena, who identifies as an activist and foodie, regularly hosts packed dinner parties at her Adams Morgan apartment where conversations flow out of the experience of sharing a meal. Deena explains that for her, food is the medium for bringing people together. Friends of Deena, unfamiliar with Palestinian customs, have remarked that these parties remind them of Thanksgiving, but Deena says, “This is just how I ate dinner with my family everyday [growing up].”
While Deena has no formal culinary training, she spent her childhood learning the ins and outs of the industry at her family’s restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. Her parents, both Palestinian immigrants, were hesitant to refer to their restaurant as Palestinian due to fears of discrimination. She recalls their restaurant serving dishes deemed palatable enough for small town diners in the Midwest. But at home, Deena says, is when her parents’ food would really come to life. Dinner was enjoyed together, with multiple dishes served with sides of pickles, olives, and radishes and finished off with hot tea and fruit.
Deena consults with her mother on all her pop-up menus, but Bayti in particular, she says, “is the menu my mother would design if she could.” Deena, who works as the National Organizer for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), seeks to honor her heritage through her pop-ups, making it a point to always refer to them as Palestinian. Deena explains, “There’s always a risk, but I would give up everything to proudly reclaim my heritage.”
Bayti debuts on August 7 with two rounds of seatings at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
Grand Duchess: 2337 18th St NW, DC; grandduchessdc.com // @grandduchessdc
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