I cherish all of my memories of my grandmother, who we called Sittoo. Many of my memories revolve around her dinner table. I can still smell her homemade pita bread that she baked every weekend and gave to the families of her five children to enjoy. And thankfully, she passed her recipes on to my own mother who is of Scottish descent, although you wouldn’t know it when eating her Lebanese food and bread!
I have so many wonderful memories of Sittoo’s cooking, she was a great cook. Two summertime recipes stand out as my favorites. The first is a dish called Koosa. It is squash stuffed with rice and lamb and boiled with a tomato sauce. We call it Koosa and my husband’s family calls it Mashi. No one can match Sittoo’s recipe but this Genius Kitchen version looks really good.
My other summertime favorite was Sittoo’s stuffed grape leaves. She blanched grape leaves and rolled them with rice and lamb, so delicious! She served them with Leban which is similar to Greek yogurt. Probably the thing that made them so tasty was that she picked her own grape leaves and made her own yogurt to go with them.
TIQA’s Mediterranean heritage
My husband, Deen, was born in Kuwait and his family is of Palestinian descent and emigrated to the US when he was a boy. We share a great love of Middle Eastern food and we have similar views and experiences of middle eastern hospitality. It is always a culinary adventure when we visit Deen’s family in Chicago. The quality of his large family’s home cooking is impossible to match!
My Sittoo was from Lebanon and emigrated to Maine when she was 17. She settled in Waterville, with my grandfather, who was Irish, but was adopted as a boy by a Lebanese family. As a result my grandfather (we called him Jiddoo) spoke fluent Arabic.
Waterville had a large and vibrant Lebanese community and we were fortunate to belong to one of the few Maronite churches in New England. Our family is proud of our Lebanese and Irish heritage.
I retired in 2012 and within 18 months, Deen had left his position in financial services, opting for an early retirement. We took a little time off and then we began envisioning TIQA with my son Tony Lindvall. Tony was general manager of TIQA for the first two years until deciding to move into real estate. The three of us started our discussions at the beginning of 2014 and with the help of Tony, and my oldest son James, we opened less than a year later. We knew we had to pursue this dream.
We spent months talking about the Pan Mediterranean concept and landed on four focal points: great food, great service, beautiful ambiance and good value. We worked on our business plan and refined it over many months. We talked extensively about the experiences we wanted to create for customers. We committed to bringing a new cuisine and dining style, in our casually elegant atmosphere that is different looking and feeling!
We think that it is very important to share Mediterranean hospitality, which is warm and caring. We list the country of origin or inspiration for each dish on our menu. The team working our front of the house is versed in the flavors of the Mediterranean and in January, members of the team visited Israel and the West Bank to seek even more inspiration! We made our way through Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and Tel Aviv! We believe it creates a better and more informed experience for our guests to know what country inspired the dish and can often make for fun conversation as people study the “Pan Mediterranean” map on the back of our menu.
Sharing the experience
TIQA has added a lot to the Portland restaurant scene. Customers love our warmth and casual yet elegant atmosphere. Our 85 seat Private Dining Room is also a hit with businesses and families who need a special space for big events. We have three consecutive years of Wine Spectator awards and our lounge and bar are always lively, especially with our Thursday night live entertainment schedule.
We brought Pan Mediterranean dining to Portland and since we opened, several other Portland restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine have opened. We love this. It means more people are discovering the rich flavors of the Mediterranean. At TIQA, we think we share more of the Mediterranean experience… You’ll have to dine with us and find out.