Hamrah’s Seven Spice
The shutdown in 2020 was a moment of realization for most of us. For Julie Hamrah Fels, one of those eye-opening realizations was that Columbia County, where she has lived for 25 years, didn’t have a good representation for Lebanese food, something that was a big part of her life growing up. Cut off from visiting family or making the trek to far afield Middle Eastern markets and restaurants, Julie decided that was an omission in the local food landscape that she could address. So she started cooking, and turned her love for her Lebanese culinary heritage into Hamrah’s Seven Spice.
Julie offers fresh savories—such as Baba Ghanouj, Kafta (grilled lamb skewers), and Fatayer (hand pies)—that represent a collection of Lebanese traditions. Even the company’s name Hamrah’s Seven Spice honors the culinary culture of Lebanon where Julie says each family and region have their own way of combining the seven spices.
“Even za’atar, a staple Lebanese seasoning, is elusive because people have different opinions about what herbs to include,” she says. “It’s all about what people have available where they live.”
Though Julie grew up with one particular tradition of Lebanese cooking, she doesn’t limit herself to that in her recipes. She’s found a great network of Lebanese food writers, fellow foodies, and chefs who’ve shared delicious recipes with her.
“I’m not a cutting edge chef,” she says. “I’m more of a traditionalist, turning to foods that are at risk of not being enjoyed because either no one has the time to make them or, in our region, has ever had the opportunity to eat them. I make what Lebanese families have been eating for years, and really focus on flavor. It’s Lebanese home cooking.”
For Julie, being in an agricultural county like ours has been the perfect match for the depth of flavor she looks for in Lebanese cuisine. She sources her meat from local farms year round and has the goal of preserving enough Columbia County produce in the coming season to use throughout the winter (she came close this past year!). She believes those fresh ingredients combined with the right spices and taking the time needed to cook them well has resulted in something great.
“Food is love to me, and this is my way of sharing that love,” she says.
And speaking of love, just for fun, I asked Julie what Lebanese dish she would make for Valentine’s Day. Her choice is Shish Barak, homemade dumplings with lamb simmered in a yogurt garlic sauce.
“It’s a pain in the butt to make, but it’s beautiful and delicious – perfect cold weather food,” she says.
You can stop by the Farm Store to find some Hamrah’s Seven Spice’s delicious savories–including Spinach Fatayer and Lamb Fatayer–in our Grab ‘N’ Go cooler, or stop by the Hudson Farmer’s Market starting on February 11 to meet Julie in person. You can also follow her on Instagram at @hamrahs7spice.