Monday, February 19, 2018

Estiatorio Volos: Modern Greek Cuisine

Located across from the Canadian Opera Centre at Richmond and University, Estiatorio Volos is centered around the concept of Philoxenia, a Greek word meaning hospitality, a credo that is woven into the tapestry of the restaurant’s food, service, and ambiance. Born out of owner Andreas Antoniou's passion for the food of his family's native Greece, he is committed to using only the highest quality local produce, creating a unique contemporary culinary experience rooted in authentic Greek cuisine. The open kitchen is presided over by chef Reza Parsia in collaboration with New York-based author, critic and chef Diane Kochilas, to create a menu of authentic, modern Greek dishes, with delicious results. Andreas knew of Kochilas by dining at Pylos in NYC, another Greek-inspired restaurant that bears the hallmark of her touch. Andreas approached Diane to come and create a menu that would put Volos on equal footing with the top Greek restaurants of Montreal, New York and Chicago. Kochilas, a New Yorker who lives in Greece, has an eye for New York chic mixed with down-home Greek flavours.

The menu at Volos reflects this vision, featuring modern twists on traditional classics, such as Horiatiki Salad with its classic combination of cherry heirloom and cluster tomatoes, field cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives and barrel feta, laced with a generous lashing of chef Reza Parsia’s top-notch Cretan organic olive oil, Dolmades with grape leaf wrapped Metaxa-soaked golden raisins, pine nuts, arborio rice and Tzatziki — beautifully textured and full of flavour, and Moussaka, a towering terrine of eggplant, zucchini and yukon gold potato sauced with a Greek-style Bolognese perfumed with cinnamon and allspice, all topped with a fluffy, cheesy snowcap of Kasseri and Kafaltyri cheese béchamel. Volos also features a small pre-theatre menu, with a choice of three appetizers, three entrées and a selection of traditional Greek desserts such as Baklava and also Pressed Greek Yogurt with Honey and Fresh Berries, which was deliciously rich and thick with a small puddle of honey, crowned with a selection of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and a sprig of mint — polí nóstimos!

A whimsical chandelier made of green glass fishing buoys which hang over 
the impressive 12-seat celebration table

The open, friendly Mediterranean-inspired interior of Volos was designed using lots of 
warm wood, stone and natural light

Natural wood table settings with linen napkins and modern glassware

Volos pre-theatre menu

Fresh baked squishy baguette

2015 Vidiano, Klima, Crete

Soutzoukakia: Braised Meatballs with cinnamon, cumin and tomato sauce garnished with feta

Watermelon, feta and mint salad with extra virgin olive oil and lots of black pepper

Greek Lentil Soup

Black Sesame Wild Pacific Salmon with spanakorizo, shaved feta with a herb and lemon sauce 
and roasted asparagus

Moussaka with beef, eggplant, zucchini, Yukon gold potato, manouri, feta and Kefalotyri béchamel

Lamb Shank with feta mashed potatoes, spinach and crispy leeks

Horiatiki Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, olive, feta and olive oil

Pressed Greek Yogurt with fresh Berries and honey

Ouzo Chocolate Mousse with semi-sweet dark chocolate mousse with Ouzo chantilly

Makes about 40
Recipe courtesy of chef Reza Parsia, Estiatorio Volos

3 tbsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup rice
1/3 cup fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh mint
2 cups water or stock
1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1 tbsp pomegranate syrup
1 jar brined grape leaves with at least 40 pieces

1/2 cucumber
1 cup pressed yogurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Shred the cucumber on a box grater, squeezing out excess liquid with a clean dish cloth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cucumber with yogurt, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover and chill until ready to use.

In a small saucepot with 2 tbsp of olive oil, sauté onions for 2 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Add a splash of lemon juice and herbs, and stir. Add water or stock, a splash at a time, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Rice should be undercooked. Stir in pine nuts, raisins and pomegranate syrup. Transfer to plate and spread flat to cool.

Strain grape leaves and rinse for 15 minutes. Use a paring knife to remove excess tip of stem. Lay grape leaves flat, shiny-side down. Place a small spoonful of filling in the centre. Fold in left side, right side, the side closest to you, and then roll tight. It’s the same method as a burrito or spring roll, but with the grape leave forming a thick wrap.

Place dolmades in a pot covered with water, remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and a plate to weigh them down. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat and allow to cool before straining and transferring to plate. Once dry and cool, store in fridge for up to 4 days. Serve chilled, with tzatziki.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash & Spinach

There are few dishes as elegant or as simple as seared sea scallops. Sweet, tender and mild, the less you fuss with scallops, the better they are. The best way to cook these plump, meaty scallops is to sear them quickly in a hot pan so that the outside get a lovely crisp, bronze crust and the inside remains tender and moist. The crowning glory is nestling the little darlings on a pillow of mashed butternut squash and steamed spinach, a healthy partner to the rich scallops. A garnish of organic spring pea micro greens crown the dish, for a light and delicious entrée that makes this recipe a heart-smart modern classic.

Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash & Spinach

Serves 2

6 sea scallops

5 oz baby spinach
12 oz butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 oz organic spring pea microgreens for garnish, optional 
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp butter

Toss the scallops with sesame oil and set aside. Steam the butternut squash over boiling water until tender, about 30 minutes, then mash until smooth. Wilt the spinach in 1/2 cup of boiling water, then drain and set aside. Set a nonstick sauté pan on medium-high and melt a tablespoon of butter until bubbling. Place the scallops in the pan and cook until golden brown and almost cooked through, or your desired level of doneness. To serve, arrange portions of spinach and squash as a nest for each scallop and garnish with micro greens.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Spicy Beef Armenian Kefta with Tahini & Tzatziki

Kefta is traditionally a meat mixture, often made with beef or lamb, mixed with savoury spices like cumin, paprika, and even a bit of cinnamon for some warmth. There are hundreds of varieties of meatballs – kofta in Arabic and ktsitsot in Hebrew – each with its own unique heritage and specific preparation technique. You can form them into round meatballs, flat patties, thin fingers or more commonly, into torpedo-shaped kebabs that are perfect for wrapping up inside of a pita or serving with any kind of warm flatbread. In this Armeian-inspired version, ground beef is seasoned with a combination of spices, finely chopped onion and fresh herbs. Although some recipes suggest adding breadcrumbs or eggs to bind the mixture, it's not wholly traditional. Chilled for an hour or so before cooking, the kefta are grilled for 6-10 minutes over medium heat until just they're cooked through and beautifully golden brown. Drizzle with Tahini Sauce and serve with flatbread or quinoa, couscous or even a crunchy cucumber and tomato salad plus a heaping bowl of fresh homemade tzatziki, Kefta are healthy, delicious and bursting with flavour.

Spicy Beef Armenian Kefta
Serves 4

1 lb ground beef 
1 medium onion, very finely chopped or grated, then drained in a strainer
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp grated paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped mint leaves, plus extra for garnish

1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 roasted cherry tomatoes 

Tahini Sauce:
5 oz light tahini paste
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Mix all of the kefta ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, and let sit for 1 hour or longer to allow the flavours to blend. To make the kefta, shape small amounts of the meat mixture into cylinder or sausage shapes and set on a plate. Cover a chill for about an hour to firm up the mixture. To barbecue outdoors, preheat the grill to medium-high and cook the kefta for about 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned all over but still lovely and juicy on the inside. To cook indoors, preheat oven to 425°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a large non stick frying-pan and sear the kefta in batches over high heat, making sure they're not bunched together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about 6-10 minutes for each batch for medium-rare. For medium or well-done, place the kefta on a baking tray and cook in the oven for another 2-4 minutes. To serve, arrange the kefta on a warmed platter and garnish with fresh herbs, lemon and a bowl of Tzatziki on the side.

Homemade Tzatziki
Makes 1 cup 

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated with skin on
1 cup plain strained Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed 
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Grate the remaining cucumber, spread it out over a large tea towel and wrap it tight, leaving it at least 30 minutes until the grated cucumber is quite dry. 

In the meantime, peel and finely crush the garlic, then combine with the oil in a small bowl and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Combine the cucumber with the garlic mixture, then stir through the yoghurt until evenly distributed along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve with warm pita or alongside a Greek salad and grilled meats. Leftover tzatziki keeps well, chilled, for about 4 days.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

La Société: Winterlicious French Bistro Lunch

Inspired by the lifestyle and cuisine of 1920’s Parisian bistros, the owners of La Société - Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano - travelled to Paris with designer Alessandro Munge, to visit authentic French bistros, boulangeries, cafés and patisseries to explore ideas for their venue La Société, which opened in 2011 on the second floor of the Colonnade, in the space previously occupied by Dynasty Chinese Cuisine. The most spectacular feature at La Société is the custom designed stained-glass ceiling which crowns the restaurant's elegant dark mahogany interior, complete with intimate alcoves of brass and deep red leather banquette seating, a long French-imported zinc bar, and elaborate black, white and gold mosaic floors custom crafted by 29 tile workers that Khabouth flew in from Montreal to create the look of a belle époque Paris bistro. La Société’s large windows also provide a canvas for traditional hand-painted bistro signage which alert savvy shoppers that there’s a hot new venue on Bloor. English-born chef Ben Heaton heads up the kitchen with a tantalizing menu that offers a modern slant to French bistro classics such as French Onion Soup, Smoked Trout Rillette, Seared Foie Gras, Beef Bourguignon, Steak Frites, Duck Confit as well as the enormously popular three course prix-fixe Winterlicious menu, which we enjoyed after spending the morning at the spectacular Christian Dior exhibition at the ROM, making the culinary leap from French haute couture to french bistro-style cuisine.

The 2018 Winterlicious menu at La Société

The elegant dark mahogany interior with backlit paintings and handprinted windows

Warm bread bread fresh from the oven

Ontario Split Pea Soup with braised ham hock and crème fraiche

Burger Maison with dry aged beef, caramelized onion, smoked garlic and cheddar with homemade mayonnaise and frites

Mushroom Pappardelle with roasted mushrooms, mustard velouté, grana padano and black truffle

Tarte au Citron with torched meringue

Parsley Root Soup
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ben Heaton

2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 lb parsley roots, peeled and diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1/2 small fennel, diced
1/2 small Spanish onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 cartons vegetable broth, about 10 3/4 cups
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup 35% cream
Salt and pepper

Bacon Relish:
3/4 lb double-smoked bacon, diced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
2 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup

Snails & Garnish:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 snails
1 demi-baguette
Handful of parsley leaves

To prepare soup, coat a large pot with olive oil and set over medium heat. When hot, add parsley root, celery, fennel, onion and garlic. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until translucent. Deglaze pan by slowly adding wine and scraping up and stirring in any brown bits from the ­bottom. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer about 30 minutes until parsley root is very tender. Remove from heat.

To prepare relish, cook bacon for about 10 minutes in a pan set over medium-low heat until slightly crisp. Remove and strain fat. Reserve. Place 1 tbsp bacon fat back into a pan and heat over low. Add shallot, thyme, sage and rosemary. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until shallot is translucent. Add bacon. Increase heat to medium. Add sherry vinegar. Deglaze pan again. Cook until reduced by half. Stir in maple syrup. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates. Place in a bowl and let cool.

When soup has cooled slightly, add parsley and cream. Using a blender or food processor, purée until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl or back into pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, then snails. Cook for 2 minutes until warm. Divide snails into 4 large serving bowls. Tear baguette and add to remaining butter in pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 3 minutes until toasted. Add a dollop of bacon relish to each bowl. Reheat soup if needed, then pour overtop. Garnish with bread and parsley leaves.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Christian Dior Haute Couture at The ROM

In celebration of the House of Dior’s 70th anniversary, the Royal Ontario Museum has created a stunning retrospective of the early years of Christian Dior haute couture, 1947 to 1957. Exploring the brilliance behind Dior’s dramatic creations that revived the Paris haute couture industry after the devastation of the Second World War, the exhibition offers captivating insights into the creative process and mechanics of the fashion industry in Paris during a pivotal time. Presented by Holt Renfrew, the exhibition draws from the ROM’s permanent collection of textiles and fashions, this treasured collection is arranged thematically by Daytime - coats, suits, and day dresses - Late Afternoon to Evening - cocktails and dinner dresses - and Evening - ball and formal gowns. The pieces are contextualized with Dior accessories and perfumes, and augmented by contemporary film, sketches, fashion photographs, and advertisements. Many of the pieces were worn in Canada and donated by socialites of the period from Montreal and Toronto. In addition to the ROM’s own collection, the exhibition is enhanced by loans from Christian Dior Héritage; Paris and Maison Hurel, Paris; Musée d’Art et d’Industrie de Saint-Etienne; Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, and several other lenders. Visitors will discover how and why the designer’s iconic lines, luxury textiles, and romantic embroideries laid the foundation for the House of Dior’s global success.

Christian Dior

Born in 1905 in Granville, France, Christian Dior began his career in Paris as a freelance designer and sketch artist, selling fashion illustrations to magazines in 1935. His first job in an haute couture house was in 1938 when Robert Piguet hired him as modéliste. In 1941, Christian Dior joined the house of Lucien Lelong as assistant designer and in 1946 he set up his own couture house. On February 12, 1947, Christian Dior presented his first collection, that became known as the “New Look.” The soft shoulders, cinched waist, accentuated hips and long, full skirts of Christian Dior’s masterful cuts swept away the wartime masculine silhouette and launched a fashion revolution that influenced women’s fashions throughout the 1950s and has kept the House of Dior a fashion leader to this day.

"All around us, life was beginning anew; it was time for a new trend for fashion."

-  Christian Dior, 1956  -

The soft femininity of Christian Dior’s “New Look” silhouette, with its sweeping longer skirts, 
fitted waist, and rounded shoulders

Dior and Renée, one of his models

Christian Dior Exhibition at the ROM

Lady looking longingly at Dior dresses - how fashion has changed

Delphine cocktail dress, Ligne Aimant, 1956 Autumn-Winter collection

Spectacular Venezuela Dress, Fall/Winter 1957

Caracas, Libre, 1957 Spring-Summer

Sophia Loren wearing Dior Caracas dress in black

'Zemire' cocktail dress 1955

Christian Dior’s daytime suits and dresses were deigned for women on the move; he made sure the Dior woman looked sleek and feminine, and was not hindered by her clothing

Auteuil two-pice day suit from the Spring/Summer 1949 collection

"For day-time in town, a dark suit in a smooth material is best...the little black suit cannot be beaten for elegance and usefulness" - Christian Dior 1955

Custom designed labels by Holt Renfrew for the Dior Fashions they sold through the store

Day dress from 1955 with handprinted 'Bambou' fabric by Staron with coordinating gloves

Sharon printing register from May 1955 recorded the names and firms commissioned to create the designs

Custom printed 'Bambou' fabric by Staron for Christian Dior, required nine silk screens to create the look

Christian Dior with model Dorothy Emms, 1952

Staron was one of the oldest and most prominent luxury textile and ribbon-mauficaturing firms in France, and were a key supplier of textiles to the House of Dior. "Textile salesmen are extraordinary magicians who dazzle you with...a fan...a pyrotechnic display of colour."  

The Evening Gown collection at the exhibition

Rose France Grand Gala Gown Autumn-Winter 1947-48

Palmyre evening dress from the 'Profilee' collection Autumn-Winter 1952

Detail of the above dress made of a sugared almond blue Celanese satin, stylized with floral motifs reminiscent of those found in Islamic art, and embroidered with silver and gold threads, gemstones, pearls and Swarovski crystals

Touch screen monitors around the exhibit provide additional images about each dress, 
like this original sketch for the 'Isabelle' 

The Isabelle evening dress Spring-Summer 1948

The Isabelle from the back — gorgeous

Tour Eiffel gold jacket, 1949 Spring-Summer, made of silk satin lined with cotton lace 

Dior handbag with secret drawer for jewelry when travelling, iconic long gloves and Miss Dior perfume , named after Christian’s sister, was the first perfume I ever owned

Handwritten booklet cataloging fabrics and fashions from the House of Dior

Custom designed shoes with coordinating fabrics with Dior fashions

Magazines from the 1950s featuring Christian Dior

'Maintenon' necklace by Henkel & Grosse for Christian Dior for Spring-Summer 1956.
made of multi-coloured glass tones, pastes and metal, on loan from Dior Héritage, Paris 

Lily of the Valley necklace was made for the House of Dior in 1950 by the legendary Maison Gripoix, which also designed costume jewellery for Chanel, Balenciaga and later Yves St. Laurent and Christian Lacroix; on loan Carole Tanenbaum

Miss Dior Eau de Toilette - highly superstitious, Christian Dior loved the lily-of-the-valley, a symbol of happiness that heralded the arrival of spring and the haute couture

Dior considered perfume the ‘finishing touch of a dress’

Rene Gruau 1950s Linen backed Christian Dior Perfume Ad, print

Christian Dior ad campaign, c.1950

Ghislaine Arsac in Dior, 1956

'Dovima with Elephants' by Avedon August 1955