This month’s prix-fixe event, My Big, Fat, Greek Island Tour, is winding down our annual series with a menu that will make you want to bolt out of your chair and scream “Opah!” Chef Alexander has dug deep into his bag of culinary tricks to cobble together 10 dishes that will make you want to taste everything in the line up.
Inspiration for this culinary tour came from Carpe Vino regular, Milt Champs, who participated in our contest over the summer when we challenged customers to get creative and send us their ideas for a prix-fixe theme. Milt’s suggestion came in second place, just a couple of votes behind the winner, but we thought it was excellent and deserved to be produced.
My Big, Fat, Greek Island Tour runs October 28 through November 1 (Sunday is preempted by a private party), with seating starting a 5 p.m. each evening. Cost is $59 per person, plus tax and tip. Reservations are highly recommend; call 530-82-0320 or go online to www.opentable.com.
As is our custom, I sat down with Chef Alexander for insight into the preparation of each dish. This month, you truly need a scorecard–and perhaps a translator–to understand the menu:
Mezes (choice of one):
Selection of Greek Spreads, Favosalata, Tzatsiki, Meliznosalata, Olives, Grilled Flatbread. The Island are renown for spreads, and with this dish, you get grilled triangles of flatbread to load up. Think “hummus” with the Favosalata, a creamy bean dip made from puree of yellow split peas, garlic, red onion and real Greek olive oil that has been imported for this menu. Tzatziki is a cucumber yogurt combined with garlic, lemon and dill. Melitzanosalata is a tasty blend of roasted eggplant, roasted tomato, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic (are you seeing a trend here?). Served with a mix of imported Greek olives.
Grilled Lamb Ribs, Yogurt, Lemon, Oregano. Lamb is, of course, abundant in Greece, so it appears twice on this menu. This appetizer features lamb spare ribs, marinated in lemon juice, oregano, garlic and kosher salt, and then slow-cooked before being finished on the grill. Served with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice and dried oregano; for creaminess it is finished with yogurt.
Octopus and Mussel Stew, Tomato, Ouzo, Orange, Barrel-Aged Feta. Octopus is more common in the Med than chicken, so it earns a top spot on the Chef’s tribute to the Islands. Commonly grilled, Carpe Vino’s own is putting his twist on the dish: the squid will be slow-cooked with crushed tomatoes, ouzo, orange zest and cinnamon, finished on the stovetop with mussels; garnished with imported Greek feta.
Salate ke Soupe (choice of one):
Fasolada Soup, Gigante Beans, Horta, Butternut Squash. Here’s a hearty and rustic soup that starts with Greek gigante beans prepared in chicken stock with diced butternut squash, tomatoes and olive oil. Be careful. . .this authentic dish that dates to ancient Greece is a meal in a bowl. FYI, “horta” is a mixture of wild greens blanched for this dish.
Roast Beet Salad, Almond Skordalia, Dill, Manouri Cheese. Deceptively simple, the beets are slow-roasted and then peeled, served with almond skordalia, garlic pounded with potato and olive oil that is pureed, rendering a garlicky spread. Manouri is a tasty, simple Greek cheese produced from the whey left over from making feta.
Kyria Piata (choice of one):
Roast California Swordfish, Fried Potatoes, Artichokes, Fennel, Avgolemono Emulsion. A straightforward preparation. . .the swordfish is roasted with lemon, oregano and olive oil. Served with potatoes and artichokes–both crispy–as well as fennel and avgolemono, an emulsion of lemon and eggs whipped over a double boiler to develop volume.
Attiki Honey-Glazed Pork Shoulder, Pumpkin Orzo, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Pomegrante. The attiki honey is the star here, a sweet, sultry substance produced from wild flowers and thyme and just off the boat from Greece. Although this is not a traditional Greek preparation, it is a tasty ode to fall using Greek ingredients. The pork shoulder is glazed with the honey and slow-cooked for hours, producing a crackly crust. Orzo, a small pasta, is transformed into a creamy delight with house-made pumpkin puree. Served with crispy Brussels sprouts and a pomegranate relish (this fruit is revered in Greece but never cooked!).
Classic Moussaka, Lamb, Eggplant and Potato Casserole, Béchamel Gratin. This is the real deal. . .you’re going to think you’re on Mykonos. This dish is all about layers and lamb that has been cooked with onion, garlic, tomato puree and cinnamon. Chef assembles the dish with multiple, alternating layers of roasted potatoes, roasted eggplant and the lamb mixture. It’s all topped with Bechamel gratin, a white sauce made from flour, milk and cheese. Chef defines gratin as “brown on top,” so you’ll get your serving after it has been baked in a casserole until it is golden brown.
Glyka (choice of one):
Pistachio “Halva” Pudding, Persimmon Sorbet, Honey Nut “Baklava”. Chef McDonald has produced two awesome endings. . .your problem is to pick one (or just order one of each!). This is a hybrid, baked pudding cake made from semolina flour. It is garnished with cookies that are reminiscent of baklava.
Greek Yogurt-Mandarin Cake, Golden Raisins, Olive Oil. Okay, so this isn’t a traditional Greek dessert, but it is Mandarin season and the ingredients are spot on: flour, Greek yogurt, olive oil and Mandarin zest. Garnished with a relish of golden raisins and spices; drizzled with olive oil.
Sounds awesome, no? Don’t miss this boat to the islands–make your reservations now by calling 530-823-0320, or dial us up on the web at www.opentable.com.