Saturday, January 23, 2016

New foods and ancient mummies

Dinner guests at the Leonardo

Tea, anyone?

When it comes to trying new foods I am a total wimp.
Just ask my husband.
I've always been better at hiding the food I don't eat (under a leaf of lettuce or in the mashed potatoes) than tasting something I can't identify as something friendly.
cous cous
That said, I have to give the folks at The Leonardo credit for coming up and presenting a menu for their "Feast of Ancient Worlds" that was both adventurous and novel.
It tied to the areas where the mummies in the gallery's current exhibit were found. We sampled foods from Egypt, Peru, Hungary, Algeria and the Vanuatu Islands.
The dishes used spices that most cooks in the area recognize: fennel, cloves, garlic, cinnamon, anise, mustard seed and ginger. None of the dishes were everyday fare.
We started with a Chai (tea) that was so aromatic and challenging that I reconsidered my decision to sign on for this media event. Apparently, this tea is a staple in most European households and, in fact, if you aren't offered this drink, your host is considered to be terribly rude.
I found it very strong and to have a lingering after taste.
But I was determined to give this event a fair try so when I was presented with hummus pounded from chick peas and goat cheese with a fig, olive oil and flat bread, I ate my flat bread right away. I even scooped up a little hummus and goat cheese. The goat cheese got three stars. The fig I sent away much to my husband's dismay. The hummus was sharp for me but brought raves from my seatmates.
Next was a stuffed potato with sweet potato, corn, quinoa and avocado. I enjoyed my potato and corn once I moved the avocado stuffing and quinoa aside.
I was on a roll, to a stuffed cabbage roll, to be precise. It was quite good and the Hungarian paprika sauce inviting. I ignored my portion of black pudding.
After-dinner favor?
From Algeria came cous cous with lamb sausage, grilled fennel, roasted eggplant, oven-roasted tomato and dried fruit. The adventure came from being asked to share something with our neighbor on the right AND use our fingers.
We were provided with little finger towels so we could start with clean hands.
For me, that was the most challenging exercise. I am somewhat of a germ-a-phobe and really find it hard to share food.
Fortunately, almost everyone at our table chose to share a piece of the sausage so it kind of became a moot issue. One share of sausage went pretty much all around the horn.
Lastly, we were served a roasted banana tart with toasted coconut and three fruit sauces.
my sweet potatoes
It was not as scary to me as some of the rest of the meal and I was nearly home free.
Marc liked the whole thing.
So did the others at the table. One lady was asking the chef for the recipes. Another woman was tweeting good things about the event all night.
I considered the evening a success especially since the chef — who sat next to me for the dessert course — didn't say anything about the food I wasted or barely tasted.
The Leonardo has two more of these events planned, one tonight and one on the 30th.
"Mummies of the World" will be on display through March 6, 2016. For more information, visit or
For a small price, you too can be a food adventurer.
Bon Appetite!