Good morning! Perhaps some of you have been wondering if we are cooking this week. The answer is "Yes. Definitely!" It was just one of those weekends were I misplaced my superwoman cape, and thus couldn't seem to manage to get everything done in time to send this out to you yesterday.
I am very grateful to have good friends in my life. I am even more grateful because my friends have birthdays once in a while. Sometimes those friends have birthday parties in interesting places that give me something to write about. Double yay! This past week I was fortunate enough to get to go to one such surprise birthday dinner for a friend. The party was at Kipos, the Greek Taverna in The Courtyard in Chapel Hill. What a beautiful place! The decor is a mixture of rustic and chic elements, creating a picturesque atmosphere that makes you feel like you must really be a high-class, special person to be dining there. While looking for just the right photo on their website, I found one of the exact table where we sat. It is right in front of the kitchen, which was interesting for me since I am always curious about the behind the scenes elements of places and things. However, I don't necessarily recommend it, as there is heavy traffic coming and going from the kitchen. Picture that long table full of lively vegetarian musicians and the photo will be complete.
The atmosphere was further enriched by the live music. A lovely gentleman was
sitting right by the door (which was more than a little drafty), but he never looked uncomfortable nor seemed to mind that no one was really paying attention to him except for our table of lively vegetarian musicians. I think what he was playing was a bouzouki, a long-necked lute that kind of sounds like a mandolin. The music was beautiful and lively, and definitely added to my impression that I must be special and high-class to be dining in such a stimulating place. If we hadn't been so busy eating, and if my son had not been feeling under the weather, I might have grabbed him up and started celebrating the fun by dancing to the music (which apparently folks do there on the weekends).
Now I realize that I am reviewing a restaurant and haven't even mentioned the food yet! Well, it was good. My over-all captivation was with the restaurant itself and the atmosphere. This is another establishment that is by no means vegetarian. They did however have the menu nicely marked to indicate vegan dishes. All of the side dishes were vegan-friendly, plus a couple of the appetizers. So the selection was modest, but there were enough dishes to choose from that not everyone at the table was eating the same thing. I tried the lemony greens (and boy were they lemony! Ah-mazing!), the fire-roasted vegetables (they really do have a wood oven, whose woodpile was crowded in behind us), and the gigantes platki (big white baked beans). We also ordered stuffed grape leaves, but my son managed to eat all of them while I was out checking on my car (the parking situation at the Courtyard is not fantastic, fyi). So I can't tell you how they were. Obviously he had no complaints about them. My birthday-girl friend asked my opinion about the food. I guess since I have been making money as chef now for a few years, I am authorized to pontificate on such things. The food was good, really good. It was simple, fresh, and well-cooked, especially the eggplant. It is incredibly easy to make eggplant badly, so it is to their great credit that the roasted eggplant was butter-soft without being mushy (not an easy balance to strike). However nothing was really flashy, except for the greens. I did say "Oh wow!" on the first bite into those, but again it was simply seasoned - probably just olive oil, salt and lemon. Yet that is what makes Greek food, Greek food - fresh ingredients, a few herbs, some lemon, and a lot of high-quality olive oil.
I do have to say that their dessert selection was flashy. Nothing in the dessert section was truly vegan, as everything had dairy and honey in it. However, there were several items that were egg-free, including the cheesecake. Oh, the cheesecake! Greek cheesecake is not at all like NY cheesecake. It was light and fluffy, like eating thick whipped cream, and it was flavored with fresh fruit and honey. The dessert portions were surprisingly generous. Almost everyone had to take part of their dessert home with them, everyone except my biggest and tallest friend, whom my son and I secretly bet would finish his portion all by himself. :-)
Do visit Kipos at least once. Bring friends and family to make the most of the warm atmosphere. You might even get to take part in the dancing!
This Week's Menu:
Entree #1 - Whole Mung & Tomato Dal This dal is simple, tasty, without being spicy. What could be more satisfying than classic whole mung and tomatoes? *GF, soy-free
Entree #2 - Bengali Cholar Dal Unfortunately, I am running out of time to write these descriptions and am going to have to keep it very basic. Channa (split chickpeas) dal, cashews, raisins, "sweet" spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. This dal is usually made on special occasions like weddings or festivals. *GF, soy-free
Entree #3 - Bengali Royal Rice To complement our festival dal, I just couldn't resist combining it with this fancy rice, also called Pushpanna (flower) rice. Also reserved for special occasions, this dish is usually made with basmati rice (we will use brown), nuts, raisins, fried chunks of fresh cheese (we are using tofu), peas, and a bevy of beautiful spices. *GF, can be made without tofu upon request
Chocolate "Ladoo" - $1/ea. or 6 for $5. This ladoo was born from the Chocolate Tofu "Creme" Pie. The pie recipe makes more crust than what fits into my pie dishes, so I took the extra (dates, walnuts & cocoa), made them into sweet balls, and called them ladoos. The folks that I shared these with went far more wild over them then I ever expected and insisted that I make them for you all. *GF, soy-free