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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 July 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JULY 2016 13 FOOD George Calombaris held an exclusive lunch at the Press Club in Melbourne to celebrate the DVD release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. "I think that's what I was taught - the spirit, the power and the influence that food has on people and that's the bit that I love so much. It's just an incredible, powerful, emotional, evocative thing that we do, which is serving people, and I love it and I think it's so embedded in the DNA - the Hellenic DNA." "You know," he paused, "I grew up in that environment where the house was always open, the door was always open. People were always welcomed and the first person that would be welcomed into our house would be a stranger. I think that stipulates the Hellenic hospitality, so welcome." When seen from that perspective, it did not come as a surprise when the first starter of our meal, the tsoureki (traditional sweet Greek bread), arrived filled with spicy, salty meat. It was actually the first time I saw a tsoureki with a filling other than chocolate and nuts. Interestingly, it was quite mouthwatering. Next came another surprise, a bowl of crispy, savoury loukoumathes, served with tarama. Loukoumathes is a staple Greek dessert made of deep-fried pastry puffs soaked in honey, sprinkled with nuts, cinnamon and sometimes chocolate. At The Press Club we enjoyed a reworked version which, combined with the fresh white tarama dip (the way caviar sauce should be), made our taste-buds explode. Tarama, also known as taramosalata, is the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, occasionally garlic, and a starchy base of bread, potatoes or almonds. In this case, all I could taste was a fresh, soft, creamy and smooth paste which made me salivate even more. The starters were perfectly paired with a crisp and tangy 2014 Moschofilero, Mantinia. This is a still dry white wine with a surprising flowery (rosy) aroma and distinct citrus aftertaste. Once we were done with the starters, an interesting take on a pork dish known as hirino pihto was served, garnished with peppers and basil. Succulent chicken in a lemonbased sauce with green beans, broccolini and almonds followed to complete the main course. Each bite melted in our mouths while we enjoyed generous sips of a 2011 Daphe Nera dry red by Mercouri Estate in Cephalonia. To finish came the famous Press Club's rizogalo, like a pink bomboniere on a plate. The traditionally white rice pudding was dressed in rhubarb with hints of licorice. Scrumptious pleasure, fit-for-the-gods but cleverly sized to make you ask for more. Our dessert was served with a slightly sparkling, honey-ish moscato and coffee, while Calombaris himself was blow-torching petit fours served on tiny clothes lines for every table. On the aplostra (clothes hanger) were clipped Turkish delights, fluffy marshmallows and chocolate slices. "I get to Greece once or twice a year. It's my inspiration, it invigorates me, and it gives me new ideas to bring back to Australia and translate on my menus here," the MasterChef judge continued. "Contrary to what people believe, amid the crisis and recession many decent businesses are springing up, especially on the food and bar scene. Young people try harder, they are more creative, innovative even. In Greece, and especially in Athens you'll find restaurants of the highest standard delivering an amazing experience. We have a lot to learn from them. "Greek cuisine is elegant, is beautiful and deserves a place at the top, which is why I feel this pressure to constantly learn and evolve and push myself, not rest on my laurels. Pressure for me is a driver, makes me more creative, makes me want to evolve and introduce all things Hellenic throughout Australia."
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