It's not often that one takes a trip to the Middle East but, in culinary terms, Syria came to us with traditional food prepared by Tayybeh at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Tayybeh is a group of Syrian women, refugees from a war-torn country, living in Greater Vancouver and preparing very popular home-style dishes at pop-up restaurants from time to time.
Our evening started with a glass of Giusti Prosecco Extra Dry Rosalia and an animated tour of the PICA kitchens and facilities given by Chef Julian Bond. We were then seated at tables in the classroom with white linen covers for a showing of a video about the origins of Tayybeh and how a group of women are integrating into the community and exciting Vancouverites with their delicious food. A few dips – Hummus, Mhammara (a red pepper and walnut spread) and Baba Ghannouj (eggplant with chopped peppers and pomegranate) with Pita Bread – eased us into the delights to follow.
Our starters were Lentil Soup, Yalanji (stuffed vine leaves), the delicious Beehive - bread stuffed with cheese and parsley – and Tabbouleh with a 2017 Boutari Moschofilero and a 2016 Skouras Moscofilero, both from Greece, and a 2017 Galil Mountain Viognier from the Galilee Hills in Israel.
Main courses were a very tasty Msahhab spiced Chicken and Beef Samboosak (crispy golden half-moon stuffed pastry pockets) with Mandi Rice together with a trio of wines from Suvla Wines in the Gallipoli Peninsular of Turkey – a light 2016 Karasakiz, a bigger 2011 Suvla SIR syrah-merlot blend and a full-flavoured 2001 Reserve Syrah from the family Bozokbag Vineyard. We were also treated to a short presentation by member David Spurrell about Suvla Bay and its commemoration of the WW I battle on a Newfoundland postage stamp collected by him in his boyhood.
Dinner finished with traditional desserts of Baklava and Mhallabeya, a Syrian milk pudding - a sweet finish to an interesting and delicious experience. Our thanks go to member Scott Fraser, who introduced us to Tayybeh and showed slides of his visit to Syria and the Middle east and also spoke to the white wines, to Rana and Nihal and their Tayybeh team, to PICA Owner Yves Potvin, Julian Bond, Tim Ellison and Jen dela Luna for their generosity for providing the venue and their time for the event, and to Haluk Erenguk for financial support for the Suvla wines.