When Ari Vezené, the much acclaimed self-taught chef, butcher and owner of two equally celebrated restaurants in Greece - Vezené Greek bistro bar in Athens, as well as Trattoria Vezené on the Ionian island of Meganissi - hosted the philanthropic event, EMBRACE, in partnership with the NGO BOROUME on January 19th, 2017,unsurprisingly it turned out to be an inspiring evening filled with the melding of cultures, the congregation of old and new friends, and… some really delicious culinary delights!
Developed by Vezené himself, EMBRACE is a new series of gastronomic events which aims at introducing some of the most important chefs worldwide to a greater local audience while promoting Greece to these chefs, as well as helping to initiate said audience to a "new chapter of Greek cuisine" through the melding of these various visiting cultural influences.
Ari Vezené, Greek by heritage but born and raised in New York City before returning to his homeland, has based his entire food and business philosophy on social responsibility. From honoring the source of the food he serves in his restaurants, to supporting small local producers, or feeding approximately 100 to 150 homeless people and refugees each day in collaboration with BOROUME!, Ari has this to say: "We are committed to extending considerate hospitality beyond the fences of our restaurant and into our community." As such, his collaboration with BOROUME!, an NGO whose mission is to "reduce food waste and fight malnutrition in Greece," should come as no surprise.
For this, the second EMBRACE event, Ari welcomed Carlo Mirarchi into Vezené's kitchen to lend his culinary master work for the event. Carlo is a self-taught chef and the co-owner of two highly praised restaurants in Bushwick, Brooklyn: the "rural-urban-hippie-punk-food Utopia" Roberta's, as well as Blanca, an unpretentious spot with an inventive tasting menu that has garnered Carlo two Michelin stars and much respect in the culinary world, including high praise in The New York Times were Blanca was described as, "one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the country" and Carlo's culinary techniques as "kitchen poetry."
Needless to say, this was an invite any self-professing foodie dreams about receiving and I was fortunate enough to have been among the many devotees of Greek gastronomy at the communal seating philanthropic feast to have experienced this notably delicious chapter in the culinary yearbook.
Where should I begin to describe the mouthwatering menu that I and my fellow diners were treated to? From traditional Dolmas and Souvlaki, to Langoustines with sea urchin and olive oil, and 120 Day Aged Duck Bateau, to Carlo's Deal Closer (a peanut butter and double chocolate chip dessert that was Carlo's ingenious take on Vezené's menu favorite, Ari's Deal Closer) everything was all delicious, innovative and simple in the best possible way. To note, each dish was also perfectly accompanied by a selection of drinks from Vezené's Bar V, such as a Bloody Mary with Tito's Vodka, or a glass of Santorini PDO Vassaltis Vineyards’ Assirtiko Magnum. From the first through to the very last bite, it was the perfect melding of traditional Greek flavors and techniques, all translated and presented through the chefs’ diverse international perspectives.
But the evening was even more enjoyable for all of us because of its behind-the-scenes mission. Events such as EMBRACE not only supply a great service to our fellow citizens and further the active promotion of Greek culture but also that ancient tradition of Greek hospitality which is something that is in line with Ari's personal mission to not only promote "all things Greek" but to also encourage a new taste of Greek cuisine, one which is lacking in borders and boasts much inspiration.
I, for one, have already marked my calendar for February 16th when Italian Butcher and Chef, Dario Cecchini, of the world renowned Antica Macelleria Cecchini, will be joining Ari Vezené as the guest chef for the third EMBRACE evening, serving up his own powerful palate of delicious savory bites and intensely flavorful tastes. And I just can't help but wonder what they'll be serving for dessert…
Dinner Connecting Cultures | Vezené Welcomes Mirarchi from Blanca's and Roberta's, Brooklyn, NYC. Directed by Eirini Steirou.