It’s been awhile since we last met Chef Eyal Liebman and his wife, Sommelier Rebecca Meïr-Liebman. Since their days at Moroco, a lot has changed. Their previous company, L is For…, specializing in pastries, has evolved and transformed into Chef & Somm, where the husband and wife duo provide their services as chef and sommelier in creating personal and unique dining experiences.
Their themed Hummus and Chardonnay dinner was held on Friday, September 25th. We walked into The Richmond to find tables that had beautiful place settings with cutlery yearning to be used, and wine glasses wanting to be filled. With this dinner, the Liebmans wanted to go “back to their roots”, with a Middle Eastern 7-course meal. Not only was this an homage to the country and regiong from which they came, this was also a nod to their respective specialties in food and wine, and how these should work together to create complementary pairings. On this night, the wine was provided by Southbrook Vineyards, from Ontario’s Niagara wine region.
The hors d’oeuvre was a falafel with fish belly, paired with an 2013 Estate Sémillion, served while the guests mingled about. The fish belly gave the falafel a nice soft and moist texture inside. Upon sitting, we were presented with the hummus & beet kubbah nia, with Israeli salad, pine nuts, and pomegranate. This was paired with the 2013 Triomphe Chardonnay. I must admit I’ve never had falafel or hummus with wine before, but these dishes showed that these pairings do work. It was a very nice start to the evening.
The next course was a fish synia – a dish with Palestinian origins. This was an interesting dish – the creaminess of the fish contrasted well with the coarseness and tartness of the couscous. The more distinct flavours of the 2012 Estate Minerality Chardonnay worked well with this dish. The “comfort” course was a borage and orange scented meatball. This was perhaps my favourite course of the night. The meatball was extremely moist, and the broth made from sage and tomato was strongly flavoured. A piece of Valrhona Ivoire, a white chocolate, accompanied the dish. The pairing was with a 2014 Small Lot ‘Orange Wine’. According to Southbrook Vineyards’ Paul DeCampo, this wine is not actually made from oranges, but instead fermented from white grapes with their skins and stems, producing the colour. It is also sulphite-free wine.
The main course was a saffron & rosemary roasted Ontario lamb on a bed of Le Puy lentils. While the dish was delicious, the lamb could have been a little bit more tender, and I personally prefer when the lamb flavour comes through more prominently. On this dish, the aggressive seasoning of the lentils might have overpowered the lamb a bit. The 2007 Poetica Cabernet Merlot complemented this course. The cheese course was the playfully named “Oops, I dropped the Boureka!”, referring to the style in which this dish was plated. And while it looks like a dessert, it’s actually a savoury dish. Chef Liebman’s prowess in pastries was evident in this dish; the phyllo was flaky and delicate, and his penchant for incorporating chocolate was shown here with the Valrhona Caraïbe sauce. The Egyptian feta mousse was delicious. The 2013 Estate ‘Vosges’ Cabernet Franc paired beautifully with this cheese course.
Finally, we had the dessert course, which was a faux peach tart. This too was a deconstructed creation. The walnut sablée and the streusel were great bases for the sorbet, the dried apricot and Ontario peaches. A glass of the rich and amber coloured Whimsy! Anniversary edition was the wine pairing for this dessert. It was perhaps fitting that a chardonnay closed this wonderful meal, bringing the evening full circle.
Hummus and Chardonnay was a charity dinner, and the charity chosen by the Liebmans was Sojourn House Canada, which offers safe and secure shelter to refugees coming to Toronto. Days earlier, the Liebmans visited Sojourn House, and with the current Syrian refugee situation, they “realized that the general refugee cause needs to be brought into bigger spotlights and get as much support as we can possibly gather.” It’s a cause close to their hearts as they themselves immigrated to Canada and found a lot support in their new home here. Art and photography from Deborah Kanfer Fine Art Photography were on display at The Richmond, with Kanfer joining us for dinner to talk about the inspiration for her pieces. There was a silent auction for one of her artworks, with the proceeds also going to the charity.
Our first dinner with Chef & Somm was a great experience. The Liebmans demonstrated how thoughtful food and wine pairings can bring out the best in both. In between each course, we learned a lot from the Liebmans, DeCampo, Kanfer, and honoured guests from Sojourn House, speaking to the guests, consequently leading to engaging and convivial conversations at each table. Thanks to Eyal, Rebecca, and team for an enjoyable evening. We look forward to future dining experiences from Chef & Somm!
Photos by John Tan