May 30, 2017 – Care to go to the island of Crete for a quick visit sans summer airline fares and endless airport lines? On Saturday, June 3, you can do just that. Sister and brother chef duo Emily Beggs-Kortman and JT Beggs would like to welcome you to their first supper club of the season.
This event inaugurates a series that will include a midsummer dinner at Mt. Shasta and an early autumn harvest dinner in Santa Cruz. The siblings plan to distill their favorite aspects of the foods of countries they know well with an emphasis on the importance of place and encouraging a local sense of community.
The evening begins with a cocktail called Raki Meadow Tonic, made from a blend of foraged herbs and Cretan honey, and an opportunity to peruse and purchase crafts—ceramics, weavings, and leatherwork—made by area artists.
This close-to-town, Santa Cruz Mountains dinner will delight not only the tongue but the ears. Guests will be regaled by members of the band Taraf de Locos, the renowned Balkan and Greek band from Berkeley.
The idea for the menu comes from JT and his travels in Crete, long recognized as a health hot-spot. Not just health, mind you, health with a large portion of delicious!
The evening will begin with a mezze that includes horta vlita—amaranth greens braised over the fire with onions, garlic and tomatoes, kolokythoanthoi—squash blossom dolmas stuffed with rice, sumac and crème fraiche, and fried local sardines with green garlic. For the mains, guests will enjoy horiatika—Cretan country sausage made with a blend of lamb, pork, coriander and fennel.
There will be two pies: the one from Crete is a filo filled with spinach, nettle, fennel and cheese, and the other, from Epirus in northwestern Greece, is a cornmeal crust filled with pecorino, feta, wild scallions, and chard. The salad will be composed of Persian cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, lemon and herbs.
If you’re not filled to the brim by all of that, guests will be offered a new take on the summer favorite, the ice cream sandwich. This one will be made from mastic ice cream—a gum resin made from the mastic tree—with cherries and pistachios.
Emily and JT are home cooks, hobby botanists, and rogue anthropologists. Their office is a Volvo station wagon that’s full of field guides, kitchen gear, and the occasional live sheep.
Their cooking reflects the extensive travel they’ve both done, eating and staying in the homes of locals in such places as the Galapagos, Chile, Ecuador, and rural Mexico. Naturalist educator, private chef, and forager, JT winters each year with the Navajo Nation on Black Mesa where he’s learned shepherding.
Some of the menu items for Saturday’s dinner include foods found in the wild. In the U.S., wilding and foraging are seen as nearly precious. But in many parts of the world, including, Crete, these activities are simply a way of life. Emily says, “It’s an everyday, community thing.”
She continues, “Cretan cuisine picks up on the synergy between people and the natural world. By eating seasonal wild foods, you’re giving yourself nutrition that’s best for your body at that time of year.”
Emily, a PhD candidate in anthropology at Stanford University, whose field work has revolved around food and culture, says, “In my work as an anthropologist, I get to know people. Through feeding me, they teach me about their culture, their identity. It’s not only the food that both JT and I have had the pleasure of experiencing but the ethos of home eating and hospitality.”
On Saturday, June 3, at 6:00pm, Emily along with her brother JT, will welcome you to her home. Lucky diners will have the pleasure of experiencing that ethos and eating food from a distant land.
Kin & Kitchen website: kinandkitchen.com