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Celebrate the Grape at Zaytinya

Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
September 20, 2013

Every time we turn around Jose Andres and his ThinkFoodGroup are launching exciting and imaginative projects.  From September 22nd to October 5th Zaytinya restaurant will hold its third annual Grape Festival showcasing this versatile fruit in Mediterranean cuisine.  Recently the internationally renowned chef and entrepreneur launched a new line of Spanish foods including deluxe olive oil, sherry vinegar, mussels, tuna and more.  Look for them at Whole Foods or order on line at  More on these gourmet treats in the next “Nibbles and Sips Around Town”.

Fourteen days dedicated to promoting the glories of the grape begin on September 22rd  at Zaytinya, when Head Chef Michael Costa will prepare a wine dinner highlighting the wines of northern Greece from famed producer Ktima Pavlidis 

Order up for Head Chef Michael Costa and his team at Zaytinya

Order up for Head Chef Michael Costa and his team at Zaytinya

Many unique wines and spirits from around the Mediterranean are on the agenda.  On September 25th from 5 till 7:00 p.m. complimentary tastings will feature Lebanese wines; Turkish wines will be showcased on the 26th; wines from Greece on October 2nd; and spirits distilled from grapes will be sampled on October 3rd.

On Monday, September 30th the “Zaytinya Road Trips 2013” dinner will be led by ThinkFoodGroup’s Wine Director, Lucas Payá, along with Zaytinya’s Beverage Manager, Daniella Senior, who will share highlights of remarkable wine experiences from their recent travels through Greece.

Grapes take a star turn in these delicious nibbles

Grapes take a star turn in these delicious nibbles

We had a chance to savor a few of the innovative dishes that originate from early culinary traditions and that will be on the menu throughout the festival.  Mutancene, is a preparation made with lamb shoulder sourced from Virginia’s Border Springs Farm and calls for braising the lamb in honey and grape vinegar with almonds, dried plums and apricots.  This truly is a regal recipe, a version of which was served in the 16th century at the court of Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.

Prawns Arak, another delicious offering, is prepared with head-on shrimp sautéed in arak, roasted grapes, red Fresno chiles and aromatic herbs.  Arak is an aniseed-flavored alcoholic spirit popular in the Middle East.  Also on the menu is Muscat Grape Granita, an orange flower scented yogurt espuma with candied orange and lemon verbena.

Hamachi crudo topped with grapes and capers

Hamachi crudo topped with grapes and sea beans

“There’s More Than One Way to Skinos a Grape” is a whimsical cocktail created for the festival.  Skinos is a liqueur made from the resinous sap produced from the mastic tree and used in cooking.  Here it is combined with verjus, the juice of unripe grapes, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Fee Brothers Old-Fashioned Bitters, a lemon twist and a garnish of a frozen peeled grape. Cleopatra would be most pleased.

Festivities conclude October 5th with a Greek Harvest Patio Party that will include live music, grape stomping, a glass of wine and snacks, all for $10.00 pp. For more information visit

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

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