Red or Green?
Around the World in 80 Dishes
Silver City's Shevek & Co. provides culinary world tours.
by Peggy Platonos
Have you ever wanted to travel to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, France, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon. Syria, Israel? Well, if sampling new types of food is part of the adventure of traveling for you, you only have to go as far as Shevek & Co. Restaurant in Silver City to take a culinary tour around the world.
It's not stretching the truth very far to describe the Shevek & Co. Restaurant dining experience as "Around the World in 80 Dishes." While it's true there are only a little more than 50 dishes available at Shevek's — counting specials and bar menu items as well as the selections on the dinner menu — you can (if you eat quickly, which is not recommended) travel gastronomically to four, five, six, maybe more countries in 80 minutes.
Speed, however, is not encouraged at Shevek's. The restaurant's website proudly proclaims, "We Support the Slow Food Movement" — and that's exactly as it should be. Each dish is prepared individually as it is ordered, and the hope is that customers will be as attentive and respectful in eating the food as the chef and sous-chef are in preparing it.
Flexibility is a cornerstone of the entire dining experience at Shevek's. Following the custom in many Mediterranean and Arabic countries, customers at the restaurant can order one or two dishes, eat them, and then decide what else they might like to order. Or you can order everything at once.
Whether you are dining alone or with one or more friends who agree to share dishes, your choices will arrive at the table one at a time — always with space enough between to give you plenty of time to admire the presentation, pass the dish around so everyone can sniff the tantalizing aroma, take the time to divide the food up equitably, and still have time for everyone to savor each mouthful and swap comments before the next dish arrives.
If, on the other hand, you and the others in your party opt to order individually, you will each get one dish at a time, choreographed so that the next dish on each of your different lists of choices will arrive at the table simultaneously.
The reason for referring repeatedly to "one dish at a time" and "lists of choices" is that every dish on the dinner menu is offered in three sizes: small (tapa), medium (mezze) and large (entrée), with prices corresponding to the size chosen. So one can dine in traditional Euro-American style with an appetizer-sized dish (tapa), as a first course, followed by a meal-sized entrée, or one can graze through the menu, one tapa at a time, or — depending on the number of people sharing or the size of their appetites — one mezze at a time, sampling a wider range of food options.
All the food at Shevek & Co. Restaurant is made completely from scratch, including all the sauces, dressings, stocks, even the herb and spice mixtures used in cooking the various dishes. The care that goes into the preparation and presentation of every dish reflects the passion of executive chef and co-owner Shevek M. Barnhart, who says he was introduced to the joys of good food at his nana's knee.
"I liked to eat, and my nana started teaching me to cook at the age of five," he says. That was his own Jewish grandmother. He lived in a neighborhood where his Jewish friends all had grandmothers from eastern Europe, Israel, Greece, Syria, Morocco — and these grandmothers cooked in the style of the "old" countries where they had been born and raised. As various relatives married Italians, he acquired a lot of Italian "grandmas" who were also excellent cooks.
"Some of the best cooks in the world are grandmothers," he says, "and I was lucky enough to learn from many of them."
At the age of 18, he set out to visit some of the "old" countries of these grandmothers. "I wasn't really ready for college, so I dropped out after my first semester and hitch-hiked through Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Spain, France, Italy and Greece," Shevek says. "I cooked my way from country to country, living out of a backpack and tent. What I would do was find a restaurant where the food was good and where I could communicate with the owners, and I would offer to work for nothing but meals and a place to pitch my tent."
He would stay and work, usually earning some money as his work was appreciated, and he would learn about the food. Eventually, he would leave and move on to the next place.
"Part of the fun for me was finding out that the food I'd eaten in Brooklyn households was pretty much the same as the food I found in the ‘mother lands' when I visited them," he says.
After returning to the United States, Shevek did get some formal training as a chef, and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. In the 35 years since then, he has worked in some of the best known and most avant-garde eating establishments in this country, including the famous vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, the innovative Café Sparrow in Aptos, Calif., and the historic Ivy Inn outside Charlottesville, Va.
Incidentally, not only can you enjoy an international medley of dishes cooked by chef Shevek and his sous-chef at Shevek & Co. Restaurant, but you can actually learn to cook the dishes yourself at cooking classes that Shevek gives once a month. Dates and dishes are listed on the restaurant's website at www.silver-eats.com, along with the complete dinner menu, bar menu and extensive beverage menu.
The restaurant is located at 602 N. Bullard St. in Silver City. Summer hours, now in effect, are Sunday through Tuesday, 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays (except during Tour of the Gila), and is never open for lunch.
For more information or to make a reservation, call (575) 534-9168.
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