Monday, July 29, 2013

Liberte Tasting @ Chef Paley's Imperial Restaurant

I tried to take as many pictures as I could while at Imperial for the Liberte Tasting last week, but I was so enthralled with what Chef Vitaly Paley was saying I just couldn't capture it all. Never before had I spent so much time face-to-face with the chef of a--no, three--well known restaurants. I have been a fan of cooking shows since I was a child (Graham Kerr was always my favorite to watch) but this was ten times better. Maybe twenty times. We got to watch, listen, learn, and TASTE it all.

The invitation for this tasting came as a bit of a surprise. All three of us were excited to attend, of course, but didn't really know what we were walking into when we arrived at Imperial. We were beyond ecstatic to learn that it was just going to be the three of us watching, learning, and eating the specially created recipes.

After introductions, we were invited to try the many flavors of Liberte yogurt. Most of them are available in two varieties, a non-fat Greek yogurt and a full-fat Mediterranee yogurt. I enjoyed having the opportunity to go back and forth between the two. I don't think I've ever been faced with so many flavors at once.

The first of the many recipes we sampled were the Hazelnut Yogurt Tea Cakes With Raspberries. The recipe includes one container of Liberte's Lemon Greek Yogurt but was also served with the yogurt on top to help emphasize the citrus background. I especially loved the streusel topping and am thankful that we received a copy of the recipe so that I can recreate them at home.

The second taste was one that I did not get enough of. I have always been a HUGE fan of Bananas Foster and to know I can create something just a delicious but without all the fat (and flames) makes me super excited. I will have to switch out the walnuts to pecans, but that's not hard at all.

Following the first two flavors, we moved from the small dining room just off the kitchen to the seats perfectly situated in front of the open grill. I remembered just how impressive the flames were from my first visit to Imperial earlier this year.

While seated, we were able to watch Chef Paley and his staff cook the next two dishes we were to sample. Both he and the people from Liberte went back and forth, describing the qualities of the yogurt and the history of the brand. I had always thought that Liberte was a new brand, ready to compete with big names like Chobani and Fage. Learning that it has been successful in Canada since the late 1930s was surprising but easy to understand--especially after just the first few tastes.

My favorite recipe from Chef Paley--and one that I've already attempted at home--is the Tikka Masala. I was so very thankful that they had read enough of our blog to learn that one of us (that'd be me) is a vegetarian. The chef made the sauce separate of the quail and only combined them after having plated some of the dish for me. Even without a protein serving as the star of the dish, the sauce was flavorful enough to make a meal. I loved the texture created by the onions and tomatoes and appreciated the flavors as they worked so well together without becoming overly spicy.

The Tikka Masala was served with grilled flatbread and a dish of Raita. I recreated the Raita at home as well but mine turned far more pink from the radishes. The recipe calls for both the radish bulb and the leaves. It also incorporates fresh mint and thinly sliced green onions. It's similar to tzaziki but with more than just garlic as the main flavor producer.

Before leaving, Chef Paley made one last dish. This time it was a more traditional use of yogurt (at least as I use it). By combining two of the yogurt flavors, freshly sliced peaches, chia seeds, and frozen coconut water, he was able to impress us with a delicious (and seriously filling) smoothie. We had the smallest sample while seated but left the restaurant with a to go cup that lasted the rest of the way home.

I enjoyed every minute of our time with Chef Paley and the people of Liberte. I learned more about yogurt and the many ways it can be incorporated into more than just a smoothie and left with a new favorite flavor. Unlike my co-blogger who wrote just how much she disliked the lemon yogurt, it quickly became my go to. I've been back to the store twice to stock up on it since then and will have to return for more soon.

Thank you Chef Paley and Liberte for the opportunity. It was memorable in both the experience and the flavors.


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