Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 9, 2013

Meeting of cuisines: Team effort results in ethnic fusion

BY CYMBRE FOSTER Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Opa Uptown owners Paul and Brigette Barbas, head chef Brian Maloney and pastry chef Renee Myers have put their heads together to create a fusion of European flavors from Italy, Greece, France, Poland and more.

Each with their own culinary specialties, the four worked together to create an eclectic menu of ethnic dishes at the recently opened Traverse City restaurant.

“We all like to bounce ideas off of each other,” said Maloney, whose forte is French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.

The Barbas know Greek food. In addition, Brigette is an expert in Polish cuisine and teaches a Polish cooking class through the Northwestern Michigan College Extended Education division. Myers was a pastry chef at Travino and worked with Maloney for seven years at the now shuttered restaurant.

“Brian and Renee are bringing so much to the table,” said Paul Barbas. “Then the question became how can we incorporate Greek and Polish with their specialties?”

Take Uptown’s versions of Saganaki, which refers to Greek dishes prepared in a small frying pan. While they serve the iconic Greek flaming cheese, they have added a couple of their own spins by creating a “category” with offerings that include a Shrimp Saganaki appetizer combining tiger shrimp, onions, feta and marinara and a Meatball Duo Saganaki, which incorporates Greek and Italian meatballs with marinara, Asiago and feta cheese.

Maloney brought his knowledge of pasta to the table and it shows in a dish they call “European Fusion.” It incorporates the flavors of Italy, Greece and Poland by combining grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, onions, tomatoes, feta and a Polish kluski pasta tossed with white wine and sun-dried tomato sauce.

You can also sample salmon with a Mediterranean spin and pierogis stuffed with potato and cheddar, sautéed in butter and amped up with diced pancetta and caramelized onion.

Myers also created her own version of traditional Italian tiramisu, which is often a combination of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese. Her version includes white chocolate and raspberry.

Myers has also learned a thing or two from the others. Paul taught her how to make traditional Greek baklava with an orange simple syrup and Brigette wants diners to try Polish cheesecake made with ricotta instead of cream cheese.

Although the restaurant’s menu is primarily Greek and Italian now, Maloney said he plans on changing it up two to four times a year and bringing in Spanish and French cuisine as well.

Garlic Butter

1 lb. butter

½ lb. cream cheese

1 ½ T. roasted garlic powder

1 T. Herbs de Provence

1 t. parsley

2 t. salt

1 t. coarse ground black pepper

Soften the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for about two hours

Combine all ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixer and beat with the paddle until completely mixed together. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Lobster and Tuna Puttanesca

½ c. extra virgin olive oil

6 oz. yellowfin tuna (3/4-inch cubed)

4 oz. lobster meat

¼ c. julienne raw onions

1 T. chopped garlic

½ T. kosher salt

1/3 T. coarse ground black pepper

2 oz. white wine

1 oz. lemon juice

Pinch fresh basil (chiffonade)

Pinch fresh rosemary, chopped

Pinch Fresh sage, chopped

1/8 T. crushed red pepper flakes

½ T. capers

1 T. chopped Greek olive mix

2 T. diced Roma tomato

2 anchovies chopped (optional)

8 oz. cooked linguine

Heat 1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil in saute pan over medium high heat. Add tuna, lobster, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and lemon juice and reduce. Add remaining oil and all other ingredients except for pasta and cook 3 minutes. Toss in pasta and enjoy.

Gorgonzola Dip

2 c. crumbled gorgonzola

½ c. sour cream

1 t. pepper

1 t. salt

1 c. ale

1 ½ lb. c. cream cheese (cubed)

¼ t. roasted garlic powder

Add all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat stirring every few minutes until well blended.