NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | The Gardens of Salonica Monthly Symposia Celebrate Food and Conversation

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There was nothing dry or academic about the symposium held last Wednesday (March 23) at the Gardens of Salonica New Greek Café and Deli in Minneapolis. The food, drink, company and entertainment were rousing, per Greek tradition, according to chef and owner Anna Christoforides. She devotes the fourth Wednesday of each month to “Symposia. A Series.” Each edition of the series features a speaker and a special menu created by the chef. The spirit of the series can be found in the original meaning of the word symposium– a drinking party. But as Christoforides points out, the Greeks never drink without food and conversation, and on this special occasion, dance and song, as well.

In celebration of Greek Independence Day (May 25) the Twin Cities Media Alliance, the independent media organization and publisher of the Twin Cities Daily Planet, was the guest for Symposia. A Series. VI. Although the weather on Wednesday was a disappointment–just as spring whispered, “I’m coming,” nearly a foot of snow blew in– an overflow crowd turned out to attend the event, a benefit for the TCMA.

Guests enjoyed a virtual tour of Greece, beginning with the briny flavors of Ta Nisia’, the Aegean Islands. Christoforides served tender grilled octopus, shrimp with feta, caviar mousse and fava bean dip. Between food courses, there was dancing by the Greek Dancers of Minnesota. The troupe’s director Dr. Angela Mortari introduced dances and costumes that originated, like the food, from various regions of Greece.

Tables were arranged along the edges of the room, family style, so that conversation flowed as easily as the wine. The salad course from central and western Greece included a classic Greek salad and Kolokithopita, winter squash in fillo. TCMA executive director Jeremy Iggers thanked the crowd for their support and introduced Twin Cities Daily Planet editors Mary Turck and Jay Gabler, as well as board members and neighborhood correspondents.

The dancing continued through the Macedonia-inspired entrees. Alaskan cod was served with garlic sauce and olives. Parchment packets were opened at the table to reveal a steaming bundle of lamb with feta and vegetables.

Crete was the final stop; diners could close their eyes and imagine the sweet golden, apple-shaped quince that went into the syrup drizzled over the semolina cream in fillo. Small cups of thick, sweet Greek coffee were served while special guest Niki Stavrou, owner of Victor’s 1959 Cafe, stood up and sang a cappella, songs from her Greek childhood. Who could mind the snow on such a heartwarming evening?

The entire event is available in podcast thanks to Edie French and Robert Hayles who were there from iDream tv. Click on this link to hear the dance music, Christoforides describe the menu and Iggers speak about the award-winning work of the Twin Cities Media Alliance: http://www.idream.tv/gardens-of-salonica-presents-symposia-a-series/

The next edition of Symposia. A Series will take place on April 27. It will feature poet Mary Jo Thompson and a chef driven, four course, wine-paired, family style dinner celebrating the ancient foods of Greece. For more information, visit www.gardensofsalonica.com or call for reservations, (612) 378-0611. Gardens of Salonica is located at 19 Fifth Street Northeast in Minneapolis.