Lebanon and Armenia are separated by vast stretches of Syria and eastern Turkey, but when Mary Eder-McClure and Kat Stuehrk Talo compared notes about the heroic family meals they grew up on, they discovered that similarities in the food they ate shrank the distance.
For one thing, there’s the abundance of generosity. And the stuffed grape leaves.
“Both of our families’ food and table experience is this sensory overload of bowls and plates everywhere,” says Galit pastry chef Eder-McClure, “with meat, rice, cheese, dips, pickles; it’s like a block party of smells and tastes—salty, sweet, acidic—all of that happening at the same time.”
That’s why it makes perfect sense that Eder-McClure and Stuehrk Talo of Butter Bird Bakery have joined forces for an epic, family-style Lebanese-Armenian feast at the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up series at the Kedzie Inn.
The menu, which they dropped last week, doesn’t do justice to the love and effort that’s going into this Foodball. They’re starting out with a lavish mezze spread, including fresh lavash to scoop up an array of pickles and dips with a chunky sumac-spiked Armenian salad and Eder-McClure’s Nana’s tabouli. “Everybody says, ‘My grandma’s is the best,’” she says. “But honestly, my grandma’s is the best.” She’ll also be bringing out sumac-kissed spinach pies, along with Stuehrk Talo’s lahmejun: pizza-like ground beef and tomato flatbreads, reimagined in croissant form.
And then come the grape leaves—the Lebanese variety stuffed with cinnamon and black pepper-spiced beef and lamb, simmered in a lemony broth, side-by-side with the Armenian version, vegetarian stuffed with onions and herbs and served cold.
If you haven’t toppled to the floor by then there’s tender braised and pomegranate-glazed lamb shanks, and rice pilaf with toasted vermicelli, almonds, and bits of sweet apricot. To finish—or more likely, take home for later—a baklavah sampler drawn from both cuisines.
Spinach fatayer Credit: Mary Eder-McClure
“Come hungry,” says Stuerhk Talo, who also suggests you bring your own takeaway containers because, in the spirit of grannies the world over, you will be taking food home with you.
Sounds marvelous, but this is an urgent situation. There is a slim-to-none chance to walk in and order on the spot this Monday, June 13. (I’ll let you know if it’s possible on Sunday.) The first round of tickets to both the 5 and 7:30 PM seatings have already sold out, but Stuerhk Talo and Eder-McClure (a Foodball veteran, formerly with the pozole pop-up Limon y Sal) have released four more spots for each seating. Look alive, get them here!
Meantime, behold a full summer schedule of Monday Night Foodball below:
Lavash Credit: Kat Stuerhk Talo
6/20: Jordan Wimby, aka The Melanin Martha
6/27: Chinese-Viet-inspired barbecue from Charles Wong of Umamicue
7/4: Off for Independence Day
7/25: Asian stoner snacks from SuperHai
8/22: Vargo Brother Ferments