I met Aliza Green awhile back on a trip to Greece. She recently came out with a massive cookbook called "Starting with Ingredients" and she had a little press dinner at Barbounia to celebrate. It would have been rude for me not to attend.
Aliza met Barbounia's owners long ago. These days they also own Sushi Samba, which has two units in New York and one each in Miami Beach, Chicago and Tel Aviv — and they plan to open one in Dallas in March.
But they used to have a place in Philadelphia, where Aliza was the chef. Since a lot of the food in her thousand-some-odd tome is Mediterranean, Barbounia was a logical place for dinner.
I spent the first half of the evening talking to Aliza about random things, including her current work consulting for a kosher restaurant. She says the hardest part, now that trans fats are out of fashion, is to find appropriate fat for baking. Butter's out, because Jewish dietary laws ban eating dairy products in the same meal as meat products (which includes birds but excludes fish and eggs). Margarine is the popular choice at the moment, but that's likely to change. Aliza does have a cake baked with olive oil in her cookbook; I imagine she'll go that route.
Aliza wandered off to some other table, as was appropriate, and I ended up spending most of the rest of the evening talking with young Jay Rocco, Sushi Samba's marketing manager. He recently lived in Taiwan for a year, working for a publishing company that also had a television division. He ended up as the host of an English-language TV show and was semi-famous. That sort of thing can happen when you're a white guy in an Asian country.