Culinary innovation is often sparked by applying tried and true cooking techniques to different ingredients. Consider the case of tuna lountza. Lountza is a cured pork filet traditionally prepared in Cypriot villages through a process of brining, marinating, and smoking; local spices and hardwoods play an important role in seasoning the meat. Recently cooks at Amorosa, Annabelle’s fine dining restaurant, adapted the recipe for lountza to cure fresh tuna. First, they marinate the tuna in wine, coriander, paprika, and other spices for forty-eight hours. Next, the fish is dry aged for an additional forty-eight hours. Finally, the tuna is smoked over an apple wood fire for a few hours. The result is tuna like you’ve never tasted it before. But innovation does not stop at the smoker—Amorosa’s cooks found a creative way to present the smoked fish with ingredients associated with Asian cuisine. They layer them on, beginning with pickled shimeji mushrooms. Dollops of pureed avocado and wasabi yoghurt sauce add flavour and colour. Next comes a sprinkling of black herring roe. Slices of yellow beet root are shaped into cones and garnished with a dot of avocado puree before being added to the dish with tweezers. Additional Asia-inspired accents include dried nori seaweed and gold tobiko roe. Watercress and other microgreens are tossed lightly in olive oil with salt before the cooks add them to the plate. The Tuna Lountza Salad is just one of many innovative dishes included on the new à la carte menu at Amorosa.
Brandy is a distillation made from fruit, usually grapes. The production process is simple: the liquified fruit is fermented before it is heated at a temperature above the boiling point of alcohol and below that of water; the distillate contains most of the alcohol, some water, and organic compounds that give the brandy its distinctive taste. One of the most celebrated brandies, Calvados, is made from apples in the Normandy region of France. Another kind of brandy made from fruits other than grapes is known as eau-de-vie (water of life); these are clear, aromatic distillations such as framboise (raspberry) and kirsch (cherry). Of the grape-based brandies of the Mediterranean region, perhaps the best known come from Metaxa. Spyros Metaxa of Greece founded his distillery in the nineteenth century; its production maintains a focus on hand-harvested muscat grapes from the Greek island of Samos. Cyprus, too, has a storied tradition of brandy making. Cyprus brandy is made by distilling fermented grapes of the xynisteri variety. Xynisteri is the most widely-grown white grape on the island. Indigenous, it is used to produce white wines and is also a key ingredient of Commandaria dessert wine and zivania—all unique to Cyprus. The Keo distillery uses xynisteri to make Five Kings Brandy, which is aged for at least fifteen years before bottling. It tastes of warmed raisins and can be enjoyed neat or as the basis of a brandy sour, the national cocktail of Cyprus. Try any of these brandies in the cosy confines of Annabelle’s Byz Bar.
The first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox liturgical calendar is known as Green Monday—and this year the public holiday falls on 11 March. It follows the last day of carnival, a period of Dionysian celebration featuring playfully costumed celebrants in elaborate parades. During Lent, observers express penitence through symbolic abstinence (usually from meat, cheese, and dairy products) while also welcoming in the spring season. Green Monday inaugurates the forty-day period of Lent as Cypriots head to parks, fields, and beaches to enjoy outdoor games and activities and light picnic meals following the Lenten diet. At Annabelle, we invite you to a special Green Monday Lunch at Mediterraneo (12:30-15:30). Our seaside taverna offers the perfect setting to enjoy al fresco dining and the lively spirit of the day. The lunch features a traditional, sharing-style meze menu including calamari, octopus, raw vegetables, and dips (€20 per person); the regular à la carte menu is also available. Live guitar and vocal music set the festive mood. Like participants throughout Cyprus, we’ll include a traditional kite-running competition in our celebration: it’s a great way to harness the energy of the balmy spring breezes blowing off the sea. So now that you know what Green Monday is, why not join in the celebration? Contact Guest Services for reservations.
Herbs are well known for their capacity to add flavouring to foods, yet they can deliver health benefits as well. One way to enjoy these benefits is through an herbal infusion. A common infusion is a tea of herbal leaves steeped in hot water: Cypriot mountain tea, traditionally used by shepherds, helps with digestion and boosts the immune system—thereby protecting the body against the common cold. Other infusions may include the roots, shoots, oils, and flowers of herbs and tend to require longer steeping periods. Each herb offers a unique combination of healing properties. Chamomile is well known for its calming qualities; an infusion before bedtime will ensure a peaceful rest, while it also will strengthen the immune system and reduce cramps. Spearmint, by contrast, is highly stimulating: take an infusion to stave off a sore throat, eye inflammation, or bloating. A wild rose infusion combines buds and petals and is known to relieve headaches and reduce cholesterol. A sage infusion can help improve your concentration, while an infusion of marjoram can help lower your blood pressure. Lemon verbena not only helps you lose weight, but it also has a great, citrusy taste. Indeed, a side benefit of herbal infusions is their intense herbal flavours. At Annabelle, our Byz Bar and adjoining Lobby Bar offer a selection of eleven herbal infusions. So, take a seat, select the right infusion for you, and sip yourself toward increased wellbeing.
Mavro is the most commonly cultivated red grape variety in Cyprus, accounting for more than 40% of grape production, yet you are unlikely to see the variety used to organise the contents of a wine list or store. How could this be? It turns out that its ubiquity in the vineyard is due in part to its many uses—it is one of very few grapes that can be eaten, made into wine, and distilled. Mavro grapes are often served fresh at the Cypriot dinner table—but look around that table, and you will find other adaptations of the grape. Juice from the grapes is used to make palouzes (grape jellies) and soutzoukos (candle-shaped sweets). A young wine made at home with the grapes is an essential ingredient in Cypriot sausages and cured meats. The vine yields a high quantity of large, dense clusters of thick-skinned grapes with a very dark colour (‘mavro’ mean black in Greek). Mavro grapes are used with white xynisteri grapes in the production of Commandaria, the legendary dessert wine unique to Cyprus; after they are over-ripened on the vine, picked, and dried in the sun, the grapes are pressed, fermented, and aged before bottling. The residue from pressing the grapes, known as the pomace, forms the basis for another Cypriot speciality—zivania, a potent distillation enjoyed with meze throughout the island. Recently, producers of premium wines have cultivated the variety at a high altitude with excellent results. These grapes are blended with other varieties to create worthy reds and rosés. Check out the many uses of the mavro grape at Mediterraneo, Annabelle’s seaside taverna.
The common ingredients of bread are well-known—flour, salt, water, yeast—and their use in different proportions and with varying techniques and additions yields a marvelous variety of breads. Yet it is often an unexpected ingredient or two that give a bread its distinctive aroma and taste, according to Doros Nearchou, baker at Annabelle. Consider the hotel’s Country Bread, which is seasoned with cumin, caraway, and mastiha—the bittersweet liqueur made from the resin of the leafy evergreen mastic tree common to the Mediterranean region. Who would have thought a liqueur would be present in this rustic bread? Yet mastiha is also included in Annabelle’s Village Bread, which is further flavoured by the addition of ground mahlep. Mahlep is made from the stones of ‘Prunus mahaleb’, a species of cherry tree; the stones are cracked to remove the seed kernels which, when ground, taste of bitter almonds and cherries. The Coriander and Sun-Dried Tomato Bread uses two elements of the coriander—the leaves, which have a sharp, bitter taste, and the seeds, which are ground into a lemony powder. Annabelle’s Hiromeri Bread (hiromeri is a Cypriot cured meat like prosciutto) is seasoned with pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and basil. The Whole Grain Bread gets its dark colour from extra barley flour; sometimes, this bread is sweetened with molasses. Annabelle’s bakery regularly prepares 80 distinctive baked good recipes. Sample a fresh piece of bread and try to guess the secret ingredients that gives it that special scent and flavour.