L-R, Chefs Bedros DerVartanian, Eastern Lamejun Bakers; Jason Reed, Vicki lee's; Andrew Janjigian, America's Test Kitchen and Nathan Kibarian, Bastille Kitchen prepared scrumptious signature dishes during Let's Party! at the KITCHEN, BOSTON PUBLIC MARKET to benefit Armenian Heritage Park on The Greenway. Leo Gozbekian photo

Heritage Park Fundraiser Brings Together Eating Well, Doing Good

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BOSTON — One hates to stereotype, but for many Armenians, food and conversation, especially talking about food, can elevate any evening.

On Friday, June 9, the Armenian Heritage Park brought together many in the community who like good food and also want to support efforts to maintain the park, at the Boston Public Market.

The market, which opened in 2015, is on Hanover Street, not far from the Heritage Park. It offers about 40 different booths featuring local meats, fish, produce, flowers and gourmet chocolates in a huge airy space. At the very end of the building is the Kitchen, which offers space for events as well as cooking demonstrations.

In a departure from the usual format of various local chefs offering a standout food from their restaurants, this time, four chefs each got about 15 minutes each to demonstrate how to make a particular specialty.

They did not disappoint.

Emcee Wendy Semonian Eppich, the publisher of the Improper Bostonian, was on hand to announce the chefs and keep time.

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Andrew Janjigian, chef/baking instructor at America’s Test Kitchen and senior editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, began the evening demonstrating a new recipe for choereg.  His choereg was in loaf form and sliced thinly. The fragrant and moist bread, Janjigian explained, was based on his mother’s recipe. However, he gave it the “Cook’s Illustrated treatment,” which means, he said, that he “took it apart and put it back together” for the best and easiest possible recipe.

Clearly it worked as some of those attending cornered him to buy full loaves and took slices of choereg from serving baskets by the dozen.

“The flavors are the same but my interpretation is different,” he said. “It stays true to the flavor.”

He noted that for the ideal choereg, he first made tangzhong or a water roux, used in Chinese and Japanese baking, to mix the flour and liquid so as to allow the dough to take on a lot more liquid and thus remain much moister.

The product, takes about 24 hours from start to finish, as it involves letting the dough rise and proof several times before baking.

Janjigian clearly has something that every baker needs: precision. In fact, he said he spent 12 years working as an organic chemist, laying the groundwork for his future job.

Bastille Kitchen pastry chef Nathan Kibarian tackled string cheese, right after taking a group selfie with all those assembled. An overhead camera showed how he melted mozzarella cheese curds in a bit of water, before adding nigella seeds and mahlab, an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a type of cherry.

With skilled hands, he turned out the cheese and started stretching. In no time, the curds had transformed themselves into the traditional string cheese. He then immersed the final product into an ice-water bath.

He later did a demonstration on baklava with a cakey dough as well as a dark chocolate bark with dried apricots. The chocolates, especially, disappeared with alarming speed.

Jason Reed of Vicki Lee’s in Belmont demonstrated how to make tabbouleh. His parsley-heavy and tart concoction was put out in a couple of large containers and participants paired it with the string cheese.

Finally, Bedros DerVartanian, the owner and chef at Eastern Lamejun in Belmont, showed how their store’s namesake product comes together. He stressed that everything was prepared from scratch at the premises, with the dough a simple mixture of water, flour, yeast, salt and sugar, and the meat topping flavored with parsley, onion, diced red pepper, tomato paste and spices including paprika and allspice.

One of the guests, Dr. Armineh Mirzabegian, who also served on the event’s committee, said that “because it is something very special to our culture. It gives us an opportunity to tell the greater community who we are and bringing people together of all different cultures.”

Eppich said “I just want to support the park and my heritage. Plus, I love Armenian food. It is casual and relaxed, with people mixing and mingling. It makes you want to make those foods yourself.”

Another guest, Lisa Terrizzi, said she was there to support the “Armenian Heritage Park and our heritage” which she praised for being not only “some place where people recognize the Armenian Genocide” but one where they “acknowledge the contributions of all immigrants.”

Another guest was Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches (MCC), attending with her wife, Abi Holt.

Everett, who helped the group hold a non-denominational service at Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square in 2015 in honor of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, is familiar with the Armenian community. She praised the Armenians’ “gregarious hospitality. It is a real delight to celebrate the history of Armenians and Armenian-Americans.”

Packets of roasted nuts courtesy of Fastachi in Boston and Watertown were available on tables. Wines from Tutunjian Estate Vineyards were served.

For more information on the park, visit www.armenianheritagepark.org

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