Whoever would have expected to find a spicy Latin beat in sweet, but staid, downtown Dundas?
Well, there may not be room to do the tango in there, but at 186 King Street West, (just below Market Street) Liberté Tapas and Potation is ready to provide an introduction to that most famous and delightful of Spanish culinary treats.
“Tapas” is the name for Spanish appetizers or snacks. They may be cold (for example, mixed spiced olives or cheeses) or hot (chopitos or deep fried or breaded meats or vegetables or seafood). In Spanish bars the snacks have evolved into a highly sophisticated cuisine and an entire meal may be made up of a variety of tapas. As such, they have much in common with the “small plates” type of dining that has become so popular — just think of very small servings and a wider variety.
The word “tapas” comes from the Spanish verb “tapar” meaning “to cover” and, according to “The Joy of Cooking”, the word originally referred to the slices of bread or meat that were used to cover the drinks in Andalusian taverns to prevent them from being inundated with booze-crazed fruit flies. The meats used were often salty ham or chorizo and the saltiness tended to encourage the drinkers to buy more glasses of sherry. Eventually, the snacks became as important to the bars or restaurants, as the drinks themselves.
According to owner and manager and Chef Ryan Liberté, right now, the most popular choices among the nine tapas listed on the menu at Liberté are the bison sliders and the scallops wrapped in bacon served with a brown butter Amaretto sauce. But January 24th is the Chef’s one year anniversary at the restaurant and will see the launch of an innovative new menu.
Chef Ryan says, “The new menu will be much more Spanish, essentially a tour of regional Spain. Even though my culinary background is more French than Spanish, I have spent this year creating new dishes that highlight a much more authentic Spanish influence. I should let our present customers know, however, that we will be keeping a few of the old favorites.”
The celebration on the 24th will also feature many complimentary choices, served between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Chef Ryan has come to love the whole idea of tapas, although it was not something that he originally had in mind when first pondering a theme for the restaurant.
“I was thinking about what was missing — trying to do something unique. I wanted the visit to the restaurant to be more than just eating, rather a whole experience. When I happened upon the idea of tapas, it fit so well. It’s a kind of eating that brings people together in a social experience.”
Liberté is an Ancaster native who “grew up in the restaurant business.” (“My father’s friend had a catering business and I started out washing dishes in the kitchen at the age of 11.”) As a teenager, he recounts, he travelled around, toiling in a variety of restaurants and kitchens — the Knollwood Golf Course, for instance — and working under some wonderful chefs, learning the business “step by step”. Immediately prior to owning his own place, he worked as sous chef at Romano’s Ristorante which he cited as a great place for learning not just cooking but management and “front of house” skills.
“I had told myself that I mustn’t get into this stressful industry, ” he says and, consequently, went to Ryerson University where he enrolled in a course of International Economics and Finance. But it’s hard to escape one’s destiny. While attending classes he was also working in restaurants and realized, “I just enjoyed the restaurant world so much more than anything I was doing at school.” He does admit that the Finance and Economics classes that he attended have been helpful for someone who is starting his own business.
Did I mention that Liberté is 23 years old? He has had some teaching experience helping out at our previous Go Cooking session with Romano’s last year.
For our Go Cooking session on January 12th, he has decided to create a healthy menu for the new year, with winter vegetables and oven baked Arctic char. The dessert is both healthy and decadent: a chocolate beet cake with goat cheese in the icing, a recipe which he has developed over the last several weeks. The Go Cooking evening was sold out, but as of this writing, there was a cancellation, so two seats are available momentarily.
Those who can’t make it may want to attend the celebration at the restaurant on January 24th or even cook the chocolate cake for themselves to enjoy, from the following recipe.
Chocolate Beet Cake
Chef Ryan Liberté, “Liberté Tapas and Potation”
1 – 2 beets, peeled, grated and rinsed, 1 1/2 – 2 cups
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz canola oil
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/3 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. In bain-marie (metal bowl over pot of simmering water), melt chocolate with oil until fully blended together.
2) In separate bowl, whip eggs and sugar together for 5 minutes to light consistency.
3) In third bowl sift together dry ingredients.
4) Slowly add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, while stirring. Blend fully.
5) Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients. For best results use a mixer.
6) Put into greased cake pan 4″-8″, 6″ – 12″.
7) Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning halfway through. The deeper the cake, the longer the baking time.
To test, insert toothpick or skewer into cake. Cake is done when pick comes out clean. Remove from oven, let rest in cake pan for 5 – 10 minutes before removing.
Goat Cheese Ganache
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 tbsp 35% cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
zest of 1/2 to 1 full lemon
Whip goat cheese and cream until fully blended with no small chunks. Sift in sugar, then whip thoroughly. Add vanilla and lemon zest and whip until blended.