Geometric shapes hang in 3’s dancing beneath neon stars. A colorful contemporary piece of art ballooning out with light prisms dispersing from the core, refracted and reflecting like a constantly shifting rainbow. In an instant, the feeling of love, protection, inspiration and peace move into the experience. Colors for all cultures, all people. A reminder that we are all welcome here.
Meet chef Carrie of Mamnoon who’s love for cooking began in her childhood kitchen while bonding with her mom. Cooking was a family affair that extended beyond the home to encompass an American diner type of restaurant known for its welcoming environment, diverse guest base and comfort food fare. Different from the Middle Eastern cuisine her work focuses on today, though the hospitable and vibrant atmosphere reminiscent of a home away from home shares a commonality that likely contributed to the gravitational pull that landed her into the current executive chef role she now holds.
PERSIAN STUFFED TROUT
65g Golden Raisins
62g Verjus (white)
30g Olive Oil
100g Green Onions
1tsp Dried Mint
Salt (to taste)
5-7 Trout (boneless & butterflied)
2Tbls Angelica (ground)
1 Tbls Black Lime (ground)
Salt (to taste)
Barberries in Turmeric Oil
1 cup Olive oil
2 Tbls Turmeric
1 cup Tahini
1 clove Garlic (grated)
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Salt
2-3 Tbls Water
1 cup Sliced Almonds (toasted)
1 cup Leaves of Herbs (from above)
1 cup Dried Rose Petals
Heat the olive oil, barberries and turmeric together gently, whisk together. Set aside.
For the Tarator sauce, puree the lemon juice with garlic. Add tahini and salt and water to desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight.
Plumb barberries and raisins in warm verjus overnight. The same day, pat the trout dry and dust with trout dust. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, rough dice the onions and saute them with the oil with the garlic until soft and a little brown. Add the raisin mixture and reduce until all the liquid is gone. Pour into and pan and cool until room temp (can also be made a day ahead).
Give all the herbs a very rough chop and fold them into the cooled raisin mixture. Season with salt to taste. Stuff in trout. Brush with turmeric oil from above and grill to perfection, brush with turmeric oil after. Garnish with a few picked herbs, almond, rose petals and barberries from the oil. Serve with tarrator sauce on the plate or on the side.
When asked what Guests favor? The answer is everything. Though if she had to choose it would be the fattoush salad that changes seasonally. In the winter it’s made with winter vegetables and in the spring it has yogurt and eggplant.
For Carrie, the path towards becoming a chef was a winding experiment of curiosity, chance encounters and a return to the familiar. A love for baking led her to study pastry techniques in France. The excitement of traveling and making social connections had her working in the front and back of restaurants on both coasts while also doing a stint in Alaska. It was the loss of her mother and the comfort, love and connection she felt to her while cooking that led Carrie to more seriously consider a chef’s career.
The reflective reevaluation that only loss can summon led to a pivotal moment that propelled Carrie forward, towards a path with purpose. Moving through time. Further away from where it all began, with and without her because all roads lead back to our mothers in the end.
Fate would plop her into highly valued positions as a pastry chef and cook at Cafe Juanita & Spinasse. It is there she would find a supportive and enduring friendship with Chef Jason Stratton of MBar that would encourage personal growth and pushing beyond areas of cooking that were familiar. When the opportunity came up to join the Mamnoon team as a pastry chef, acceptance was an easy yes. The many accolades of the restaurant, food and owners made the choice an easy sell. It’s not a coincidence that Carrie found a place and even more opportunity at Mamnoon to grow professionally for Racha and Wassef forever loyal and supportive of their staff and friends, value professional development and promotion from within.
Racha and Wassef have supported Villa Jerada almost from the beginning when inventory consisted of a few core ingredients to a warehouse filled with high quality ingredients of the Levantine, Mediterranean and beyond. They are like family so to see their restaurants so successful gives us great pleasure and speaks to the authenticity and role they play in sharing such an old and special cuisine.
At the core of everyone’s story exist the influences that connect us back to our cultural and familial roots. Our presence forever swayed by the fibrous experiences branched out in various directions, anchoring and supporting us in our efforts propelling one upward, rising towards a future destined, even when not intentionally pursued.
Our individual food memories are a small piece of a bigger food story. Food informs how we interact with people in the world and when shared in celebration of culture and flavor like at Mamnoon, it breaks down walls where isms erect them and invites us to imagine how food connects us to the human condition that celebrates food, culture and people across countries and time.