Chef Eyal Liebman and Sommelier Rebecca Meir-Liebman

Husband and wife team Eyal Liebman and Rebecca Meïr-Liebman call their business Chef & Somm, which is exactly what they are. The seasoned chef and sommelière (she was born in Belgium and sticks to the old-school title for lady professionals) create ‘bespoke dining experiences’ for their private clients, and work closely together to integrate food and wine, in interesting, innovative and elegant ways. It helps, I think, that they are a married couple, and each deadly serious about their respective callings. From my observation, their collaboration is based on a deep mutual respect, which is as rare as it it is fruitful (as Jamie Drummond has reported here). From time to time, they put on a public dinner – really more like a project – and I managed to get a seat at the latest: Hummus and Chardonnay: Back to my Roots.

The roots are in Isreal, from whence Liebman and Meïr-Liebman emigrated a decade or so ago. The dinner, which was held at The Richmond event space, was to benefit Sojourn House, which offers temporary residence to newly arrived refugees to Toronto. In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, the dinner featuring foods and flavours of the region held a particular poignancy. Meir-Liebman explained to the guests, that although emigrating to Canada was one of the hardest things the couple has done in their lives, they had “no idea how hard it must be when you are running for your lives.”

Rebecca Meir-Liebman by Nick MerzettiPhoto credit: Nick Merzetti

In Meïr-Liebman’s case, the roots she served were closer to home: they were attached to vines an hour or so away in at Southbrook Vineyards near Niagara-on-the-Lake. Through seven courses, she paired the biodynamic winery’s wines with precision. At the table she explained her methodology: she tasted intensely with Liebman as he developed the dishes. Usually, it’s the sommelier’s job (and possibly problem) to pair what they can find with whatever their chef has decided to cook. In the case of a meal designed to showcase a wine or winery, some chefs might take care to choose foods that might roughly pair, but harmony on this front is rare. But this couple collaborate from the beginning right to the finish: from our table we could see Meïr-Liebman taking glasses of wine to the kitchen so Liebman could adjust his seasoning so that each dish and glass complimented each other to the greatest extent possible. I was at the table with Southbrook’s Paul DeCampo, on hand to speak to the wines, and he was duly impressed.

Here’s what we ate…

Falafel with Fish Belly
Estate Sémillon 2013

Falafel with fish belly

Photo credit: Nick Merzetti

Hummus and Beet Kubbah Nia
Isreali (a.k.a. Arab) salad, pine nuts, pomegranate, olives, pita & za’atar, Valrhona Macaé
Triomphe Chardonnay 2013

Hummus and Beet Kubbah Nia

Fish Synia
couscous, lemon, poblano pepper, sumac, oregano, sesame lavash
Estate ‘Minerality’ Chardonnay 2012

Fish Synia

Borage & Orange Scented Meatballs
starflower, Iranian smoked rice, sage & orange tomato broth, Valrhona Ivoire
Small Lot ‘Orange Wine’ 2014

Borage Meatball

Photo credit: Nick Merzetti

Saffron & Rosemary Roasted Lamb
boned shank, turmeric preserved Meyer lemon, harissa, Le Puy lentils, cilantro
Poetica Cabernet Merlot 2007

Boned lamb shank

Oops, I dropped the Boureka!
pâte feuilletée, sesame, Egyptian feta mousse, Valhrona Caraïbe sauce
Estate ‘Vosges’ Cabernet Franc 2013


Faux Peach Tart
dried apricots, Ontario peaches, walnut sablée, streusel, labaneh sorbet, cardamom
Whimsy! The Anniversary NV

Faux peach tart

Find out more about Chef & Somm (and see more pictures from the Hummus and Chardonnay dinner) at their Facebook page here.

Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.