Cruising the Mediterranean With Rosemary and Vine
By Tom McDermott
In August 1995, I dined at what was left of St. George’s Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon. There was just enough roof left on the war-torn hotel for a Syrian Army sentry to watch over an al fresco dining area next to a once-thriving yacht basin. As I perused the menu – babaganoush, falafels, and various eggplant dishes – our host cautioned me and my colleagues to “Stick with the burger.” I am sorry to report that we followed her advice.
That will not happen at Rosemary and Vine in downtown Rye, where Lebanese natives and now Rye residents Tania Rahal and Berj Yeretzian have created their own epicurean crossroads reflecting the Mediterranean, Arabic, and North African (toss in a little French) cultures of their homeland.
The couple opened Rosemary and Vine nearly two years ago with help from consultant Erica Wides. Berj’s background in finance and Tania’s event planning experience, seemed an excellent combination for first-time restauranteurs. Their aim was to create healthy Mediterranean-based meals made from organic ingredients, locally grown. “We were a little ahead of the healthy eating curve,” says Berj,
Initially, customers placed orders at the counter as a way to become familiar with the food and ingredients. Later, table service was provided and business began to grow steadily, especially at lunch where ultra-busy local women felt right at home.
A year ago, the owners began experimenting with Jazz Nights on Wednesdays which became an instant hit with customers drawn from near and far. Tuesdays became Wine Tasting nights, and the restaurant’s following continued to flourish.
While Rosemary and Vine might be described as “vegetarian,” Mediterranean more accurately describes the complexity of some menu choices, such as 5 Cheese Mushroom Lasagna – mozzarella, ricotta, feta, parmesan, and toma with tarragon-infused béchamel. Breakfast choices include three organic eggs any style with roasted zaatar potatoes and Avocado-Egg Toast with two eggs on ricotta with mint and scallions. And, there’s nary a home fry in sight.
The key to the cooking lies not only in fresh ingredients and house-made organic flatbreads but in the basic mixtures (tahini, zaatar), and seeds and herbs of Mediterranean and Middle East (sesame, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac). Rosemary and Vine’s family hummus recipe pays strict attention to the owner’s Lebanese roots –tahini, garlic, lemon juice, chickpeas. A “flavored” hummus is also available.
Many ingredients are certified organic. All corks and containers are recyclable. A blackboard above the prep area lists the restaurants regional farm, vineyard, and brewery partners. “We believe in food that’s good for you, although we never wanted to be preachy,” notes Tania, “I bring our three girls here (aged 4, 5, and 12) for meals.” There is a separate children’s menu (grilled cheese, fettuccini).
Both menu and tasting wines at Rosemary and Vine are mostly European. The chardonnays are well-balanced Saint Verans and Meursaults. Reds are Pinot Noirs and Merlots from France, Cote du Rhone, and Chianti. Wines are on the light side and complement the menu’s spices and herbs well. Tuesday night tastings in September include Spanish rosés, Italian whites, and Sancerre.
Catering for parties and offices is also taking off, as hosts look for companions for their fish and meat courses and savvy managers give their staffs healthy, delicious rewards.
<Rosemary and Vine>, 29 Purchase Street, is open Monday- Saturday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Call 481-8660 or visit rosemaryandvine.com.
Owners Berj Yeretzian and Tania Rahal with daughters Ella, Sarah, and Yasmine
Watching Rye pass by
Al Fresco dining at Rosemary and Vine