In the middle of the pandemic, December 2020, archaeologists started to share information about a recent discovery at the buried Roman city of Pompeii: a street food eatery, something akin to a British fish-and-chips joint, just for Ancient Rome. There was a long, frescoed bar with openings to access the capacious terra cotta pots beneath, each of which would have brimmed with popular comfort food.
There were various serving dishes, amphorae jars as well as a beautiful bronze patera. A patera is a shallow drinking bowl that could be used for food or, often, placed on shrines to hold divine offerings. The depth is so useful that it was also used in Moorish dishes and throughout Spain (think paella).
At nearly the same time the Pompeiian story was reaching our newsfeeds, we were also looking at pateras, the cool white ones we stacked carefully on our shelves at our renewed restaurant here in South Bay. Some are traditional, round versions; some are square; some are deeper. We would pull one out to test a new recipe, creating the menu that would greet you when it was time to venture out again. We are Nomad, so we understand the need to experience new tastes, flavors, and smells – to adventure across a place or a plate – especially after the pandemic.
Nomad Eatery’s Pateras & Thoughtful Platings
Our Chef Scott Cooper chose pateras as the vessel for many of our dishes. Initially, he discovered an idle one in his own home when he started creating fresh meals for his wife to take to work. It felt right. It worked well. It showed itself to be the right dish to accommodate colorful, multidimensional, balanced meals.
We have come to think of our cuisine and our wide plates, our modern pateras, as interconnected. They speak to each other.
Imagine our Nomad hummus. It seems simple, but that simplicity becomes its beauty. We ladle it into our open vessel, swirl it with oil and a spicy cilantro sauce called zhoug, and grace it with toasted garbanzo beans. Brightened with lemon and accompanied by freshly toasted flatbreads, warm hummus is one of the surest ways to feel both at home and like a Mediterranean traveler.
Now imagine a main course. Let’s say it’s our lamb shish-ke-bob. Morsels of farm-raised lamb twirled onto the skewer alongside locally sourced vegetables: onions, sweet peppers, and
tender mushrooms. The ke-bobs have the same ideas and structure as the pateras and are, in many ways, the ideal for what we are about. But because the skewers are cooked in a straight line, they fit better on rectangular plates. Still, our kebabs are designed for either individual or communal eating, as are most of Nomad’s dishes.
The dish on which we plate them is large enough to also carry our creamy baba ganoush; a bright cucumber-bulgar salad; tzatziki; tahini; and that warm open hand of flatbread again. We plate our dishes so you are able to gather food close to you, where you can see and explore it holistically, trying the lamb bites with each of the other tastes, finding your own way through your meal.
Chef Cooper intentionally chose the patera and our other platings to present a meal, not simply hold it. As was originally intended by the ancient Romans and their Mediterranean neighbors, the patera displays the most precious and beautiful foods, those being offered up in gratitude, to welcome, and to celebrate.
Make a reservation today and dine with us at Nomad Eatery.