The Getty Villa

Indulge in the unique culinary pleasures of Byzantium with a dinner inspired by foods of ancient Greece and flavors of Rome, and set outdoors against the backdrop of the Getty Villa. Historian Andrew Dalby sets the stage with a lecture on the distinctive cuisine of this distant empire. Accomplished Greek musicians Mario Lazaridis, Dimitri Mahlis, and Toss Panos provide the soundtrack for enjoying a delectable meal, performing music derived from ancient Greece and transformed and embellished during the Byzantine Empire.

Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014
Time: 5:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following at 7:00 p.m. Exhibition viewing 9:00-10:00 p.m. Guests must arrive no later than 6:45 p.m.
Location: Getty Villa, Auditorium and Inner Peristyle

LECTURE: The Real Taste of Byzantium: Textures, Flavors, and Aromas of a Distant Empire
Historian Andrew Dalby begins his exploration of Byzantine cuisine by tracing its ancestry through the symposia of classical Greece, the royal luxuries enjoyed by Hellenistic Greek dynasties of Syria and Egypt, and the increasing sophistication of the late Roman Empire, which was nourished by the trade in spices and aromatics from the distant corners of the ancient Mediterranean world. Dalby reveals how this unique culinary culture can be approached from many perspectives, including texts, paintings, and antiquities, as well as the observations of medieval travelers—whether diplomats from East and West, Crusaders, pilgrims, or Viking mercenaries—who expressed in their own words how Byzantium tasted. Byzantine cuisine looked to the past, yet it sought new flavors, never ceased to innovate, and increasingly accepted Muslim and Eastern influences.

Getty Villa Inner Peristyle
DINNER: The Global Fusion Cuisine of the Byzantine Empire
The evening continues in the Inner Peristyle garden with a four-course dinner inspired by the many cultures and traditions that converged during the Byzantine Empire (A.D. 330-1453). This culinary melting pot was founded on classic Roman cuisine—as depicted in the fourth-century A.D. cookery book Apicius—and combined with traditions inherited from Greece. Due to the millennium–long span of the empire and its continuously evolving borders, the cuisine of the Byzantines is characterized by the adaptation of the foods of other peoples with whom it came into contact and by the propagation of new fruits and vegetables.

Menu highlights include lamb served with oinogaros sauce, a synthesis of ancient and medieval tastes combining fish sauce, wine, honey, Mediterranean herbs, cinnamon, clove, pepper, and costus, a culinary spice also used in perfume. Eggplant—one of several vegetables first introduced to the Romans from the Middle East—is grilled and served with shaved bottarga (salted mullet roe) called ootarikhon by the Greeks. Rice pudding, the original "food of angels" and a favored dessert of the Byzantines, is garnished with exotic ingredients introduced from faraway places: cherries from Pontos (northern Turkey), and candied citron, a fruit originating in Burma and arriving in Constantinople through Persia, also the source for sugar, a luxurious commodity for the elites of the later Byzantine Empire.

Download the full menu (PDF, 1pp, 227 KB)
(Menu items subject to change without notice)

The evening's meal will be prepared by Bon Appétit's culinary team Chef Mayet Cristobal and Chef Fernando Cayanan in consultation with food historians Sally Grainger and Andrew Dalby.

This program complements the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, which will be open for viewing after dinner between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.

Generous support for this program has been provided by the J. Paul Getty Museum's Villa Council.

About Andrew Dalby
Andrew Dalby is an historian and linguist with a special interest in food history. He collaborated with Sally Grainger on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012), which explores the culinary history of ancient Greece and Rome and includes recipes adapted for the modern kitchen. His book Tastes of Byzantium (2010) investigates the legendary cuisine of medieval Constantinople. Dalby's other publications include The Breakfast Book (2013), a wide-ranging history of the most important meal of the day; light-hearted accounts of Bacchus and Venus (Getty Publications, 2003 and 2005); and a new biography of the Greek statesman, Eleftherios Venizelos (2010). His latest translation, Geoponika (2011), brings to light a forgotten primary source on food and farming in Roman and Byzantine times. Dalby studied classics and linguistics at the University of Cambridge. He now lives in France, where he writes, grows fruit, and makes cider.

About Sally Grainger
Sally Grainger trained as a chef in her native Coventry, England, before developing an interest in the ancient world and taking a degree in ancient history from the University of London. Combining her professional skills with her expertise in the culinary heritage of the Greek and Roman world, she now pursues a career as a food historian, consultant, and experimental archaeologist. Grainger's recent projects include Roman food tastings at the British Museum in conjunction with the Life and Death in Pompeii exhibition, and a Roman feast at Girton College in Cambridge, England for the Cambridge Classics Society. Grainger acquired an M.A. in archaeology and is researching the extensive trade across the Roman world of the fermented fish sauce known as garum. With her husband, Christopher Grocock, she published a translation of the Roman recipe book Apicius (Prospect Books), a companion volume of recipes, Cooking Apicius, and collaborated with historian Andrew Dalby on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012).

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How to Get Here
The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California, approximately 25 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for directions and parking information.