Mesamérica 2012 Day Three began with chef Paulina Abascal's sweet demonstration of completely edible dessert flower pots filled with organic pansies and mint leaves. Above, the simple and attractive finished product. Chef Paulina is a household name in Mexico, in large part due to her television appearances as a pastry chef. Her recipes are frequently designed for and easily prepared by the home cook.
In an interesting juxtaposition of Day Three speakers, the talk given by world-reknowned pastry chef Rosio Sanchez of Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark) directly followed that of Paulina Abascal. Chicago native Chef Rosio (that is how she spells her name) is only 28 years old, but she has already been part of the restaurant team at Chicago's Alinea and then served as sous-pastry chef at WD-50 in New York. She started as head pastry chef at Chef René Redzepi's stellar restaurant Noma in 2009.
A brief explanatory digression: the San Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants" competition has named Noma the number one restaurant in the world in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The annual award is a compilation of the opinions of more than 800 international restaurant industry experts. What constitutes "best" is left to the judgment of these trusted and well-travelled gourmets. Noma interior, photo courtesy Tomislav Medak.
Gammel Dansk dessert of cucumber, celery, Gammel Dansk liquor, and white chocolate. Gammel Dansk is a bitters liquor and was originally created to become a competitor on the Danish market to other bitters such as Underberg and Fernet Branca. It is aged with 29 types of herbs, spices and even flowers. The herbs and spices include angelica, star anise, nutmeg, anise, ginger, laurel, gentian, Seville orange and cinnamon, and several others. The complete recipe is kept secret.
Chef Rosio talked eloquently about dessert as a desire rather than a necessity. She spoke about sugar itself as a mental stimulant, a treatment for abstinence, and as a pleasure. She reminded us that we remember our childhood dessert favorites as almost inevitably cake or ice cream, but that often as adults we often prefer fruit. Her philosophy and talent shone through her presentation and captivated both the sensory and intellectual sides of the audience.
Chefs Mikel Alonso, Bruno Oteiza, and Gerard Bellver of Restaurante Biko in Mexico City. Biko opened its doors in 2008 and is included in the 2012 San Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list at number 38. The restaurant continues to carry on its traditions: the value of the original product, technique, and their characteristic identity.
SWALLOW Magazine's October issue will feature Mexico City. Mexico Cooks! got to leaf through the mock-up copy you see on the big Mesamérica screen. If you live where you can buy a copy, run-do-not- walk to your newsstand as soon as the magazine hits the shelves. It is creative, innovative, clever, imaginative--in one word, brilliant.
James Casey, the SWALLOW founder and editor, publishes two issues per year of the magazine. Casey, born and raised in Hong Kong, really gets it about culinary life in the Distrito Federal, Mexico's enormous capital city. His talk and video presentation created a high energy atmosphere at Mesamérica--think a joyously screaming, whistling, cheering crowd of more than 2,000. Everything he said touched a happy nerve in the audience. All the photos he projected were of bars, taco stands, and iconic culinary relics of Mexico City. I can hardly wait to see the magazine again!
It's really hard for me to write about Rancho Gordo without tremendous pride. I've known its founder, Steve Sando, since his New World Specialty Food company was just a glimmer in his eye. Hearing him tell the story of his heirloom bean business at Mesamérica left me with a tear in my own eye and the pleasure of watching his welcome as a valuable member of the Mexican food world. His partnership with Xoxoc, his fair trade practices, and his enormous appreciation for all things Mexico spoke to the Mesamérica audience of his high integrity and deep commitment to the ideals the audience believes in: support for the Mexican farm worker and the land and preservation of Mexico's milennia-old foods.
Chef Mónica Patiño, proprietor of Mexico City restaurants La Taberna del León, Naos, and Delirio. Chef Mónica spoke about culinary responsibility to use seasonal products and to maintain what is Mexican in Mexico. She urged the student chefs in the audience to be wary of being crushed by globalization. Photo courtesy El Universal.
If you review the three Mexico Cooks! articles about Mesamérica, it's easy to see that there is a thread--a bright golden thread--running through the speakers' topics: preserve the past, educate in the present, innovate for the future.
Next week: Day Four of Mesamérica, last but definitely not least in this August four-part series.
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