The lights dimmed, the PowerPoint presentation lit up the screen, the music blared – and Marca Espana: A Gastronomic Experience began!
- Spain is the 3rd most visited country in Europe!
- 63% of last year’s visitors had been to Spain at least 3 times before!
- Spain is a major gastronomic tourism destination with:
- 53 Unesco World Heritage Sites!
- 25,000 restaurants!
- 145 Michelin stars!
- 9 Dominion of Origins and is the 3rd largest wine producer!
- and the largest producer of olive oil!
With all that hyperbole and more, a recent evening at the glitzy Trump Soho in downtown Manhattan began, including chef demonstrations and tastings hosted by the Consul General of Spain, Juan Ramon Martinez Salazar and Elisa Sainz Ruiz, Consul of Spain for Tourism Affairs in New York.
Following the obligatory (and very interesting) business portion of the program where we learned that Marca Espana is a marketing program for all that makes Spain a leader in the world: technology, business, medicine, research, agriculture and finance, it finally came around to gastronomy – the subject everyone in the room was waiting for. Then Chef Paco Roncero was introduced.
With two Michelin stars and five international restaurants, the handsome Chef Paco took the podium to show off the modern tricks and skills he utilizes in his various restaurants. With flair and aplumb (as well as other fruits) he played with liquid nitrogen to the amusement of the assembled culinary journalists and bloggers.
Need to deseed a Raspberry? (Apparently Michelin-starred chefs do!) Just dip it in liquid nitrogen and crumble it. Want a grapefruit popsicle? Spear a segment with a fork and stir it in a bowl of liquid nitrogen. Want to freeze-burn your tongue so you can’t taste the next few courses while making a fool of yourself? Just pop a frozen concoction into your mouth and blow out “smoke”. (Some even made it come out their noses!)
Goofiness aside, Chef Paco then demonstrated an amazing skill: making Brazil’s National Drink, Caipirinha, by pouring cachaca (distilled from sugar cane juice with a kick similar to tequila) and sweetened lime juice into a bowl of liquid nitrogen and whisking until caipirinha ice cream formed. Now that was a demo everyone wanted to taste! (To see the video http://youtu.be/RMQS8Lsk8zU)
All kidding aside, Chef Paco’s focus was to explain that it was the obligation of Spanish chefs to explore the foods of the Spanish-speaking world and use the concepts and ingredients in new and unique ways to enhance the dining experience of their patrons. He said “We have the best products and we can all cook, but a great dish has to come from the heart.” He’s truly a man passionate about food.
Finally the presentation ended and the fun of eating and drinking began. Chef Paco set up at another table opposite the wine bar and continued his frozen nitrogen shenanigans while waiters passed plates of tiny tapas and bartenders explored Spain’s 9 D.O.s to secure fine wines for us to drink. (My favorite: a Galician Albarino: Pazo san Mauro.)
All-in-all it was a successful event. Everyone left impressed with the capabilities of Chef Paco and the dominance of Spanish tourism competing in the global marketplace. The question in our minds as we left: Who wouldn’t want to visit Spain?