gastronomika begins!

Today marks the beginning of San Sebastián Gastronomika, a world-class food conference held right in my backyard. I attended the first day of the conference, which is truly a collection of the best chefs in the world. Not only are there the typical suspects of Northern Spain (Arzak, Subijana, Adriá, Aduriz, Berasategui, etc.), but also the best of the US: Thomas Keller, David Chang, Daniel Bouloud and David Bouley and on, and on.

The Kursaal is filled with vendors of wine and food, and packed with lovers, crafters, and aficionados of great food. My day began with an homage to Karlos Arguiñano, the famed TV chef from here, who was joined on stage and effusively praised by the whole gang (see list of illustrious Spanish chefs above). Then an ENCHANTING hour with Ferran Adriá, who, as the announcer said, "va despidiendose" to the world of conferences and clients.

My heart skipped a few beats when he walked on stage.

Wrapped up the evening with chats and demonstrations by Joan Roca, de Celler de San Roca, and the Arzaks, who were charming and down-to-earth as always.

Here's a dictionary of San Sebastián Gastronomika 2010 so far:

  • -5º Celsius - the temperature at which (according to Joan Roca) you store liquid essence of eucalyptus, wherein it remains liquid until you pour it onto a diner's plate and it forms a pile of ice as it hits the air. audible gasps from audience ensue.
  • basque stage- a sweet program i almost applied for that grants two lucky Americans entry and generous housing and a stage in Martin Berasategui's restaurant
  • beautiful thought- something that occurs to you that may not be true, but you sure would like it to be, such as Karlos Arguiñano's "I have a feeling that San Sebastián is the gastronomic capital of the world." Yo también, Karlos!
  • chromatisms- the power certain colors have to provoke emotion, an important aspect for the chefs at Celler de San Roca
  • cortometraje- the tendencia is for chefs to bring a short film to show. Some were silly, some were serious, and then there was the El Bulli cortometraje. Otoño en Ell Bulli. Not beautiful in any traditional sense, a medley of weird animal organs and weird music edited together with shots of Adria himself tasting dishes, but by far the most powerful of the lot. Emotional and inspiring. Some dishes shown: hare brains in their juice, hare loin with red fruit spheres and foie ravioli, hot gelee consome with sea urchins, dove broth with an autumn leaf, and on.
  • huitlacoche- an ingredient which the Arzaks are particularly enamored of, a fungus that grows on corn that I personally think tastes a bit like black beans
  • truffle box- one of Adriás favorite discoveries, that if you put something in a box with a truffle and leave it there overnight, it ends up tasting more like truffle than the truffle itself.
  • umbilical cord- what Adriá called Arguiñano. The umbilical cord from the alta cocina to the calle. Love it.

More to come tomorrow!