Sunday, April 26, 2015

A culinary field trip at Madrid Fusion Manila

It's not everyday that I encounter chefs, business people, movie stars, and food enthusiasts in my line of work. But during the times when I do bump into them, I feel like I've gone into an alternate universe... maybe not. Let's just say I feel like a country mouse out in the big city. And what a metropolis it was for this country bumpkin during the Madrid Fusion Manila event! 

I was at the SMX Convention Centre with the IRRI contingent of the Heirloom Rice Project because I had a rice tasting segment in the seminar about heirloom rice.

The unique thing about this event was that I got to meet chefs like Robby Goco (Cyma), Jessie Sincioco (Top of the Citi), Amy Besa (Purple Yam), Fernando Aracama (Aracama), Rob Pengson (The Goose Station), Chele Gonzalez (Gallery Vask), and Carlos Garcia (The Black Pig)... people who I could only dream of meeting if it were not for the assignments I get at work!

Anyway, aside from the opportunity to meet chefs, I got to try (and was absolutely blown away) by the food. Chefs Robby, Jessie, and Amy prepared tasting samples of different rice varieties made from the heirloom rice samples from the Cordilleras. These people are really something else. Robby made a vegetable salad and included rice in it (I love the contrasts in textures, the variety of flavours, and the aroma of sesame oil), plus he made maki using the Ominio black rice variety. Jessie made kakanin using Ominio, and Amy made bibingka using Dinorado rice. All these were served in a session at the MFM Food Tunnel, a cocktail area for people who wanted to try different food items.

At one point, I found myself shaking hands and talking with three-Michelin-starred Quique Dacosta. As always, this country bumpkin failed to realise that she's in the presence of greatness until a few hours later. Nevertheless, I was struck by how low-profile Chef Quique was despite his highly regarded reputation and celebrity status. And it's not just him... all the chefs featured in MFM appeared to be like that. To me, it seemed that fame is left at the door once these kitchen rock stars enter the kitchen. None of the prima donna behaviour I got to watch in Chef!

And then there were the exhibits. See, the IRRI booth was at the trade exhibit area. Therefore, I was able to sample (and to buy) a lot of different products. The different companies also seemed to have amped up their creativity, with a lot of experimentation going on. The most notable of them all being the sherbet with chili sauce, presented by Mama Sita. There were olive oils and vinegars with various infusions too. The chocolates were wonderful. I ended up buying these relatively expensive chocolate bars after munching on them every time I passed by the CMBV booth. Imagine eating white chocolate with a dash of pink peppercorns and of sea salt or dark chocolate with the essence of pomelo. How cool is that!

Jamon. This was one of the highlights of the show for me. There are, it appears, two types of pork in Spain, Iberico (black pig) and Serrano (white pig). Of course I ended up preferring the iberico ham, the more expensive of the two. Don't ask me why. I haven't figured out how these two cured hams are different; I just know that they are.

What an eye-opener MFM turned out to be. I was happy with the different culinary approaches I saw and tasted. It's the first time I've participated in an event of this scale! I want to go to the next one! ... Which just might be WOFEX