The New Practices in an Old World

In Monday’s, The Short Buzz, I highlighted the latest trend in mixology: gassing up flat spirits and cocktails.  

A week ago I met a bar consultant who was utilizing a blue cheese foam in one of his recipes. The cocktail menu at Tailor, a contemporary eatery here in the Lower East Side, has attracted curiosity and cringes with unconventional ingredients such as bubble gum cordials, smoked cola, and plum vinegar. 

These ingredients are far removed from the classic bitters, sugar syrups, and zests of yesteryear.  Technological innovation has granted the bartenders of today the ability to provide unique experiences, to conjure relevant nostalgia amongst new generations, and to challenge adept palates, which expect, and possibly demand imagination.

Then again there’s nothing like a properly made Old Fashioned or a handily crafted Margarita.

Perhaps it’s too soon to argue convention versus innovation in regards to cocktails, considering the history is less than two hundred years old, but for Spanish cuisine and its nation, the debate has ignited.

Catalan chef, Santi Santamaria, of El Raco de Can Fabes, spared no chance in rebuking the culinary avant-garde last week.  A movement that has swept through his nation and respectively identified contemporary Spanish cuisine.

Chef Santamaria, a highly regarded chef in his country, charged his counterparts for, “offering a media spectacle rather than concerning themselves with healthy eating.” 

He told journalists in Madrid:

“We have to decide, as chefs, if we want to continue to use the fresh products of our Mediterranean diet or opt for using additives.”

His biggest target, progressive-cuisine icon, Ferran Adria, of the world renown, el Bulli, considered the “godfather of the Spanish avant-garde movement.”

“Cooking for snobs”, Santamaria put it, following his remarks that there has been:

“…a huge divorce, both ethical and conceptual with Ferran, who I feel is headed in a direction that is contrary to my principles.”

Spanish cuisine, which up until the past decade lagged in comparison to French and Italian cuisines, has found its mark globally, much in thanks to innovative chefs such as Adria, who are noted for explorative dishes as opposed to traditional and sometimes stereotypical recipes, such as gazpacho and paella.

Today there are there are six Spanish restaurants that hold three Michelin stars.  Yet, this has not mellowed Chef Santamaria who has pressed Spanish authority to investigate avant-garde methods of administering liquid nitrogen and methyl cellulose.  Two items Chef Adria keeps in his kitchen. 

Adria has passed the attacks of Santamaria as “ridiculous”.

Some feel this is the evolution of Spanish cuisine.  As the NY Times quoted Chef Dan Barber, of Blue Hill, a proponent of organic and local ingredients, and a admirer of Chef Adria:

“The fact is that this debate is taking place is a sign of how far Spain has come… discussion about what goes into our food is a good thing.”

The cuisine has evolved indeed.

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