Madrid Fusión 2015 Day 1: Fish Exsanguination, a Leafy Kitchen, and Live Eel Cocktails
Arthur Bovino

Madrid Fusión 2015 Day 1: Fish Exsanguination, a Leafy Kitchen, and Live Eel Cocktails

By
A report from the first day of the 2015 edition of this major international gastronomic conference
Madrid Fusión 2015 Day 1: Fish Exsanguination, a Leafy Kitchen, and Live Eel Cocktails
Arthur Bovino

My last name is "Bovino" and before I even was able to get on the plane, Iberia's online site notified me that "Cattle are not registered as a passenger for this booking." 

Fish exsanguination, a rotating group of translators of varying expertise trickling out of your headphones, and theories about happiness and what it takes to embrace the creative process can put you in curious state, one that definitely requires sustenance. Luckily, the part of Madrid Fusión that is the trade show helps take care of that. There are some three floors of cheeses, canned seafood, and other booths featuring everything from Alaskan seafood to Japanese wagyu. But there are just as many people with the same idea outside the huge auditorium looking for quick bites as watching the main presentations inside, so this means that my Day One product report is mostly a survey of the lay of the land fueled by various jamón ibérico stations set up on the different floors and a bite of artisinal turrones by Albert Adrià, one of the products singled out for awards earlier in the day. Beyond that, I had to draw on energy reserves from the previous day, supplied by plates of morcilla and jamón with Jeff Weiss, author of Charcutería: The Soul of Spain (the definitive work on Spanish cured meats) at one of his favorite spots in Madrid, La Sorberbia; glorious carabineros (gigantic red shrimp) grilled a la plancha, and one of those epic dinners you can’t plan on but that happen to you when you’re traveling: a meal with writer George Semler, his wife Lucy, and Spain expert and wine importer Gerry Dawes at the legendary Casa Lucio (yes, poor me). Speeches about rosado, spontaneous birthday singing by the staff, and a plate of huevos rotos, restaurant founder Lucio Blazquez's take on the Spanish favorite of fried eggs and fried potatoes — cut-up egg blended with soft french fries — that Spain's King Juan Carlos II reportedly helped make famous….

The rest of Monday afternoon at Madrid Fusión 2015 featured some curious presentations, the first from Dong Zhenxiang of restaurant Dadong in Beijing, whose chef described a five-point definition of “the DaDong Artistic conception” he has been developing over the past 10 years:
• The fusion of great Chinese dishes
• There are four seasons a year - do not eat unseasonal food
• Influence of Chinese art
• Influence of Western art
• Zen aesthetics

The chef, who noted that his two Beijing restaurants employ 5,000 people (5,000?!) explained further that he aims for a culinary experience that arranges the food with an eye to a pictorial composition, integrates Chinese and Western culture, and provides an “all-around visual, audio, and perceptual romantic journey with the goal of promoting Chinese culture.” Having grown up in Hong Kong, I’m going to add that I think there’s a great deal here lost in translation.

The other curious presentation was from the celebrated punkish chef David Muñoz and his colleague Javier Arroyo. Muñoz wore a black shirt, his Mohawk thin and closely cropped to the skull.  Arroyo and the rest of the team from DiverXO — Muñoz's Michelin three-star Madrid restaurant, which operates on a ticketing basis — wore uniforms that resembled straightjackets. These culinary outlaws strutted the stage talking about looking for “taste explosions” and explaining their agenda “Sabor+Cocina+Alcohol = Vino Y Cocteleria,” which translated to treating wine as something that needs seasoning and viewing through another dimension — that is, drinking wine through straws and out of freshly-shucked oyster shells (sans oyster), adding black olives to it, rinsing glasses with seawater before pouring wine in, adding fingerling limes for extra acidity, and treating wine like a margarita with a half-salted rim and jalapeño. There were echoes of an indulged child having taken over the classroom, and a cocktail made with tobacco-infused rum, chocolate liqueur, and live angulas (elvers, or baby eels) reminded me of that time in the school cafeteria when we added ketchup, salt, pepper, and French fries to the lunchtime chocolate ice cream. But hey, I’d swing by DiverXO if I could score a reservation (no luck).  

Recurring themes from the first day included chefs’ desire to tap into their guests memories and experiences, and the idea of encouraging customers’ participation with the food and integrating them into the cooking process, most frequently by bringing elements of the cooking process into the dining room and finishing dishes there. In one instance, chef Piège explained that the box of venison cooking over roasting chestnuts is brought tableside in his restaurant, the cover lifted off to reveal a cloud of chestnut smoke at the table. In many others, final plating components were finished at the table.

More coverage of Madrid Fusión to come tomorrow. As for tonight? I trust George and Lucy Semler and Gerry Dawes know what's up, so hey, I'm just following their lead. Colman Andrews said that was the move after all, and I figure he may know a few things about Spain. 

Related

All Madrid Fusión Coverage on The Daily Meal
Madrid Fusión 2015 Coverage: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
Madrid Fusión 2014 Coverage: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
Madrid Fusión 2013 Coverage: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
Madrid Fusión 2012 Coverage: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3