A Taste of Madrid in NY at The International Culinary Center – Introducing Gastrofestival Madrid!

Any regular reader of this website knows I have a deep seated infatuation for all things Spanish, especially food. I was thrilled when I received an invitation to an exciting event in NYC  that I could actually make it to. To help publicize the upcoming and growing Gastrofestival Madrid, the City of Madrid sponsored a cocktail party at the International Culinary Center in NYC featuring two of Madrid’s most prominent and exciting chefs, Ferran Adria disciple Paco Roncero of La Terraza and David Muñoz of the critically acclaimed and near impossible to get a reservation for, DiverXo; one of Madrid’s premiere mixologists, Carlos Moreno of O’Clock; and from Can Roca in Gerona in Catalunya one of the world’s great pastry chefs, Jordi Roca.

I arrived a little early to say hello to some of the chefs and to take some photos before the crowds arrived. With each of them serving 4 different dishes, they were all busy putting finishing touches in the kitchen, all while maintaining a light and festive mood.

Chef David Muñoz

David Muñoz owns and operates what is probably the restaurant with the most difficult to get reservation in Madrid – the Michelin starred DiverXo. The restaurant is difficult for two reasons. The first is that it is small, having recently been enlarged to 35 seats from 20. Muñoz trained in a number of restaurants around the world including a number of top-scale Chinese restaurants including Hakkasan in London and took that training back to Madrid to create a name for himself with creative Spanish-Chinese fusion. His massive critical acclaim is the second reason, his restaurant has been so difficult to get in to. I’ve been so far unable to twice, both during visits to Madrid for Madrid Fusión, when it happened to be the hottest table in town for visiting chefs like Grant Achatz and others. Munnoz told me that he has evolved from a fusion restaurant into a more personal vision that incorporates all of his experience. He also told me that he doesn’t like to stand still and will continue to evolve in as yet undetermined ways. Next time I’m in Madrid, I will be sure to make sure I have a table!

Ox tail crispy sandwich, spicy "ajillo" ama abi

Chef Muñoz prepared four dishes that were passed around during the event. His Asian influences were clear, but they were also more than just straightforward Chinese.

"tiger mussel" DiverXo style

Muñoz’ creations were unique to my experience and successful dishes providing delicious, novel flavor and textural combinations in imaginative ways.

Cold macadamian and coconut emulsion, cockles, kaffir lime and chipotle

The name of Muñoz’ restaurant is quite accurate, as his approach to cooking covers a diverse array of ingredients, especially for Spain. This dish in the above photograph married a number of disparate ingredients from a variety of cultural backgrounds quite harmoniously. I would have thought this to be sweeter and more dessert like than the very pleasant savoriness it possessed.

Carlos Moreno

Mixologist Carlos Moreno was a very busy man as his beverages were in high demand and he was manning his station without significant help. Nevertheless, I managed to try a few of his drinks, which may explain a relative lack of photos of Jordi Roca’s fabulous desserts.

Moreno’s approach was to tweak four classic cocktails to give them his individual spin. For example he flavored Bloody Mary’s with white truffle, a “South Bellini” substituted cava for prosecco along with another tweak. For a Mamie Taylor he substituted lime marmalade for the limes, which though tasty, left it a tad too sweet for my taste. His last cocktail tweaked a “Bishop” into a “New Bishop” using Pedro Ximenez sherry in lieu of Burgundy, however, I never did get to try that one.

Chef Paco Roncero

Chef Paco Roncero has been the chef of La Terraza de casino in Madrid since 2000, from the beginning under the guidance of Ferran Adria. Roncero, working closely with Adria, became his right hand in Madrid and one of the foremost proponents of the elBulli style of cooking in the world, however, Roncero and the elegant La Terraza are not simply elBulli Madrid. While it has been true that many of the classic dishes from elBulli could be eaten there, the restaurant also has a much more conservative and traditional side, with which Roncero, formerly an avid marathon runner, is equally comfortable and proficient.

Indeed Roncero showed both sides of his talents at this event, serving “Passion fruit, mint and coffee nitrogen sorbet” balls to guests who generally enjoyed briefly becoming fire breathing dragons.

Olive oil soba over hot dashi

Roncero’s other dishes progressed away from the obviously vanguardist approach of liquid nitrogen towards a more traditional one. Bridging that gap was the above dish with “noodles” made from olive oil. Unfortunately, I never got to try his “Yogurt’s risotto with citric” and somehow managed to miss photographing what probably was my favorite dish of the name, the rich and powerful, “Pigeon’s royal with black truffle puree and cocoa.”

ICC President Dorothy Hamilton welcoming the event to the ICC.

Before Jordi Roca’s desserts were served there was a break for an explanation of Gastrofestival Madrid 2012, with some videos and brief talks from some Madrid officials, the chefs and Esmeralda Capel, the woman in charge of Madrid Fusión, which happens to coincide with the Gastrofestival. I had not previously been aware of this event, which is growing in stature and combines gastronomic activity with all facets of life in madrid. Check out the website for full details. With a variety of packages available, it promises to be a major blast! Alas, I wish that I could go this year. It is now on my radar for the future, however.

Pastry Chef Jordi Roca

Though I’m still not quite sure of the connection between Jordi Roca, who works in Gerona, Catalunya at the three Michelin starred El Celler de can Roca and Gastrofestival Madrid 2012, I am nevertheless thrilled that there is a connection and that he was at the ICC making desserts for the likes of me. Roca’s approach to pastry and what has made him famous is his ability to translate the scents of the world’s great perfumes into flavors in his desserts.

Passing around "Lemon Cloud"

Jordi Roca’s desserts incorporate the complex notes of fine perfume, bringing floral, citrus and other notes into an intricate dance of scent and flavor. His four desserts were each different and delicious, with one of them, the “Lemon Cloud” accompanied by a scented cone featuring a perfume of Roca’s making, translating one of his desserts in a reverse pathway. I apologize for missing photographs of the actual desserts.

Food and drink ere plentiful with wines donated by Protos. Eight trips to Madrid and the Gastrofestival were raffled off with business cards picked from a jar by none other than NYC Pastry superstar Johnny Iuzzini. My card wasn’t picked,

Here are a few more photos from the event:




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