As I pen this down, the Rice’s World Congress and Paella Tribute, held at Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences from Tuesday 29th September to Sunday 2nd October, has closed its doors.
This Congress, sponsored by Valencia’s Tourism Deputation and organized by Lo mejor de la gastronomía website, aimed to promote and celebrate rice’s cooking culture all over the world, and especially in the Mediterranean area, with a large series of activities that included public presentations by leading Spanish and International chefs, public tastings, a rice-related Fair, and a final day devoted to pay tribute to Paella both from a professional and a popular side.
Public presentations were scheduled all along mornings and afternoons at a quite spectacular central stage placed at the core of all activities, Prince Felipe Museum, and furnished with all sophisticated tools for contemporary cooking and all multi-media tools for public attendance, that crowded the space anytime. Even if presentations somewhat covered two main topics, rice culture at different regions of this side of the Mediterranean culture and singular ways of cooking rice now beyond that culture, there’s one single conclusion all of them drew or reinforced: Rice is King all around the World!
For dinner, lunch or breakfast –as in Paco Torreblanca’s thoughtful proposal. Salty or sweet –as Mathias Dahlgren‘s delicious Iced Rice with Milk. Fried, boiled or baked –as Bo Bech’s singular Forest Paella. In company of usual or pretty unusual ingredients –as Angel León’s sublime Rice with Plankton. Solid, liquid or in powder –as Quique Dacosta’s astonishing Rice Ash. Take it as you like it, it does not matter at all: once and again rice excels with its unique power to embody and enrich all ingredients around it and round up any single meal based on it!
Public tastings took place at the so-called Rice Tunnel and the Morcilla Tunnel, all in all a street in which stands offered to the wide public the ideal opportunity to enjoy highly elaborated rice meals cooked by some twenty restaurants, mainly the very same ones from the Valencian Community and Spain that presented ideas at the central stage. And, at a mere 4€ for generous thirds, a quite sensible price if you take into account that many of these restaurants are not for all pockets, some fifty thousand people couldn’t help but enjoy like crazy some delicious rice meals –as Ca’ Sento’s Mellow Fish Rice, El Pesebre’s Rice with Truffles or Arrop’s Snail Rice without Snails, to name but a few I enjoyed for myself.
The surrounding rice-related Fair promoted a lot of assorted products and no doubt helped to round all meals up with elaborated snacks, sweets, liquors and even, as the organization was promoting a particular beer mark in detriment of much more rice-friendly drinks, some superb wines, especially at Celler del Roure’s stand, which offered its excellent wines to a mere 1€ the cup –a pleasure itself!
The closing day, a warm Sunday morning, the Congress held its Paella Tribute, a tribute split in two quite different sides –representatives in turn of two quite different attitudes towards paella, as I am arguing in my next post. On the professional side, nine top chefs from all over the world afforded their Paella Tribute.
Interestingly enough, all of them explicitly declined the idea of following the classic recipe at all and either stick to the basic idea that all in all paella is what is cooked onto a paella pan, or presented some personal creation inspired by its basic ingredients –letting aside Jiro Ono from Tokyo who prepared what it’s considered the best sushi in the world (see second picture) and Quique Dacosta who presented five of his rice classics (see picture above).
At the very same time, on the popular side of the Tribute, three hundred cooks of no especial fame but proudly used to cook paella every single week for family and friends did follow the classic receipt –their way, of course– in a Paella Contest won by Santiago Latorre that, as always happens when fellows circle the humble wide pan, ended in a truly clamorous Paella Celebration.
Both sides of the Paella Tribute joined hands when Mayoress Rita Barberá, after awarding chef Gualtiero Marchesi with the Congress’ Gold Medal, had a tasting walk trought the popular Contest in company of some of the famous chefs. The one and the others honoured their respective jobs in paying due tribute to popular cooks and their natural public.