On Saturday, November 9th, 2013, our international media group headed to Alícia (alimentació I ciencia), the food and science research center located at Mont Sant Benet. The complex includes a medieval monastery and a cutting edge international culinary research center as well as a hotel and spa.
The Alicia Foundation has a an advisory council chaired by innovative molecular gastronomy chef Ferrán Adriá and renowned cardiologist Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, Director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York.
The main goal of the research center is to promote innovative cooking with a focus on making food rooted in traditional culture that smells and tastes good and is at the same time healthy.
Although the research area is closed during the weekend, we were given a tour where we got to see the lab, the large kitchen and the educational areas. We participated in an interactive workshop that tested all our senses. Each one of us was given a box with six ingredients. We used our senses of smell, taste, hearing, sight, and touch to try to identify each substance. The sixth ingredient was a treat: cocoa beans covered with chocolate.
Alícia includes a gourmet store that carries fine chocolates, wine, cured meats, olive oil and other delicacies as well as books and various types of gifts.
We had lunch at Restaurant La Fonda, located at Mont Sant Benet. The weekend offered several includes. For starters you choose between a salad (amanida de tardor amb castanyes i magrana), cream of pumpkin with shrimp (crema de carbassa amb gambetes) and bruschetta with roasted vegetables and goat cheese (coca d’escalivada amb formatge de cabra).
For the main course, another three specialties were available: lamb with port and dried fruits (melós de xai amb Oporto I fruits secs), cod fish (bacallá) or the house specialty, caneloni gratin with béchamel sauce (canelons gratinats amb beixamel).
Finally, there were three options for deseert: fruit salad (amanida de fruites naturals), the chocolate cream and crumble cup (copa cremós de xocolata, nata I crumble) and La fonda cake (pastís La Fonda).
The affordable menu came with bread, spring water and glass of wine.
ziza braThat evening, the Fira had lots of great showcases. I headed to the Taverna tent to check out the concert by the rising star of Saharawi music, singer and percussionist Aziza Brahim. She was born at the refugee camps in Tinduf (Algeria) and has an electric band formed by Spanish and Saharawi musicians. She presented her songs along with a political message supporting the struggle of the Saharawi people, whose land is currently occupied by Morocco.
Another highlight was the charming Sephardic singer Mor Karbasi who performed to a packed audience at El Sielu. Born in Jerusalem, the outstanding vocalist is now based in Sevilla (Spain). Her music combines elements from the Sephardic diaspora, Maghrebi roots, Spanish copla and flamenco. Previous recordings include Beauty & The Sea and Daughter of the Spring.
I managed to catch part of the performance of the Xeremiers de Mallorca, a dance group from the Balearic Islands that uses large drone bagpipes called xeremies, flabiol flutes and drums.
Other acts that performed on Saturday included Occitan (French) duo Castanha e Vinovwel, playing hurdy gurdy and accordion; and the Cobla (typical Catalan orchestra) Sant Jordi from Barcelona playing a mix of various styles;
Some of my colleagues raved about outstanding Sardinian singer Franca Masu who sings Mediterranean music in various languages with echoes of fado, tango, bolero, morna and jazz. I’m familiar with her superb CDs and was hoping to see her live, but I wasn’t able to make it. Masu’s available discography includes Aquamare, Almablava, Alguimia, 10 Anys and Hoy Como Ayer
Also that day there were performances by Syrian Kurd oud player Gani Mirzo, currently living in Spain; a second concert by the great Jordi Savall, although this time with Celtic musicians; Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera with harpist Josep Maria Ribelles; rising flamenco star Rocio Marquez; Trans-Pyrenean band Xarnege that brings together Spanish and French musicians from the Basque and Gascony regions; French band Caravan Palace; and Gypsy rumba band Muchachito y sus compadres.