Friday, September 2, 2011

Food feast of Afisha Eda (Афиша: Праздник Еды)

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I spent this whole Saturday at the Food feast (Праздник Еды) - food festival, organized by Alexey Zimin and Afisha Eda magazine in Moscow for the first time this year. When I found about the event a week or two ago and looked through the agenda I was amazed. All day was filled up with master classes of some of the most interesting Moscow chefs - Ivan Shishkin of Delicatessen restaurant, Isaac Correa, Suki Maman of Upside down cake and Montalto pizza, Iyia Shalev of Ragout etc. as well as Alexey Zimin himself. I new I had to be there whatever happens.


To my great pleasure, our whole food bloggers' family got interested, so it was four of us running around there, taking pictures, tasting food and attending master classes. I never thought my 12 year old bro was such a skilled photographer. Now I have to learn from him, his pictures are apparently better than mine. The festival was really intense. It was so filled with things worth seeing and listening to, that we split many times to attend simultaneously running events. We spent almost the whole day there, but I still feel I only saw some small part of the feast. It was a great part though, so here is the feast - in my eyes.

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We entered the Food feast (Праздник Еды) around lunch time and guess what was the first thing we saw. It was a long line standing in front of Montalto pizza stand. A happy crowd was surrounding Isaac Correa and Suki Maman making pizza at a crazy pace.

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Isaac was baking and Suki - finishing each pizza and then shouting out loud either "Margarita" or "Artisan". Their energy and drive was amazing. Tough as the job looked, they were genuinely having fun, laughing and chatting with friends crowding around.

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We got our Artisan and it disappeared in seconds together with the watermelon salad. We'd happily eat twice as much, but the line now looked too long.

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The "boys" (my dad and Michael) had to run to watch Olga Sutkina. My mom and I naturally moved to beLight - a cafe specialized in light and healthy desserts. I didn't know about beLight before the Food feast (Праздник Еды) and they looked interesting to me with their pretty looking mousses.

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We got a blueberry one and a mango one - they were indeed fresh and light. I was told that the real menu was way bigger and offered different cakes and cookies apart from the mousses. It turned out that beLight Moscow shop is on Vytebskaya 9, they do delivery and cakes on order.

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Then we passed by the stands of my favorite Asian Zu cafe as well as Ragout, which I do have to visit in the nearest future. As Montalto they both had impressing lines and were serving some delicious looking food from their short festival menus. Bulka bakery was also there - offering great looking bread, culibiacs and cakes.

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I still had time for a short walk around the various stands filling park. Indian spice store was there and I found couple of new shops to visit later - Bio-market (selling some really nice organic food and pastry) and World cuisines (selling lentils of many colors - I didn't even know that so many do exist). Finally I saw half-a-teaspoon cooking school stand and beautiful Masha Kicheeva selling sugar candies. I got tempted by their almond and cream nougat, which turned out full of flavor and crunch.

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It was around 4 p.m. - time to move to the main scene not to miss the master classes I actually came for. It looked somewhat competitive to get a spot from where one could see well (especially if the one is not too tall), so I just set down at the edge of the scene into the happy crowd listening to charming Pietro Rongoni making sea bass.

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I was only able to see the final stage, where he gently cooked the fish in the simmering creamy sauce of melted gorgonzola and served it over fresh rocket salad. "In Russia you always put a lot of onion and garlic in your food" - he was saying in Russian - "In Italy - no. If we put garlic, we put the whole clove in and take it out. We don't chop it finely". I put down that I have to come to his Aromi La Bottega.

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Dmitry Zotov made Margarita sorbet right at stage, using liquid nitrogen. I had never seen this technology before. He actually poured the liquid gas (which looked like a white steaming cloud) into a bowl with liquid margarita. He beat it for some 2-3 minutes and the cocktail turned into the sorbet. He pointed out that it was alcohol, which was giving the sorbet a nice creamy texture under this process. Ordinary sorbet would turn out somewhat granular.

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Suki Maman came in to make the famous UDC mini cupcakes. He chose to make orange cupcakes, decorated with cream cheese and strawberry and actually showed almost the full process - from making the batter to baking cupcakes and decorating them. They came out really pretty and tempting.

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At the very moment Suki confirmed the cupcakes were ready, they got blown up by impatiently waiting hungry crowd. Not even one was left in 30 seconds. This video demonstrates this unbelievable cupcake effect in action. So I can't really tell, how they tasted. However now I know the recipe and am going to try my hand on them soon. Here is more about the class and the recipe (to the best of my notes taking ability).

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When Alexey Zimin came to start the class on rosemary prawns I was absolutely ready to bow from my waist to him for the miracle he made with this festival. Assisted by Ilya Shalev, the chef of Ragout restaurant, he started by telling a story about an old lady from Tuscany. There is not too many dishes that she makes, but those she does are perfect as she polished them for dozens of years. The prawns he was making were one of those dishes.

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He sauteed the peeled and deveined giant prawns in refined olive oil. One shouldn't over cook them - the idea wass that they should get red color but retain some of their "crisp". Then he added fresh rosemary, a bit of chicken stock, white wine (?) and butter. "That's a dish with very intense flavor: all these ingredients - rosemary, stock, butter are strengthening it".

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Finally at around 8 p.m. the spaghetti squash class of Isaac Correa started. Energetic and charismatic he started from showing a spaghetti squash - large yellow squash of a certain kind. When this squash is cooked its flash separates into fibers, resembling spaghetti. The dish emerged when Isaac's father got seriously ill. The family had to look for special food for him and they used this squash instead of pasta.

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The squash needs to be roasted for 1.5 hours at 190C. When it cools down a bit you can cut it in half, remove the seeds and flake out the flash. The "spaghetti" can be cooked with whatever sauce you prefer. Isaac chose a simple and fragrant herb and pecorino cheese dressing. He warmed the squash spaghetti in a pan with some olive oil, herbs and cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper and served. Thanks to my friend I met by chance before the class I actually got to try the spaghetti. They tasted fine to me - fresh, light and simple. Not surprisingly, Isaac immediately got asked where does one get the spaghetti squash. Even less surprisingly the answer was "come to Montalto".

Eventually at 9 p.m. I had to leave the feast, tired and happy. I have so much to write and to cook now, so many new places to visit.

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