by Jennifer Olvera

Madridfusión: it’s where food trends come to life. Celebrating its tenth year, the recent gathering — held at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos — featured three chef-filled days replete with presentations, mad scientist-worthy cooking demos and interviews with food industry vets. Add to that the upper-level booths, proffering food, wine and cooking-related miscellania. It all occurs in tandem with Gastrofestival, a two-week extravaganza offering special food-based programming citywide at Madrid’s tapas restaurants, museums, markets and shops.

Those feeling particularly posh opted to stay at the palatial Hotel Ritz Madrid, where gracious service gives way to views of Retiro Park. But those in search of an edgier experience chose the architecturally driven — if off-the-beaten-path — Hotel Silken Puerta America Madrid. Its 13 floors, each designed in wildly creative fashion by a different architect, have a trippy feel and plenty of curb appeal.

Of course, it was Madridfusión proper that garnered most of the “oohs” and “ahhs.” The event kicked off with Spanish chef Fernando Pérez Arellano, who prepared hare three ways: as borsch tortellini, Milanese-spiced loin and as a pastilla of Moroccan royal hare. Arellano was followed by Aranjuez-based chef Fernando del Cerro, who is experimenting with atypical oils, such as foie gras oil, to complement vegetable dishes, to turn the notion of (neo)vegetarianism on end. That said, the most interesting components — an in-depth interview with Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck) and “Modernist Cuisine” author Nathan Myhrvold notwithstanding — were not necessarily the most obvious ones. A standout: Björn Frantzén of Sweden, who took the stage to discuss — gasp! — the benefits of aging fish. Frantzén maintains the flavor of seafood actually improves, even sweetens, with maturation due to chemical processes that take place. Meanwhile, fellow Swedish chef Magnus Ek prepped the likes of smoked reindeer heart and lichen with buttermilk curd.

In the end, the unparalleled gastronomic summit revealed endless emerging trends and oddities, from pea-splitting centrifuges to foraging to using the medicinal qualities of plants in the kitchen. Miguel Ángel de la Cruz from La Botica Restaurant in Matapozuelos (Valladolid), for example, used a green pine cone wedge in place of lemon.

You can click on each photo to enlarge.

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