Saturday, January 29, 2005

Marvelous Marseille

I was invited to a wonderful event this week at the California Culinary Academy. Two young chefs from Marseille, Lionel Levy and Dominique Ferard, with host Daniel Young, educated, demonstrated and teased the audience with stories and recipes from Marseille. The demonstrations and then dinner focused on the use of citrus in "la nouvelle cuisine Marseillaise". Young, author of Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France's Mediterranean Seaport, walked us through some of the history of the region and proceeded to test the group's knowledge of citrus by having us guess the smells of 7 different blotters dipped in different citrus essence. From grapefruit to clementine, and lime to bergamot, our senses were aroused with each smell, as were our appetites.

The chefs did two incredibly delicious demonstrations. The first was a fish crumble, inspired by fruit crumbles, or crisps. Lionel Levy used created a seabass ceviche with ginger and garlic, and lime, lemon and orange zest, and topped it with a crumble made with cream, ginger, brown sugar and garlic. It was served in slightly oversized shot glasses, and was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. There's a recipe in Young's book - "Crumble de Saumon", upon which this was based. The second demonstration was crab, citrus and zucchini filled spring rolls served with citrus butter sauce - another incredible blend of flavors.

Dinner was to follow soon after, and the group mingled and drank wines from Provence while we waited. The event had been sponsored in part by the Marseille Chamber of Commerce, and guests were mostly in the tourist industry focusing on France - a sales representative for Air France, chateaux owners, tour operators and tour guides, and specialized tours such as organized cooking trips. These included companies such as The International Kitchen , French Escapades, and Art du Voyage.

I now have a copy of Daniel Young's book, and though I've had just a quick chance to skim through it, it looks marvelous complete with history of the region, of la cuisine marseillaise, including a whole chapter on bouillabaisse, bringing the smells and tastes of Marseille to my home.