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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dady Does Dinner--in Spain

Posted on Sun, May 9, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Some dudes have all the luck.

Well, not luck exactly. Talent, persistence, connectionsâ?¦all came into play in awarding (and award it seems) local wunderkind Jason Dady a dinner reservation at fabled El Bullí in Rosas, Spain. The restaurant, on Spain's Mediterranean coast, is frequently cited as the “world's best”, a title that has also been bestowed upon the chef/owner, Ferran Adriá. Though not without some controversy.

Adriá's claim to considerable fame is his cutting-edge espousal of molecular gastronomy, that branch of contemporary cuisine that has some chefs foaming, flash-freezing and faking just about every ingredient once held sacrosanct by traditional cooks. (And other chefs just plain foamingâ??at the mouth.) Pellets of frozen foie gras as a flavoring kick to bouillon? White garlic and almond sorbet? (It sounds like a white gazpacho with a PhD.) A dish called “leche electrica”?

The sci-fi food turned out by Adriá has nevertheless generated a legion of admirers and disciples, both in Spain and around the world. And it has ignited a traditional backlash among keepers of the classic canon. Perhaps for both reasons, reservations have been nearly impossible to getâ??all the more so recently since el maestro announced the closing of his restaurant in 2012--presumably to do more research (he was already closed six months out of every year for just that purpose), or perhaps to soul-search. It can't be easy remaining the boy wonder of world gastronomy year after year.

Dady, who has already shown a weakness for such culinary wizardry by beginning to use liquid nitrogen in some of his cooking, will be dining at El Bullí on July 22, and though it would be unseemly to Tweet from the table, we expect to hear a blow-by-blow recap shortly thereafter. Fortunatelyâ??for balance if nothing elseâ??he will also be traveling to San Sebastian on Spain's northern coast where the country's other renowned chef, Juan Mari Arzak holds forth, along with his daughter Elena. The Arzaks' cuisine is only sensational in that it's sensationally goodâ??not tricky.

As a further antidote to the buzz and brouhaha surrounding Adriá and Arzak, another Spanish pilgrimage might be consideredâ??if it isn't already. (Hey, Dady will already be in the â??hood, relatively speaking.) In a tiny basque village in the mountains near Bilbao, the shy but immensely talented chef Victor Arguinzoniz holds forth in what must seem like a monastery compared to Adria's laboratory, yet, ironically, he has been dubbed “the Ferran Adriá of the hearth” by the Spanish food pressâ??a designation he apparently scoffs at. But grilling, mostly on devices of his own invention, is indeed his specialty. He even grills caviarâ??gently, we trust.

I'd plead with Dady to take me with him, but he already has his staff offering to sell their souls (and their ridesâ??which may be equally important) to go along. So we'll have to wait for reactions. Caution, Jason: this may require yet another new restaurant on your part. Just sayingâ?¦

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