Back To The Future at the CIA

And God said: Behold I have given you every herb-bearing seed upon the earth, and all the trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat. – Genesis 1:29

Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness. – Sir Robert Hutchinson

It was food nerd heaven…or at least as close to heaven on earth as a food nerd can get. A convocation of chefs, restaurateurs, teachers and journalists from around the world once a year the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. This year’s theme was: A Mediterranean Flavor Odyssey, subtitled: Preserving And Reinventing Traditions For Modern Palates, and the CIA flew in the most famous chefs from Tunisia,Turkey, Morocco, Israel, Sicily, Greece and Spain to educate the movers and shakers in the American food industry on what they could learn from the way the rest of the world eats.

It wasn’t just snooty critics and Michelin-starred chefs in attendance (although there were plenty of those) – as the conference counted as its attendees the head corporate chefs from McDonalds, Frito-Lay, and…believe it or not: Pizza Hut. All of them came (and have been coming for eleven years) to discover “the next big thing” in how America eats.

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CAFE BA BA REEBA – Tapas Tales

It was probably unfair to visit Cafe Ba Ba Reeba two days after returning from munching on tapas prepared by three of the finest chefs of Spain — Alfonso Beltran, Paxti Bergara and Jose Manuel Crespo. Crespo, for one, has published a book on the elevation of the traditional Spanish tortilla de patatas and its many variations, and Begara, for another, has won a “Best Tapas” award in Spain. All of them dazzled the crowds at the CIA’s World’s Of Flavor Conference with an array of small plates you usually won’t find outside of San Sebastian.

But with tastes sharpened and senses heightened, we kept an open mind and went to the Fashion Show Mall last week for a lunch of small plates — as opposed to a small plate lunch. And what we found was food as solid as it has always been at this Lettuce Entertain You outpost.

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