MILLESIME 2015 - Send in the Clowns
It was another day at Millesime 2015, Mexico’s highest falutin’ food fair. In the vacuum-sealed power space of the Banamex Center the crème de la crème milled, mingled, drank and ate...and drank...and ate. But the soufflé never fell at this vast high-society foodie coming-out affair.
At this cotillion, however, the debs were replaced by Mexico's best chefs and purveyors of fine wine, chocolate, cheese and other princely products. The potential beaux being wooed were moneyed guests, many of them corporate, who shell out copiously to partake of the decadent display of epicurean delights.
I was told by the event’s founder and designer, Colombian architect Mauricio Galeano, that the French word ‘millesime’ refers to the moment when a wine is at its best. The fair first took place in Madrid but Spain’s dire economic situation hit concurrently and the event fell flat. It did take root in Mexico, however, where crisis always hovers like a hungry vulture, but never seems to affect the haute monde as it did in the old country.
“This is the fucking top,” exclaimed Galeano waving a flute of Moët rosé champagne. “We wanted this to be a social event about gastronomy. It’s about business, but deals aren’t cut here: friends are made.”
Indeed they were as I spent three booze and chow packed days schmoozing with exalted chefs and ordinary mortals alike.
The space, whose design scheme was “Le Cirque”, was elevated from pre-fab generic-ness by a team of distinguished designers and architects. But Circus elements were only fleetingly referred to in signage or decorative elements. An air of elegance was conveyed, nonetheless. Hollywood-set-like spaces were created for fancy dinners, to which guests were sent daily at 3 p.m. prepared by a bevy of French and native cooks.
I was privy to one of these repasts, rather perplexingly entitled Batea. Outside the entrance, a welcome sign done in Barnum & Bailey script cryptically reflected on kitsch and war. Diners paid little heed as they were ushered in and seated at the sumptously set tables. The scene recalled less a big top than a tasteful wedding reception.
“Where are the clowns, just send in the clowns… ” I hummed to myself, trying to maintain a respectable aspect after half a dozen glasses of very good French, Spanish and Mexican wines, topped by a shot of $1000 mezcal thrust at me by an eager purveyor. The dinner, cooked by local chef Edgar Núñez of the lauded Sud 777, and three invited Frenchmen, Jean Remi Caillon, Jean-Jacques Noguier and Sébastien Vauxion, was, considering the compromised circumstances and improvised kitchens, quite good.
Núñez wisely stuck to what he knows, that is, post-modern presentations of classic Mexican dishes such as duck with black mole, and a light salad of artichokes with tangy cotija cheese. Les chefs français shone brightly when they stayed French – a sweet pea cream with almonds and lightly smoked salmon was divine. But Caillon's fanciful concoction of beef with foie gras, bathed in a faintly Asian broth, didn’t coalesce. It was called a “taco” but my neighbors and I searched in vain for tortillas with which to scoop it up.
Chef Pedro Evia, whose K’u’uk in Mérida offers post-modern Yucatecan cooking, and who had attended three previous editions of Millesime, explained that “It’s the best event for me because there are clients here who can travel and afford the best of everything. It’s all about connecting with clients, other chefs and purveyors.” He offered a platter of ten jewel-like tostadas of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico that glistened like a display at Tiffany’s.
As evening approached--a fact of which most were unaware in this windowless ediface with its Vegas-esque, mind-lulling atmosphere--several workshops and tastings were offered. The talented chefs of downtown’s best contemporary Mexican venue Limosneros, Marcos Fulcheri and Carlo Melendez, demonstrated the preparation of upscale tacos that were paired with good wines. Tastings of mezcal, wine and beer drew full houses of patrons eager to sit after hours of roaming.
The third day drew to a close with bedraggled survivors foraging for gin and tonics, beer, champagne and mezcal as supplies dwindled. At about 10 p.m. they gathered for one last blast in the huge, DJ-enlivened club-like space set aside for partying and smoking. As closing time came and went, guests refused to leave, or perhaps were unable to. Like the revelers in Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, they were compelled by some existential force to stay. That’s because the event, be what it may, was by all accounts a smashing success in a business and social kind of way. I think they call it 'fun'.
As lights were turned up, our group headed off to the St. Regis’ tony Candela Romero for the final “after” party. Relieved chefs let their hair down and got smashed; I left at 3 a.m. But for all I know, the party may still be going on. "Where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Well maybe next year."
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Duck tacos! And nothing but...Asian or Mexican style. I'm at a loss for words. El Auténtico Pato Manila, Culiacán 91, near Quintana Roo, Condesa. Open 1:30 to 9 p.m. Mon-Wed, Thurs-Sat, til 11, Sunday to 7 p.m.
Huset (Colima 256, Roma, tel. 5511 6767) is chef Maycoll Calderon's superb new venue; I predict it will be the hottest spot in town before long.
La Docena, at the corner of Alvaro Obregón and Frontera in la Roma, is Guadalajara chef Tomás Bermudez' DF branch of his Tapatio hotspot. The raw bar is one of the best in the city, grilling is done perfectly and the ambience is cool and relaxed.
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