Friday, October 23, 2015

Tasting the Fine Food of the Fez Medina

Steven Raichlen, an American journalist and TV host, is enraptured by Fez and its food culture. Over the last few days he and his wife Barbara have been exploring the Medina and treating themselves to some of the Medina's culinary delights

Barbara and Steven

Steven's television credits include TV shows such as Primal Grill and Project Smoke on PBS and Le Maitre du Grill (in French) in Quebec.

Steven has written 30 books and many articles for the New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Bon Appetit and more. His books, Barbecue Bible and Planet Barbecue were listed as 'New York Times Best Sellers'.

Starting their Fez tasting adventure at the renowned Ruined Garden Restaurant, Steven and Barbara sat down to a feast of fine food: a selection of Moroccan-style tapas followed by spicy daghmyra tart, cork-oak acorns, smoked salmon, and the superb mechoui lamb (slow cooked for seven hours) and washed down with a glass of date milk with orange blossom water.

Najia presents her mechoui lamb

The meal at The Ruined Garden was a special treat as it gave Steven a chance to chat with his host, Robert Johnstone, and to discover that Robert smoked his own fish in a special cold smoker built into one of the chimneys. He later tried the smoked salmon and pronounced it "delicious".

Spicy daghmyra tart

Steven has an interest in smoked food as his next TV series is "Project Smoke" which will go to air on America's PBR network. Project Smoke is the first how-to show to focus exclusively on smoking. From hot smoking and smoke-roasting to cold-smoking and smoking with hay, Steven shows you how to get creative with smoked food and make the iconic smoked foods, such as Texas brisket, Jamaican jerk ribs, and Scandinavian smoked salmon, plus new twists on old classics including smoked cheesecake and cocktails!

Robert and Steven swap notes at The Ruined Garden

While in Fez, Steven and Barbara tried a range of culinary experiences from street food at Thami's  to a traditional couscous feast with Fred Sola and Cathy Belafronto at the beautiful Riad Laaroussa. The couscous, was, Steven said, one of the highlights of their Fez experience.

It would be easy, at first encounter to categorise Steven as simply another TV food host, but this is a man who has a degree in French literature, is a published novelist, studied medieval cooking in Europe and even beaten the famed Tokyo Iron Chef.  Yet, when pushed, he declines to accept the label "chef" for himself!

As maestro de grill (to coin a phrase) Steven has come up with innovative recipes for grilled treats from coffee-crusted chicken to ginger mint lobster roast. Hopefully his short sojourn in Fez will be the first of many visits and that we will get another chance to enjoy his company and taste his grilling and smoking expertise - inshallah!

Story and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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