Once again, Fatema Hal, renowned Moroccan-Parisian restaurateur and chef, hosted the Fez Festival of Culinary Arts. She joined forces with the Spirit of Fez foundation under the direction of Fatima Sidiqi to celebrate Moroccan cuisine as a part of the 1200 year anniversary of Fez. The festival, although small and not well-known, is much anticipated by Moroccan food-lovers. Ms. Hal told guests in her opening remarks that she does not consider herself an expert in Moroccan cooking and still comes back to Morocco, the source, to learn more and perfect her techinque.
The main events and culinary demonstrations took place in the garden at the Batha Museum, an old palace located just outside Fez El-Bali which is the historic origin of modern-day Fez. Festival goers were treated to a variety of demonstrations in the outdoor kitchen such as Moroccan braewats, those delectable honey pastries; Jewish home-cooking; a mother-daughter team presenting a taste of India; and not least of all, baking and pastry from Spain and France. At the end of each demonstration was a much-anticipated tasting for the guests.
Each day featured on-going demonstrations by Moroccan cooks skilled in the arts of couscous preparation and rolling; the making of those thin, delicate leaves of dough for bastilla known as warka; various types of traditional breads such a milaoui and harsha; forming and frying the pinwheel shebakia served during Ramadan. Without a doubt, however, the most impressive displays were the tea ceremonies - a Fassi display with all the ornamental silver serving pieces; a desert sampling completed with a server in blue desert Berber regalia; and not least of all, an authentic Japanese offering.
The highlight of any culinary festival must be the food and the Fez Festival did not disappoint. Each day a superb luncheon of Moroccan tagines, couscous, bastilla, breads, vegetables, salads and desserts was put out as a buffet offering. There were juices, buttermilks, tea and Moroccan mineral waters. Opening night also featured a full-house sit-down dinner at the famous Maison Bleue in Batha.
The venue at both the Batha Museum and the Maison Bleue was perfect for a celebration of Moroccan history through its cuisine. One only hopes the festival can eventually become an annual event on the list of city festivals and expand it offerings. The potential is here for a world-class event.See pictures >>
By Linda Hart.